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Anarchists and libertarians fail to acknowledge the nature of collective action problems, and the ways in which various modalities (including hierarchical organization, of which government is one example) are used to address it. The trick is to most effectively blend these different modalities, not to reduce reality to a caricature that allows us to pretend that that challenge doesn’t really exist.

(There’s a famous example used in economic literature, of a barge-pullers guild in 19th century China, that hired overseers to whip slackers in order to eliminate the free-rider problem. In other words, the barge-pullers themselves chose to impose on themselves an overseer in their own collective interest. It’s a strange and complex world in which we live; we need first and foremost to face up to that fact before rendering judgment in broad brushstrokes that fails to acknowledge fundamental aspects of reality.)

The “problem” with government isn’t its existence or the fact that people rely on it for certain purposes, but what in economic, legal and managerial theory is called “the agency problem.” In a popular sovereignty, government is constituted as an agent of the people, its principal. This is in many ways a reversal of most ancient notions of sovereignty, which saw the people as “subjects” of the sovereign. The problem, or challenge, is the degree to which reality can be made to correspond to theory.

In one view, this reversal of theoretical roles occurred organically, because in the crucible of European internecine warfare the crown’s (particularly the English crown’s) need for revenue to finance such wars drove an ongoing liberalization of the political economy to generate such revenue, In other words, international competition drove sovereigns to empower ever-more ever-broadening swathes of their citizenry, since those that did so fared better in the wars among relatively small and easily swallowed states.

In the Glorious Revolution in England in 1688, this reversal was institutionally recognized, laying the groundwork for the American revolution’s clearer codification of that institutional shift in its break from Great Britain. The challenge then became aligning the agent’s action’s to the principal’s interests, a challenge compounded by the size and diffuseness of the principal in comparison to the agent. This is the ongoing challenge we face.

A centralized agent ostensibly working on behalf of a diffuse principal can always exploit the transaction costs facing the principal in its translation of some hypothetical “popular will” into a mandate to the agent in order to serve the agent’s interests at the expense of the principal’s. This is the challenge we must continually face. But to then leap from the reality of that challenge to the conclusion that the existence of the agent is a sign of our own self-enslavement neglects the real need we have for such an agent, the real function it performs, and the costs of choosing to “liberate” ourselves from any centralized agency through which to address the collective action problems that face us.

The bottom line is that we live in a complex and subtle world, and that our neat reductions of it, our caricatures of reality, do not serve us well. While it’s true that, historically, governments of large political states were established through military conquest and exploitation, it is also true that the benefits of civilization are a derivative of that brutality, and that there are indeed benefits (as well as costs) of civilization, of a large-scale division of labor which freed up some to do things other than produce food. Our challenge now is not to feed our emotionally gratifying sense of superiority to “the Sheeple” for “knowing” that government is our oppressor, but rather to face, intelligently and effectively, the real challenges and real enterprise of aligning the actions of our agent with the interests of its principal, of making government ever more something that serves the interests of the people in general and ever less something that serves the interests of the few who capture it for their own benefit.

And that is a complex challenge, a complex enterprise, best framed in precise, analytical ways. It is our task to work to maximize the robustness, fairness and sustainability of our political economy, by applying disciplined reason and imagination to methodically gathered and verified information in service to our shared humanity. Unfortunately, caricatures of reality like those popular among ideologues of all stripes do nothing to help us accomplish that, and do much to interfere with our ability to do so effectively.

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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.

PJ: SINCE THE MARXIST DEMOCRAT LIBERAL PROGRESSIVES HAVE POLITICIZED NATURAL WEATHER PATTERS, THAT MAY NOT BE A BAD IDEA. PEOPLE WHO HAVE LIVED UNDER MARXIST RULES KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING WITH GOLBAL WARMING.

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.

PJ: SARCASM IS A GOOD INDICATOR OF YOUR LACK OF HONESTY STEVE…

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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Click here to learn about my mind-bending epic mythological novel A Conspiracy of Wizards!!!

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.

PJ: DEMOCRATS ADVOCATE MARXISM IN AMERICA AND REPUBLICANS DO NOT

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.

PJ: STEVE- THE IGNORANCE OF MOST MARXIST DEMOCRATS WHO USE THE JOHN LENNON IMAGINE FORM OF SHALLOW INTELLECTUAL NURSERY RHYME MARXISM, IS OF NO CONCERN TO ME. YOU ARE FREE TO BE AS IGNORANT OR DISHONEST AS YOU LIKE. THERE IS NO AGENDA ITEM ON OFFICIAL DEMOCRAT SITES THAT DO NOT STEM FROM MARXIST IDEOLOGY. IT IS SOPHISTRY ON YOUR PART TO TRY AND CHARACTERIZE IT THAT WAY. ALSO, MARXIST DEMOCRATS ADOPTED THE RULES FOR RADICALS AS THEIR ATTACK TEMPLATE MANY YEARS AGO AND IT EFFECTS EVERY ONE FROM HILLARY AND OBAMA TO YOU AND OTHERS HERE. IT SPECIFICALLY CALLS FOR THE MARXIST LEFT TO “RIDICULE” OPPONENTS REGARDLESS OF THE MERIT OF THEIR ARGUMENTS AND POINTS REGARDING INDIVIDUAL FREEDOM AND LIMITED GOVERNMENT… I FIND YOUR CROCODILE TEARS TO BE VERY DISINGENIOUS. ALL OF YOUR CONCERNS WOULD BE BETTER ADDRESSED IF DEMOCRATS DROPPED APPLYING MARXIST TENETS TO AMERICAN GOVERNANCE,… THE BOTTOM LINE IS THE DOWNSIDE OF INDIVIDUAL FREEDOM AND CAPITALISM, STILL PRODUCES BETTER RESULTS THAN THE UPSIDE OF ANY MARXIST IDEOLOGY STAGES,THAT ANY GOVERNMENT IN THE WORLD APPLIES TODAY……

“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.

PJ: STEVE HERE IS A REAL WORLD EXAMPLE OF YOUR MARXIST PROFESSORS IN MAJOR UNIVERSITIES…….http://youtu.be/x7wstDNtlmE………… AGAIN, IT IS THE MARXIST DEMOCRATS ALINSKYITES, WHOSE MARXIST AGENDA ADVANCEMENT IS PREDICATED ON STRIRING UP DISATISFACTION AMONGST PEOPLE. MARXISM ALWAYS USES DIVIDE AND CONQUER. THAT IS OBAMA EVERY ACTION AS AN “ORGANIZER” IS AIMED AT. …..

“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

THERE IS NO RATIONAL OR HUMANE CASE TO BE MADE FOR MARXISM , AFTER ALL THE RESULTS OF EVERY FORM TRIED…EVEN OBAMA’S VERSION HAS CREATED INERTIA DECAY AND HIGH UNEMPLOYMENT, LIKE ANY TIME MARXIST TENETS ARE APPLIED TO A SYSTEM BASED ON INDIVIDUAL FREEDOM. YOU DO NOT HAVE A LEG TO STAND ON HERE, EITHER BY EMOTION OR INTELLECT :O)

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.

PJ: NO STEVE, WE WILL PROPERLY IDENTIFY THE MOTIVES AND INTENET BEHIND BOTH THE PARTIES. THAT IS THE HONEST AND PROPER WAY TO HOLD A DISCUSSION. THERE IS NOT ONE MAJOR AGENDA ITEM OF DEMOCRATS THAT IS NOT BORN OF MARXIST IDEOLOGY. IT DOES NOT MATTER WHICH STAGE OF MARXIST THEORY IT MAY STEM FROM. WHETHER IT BE THE STAGE OF ANARCHISM, SOCIALISM OR COMMUNISM. I WILL ADD IN THE STAGE OF FASCISM, BECAUSE GRAMSCI AND MUSSOLINI PREDICATED FASCISM ON MARX’S THEORIES. YOUR APPROACH IS SIMPLY ONE MORE EXTENSION OF MARXIST THEORY. IT IS CALLED MARXIST HUMANISM. YOU SHOULD BE MORE HONEST HERE…WHY NOT SIMPLY BE LOUD AND PROUD FOR THE MARXIST AGENDA YOU WANT APPLIED IN AMERICA….

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?

PJ: ANYTIME A MARXIST USES THE WORD “SO” TO START A STATEMENT, IT MEANS MY WORDS HAVE BEEN FILTERED THROUGH HIS MARXIST PRISM. READ THE STATEMENT I WROTE AGAIN. I WROTE IT AND CHOSE THE WORDS FOR THEIR SPECIFIC MEANINGS. I FIND IRRATIONAL ON YOUR PART, THAT YOU ARE DISHONEST OR IGNORANT ABOUT THE LEVEL OF MARXISM AFFECTING YOUR WORLD VIEW. THAT IS THE PROBLEM WITH YOUR BRAND OF MARXISM. I DO NOT NEED YOU TO AGREE WITH ANY CONSERVATIVE IDEAL I WANT TO APPLY IN MY LIFE. I CAN LIVE OUT EVERY CONSERVATIVE,INDIVIDUAL FREEDOM BASED TENET I BELIEVE IN,WITHOUT YOUR PARTICIPATION AT ALL. YOUR AGENDA REQUIRES MY COERCED PARTICIPATION. THAT IS NOT FREEDOM FOR ME. YOU SHOULD RESOLVE NOT TO PROJECT AND COERCE OTHERS :O)

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?

PJ: STEVE-YOU ARE BEING HIGHLY DISINGENIOUS. HERE IS WHAT THE WORD RATIONAL MEANS..

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.

PJ: IN FACT IT PROVES YOU TO BE IRRATIONAL ;O)

 NOW ANSWER MY QUESTION, WHAT IS THE ROOT OF YOUR BELIEF IN MARXIST TENETS ?

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?

PJ: AGIAN WITH THE MARXIST TACTIC OF USING “SO” ….NOT ONE OF MY ANSWERS OR STATEMENTS REQUIRES YOU TO PROVIDE CONTEXT… I PROVIDE IT ALL BY MYSELF. YOU REALLY NEED TO READ THE THEORIES OF FORMS LINK ABOVE. YOU ARE FLITTING IRRATIONALLY BETWEEN SEVERAL FORMS OF ARGUMENT. YOU MUST BE COHERENT TO HAVE A RATIONAL DISCUSSION WITH ME. YOU MUST STOP THIS MARXIST OBSESSION OF TRYING TO EQUTAE ALL THINGS. I SAY CATAGORGICALY THE MAJORITY OF PEOPLE HAVE THEIR OWN “RATIONAL” REASONS FOR THEIR BEHAVIORS

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.

PJ: AGAIN STEVE. THERE IS NOTHING SANE NOR RATIONAL ABOUT SUPPORTING ANY ASPECT OF MARXISM, AFTER WE HAVE SEEN THE RESULTS PRODUCED BY IT. IF YOU WERE RATIONAL AND NOT A MARXIST IDEOLOGUE YOU WOULD AGREE WITH THAT CORRECT PREMISE…. NOW YOU WILL REPLY THAT ‘REAL ‘ MARXISM HAS NEVER BEEN TRIED YADA YADA YADA AGAIN, LIVE FREE AND PROSPER. YOUR WORLDVIEW SHOULD NEVER HAVE TO REQUIRE MY CO OPERATION OR PROPERTY :O)

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.

PJ: AGAIN STEVE,YOU ARE INCHOHERENT LOGICALLY OR DISHONEST . YOU DO NOT REJECT MARXISM AT ALL, YOU USE ITS LEXICON AND ADVOCATE ITS TENETS WITHOUT PROPERLY IDENTIFYING THEM. YOU IGNORE ALL LINKS AND YET YOU DO NOT STEP OUTSIDE OF THE PURVIEW OF ANY ASPECT OF MARXIST HUMANISM.

ALSO NOT ALL GOVERNMENTS CONTROL THE MEANS OF PRODCUTION, SO THAT INVAILDATES YOUR STRETCH OF “GOVERNMENTS” AND MARXISM

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…http://www.marxisthumanistinitiative.org/ 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….

Marx·ism

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)….http://socialistworker.org/2002-2/427/427_13_Dialectics.shtml

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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The following is an (edited) exchange that occurred on a thread following a Facebook wall post of a video of a woman whose parents were shot to death by an attacker, supposedly as a direct result of her inability to carry a handgun herself, testifying to Congress against gun regulations years ago. The original poster and most participants on the thread were congratulatory of the oration and convinced that it was a compelling argument against gun regulation. (I will give Jim -whose last name I deleted out of respect for privacy- kudos for his civility in the discussion, something I should have done in the course of that discussion.)

Steve Harvey: This is the perennial problem with your entire ideology, and not just as it relates to this issue: You don’t understand the effects of different levels of analysis (see Collective Action (and Time Horizon) Problems), or the different applications and relative weights of anecdotal versus statistical evidence. Let’s take the latter issue first.

Using anecdotal evidence similar to that presented in this video, I can argue against public service messages encouraging the use of seatbelts because I can relate an incident in which it was the wearing of a seatbelt rather than the failure to which led to a passenger’s death in a crash. It has happened, and the story can be told, hundreds of times in fact.

But the statistical fact is that it is far, far more likely that not wearing a seatbelt will lead to a death that would not have occurred had the seatbelt been worn. Just as, statistically, legally obtained, privately owned firearms are many, many times more likely to be used in EACH of the following: suicide, accidental or mistaken shooting, felony, crime of passion, escalation of an altercation resulting in the death or injury of an innocent person, provocation of an armed assailant who would not otherwise have fired on and injured or killed the victim.

In cross-national comparisons, there is a clear correlation between rates of deadly violence and laxity of gun regulations. Your ideology is based on the belief that the height of human civilization is a state of mutual universal threat of deadly violence, an approach which has defined many historical milieus, and has always resulted in higher rates of deadly violence than centralized pacification of force. Examples are international relations (endemic warfare), 19th century Appalachia (endemic feuding), and Somalia today. You argue the virtues of a primitive and violent approach to civilization that all history and all reason militate against.

And then you’re smug when you abuse anecdotal evidence, as it is so often and so easily abused, in the pretense that it is an actual argument supporting your position. Either get a clue, or learn how to defer to those who have one. Most Americans are sick and tired of being burdened with the insistence of irrational, fact-allergic fanatics that we live in an insanely violent nation, far more violent than any other developed nation. Most Americans believe that it is unnecessary, that we can do better, and that we owe it to the innocent victims and their survivors of our off-the-charts rates of deadly violence to address the problem in all of its dimensions, becoming a rational and humane people at last, like the rest of the developed world.

Those who insist that we must not include gun regulations in the mix of how to address this problem have the blood of innocent victims on their hands, including the blood of those 20 small children in Newtown. And if that is where your priorities lie, then shame on you. Shame on you.

Jim: Hello, Steve. You make a very good argument. Having said that, I ask you. Picture this, you, your wife and your children have just walked out of a very nice restaurant, headed towards your car, when you see this thug headed straight for you at a fast pace. He flashes a pistol as he approaches, in a moment you realize he means to cause harm to you and your family. Now I ask you: Would you rather have the opportunity to defend yourself and family with that .380 auto you have tucked in your waistband or would you rather defend yourself by spouting off the more “civilized” approach of explaining to him why you don’t carry a gun? I personally, lead a very peaceful life, but I am not naive enough to not realize that when I am met with force, that I must be prepared to answer it with force. Particularly when it comes to defending what’s dear to my heart. I wish you well. -Jim

Steve Harvey: Again, Jim, you want to reduce an issue of social policy to a carefully selected scenario that scrubs out most of the relevant contextual information. If we can implement policies that reduce the likelihood of my family being placed in such danger, that is preferable to a policy which increases the likelihood but arms me to deal with it, the latter resulting in a far higher rate of violent death than the former.

It’s like asking, “But Steve, if there were a nuclear missile heading toward Denver, wouldn’t you want to have your finger on the trigger of a ballistic missile that might be able to detonate it before it reaches any population center? So, therefore, don’t you think that everyone should have personal access to nuclear armed warheads?” No, I don’t.

Jim: Well, you make a very good point. Except. In the real world. The world that is today’s world, I believe that my scenario is very realistic. I don’t think that it in any way promotes violence when law abiding people choose to carry a weapon for protection. The pacifistic approach that I am getting from you is sad. Stand up for your rights. Think on this, when an atheist is faced with certain death…he’ll pray to God. When some thug kicks in the door to your home, you’re going to call the police…someone who has a gun. Then of course you too will be praying that they get there in time to protect you! Now that, Steve, is what today’s world is about. -Jim

Steve Harvey: What you think isn’t as important as what the evidence indicates. In a comparison of developed nations, we have both by far more lax gun regulations than almost all others (Switzerland and Canada provide more complex possible exceptions, though it depends on how you look at the nature of the regulations), and by far higher rates of deadly violence (2 to 11 times the homicide rate of every other developed nation on Earth, with the average tending toward the higher end of that range). Your policy increases the threat to all of us and increases the rate of accidental and mistaken shootings (as well criminal uses of firearms) far more than it increases the rate at which people successfully defend themselves against such attacks. Facts are an inconvenient thing for ideologues, but our public policies should be based on facts, not arbitrary fabrications that serve a blind ideology. I have no interest in your caricature of reality; I’m interested in rational and humane self-governance.

Again, I refer you to the essay I linked to above (Debunking The Arguments of the American Gun Culture). It addresses all of your points, and does so very decisively. I am standing up for my rights: My right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, of which I can be deprived not just by a government, but also by a government’s failure to exercise its Constitutionally defined police powers. Your policy increases rather than decreases the threat to my, and my daughter’s, life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. Therefore I stand up against it, with great passion and conviction, not as a pacifist, but as a rational and humane person who looks at the evidence and bases his positions on it.

In making arguments, there are three dimensions to be attended to: Logos, pathos, and ethos. What is the most logical position? What position appeals to the emotions? And what position is most humane and right? When you can align all three of those, you have a good argument. When you use one to obfuscate failure on the other two (and especially when you use any to undermine logos), you have a very bad and very counterproductive argument.

Logos: Cross-national statistical evidence strongly demonstrates that more stringent gun regulation leads to reductions in deadly violence. (Intranational evidence has to take into account an unobstructed internal market, and the ease with which arms bought in one location are transported to another within a country, looking at where arms are bought as well as where they are used.)

Pathos: 20 dead first graders; major mass shootings occurring with increasing, troubling frequency; the horror of violent death and the loss of loved ones.

Ethos: We should not strive to achieve some sort of balance of violent supposedly “good guys” (like the one who shot an unarmed black teen walking home from the store) and violent “bad guys,” but rather a reduction in deadly violence, in the notion that deadly violence is the answer, and the accessibility of the means of deadly violence.

It’s time for more “real Americans” to be rational and humane people, because that’s the “real America” that most of us want to live in.

Jim: Let me ask you, do you think that more stringent gun control will take guns out of the hands of criminals? That’s a very naive thought. Secondly, it seems that you have already decided the case with Treyvon Martin. Witnesses have already stated that he was on top of George Zimmerman beating the hell out of him. Self-defense? The courts will decide. Basically, you are a pacifist. Although you do make a good argument, I can find just as many well written and articulate arguments that would negate your statements. Basically, what it comes down to is that as an individual you make a conscience decision to either exercise your right to protect yourself or depend on others to do that for you. AKA. Government. I, and many others like me don’t want to depend on our government to take care of our needs. Personally, history shows, they do a lousy job of it! Obviously, Steve, you have made your decision, and I have certainly made mine. -Jim

Steve Harvey: Jim, let’s start with Trayvon Martin. Actually, all I did was state an undisputed fact, which you find inconvenient enough to confuse with anything under contention. There is no dispute over the fact that Zimmerman shot Martin, an unarmed teen walking home from the store. That simple fact makes the incident sound as bad as it is, whether self-defense was involved or not, because the fact is that there would never have been any need for Zimmerman to defend himself had he not instigated the encounter in his quest to assertively find people to “defend” himself against.

The courts will decide if it was self-defense at the moment it occurred, not if the need for self-defense was created by the orientation and philosophy you are now advocating, which is clearly the case. If Zimmerman had never pursued that unarmed kid walking home from the store, creating an altercation that would not otherwise have occurred, Zimmerman would never have needed to defend himself from that kid.

it’s a bizarre and horrifying ideology that says it’s okay to go out with a gun and pursue an unarmed kid who you assume might be a threat (possibly affected by racial prejudice), and then defend yourself with deadly force when that unarmed kid defends himself against you, the armed pursuer, but that the kid had no right to be concerned about being pursued in the first place! The bottom line is, the shooting death of that unarmed teen walking home from the store never would have occurred had Zimmerman not been out assertively seeking people to defend himself against. The fact that the shooting death of an unarmed black teen walking home from the store does not trouble you is part of the horror many of us feel at the resurgence of your disgusting ideology.

And that is exactly the point. Your ideology increases the rate of violence, by being committed to violence in such a deep and pathological way. People eager to go out and defend themselves against threats end up being intentional or unintentional instigators of violence, as Zimmerman was, without a doubt, in that case. Your ideology creates or increases the violence it purports to defend against.

The mass shootings are frequently committed by mentally unstable people who otherwise are not “criminals.” They acquire their weapons legally, or from someone they know who acquired them legally, and would not have been well equipped to acquire them illegally, which is a function of having the connections and criminal knowledge necessary.

Furthermore, weapons aren’t dangerous to innocent people only in the hands of “criminals.” Accidental shootings, mistaken shootings, suicides, crimes of passion (by otherwise law abiding people), escalations of violence in an altercation or home invasion (a home owner confronting an intruder with a weapon is four times more likely to be shot and killed than other home owners in a home invasion scenario), are all far, far more common than the successful use of a firearm in defense of person or property. The price the rest of us pay for your illusion of increased safety is the reality of increased danger to ourselves and our children.

The Zimmerman-Martin incident demonstrates that innocent people have as much to fear from the so-called “good guys” as from the “bad guys.” That’s because we all have much to fear from violent people who are primitive enough to believe that violence is the best and highest possible solution to violence. Most of us know that that’s absurd, and most of us don’t want to live in that kind of a primitive, archaic world.

Furthermore, no one is arguing for a gun ban. We are only arguing for reasonable regulations on military grade arms and accessories, whose sole purpose is to maximize the carnage done to human beings in mass slaughters. And you folks are so insane that you try to prevent that discussion from happening by skipping straight to the straw man argument that you have a right to guns no one is taking away from you.

As for my supposed “naiveté”: Since every single other developed nation on Earth has managed to accomplish what you claim we can’t, and since there are in fact ways of doing it (control the manufacture and distribution of bullets, for instance, without which the weapons are just very awkward and unwieldy clubs), the answer to your question is: Of course we can reduce the ease of accessibility of arms and accessories. There’s no doubt about it.

You address my arguments by claiming that there are just as good ones supporting your view, though you can’t provide them. That’s a backdoor attempt to raise irrationality to a par with reason, by refuting reason through the claim that reason is no better than its absence, since any position, in your view, can be argued rationally. In the real world, that’s not the case; some arguments are better than others, and that’s why people who use fact and reason professionally overwhelmingly reject your ideology, which generally runs counter to fact and reason. (It’s one incarnation of a right-wing two-step I’ve often seen: Rely on the relativistic claim that all opinions are equal to insulate yours from fact and reason, and then in another context claim that yours is irrefutable truth, because to think otherwise would be to commit the error of relativism!)

In fact, your ideology has identified and dismissed precisely those professions that use disciplined methodologies to gather, verify, analyze, and contemplate information as bastions of liberalism, never pausing to ask why it might be so that precisely those professions that systematically gather, verify, analyze, and contemplate information would be bastions of liberalism, and what lesson that fact might hold for you.

Again, I’ve addressed all of your points in the essay I linked to (Debunking The Arguments of the American Gun Culture). Every single one of them. And just repeating debunked arguments doesn’t make them any stronger, or any less debunked. You make very clear which of the two narratives I describe you are committed to, and I make very clear why and how it imposes tragic costs on all of us.

Jim: Now that was a mouthful! Steve, while you command a mastery over the English language, all I can hear is, blah, blah, Liberal, blah, blah, BS. It’s not for lack of intelligence. You just simply believe you’re right-I believe I am. I think our President is hell bent on making people dependent of Government. You believe he is the anointed one. I see him hell bent on destroying America and systematically taking away our rights. You think “it’s all good”. I hope the evil lurking in the shadows never makes itself known to you…you will not be prepared to meet it. -Jim

Steve Harvey: All you hear is “blah blah blah blah” because I’m making actual arguments, citing actual statistics, and applying actual reason to them, and that, to you, is anathema. Your response is devoid of fact, devoid of any reasoned argument of any kind, filled with irrelevant noise (we weren’t discussing, and I made no comment about, our respective opinions of the current president, for instance), and regresses to a mere series of sounds signifying your blind ideological conviction. And THAT is both the difference between us, and the defining distinction in the political divide in America today: Irrationality in service to primitive, tribalistic impulses, v. reason in service to humanity. (See Un-Jamming the Signal.)

You want to reduce public discourse to a competition of arbitrary opinions, treating evidence and reason as irrelevant. (In this case, in fact, both reason and the majority of Americans are up against an inhumane and irrational position backed by a powerful, predatory industry and its organizational lobbyist: The gun industry and the NRA). I want us to govern ourselves as rational and humane people doing the best we can in a complex and subtle world.

I’m not unaware of the world’s dangers: I was an enlisted soldier in the Army infantry, have traveled all over the world and lived in some hot spots, did urban outreach work with heroin addicts, have taught in tough inner-city high schools, have done nonprofit work inside detention centers, and taught, among other things, college criminology classes. I know about the world, but that knowledge simply doesn’t lead to your conclusion that the ubiquitous mutual threat and availability of deadly violence is good for society. In fact, it strongly militates against that conclusion, which is why law enforcement officials overwhelmingly disagree with you.

The most dangerous and ubiquitous of evils in America is not lurking in the shadows, and it has once again just made itself known to me. I will continue to meet it, prepared, as I am, with knowledge, comprehension, and a commitment to humanity.

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(This essay originated as a response to a Libertarian commenting on another Libertarian’s Facebook page, making the familiar argument about why Jeffersonian democracy, emphasizing minimal government, was both the intention of our Founding Fathers, and is the best form of government possible.)

As you might have gathered, I like the dialectic, so here’s both the antithesis to your thesis, and the synthesis of the two:

Adams, Franklin, and Hamilton wanted stronger central government than Jefferson did (thus, the first incarnation of our perennial, unintended and undesired,l two-party system was Jefferson’s Democratic-Republicans v. Hamilton/Adams’ Federalists, the latter pretty much meaning the opposite of what it does today: a strong federal government). The country was a product of these competing views, and has continued to be carved on the lathe of a similar dichotomy throughout its history, to excellent effect. The Constitution itself was the first victory for the “stronger federal government” side, requiring convincing a population that considered each state a sovereign…, well, “state,” in the original and still used sense of a sovereign political unit.

These arguments to a reluctant public were made, most cogently and famously, in The Federalist Papers, a collection of essays by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay arguing for the need to create a sufficiently strong central government. This was in response to the failed Articles of Confederation, which did not provide a sufficiently strong central government.

The history of the country ever since has been one of a punctuated growth in power of the central government. I know that I just stated your major contention, but I don’t see it as a necessarily bad thing, or a betrayal of our founding philosophy: It is, rather, the articulation of lived history with founding principles, since the latter guided the process and form of the former. We retained strong protections for individual rights within the context of that strong federal government: Free speech, freedom of assembly, freedom to organize, freedom of press, freedom of religion, protections from police (i.e., state) overreach into our private lives.

In fact, the stronger federal government has been primarily responsible for, and grew in response to the demand for, the extension of those protections of individual liberty; extending them to categories of people to whom they had been denied, and extending them to protect people from the overreaches of individual states as well as the federal government.

The genealogy of Libertarianism, and the argument on which it depends, while exalted by its association with Jefferson, is in fact characterized more by its defense of inequality and injustice (see also The History of American Libertarianism). From the ratification of the Constitution to the Civil War, it was the argument of slave owners resisting the abolition of slavery, the southern statesman John C. Calhoun famously arguing in Union and Liberty that a commitment to “liberty” and to the protection of “minorities” required the protection of the “liberty” of the “minority” southerners to own slaves! This argument was the argument of the “states’ rights,” small federal government ideological camp. That camp lost by losing the Civil War and by the abolition of slavery.

From the Civil War to the Civil Rights Era, the states’ rights, small federal government ideology was invoked to preserve Jim Crow and resist the enforcement of Constitutional guarantees to protect the rights of minorities (in the modern sense of the word), especially African Americans. That camp lost by a series of Supreme Court holdings (most notably Brown v. Board of Education) and the passage of The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (by which President Lyndon B. Johnson knowingly and willingly lost southern whites, who had until then formed a major branch of the Democratic Party, to the Republican Party, where they have since resided, and continue to comprise a large portion of the adherents to this perennial ideology).

Contemporary Libertarianism is the logical next step in this progression, after having resisted the abolition of slavery in the name of “liberty,” and the passage of Civil Rights legislation and Court holdings in the name of “liberty,” it now opposes the further confrontation of the legacy of that racist and discriminatory history by insisting, falsely, that “we’re all equal now, so any attempt to address, as a nation, the injustices still embedded in our political economy and culture is a deprivation of the liberty of those against whose interests it is to do so.” In other words, just as in those previous incarnations throughout our history, this particular concept of “liberty” still means “my liberty to screw you.”

Libertarians, conveniently, don’t see it this way, because it is a passive “screwing,” one that involves leaving in place institutionalized, but not legally reproduced, inequities and injustices. It is, as it has been before, the insistence that “we’ve done enough, and need do no more,” just as the defenders of slavery considered acquiescing to a national constitution was enough, and the defenders of racism considered acquiescing to abolition was enough, modern Libertarians think that acquiescing to a formal, legal end to racial discrimination is enough,and that it is an affront to their “liberty” to attempt to address as a nation, as a polity, the non-legally reproduced but deeply entrenched inequality of opportunity that persists in our country (see, e.g., The Paradox of Property).

This national commitment to ever-deepening and ever-broadening Liberty, including equality of opportunity without which liberty is, to varying degrees and in varying ways, granted to some and denied to others, involves more than just the African American experience: It involves women, Native Americans, gays, practitioners of disfavored religions (such as Islam), members of ethnic groups who are most highly represented in the current wave of undocumented immigration (such as Hispanics), basically, “out-groups” in general. It’s no coincidence that Libertarianism is so closely linked to Christian Fundamentalism and militant nationalism: It is an ideology that focuses on a notion of individual liberty that is, in effect and implementation, highly exclusive and highly discriminatory. (There are, it should be noted, branches of Libertarianism which are more internally consistent, and, at least, reject these overt hypocrisies, while still retaining the implicit, passive, retention of historically determined inequality of opportunity described above.)

History has demanded increasing centralization of powers for other reasons as well: an increasingly complex market economy with increasingly difficult-to-manage opportunities for centralized market actors to game markets in highly pernicious ways (due to information asymmetries); increasingly pernicious economic externalities increasingly robustly generated by our wonderful wealth-producing market dynamo (see Collective Action (and Time Horizon) Problems and Political Market Instruments); in general, a complex dynamical system that is highly organic and self-regulating, but not perfectly so, and without some pretty sophisticated centralized management is doomed to frequent and devastating collapse.

(This is why, by the way, every single modern developed nation, without exception, has a large administrative infrastructure, and had in place a large administrative infrastructure prior to participating in the post-WII explosion in the production of wealth. The characteristic that Libertarians insist is antithetical to the production of wealth is one of the characteristics universally present in all nations that have been most successful in producing wealth.)

The tension between our demand for individual liberty and minimal government, on the one hand, and a government adequately large and empowered to confront the real challenges posed by our increasingly complex social institutional landscape on the other, is a healthy tension, just as the tension among the branches of government is a healthy tension. We don’t want one side of any of these forces in tension to predominate absolutely: We want the tension itself to remain intact, largely as it has throughout our history. Through it, we took the genius of the Constitution, and extended it to constraints imposed on state and local as well as federal government, recognizing through our experience with the institution of slavery that tyranny doesn’t have to be vested in the more remote locus of government, and the resistance to it doesn’t always come from the more local locus of government. And through it, we took the genius of the Constitution, and extended it through the lessons of history and the pragmatic demands placed on our national self-governance by the evolution of our technological and social institutional context.

The pragmatic, moderate, flexible, analytical implementation of our ideals that has resulted, protecting the true liberties that we treasure, extending them to those who were excluded, deepening them in many ways for all of us, and allowing, at the same time, for us to act, as a polity, through our agent of collective action (government), in ways that serve our collective interests, is what serves us best, and what we should remain committed to, with ever greater resolve.

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(The following is a response to an extreme Libertarian who posted the New Hampshire Constitution’s endorsement of a right to revolution as a justification and encouragement to his ideological fellow travelers.)

The only problem is that you are “rebelling” against a government that is both Constitutional and, within those constraints, democratic. You resent the will of the majority, which differs from yours, and misname the will of the majority, with Constitutional restraints to protect minorities, “tyranny.” By your definition, any use of government of which YOU disapprove is automatically tyranny. Rather, you would wish to overrule the will of the majority, and discard the Constitution, in order to impose your radical, economically illiterate, ahistorical, impractical, inegalitarian, and nationally self-destructive ideology on the rest of us. You can utter all of the magical rhetorical incantations you want, but it remains what it is: A cultish, glassy-eyed fanaticism rearing its ugly head in our own country and our own time, as it has reared its ugly head in so many other times and places.

The government you are rebelling against is Constitutional because your main objection, to the taxing and spending of Congress, is a Constitutionally granted power. Article I, Section 8, Clause i of the United States Constitution grants Congress the unlimited power to tax and spend in the general welfare. You can argue about what constitutes the general welfare, and, in perhaps some extreme instances, can find a Supreme Court that would hold that some use of that power was too clearly NOT in the general welfare to pass Constitutional muster (e.g., Congress taxed and spent in a manner which was unambiguously and incontrovertibly only on the welfare of the members of Congress), but none of the programs that are in controversy fall into that range. The Constitutional limitation on Congress’s power to tax and spend in the general welfare is the electoral system, by which we can fire those members of Congress whom we feel have abused that power, or have not executed it as faithful agents of our will and interests.

The government you are rebelling against is democratic, because the people making the decisions with which you disagree were elected according to our electoral process, administered with a relatively high degree of legitimacy and precaution against fraud and abuse. You oppose the will of the majority, appropriately constrained by Constitutional protections of minorities, and wrap that anti-Constitutional, anti-democratic inclination to impose your own factional will on all others, in defiance of both our Constitution and our electoral process, in a faux-nobility and patriotism, though it is, in fact, exactly the opposite.

The government you are rebelling against is the one that has been honed by the lathe of history, in part through a Civil War and Civil Rights Movement which institutionalized the recognition of the fact that minorities and individuals don’t just need to be protected against the tyranny of the federal government, but also against the tyranny of state and local governments, and, in some instances, the tyranny of private corporations or individuals (e.g., against racist employment discrimination).

And, ironically, the consequences of your efforts, to the extent that they are successful (whether through legal or extralegal means), is the increase of real tyranny, not only by rolling back such protections, not only by reducing our national commitment to equality of opportunity, but also by transferring de facto political power from those public institutions which are (imperfectly) Constitutionally and democratically constrained, to those powerful private institutions that are not.

This is a subtle and complex world we live in, in which the lathe of history works on the raw material produced by our Constitution and by our basic values as a nation. The development of our political economy, of our administrative state, of our need to rein in not just governmental power but also private corporate power which in many instances has grown to the size of medium-sized nations, are not developments to be tossed away because a group of blind ideological fanatics believe that there is some single platitude which overrules all other knowledge and historical experience. You counsel for a kind of imposed mass stupidity, a quasi-religious fanaticism which rejects all knowledge in deference to generally misinterpreted sacred documents and ancient prophets. You may succeed; there’s enough lunacy in this country for that to be a real possibility. But to the extent that you do, it will be an immeasurable tragedy for those hundreds of millions who must suffer the consequences.

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History is unpredictable. As George Will has aptly put it, historical patterns repeat themselves until they don’t. I’m not going to proffer a grand theory about fanatical overreach and inevitable reaction, as though it were an immutable universal truth. But I will point out that, from time to time, when things swing too far in one direction, the reaction gains the more lasting victory.

There is another pattern that frequently reappears, perhaps a more constant one, one around which a simple military motto formed millenia ago: “Divide and conquer.” Or, as Ben Franklin put it, accompanying his famous sketch of a dissected snake, “United we stand, divided we fall.”

The Tea Party has been gracious enough to put the modern Republican Party on the wrong side of both of these trends. They have zealously and implacably tried to move the country farther right than even our right-leaning mainstream can easily stomach, and they have done so in a way designed to fracture by far the largest, and currently only viable, conservative party in the United States.

There is a lesson in this for the Left as well, a lesson many of my friends on the left are as ill-equipped to learn as their emotionally if not ideologically, similar counterparts on the Right: Don’t demand everything you are certain that reason and justice irrefutably recommend, but rather act with an eye to long-term sustainable success. I’ve often been critical of many on the Left for failing to heed this advice (see, e.g., “The Fault, Dear Brutus….” and Cluster Liberals v. Network Liberals).

We should not see-saw with zealots on the Right, taking turns yielding our advantage to the winds of our passions. Rather, we should actually be the party of reason and humanity, of patience and foresight and goodwill. If we could just commit to that, we would inevitably win the future. Instead, we are as committed to shooting ourselves in the foot as our more foolish opposition is, leaving everyone hopping and howling but no one leading the nation and world into a brighter future.

The last most famous moment when the Left threw its advantage was during the 1960s and 70s, when the country was reacting against Vietnam and Watergate, when hippies were culturally dominant, when Broadway sang of “the dawning of the age of Aquarius.” Thanks to that excessive euphoria, that overconfidence, in service to an unbalanced and unrealistic (even if somewhat refreshing) idealism, it became the prelude of the Age of Reagan Conservatism instead, which laid the groundwork, in a way palatable for that age, for the more extreme right-wing fanaticism of today. (Reagan, of course, the modern conservative messiah, would be drummed out of today’s Republican Party in a heartbeat, far too liberal was he for the new breed of glassy-eyed conservative cultists).

The Tea Party was heady with its brief ascendency, deluded into believing that they represented mainstream America, certain that God and Truth were on their side. They became a magnet for religious fundamentalists and libertarians, not always compatible ideologies but somehow generally hypocritical and inconsistent enough for many in their respective ranks to believe that they were one and the same. And as they held the country hostage (by refusing to vote for a raise in the national debt ceiling, a vote which had heretofore been routine due to the national self-destructiveness of failing to do it) in service to what virtually all economists, conservative and liberal, considered bad fiscal policy (extending the Bush tax cuts), forcing a downgrading of our national credit rating in the process, more and more people began to recoil in horror and disgust, as they should have recoiled long before. (See, e.g., Bargaining v. Blackmail, Why A Bad Deal Might Be The Best Deal Right Now, and Response to a Right-Wing Myth for discussions of that shameful episode.)

The Republicans had a real chance to defeat Obama this year, not necessarily justly, but simply due to the criteria by which people vote. The economy is still soft, and unemployment is still high. The current president is always held responsible for such things, no matter what the reality he inherited, and no matter how successful he was in turning the tide in a positive direction.

Obama, a black intellectual moderate liberal with a Muslim name who spent much of his childhood in an exotic foreign country, triggered a complex web of deeply entrenched American bigotries, failing to be innocuous enough to hopeful but easily disillusioned moderate supporters, failing to be zealously unrealistic enough to starry eyed believers that he could snap his fingers and change the world into their vision of what it should be, and continuing to be “foreign” enough to maintain the enmity of the ultra-conservative xenophobes who saw in him something inherently “un-American” and never liked him in the first place. A united and focused Republican Party would have had a relatively easy time toppling him in 2012.

But, thankfully, it apparently was not to be so. It looks like it is the Republicans’ turn to shoot themselves in the foot, overzealously demanding what too few Americans identify with, rejecting their best candidate and insisting on horribly defective alternatives (Santorum, the religious nut-case; Perry, the intellectual light-weight; Gingrich, the unlovable grinch; Paul, the extreme libertarian who would have surrendered to Hitler and left Jim Crow intact in service to the purity of his understanding of “liberty”). Despite the fact that Romney is the last man standing, Santorum and Paul supporters remian implaccable, unwilling to accept the “moderate” (oh! horror of horrors!) Romney.

Let this be a lesson, fellow progressives: Press our advantage when we have it; don’t squander it by overreaching. The world is moved by inches, sometimes over a threshold, but only when that threshold has been arrived at. Don’t mistake what’s right for what’s immediately possible, and don’t insist on what can’t be currently attained at the expense of what can be. But, all the while, lay the foundations for the giant leaps of the future, for those foundations are laid through work that does not register immediately, and only culminates after many unsung but vitally important labors. If we were wise enough and disciplined enough to follow this advice, the world we bequeeth to our children and our children’s children would be that much closer to the ideal we aspire to.

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(The following is a series of posts I made on a Libertarian’s Facebook page. Ironically, the owner of the page, while lost in the morass of Libertarian nonsense, seems to be a fairly decent fellow, as some are, which only adds to the poignancy of the tragedy, since we are capable of doing great violence to one another without even possessing the emotional disposition to do so. But the fact that we as a country can be in the grips of this self-destructive mania is simply too much to bear. How on Earth do we shake some sense into these blind and destructive fanatics, trying to do their own re-enactment of history’s most tragic chapters?)

I don’t copy and paste anything, Rick. I live, learn, study, contemplate, and comment. There are several values that merit our attention, not just the maximization of aggregate wealth (though that is one as well, since indeed it is important to maintain a political economy that produces wealth robustly). This country has been moving in a highly regressive direction in terms of social mobility and social justice, increasing the extent to which the condition you are born into determines your opportunities in life.

In reality, the number one predictor of future socio-economic status in America is one’s socio-economic status at birth. This is a statistical fact. To argue that it is irrelevant because some minority of people succeed in changing their socio-economic statuses, which to the irrational means that there is no social injustice in America, neglects that the members of that minority benefited from some good fortune or combination of good fortunes that the rest did not: Great parents, a great mentor, exceptional natural endowment, chance circumstances, etc.

A commitment to equality of opportunity (not equality of outcome, as you insist equality of opportunity means) requires not relegating certain classes of people to drastically reduced chances of success in life due to the chances of birth, even if additional chances save some small subset of those disadvantaged classes. In fact, addressing it is not just good for rectifying our endemic and growing social injustice (far greater than that of our fellow highly developed nations), but also improves aggregate productivity itself, mobilizing our human resources more efficiently and effectively.

In 2007, 35% of America’s wealth was concentrated in the hands of 1% of our population. (The bottom 40% of Americans are thrown the crumbs of .2%, one five hundredth, of America’s wealth; the next 40% of Americans share just 15% of America’s wealth. 85% goes to just 20% of Americans.) Our Gini Coefficient (the statistical measure of the inequality of the distribution of wealth) is behind all other developed nations, and is behind even Iran, Russia, and China. This is not, as your convenient mythology maintains, due to a meritocracy, but rather an entrenched and growing classism, with only marginal social mobility laced into it (this is a statistical fact, not a random assertion; America has less, not more, social mobility than all other developed nations).

You imagine yourselves to be the warriors of freedom, and those who oppose you to be “elitists,” but that is precisely backward: You are warriors of elitism, fighting for gross inequality and injustice against those who actually understand economics and history and the fact that by no measure are your assertions accurate or defensible.

Your assertion that this inequality is necessary to the robust production of wealth is, like the rest of your assertions, simply wrong. The United States, despite its off-the-charts inequity in the distribution of wealth, has only a middling per capita GDP in comparison to other developed nations, below many that are far more egalitarian, and not significantly above any (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(nominal)_per_capita). A far smaller portion of Americans participate in that wealth, however, than do those of those other countries.

In other words, you are fighting for ignorance in service to human suffering, and calling it a noble ideal. Freedom, prosperity, justice, are far more complex and subtle ideals than you recognize, and, in your shallow world, you therefore sacrifice the realities on the alter of your false idols. There is no real freedom when the circumstances of birth are so highly determinant of one’s future prospects, and when participation in a society’s prosperity is so skewed by the chances of birth. There is no justice when the descendants of those who were conquered or enslaved not so many generations ago are statistically extremely overrepresented among those who do not partake of that prosperity and opportunity today. There is only an implicit racism in insisting that we live in a meritocracy, and that if some races and ethnicities are overrepresented in poverty in our country, it must be that they coincidentally are just lazier and less meritorious than the descendants of the former elites. Yeah.

The depth of your irrationality in service to your inhumanity is simply mindboggling. Don’t get me wrong: There are no simple answers. The market economy is indeed a robust producer of wealth, and the problems and challenges we face are not easily solved. But we must first, as a nation, as human beings, be honest about what those problems and challenges are, rather than conveniently defining them out of existence and turning a blind eye to the real injustices and inhumanities that we are blithely reproducing and deepening.

The way to approach this ongoing endeavor of ours is to understand economics (the real discipline; not the archaic caricature on which you rely), and history (again, the real discipline, not the information-stripped caricature on which you rely), and all other disciplines relevant to our shared existence, and to treat the challenge of self-governance as non-trivial, not reducible to a few neat, ideological platitudes that adherents claim are ordained by God or by Founding Fathers, or by something other than what works and what’s just and what’s wise.

You rely on caricatures of our wonderful (though human, historical, and imperfect) founding document (the U.S. Constitution, which was drafted to strengthen, not weaken, our federal government, a strengthening eloquently argued for in The Federalist Papers by Madison, Hamilton, and Jay). You ignore those clauses which don’t suit your ideology, and ignore our system for interpreting the Constitution, insisting that your nonsensical interpretation should prevail, thus only destroying the document and nation you claim to serve. It’s a tragic comedy of ignorance and inhumanity, one that loses its comic value when you take measure of the real human suffering it imposes and preserves, and the damage it does to us as a people and to our children’s prospects in the future.

Let’s not forget the real human measures of your regressive ideology: We have, in comparison to other developed nations, the highest infant mortality rates, the highest poverty rates, the highest homelessness rates…, a tribute to a society in the grips of an inhumane mania that has no connection whatsoever to reality, or to justice, or to reason, or to compassion, or to anything to which human beings ought to aspire.

Here’s the story you folks need to live: http://coloradoconfluence.com/?p=1624. And here’s the historical reality you ignore: http://coloradoconfluence.com/?p=1506. Here are the cliches and caricatures on which you rely: http://coloradoconfluence.com/?p=984, http://coloradoconfluence.com/?p=525, http://coloradoconfluence.com/?p=1194, http://coloradoconfluence.com/?p=1205. And here is a guide to the rational, compassionate, historically and economically literate, humane, and truly progressive alternative: http://coloradoconfluence.com/?page_id=1215. Finally, while you are crowing about the brilliance of your shriveled and inhumane little platitude-driven blind ideology, here are some examples of what a real, growing, contemplative, informed understanding of our world looks like: http://coloradoconfluence.com/?p=1676, http://coloradoconfluence.com/?p=1695, http://coloradoconfluence.com/?p=1714, http://coloradoconfluence.com/?p=1660, http://coloradoconfluence.com/?p=1859, http://coloradoconfluence.com/?p=2235, http://coloradoconfluence.com/?p=187, http://coloradoconfluence.com/?p=577, http://coloradoconfluence.com/?p=832.

What we are and what we are capable of, as human beings, is incredible. But it is not served by your flattened and stripped parody of the intellectual product of a historical moment, rather than the living, growing reality that those ideals gave birth to. Our liberty isn’t served by the absurd farce that popular government and strivings for social justice are its enemies, but is rather most pointedly threatened by it. As Sinclair Lewis poignantly observed: When fascism comes to America, it will come carrying the cross and wrapped in a flag. And for all your rhetoric deluding yourselves that you represent its opposite, you are nothing if not the unwitting (though eagerly exploited) agents of fascism, freeing those who wield the political power of concentrated corporate wealth from any restraint of popular regulation and oversight, demolishing problematic but indispensible popular government in preference for the tyranny of unfettered concentration of wealth and the real political power that it wields.

You are clueless, and dangerously so, threatening this nation, and, to some extent, this world, with your belligerent ignorance, trying to obstruct all thought and analysis and compassion and human decency in service to your mania. Good God, it’s just too much to take! Get a frickin’ clue already.

(See The Catastrophic Marriage of Extreme Individualism and Ultra-Nationalism for a continuing discussion of the precise ideological components of the dysfunctional ideology I am confronting in this post, and Dialogue With A Libertarian for a response to a comment that gets to the heart of the logical and empirical fallacies on which libertarians rely).

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Of the many ideological debates we have, what we do least often and least well is to dig beneath the surface of conflicting ideologies and clearly identify the underlying values and attitudes informing them. Even those who adhere to a particular ideology are often unaware of what is at its core when you peal back enough layers of the onion. And that is how the rise of vicious and inhumane ideologies is possible, how it circumvents the cognitive dissonance imposed by countervailing moralities. Those who participate in that rise are either convinced that they are participating in something just and right, or have simply managed not to measure their beliefs by any moral standard.

There is nothing historically exceptional about viciousness and inhumanity. It is not the occasional violation of a norm of rational goodwill dominating our lives, but rather at least as potent a force, erupting into orgies of mass violence at frequent intervals around the world, but also ever-present in every society, percolating below the surface, sometimes bubbling upward and gaining force. America today is in such a moment of its history, allowing a vicious and inhumane attitude to gain prominence, to dominate public discourse and public policy formation.

Nor is it only those “others” who are to blame. It is not the fault of just one ideology. There are few who have not contributed to it. Regrettably, I cannot name myself among those few, for my own defects as a human being have too often and too greatly led me to serve my own emotional gratification at the expense of this ideal of a more rational and humane society to which we all should strive.

I don’t admit that gratuitously, but rather to make two sets of  points: 1) One does not have to be perfect to strive to be better, nor does one have to be perfect to encourage us all to strive to be better, nor does one have to be perfect to identify the most robust ways in which we as a society are failing to strive to be better; and 2) we do not most successfully strive, as a society, to be better, to do better, by laying all blame on others and exonerating ourselves, but rather by recognizing that we ourselves are all implicated in our failings as a society, and that the ideology across the aisle we respectively blame for all public sins may have its own virtues and we our own vices.

Most importantly, like Batman and the Joker, we create each other, and if we perceive in “them” something hostile to humanity, then we also must perceive in ourselves what we do to produce and maintain that hostile force.

Having said that, and recognizing that the hostility and anger and blind ideological rage on the Left is a contributing force to our growing inhumanity (rather than, as those who engage in these follies desperately wish to believe, a bulwark against it), the inhumanity itself is funnelled through and given voice by their counterparts on the Right. While we all need to strive harder to exemplify and exude a sincere commitment to reason and compassion and universal goodwill (which is not synonymous with complete pacifism or non-confrontationalism, but which does temper the degree to which our emotional inclinations too readily embrace hostile expressions of our ideological convictions and various interests), we also all need to recognize the growing inhumanity of our nation’s most prominent and vocal contemporary ideological phenomenon.

It is not wise to reduce this to individual substantive policy positions because, to be honest, it is not automatically the case that such positions, that on the surface appear inhumane, actually are: There is sufficient nonlinearity in our social institutional ecology, and a sufficient number of counterintuitive truths, that such assumptions aren’t warranted. But beneath those policy positions, informing those policy positions, is an attitude in which this inhumanity can clearly be discerned, an attitude of extreme individualism, of indifference to the realities of social injustice and unnecessary human suffering, an attitude stripped of real compassion or concern for those less fortunate than the holder of that value, an attitude which blindly blames all those who have not fared well on the basis of an arbitrary and more-frequently-than-not erroneous assumption that people get what they deserve, that we live in a meritocracy and those who do not succeed do not succeed as a result of their own failings. It is within that attitude, rather than within any particular substantive policy positions, that our growing inhumanity as  a nation, as a people, resides.

I have written extensively on the irrationality of many of the substantive positions and ideological certainties that have grown in the soil of this essentially inhumane attitude (see, e.g., “Political Fundamentalism”, “Constitutional Idolatry”, Liberty Idolatry, Small Government Idolatry, The Tea Party’s Mistaken Historical Analogy, The True Complexity of Property Rights, Liberty & Interdependence, Real Fiscal Conservativism, Social Institutional Luddites, The Inherent Contradiction of Extreme Individualism, Liberty & Society, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” American Political Edition (Parts I-V)). And I have alluded to the parallel between the sense of personal well-being and joy associated with striving to be compassionate, socially responsible, generous human beings on the individual level, and the similar benefits to our health as a society when we strive to institutionalize those attitudes through our pre-eminent agent of collective will and action (see, e.g., A Political Christmas Carol). Certainly, I have not been bashful about identifying our current right-wing ideological movement as one which is analogous in too many ways to that which we revile most as one of history’s worst eruptions of inhumanity (see, e.g., The Tea Party’s Mistaken Historical Analogy and Godwin’s Law Notwithstanding). But we need to be explicit and urgent about what it is we are talking about: The rise of an ideology of inhumanity.

It seems to me that there was a time, not long ago, when virtually no American would argue against the proposition that we have a shared social responsibility to reduce poverty to the best of our ability. Yet today we are in the throes of an ideological passion that says that poverty is not our shared responsibility, but rather a matter of individual choice (which, as those who have any knowledge of history or economics realize, means not addressing the issue to any significant degree at all, since it involves a collective action problem which is surrendered to by eliminating the notion that we have to address it through public institutions).

Despite the abundant statistical evidence that the legacies of historical injustice are reproduced in current distributions of wealth and opportunity, this ideology simply disregards any commitment to fairness, to trying to maximize equality of opportunity by facing the simple reality that it is not currently maximized, by insisting that any use of government is an act of violence against their individual liberties. It is an ideology informed by the obscenity that those who benefit most from our current political economy have no enforceable responsibility to those who benefit least, despite the fact that the disparity between the two is many times larger than it is in any other developed nation. It is a socially disintegrative, callous, and inhumane ideology. And it is has a significant and possibly still growing hold on us as a nation.

Those of us who recognize this, and recognize how imperative it is to confront it effectively, need to divert a little of our time and energy and resources away from arguing on an issue-by-issue, candidate-by-candidate basis, and toward arguing on a fundamental, underlying moral basis. We need to make clear in every word and gesture and deed and effort that what we perceive as wrong is not, for instance, the suggestion that we may have to reduce our long-term accumulation of public debt through some combination of spending cuts and tax increases, but rather the underlying attitude that while we are doing so our commitment to those who are most vulnerable and who are benefiting least from our social institutional arrangements still merit our collective attention and our collective commitment. We need to argue not only that this or that specific immigration reform is right or wrong, but far more emphatically that vilifying other human beings who are merely migrating toward opportunity in the only way they can is wrong, period. We need to argue not only that this law or that regrading marriage is just and right, but that burdening people with any inferior status on the basis of their sexual orientation is just one more form of bigotry, just one more way in which some human beings justify hating other human beings, and that that’s not who and what we are or who and what we want to be.

We need to define our political battles as a fight for our humanity as a nation and as a people, because it is our humanity that is very much in jeopardy. Let us be committed to respecting the dignity and rights of all human beings. Let us form our identities more inclusively rather than more exclusively. Let us always strive to do better as individuals, recognizing that that is part of what it takes to do better as a nation and a people. And let us be humble about substantive policies on complex issues (e.g., economics, energy/environmental, foreign relations), admitting that it’s a complex and subtle world, many aspects of which require in-depth analyses to arrive at well-informed conclusions. But let us never let up in our insistence that those analyses, that that  humility, be directed toward the end of benefitting humanity, because to stand for anything less is an act of violence and a cause for eternal shame.

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The title of this post is also the title of a famous treatise by the moral philosopher John Rawls, in which he continues the centuries old tradition of work involving the concept of ”the social contract,” and applies to it a version of “The Golden Rule”  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Theory_of_Justice). The central concept is “the veil of ignorance,” an imaginary construct in which one does not know what position they occupy in the social firmament, what socio-economic status, race, or location they are born into, and what natural endowments or infirmities they are born with or acquire by chance. From behind this assumed veil of ignorance, we should each evaluate social policies and institutions, asking ourselves what policies and institutions we would prefer under this condition of not knowing what lot we will draw (or, in reality, have drawn) in life.

Rawls argues that by diligently assuming the “veil of ignorance” when debating issues of public policy, we identify policies that are most fair to all. Consider how important a step this is in discussions such as those that occur on blogs like this: The “veil of ignorance” unveils the disguised biases of competing positions, for to argue against it, one must argue in favor of intentional unfairness. The only way to defend policies that do not pass the “veil of ignorance” test is to admit to a commitment to injustice.

Rawls posits his thesis as an alternative to both utilitarianism and libertarianism. It embraces and transcends the precepts of both, since choices that would be made from behind the “veil of ignorance” are choices that include the values that inform and motivate each. Those who argue for their particular notion of “liberty” that is indifferent to the distribution of wealth and opportunity must argue why that is what one would choose if they could be born into any condition in life. Similarly, those who argue for “the greatest good for the greatest number” must defend that position within the same framework of evaluation.

The greatest difficulty, of course, is the degree to which people with existing biases and ideological certainties can suspend them enough to subject them to this test honestly. It is hard to imagine people who have already argued vehemently on behalf of one ideology or another revising their views in the light of this lens. It is easier to imagine that they would revise or distort the lens to accommodate what they have already concluded. The bigger challenge than identifying a lens through which the justice of social institutions and policies can be judged is convincing people to suspend their biases long enough to look through it.

A considerable number of people read this blog, but very few participate on it. This would be an ideal opportunity to change that. Here’s my question for those (if any) who are willing to participate in an experiment: What do you see differently than you have seen before when you look at the world through Rawls’ “veil of ignorance”? Please, everyone, try to refrain from simply making the same arguments you would have made in any other context, and instead try to discover something new, some change in perspective, that thinking about the world in this way bestows. Any takers?

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