In the gardens of Athens in the fourth century BC (planting the seeds of Western Civilization), in the plazas of Florence in the 16th century AD (ushering in the modern era), in the salons of Paris in the 18th century AD (informing and inspiring others in a small meeting room in Philadelphia), to a lesser extent in mid-19th century Concord, MA (informing and inspiring Gandhi and King and Mandela), the genius of a few unleashed new currents of the genius of the many, currents thick with reason and a stronger commitment to our shared humanity, changing the course of human history. It has been done before and it will be done again, whenever and wherever people choose to do it.

They did not gather in those times and places to discuss only how to win this or that election or to shift power from one party to another or to address the human endeavor one issue at a time. Rather, they gathered, with wonder and hope and passion, to explore and discover, to create and innovate, to raise reason and our shared humanity onto a pedestal and dedicate themselves to the enterprise of perfecting our consciousness and improving our existence.

In every time and place, including these ones of particular florescence, most of the people went about their business, engaged in the mundane challenges of life, fought the battles we all fight, both personal and collective. But the great paradigm shifts of history have happened when a coalescence of inspired minds reached deeper and broader than others around them, beyond the individual issues of the day, beyond the immediate urgencies and power struggles, and sought out the essence of our existence, to understand it, to celebrate it, and to change it for the better.

Imagine a gathering of great minds today that were not lost to the minutia of academe or the mud-pit of politics or the selfish pursuit of wealth and fame and power, but were free to devote themselves to the challenge of orchestrating a social transformation, a peaceful revolution occurring beneath the surface of events, a new threshold reached in the advance of creative reason in service to humanity.

Imagine gatherings of engaged citizens that, guided only by the broadly attractive narrative of reason in service to our shared humanity, of emulating our Founding Fathers and fulfilling the vision that they had for this nation, dedicated themselves to learning how to listen to one another and weigh competing arguments rather than regress ever deeper into blind ideological trench warfare. Imagine forming the nucleus of a movement that would extend the logic of methodical reason in service to our shared humanity ever more broadly, not just through direct participation, but through the promotion of the narrative that we are capable of doing so and that it is incumbent on us to do so.

What is stopping us from establishing such gatherings, and such a movement? What is stopping us from bringing together a small cadre of brilliant minds to implement ideas designed to cascade through the social fabric in transformative ways, and large populations of engaged citizens to stir and be stirred by the sea giving rise to those cresting waves of brilliance, together advancing the tide of imaginative reason in service to our shared humanity? Only the precise combination of vision, drive, sophistication and resources that would make it happen, not just in some stumbling and unsustainable or unproductive way, but as a living, breathing, current reality.

I’ve designed the nucleus of an idea, a social movement that is realistic as well as idealistic, a secular religion to promote the narrative and practice of disciplined reason in service to our shared humanity. As a person who learned how to dream as a child; who drifted and worked and lived around the world for several years as a young adult; who became a social scientist, author, teacher, lawyer, public policy consultant, candidate for office, and member of several nonprofit boards and advisory councils; who has done urban outreach work and community organizing; who has synthesized ideas from many disciplines, many great minds, and much experience, this is not a Quixotic quest that boasts much but can deliver little; it is a carefully considered strategic plan for moving the center of gravity of our zeitgeist in the direction of an ever-increasing reliance on imaginative reason in ever-increasing service to our shared humanity.

For a comprehensive (though somewhat dense) presentation of my proposal, please see A Proposal: The Politics of Reason and Goodwill.

For a briefer and simpler presentation of the underlying philosophy of this proposed social movement, please see: The Ideology of Reason in Service to Humanity.

For an extremely bare-bones summary of the social movement idea itself, please see: A VERY Simplified Synopsis of “The Politics of Reason and Goodwill”.

For more elaboration of various aspects of this proposal and various musings about it, please see the essays hyperlinked to in the second box at: Catalogue of Selected Posts

The biggest challenge that faces human beings is to make sense rather than to make noise. Effectively addressing all other challenges depends on it. Whether we want to change the world or want to protect ourselves from the impositions of others trying to change the world, our beliefs, our goals, our actions, are all a function of how we understand reality, and it is clear, at least in the abstract, that some understandings are more precise, more accurate, and more useful than others.

The first thing we have to understand is that we are not just a collection of individuals, but rather are members of a society and organisms in a biosphere. We exist interdependently with one another and with our environment, unable to survive at all without the latter and unable to survive as human beings without the former. Our continued existence as organisms depends on ingesting food and breathing air, two vital needs that are produced and maintained by the living planet which we inhabit interdependently with other living things. Our consciousness as human beings and our existence beyond bare survival (and in almost all cases our survival itself) depends on our coexistence with other human beings in organized groups, through which our use of language allows us to thrive through a shared but differentiated mind and a shared but differentiated enterprise.

That leads to the first question we must face: Do we, as individuals and as a society, take responsibility for our impact on those systems of which we are a part, or do we leave them to their own organic trajectories, pursuing our own immediate goals without attempting to act with conscious intent beyond them? Do we attempt to be conscious and conscientious participants in these larger wholes of which we are a part, or do we simply live as individual organisms pursuing our own individual desires? Do we take responsibility for one another, for the distribution of suffering and well-being, of opportunity and of relative lack of opportunity, for how well our systems are functioning in terms of their sustainability, their robustness, and their fairness, or do we insist that doing so is either impossible or undesirable?

The second thing we have to understand is our own fallibility. Anything any one of us is certain about may be wrong. Our various beliefs and certainties are conceptualizations of reality in our minds, and must always be considered fallible. This leads to two considerations: 1) the best (and perhaps only rational) argument supporting those who insist that we must not try to govern ourselves as rational people confronting the challenges and opportunities we face is the argument that perhaps we are simply not up to the task, and that we should therefore rely on simple principles that best liberate our collective and individual genius rather than try to “micromanage” our shared existence, and 2) our focus should be on how we arrive at our conclusions, rather than on insisting that our current conclusions are the one absolute truth.

The first consideration is easily dealt with: Recognizing our fallibility and the power of organic processes is a part of being rational people working together to do the best we can, not a displacement of it. The Constitution (created by intentional human thought, arguably a very ambitious act of “social engineering”) and the modern marketplace (also a product of much intentional thought and oversight) are not magical panaceas which free us from the responsibility of striving to be responsible and humane sovereigns, but are merely part of the accumulated material of past efforts by past generations to do what we ourselves are called upon to continue to do: To govern ourselves intelligently, responsibly, and intentionally, in service to our shared humanity.

We should strive to emulate rather than idolize our “founding fathers,” to be the same kind of proactive rational citizens, working together, mobilizing our intelligence, believing in our ability to rationally and humanely govern ourselves. We should utilize rather than surrender to market forces, recognizing that there is nothing about them that automatically resolves all human problems and challenges, but rather that they are one useful institutional modality upon which we can rely in concert with others, in our ongoing efforts to work together to do the best we can in service to our shared humanity.

The second consideration flowing from our recognition of our own fallibility is the one that leads to a broader and deeper commitment to the methodologies that have proved most useful in the modern era at diminishing the aggregate effects of bias and increasing aggregate accuracy in our conclusions. Both scientific methodology and legal procedure are sets of techniques for informing and framing rigorous debates over what is and is not true, following sets of rules regarding what evidence to consider reliable and how to organize and channel the determinations that follow from that evidence. In science, the purpose to which this process is put is to refine our shared consciousness; in law, it is to increase the justness of our coexistence. These, indeed, are the two things we should always be striving to do, as responsible sovereigns, and to do so most effectively we should build on the methodologies that already exist for doing so.

In other words, the most pressing imperative facing our shared human enterprise right now is the expansion of the logic of science and law into the realm of public discourse and public opinion and policy formation. We need to transcend, to leave on the dust heap of history, the myth that all opinions are equal (while protecting the expression of all opinions in order to determine their relative merits), and engage in rigorous, increasingly formal debates in a constant quest for the best understandings, in best service to our shared humanity.

Tragically, we, as a people, are not only faced with the challenge of cultivating these disciplines more broadly among ourselves, but also of convincing those least committed to them that they have any value at all. We are also faced with the challenge of overcoming the reality that human beings in general do not arrive at their conclusions primarily through rational processes, but rather through social and emotional processes that often circumvent or disregard reason and evidence, and often serve narrower interests than our shared humanity.

The challenge facing rational and humane people, therefore, is not just to make the most compelling arguments in best service to our shared humanity, but also to create a context in which the most compelling arguments in best service to our shared humanity are more likely to prevail. That requires us to be rational about human irrationality, and to engage not primarily in a competition of rational arguments but rather in a competition of emotional narratives. The challenge, in other words, is to create a compelling emotional narrative out of the notion of being rational and humane people, and, even more, the notion of being rational and humane people in certain specific, disciplined ways, and then to create a set of mechanisms by which the most compelling rational arguments in best service to our shared humanity are also, simultaneously, compelling emotional narratives that persuade people who do not engage in or necessarily understand the disciplines we are promoting.

The most immediate challenge in the ongoing human endeavor, in other words, is to create, promote, and disseminate a compelling emotional narrative that systematically favors reason in service to humanity, not on a case-by-case basis (as we have been doing), but in a more general and comprehensive way.

There are, therefore, two major branches to the human endeavor: 1) to continue to develop, deepen, and broaden a commitment to disciplined reason in service to our shared humanity, using the methodologies we have developed for doing so, and extending the breadth of contexts in which they are utilized and the number of people striving to utilize them; and 2) to create an emotionally compelling narrative that attracts those who lack the desire or ability to utilize or defer to those disciplines (rigorously applied and debated rational argumentation) or that objective (our shared humanity) to support them not just in name, but also in some effective and authentic way.

To some, this will all seem too abstract, too far removed from the political and cultural realities we grapple with, or too far removed from their own emotional and cognitive inclinations. But those of us who are truly committed to striving to become an ever-more rational and humane people need to recognize that the ongoing mud-fight isn’t the height of what we can do, that we need to reach higher, think deeper, act more ambitiously in service to the highest of ideals and the noblest of purposes. The great cultural and political heroes of modern history, who we revere for their inspired and effective leadership, are who they are precisely because they have had the courage and determination to bite off rather large chunks of this challenge that I have just laid out, opposing imperialism or racism or other injustices. But we can invoke them all now, we can rally them to the greater cause of which they all were a part, and we can promote that cause with the same degree of passion and commitment that they did…, because that truly is the essence of the human endeavor.

(My essays on Colorado Confluence elaborate many of these themes. In the first box at Catalogue of Selected Posts are hyperlinks to essays laying out a comprehensive social systemic paradigm through which to understand and analyze our shared cognitive/social institutional/historical/technological landscape. In the second box are hyperlinks to essays laying out a social movement idea for promoting the narrative of and actual commitment to reason in service to humanity. Scattered among the remaining boxes are hyperlinks to essays exploring various aspects of both of these branches of the human endeavor. Together, they form a comprehensive and detailed map of the human endeavor as I have described it in this essay.)

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Though the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s iconic “I have a dream” speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial, is still three days away, today is the day to start reflecting on it, on its continuing relevance in so many ways, and on our need to recommit as a nation to that poignant dream of realizing our decency as a nation.

As we look back on recent events and recent developments, on the shooting death of an unarmed black teen walking home from the store by an armed vigilante out looking for “bad guys;” of the response by so many dismissing it as the price we pay for the “liberty” to ”protect ourselves,” often informed by our bigotries,  in violent and deadly ways; of the combination of a right-wing drive to reinstate voter suppression laws and a Supreme Court holding making it easier to do so; of the rise of an angry, violent, divisive, and frequently racist political movement in America that loves guns and, by its ideological choices, hates humanity; it’s time for us to once again ask ourselves what kind of a people we want to be.

It’s time to dream again, America, and to shout that dream from the mountain tops. It’s time to dream of a nation in which we are more committed to lifting one another up than to knocking one another down. It’s time to dream of a future, of a present, in which we care that so many are so impoverished, that so many have so little access to basic health care, that so many suffer so much unnecessary violence. It’s time to dream again of being a people whose disputes are defined more by the limits of our reason and decency than by the extent of our bigotries. It’s time to dream again of striving to become a nation, and, eventually, a world, committed more to our shared humanity than to our explicit and implicit hatreds or, just as destructively, our mutual indifference.

It’s time to dream again, to care, to think, to strive, to work diligently on behalf of that which is most rational and humane, that which is most decent and good, that which is most caring and conscious. It’s time to dream again, and, in never-flagging opposition to those base and horrifying human tendencies that ever-seek to turn our dream into a nightmare, tendencies that are so in ascendance once again in this too-often troubled and misguided nation of ours, work diligently, work with all other rational people of goodwill, work in service to our shared humanity, to make that dream come ever-more true.

(Dr. King’s prepared remarks end at about the 11 minute mark of this video, and his “I have a dream” speech, extemporaneously building on a theme he had used a few times in smaller venues, begins just after the 12 minute mark.)

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Obviously, I think that it is a sad commentary on our country when a man can leave his home armed looking for “bad guys” to “defend” himself against and, guided by his own poor judgment and bigotry, identify an unarmed black teen walking home from the store as a likely prospect, stalk that teen, wind up shooting and killing that teen, and not only be found not guilty even of manslaughter, but be perceived as perfectly justified by a large faction (almost all white) of the American population.

If you look at the public debates over the George Zimmerman/Trayvon  Martin case, one thing leaps out, something that is more broadly relevant, something that distinguishes the mental modality of the right from the left in one very precise way. This is an issue of cognitive framing, with the narrower frame permitting a conclusion of justifiable self-defense (assuming the facts most favorable to the defense), and the broader frame precluding it.

For instance, if you ask, “does one have the right to defend himself, with a firearm, against someone about to clobber him over the head with a heavy object,” most people would answer, “of course.” But what if the “defender” were a mugger who had attacked the guy with the heavy object, the heavy object were his cane that he needed due to an infirmity, and the moment being referred to were the mugging victim’s response to being mugged by an armed assailant? Does the mugger then have the right to claim self-defense, for shooting his victim as his victim tried to defend himself? Of course not.

Let’s come up with an analogy that more closely parallels the Zimmerman case, emphasizing and playing on the stereotypes involved (and other stereotypes as well). Consider this scenario: A young, white middle class woman is walking through a residential neighborhood at night to return home from the nearby convenience store. She notices a big, black guy following her. She continues to walk, and confirms that he is definitely following her. Terrified, she slips off the path and finds an object to arm herself with, a plywood board. As her stalker approaches, she comes out behind him, swings the board, screaming. Her stalker, who, as it turns out, was an armed stalker, pulls out his gun and shoots her to death. (I am using the word “stalker” to refer to any stranger following around another person with some kind of unfriendly intent, including thinking that the other person is a “punk” who you don’t want to let “get away with” some imaginary infraction that their race induced you to believe they must be committing.)

Tell me, right-wing apologists, is your big black stalker innocent, because he was just defending himself? Are you as indifferent to this innocent white woman’s violent death at the hands of an armed stalker as you are of an unarmed black teen’s violent death at the hands of an armed stalker?

Here is the complete list of differences between this scenario and the Zimmerman-Martin scenario: 1) the races of the stalker and the person stalked; 2) the gender of the person stalked; 3) right-wing ASSUMPTION of the intentions of the stalker in each scenario and the different degrees to which they (right-wingers) identify with the stalker and the person stalked in each scenario; 4) the woman having armed herself (to make her at least as threatening as unarmed Martin was); and 4) the generous assumption for my alternative scenario that all of the facts best favoring the Zimmerman defense are true.

So, why, exactly, is that white-woman-stalking-victim an innocent victim of the criminal-black-stalker, while the unarmed black victim of our real stalker (Hispanic, white, I don’t care) is just the unlucky person who was killed by an innocent person’s discharged bullet? The answer is very simple: The combination of the right-wing need to defend the absurd belief that we are a safer society if people go out with guns looking for trouble and their (right-wingers’) racism. a combination that is as horrifying and offensive to rational and humane people today as all similar past chapters of our national history have been.

Right-wing arguments (and particularly gun culture arguments) frequently rely on this narrowing of the frame, filtering out the contextual information which completely changes the analysis. Those who see in this case no guilt on Zimmerman’s part have chosen a very narrow frame, which excludes much relevant information; those who see guilt on Zimmerman’s part choose a broader and more inclusive one.

There are many other issues in which this difference in framing is central to the ideological differences found in regard to them. The right relies on a reduced frame, hyper-individualistic rather than social systemic, static and instantaneous rather than dynamical and over time. And that is not just a difference in personal taste, but a reduction in cogency.

The Zimmerman trial is over, the verdict is in, but the public issue over what kind of a people we want to choose to be continues. The right insists that it is good for society for people to have the right to arm themselves and stalk people they are suspicious of, for whatever reason they are suspicious of them, incite a violent encounter by doing so, and shoot to death the person they chose to stalk in the process of that violent encounter. I want to believe that the overwhelming majority of Americans don’t agree.

We’ve had Columbine. We’ve had Virginia Tech. We’ve had the Gabby Giffords shooting. We’ve had the Aurora Theater shooting. We’ve had Sandy Hook Elementary School. We have, on average, ten times the homicide rate of any other developed nation on Earth. We have half the privately owned firearms on Earth. And we have people who are so blithely indifferent to the death and suffering that their idolatry of instruments of deadly violence cause that they won’t let us, as a people, even implement universal background checks or limit the magazine capacity of their military grade weapons. The degree of insanity –vicious, destructive insanity– involved in this right-wing ideology is simply mindboggling.

At the same time, they want voter suppression laws (and have been assisted in being able to pass and implement them in a recent Court decision that disabled the Voting Rights Act), they want to dismantle Affirmative Action, they want to disregard the injustices and inequities of our society, they want to blame the poor for being poor, they want to disregard our responsibilities to one another as members of a society, they want to erase our humanity and promote only selfish disregard for the rights and welfare of anyone who doesn’t look just like them. And they are uncompromising in their commitment to these “ideals.”

(The examples mentioned here, of course, only scratch the surface. See Why The Far-Right Is On The Wrong Side Of Reason, Morality, Humanity and History for a more in-depth treatment.)

This is not a country divided by two opposing reasonable views, that we need to find some reasonable ground between. This is a country divided by, on the one hand, reason in service to humanity and, on the other, irrationality in service to inhumanity. It is time, America, to reduce the latter to a sad footnote of our history, and promote the former to the status of the shared foundation on which we all build. It’s time to allow our disagreements to be defined by the limits of our wisdom and decency rather than by the extent of our bigotries.

(See also Debunking The Arguments of the American Gun Culture for a cogent discussion of the competing narratives informing the right and the left, and how they fit into this struggle between reason in service to humanity and irrationality in service to inhumanity, a perennial struggle of human history, and one from which we are not, as it turns out, at all exempt.)

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A Libertarian Facebook “friend” of mine, who is also a somewhat well-known blogger and commentator (she appears on local TV political talk shows from time to time, for instance, something that kind of amazes me, because she’s never made a single rational argument of any kind that I know of), posted, in my honor, the question “To Ban or Not To Ban?” Participating on that thread is the most fun I’ve ever had on her page! Portions of the thread follow (once again, I’ve excluded PJ’s enormous quantity of irrelevant links, and included his comments more to be scrolled through and marveled at than actually read):

SH: I say “ban,” because any troll who comes onto your page and says things like “let’s all strive to be rational and humane people, knowing that we’re all fallible, working together to do the best we can” is clearly too offensive to tolerate. I can’t understand why there’s even any question about it!

PJ: Yeah more Marxist humanism from Steve…

SH: You see? P gets it! It’s just too offensive to all of us here to let people post things like “look, any of us might be wrong about some of the things we hold to be true. Let’s try to avoid these ideologies, and instead invest in working harder at using the methodologies of reason in service to our shared humanity.” That is such a vile notion! Ugh! It makes me nauseas just thinking about it! I don’t know why you’ve tolerated that kind of thing this long. it clearly is anathema to all of us here, and there’s no reason why we should have to expose ourselves to it. Let’s insulate ourselves from the offensive nature of such suggestions. They make us all uncomfortable.

KT: K, this is your page (as long as FB allows it). If you like the chaos, allow it to continue. If you like order, ban those who abuse your page for their own reasons. Personally, I would ban them and let their chaos reign on their own pages and not give them the voice on your page.

SH: KT is right. This is our echo-chamber, by right and by design. Let’s keep it that way.

KT: Steve is one of your trolls. Mr. Chaos himself.

SH: KT, I’m just agreeing with you, and with P.

PJ: No let’s properly identify all aspects of the competing ideologies of Marxist collectivism vs Capitalism ,Individual Freedom and limited Government, without the Marxist Democrats always answering with the restrictive confines of the Marxist based Rules for Radicals, which requires them to RIDICULE their opponents in lieu of substance. NOW ANY MARXIST DEMOCRATS WHO ANSWER… DO NOT USE THIS TEMPLATE, IN HONOR OF HONEST CONVERSATION…

“An organizer must stir up dissatisfaction and discontent… He must create a mechanism that can drain off the underlying guilt for having accepted the previous situation for so long a time. Out of this mechanism, a new community organization arises….

“The job then is getting the people to move, to act, to participate; in short, to develop and harness the necessary power to effectively conflict with the prevailing patterns and change them. When those prominent in the status quo turn and label you an ‘agitator’ they are completely correct, for that is, in one word, your function—to agitate to the point of conflict.” p.117

“Process tells us how. Purpose tells us why. But in reality, it is academic to draw a line between them, they are part of a continuum…. Process is really purpose.” p.122


7. Tactics. “Tactics are those conscious deliberate acts by which human beings live with each other and deal with the world around them. … Here our concern is with the tactic of taking; how the Have-Nots can take power away from the Haves.” p.126

 Always remember the first rule of power tactics (pps.127-134):

1. “Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have.”

2. “Never go outside the expertise of your people. When an action or tactic is outside the experience of the people, the result is confusion, fear and retreat…. [and] the collapse of communication.

3. “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy. Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety and uncertainty. (This happens all the time. Watch how many organizations under attack are blind-sided by seemingly irrelevant arguments that they are then forced to address.)

4. “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules. You can kill them with this, for they can no more obey their own rules than the Christian church can live up to Christianity.”

5. “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. It is almost impossible to counteract ridicule. Also it infuriates the opposition, which then reacts to your advantage.”

6. “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.”

7. “A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag. Man can sustain militant interest in any issue for only a limited time….”

8. “Keep the pressure on, with different tactics and actions, and utilize all events of the period for your purpose.”

9. “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.”

10. “The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition. It is this unceasing pressure that results in the reactions from the opposition that are essential for the success of the campaign.”

11. “If you push a negative hard and deep enough, it will break through into its counterside… every positive has its negative.”

12. “The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.”

13. Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. In conflict tactics there are certain rules that [should be regarded] as universalities. One is that the opposition must be singled out as the target and ‘frozen.’…

“…any target can always say, ‘Why do you center on me when there are others to blame as well?’ When your ‘freeze the target,’ you disregard these [rational but distracting] arguments…. Then, as you zero in and freeze your target and carry out your attack, all the ‘others’ come out of the woodwork very soon. They become visible by their support of the target…’

“One acts decisively only in the conviction that all the angels are on one side and all the devils on the other.” (pps.127-134)

Saul Alinksky, Rules for Radicals, Vintage Books, New York, 1989.

SH: I agree, P. We should identify all of that. And we should do so no matter what the conversation is actually about. If someone talks about the weather, we should answer by identifying those competing ideologies. If someone talks about scientific methodology, we should answer by identifying those competing ideologies. Good point.


SH: That’s right, P. Because whatever the topic is, if the other person disagrees with our perfectly correct ideology on any point or issue at all, that’s proof that they’re a Marxist, and being a Marxist is proof that they’re wrong about everything, and since they’re wrong about everything that’s proof that our position that they opposed is the correct one. It’s a good thing we have masters of logical reasoning like you on our side!

PJ: Steve-That is specious reasoning on your part. I do not use Marxism as a pejorative. It all comes down to intent. The intent behind Marxism is a large central Government command and control structure, that controls the means of production for the benefit of the so called collective. I simply think that that does not comport well with Individual Freedom and our Constitution. I have no issues with Marxist Democrats making the case for it. I simply do not support the end results of the Democrats applying Marxist tenets to US Governance. They have created massive debt, High unemployment , inertia decay and division amongst Americans. I would prefer Americans find common ground in Individual freedom, capitalism and the US Constitution. I do not believe that this is an incorrect or damaging line of reasoning.

SH: I agree with you, P. And clearly a person who frequently discusses and analyzes the virtues of robust markets as an integral part of a well-functioning economic system and has done professional economic modeling and policy analysis on that premise is a Marxist. What could be more obvious than that?

KM (page owner raising the question of blocking people like me): Case. In. Point.

SH: Yes, KM, the “Case. In. Point.” clearly demonstrates why blocking such people is right and good. We don’t want people who challenge our blind ideology in any way. We don’t want to be exposed to cogent arguments inconveniently revealing our own logical and factual errors. We want to be able to tell one another that our own ideological convictions are perfect without ever having to subject those convictions to the glaring light of fact and reason. Ban ‘em!!!!

PJ: Nobody is saying capitalism, individual freedom and limited Government is perfect. I am simply positing that the Downside of individual freedom, capitalism and limited government per the Constitution, produces better results, than the upside of the Marxist based collectivist agenda that Democrats push.

KM: I’m happy being challenged, I’m not happy when it’s impossible to use facebook to communicate with friends because it’s so overwhelming, annoying and inundating.

SH: Sarcasm aside, you have a very good point there, K. On the rare occasion that I’ve commented on a personal rather than political post of yours, it’s been purely friendly (such as a puppy post some time ago). When people post political statements on Facebook, if they have a large and diverse circle of FB friends, they are implicitly inviting the conversion of their page into a political forum. And I think that Facebook as a semi-public political forum is an amazing thing. It gives arguments a chance to compete in a robust way in a public arena. That is my ideal; our arguments should be allowed to compete, and (more elusively) should be allowed to prevail on their relative merits.

You really do have several legitimate choices: You can have two pages, one for political discourse and one for more personal stuff. You can limit your friends to those who agree with you OR write in a style and quantity you prefer, so that those annoying ones who don’t simply have no access. Or you can let chaos reign.

I, personally, DON’T choose the latter. My agenda is to increase the degree of rationality and compassion in our public discourse and our public policies, and I DO block those who are so ravingly irrational or so grotesquely inhumane that I just don’t want to have my time and peace of mind consumed by them. If I am such a person for you, you SHOULD block me, and I mean that sincerely.


SH: Yes, P, I’m the devil incarnate because I made my point through the transparent use of sarcasm. Once again, I just couldn’t agree with you more, and I marvel at the clarity and cogency of your insights.

PJ: yeah more Marxist based dishonest sophistry from Steve.

SH: P, people who use the word “so” are Marxists; people who use sarcasm are Marxists; everything in any way involving any aspect of Marxism is wrong; Marxist use words so people who use words are wrong; etc. etc. etc.

Everyone Else, I think there’s a misconception here: No one is doing me any favors by allowing me to post here. I’m doing you a favor. If you don’t want me to do you that favor, block me and spare me the cost of doing it.

PN: If they can’t enter into articulate and informed debate, what value are they?

SH: PN, the criterion in play here is most certainly NOT the ability to enter into articulate and informed debate! If anything, it is that ability that is what is resented.

PJ: Steve- most Marxist Democrats today have no knowledge regarding the extent of the Marxist ideology of their beliefs. Most are of the vague John Lennon Imagine school of Marxism. They have embraced it thru regurgitated nursery rhyme form… “Imagine no possessions its easy if you try” here is where he took the concept from.

SH: That’s still nice, P, but all I’ve suggested is that we all strive to be rational and humane people, NOT that we “imagine no possessions.” Maybe one of these days you’ll respond to what I’m saying rather than to what the voices in your head are saying.

PJ: Steve, You are dishonest. This is about advancing Marxist premises for you. You are simply doing it either dishonestly or through Ignorance. Again, you do not say anything that is not within the confines of the concepts here.

SH: If believing that we should all strive to be rational and humane people, to recognize our own and universal fallibility, to use the methodologies and procedures which best reduce bias and increase accuracy in service to continuing to discover the most effective, robust, fair, and sustainable public policies possible, in service to our individual liberty, our prosperity, and our general welfare, is “Marxist,” then you’re right, I’m a Marxist. If it isn’t, then you’re wrong, I’m not a Marxist, because what I just described IS my ideology, it is my only ideology, and I’ve written thousands of pages that are all perfectly consistent with that ideology.

It’s not the label you choose to apply that determines the value of anyone else’s or your own perspectives, but rather the quality of the thought and quantity of compassion that went into those specific and particular perspectives.

Everyone, let’s step back and look at the big picture. Many or most of you who are Kelly’s fans think liberalism is a cultural disease, a cancer infecting our society and harming us all. Many or most of those who are in agreement with me think that the Tea Party/Libertarian far-right is a cultural disease, a cancer infecting our society and harming us all. There are four conceivable possibilities: We are both right, we are both wrong, you are right and we are wrong, we are right and you are wrong. Other than each camp being sure that they know the answer to that, there is no objective, a priori way of knowing the answer. So how should we, as responsible citizens and sovereigns, go about making that determination?

My answer is: We should invest in and engage in the methodologies and procedures that modern history has produced and have proved to be most robust at minimizing the influence of bias and maximizing accuracy. And we should do so with a humane attitude, not just to serve any one tribe or faction, but, at least, to serve the interests of all Americans (I would go further, but I’ll take what I can get).

Is that or is that not a suggestion that we all, as reasonable and humane people and responsible citizens, can agree on?

JC: Get rid of them. I get sick of it too. If they are friends, they won’t want to fight about every belief you hold.

PJ: Steve-you use the term incorrectly. Liberalism in the classic sense is an individualistic form of ideology. when Democrats use the term today , they use it in the context of Marxist collectivism….

SH: J, do you think that America is better off with insulated echo-chambers of unchallenged competing ideological dogmas, or with all ideas seeking to affect our public policies being subjected to a shared lathe of robust debate in service to our rationality and humanity?

P, I know the history of the word “liberalism.” I also know the difference between substantive arguments and semantic arguments, and their relative value in political discourse.

PJ: That was a great example of a lack of substance in an answer Steve. You avoid all discussion of Marxism, but yet it is at the root of all of your posts.

SH: I also “avoid” all talk of string theory, when it has nothing to do with what I’m talking about. I’ve presented my ACTUAL position repeatedly. You have tried to label it something it isn’t and dismiss it by virtue of having been labeled. That’s a horrible “argument,” but you’re welcome to it. Meanwhile, I say exactly what I mean, argue my own precise positions, and am perfectly consistent in them. Again, one of these days you might want to respond to my positions rather than to whatever it is you’re responding to. that would require a rational argument on the substance of positions actually presented, which is a good thing. Or, you can continue to tilt at the straw men of your own invention. It’s all the same to me.

PJ: Narcissistic arrogance is a hall mark of all Marxists Steve.

Marxism is at the root of string theory as well Steve

SH: We’ll have to add that to the growing list: Using the word “so,” narcissistic arrogance, being a physicist (string theorist, to be more precise), having a nose (unless it’s your nose), preferring cheeseburgers to hot dogs…. You’ll have to let me know once you’ve compiled the whole list, because we all want to be able to identify those cretins and weed them out, with torches if necessary…..

JO: I suggest PJ & Steve get one of those dueling opposites point/counterpoint radio shows…

SH: But we’d have to rename it “point/pointless.”

JO: Yeah and you’d be the pointless!

SH: Here’s the debate between P and I:

SH: We should strive to be rational and humane people.

PJ: Marxism is bad.

SH: Yes, I completely agree. Avoiding it is one of the reasons we should strive to be rational and humane people.

PJ: Marxism is bad and you’re a liar.

SH: Okay, but all I’m saying is that we should strive to be rational and humane people. Don’t you agree?

PJ: No, because Marxism is bad, and people who say “so,” who use sarcasm, who are narcissists, and, in general, who have any trait that anyone opposing me ever has or that I impute to them, are by definition Marxists.

In an inverted reality, P is the epitome of cogent reasoning and I am pushing a horribly destructive idea. In this reality, we would, in fact, be better off if we all agreed to strive to be rational and humane people. The essential political question in America today is: Which reality do you choose?

(Ah, JO, such a rapier-sharp wit you have! Who could possibly have seen THAT one coming!? I’m impressed.)

TD: Nonsensical extremism is neither educating nor valuable, so if it’s me I block them and then try to figure out how to do it with the extremists in public not just on social media.

SH: The problem is that when extremists call the appeal to strive to be rational and humane people the “extremism” they must weed out, that ol’ inverted reality is in full bloom, and the real extremism dangerously ascendant.

TS: Steve is crushing P on this thread 22 comments to 16!

SH: It’s not the quantity of comments that defines the fact that I’m “crushing P;” it’s the fact that I’m making rational and coherent statements and he, in response, is rambling about something that no one other than he is talking about. Though I do admire the degree of commitment so many of you have to find anything other than reason by which to prevail in an argument.

One little comment about “extremism” and “reason,” if I may: Reason does not lie at some mid-point between prevailing “extremes” in any given time and place. In Nazi Germany, for instance, reason didn’t reside at the mid-point between those who were in favor of killing 6 million Jews and those who were favor of killing none, with the perfectly reasonable position being to kill only 3 million. Sometimes, one extreme comes to embody a much more pronounced lack of reason and humanity, and the other, almost by default, comes to embody the definitively larger commitment to reason and humanity of the two. The goal is not to find some mid-point between extremes, but rather to find what reason in service to humanity recommends…, which is why I keep suggesting that we all simply commit ourselves to striving to be reasonable and humane people first and foremost, and let our ideologies, to the extent that we absolutely must have them at all, follow from that commitment rather than pre-empt it.

(See Down the Rabbit Hole to the Mad Hatters’ Tea Party for similar, preceding dialogue with PJ and JO)

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In case there is any rational human being on Earth who still does not understand what this country is currently up against, the following unedited exchange will rectify that. (It’s unedited other than to remove some extraneous comments by non-participants in the exchange, links, and some excessive use of white space by PJ, the main participant other than myself.) While PJ does have an incongruently extensive academic knowledge of Marxism and Fascism, the key point is how he uses it to insulate pure ideology from the simple suggestion that we all strive to be rational and humane people.


SH: P, all caps or not, virtually no Democrats in America advocate Marxism, and I, along with most others, oppose those extremely few who actually do. Despite your caricature of reality, the world does not reduce to a binary choice between some mish-mosh of internally inconsistent Christian theocracy and libertarianism on the one hand, and Marxism on the other (the latter being the default label for everything that isn’t the desired mish-mosh of Christian theocracy and libertarianism). In reality, it is you folks who bear the greatest resemblance to Marxists, simply by reducing the world to an oversimplistic radical ideology that you are certain is far better than reality, ignoring the fact that every single prosperous, free nation on Earth has a hybrid political economy combining a robust market economy with a large administrative infrastructure engaging in some combination of regulatory, infrastructural investment and redistributive functions and has had such a hybrid political economy in place since prior to participating in the historically unprecedented post-WWII expansion in the production of prosperity.

What most Democrats advocate, and certainly what I advocate, is the pragmatic, non-ideological, problem-solving approach to governance that has served America and the modern world so well for the past several generations (yes, I know, “the sky is falling,” but, to the extent that it’s true, it’s mostly your fanatical cult that is bringing it down, an empirically demonstrable truth). Democrats now represent the entire swathe of the relatively sane ideological spectrum that used to include moderate Republicans, the latter now either pushed into the Democratic Party or marginalized and ostracized from the radicalized Republican Party. The Republican Party is now an embarrassment of racism, organized ignorance, jingoistic ultra-nationalism, xenophobia, homophobia, an economically and socially nationally self-destructive aversion to the realities of human migration and of our national economy, and, really, a repository for just about every bigotry and ideological folly known to modern civilization.

But it’s good to have all of this perennial garbage of human belligerence and ignorance concentrated into one political party, because rarely in America has the political divide been so neatly drawn between reason in service to humanity on the one hand, and irrationality in service to inhumanity on the other. And that should (and I believe will) be an easy decision for the majority to make, which is why the majority is now making it more consistently. The problem, of course, is that gerrymandered districts allow concentrations of right-wing lunatics to hold a current majority seats in the House despite the statistical fact that they had a minority of votes for House candidates nationally, and that some of those seats are held by such extremists in districts drawn to promote extremism that they fear primary challenges from the right more than sane challenges from the left, and so persist in voting in the House in the most absurd and dysfunctional and nationally destructive obstructionist ways. THAT is your “gift” to America and the world.


“An organizer must stir up dissatisfaction and discontent… He must create a mechanism that can drain off the underlying guilt for having accepted the previous situation for so long a time. Out of this mechanism, a new community organization arises….

“The job then is getting the people to move, to act, to participate; in short, to develop and harness the necessary power to effectively conflict with the prevailing patterns and change them. When those prominent in the status quo turn and label you an ‘agitator’ they are completely correct, for that is, in one word, your function—to agitate to the point of conflict.” p.117

“Process tells us how. Purpose tells us why. But in reality, it is academic to draw a line between them, they are part of a continuum…. Process is really purpose.” p.122


7. Tactics

“Tactics are those conscious deliberate acts by which human beings live with each other and deal with the world around them. … Here our concern is with the tactic of taking; how the Have-Nots can take power away from the Haves.” p.126

 Always remember the first rule of power tactics (pps.127-134):

1. “Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have.”

2. “Never go outside the expertise of your people. When an action or tactic is outside the experience of the people, the result is confusion, fear and retreat…. [and] the collapse of communication.

3. “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy. Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety and uncertainty. (This happens all the time. Watch how many organizations under attack are blind-sided by seemingly irrelevant arguments that they are then forced to address.)

4. “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules. You can kill them with this, for they can no more obey their own rules than the Christian church can live up to Christianity.”

5. “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. It is almost impossible to counteract ridicule. Also it infuriates the opposition, which then reacts to your advantage.”

6. “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.”

7. “A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag. Man can sustain militant interest in any issue for only a limited time….”

8. “Keep the pressure on, with different tactics and actions, and utilize all events of the period for your purpose.”

9. “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.”

10. “The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition. It is this unceasing pressure that results in the reactions from the opposition that are essential for the success of the campaign.”

11. “If you push a negative hard and deep enough, it will break through into its counterside… every positive has its negative.”

12. “The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.”

13. Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. In conflict tactics there are certain rules that [should be regarded] as universalities. One is that the opposition must be singled out as the target and ‘frozen.’…

“…any target can always say, ‘Why do you center on me when there are others to blame as well?’ When your ‘freeze the target,’ you disregard these [rational but distracting] arguments…. Then, as you zero in and freeze your target and carry out your attack, all the ‘others’ come out of the woodwork very soon. They become visible by their support of the target…’

“One acts decisively only in the conviction that all the angels are on one side and all the devils on the other.” (pps.127-134)

Saul Alinksky, Rules for Radicals, Vintage Books, New York, 1989.

SH: That’s nice, P. Back in the real world, however, discussions among liberals tend to focus on the frustrating fact that rational argumentation directed toward right-wing fanatics falls on deaf ears, that sound logic applied to reliable evidence in service to our collective welfare cannot penetrate the fortress of irrationality and belligerence that defines your ideological camp. We tend to fret endlessly over the fact that there is a large and influential ideological faction in America that dismisses as bastions of liberal bias precisely those professions that methodically gather, verify, analyze and contemplate information. We tend to moan in pain over the resurgence of racism, over the attempt to implement voter suppression laws on a discredited pretext for the purpose of winning elections by reducing voter participation of minorities and the poor, over the belief that it’s a good thing for this country that people with their various bigotries and bad judgment go out with guns looking for bad guys to shoot and occasionally shoot to death the unfortunate unarmed black teen in a hoodie walking home from the store, who insist on policies that are responsible for us having a homicide rate an average of ten times higher than the rest of the developed world, whose retributive inhumanity has given us the largest both absolute number and percentage of population incarcerated of ANY country on Earth (making us literally the least free country on Earth), who vilify the poor and those who migrate toward opportunity, who disregard the existence of persistent injustices and inequities and pretend that disregarding them is the best solution to them despite the fact that it has led to the most obscene inequality in the distribution of wealth and opportunity and entrenched poverty in the developed world, who want to deny equal rights to those who have a sexual orientation different from their own, who want to deny the overwhelming scientific evidence establishing that the world has a serious anthropogenic global warming problem to tackle the future costs of which will grow exponentially with the time we are obstructed from confronting proactively today, who in general think that a more costly and less effective reactionary and retributive approach to social problems is preferable to a less costly and more effective proactive and problem-solving approach. My world is the world of research, analysis, logical argumentation, all in service to our shared humanity. Yours is the world of bizarre misrepresentations, delusions, irrationality, and explicit or implicit inhumanity. Again, it’s an easy choice which world rational and humane people should choose to live in.


“An organizer must stir up dissatisfaction and discontent… He must create a mechanism that can drain off the underlying guilt for having accepted the previous situation for so long a time. Out of this mechanism, a new community organization arises….

“The job then is getting the people to move, to act, to participate; in short, to develop and harness the necessary power to effectively conflict with the prevailing patterns and change them. When those prominent in the status quo turn and label you an ‘agitator’ they are completely correct, for that is, in one word, your function—to agitate to the point of conflict.” p.117


SH: I’ll tell you what, P, let’s not argue about which is the party of “Marxists” or (as I do) which is the party of irrational bigotry. Let’s, instead, discuss and debate the issues and challenges we face today. Let’s recognize that we are a society with challenges to face, problems to solve, opportunities to embrace, a future to invest in, children to care about. Let’s look at the world, as it exists today, with analytical rigor, using all available information and knowledge, and work together to reduce poverty and injustice, to improve economic performance, to address environmental issues, to increase the degree to which respect the human rights of all individuals. Let’s engage in a robust national debate that isn’t about whose ideology is better or worse, or what labels we can dismiss each other with, but rather is about letting the most cogent arguments on specific issues prevail in the formation of our public policies. Let’s, as I’ve suggested before, agree to be neither “Marxists” nor “Libertarians” nor religious fanatics in our approach to self-governance, but rather to be just rational and humane people doing the best we can in a complex and subtle world. Let’s look at what works and what doesn’t, not cherry-picking evidence that supports our existing ideological presumption, only engaging in debate to insulate our own blind and unchanging dogma from any intrusion of fact or reason, but rather allowing all the facts to inform us, to look at history and economic statistics and academic research and how our economic and social systems really work, and tailor our policies to what is best recommended by that rational and pragmatic process.

So, what do you say, P? Let’s beat those damn Marxists together! Let’s make sure that no destructive mania, no crazy ideology, gets in the way of our being rational and humane people.

So, do you agree? Shall we dispense with the ideological labels, and just agree to strive to be rational and humane people, arguing our positions and permitting the rules of logic and evidence to determine which arguments prevail? Do you agree that we should try to improve public discourse so that it more fully incorporates the methodologies and procedures that work best at reducing bias and improving accuracy, in service to our shared humanity? Because that’s my only ideology, and it’s the only one any of us should ever adhere to.


SH: So, P, you’re saying that you refuse the suggestion that we all engage in a non-ideological national debate that applies disciplined reason to methodically gathered evidence in service to devising the policies that best maximize our liberty, prosperity, and well-being? That, my misguided friend, is the problem.

You see, P, there are differing ideological opinions about what best serves our national and various individual interests. You are certain of one thing, and, for arguments sake, let’s say that I’m certain of another. How do we intelligently resolve this difference in ideological certainties? Wouldn’t a shared commitment to reason applied to fact be a good start? Why don’t we just start, right now, with that one step: Let’s both admit that we don’t really know all the answers, that either of us might be wrong about anything, and build a new foundation, agreeing to use the disciplines and methodologies of reason applied to fact to resolve whatever questions can be resolved in that way.

Then we can build on that, on discussing underlying values, and finding those that we agree on, building on those. Why not try to create a country defined less by ideological warfare and more by a pragmatic, rational commitment to our liberty and welfare? My only suggestion is that we agree to strive to be rational and humane people, in a real and active way. Do you or don’t you agree that we should all strive to be rational and humane people?


SH: Let me try again, P. I’m asking one simple question (okay, really two simple questions). Do you or don’t you agree that we should all strive to be rational and humane people? And, if so, do you or don’t you agree that that means that we must use disciplined approaches to ensuring that reason rather than ideological presumption is informing our current understandings of the world? That’s all I’m asking. On the foundation of that agreement, all who are willing to take that simple step can engage in a meaningful and productive discussion, addressing concerns, clearing up misunderstandings, dealing with our shared challenges and opportunities as a nation in a rational and pragmatic and productive way. But we must first come to this simple and basic agreement: Will we or won’t we agree to strive to be rational and humane people? Personally, I think that the current political divide is defined primarily by how people, sincerely, internally, answer that question. But it doesn’t really matter if I’m wrong about that; all that matters is that as many of us as possible come to this simple and basic agreement.

PJ: Steve, I find it silly to even ask those kinds of questions, because they are not designed to illicit information. Especially since you do not address any single point I have made. Marxists do that, as per Alinsky and his Rules for Radicals.. I think it is obvious through study of history that for the most part ,the majority of the world is rational and humane. Standards of living have gotten better and there is less inhumane treatment of societies than at any point in the history of the world. If you were really concerned with rationality and humanity, you would not advocate any tenet of the ideology of Marxism, which created more inhumanity and death in the last century than just about any ideology ever created. Now address that before proselytizing again :o)

SH: A big part of the difference, I guess, is the recognition of being members of a society, of some degree of interdependence and shared membership in a society, and a complete disregard for that. But even those who are convinced that humans in a society are in no way interdependent and in no way must arrive at any agreements over how to govern themselves still realize that they live in a country of laws, that they have a stake in what those laws are, and that they want to ensure that those laws are of the form that they prefer, so, by doing so, are in fact recognizing our interdependence, since we all participate in the formation of those laws! So, again, shouldn’t we participate in that process in a way that is more rational and humane? Or should we simply engage in a gridlock of blind ideological conviction, in which you know that everyone who disagrees with you is wrong about everything, because you can label them “Marxists,” and by labeling them “Marxists” you’ve proved that they’re wrong about everything? Which is the more, well, rational way to go about it? Which is more productive? Which makes more sense?

No, P, I’m not addressing any point you make. I’m asking a simple question, and have not yet received an answer. Do you or don’t you agree that we should all strive to be rational and humane people? It’s not a question dependent on anything else; it stands on its own. And apparently you can’t answer it, because to do so draws you down a road in which reason and humanity might have to prevail, and that is a threat to your ideological fanaticism.

Once we agree to commit ourselves to reason and humanity, we can debate what that means, and let the most cogent arguments prevail. Ironically, I’m highly critical of Marxism, but that doesn’t matter to you. I think markets are robust producers of wealth and a vital component of a robust and well-functioning social institutional framework, but that’s irrelevant to you. I engage in information-intensive economic and legal and historical analysis to try to come up with the best informed and best reasoned approaches to any specific policy issue rather than rely on some pre-packaged ideology of any kind, but that’s irrelevant to you. The details, the truth, are irrelevant to you. It all boils down to a simple formula for you: Everyone who disagrees with you in any fundamental way is by definition a “Marxist,” and Marxists are by definition evil and wrong about everything. That’s one approach.

Another approach is to recognize that there are wide spectrums of thought and belief, that each of us might be wrong about some things, that we all live in this country together and are engaged together in a democratic process of self-governance, and that we can govern ourselves more intelligently and humanely if more people commit to making a disciplined effort to work together to govern ourselves more intelligently and humanely. Again, that appears to be what defines the current political divide in America, what choice we each make concerning that question.

PJ: Steve -Your confusion stems from not knowing the correct definition of words. You apply the irrational Marxist definition to words. I use the correct definition. Here it is from Webster’s Dictionary………..Definition of SOCIETY

: companionship or association with one’s fellows : friendly or intimate intercourse : company

2: a voluntary association of individuals for common ends; especially : an organized group working together or periodically meeting because of common interests, beliefs, or profession

3a : an enduring and cooperating social group whose members have developed organized patterns of relationships through interaction with one another

b : a community, nation, or broad grouping of people having common traditions, institutions, and collective activities and interests

4a : a part of a community that is a unit distinguishable by particular aims or standards of living or conduct : a social circle or a group of social circles having a clearly marked identity <literary society>

b : a part of the community that sets itself apart as a leisure class and that regards itself as the arbiter of fashion and manners

5a : a natural group of plants usually of a single species or habit within an association

b : the progeny of a pair of insects when constituting a social unit (as a hive of bees); broadly : an interdependent system of organisms or biological units

 See society defined for English-language learners »

See society defined for kids »…………………. Hopefully you can see where you have gone wrong and end your own “irrational Obsession” with a so called “question” that leads you down into a narrow ,rigid. myopic Marxist based worldview.Get a Webster’s Dictionary Steve and learn correct meanings to words. That way you will not be incorrect when you say my agenda of Individual freedom, Capitalism and limited government as per the US Constitution is ” ideological fanaticism” :o)

SH: That’s nice, P. But, do you or don’t you agree that we should all strive to be rational and humane people? It’s really not a complicated question.

At this point, having asked it a dozen or so times with a very suggestive refusal on your part to answer it, it would seem that means you are answering in the negative. If I am wrong, you can clear it up very easily simply by saying, “Yes, I agree that we should all strive to be rational and humane people, and, yes, I agree that that means knowing that any one of us might be wrong about any issue currently in contention, and that we need to have a robust process to determine what conclusions are truly best recommended by reason in service to humanity and what conclusions truly are not best recommended by reason in service to humanity.”

So, set the record straight, P: Do you or don’t you agree that we should all strive to be rational and humane people?


1a : having reason or understanding

b : relating to, based on, or agreeable to reason : reasonable <a rational explanation> <rational behavior>

2: involving only multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction and only a finite number of times

3: relating to, consisting of, or being one or more rational numbers <a rational root of an equation> .YOU DO NOT USE IT CORRECTLY IN THE CONTEXT OF OUR CONVERSATION. ALL HUMANS ARE HIGHLY RATIONAL BEINGS. YOU START WITH THE PREMISE THAT THEY ARE NOT. YOU ARE TOTALLY 100% INCORRECT.



SH: So, if all humans are rational human beings, then are you saying that it is not possible for particular human beings to be more or less rational? Are you saying that Marxism is as rational as libertarianism? Are you saying that believing in fairies is as rational as believing in physics? Are you saying that the Inquisitors who insisted that the sun revolves around the Earth were as correct as Copernicus and Galileo who suggested that it was the Earth that revolved around the sun? Or, as I’m suggesting, is it possible for people to be more or less rational?


SH: We can do this forever, P, but for anyone looking on, if they choose to use that rationality that you correctly state all people are capable of, the differences in our modalities of thought are clear. I am making one, simple, straightforward suggestion: That we all strive to be rational and humane people, wise enough to know that none of us knows all that much, humane enough to care about the fate of other human beings in the world, and responsible enough to engage in a civil discourse with all others in our ongoing effort to govern ourselves as intelligently and humanely as possible. You are doggedly rejecting that suggestion. I am not trying to score points here; I’m trying to increase the sanity of this increasingly insane nation of ours. We should all be able to agree with the suggestion that I have made, and the refusal of a significant faction of the population to do so has the consequence of forcing upon us all less rational and less humane public policy positions, because maximizing the rationality and humanity of our public policies requires some commitment on our part to actually striving to be rational and humane people. That’s it. We’ve each made our point as clearly as they can be made, and I just hope that a few people reflect on the lesson to be drawn from the comparison. Peace out.


SH: P, talk about putting words in other people’s mouths!!! I’ve never said that “real Marxism hasn’t been tried.” What I HAVE said is that Marxism is a horribly dysfunctional ideology and a horribly destructive political system because it disregards individual human incentives in both the economic and political spheres. I reject Marxism, but I don’t reject the use of our governmental agency of collective action as one component in our political economic tool-kit in the continued effort to maximize the robustness, fairness and sustainability of our economic system. As for the lessons of history, since every single modern, prosperous, free nation on Earth has the kind of large administrative infrastructure that you insist is “Marxist,” and has had such an infrastructure in place since prior to the historically unprecedented post-WWII expansion in the production of prosperity, without exception, it is clear that it is not the existence of such an administrative infrastructure that leads to the failure to be a prosperous and free nation, but rther the other distinguishing variables that actually do differentiate between successful and unsuccessful nation-states, such as the existence of largely functioning democratic institutions, a substantial commitment to human rights, freedoms of expression and press, and the presence of a robust market economy. But, hey, that’s just silly ol’ fact and reason talking; how can it possibly compare to the all-caps ravings of a fanatical ideologue?

But, my deeper point isn’t that the argument I just presented is the final word; it isn’t. (I only presented it because of your gross misrepresentation of my views, based on nothing I’ve ever said and no actual knowledge of me but rather only on your own caricature of reality.) It is just one rational and informed argument, no more and no less. The foundation on which we should build is the commitment to the on-going competition of such rational and informed arguments, applied to specific issues and challenges, in the on-going attempt to govern ourselves ever more intelligently and humanely. I may well be wrong on many substantive issues, and will always be glad when that is demonstrated with better and more compelling arguments. It is the commitment to this process which maximizes the rationality of our decision-making processes that I am emphasizing here; not my current individual tentative conclusions through that process.



SH: I never said that all governments control the means of production, only that all post-WWII prosperous and free nations have the kinds of large administrative infrastructures that you insist are “Marxist.” And that is an empirical fact. I also have made just one suggestion and one suggestion only: That we all strive to be rational and humane people. That’s it. Imputing to me all of this other noise doesn’t affect the clarity and straightforwardness of that simple question, which, for some odd reason, you cannot answer.

PJ: Steve-again you need to know what words mean before you use them. Your dishonesty here is boring and old. Many Marxists have done this same song and dance. Square footage does not denote Marxism. Again, Striving for Marxism is irrational and quite dumb as well. Your one note obsession is trite and meaningless. I have stated categorically for the record, by nature all humans are rational to one degree or the other. It makes no sense for you to say humans are irrational simply by existence ,when the opposite is clearly true. Now move on and answer my questions

SH: Okay, P, I’ll define my terms for you.

Reason: We have centuries of experience in the development of disciplined, methodical reasoning. We’ve developed scientific methodology and a wide spectrum of variations of it adapted to situations in which variables can’t be isolated, statistical data analysis, research techniques designed to rigorously minimize the influence of bias and to maximize accuracy. We’ve developed legal procedure based on a debate between competing views framed by a set of rules designed to ensure maximum reliability of the evidence being considered and to identify the goals being pursued (adherence to formally defined laws). We’ve developed formal logic and mathematics, rules of deduction and induction, which maximize the soundness of conclusions drawn from premises, the premises themselves able to be submitted to the same rules for verifying raw data and drawing conclusions from that data.

Humanity: We have centuries of development of thought concerning what this term means as well, including, for instance, the history of the development of human rights and our commitment to them. John Rawls’s “Theory of Justice” provides a pretty good heuristic guideline of what humane policies should look lie (they should be the kinds of policies that highly informed and rational people would choose if they didn’t know what situation they were going to be born into or what chances of life they were going to encounter). This is basically a derivation and elaboration of the Golden Rule, which exists in some form or another in virtually every major religion on Earth. We all understand that justice requires that everyone be assured the same opportunity to thrive, and while we can agree that that is a formidable challenge that is more of an ideal toward which we can continue to strive than a finished achievement we can expect to accomplish in the near future, and that important counterbalancing imperatives must be considered and pursued simultaneously (in other words, that we need to balance the challenges of creating an ever-more more robust, fair, and sustainable social institutional framework), we can also agree that it is one of the guiding principles by which we should navigate as we forge our way into the future.

So, when I see “strive to be reasonable and humane,” I mean strive to use the disciplines that have developed in recent years to minimize bias and maximize accuracy in the conclusions we draw, and to apply those disciplines to a commitment to human rights and the balanced maximization of the robustness, fairness, and sustainability of our social institutional landscape, such that no person, if fully informed and fully rational, not knowing what circumstances they would be born into or what chances they would encounter in life, would choose any other social institutional framework.

But if you disapprove of these definitions, then please define “reason” and “humanity” in ways you find more useful, and then tell me whether you are committed to reason and humanity by any definition you explicitly choose, because I agree that even the definitions of these terms should be open to rational debate. Again, do you or don’t you agree that we should strive to be reasonable and humane people, by whatever definitions of these terms YOU explicitly choose (i.e., please include YOUR definitions).

BTW, P, I’m not answering your questions because they are loaded with false premises, such that to answer them I have to implicitly accept those false premises as true. My questions, on the other hand, are very straight-forward and simple, and, even when you felt that the words “reason” and “humanity” don’t have clear enough agreed upon definitions (though I repeatedly had provided the definition of at least the first one for you), I supplied you with my detailed definitions of those terms for the purposes of public policy discourse and debate.

It’s ironic that this is the second time in two days when I’ve let myself get drawn into another one of these tedious and absurd exchanges, just after having posted the following on my FB page:

“One of the mysteries of life I cannot fully explain is why, though I can pass the guy with the ‘Jesus Saves’ sign proselytizing to the air on 16th Street Mall, easily suppressing whatever urge I might have to engage him, I let essentially similar people on Facebook (whose manias may be dyed different hues but cut from essentially the same fabric) each consume hours or days of my time in discourse of equal value and similar quality to that which I would have ‘enjoyed’ with the religious fanatic, on the transparently false premise that they are rational people with whom I, as a rational person, have some social duty to engage.”

PJ: No , that is the narcissistic self serving explanation. I will provide the correct one You are lying to hide your Marxist based agenda, just like the Marxist Saul Alinsky did many years ago. There is nothing new about this tactic. in fact Obama used a version when he was state senator, he voted present 99 times in order not to leave an ideological trail with his votes. A person who does not acknowledge the open history of Marxism in America, is not rational at all.

SH: Actually, it was the “knowledge-of-formal-logic-and-logical-fallacies” explanation, because your questions of me are classic examples of the assumption-of-the-answer fallacy, as in “have you stopped beating your wife yet?” Whether one responds “yes” or “no,” they are implicitly accepting the premise that they had been beating their wife in the first place. To answer your questions, which impute to me an ideology I not only don’t hold or advocate but actually explicitly stated that I don’t and why I don’t, I must implicitly accept your false assumption that I do. Your questions also presume a lot that I think is demonstrably false about what is relevant and meaningful, involving a profoundly contorted modality of thought, which I sought to cut through with the very simple premise that we should all agree to strive to be rational and humane people, a foundation on which we can build a much more productive national discourse.

You are arguing against Marxism, though I’m not a Marxist by any definition other than the ridiculous one to which you adhere (“anyone who is not a libertarian is a Marxist”). If a label is required, then I guess you could call me a rational humanist: I believe in using disciplined reason in service to human welfare on all dimensions (including the dimension of personal liberty), without any other ideological assumptions. I recognize a variety of social institutional modalities that have developed over the course of human history (formal hierarchies, like governments and private corporations and other formal social organizations like churches and charities and home owners’ associations; markets by which the various products of disparate efforts are traded multilaterally for mutual benefit; norms by which informal rules of conduct are diffusely and informally enforced through social approval and disapproval; and ideologies, which I define as systems of thought and belief and values which define one’s personal and frequently to some extent shared cognitive landscape), and I believe that none should be presumed to be inherently good or evil but rather that we should recognize and accept the challenge of using and negotiating these various modalities, with their various strengths and weaknesses and various degrees of intentional malleability, in the ongoing endeavor of intelligent public policy formation.

But all of that is certainly open to debate. What I don’t think should be open to debate is the need for all of us, as members of a single polity, to all agree to strive to be rational and humane people, because I truly do believe that that agreement is the fundamental responsibility of each one of us as a citizen in a popular sovereignty, a responsibility that you have doggedly refused to accept (have doggedly rejected, in fact) throughout this exchange.

The absurdity of your entire modality of thought is so mindbogglingly transparent, the reduction of the world into two categories –those who are in complete agreement with you on everything, and “Marxists”– so irrational and fanatical, I marvel at how much hold it has over so many Americans today. It truly is a cultural disease, and a devastatingly destructive one at that.

Rational people on the right (there are still a few, though in ever-dwindling numbers) should read this exchange and be embarrassed to have you as their self-appointed ideological representative, and, if any were themselves more rational and less absurd, should have stepped in to make a less ludicrous case for their ideology. But the truth is that, while perhaps a little more tin-foil-hatty than most, you provide an all-too-accurate representation of the basic quality of the ideology to which you adhere, and the mere fact that such rambling irrationality is no longer something primarily associated with incoherent schizophrenics talking to imaginary friends while walking down the street, but is now primarily associated in America with an influential political ideological faction, is enough to make rational and decent human beings despair for the fate of humanity.

Now I AM done. Ramble away.

SM: You people need a hobby.

SH: I have one, S: Participating in the shared effort to create a more rational and humane world. It’s a good hobby to have.

(The irony, of course, is that that last comment by SM is just another technique for insulating irrationality from the lathe of reason, since, while it’s okay for you all to hold strong political opinions that you seek to impose on the rest of us, it’s not okay for anyone else to argue against them too effectively. One good way to bury that when it happens is to treat both the rambling nonsense of the person championing your view and the cogent response to it as a single thing, dismissing them both indiscriminately, leaving nothing admissible in public discourse but briefly stated arbitrary opinions, thus ensuring that yours can never be effectively challenged.)

PJ: STEVE YOU SAY..”You are arguing against Marxism, though I’m not a Marxist by any definition other than the ridiculous one to which you adhere (“anyone who is not a libertarian is a Marxist”). If a label is required, then I guess you could call me a rational humanist” LIKE FORREST GUMP SAYS MARXIST IS AS MARXIST DOES…YOU ARE A CLASSIC MARXIST, YOU SIMPLY ARE NOT INTELLECTUALLY HONEST ENOUGH TO ADMIT IT. AGAIN, YOU SAY NOTHING OUT SIDE OF THIS VERSION OF MARXISM… We are not a political party. Nor are we trying to lead the masses, who will form their own organizations, and whose emancipation must be their own act. But we have seen that spontaneous actions alone are insufficient to usher in a new society. We seek a new unity of philosophy and organization in which mass movements striving for freedom lay hold of Marx’s philosophy of revolution and recreate society on its basis.

JO: Marxism and its sister anti-God ideologies, Nazism and fascism, have always succeeded in enslaving their own people, actually massacring about 120 million of them in Lenin and Stalin’s Russia, Mao’s China, Hitler’s Germany, etc. according to historians. Now its poison has leached into “liberal” America. God help us all.

PJ: Well I think people should know MARXISM is the ideology-Its stages are anarchism, socialism and communism. Fascism was created by Mussolini and Antonio Gramsci as the fix for the failing Marxist Socialism in Italy at the time. National Socialism was Germany’s fix for the Marxist Socialism producing High unemployment and inertia and decay in Germany at the time. They were born of Marxist based collectivist theory though.

JO: Marxism, National Socialism (Nazism) fascism, all different names for the same monster that devours its own people.. over and over again, every time it’s been tried. Statism is what we call it in the US, and it’s devouring us too.

SH: Again, while you are relying on labels rather than arguments, I am making one very simple suggestion, and arguing no other point: That we should all agree to strive to be rational and humane people, knowing that we don’t know much, using the disciplines and methodologies available to decrease bias and increase accuracy, and doing the best we can in a complex and subtle world. That is my only ideology. Your labels and arguments against other people in other times and places with other thoughts and desires do absolutely nothing to address the only thing I have suggested, that you all seem to reject, and, in fact, are nothing more than a concerted effort to drown out this one simple little bit of signal with an endless supply of noise. Do you or don’t you agree that we should all strive to be rational and humane people? And, if you don’t, how on Earth do you defend THAT???!!!!

PJ: Well Not really Joy. It is better to know the differences and in depth info regarding the different stages of Marxist ideology. It should come as no surprise the Marxists Rallying Cry is ” Workers of the World Unite”. Here is the websters dictionary definition of Marxism….


noun \ˈmärk-ˌsi-zəm\

Definition of MARXISM: the political, economic, and social principles and policies advocated by Marx; especially : a theory and practice of socialism including the labor theory of value, dialectical materialism, the class struggle, and dictatorship of the proletariat until the establishment of a classless society NOTE THE PHRASE DIALECTICAL MATERIALISM..IF PEOPLE KNEW WHAT THAT MEANT THEY WOULD HAVE KNOW THAT HOPE AND CHANGE MEANT MARXIST DIALECTICS.. THE MARXISTS KNEW IT :o)….

Steve- I properly identify all aspects at play in regards to having a discussion.The question here is what is the desperate attempt to deflect and hide the obvious Marxist Ideology in your screeds. Simply be informed and honest and we can discuss the pro’s and cons of The Democrats agenda of hybrid stages of Marxist Theory for the so called collective, vs the Republicans agenda of individual freedom, Capitalism and limited Government as per the US Constitution. Steve, You are proving you are irrational, by your narrow minded ideological rigidity. Simply explain in depth why you support applying Marxist tenets to US Governance.

SH: P, I am making one and only one suggestion here, that we all agree to strive to be rational and humane people, knowing that we’re all fallible, knowing that we all might be right or wrong about some of the things we are certain are true, and working together, using the disciplines and methodologies that have developed in the modern era for decreasing bias and increasing accuracy, to do the best we can in a complex and subtle world.

As I’ve explained numerous times already, I can’t explain why I support applying Marxist tenets to American governance, because I not only don’t support doing so but vehemently oppose doing so. If I felt otherwise, I would tell you. I consider Marxism a fatally flawed social theory and political agenda. What I DO support is looking at the historical record, looking at the evidence, applying reason to it, and pursuing the policies that reason applied to evidence best recommend. The tentative conclusions I have arrived at by this process are neither Marxism nor some equal and opposite oversimplistic ideology (i.e., yours), but rather a sane and pragmatic and well-informed blend of markets and government administration and local organization and community development and empowerment and individual liberty that actually maximizes our humanity and our prosperity and our well-being along all identifiable dimensions.

Yes, I have come to my own tentative substantive conclusions by trying to adhere to that philosophy, but I will gladly suspend them all in exchange for nothing more than an agreement to strive to be rational and humane people, in disciplined ways, working together to do the best we can, because I want our substantive positions and our policies to be those that follow from that attitude and those processes, whether they are the ones I currently hold or not. If and when disciplined reason applied to methodically gathered and verified evidence refute things I hold to be true, I want the products of disciplined reason rather than what I hold to be true to prevail.

If disciplined reason in service to humanity supports every element of your ideology, then I want your ideology to prevail. I don’t believe it does, but I’m more than willing to put that belief to the test, because if I’m wrong I’m as eager to discover that as I am to prove that I’m right. And that is very much the difference between us: I’m more committed to reason in service to humanity than I am to what I currently believe would be the laws and policies which best serve that ideal, and you’re more committed to the ideology and dogmas you blindly adhere to than you are to reason or humanity. And that latter commitment of yours, and that alone, is the perennial author of the atrocities you accuse me, arbitrarily and irrationally, of being the harbinger of. It is the people with the dogged ideologies, more important to them than reason or than humanity, that become the Nazis and the Bolsheviks, the Khmer Rouge and the KKK. As Sinclair Lewis presciently said many decades ago, “when Fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross.”

Just to be clear: I am neither anti-Christian nor anti-American. Rather, I am pro-reason and pro-humanity. I will gladly work beside Christians and tricorn-hat-wearing patriots who are committed to reason and to humanity, any time and any place. I even am an advocate of public-private and public-church partnerships, whenever they serve the interests of reason and humanity. There’s nothing exclusive about it, other than the desire to exclude irrationality and inhumanity.

It is a bizarrely inverted reality that calls nothing more or less than a commitment to reason in service to humanity, and nothing more or less than a repeated invitation that you join me in that commitment and that commitment alone, “irrational” and “ideological,” while insisting that a dogmatic blind ideology is somehow the opposite. It’s hard for any even marginally rational person to understand how any other human being can possibly attain such heights of raving irrationality. And it’s both frightening and frustrating, because exactly such people, who reject nothing more than the suggestion that we strive to be rational and humane people, now hold this country hostage.

There is nothing insincere or disingenuous about anything I am saying here. it is exactly how I feel, exactly what I am committed to. There is only one thing I want, only one political goal I have, only one ideology I adhere to, and that is that we all strive to be rational and humane people, in sincere and disciplined and realizable ways. That’s it. And that’s what you all are rejecting; not Nazism (which I’m not advocating), not Bolshevism (which I’m not advocating), not Marxism (which I’m not advocating), but just a simple commitment to strive to be rational and humane people.

And it is your dogged rejection of something so simple and obviously right that convinces me and people like me that what you really represent is organized ignorance and inhumanity. Because if you can’t agree to strive to be rational and humane, and to work with others who are striving to be rational and humane, but are organized to reject the suggestion that we strive to be rational and humane, then what other conclusion can anyone possibly draw?

(Continued, on another thread on the same FB page, in More Fun With Dicks and Janes)

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In the continuing debate against Libertarians (and all other ideologues of all stripes, for that matter), here’s the bottom line: There’s only one rational ideology to adhere to, and that is to strive to be rational; there’s only one humane ideology to adhere to, and that is to strive to be humane.

Striving to be rational is not a vague, relative term: We have centuries of experience in the development of disciplined, methodical reasoning. We’ve developed scientific methodology and a wide spectrum of variations of it adapted to situations in which variables can’t be isolated, statistical data analysis, research techniques designed to rigorously minimize the influence of bias and to maximize accuracy. We’ve developed legal procedure based on a debate between competing views framed by a set of rules designed to ensure maximum reliability of the evidence being considered and to identify the goals being pursued (adherence to formally defined laws). We’ve developed formal logic and mathematics, rules of deduction and induction, which maximize the soundness of conclusions drawn from premises, the premises themselves able to be submitted to the same rules for verifying raw data and drawing conclusions from that data.

Not everyone is trained in these techniques, but everyone can acknowledge their value and seek to participate in privileging them over other, more arbitrary and less rational approaches to arriving at conclusions. A commitment to democracy and pluralism does not require a commitment to stupidity and ignorance. The mechanisms by which we balance the need for all to have their say and all interests to be represented with the need for the best analyses to prevail in the formation of our public policies is an ongoing challenge, but we can all agree that we should meet that challenge head-on, rather than pretend that the drowning out of the cogent arguments of informed reason by the relentless and highly motivated noise of irrational ignorance is the height of self-governance.

Striving to be humane is not a vague, relative term either: We have centuries of development of thought concerning what that means, including John Rawls’s “A Theory of Justice”, which provides a pretty good heuristic guideline of what humane policies should look lie (they should be the kinds of policies that highly informed and rational people would choose if they didn’t know what situation they were going to be born into or what chances of life they were going to encounter). This is basically a derivation and elaboration of the Golden Rule, which exists in some form or another in virtually every major religion on Earth. We all understand that justice requires that everyone be assured the same opportunity to thrive, and while we can agree that that is a formidable challenge that is more of an ideal toward which we can continue to strive than a finished achievement we can expect to accomplish in the near future, and that important counterbalancing imperatives must be considered and pursued simultaneously (in other words, that we need to balance the challenges of creating an ever-more more robust, fair, and sustainable social institutional framework), we can also agree that it is one of the guiding principles by which we should navigate as we forge our way into the future.

So, guided by our humanity, we have a clear objective that all of our public policies should strive to serve: Maximizing the robustness, fairness, and sustainability of our social institutional landscape to the greatest extent possible, such that no individual, if fully informed and rational, would want to change any aspect of it if they did not know where or when or into what situation they would be born or what chance occurrences they would encounter in life. And we have a clear means of most effectively pursuing that objective: Robust public discourse in which we allow the most cogent, information-intensive, methodologically and analytically sound arguments regarding how best to maximize the robustness, fairness and sustainability of our social institutional landscape, on a case-by-case, issue-by-issue basis, to prevail.

And THAT, what I just described above in the preceding five paragraphs, is really the only ideology we need, the only ideology we should adhere to as we move forward as a polity, wise enough to know that none of us knows all that much, humane enough not to blithely dismiss –whether implicitly or explicitly– the suffering and gross injustices endured by numerous others, intelligent enough to know that the appropriate role of a democratically and constitutionally circumscribed government in the modern world cannot be intelligently reduced to a handful of platitudes, informed enough to recognize that the rule of law is predominantly a procedural rather than substantive ideal, and smart enough to recognize that it is our commitment to these procedural and methodological disciplines of informing and devising public policies that will define how intelligently, humanely, and effectively we govern ourselves.

What continues to stand against this simple and clear ideology of a commitment to reason and humanity realized through disciplined procedures and methodologies are the plethora of blind dogmas, substantive false certainties, and precipitous conclusions that litter our shared cognitive landscape. Whether it is Marxism, politically active evangelical Christianity, politically active fundamentalist Islam, Libertarianism, or any other substantive dogma which presumes to know what we are in reality continuing to study, debate, and discover, this perennial need by so many to organize in an effort to impose a set of presumptive substantive conclusions on us all, one ideological sledgehammer or another with which to “repair” the machinery of government, is an obstacle rather than productive contribution to truly intelligent and humane self-governance.

It doesn’t matter if any given adherents to such an ideology are right about some things and those arguing from a non-ideological perspective are wrong about some things; it would be extraordinary if that were not the case, because disciplined analysis seeks to track a subtle and elusive object (reality), while blind dogma, like a broken clock, stands in one place, and thus is right on those rare occasions when reality happens to pass through that spot. What matters is that we all say, “I am less committed to my tentative conclusions than to the process for arriving at them, and would gladly suspend any of my own tentative conclusions in exchange for a broad commitment by all engaged in political discourse and political activism to emphasize a shared commitment to reason in service to humanity.”

The claim made by some that libertarians aren’t against using government in limited ways to address our shared challenges and seize our shared opportunities, while insisting that the problem now is that we have “too much government,” ignores the incredible breadth and depth of challenges and opportunities we face, challenges and opportunities that careful economic analysis clearly demonstrate often require extensive use of our governmental apparatus to meet and to seize. That is why every modern, prosperous, free nation on Earth has a large administrative infrastructure, and why every single modern, prosperous, free nation on Earth has had such a large administrative infrastructure in place since prior to participating in the historically unprecedented post-WWII expansion in prosperity and liberty: Because, as an empirical fact, that is what has thus far worked most effectively. But that does not preclude the possibility that the approach I’ve identified would lead to an overall reduction in the size and role of government; it only requires that in each instance the case be made, with methodological rigor, that any particular reduction in government actually does increase the robustness, fairness, and sustainability of our social institutional framework.

The challenge isn’t to doggedly shrink government in service to a blind ideological conviction, but rather to wisely, with open eyes and informed analyses, refine our government by shrinking that which should be shrunk and expanding that which should be expanded, an ongoing endeavor which requires less ideological presumption and more analytical intelligence. We  neither need nor benefit from neatly packaged blind dogmas; we need and benefit from an ever-greater commitment to disciplined reason in service to unflagging humanity.

Now, the legitimate contention arises that that is fine in theory, but in the real world of real people, ideological convictions and irrational decision-making prevail, and to refuse to fight the irrational and inhumane policies doggedly favored by some by any and all means possible, including strategies that do not hamstring themselves by seeking an ideal that does not prevail in this world today, is to surrender the world to the least enlightened and most ruthless. To that I respond that I do not oppose the strategic attempts by those who are informed by reason and humanity to implement the products of their discipline and conviction through strategic and realistic political means, but only implore of them two things: 1) That they take pains to ensure that their conclusions actually are the product of reason in service to humanity, and not simply their own blind ideological dogma, and 2) that they invest or encourage the investment of some small portion of our dedicated resources, some fraction of our time and money and energy directed toward productive social change, toward cultivating subtler cultural changes that increase the salience of reason and humanity in future political decision-making processes. I have outlined just such a social movement in A Proposal: The Politics of Reason and Goodwill.

Another legitimate contention is the recognition of our fallibility, and the need to rely on bedrock principles rather than arrogate to ourselves a case-by-case, issue-by-issue analysis, much as we limit our democratic processes with bedrock Constitutional principles that we can’t elect to violate. There is much truth in this, but it either becomes one more rational consideration that we incorporate into our ongoing effort to do the best we can in a complex and subtle world, or it displaces our reason and humanity entirely and reduces us to automatons enslaved by a historically successful reduction of reality. We see these alternatives in regards to how the Bible and Constitution are utilized, by some as guides which inform their own reason and humanity and require conscious interpretation and application, and by others as rigid confirmation of their own dogmatic ideology, the latter often through selective or distorted interpretations of their own.

We’ve seen the value of improved methodology and increased commitment to methodological discipline in the realm of science, which has bestowed on us a greatly invigorated ability to make sense of a complex and subtle universe. We’ve seen the value of improved procedures and procedural discipline in law, which has increased the justness of our criminal justice system (certainly an improvement over “trial by ordeal,” or the Inquisitor’s securing of a confession by means of torture, for instance). We’ve seen the value of improved methodologies in selecting and holding accountable political leaders, through carefully monitored “free and fair” elections and the supremacy of the rule of law over individual power. To be sure, all of these are mere steps forward, not completed journeys; the human foibles they partially mitigated are not entirely erased from the new paradigms they preside over. But they are steps forward.

And, though it’s more debatable, with more and greater atrocities seeming without end challenging the assertion, I think our humanity has grown in recent centuries as well. Historians almost universally agree that a larger proportion of the human population suffered violent death the further back in time you go. Even while exploitation and inhumanities persist, they are increasingly viewed as morally reprehensible by increasing numbers of people in increasing regions of the Earth. We have, indeed, as a national and international society, improved our formal commitment to human rights, even if our realization of that commitment has woefully lagged behind. It remains incumbent on us to close that gap between the ideal and the reality.

What, then, are the logical next steps for civilization? How do we advance the cause of reason in service to humanity? The answer, I believe, is to extend and expand the domains of these methodologies and attitudes, to increase the degree to which they are truly understood to be the defining vehicle of human progress. If it’s good to have a small cadre of professionals engaging in science, it’s even better to have many more incorporating more of that logic into their own opinion formation process. If it’s good for the election of office holders to be conducted through rational procedures, it’s even better for the knowledge and reasoning of those who vote in those elections to be fostered through more rational procedures as well. And if it’s good for some of us to include larger swathes of humanity in the pronoun “we,” then it’s even better for more of us to do so to an ever greater degree.

Even if the effort to cultivate a movement in this direction only succeeds, over the course of generations, in making the tiniest marginal increase in the use of disciplined reason, and the tiniest increases in the degree of commitment to our shared humanity, by the tiniest marginal fraction of the population, that would be a positive achievement. And if, alongside such marginal increases in the reliance on disciplined reason and commitment to humanity, there is also a marginal increase in the acknowledgement that the products of disciplined reason are more useful to us as a society and a people than the products of arbitrary bigotries and predispositions, and that the recognition of the humanity of others unlike us is more morally laudable than our ancient tribalistic and sectarian reflexes, that, too, would be a positive achievement.

The influence of reason in our lives has been growing steadily for centuries and has had a dramatic impact on our social institutional and technological landscape, though it has only really ever been employed in a disciplined way by a small minority of the human population. The increase in our humanity as well, in such forms as the now nearly universal condemnation of slavery, the increasing recognition of the value of equal rights for all, the generational changes in our own society with some bigotries withering with time, can also be discerned. Even marginal increases in the employment of reason and its perceived legitimacy, and of our shared humanity being the ends to which it is employed, can have very dramatic effects on the robustness, fairness, and sustainability of the social institutional and technological landscape of the future, and on the welfare of human beings everywhere for all time. This is the path that all of our most laudable achievements of the past have followed and contributed to, and it is the path we should pursue going forward ever more consciously and intentionally, because that is what the ever fuller realization of our humanity both requires of us and offers us the opportunity to do.

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(The following is the beginning of an exchange on a libertarian’s Facebook page, with the first comment being his status update. It continued, as these exchanges often do, with my repeated suggestion that we step back from our substantive certainties and agree to base our discourse on the premise that we’re all fallible, and if we all strive to be rational and humane people, in disciplined and methodical ways, it would serve society better than our competing blind ideologies, and with this suggestion being responded to with every excuse imaginable for why it couldn’t be accepted. And this is the great ongoing tragedy of our shared existence, not just the persistence of irrationality, but the emotional investment in its preservation against all suggestions and invitations to work toward transcending it.)

KW: God Bless You for your choices, now kindly step aside as I make my own.

SH: What if your choice were to hurt others? Should I kindly step aside then? So, you have to qualify it to say “now kindly step aside unless my choice is to hurt others and good citizens need to stop me from doing that.”

But lots of things hurt others in subtle ways. We are interdependent, and our actions affect one another. So some of our laws have to recognize that there are individual actions that we each can engage in that cause one another more harm than we, as a society, can allow. For instance, if I do work in my home that produces some form of toxic waste, and I dump that waste on my own property in such a way that gets into the groundwater that others drink and causes deadly disease among those who drink it, then don’t we as a society have good reason to say that no individual can dump toxic waste on their own property?

There are so many things like that in our lives, so much interdependence, that the meme that each should be absolutely free to do whatever they choose really serves more to obscure the real challenge of determining where to draw the line between individual liberty and agreed upon limits to it for mutual benefit than to enlighten or guide us in any meaningful way.

RA: Live Free!

SH: Self-governing on the basis of slogans rather than in-depth, nuanced, and diligent thought isn’t really that good an idea. One of the things you’ll notice about every one of the most horrible chapters of modern world history is that the authors of those horrors were all always deeply immersed in moving slogans.

JW: @Steve you are dangerously close to the most dangerous slogan of all time “for the greater good”. How about, “my ability to swing my arm ends at your nose”. People have to learn to live in close proximity to one another without resorting to trying to live each others lives for them.

SH: J, our own Constitution declares the importance of governing for “the general welfare.” The fact is that I live by no slogan at all, but rather by the belief that there is only one ideology to which any of us should ever adhere: That of striving to be rational and humane people, wise enough to know that none of us knows all that much, working together to do the best we can in a complex and subtle world. That’s not “a slogan,” but rather a philosophy, and not a shallow philosophy that fails to capture the true complexity and subtlety of the world we live in, but rather one based squarely on the recognition of that complexity and subtlety.

As I’ve said repeatedly, I don’t consider the liberal-conservative divide the fundamental one, nor is it how I define my own commitments. I am committed to the disciplined use of human consciousness in service to humanity, period. That includes using disciplined reason, imagination, research, analysis, contemplation, and discourse, recognizing our limitations, uncertainties, and the value of allowing some organic processes to function without trying to impose ourselves on them at every turn. It includes many, many things that can be discussed and debated and ever better understood by ever more people.

If a person comes to that process with that attitude self-identifying as a conservative, that’s fine with me. If they don’t embrace that process at all, but self-identify as a liberal, then they’re as much a part of the problem as those who don’t come to that process at all and self-identify as conservatives. The blind ideologies are not the answer; the processes that best liberate and mobilize human genius are, including the genius of laissez-faire to the extent and in the ways and under the circumstances that laissez-faire is best recommended by our best understandings of how the world works. 

But that’s not what happens. What happens is that people come fully armed with an array of false certainties arrived at haphazardly, through socialization and indoctrination and emotional predisposition, and treat those false certainties as indisputable truths. We all do it to some extent, even those of us who do it to the least extent, because that’s how the human mind works: We reduce an infinitely complex and subtle reality to manageable form in order to function in the world, and mistake our cognitive models for the reality itself. A critical step toward being rational and humane people is recognizing that, and working with it.

But when people declare that they have the one right substantive ideology, they are digging into the opposite cognitive orientation, the cognitive orientation which clings most tenaciously to their own false certainties, and is most insulated from actual fact and reason and growing comprehension. Do I think that that is more closely associated with modern American conservatism than modern American liberalism? Yes, but that’s not really the point. The point is that all of us should strive to be wiser than that, and those who refuse, regardless of what ideology they identify with, merit criticism for refusing. 

I always refer to reason AND humanity, though in many ways humanity is implicit in reason, as long as we agree on certain underlying values of fairness and long-term functionality, because we are ultimately interdependent, and reason dictates that we recognize our interdependence and act not under the pretense that it doesn’t exist but with the constant awareness that it does. “Liberty” does not mean the absence of interdependence, but rather a particular orientation to it, a value embedded within it that only has meaning in its context. Those who neglect to understand that end up turning the beautiful and valuable concept of human “liberty” into a cruel and ugly excuse for acting in predatory and implicitly inhumane ways. 

It’s no coincidence that slave owners used the concept of “liberty” to rationalize their commitment to the institution of slavery (the greatest assault on human liberty in the history of our nation, matched only by the displacement and destruction of the indigenous population), arguing that to deny them (the slave owners) their property (their slaves) would be an assault on their (the slave owners’) “liberty” (see John C. Calhoun’s “Union and Liberty”). And it’s no coincidence that modern Tea Party/libertarian ideology is part of a continuous ideological thread reaching back into that same use of the concept of “liberty.” Knowing and understanding history, deeply and richly and thoroughly, is useful to our present understandings and commitments. 

I could go on. I could write books on this. But there is only one rational place to start, only one rational foundation to build on, and that is reason itself, not the arbitrarily claim of already having embodied it in one’s current substantive certainties (as some I’ve interacted with insist upon, as their way of rejecting the notion that we should all strive to be rational and humane people), but in a commitment to the methodologies and procedures which have proved in recent centuries to be the most robust for minimizing bias and maximizing accuracy, and using those procedures –which include debates that aren’t just shouting matches but actually adhere to the rules of debate, the rules of evidence, the rules of logic, or whose relative merits are judged by how well they adhere to them—in service to our shared humanity. 

It’s a simple premise. I think it would generally favor what are now considered liberal positions, but if I’m wrong, I’d rather surrender my own false certainties than insulate myself from reason in order to preserve them. It is the process of reason in service to humanity that I am committed to, not to any current assumption of what conclusions it leads to. 

And that’s something that all rational and humane people should be able to agree to, should be able to rally around. I know some moderate conservatives who do, and I identify more with them, am more reassured by their presence in our polity, than I am by dogmatic liberals who don’t. And if we can simply put aside the shouting matches over precipitous substantive false certainties, and instead agree to work at being that kind of a polity, a rational and humane polity, then this would be an even more admirable and extraordinary nation than it already is (if that’s what it already is), and an even greater gift to the world than it already is (if that’s what it already is). And we would leave on the margins, on the dust heap of history where they belong, the commitment to ignorance and bigotry and oversimplistic dogma that some insist on adhering to, moving forward instead as an increasingly rational and humane people. 

KW: Steve, why do you use my status to go on your diatribe. I respect your take but you immediately disregarded the simple fact that I am Libertarian and not a single one of my choices harm another. 

JW: I know better than to feed the trolls but I am going to respond to your essay Steve. Shakespeare said “Brevity is the soul of wit”. At least with the simple statements that K and I have made, a reasonable person might gather the basics of our personal philosophies. I read through your entire post and honestly could not make a determination of where you fall philosophically. Given the lengths to which you used as many words as possible to say as little as possible, I am inclined to believe that you are a statist leaning liberal that would bind us in the chains of some nebulous “social contract” that no party signs yet all are supposed to abide by. Orson Wells took such thoughts about “humanity” to its inevitable conclusion in Animal Farm where of course, all are equal but some where more equal than others. Unlike K, I will not respect your philosophy if it is one that would consign us to the politics of pull, where influence becomes the prime product of a society and the real producers are enslaved to the “greater good”.

SH: K, the whole purpose of the rule of law is that we can’t simply rely on each other to do the right thing, and that we must govern ourselves, as a people, with laws that bind us and limit us in certain ways for mutual benefit. You say that I disregard the fact that you are a libertarian and that your choices harm no one else. No, I dispute the notion that we don’t need laws because some people are not inclined to break them in the first place, or that the recognition that we do need laws is compatible with the ideologically exclusive emphasis on absolute freedom.

As for why I use your status to go on my diatribe: If one propagates defective ideas that can be harmful to humanity where I can challenge them, then I will challenge them.

J, you couldn’t make that determination because not all philosophies are dogmas, and mine is one such that is not a dogma. It is a commitment to the same foundations that inform science and law, a commitment to methodologies and procedures rather than to presumptions and false certainties. “My” philosophy is not reductionist, is not the folly of imposing on a complex world a simplistic panacea. It is, rather, a commitment to reason (which is served by disciplined methodologies and procedures that have proved their worth over the last several centuries) in service to humanity (rather than in service to some segment of humanity at the expense of other segments of humanity).

You assume I’m an adherent to your caricature of left-wing ideology, to which you relegate everyone who is not a member of your preferred reduction of reality, not recognizing the existence of any form of political economic thought that does not fit neatly into one or the other of your two caricatures of political economic thought. It’s a tidy but shallow world you live in. Maybe it’s time to consider the possibility that it’s not the last word of human comprehension. (And that’s the point, isn’t it? Knowing that we don’t know rather than insisting that we do, and, in the womb of that wise humility, actually learning, discovering, growing, approaching the challenge of engaging a complex and subtle world with imagination and analytical discipline rather than blind ideological fervor. THAT is the real political divide in America today, whether to be a raging ideologue, or an imaginative and analytical participant in an on-going enterprise.)

“My” philosophy is to start with the simple agreement among all who are willing to strive to be rational and humane people. It may seem insignificant, but I think that it is an important step, because both reason and humanity are easily lost to the zeal of blind ideologies. So, we say, “look, I know that I’m fallible, and that the world is complex, so lets agree, first and foremost, that we’re going to strive to be rational and humane, and take it from there.” it’s a good agreement to make, a good foundation to build on, and very much in the spirit of the formation of this nation, which was founded on the Enlightenment philosophy that a people can and should govern themselves rationally and humanely, debating as rational citizens rather than merely clinging to ideological assumptions.

Once we make that agreement, we can discuss how to realize it. Clearly, scientific methodology is better than other preceding and generally more haphazard approaches when it comes to understanding empirical phenomena, to ascertaining factual and systemic knowledge. Similarly, legal procedure is preferable to, for instance, trial by ordeal, for ascertaining guilt or innocence, or ascertaining facts and applying the law to them. These are developments over recent centuries that have increased the role of rationality in our lives. We can work to extend their domain beyond the halls of academe and the courts of law, and to employ more of their logic, and reap more of their benefits, in public discourse in general.

And it all starts with something as self-evidently desirable as simply agreeing to strive to be rational and humane people, and giving that agreement priority over any other ideological commitments.

George Orwell (not Orson Wells) wrote “Animal Farm” about an ideology coopted in service to oppression. Any ideology can be used as such a pretext, even one that claims to exist for the opposite purpose (as, indeed, Communism itself did). Ideologies always insist that every other ideology is the road to Hell, and that they alone provide salvation. It’s a common theme. They use rousing symbols and slogans to proclaim themselves the defenders of some noble ideal, and then, if they are not more procedurally than substantively oriented, inevitably betray that ideal.

A commitment to humanity is not a commitment to totalitarianism. But a failure to commit to humanity, to commit to reason, is an invitation to the institutionalization of irrationality and inhumanity, as has so often happened in so many times and places. Ironically, Libertariansim has something fundamentally in common with Marxism, and that is profound and oversimplistic political economic dogmatism. Marxism identified the state as the solution to all problems, and Libertarianism identifies the market as the solution to all problems, though economists well understand that neither is and that both have a vital role to play.

We should all act more like economists and less like ideologues when discussing economic issues. We should, in general, all strive to act more like rational and humane people, wise enough to know that we don’t know much, working together to do the best we can in a complex and subtle world. That should be our one and only ideology

By the way, the concept of ‘trolls” on Facebook has clearly become distorted to mean “anyone who invades an ideological echo-chamber with any perspective discordant with that of the pariticpants of the echo-chamber.” If that is the new definition of “troll,” than I’m proud to be one, because these echo-chambers are unhealthy to our democracy and do poor service to the growth of reason and understanding. We need, instead, a robust, informed and informative, rational and disciplined, public discourse, where ideas are exchanged and challenged, and we work together to improve our understandings and our ability to cooperate for mutual benefit.

I would limit the term “troll” to mean anyone, on any thread, whose contribution is intended or designed to drown out signal with noise, and reduce rather than increase the informativeness and rationality of the discourse taking place.

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Part I: The Economy.

1) Every modern, prosperous, developed nation on Earth, without one single exception, has a large administrative infrastructure and has had a large administrative infrastructure in place since prior to participating in the historically unprecedented post-WWII expansion in the production of prosperity. Every single nation on Earth that lacks a large administrative infrastructure is an impoverished nation. No nation without a large administrative infrastructure has ever achieved post-WWII levels of prosperity and economic development. The claim, then, that such a large administrative infrastructure, which the far-right refers to as “socialism,” is incompatible with prosperity, is the precise opposite of what the empirical evidence suggests: It appears to be not only compatible with prosperity, but absolutely indispensable to prosperity.

2) Economic theory and empirical observation make clear why this is so: Due to the consequences of “transaction costs” (the costs of market transactions, such as gathering information or organizing interested parties to act as single market actors in public goods scenarios), government involvement in the modern market economy is a vital component of a robust and well functioning economy, and its absence ensures that centrally located market actors (who benefit from “information asymmetries”) will game markets to their own benefit and to the public’s often catastrophic detriment. The government helps to reduce transaction costs by investing in infrastructure and human capital development that involve a combination of high immediate costs and very long-term though extremely high benefits that is not conducive to reliance on private investment.

3) In the immediate wake of the implementation of New Deal policies, we had four years of historically unprecedented GDP growth, that only declined again immediately after budget hawks similar to the American far-right today pushed through a more conservative fiscal policy.

4) What finally ended the Great Depression and set the country and world on the most dramatic expansion of prosperity in the history of the world was the most massive public spending project in world history : WWII, in which the United States ramped up its industrial engine by producing enormous quantities of sophisticated heavy military equipment that was conveniently destroyed as fast it could be manufactured, demonstrating that even unproductive production can stimulate an economy, suggesting how much more economically beneficial investment in infrastructure can be.

5) Our period of greatest economic growth (the 1950s and 1960s) was also the period of our highest marginal tax rates, when we did, in fact, make massive investments in infrastructure (such as our interstate highways system) and scientific and technological research and development (such as the space program and the government sponsored advances in computer technology, both of which generated a plethora of economically enormously beneficial developments).

6) In the immediate wake of the stimulus spending by the Bush and Obama administrations, declining GDP turned to growing GDP and an accelerating rise in job losses turned into a decelerating rise in Job losses, literally turning the corner from the deepening collapse authored by eight years of Republican economic policies to gradual recovery within months of the resumption of a Democratic administration and sane economic policies.

7) Virtually no economists, liberal or conservative, recommend fiscal austerity during an economic contraction, and yet Tea Party lunatics, drenched in the false belief that a long-term deficit and debt problem is an immediate crisis, insist on policies that virtually every economic model shows actually INCREASES our debt while crippling our economy.

8) The overwhelming majority of professional economists do not agree with the Tea Party economic paradigm, and The Economist magazine called it “economically illiterate and disgracefully cynical.” 80% of American economists in a 2008 survey favored Democratic Party over Republican Party economic policies (and that was BEFORE the rise of the Tea Party!).

9) The Tea Party Congressional faction famously blackmailed the country with fiscally and economically nationally self-destructive default on our financial obligations (by threatening to refuse to raise the debt ceiling, which has never before been contentious and in most developed countries is automatic), in order to secure continuing tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans which even conservative economists called “indefensible.” Even though this catalyzed a damaging downgrading of our national credit rating, they seem poised, in 2013, to repeat the same self-destructive and irresponsible behavior.

10) The two greatest economic collapses of the last 100 years in America were both immediately preceded by the two highest peaks in the concentration of wealth in America in the last 100 years (in 1929 and 2008, respectively), both of which followed a decade or more of the kinds of “small government” policies favored by the right today. Following the 1929 collapse, we learned from our mistakes and used government to create a more sustainable economy. Following the 2008 collapse, the far-right has continued to try to inflict continuing economic harm on the nation, insisting on continuing the same policies which caused the economic collapse in the first place.

11) Yet despite these many compelling facts, those on the far-right not only continue to believe what is contradicted by reality, but are 100 percent certain that their ideological dogma is the indisputable truth, and are smugly dismissive of those who disagree with them.

Part II: The Constitution and the Foundational Values of the Nation.

1) The Constitution was drafted and ratified to strengthen, not weaken, the federal government, after ten years of living under the toothless Articles of Confederation. “The Federalist Papers,” a series of op-ed arguments for ratification of the Constitution written by Madison, Hamilton, and Jay, largely made the case that an adequately empowered and centralized federal government was essential to the viability of the new republic. (“Federalism” was originally used to designate the political doctrine favoring a strong federal government, but has been converted by the modern right-wing to refer to the political doctrine favoring a weak federal government.)

2) Despite the frequent refrain that government taxing-and-spending is an act of federal tyranny and “unconstitutional,” the fact is that Article I, Section 8, Clause 1 of the United States Constitution grants Congress the unqualified power to tax and spend in the general welfare, the Constitutional provisions limiting that power being the ones that define our electoral process, by which we the people get to decide, through that process, whether our representatives’ interpretation of “the general welfare” is one we the people agree with. So, if “socialists” vote in a “socialist” president who taxes and spends to provide universal healthcare, or to address issues of poverty or disability or other acts of humanity as a people, that is not unconstitutional, it is not an infringement on anyone’s liberty, it is not an abuse of federal power, but is, rather, Congress doing exactly what it was empowered to do.

3) While claiming to be the great defenders of the Constitution, right-wingers are in fact the great antagonists against the Constitution, because they reject the process by which we have resolved disputes over constitutional interpretation for over two centuries (Judicial Review) and fight to reduce the Constitution to a meaningless Rorschach Test which each ideological faction claims to support whatever that ideological faction favors, thus destroying the Constitution as a functioning document.

4) While pretending to be the great bulwark against tyranny, they in fact pose the greatest threat of tyranny and against our rule of law, by insisting that they are prepared to overthrow the government if they disagree with it, and by insisting that their “liberty” requires that we siphon political economic power away from our constitutionally and democratically constrained government organized to serve the public interest and into large private corporations that are not constitutionally and democratically constrained and are organized to serve the interests of the few who own the most shares rather than of the public in general (a transferal of power to corporate interests which is essentially the definition of “fascism”).

5) The claim to be the true representatives of the will and spirit of the Founding Fathers is almost the diametrical opposite of the truth, for several reasons. For one thing, the “Founding Fathers” did not have one simplistic ideological “will” that could be so easily represented. Ben Franklin, for instance, believed that all private wealth beyond that necessary to maintain oneself and one’s family in modest fashion should revert to the public “by whose laws it was created,” by means of very high luxury and inheritance taxes. Thomas Paine believed in redistribution of wealth, through the agency of government, from the more wealthy to the less wealthy. Alexander Hamilton believed in a very strongly centralized federal government. The two things that bound our Founding Fathers together and that, in the final analysis, they universally agreed on is that people can and should govern themselves through the use of their own reason and in service to their shared humanity, and that compromise was an essential tool in doing so, two things that the modern far right most vigorously rejects. In other words, the far right, by idolizing caricatures of the Founding Fathers, does the opposite of emulating them as rational and humane people striving to create an ever-more rational and humane society.

6) While power has indeed shifted from the states to the federal government over the course of our history, at the same time (and in part by that very mechanism), real protections against the potential tyranny of government have grown far stronger than they were even at the time of the founding of the nation, when states’ rights were paramount. As stated above, the first major step in that direction was the Constitution itself, replacing the toothless Articles of Confederation with a federal framework with a strong federal government.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall, at the beginning of the 19th century, made another step in that direction, instituting the doctrine of “judicial review,” which gives the Court the last word in legal and constitutional interpretation, thus ensuring that our short and ambiguous founding document has, for functional purposes, a single unambiguous interpretation that we accept as a matter of law.

The next major step was the Civil War, which increased federal power to protect the rights of individuals (in this case, slaves) from the oppression of more local (state) governments and private property owners. The New Deal nationalized our sense of economic purpose and shared fate, and our participation in WWII took that spirit abroad and ramped up our economy even further. The Eisenhower administration taxed and spent with impunity, and put in place an enormously beneficial infrastructure which led to decades of historically unprecedented growth. The Civil Rights movement, Court holdings, and Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts all continued the use of the federal government to protect individual rights against state and private violation. Kennedy used the federal government to land a man on the moon, increasing our technological prowess in ways that have also been highly beneficial. And, finally, the federal government was instrumental in the development of information technologies which have created enormous prosperity.

In the meantime, the Civil Rights amendments to the Constitution and the Court’s interpretation of the Bill of Rights have led to an extraordinary extension of our liberties and of the vigor of their protection. The Bill of Rights came to be applied as a bulwark against state and local as well as federal intrusions of individual rights and liberties. The provisions came to be read with increasing rigor, requiring ever greater due process protections (which the faux-liberty-loving right have generally opposed with equal vigor), discovering a penumbra “right to privacy” that isn’t actually explicitly stated in the Constitution, and, in general, providing ever increasing protections for individuals against governmental exercises of power.

But rather than rejoice in this advance of liberty and prosperity, the right imagines that any intrusion on private property interests and their hoarding of private wealth is the real affront to individual liberty and human rights, just as their slave-owing ideological forebears did.

Part III. Morality, Humanity and Self-Congratulatory Historical Revisionism.

1) Right-wingers dismiss the plight of the poor, most of whom work long hours in low-paying jobs, as a function of their own defects and laziness, and insist that it is morally unacceptable for us as a society to assume any shared responsibility to address social issues such as poverty, hunger, homelessness, the special needs of the disabled, and unnecessary and unjust human suffering in general.

2) They do so despite the fact that every other developed nation on Earth has done a far better job than us of reducing poverty, reducing economic inequality, and reducing the myriad social problems associated with poverty and economic inequality.

3) They revise history so as to define every historical movement that is now broadly condemned to have been “left-wing movements,” such as their conversion of Nazism –a political ideology and regime which hated communists, labor unions, intellectuals, journalists, the poor, and “foreigners” living within the country, favored policies which concentrated wealth and power into constitutionally and democratically unconstrained corporate hands, and relied on an ultra-nationalism stoked up with lots of jingoism and “patriotic” rhetoric and imagery– into a left-wing movement, and their main argument why this is so is because “National Socialism” has the word “Socialism” in its name (much as the German Democratic Republic, or East Germany, a Soviet client state, must have been a Democratic Republic, since it’s right there in the name, right?).

4) They revel in the (accurate) facts that the Republican Party freed the slaves while the Democratic Party was closely associated with the KKK, always implying that that alignment continues today. They neglect to mention (or recognize) that, in the wake of The Civil Rights Act of 1964, which LBJ (a Democrat) was as closely associated with as Obama is with The Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), southern whites (and northern white racists) abandoned the Democratic Party en masse and migrated to the Republican Party, which is why implicit and explicit racism now resides almost exclusively in the Republican Party, with the map of Tea Party strongholds closely corresponding to the map of the Confederacy, and with so many Tea Party policy positions containing so much implicit racism (e.g., voter suppression laws, opposition to any form of affirmative action, hyperbolic disdain for the first African American president, contempt for Latin American migrants, etc.).

Part IV: Guns, Violence, and a Reactive rather than Proactive Society.

1) The United States has the second highest homicide rate among 36 OECD nations (beaten only by Mexico, which “benefits” from a constant flood of our firearms crossing the border to fuel their problem), from 2 to 25 times the homicide rate of 33 of the 35 other OECD other nations.

2) In both domestic comparisons of homicide rates across all jurisdictions and cross-national comparisons of homicide rates in developed countries, there is a positive correlation between per capita legal gun ownership and homicide rates.

3) The overwhelming majority of firearms used in the commission of crimes in The United States are put into circulation by initially being legally purchased in those states with the laxest regulations, and entering the black market from there, through which they are distributed to all locales in the country due to the complete absence of any obstructions to the transportation of good across state and municipal borders.

4) As a statistical fact, a legally, privately owned firearm is many times more likely to be involved in EACH of the following than to be successfully used in self-defense: suicide, accidental shooting death, mistaken shooting death (not an accidental discharge or hunting accident, but an intentional shooting at an innocent person mistaken for an intruder or a threat), crime of passion and use as part of a cycle of domestic violence.

5) As a statistical fact, a firearm in the home has a greater likelihood of being the instrument of death of a member of the household or of an innocent visitor than to be used in self-defense, and the owner of a firearm is more likely to be the victim of gun violence than a non-owner of a firearm.

6) We, as a nation, have the highest absolute number and highest percentage of our population incarcerated of ANY nation on Earth, making us in a very literal sense the least free nation on Earth.

7) This high incarceration rate is in part a function of a right-wing retributive orientation, which believes that the world is neatly divided between the “good guys” and the “bad guys,” and that if the good guys are just better armed against the bad guys, and lock the bad guys up or execute the bad guys, we’ll be a more peaceful and law-abiding society as a result.

8) The right, in other words, believes that the more we threaten one another –with decentralized deadly violence, with incarceration, with capital punishment– the more we will reduce violence against innocent victims, despite the empirical evidence that the opposite is true.

9) When an unarmed black teen walking home from the store (Trayvon Martin) was shot to death by an armed vigilante out looking for people to “defend” himself against (George Zimmerman), the right tried to dismiss this as irrelevant to the question of whether being an armed society of fearful and angry people out looking for people to “defend” themselves against is really such a good idea. They insisted that if it was legally self-defense in the moment of the use of deadly force (as it may or may not have been), then there can be no basis for criticizing the policies and ideology that encouraged the creation of the need to use deadly force, neglecting to recognize the fact that the entire encounter was a function of Zimmerman choosing to go out with a gun and look for people to “defend” himself against, and neglecting to notice the implications of his choosing to “defend” himself against an unarmed black teen walking home from the store. Following this incident, numerous right-wing posts on Facebook showed “scary” black criminals as some kind of a justification for whites going out with guns, pursuing unarmed black teens, and shooting them to death.

10) Those societies that have a more proactive and less reactive orientation –that recognize that we affect the propensity and ability to commit violent acts by the cultural milieu that we create together, that recognize that taking better care of one another and providing more social justice and less destitution, and making access to instruments of deadly violence less rather than more easy , by reducing the flood of instruments of deadly violence and the idolization of instruments of deadly violence which in part define our society— have far lower rates of deadly violence than we do, far lower rates of incarceration, far lower rates of poverty and other social ills, healthier and (according to self-report survey studies) happier populations.

11) Unfortunately, the far-right in America insists that to recognize our interdependence, to be an aspirational and hopeful rather than fearful and angry society, to be proactive and caring rather than reactive and retributive, would be an affront to their “liberty,” and thus opposes such progress in an obviously preferable direction, a direction which is more humane and productive and life-affirming.

Part V: Their Ideology’s Historical Predecessors.

1) The abuse of the concept of “liberty” to mean the liberty to benefit disproportionately from an unjust system which results in a grossly unjust distribution of wealth and opportunity, the identification of the federal government as a threat to that “liberty” and a tyrant because of it, is an ideology that has existed as long as our country has existed.

2) This conflation of the concepts of “liberty” and “property,” and the related reduction of “liberty” to a socially irresponsible license to exploit and oppress others for one’s own benefit, was originally the ideology of Southern Slave owners, who insisted that their liberty to own slave was being threatened by the tyrannical federal government, an ideology explicated in John C. Calhoun’s “Union and Liberty,” in which he argued that the “minority” (southern slave owners) had to be protected from the majority who were trying to infringe on their “liberty” to own slaves.

3) It continued to be used by Southern Segregationists, who argued that any attempt to end Jim Crow and ensure the civil rights of discriminated against groups would be an infringement on their freedom.

4) In fact, when LBJ was instrumental in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the result was the movement of racists from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party, where they now reside.

5) Rand Paul said that he would not have been able to support the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The abolition of slavery (even to the point of having to use years of military force) and the passage of laws protecting African Americans and others from discrimination in the public sphere were both federal governmental exercises of power.

6) The Right currently favors Jim Crow-like voter suppression laws based on a discredited pretext, dismisses as irrelevant the shooting death of an unarmed black teen walking home from the store by an armed vigilante out looking for people to defend himself against, opposes laws which address a historical legacy of an inequality of opportunity in America which disproportionately effects those categories of people who have been most historically discriminated against, speak in words and tones highly reminiscent of our nationally embarrassing McCarthyist witch trial era, and, in general, demonstrate that they are simply the current incarnation of an old historical perennial.

7) When confronted by those who disagree with them, people they constantly vilify and refuse to engage in any constructive national discourse with, they react with great hostility, their primary argument generally being that the act of presenting the factual and logical and moral errors in their ideology to them is an insult that cannot be tolerated.

Part VI: Their Short-Sighted, Socially Disintegrative and Globally Destructive Ideology.

1) Those on the far-right dismiss as a bastion of liberal bias precisely those professions that methodically gather, verify, analyze and contemplate information, thus insulating their dogma from any intrusion of fact and reason. (It’s no wonder, then, that only 6% of American scientists self-identify as Republican, and only 9% as conservative, compared to 55% as Democrat and 52% as liberal. 14% identify themselves as “very liberal,” over 50% more than those who identify themselves as merely “conservative.)

2) By doing so, they are able to dismiss scientific insights into the potentially catastrophic impact we are having on global natural systems through our unchecked accelerating exploitation of Nature in service to our immediate appetites and avarice, an exploitation which is converting us from fellow symbiotes in a sustainable biosphere into deadly parasites killing the host on which we are feeding.

3) Consistent with the general tone and tenor of their entire ideological package, this rejection of methodological thought and short-sighted commitment to immediate self-gratification, at the expense of others, at the expense of our planet, at the expense of our future, is an expression of a primal unmindfulness rather than the more mindful engagement with the world that we are capable of. It is a vestige of primitive inclinations rather than a progress into a more fully conscious existence on this planet. It is the rejection of the shared human endeavor that had begun to define us, a shared reaching for what we are capable of creating together, a shared commitment to reason and humanity.


This is, of course, a very partial list of the logical, factual, and moral fallacies that define the modern Far-Right. It is a single folly comprised of innumerable dimensions, including the failure to invest in children and families and communities, to value the health and welfare of our population, to have compassion and respect for those who migrate towards opportunity and do our hardest and least pleasant jobs for us for the lowest wages. It includes the disdain for gays and lesbians and transgender people, for Muslims and atheists and all those who differ in any way which triggers any number of deep and hateful bigotries. It includes the movement for an American Theocracy similar to those in the Middle East, in which Fundamentalist Christians strive to turn the state into a vehicle for their tyrannical religious fanaticism.

All of these multiple dimensions of far-right-wing folly and barbarism are part of a single, coherent package, an ideology of fear and hatred, of a variety of in-group/out-group biases and bigotries, an ideology which insists that we must not govern ourselves in ways which promote human welfare but only in ways which react brutally to the failure to do so, an ideology which eschews more effective and less costly preventions in favor of less effective and more costly reactions to problems left to fester and grow. It is an ideology which refuses to allow us, as a society, to invest in our future, to recognize our interdependence and our responsibilities to one another as human beings, and to work together intelligently and humanely in service to our collective welfare.

They’re on the wrong side of fact, the wrong side of reason, the wrong side of morality, and the wrong side of history. And they’re smug about it. We, as a nation and a world, do need a moderately conservative voice to be a vital participant in our national dialogue, but we all need to subordinate such ideological leanings to a shared commitment to being rational and humane people, wise enough to know that we don’t know much, working together to do the best we can in a complex and subtle world. While all of us fall short of that commitment to some degree and at some times, when factions form that demonstrate a consistent determination to be the diametrical opposite of rational and humane participants in a shared national endeavor, those factions become the problem we must solve rather than participants in our effort to solve it.

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(The following is a quote posted on Facebook and the exchange that followed it)

“We’re coming to a tipping point… there’s going to be a huge conversation; is government an instrument of good or is it every man for himself? Is there something bigger we want to reach for or is self-interest our basic resting pulse?” -Aaron Sorkin

DK: Each person in our great country gets to reach for something bigger or not.

SH: We are far too individualistic a society. First, our individual welfare depends heavily on how well developed are our institutions for cooperation and coordination of our efforts. Second, our liberty is a function of our unity and social cohesion, not of our disunity and social incoherence, because government isn’t the only potential agent for depriving one of one’s liberty (or life, or property, or happiness), and it’s absence ensures that other, more diffuse predators will plague everyone incessantly. Third, we are primarily expressions of a historically produced collective consciousness, thinking in languages and with concepts, operating through social institutions and utilizing technologies that we did not individually invent, but rather collectively developed over the course of generations. Our “individuality” is a unique confluence and marginal variation of both genetic and cognitive shared material. We are part of something bigger than us, and as big as it, for it flows through us and we flow through it. Government is not arbitrary; it is one valuable social institutional modality, evolved over millennia, to be refined and utilized in ever more useful and liberating ways.

DK: I grew up in a small MA community that still made decisions during annual town hall meetings. There was a strong sense of community and neighbors took care of neighbors. My grandfather was the town’s tax collector (thirty-five years) and he provided that service evenings and weekends from his home (his day job was being a shop foreman). It was very efficient as were many of the other town services, like fire and police (volunteers). Today in that same town many of these same services are full-time and the town has buildings to house them. Is there better service? Nope. But that’s small town America. My point is the closer the government is to the people the better. Our founders knew this and tried to set up a system that limited federal authority. It does allow more individualism, versus collective authority and remote control. In my opinion collectivism just doesn’t work very well (Russia). I don’t want you or anyone else bossing me around. I’ll take care of myself and do more than my fair share to help others who are in need. Only independence leads to self-actualization. As a former trust officer I saw this with trust babies. Money isn’t everything.

SH: If you’re saying that the disintegration of our communities has been horribly bad for America, and that we would be better off working toward recreating such communities again, I not only agree with you, but it is a topic I write on often, and in very specific ways. When I talk about my ideal social movement (which I do at length, in dozens of essays on my blog, Colorado Confluence), reconstructing a specific, modern form of local community is one of the three components I emphasize.

If your suggestion is that the growth in the federal governmental role in our lives is incompatible with this, or the cause of this, then I couldn’t disagree more. The primary causes of the disintegration of local community have been: 1) increased geographic mobility (and the economic incentives for it), 2) increased options for associating with people remotely (thus decreasing the need to associate with neighbors who are dissimilar to oneself), and 3) the same rise in hyper-individualism that is responsible for our diminished willingness to consider government a tool of collective action and collective welfare.

A sense of community may well have been at its height at precisely the same time that we were most willing to utilize and rely on Government as a tool for taking care of one another: During the Great Depression and the New Deal. This is because the two are more inherently compatible and mutually reinforcing than inherently incompatible and mutually inhibiting.

I agree: The closer government is to the people the better. But that’s not a geographic thing, but rather an emotional, attitudinal, and behavioral thing. First, let me point out why it’s wrong as a geographic assertion, and how our history has been, in one sense, the ongoing discovery of why it’s wrong as a geographic assertion.

At the founding of this county, many (not all) of the Founding Fathers were concerned about the potential tyranny of a more remote government, and took for granted that the more local government was more a thing of the people. In many ways, this was a very nationalistic notion, because they thought of their state as their nation (that’s how we came to change the meaning of the word “state” as we have), and they considered governments that weren’t their own true ”national” government to be imperialistic and foreign.

But our history has been one of successive increases of federal power either to increase the federal protection of individual liberty from more local government (e.g., the abolition of slavery and the 14th amendment, which catalyzed a gradual application of the Bill of Rights to state and local government as well as to federal government; the Civil Rights court federal court holdings, federal legislation, and federal enforcement), or to increase the federal role in facilitating individual liberty by increasing opportunities to thrive economically (e.g., the New Deal, the Great Society).

But a larger role for federal government does not have to be an emotionally or socially remote thing. I feel a personal connection to my two U.S. senators (one more than the other) and several of my state’s congressmen (as well as many in the state legislature and state government). In a different way (i.e., without the benefit of actual, personal interaction), I feel a personal connection to President Obama. And all of us who feel that we are in a shared national community feel that we are also in a shared local community. We tend to be more involved locally as well as nationally. I, for instance, made an effort once to reinvigorate my community, to get my neighbors more involved in our local schools and local businesses, to become more of a community. (Ironically, it is in the strongly Republican/Conservative/Libertarian enclaves such as where I live where local communities are weakest, and in the strongly Democratic neighborhoods where local communities are strongest, suggesting again that the correlation you identified is the inverse of reality.)

“Collectivism,” like “socialism” is an inherently overbroad term, and even more so in the way that it is used by modern conservatives. It is used to simultaneously refer to a set of failed totalitarian states, and to the entire corpus of modern developed predominantly capitalist but politically economic hybrid states that are the most successful economies in the history of the world. Every single modern developed nation, without exception, has the enormous administrative infrastructure that invokes those terms from conservatives, and every single one, without exception, had such an infrastructure in place PRIOR TO participating in the historically unprecedented post-WWII expansion in the production of prosperity (pre-empting an insistence that it is an unhealthy and self-defeating by-product of such wealth). In reality, the political economic form that you insist doesn’t work is the only one that ever has, on the modern scale, and the one you insist is the best imaginable has never actually existed and can never actually work.

(Sure, before the New Deal we had a much smaller federal government, but we were already using it in multiple ways to address social problems, including child labor and anti-trust laws. It only resembled the conservative ideal when we lived in a historical period that did not support any other form, due to the state of the economy and of communications and travel.)

Our founders set up a system that had the potential to articulate with and evolve according to the realities of lived history. The Constitution is brilliantly short and highly general, except in the exact design of the governmental institutions, which remain as they were outlined, with some Constitutional modifications since (such as the elimination of slavery and of their infamous designation as 3/5 of a human being, and the direct election of U.S. senators). Our nation is not some stagnant edifice following nothing more than a blueprint which perfectly predicted and mandated every placement of every brick, but rather an organic articulation of our founding principles and documents with our lived history, creating something that is responsive to both simultaneously.

No, this isn’t the America envisioned by Jefferson and Madison. It is a bit more like the one envisioned by Hamilton and Adams, and, in some ways, not nearly as “collectivist” as the one envisioned by Franklin, who considered all private wealth beyond that necessary to sustain oneself and one’s family to belong “to the public, by whose laws it was created.” But, more importantly, it is the one that the articulation of foundational principles with lived history has created. None of us can read the minds of historical figures, or impute to them with confidence what they would think today, but for everyone who says that Jefferson would be revolted by modern America, I say that it may well be that he would be delighted by it, for the ideals he helped to codify gained fuller and deeper expression, through the unexpected mechanism of a stronger rather than weaker federal government, than he was able to imagine possible. (And it was Jefferson; after all, who insisted that our social institutions have to grow and change with the times, for to fail to do so is to force the man to wear the coat which fit him as a boy.)

Community, like a well-functioning and substantial federal government, is, to some extent, all about us as a community, as a people, limiting one another’s actions and pooling resources for mutual benefit. You may not want a government bossing you around, but I don’t want corporations poisoning my air and water because they can increase the profit margin by not “wasting” money on avoiding doing so. You may not want a government bossing you around, but I want a functioning market economy rather than the undermined and unstable one that occurs in the absence of sufficient governmental regulations to ensure that centralized market actors don’t game markets to their enormous profit and to the public’s enormous, often catastrophic, detriment.

Are there challenges to be met while doing so? Does the resolution of problems create new problems to be resolved? Absolutely. Does that mean that we should rely on the never-adequate system of private charity to confront deeply embedded and horribly unjust poverty and destitution, rather than confront it as a people, through our agency of collective action, our government? Absolutely not.

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