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(The following exchange is from the Facebook thread following my post of my recent essay, Apollo’s Creed.)

EF: Steve, I appreciate the time you put into this, however we do not agree on this. You see the creation of a pencil as an example of the collective, I see it as many individuals working together through only the coordination of the market. Now you would say that is the collective, but it is not, as there is neither a central conscious organizing force nor any force at all….and if there was one of either, the end result would be much worse.

SH: E, you are lost in semantics, and in such an eagerness to pre-empt any line of thought that might eventually be ideologically inconvenient that you feel compelled to insist that black isn’t dark. I don’t care if you call it “a collective” or “a market.” And if you had any actual understanding of my paradigm you would understand that it is predicated on the recognition of systemicness, of organic coherence, not dependent on any central conscious organizing force. When I talk about language as an example of our fundamental interdependence, it is not by reference to a central conscious organizing force, but by reference to the fact that the universe, the Earth, ecosystems, societies, organisms, ant colonies, human minds, forests, all have systemic coherence. It’s obvious. You assume that this is an argument for centralized government. It isn’t. It’s simply the recognition of a reality of fundamental organic interdependence, a fact which is not something that depends on your agreement or disagreement, any more than the fact that rain is wet does.

The fact is that you think in a language that was collectively developed, to employ concepts that were collectively developed, utilizing technologies that were collectively developed, under the auspices of social institutions that were collectively developed, because it was only through the signals sent among the nodes of those networks that any of those things ever came into existence and continued to develop. That’s not really a matter of opinion. It’s just a fact.

But I’ll give you this: If you are so lost in a delusion of absolute ontological individuality that you don’t understand the systemic, diffuse, organic coherence of Nature, including human nature, then you are too lost in an ideological fiction to ever be anything but an obstacle that humanity will have to overcome. And humanity will overcome those who insist that humanity doesn’t exist or matter.

EF: In your writing Steve I see the celebration of the collective. Which is fine…it’s just not a celebration I want to join in on. We celebrate it enough in our society…let us celebrate the fruitful struggle of the individual.

SH: It’s not a celebration of the collective. it’s recognition of the existence of interdependence, without which we cannot forge sound and functional policies, because we are not operating within the framework of reality. Of all societies, and of all developed societies, we celebrate that least, and you fear we celebrate it too much. Sorry, E, but that’s just pathological.

The problem with your rejection of reality, E, is the same as if we performed some other human enterprise, such as surgery or construction, by means of some democratic process, and there were one faction that insisted that respiration and blood circulation were irrelevant and that it’s fine to just perform the surgery without bothering to take them into account, or structural integrity in construction isn’t an issue, so let’s not build our buildings attending to those aspects of the enterprise. You end up with patients who die and buildings that collapse. Similarly, your determination to simply wish interdependence away, and to impose that utterly dysfunctional exclusion from consideration of what are in fact vital systemic aspects of the human enterprise, you end up with societies that don’t function well. And that’s why, among all developed nations, we alone have such astronomically high rates of poverty, malnutrition, infant mortality, homelessness, lack of access to health care, incarceration, deadly violence, poor educational outcomes, lower social mobility, higher inequality in the distirbution of wealth, a lower percentage of our population who actually are affluent. I respect your civility, but the ideology that hides behind it is simply as uncivil as they get.

EF: Steve, now you are putting words in my mouth. I did not say we are not interdependent, I said something different.

SH: And yet in your initial comment you rejected the premise of the essay, which was that the reality of our interdependence implies that we must acknowledge our mutual responsibilities to one another as well as assert our individual rights. You can’t have it both ways, E.

To take it a step further, E, your belief that the market solves all human problems is simply absurd. I’m a huge fan of markets, a great admirer of their organic robustness, of the way in which they process an enormous amount of information in a decentralized way to coordinate disparate wills and interests to mutual benefit. But, despite this impressive quality, you impute to them a magical power they simply don’t possess.

First, for markets to exist in the first place, all sorts of non-market forms of human social organization must occur. Humans must communicate, coordinate, and create a context within which market exchange can occur, construct a marketplace, arrange a meeting, and so on.

Second, for complex modern markets to function well, much more extra-market organization must occur: definition and enforcement of property rights, government backed currencies, reduction of uncertainty through health and safety regulations facilitating increased consumer confidence and more robust buying and selling (with a less costly learning curve imposed on the public, which, in reality, would suffer a manifold higher degree of constant exposure to deadly commodities in an unregulated market), expensive and difficult market policing to prevent insider market gaming that imposes catastrophic costs on the public (often involving the collapse of markets themselves).

Third, markets fail in certain systemic and well-known ways: 1) They generate externalities which affect those who were not parties to the exchange. Since most externalities involve ways in which costs are imposed on those who were not parties to the exchange (because the competition to reduce prices tends to bias externalities in this direction), markets create aggregate suboptimal outcomes unless those externalities are internalized. This fundamental underlying reality of market dynamics is what generates the need for a public agent acting in the market on the public’s behalf. 2) Markets are less efficient producers of utility than hierarchies under a variety of circumstances involving economies of scale, high market transaction costs, and path dependencies resulting from large up-front costs in exchange for far larger but temporally remote returns (e.g., expensive investments in very large projects with very long time horizons tend not to be provided by market mechanisms, though they are often the foundations of enormous growth in the production of prosperity). 3) They perpetuate historical inequities in the distribution of wealth and opportunity due to differential material and social inheritances.

You want to believe that this one sledgehammer is the only tool required for all human enterprise. It’s simply not so, and the ideology that insists on it, stifling our development and utilization of obviously necessary and beneficial complementary tools is a mass insanity inflicting great harm on this society and this world.

EF: Steve, Did I say that markets solve all problems? No, I did not – you are once again putting words in my mouth. I am also well aware of free rider and other problems such as externalities. However, I am also very aware that progressives generally want to take the most attenuated non-market borne cost and turn it into an externality.

Bottom line is this – you use large economic terms, but they do not justify the state you seek to implement.

SH: No, E, I’m not (putting words in your mouth), because that premise is the cornerstone of the ideology that you are constantly espousing, and the assumption that underwrites every position you take and argue. You don’t have to say it, when everything else you say is predicated on it.
Look, I sincerely respect your civility and your commitment to the open exchange of competing ideas. But in the end the value of those commitments is their ability to allow the lathe of disciplined and imaginative reason (or disciplined and well-reasoned imagination) to mold our understandings in service to our welfare. Eventually, you’re going to have to face the fact that your paradigm, like all others, is riddled with anomalies, and must either yield to the beneficial process by which paradigms shift, or remain the obstacle it has become to the growth of human consciousness and of rational, pragmatic, humane self-governance.

SB: What Steve Harvey wrote in his essay is pretty much axiomatic, and as he pointed out, it’s been articulated for centuries by theologians and philosophers. I don’t know why so many people reject the idea. The US has been a country that supported individualism. There are and have been dictatorships the suppressed individualism, like the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, and China. Individualism in the US is nurtured by a huge infrastructure. In a modern city like Denver we’re dependent upon thousands of different people for our very existence. The US has always had a high amount of social capital compared to many other countries, so it’s not clear why so many people are now rejecting the notion. Maybe it’s propaganda by very wealthy and greedy people who don’t want to pay taxes. The failed states of the Middle East have had little collective action and at the same time have suppressed individualism, and the result has been poverty and hopelessness.

SH: ‎SB, I like the way you put it: Recognition of our interdependence has always been pretty much axiomatic. When the absurdity of rejecting that axiom is pointed out, everyone runs for cover: They never said we’re not interdependent! They only rejected every single implication that follows from that recognition! “Yes, of course we’re interdependent…, but we should pretend that we’re not, because otherwise it’s socialism.” It’s a cultural pathology that infests our political process, and we absolutely, positively, and urgently need to extricate this bizarre rejection of our interdependence and its implications from our cognitive landscape. It’s a pernicious weed that is ravenously destroying our social institutional ecosystem, and will leave a desert behind if we don’t confront it, and confront it effectively.

EF: Steve, You have missed my ideology and my view of yours I recognize that government adds value in a limited value of circumstances such as protecting property rights. However, those instances are much more limited than what you say and your “we are all in is collectively “(like the Borg ;-) ) is an invitation to create exceptions to the benefits of individualism that will swallow the rule that individualism benefits us all.

SH: E, the problem is that you are insulating your conclusion from critical examination, assuming it rather than arriving at it. if you allow that we are interdependent and that government has some role in realizing that interdependence, then the question of what that role is is a question which must be left open to careful analysis and debate. But if, instead, you start with your conclusion (the way in which ideological dogmas work), and then direct your energy to ensuring that that conclusion is protected from all threats to it, you do things like disagree with an essay that merely lays out the premise that we are interdependent and that that interdependence imposes on us mutual responsibilities, only to claim later not to reject that premise after all.

First, let’s look at how the issue of how much government is the right amount of government entered into this current conversation. It entered in your last comment, in which you responded to something that no one had said. Find the place in my essay or in my above comments where I declared in a conclusory manner how much government we should have? You can’t, because I didn’t. So, as I’m laying out premises for an argument the conclusion of which you fear you will not like, you don’t wait for the argument to actually be presented, but find ways to reject the premise in a preemptory manner in order to ensure that your conclusion is never challenged.

Second, let’s recognize that once you acknowledge that we are indeed interdependent, that our interdependence does indeed imply that we have mutual responsibilities to one another as well as individual rights to be asserted “against” governmental (or, one might even say, mutually imposed) intrusions upon them, and that government does have some role in the realization of those mutual responsibilities, then we have to go to the trouble of engaging in careful analyses and robust debates over exactly what and how extensive that role is. That’s pretty much the crux of what I am advocating for, and what you are constantly trying to forestall by arbitrarily assuming the answer, using not case-specific analyses, but rather an all-encompassing ideological conviction.

Third, in service to the preemption of the argument whose conclusion you fear, you mobilize an anology of oppressive corporatism (‘the Borg”) as a way of rejecting any argument concerning how to use our agent of collective action as a polity, our government, and thus avoiding the discussion of exactly how and to what degree under what circumstances government should be used, rather than engaging in it. It’s like citing “Rollerball” in a discussion of how best to legally frame the existence of corporations in our political economy as an argument that the speaker’s ideological conviction that the almost complete dismantling of corporations is optimal is the only position that can be considered and accepted. It is a technique for eliminating nuance, reducing a debate to a caricature of reality, and avoiding the hard work of examining the world in its actual complexity and subtlety in order to arrive at the most intelligent and functional conclusions.

E, I’m pretty sure you self-identify as more analytical than ideological, but you have anchored your analysis in blind ideology. The only way to be truly analytical is to yank that anchor out of the concrete into which you have embedded it, and start from the premise that we really don’t know exactly how much government, or what precise role of government, is the optimal form amount and form it should take to best serve our interests as individuals and a nation. Certainly, we all start off with predispositions to think more or less, but when we turn those predispositions into pre-emptory conclusions, the assumption of which precludes the consideration of arguments that might challenge it, then we have lost all claim to being analytical, and have fallen entirely under the spell of ideological false certainty.

And, no, you don’t consider competing arguments, as evidenced from the fact that you are so committed to preempting them before they can be presented. You respond to my essay on the fundamental reality of human interdependence by saying you disagree, then deny that you disagree because you really disagree with something else; and that something else is the conclusion that might be arrived at if you consider the implications of our interdependence. You insist that, though you acknowledge that there is a limited role for government, that you also by some magical alchemy are endowed with the exact knowledge of the precise amount and form that that role must take, and that therefore any discussion of our interdependence and mutual responsibilities is something to disagree with, because you already know the answer to any questions that such a discussion might raise! E, that is pure ideology.

You’re a smart guy. You want to be a powerful voice in political discourse. Your tentative understanding is that the best government is the least government and that’s fine. But allow yourself to be an even smarter guy: Know that you don’t know, and let wisdom fill the space provided by that knowledge.

BTW, E, I haven’t missed your ideology: It is a fixed assumption concerning the optimal amount of government, based on a dogmatic conviction and insulated against empirical analysis. And here’s what you don’t understand about mine: It ISN’T a fixed assumption concerning the optimal amount of government, and is committed to on-going empirical analysis to continue to explore a complex and subtle issue.

E keeps insisting that individualism without recognition of interdependence has benefits for us all. Yet, when comparing America, the most individualistic of developed nations, to other developed nations, it would appear that just the opposite is true. We have the smallest percentage of our population sharing in our national prosperity, by far the highest rates of deadly violence, by far the highest percentage of our population incarcerated, the highest poverty rates, the greatest economic inequality, the highest infant mortality rates, the lowest social mobility, the lowest percentage of our population covered by health insurance, among the poorest educational outcomes…. It’s a bizarre ideology that continues to claim an advantage the existence of which is overwhelmingly empirically refuted.

Click here to buy my e-book A Conspiracy of Wizards for just $2.99!!!

  • The dialogue continues:

    EF: Steve, you write: “E, the problem is that you are insulating your conclusion from critical examination, assuming it rather than arriving at it. if you allow that we are interdependent and that government has some role in realizing that interdependence, then the question of what that role is is a question which must be left open to careful analysis and debate. But if, instead, you start with your conclusion (the way in which ideological dogmas work), and then direct your energy to ensuring that that conclusion is protected from all threats to it, you do things like disagree with an essay that merely lays out the premise that we are interdependent and that that interdependence imposes on us mutual responsibilities, only to claim later not to reject that premise after all.”

    Actually, not starting with a conclusion at all – I’m just speaking on a very general level, largely because I don’t have the time/energy to write treatises. To be more specific, I’m considering that you are seeming to leap from the interconnected area of rule of law to use it to justify collectiveness to vote for progressive entitlement state policies. The two have nothing to do with each other. In fact, if you just wanted to stop around rule of law and legitimate externalities we’d probably be agreeing with each other.

    “First, let’s look at how the issue of how much government is the right amount of government entered into this current conversation. It entered in your last comment, in which you responded to something that no one had said. Find the place in my essay or in my above comments where I declared in a conclusory manner how much government we should have? You can’t, because I didn’t. So, as I’m laying out premises for an argument the conclusion of which you fear you will not like, you don’t wait for the argument to actually be presented, but find ways to reject the premise in a preemptory manner in order to ensure that your conclusion is never challenged.”

    As I said, I’m responding generally – largely because I’d like to engage to the degree that I am able to while simultaneously meeting family obligations this weekend.

    “Second, let’s recognize that once you acknowledge that we are indeed interdependent, that our interdependence does indeed imply that we have mutual responsibilities to one another”

    Stop right there – we do not have mutual responsiblities to each other – at least inherent ones. We may choose to take responsibilities on, but just because I depend on you does not mean that I am responsible for you.

    “as well as individual rights to be asserted “against” governmental (or, one might even say, mutually imposed) intrusions upon them, and that government does have some role in the realization of those mutual responsibilities, then we have to go to the trouble of engaging in careful analyses and robust debates over exactly what and how extensive that role is. That’s pretty much the crux of what I am advocating for, and what you are constantly trying to forestall by arbitrarily assuming the answer, using not case-specific analyses, but rather an all-encompassing ideological conviction.”

    See the above response – there is no mutual responsibility for each other merely because there is some degree of interdependence.

    “Third, in service to the preemption of the argument whose conclusion you fear, you mobilize an analogy of oppressive corporatism (‘the Borg”) as a way of rejecting any argument concerning how to use our agent of collective action as a polity, our government, and thus avoiding the discussion of exactly how and to what degree under what circumstances government should be used, rather than engaging in it. It’s like citing “Rollerball” in a discussion of how best to legally frame the existence of corporations in our political economy as an argument that the speaker’s ideological conviction that the almost complete dismantling of corporations is optimal is the only position that can be considered and accepted. It is a technique for eliminating nuance, reducing a debate to a caricature of reality, and avoiding the hard work of examining the world in its actual complexity and subtlety in order to arrive at the most intelligent and functional conclusions.”

    Citing the Borg was done in semi-jest manner (hence the “‘;-)” after it…but it was done with the semi-serious point of indicating at a general level my take on your arguments – you have a desire to view us as an interconnected hive with reduced individual space for action – i.e. you are very eager to declare that “we are all in this together.”

    “E, I’m pretty sure you self-identify as more analytical than ideological, but you have anchored your analysis in blind ideology. The only way to be truly analytical is to yank that anchor out of the concrete into which you have embedded it, and start from the premise that we really don’t know exactly how much government, or what precise role of government, is the optimal form amount and form it should take to best serve our interests as individuals and a nation. Certainly, we all start off with predispositions to think more or less, but when we turn those predispositions into pre-emptory conclusions, the assumption of which precludes the consideration of arguments that might challenge it, then we have lost all claim to being analytical, and have fallen entirely under the spell of ideological false certainty.”

    You’ve fallen back on throwing out that I’m into blind ideology quite a bit. However, you (a) mistake my terseness for lack of analysis when it is simply that I don’t like to have extended multiparagraph facebook arguments in single comments – i.e. that I come from a different FB debating/discussing style than you; and (b) my comments aren’t “ideological” in any event.

    “And, no, you don’t consider competing arguments, as evidenced from the fact that you are so committed to preempting them before they can be presented. You respond to my essay on the fundamental reality of human interdependence by saying you disagree, then deny that you disagree because you really disagree with something else; and that something else is the conclusion that might be arrived at if you consider the implications of our interdependence. You insist that, though you acknowledge that there is a limited role for government, that you also by some magical alchemy are endowed with the exact knowledge of the precise amount and form that that role must take, and that therefore any discussion of our interdependence and mutual responsibilities is something to disagree with, because you already know the answer to any questions that such a discussion might raise! E, that is pure ideology.”

    Or I’m just registering, in a brief format that I disagree. Not all disagreement has to be fully expounded upon to indicate that it is present, and not fully expounding on one’s disagreement hardly makes that an example of “pure ideology”

    “You’re a smart guy. You want to be a powerful voice in political discourse. Your tentative understanding is that the best government is the least government and that’s fine. But allow yourself to be an even smarter guy: Know that you don’t know, and let wisdom fill the space provided by that knowledge.”

    Thanks for the compliments and let’s continue to keep things civil.

    SH: E, you said “you are seeming to leap from the interconnected area of rule of law to use it to justify collectiveness to vote for progressive entitlement state policies. The two have nothing to do with each other.” As I said, you are engaging in preemptive argumentation. I never advocated any entitlement law of any kind in this discussion. You are arguing against what you fear the premises lead to, rather than the premises themselves. Frankly, E, you are hammering home my point on this score.

    You keep repeating that you are responding generally, but that’s just the problem: You rely on an insulated degree of generality, such that you can continue to insist on a general principle that, when examined in the light of detailed reality, doesn’t hold up. You say you’d agree with “legitimate externalities,” but who is the arbiter of which alleged externalities are legitimate? Doesn’t that require a case-by-case analysis? And if so, aren’t you admitting to my central premise, that we can’t simply know in some a priori way, by virtue of some magical platitude, that we always just happen to need “less” government, no matter how much government there actually is in that instance, or what the actual demand is?

    I’ve frequently gone into very precise detail about such demands, like policing against the market gaming due to information asymmetries, a well-documented phenomenon, associated with every major economic crisis we’ve had in decades, and requiring sophisticated and expensive governmental regulatory agency involvement to combat. You continue to respond in “generalities” that pretend that such demands on our public sector don’t exist. I’ve provided historical, empirical data demonstrating the association of post WWII prosperity with the existence of a large governmental administrative infrastructure, of how stimulus spending actually has worked, now and in the past, of the economic dynamics by which these facts exist. You continue to respond in “generalities” that pretend that reality doesn’t matter, that only your “generalities” (i.e., “dogmatic ideological convictions”) matter.

    If you deny the existence of mutual responsibilities, then you must insist that it is your right to fire a weapon into a crowd for your own entertainment, since it is your property, and you have no responsibilities to those who might happen to be in the way of your bullets. You must believe that you have no responsibility not to dump toxic waste on someone else’s land, since while they may have a property right, it is protected only against the evil government, not against other people who might infringe upon it, since people have no responsibility to one another. It’s an absurd position. Once you recognize that it’s an absurd position, and that we clearly DO have responsibilities to one another, the challenge becomes incorporating that awareness, and considering where the boundaries between rights and responsibilities reside in each instance, which is exactly what I’m advocating for.

    I don’t mind that you used the Borg as an analogy; it’s a great analogy for many things. But what I do mind is that it is part of a pattern of insulating an ideological dogma at a high degree of generality, while simply disregarding the complex, nuanced reality that renders that ideology both absurd and dysfunctional on close examination.

    Your ultimate argument that, since it’s Facebook, all you can do is state that you disagree, disregard the tsunami of evidence for why such disagreement doesn’t track reality, and claim that that is an unimpeachable position. Yes, E, you are welcome to having and voicing arbitrary, unsupported positions, clearly as an expression of a dogmatic ideology, while claiming that it’s neither an ideology nor unsupported positions, yet never succeeding in supporting them, and writing at length why you don’t write at length. Meanwhile, I’ll discuss the real world in necessary detail, with precise analytical focus, examining its true complexity and subtlety, and recognizing my own humanity while encouraging others to reject this ideological appeal to lose their own.

    This notion that we have no responsibility to one another, that if someone is born disabled that’s just their own tough luck, that the social injustices that are legacies of a history and embedded in a social institutional structure that has continued the ancient historical tradition of favoring the wealthy and powerful at the expense of the poor and powerless, is in many ways at the core both why this is truly an odious ideology, and why no appeal to reason and humanity will ever affect those who adhere to it. That we are a nation now saddled with a vocal and pungeant ideology of mutual indifference and non-solidarity as a people, of inhumanity and irrationality, is galling and frightening beyond words, even for me. There is the opposite of the Borg, Elliot: The chaos of Somalia, the war of all against all, the disintegration of society and the brutality of selfishness raised to the status of an ideological idol. The goal, in the end, is to persuade as many young people as possible, as many unconvinced people as possible, that this is not the kind of people we should ever choose to be.

    EF: ‎”Elliot, you said “you are seeming to leap from the interconnected area of rule of law to use it to justify collectiveness to vote for progressive entitlement state policies. The two have nothing to do with each other.” As I said, you are engaging in preemptive argumentation. I never advocated any entitlement law of any kind in this discussion. You are arguing against what you fear the premises lead to, rather than the premises themselves. Frankly, Elliot, you are hammering home my point on this score.”

    Let’s see if you argue for progressive state policies going forward.

    “You keep repeating that you are responding generally, but that’s just the problem: You rely on an insulated degree of generality, such that you can continue to insist on a general priniciple that, when examined in the light of detailed reality, doesn’t hold up. You say you’d agree with “legitimate externalities,” but who is the arbiter of which alleged externalities are legitimate? Doesn’t that require a case-by-case analysis? And if so, aren’t you admitting to my central premise, that we can’t simply know in some a priori way, by virtue of some magical platitude, that we always just happen to need “less” government, no matter how much government there actually is in that instance, or what the actual demand is?”

    Oh – if your central premise is that we cannot necessarily know whether we need less government or not simply because less is supposedly good – I can agree to that. I take the view that any government policy must show on high proof – proof beyond a reasonable doubt – that its known benefits are not outweighed by its explicit and hidden costs. So in that respect we are probably not disagreeing much with each other.

    “I’ve frequently gone into very precise detail about such demands, like policing against the market gaming due to information asymmetries, a well-documented phenomenon, associated with every major economic crisis we’ve had in decades, and requiring sophisticated and expensive governmental regulatory agency involvement to combat. You continue to respond in “generalities” that pretend that such demands on our public sector don’t exist. I’ve provided historical, empirical data demonstrating the association of post WWII prosperity with the existence of a large governmental administrative infrastructure, of how stimulus spending actually has worked, now and in the past, of the economic dynamics by which these facts exist. You continue to respond in “generalities” that pretend that reality doesn’t matter, that only your “generalities” (i.e., “dogmatic ideological convictions”) matter.”

    Steve, here is the meat of where we disagree – you believe that our post-WWII prosperity is due to our administrative state where I hold that it is in spite of it. Now this position on both of our parts is technically a generality as to meet your desire for specificness we’d have to go program through program and law through law (or reg by reg). For example, I think you’ll have tremendous difficulty showing that our entitlements, war on poverty, certain environmental regs (like Endangered Species Act), prevailing wage law, minimum wage law, drug war, immigration bureaucracy, ICC, etc. have a positive impact on our prosperity. You’d counter with the highways/interstate system…and what else exactly? Seriously, what federal program/regulation/laws (where the largest growth of governmental spending has occurred) are necessary for our post-WWII prosperity? I think it is you, not me, that will have the trouble with being specific here.

    “If you deny the existence of mutual responsibilities, then you must insist that it is your right to fire a weapon into a crowd for your own entertainment, since it is your property, and you have no responsibilities to those who might happen to be in the way of your bullets. You must believe that you have no responsibility not to dump toxic waste on someone else’s land, since while they may have a property right, it is protected only against the evil government, not against other people who might infringe upon it, since people have no responsibility to one another. It’s an absurd position. Once you recognize that it’s an absurd position, and that we clearly DO have responsibilities to one another, the challenge becomes incorporating that awareness, and considering where the boundaries between rights and responsibilities reside in each instance, which is exactly what I’m advocating for.”

    Steve, depends on what you mean by right. How do you define rights? For me, a rights is simply an obligation imposed on another. So I have no inherent obligations upon me, but for the purpose of not having a society that descends into anarchy/violence, it makes sense not to engage in initiating force/violence on another. Think game theory with a multiple iterations prisoner’s dilemna. On this I borrow heavily from Gaultier. However, big difference between saying that I promise not to hit you if you promise not to hit me and saying you covet my TV and you get to use force to take it.

    “I don’t mind that you used the Borg as an analogy; it’s a great anology for many things. But what I do mind is that it is part of a pattern of insulating an ideological dogma at a high degree of generality, while simply disregarding the complex, nuanced reality that renders that ideology both absurd and dysfunctional on close examination.

    Your ultimate argument that, since it’s Facebook, all you can do is state that you disagree, disregard the tsunami of evidence for why such disagreement doesn’t track reality, and claim that that is an unimpeachable position. Yes, Elliot, you are welcome to having and voicing arbitrary, unsupported positions, clearly as an expression of a dogmatic ideology, while claiming that it’s neither an ideology nor unsupported positions, yet never succeeding in supporting them, and writing at length why you don’t write at length. Meanwhile, I’ll discuss the real world in necessary detail, with precise analytical focus, examining its true complexity and subtlety, and recognizing my own humanity while encouraging others to reject this ideological appeal to lose their own.”

    Steve, I don’t think you are actually describing things in detail. I think you have picked a the perfect-not-sweet spot – too long to have an easy conversation, but to short to truly be describing things in depth. I get that you want to have facebook conversations with substance – trust me I do as that is what I like to have on my page as well. However, this format does not lend itself well to that goal IMHO – at least if you want to do it all in one conversation. What I suggest is that you do what I do – instead of having a treatise type conversation, pick one small subsection of what you believe or what you want to discuss. Here, it would be whether a specific post-WWII law or regulation has had a positive or negative impact on the economy. You could then go thread by thread for each law, reg, program, etc. and try to build up your argument.

    That is generally the approach that I take on my page when you examine it from afar. It is no secret that I am very socially liberal but otherwise conservative. Now I could try to have on giant discussion with all my conservative contacts to convince them that I am right. However, people would not read beyond the first two or three sentences. So instead what I do is write post after post dealing with various discrete issues from my perspective. Does that mean that I have everybody engaged and wrestling with my ideas? Not at all. But I do think I have a much higher rate of success than if I did giant post after giant post.

    SH: E, you said, “you believe that our post-WWII prosperity is due to our administrative state where I hold that it is in spite of it.” Actually, I’ve stated, repeatedly, an empirical fact: Not one modern prosperous nation that has participated in the historically unprecedented post-WWII expansion in the production of prosperity did so without FIRST having had in place a large administrative state. I’ve said that it’s a remarkable assertion that a characteristic universally associated with such prosperity is antithetical to it. And I’ve explained the economic dynamics by which this is the case.

    EF: Steve, (a) causation v. correlation; (b) the U.S. DID have large expansion in the period of 1700-1900 without a large administrative state and you have not given a concrete reasons as to why that expansion would not have resumed; and (c) you are still speaking in generalities as you are not specific as to what aspects of the administrative state cause prosperity (i.e which regs, laws, spending, etc) and why you believe that.

    SH: E: 1) The “causation does not equal correlation” argument doesn’t mean that a temporally sequential correlation of universal membership, without exception, is irrelevant. In fact, correlation is generally a legitimate cornerstone of causal arguments. 2) It’s not 1700-1900. That’s the point. In fact, that’s a very big point. That’s why I emphasize “post-wwII.” Because the world changes, and your ideology doesn’t. You’ve nailed your problem right on the head. Yes, huge centralized empires were the right paradigm for relative wealth and power in 2000 BC, but, no, they’re not the right paradigm now. Yes, a liberalized (in the sense of “economic liberalization”) of the economy was the big step forward in an immediately preceding major historical epoch, but, no, it is not the permanent one right solution for all challenges, and not the permanent paradigm for all time.

    That’s the nature of history that you just can’t seem to grasp, Elliot. That the lathe of time and numbers carves and ever evolving reality, that that reality doesn’t rest on one perfected form but continues to carve and smooth it into new and more robust and more just and more sustainable forms over time. A centralized state serving political and cultural elite interests gave way to a liberalized political economy churning up access to the realms of elitism, and making them more economic in nature. A step forward, but not a final step, not some sort of infallible perfection. That’s why a popular sovereignty with a state as a public agent, using that social institutional material that the lathe of time and numbers has so universally favored and has rediscovered a different a more useful role for the future, has been, empirically, such a robust step forward for so many prosperous developed nations.

    It’s remarkable that you simply disregard the comparative outcomes in Western European nations and the United States, insisting that your ideological conviction that they are inferior to us must be right, while they are outperforming us on virtually every indicator of human wellbeing. You say I’m speaking in generalities, and yet I alone among the two of us cite a deluge of specific statistical facts. Generalites that are supported by deluges of specific statistical facts are far stronger and more defensible generalities than mere ideological platitudes repeated in an endless loop, with only localized and cherry picked empirical evidence ever avaiilable to support them. I given you the world of empirical evidence, and you insist that it is the world rather than your ideology that must be mistaken.

    By the way, your perfect ideology catalyzed two global economic collapses. Both the Great Depression and the financial sector collapse of 2008 were immediately preceded by the two biggest spikes in the concentration of wealth in the United States in that same 100 year period, both of which followed a decade or more of deregulatory policies. No matter how much, how persistently, and how dramatically reality militates against your mania, you will continue to insist that only your mania can be true.

    Correlation may not equal causation, but a temporally sequential correlation of 100% (of the entire set of nations that participated in the historically unprecedented post-WWII expansion in the production of prosperity), coupled with two out of two major economic collapses in a century correlated with two out of two record-breaking concentrations of wealth following two out of two periods of deregulatory policy, coupled with the comparative international data among developed nations today, is a lot more than some bland suggestion of correlation equalling causation. It is overwhelming evidence that the ideology of economic inequality fostered by underregulated markets and lack of attention to issues of distributive justice isn’t just inhumane, but also economically dysfunctional on a catastrophic scale.

    As for my talking on a level of generalities, you are mistaken as to the burden of refuting a general proposition. You keep insisting that the essay to which this thread belongs, and my rejection of your extremist view that the lathe of history which produced the modern nation-state and the prosperitythat has come with it is inferior to your preferred utopian vision which diverges from it in a very significant way, is the thesis that a large administrative state produces prosperity. It isn’t. It is the thesis that the ideology which insists that a large administrative state obstructs the production of prosperity is refuted by the empirical evidence, since all modern prosperous nations do in fact have large administrative states, and since a plethora of related evidence confirms what that main reality indicates: You are inventing an ideological assertion that is not supported by the actual reality of the world we live in. I could, and have, and will again, make specific arguments about the ways in which this occurs. I’ve made fairly specific arguments here, pointing to, for instance, the destructive effects of gamed markets resulting from underregulation and the obstruction that poses to the growth in prosperity. But that’s not my burden here. All I did in this essay was lay out the underlying ontological error that animates the ideology you favor, despite the fact that is both indicated by overwhelming historical evidence to be contrary to the production of aggregate prosperity, and despite the fact that it is a commitment to inequality rather than to equality, a position correctly viewed as an inhumane one during the Enlightenment that gave birth to our own nation.

  • sblecher:

    Excuse me for butting in, but it’s clear that the word “collective” causes some people to have a bad reaction. I suggest using the word “commons” instead. Commons is defined as land or resources belonging to, or affecting the whole of a community. The word goes back to English Common Law. If we use commons in its most general sense, it’s not inflammatory and covers a huge range of things that comprise a culture or civilization, and all human activity is intertwined with it. When we discuss the commons we can compare one culture to another. We can examine a specific human accomplishment and obtain a rough idea of the relative contribution of the individual vs. the commons. In developed countries the commons is extremely rich and empowers individuals, while in the third world it doesn’t amount to much.It’s pointless to argue whether you did or did not build something. We walk on both legs, and if you have two legs, it makes no sense to credit the right leg or left leg.

  • The dialogue continues:

    SH: Finally, E, you said that I would have difficulty demonstrating that entitlement spending helped out economy as a whole. Despite the fact that I suspect that it can be demonstrated that certain degrees and forms of social welfare spending does indeed help to generate long-term prosperity, such as spending that reduces private health costs, the more important point here is that aggregate wealth production is not the only relevant measure in the determination of national economic health. There are three dimensions to be considered: Economic robustness (i.e., aggregate wealth production), economic fairness (i.e., equity of access to opportunity to partake of the wealth produced), and economic sustainability (i.e., how indefinitely the current economic paradigm can persist given resource constraints and environmental externalities). Economic health requires brining these three into optimal balance, not maximizing one with complete disregard for the others.

    EF: ‎Steve Harvey: “Both the Great Depression and the financial sector collapse of 2008 were immediately preceded by the two biggest spikes in the concentration of wealth in the United States in that same 100 year period, both of which followed a decade or more of deregulatory policies.” So has China had a housing bubble? Europe? Has either had concentration of wealth? Causation v. Correlation again Steve.

    SH: You need a lesson in formal logic, E. The argument that cases of A tend to cause cases of B doesn’t imply that all cases of B must be caused by a case of A. If I say that dropping nuclear weapons on a city tends to cause mass destruction, you would argue against that observation by noting that mass destruction has been caused without nuclear weapons as well, so nuclear weapons can’t be the cause when they are dropped. That, by the way, is absolutely IDENTICAL in structure to your above refutation of the significance of the fact that in exactly two major economic collapses in the past century, exactly two were preceded by the two largest peaks in the concentration of capital. Does that alone prove my point? No. Is it standing alone in the multifaceted arguments presented above? No. You don’t seem very fond of reality, E.

    EF: Steve, the causation v. correlation shorthand was brought up because the cause of our current mess was not deregulation. It was that interest rates were to low, origination standards were crap, banks didn’t care that standards were crap because they wrongfully assumed (with the Government’s blessing) that housing was a surefire and almost completely risk free investment that would never go down in price, because banks overleveraged themselves on purchasing collateralization of such loans largely because they assumed that Fannie/Freddie were on the hook to a huge degree if things went south, etc. These weren’t deregulation or failure to unconcentrate capital problems – they were problems of everybody buying into a really bad framework and making bad decisions based on such bad framework. And before you say that government can prevent that, the regulators were (a) buying into the same stupid framework (housing prices only go up!); (b) other countries that have lesser issues of the things you cite (purported deregulation and overconcentration of capital) also have had their housing markets collapse or approach collapse (cough…Spain…cough…China) and (c) have a really bad history of buying into other frameworks as well.

    So really what I was trying to say, briefly, is that your understanding of the cause of the great recession is off and that you seek to mask your misunderstanding by using big words and false correlations.

    SH: The causes were myriad and not perfectly understood. But the fact that an extreme concentration of wealth was one cause is widely shared by professional economists (and is found in most textbooks, which you of course reject as being based on inferior knowledge to yours, since you have so nicely insulated your understanding from the actual evidence and theory that has developed over generations of dedicated work, preferring your cult-like replacement of that understanding to what evidence and reason suggest). I understand that in your mind your ideological certainty trumps all other knowledge and evidence, and that you can insist that the well-informed and well-reasoned empirical argument you disagree with is wrong because you disagree with it. But your manner of refuting it is to keep repeating that causation isn’t correlation, despite my argument being a triangulation of correlations, complete with the temporal sequence suggestive of causation (the spikes in concentration of wealth PRECEDED the on-sets of the economic crises; the establishment of large administrative states PRECEDED the growth of post-WWII prosperity). You keep returning to your non-empirical refutations of empirical arguments, as if your litany of ideological platitudes trumps all reason and all evidence.

    In fact, numerous studies after the financial sector collapse demonstrated that the overleveraging you speak of, of while involving a false belief in an ever-rising housing market, was facilitated by underregulated derivatives markets which allowed immediate risk to be divorced from immediate profit, without which the overleveraging would have been cooled by a different cost-benefit analysis. This was in fact predicted over a decade earlier, by those who recognized the looming problem presented by underregulated derivatives markets. And the same studies demonstrated that the loosened lending standards and government guarantees played a marginal role in comparison to the underregulated derivatives markets, which caused lenders to trip over one another to coach borrowers on how to lie on application forms.

    It’s nice that you can declare that my understanding is off, on the basis of its incompatibility with your dogma, but that’s just not the way it works. Nor is science the art of absolute irrefutable proof: It is the amassing of triangulated evidence in support of a position. And only one of us is engaging in that exercise.

    EF: ‎Steve Harvey – there you go again with “cult” like. Please extrapolate how a “concentration” of wealth caused the collapse and the degree of a role you claim it has. Also include the specifics of how you reach this conclusion.

    As for “predicting” the collapse, there were many who “predicted” it (I saw it coming back in 2005 based on the reasons you mention and entered into many heated arguments with family members over it). Even Lyndon LaRouche predicted it, but I’m guessing you’ll agree we should not follow his views, no?

    SH: I didn’t merely say that the collapse was predicted, but rather that the exact role that underregulated derivatives markets would play in that collapse was predicted, with great precision. Those are two very different things.

    The overconcentration of wealth undermines the consumer engine by skewing the balance of investment to spending, creating an investment heavy, consumer constricted environment which reduces demand, and shrinks the economic engine. This combines with other dynamics into complex feedback loops which lead to a spiral of self-reinforcing economic collapse. For instance, the increasing decline in consumer and investor confidence resulting from reduced demand, and thus reduced sales and reduced profits clenches up liquidity and causes the economic engine to basically fall into an escalating spasm of constriction in response.

    And let me add, E, if you continue to impose the convenient requirement that I consistently manage to be the oracle of perfect wisdom and knowledge in order to refute a position that has yet to be supported with any evidence or any well-reasoned argument, against a position that has been supported not only with my own well-evidenced, well-reasoned arguments, but also with overwhelming weight of the product of the disciplines that are directly relevant to the discussion, then you will eventually win your point: I will eventually not know something. That will not make you right. Because, despite the fact that I am actually quite well-versed in economics and history and social institutional dynamics, I’m also aware of my own limitations as an individual, and it is for that reason that I rely not only on my own knowledge, but also on the knowledge of generations of people doing dedicated work in the fields we are discussing. 80% of American economists favored Democratic over Republican economic policies in 2008, in the wake of the financial sector collapse. The free-market advocate Economist magazine called Tea Party economic policy “economically illiterate and disgracefully cynical.” Even conservative economists called the Tea Party insistence on continuing the Bush tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans “indefensible.” One of the many differences between us is that I recognize uncertainty and fallibility, acknowledge that the genius of thousands working over generations, on average, exceeds the false certainties of individuals and small ideological cults, and that part of how we must move forward intelligently is to reduce our individual hubris, which deludes us into believing in our own intellectual infallibility, and instead engage in a large-scale human enterprise of discovery and growth.

  • sblecher:

    Excuse me for interjecting. This was in an email I received from Betty Harris.
    “The good men May do separately is small compared with what they May do collectively.”
    Benjamin Franklin

    Was Ben Franklin a Commie???

  • Pretty much. He believed that all private wealth beyond that necessary to support oneself and one’s family belonged to the public, “by whose laws it was created,” and believed in transfering it to the public via the government in the form of very high luxury and inheritance taxes.

  • sblecher:

    Hello Steve, I have a question to submit to you. Since this discussion is about the collective, or the commons, this may be appropriate. I will preface my question by saying I think Capitalism is fine if it’s not too predatory, and so is private property. Phil Anschutz just bought 1,5 million acre feet of water in a deep aquifer in Douglas County. The transaction apparently is legal, but I find it deeply disturbing that one individual can own that much water. Potentially it would put many thousands of people at his mercy. Am I being an alarmist or do you find it disturbing too?
    What say you?

  • Water Law in the West follows the doctrine of “Prior Appropriation,” which means the first to put it to good use has superior rights, and buying water speculatively is prohibited. I don’t know the details of this transaction, but in order for it to be legal –in fact, in order for it to occur– the buyer (Anschutz) has to already specify a use for the water, probably a property development project. He can’t buy it to hold it as a form of power over others under current water law, and property development can’t proceed without first securing access to the necessary water supply. So, other than the normal background problem of expanding residential use of scarce water, no, I don’t think that this poses the kind of problem you are concerned about.

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