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

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

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

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

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

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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)

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

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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Many of us are motivated by the desire to affect the world in a positive way. Everyone engaged in political activities on any level believes in their ability, working with others, to affect people’s beliefs and actions, at least on the margins. And, indeed, the fact that change is constant, and that some of that change is in part a result of intentional social movements demonstrates that intentional actions by some can affect the beliefs and attitudes of others, at least on the margins.

Most political activities and discourse target the turbulence on the surface of our shared existence, focused on passing this or that bill or getting this or that candidate elected. But the most successful and memorable movements have reached deeper, stoking either our humanity or our inhumanity, our generosity or our selfishness, our reason or our irrationality. Their focus has generally been narrower than the one I am suggesting (hatred, prejudice and discrimination toward specific groups, or ending hatred, prejudice and discrimination toward specific groups), but they are memorable for being more sweeping in breadth and more profound and lasting in effect than more superficial political struggles.

In many ways, there is a deeper political struggle that is less attended to than the more superficial issue-specific causes to which we address our attention and energies: the struggle between, on the one hand, our more primal inclinations, our bigotries and hatreds, our fear and anger, our irrational tribalistic dogmas, and, on the other, our “higher consciousness,” our compassion and imagination, our hope and aspiration, our generosity and humanity. Each year, around Christmastime, a small barrage of meta-messages celebrating the latter is repeated (e.g., A Christmas Carol, It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 24th Street), and these meta-messages resonate with many people, who enjoy having those centers of their mind and spirit stimulated. We feel good seeing hope and love prevail.

One part of my proposed social movement (see A Proposal: The Politics of Reason and Goodwill) is based on the constant, strategic and intentional creation, identification, dissemination and use of such meta-messages to “soften the ground” for more superficial political discourse, to stimulate the centers of the mind more conducive to the passage of rational, humane, compassionate and generous public policies. This is a movement that occupies a largely unexplored and untapped region between culture and politics, a region usually addressed only by religions, and usually enveloped in a lot of noise not related to what I’m talking about here. But what if a motivated group of people, organized to do so, targeted the zeitgeist itself, stoking and stimulating those areas of the human mind that respond in emotionally gratifying ways to messages of generosity and hope and inclusiveness? And did so in conjunction with related narratives about a commitment to disciplined reason in service to those values?

I understand the skepticism about such a movement, because we think of all of the people who will not be responsive to it, and how Quixotic it seems to be. But it’s clear that over the course of a period of time (a generation or so), similar movements a little narrower in scope and in conjunction with haphazard cultural reinforcing messages have been dramatically successful, by moving people on the margins. The Civil Rights Movement and the Gay Rights Movement are two prominent examples. Under the influence of social movements with political agendas and accompanying proliferation of cultural narratives reinforcing their agenda (e.g., TV shows “normalizing” in the collective consciousness the world these movements were striving to create), dramatic change in the zeitgeist, in the course of about a generation in each case, was accomplished.

What if we combined all of this into a single, coherent, intentional social movement? What if we created a movement whose purpose is to promote disciplined reason and imagination in service to humanity? The fact is that there are relatively few Americans who, if pressed, would explicitly reject the value of working to be more rational and humane people, despite the fact that there is a large faction that implicitly and in effect does reject both reason and humanity. But politics, at root, is a competition of narratives, a battle over human consciousness, and given that we are at a time and place in world history in which few would explicitly reject the value of reason and humanity, that narrative already has an advantage in the competition of narratives. What we need to do is to put meat on its bones, to make sure that that which is, and that which is not, reason in service to humanity is easy to identify and easy to relate with. And the successful movements to which I’ve referred give us shared cognitive, cultural material with which to do so.

America lags behind the rest of the developed world in this cultural progression because of a set of memes, a narrative, which creates a “safe haven” for bigotries and irrationality, an emotional packaging of them which gives them a veneer of nobility. That fortress of ideological delusions continues to resist the progress of reason and humanity. And those who are committed to reason and humanity simply take on the armies sent forth from that fortress, leaving the fortress itself intact. We need to get out our corps of engineers and work on undermining the battlements themselves, work on revealing what’s really hiding behind those walls of faux-patriotism and abused “liberty”. And we need to do so in an organized, strategic and intentional way.

I believe in the human ability to organize to accomplish great things. And I believe it’s time to organize to try to affect the zeitgeist in an intentional way, working to stimulate and liberate our collective genius, to stimulate our compassion and humanity and to lay bare and unprotected the cultural pathologies that stand in the way of our collective genius and our compassion and humanity. It’s time to work in a conscious and organized way at becoming a more conscious and humane people.

Many things have led to this moment, and have made it ripe for all rational and humane people to stand up and speak with one voice, and do so in an effective way. The struggle between those driven by fear and loathing on the one hand and those driven by hope and humanity on the other has come to a head. Both forces are at or near a peak. And those who preach hatred, those who preach irrationality, those who preach implicit inhumanity, are an embattled faction, with only residual influence on the zeitgeist.

When a fresh and inspirational young candidate was elected president in 2008 on a wave of hope and a widespread desire for the kind of change I’m referring to, the resistance rallied, fear and hatred rallied, irrationality rallied. It is a desperate and embattled opposition, crying out in the death throes of a failed ideology. We need to stop letting their anger and irrationality penetrate us, and need to smile at it indulgently, saying, “you are the past, and we are the future.”

Because by doing so, we can make it so.

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I have posted before on The Signal-To-Noise Ratio, discussing the amount of noise in the blogosphere. But what I’ve increasingly become aware of is that the problem goes beyond this. There is, from many quarters and by many dynamics, a very virulent reaction to signal, in which noise is aggressively generated to interfere with signal as it emerges.

I encounter this with particular force on right-wing facebook pages, and, among them, libertarian/tea party facebook pages most of all. Most recently, on Colorado Republican State Senator Shawn Mitchell’s page, he and his friends very transparently demonstrated a commitment to burying posts that were inconveniently factual and rational under pure noise.

Within a day, as I was simultaneously responding to a global warming denier on one of Mitchell’s threads by listing the actual empirical evidence, and to someone oblivious to the history and nature of property rights on another thread, who insisted that taxation to mitigate anyone else’s poverty is theft, by linking to and expanding on The Paradox of Property, and as the signal-disrupting noise machine was revving up again, Mitchell blocked me from his page.

It’s always telling when a group of people implicitly admit that the only way they can win a debate is by locking out the opposition and holding the debate in their absence. It’s telling when they respond to invitations to all strive to be reasonable people of goodwill, aware that none of us has all the answers, by hurling pejoratives. It’s telling when they respond to “you may be right about everything and I may be wrong about everything” with no similar or reciprocal admission that there is any chance that they might not be completely correct on every single belief that they hold.

And this is exactly what defines that ideological faction. It’s not the substance of their beliefs, which I strongly believe are laden with irrational and counterfactual conclusions, but rather the simultaneous insulation of those beliefs from any intrusion of reason or evidence and promotion of them to the status of absolute truth, that is truly culturally and politically pathological.

As I explain in Scholarship v. Ideology, there is a continuum of modalities of thought ranging from ever-more irrational and blindly ideological in (often self-defeating) service to compassionless selfishness, to an ever-increasing commitment to the application of reason to reliable evidence in service to humanity (as well as enlightened self-interest). Approaching the pole of pure irrationality and dysfunctional belligerence, there is a two-step process employed by which completely unsupported beliefs are first insulated from reason and evidence and then assumed to be unassailable truth on no rational basis whatsoever (also described in Scholarship v. Ideology).

The first step is an appeal to a relativistic argument that all opinions are equal, and that therefore any counterargument to the ideological position that mobilizes reason and evidence can in no way claim to be privileged over the arbitrary opinion itself, even simply by being a more compelling argument. In this relativistic step, “reason” is always defined as completely subjective, formal logic dismissed as “your reason, but not mine,” and evidence whose reliability is better ensured by the methodologies designed to do so replaced with a combination of selective and manufactured factoids assembled solely to “prove” the desired conclusion.

The second step, ironically enough, is a dismissal of any other claim to the same relativism of the first step, insisting that to harbor any uncertainty regarding the arbitrary opinion that was insulated from reason and evidence in the first step would be to make the error of relativism, and that therefore the arbitrary opinion is indisputably the absolute truth. The most obvious example of the product of this two-step process is religious fanaticism, in which Faith, by definition, is insulated from reason and evidence, and then promoted to the status of absolute truth.

(I have posited, by the way, that there may be such a thing as “pure faith,” that has no reductionist object of belief but rather a deep sensation of belonging to a sublime reality, that might be conducive rather than an obstacle to the ever-fuller realization of human consciousness. See, for instance, “Is Religion A Force For Good?” and A Dialogue on Religion, Dogma, Imagination, and Conceptualization.)

But there are many quasi-religious, fanatically cult-like, ideologies that make no explicit reference to the divine. They utilize the same modality of thought, the same tactic of insulation from reason and evidence followed by promotion to indisputable absolute truth, and they are toxic to civil society and civil discourse. They not only are sources of adamantly-propagated noise drowning out the signal of disciplined thought that serves us far better, but they are actually targeted waves of such noise, determined not merely to compete with the signal by the rules of reason and evidence (which, on some level, adherents recognize is a losing strategy), but to jam the signal by any and all means available.

The currently most virulent and troubling secularized cult of irrational dogma is the libertarian/tea party movement, which is comprised of a combination of smaller “pure” factions (those who are not social conservatives or theocrats), and larger “hybrid” factions (those who combine libertarianism, social conservatism, theocratic tendencies, and a commitment to the preservation of inequitable distributions of wealth and opportunity into a “worst of all worlds,” internally inconsistent, ideological blend)

It is, as I have often said, a movement of organized ignorance, not merely insisting on its arbitrary false certainties, but zealously committed to imposing them on the world, regardless of the real costs to real people. The iconic moment was the choice to blackmail the nation with a threatened self-inflicted default of our financial obligations as a nation by refusing to raise the debt ceiling –a formality that has always been automatic, and in most nations IS literally automatic– because of the complete dysfunctionality of failing to do so, in service to an economic policy that even conservative economists opposed (the extension of the Bush tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans, in the midst of a recession). Predictably, it resulted in a downgrading of our national credit rating, which only served to further deteriorate our fiscal and economic health.

I am adamantly committed to the marketplace of ideas, to the belief that all views should be aired, should compete, and, hopefully, the most reasonable and well-evidenced and humane will be the ones to survive that process. But when some factions, some cults, try to drown out other voices, even if only within their own echo-chambers, those factions are stifling rather than facilitating that process of the competition of ideas, ensuring that, for themselves at least, their ideas never have to compete against any others.

To be sure, this goes on to some extent in other kinds of echo chambers, including echo chambers on the left, and it is just as wrong and dysfunctional when it does. But this cultish, dogged irrationality is not what defines any other ideology currently in vogue anywhere to the same extent as it defines contemporary conservatives. Indeed, it is their anti-intellectualism which sometimes leaps out most vividly, their rejection of scholarship as a liberal conspiracy, their rejection of journalism as a liberal conspiracy, their rejection of reason applied to evidence in any context or any manner as a liberal conspiracy.

If that’s a liberal conspiracy, then it’s one to which we all should belong.

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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.

Buy my e-book A Conspiracy of Wizards

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In the right wing blogosphere, everyone that isn’t a radical libertarian, evangelical, nationalistic, jingoistic yahoo is a “Socialist” or “Communist” or “godless baby killer” or “anti-American traitor of all that is good and holy.” There is, on the one hand, the One Truth, and there is the Error that is all else.

The One Truth, blindly adhered to and ultimately irrational, is defined by a particular interpretation of the Bible; a particular interpretation of the Constitution; a particular blend of historical, economic, legal, and cultural illiteracies; and particular “worst of both worlds” inconsistencies conveniently combining individualism (“we can’t use government to take care of one another”) and collectivism (“but we can use it to impose the religious dogma of the majority, to discriminate against various minorities, to deny those we disapprove of basic civil rights protections, and to take a belligerent stance toward the rest of the world”), moral absolutism (“our moral certainties are unassailable absolute truths”) and intellectual relativism (“since all opinions, regardless of how well or poorly informed and reasoned, are equal, no one can criticize any opinion we express, which is, when we are not insulating it from criticism through this claim of relativism, the absolute truth by virtue of our rejection of relativism”); all amalgamated into a polymorphous idolatry (see, e.g., “Sharianity” for a discussion of some of these hypocrisies). If you don’t belong to the extreme engaged in that particular Bacchanalia of ignorance and belligerence, you belong to any and all opposite extremes, by whatever labels exist to rhetorically relegate you to their confines.

Of course, between the right-wing extremes of Small Government Idolatry (or what is in reality government mandated only to oppose by all means necessary all those who belong to any out-groups in relation to these paragons of bigotry), religious fanaticism, and jingoistic belligerence, and the left-wing extremes (that barely exist in the United States) of absolute reliance on centralized political power and anti-market economic illiteracy, lies the sanity of recognizing the value of markets and the necessity of regulating them, the value of personal liberty but the inescapable fact of interdependence, and the subtlety and complexity of the world we live in and the challenges it poses.

In other words, in the United States, Small Government Idolatry isn’t predominantly opposed by “Socialism,” but rather by “No Presumption Pragmatism” (NPP), a term I coined in The Great American Debate to represent the belief that we must face a complex and subtle world with as much reason, as much humility, as much discipline, as much realism, and as much goodwill and compassion as possible.

Of course, one could as easily use the phrase “no presumption pragmatism” to justify a more insular and belligerent stance, claiming that “pragmatism” requires a “Fortress America” ideology vis-a-vis the rest of the world, and disregard for the plight of the less fortunate in our own country. Laced throughout my writings are arguments about why this is the opposite of the truth, a small-minded tribalistic and classist reflex that does not really capture the realities of the challenges and opportunities that face us.

It is not pragmatic to lock ourselves into a web of perpetual lose-lose scenarios, nor is it pragmatic to engage in a short-sighted denial of the long-term consequences of present actions. Therefore, “No Presumption Pragmatism” refers to the realistic, vigilant, disciplined, and balanced commitment to forging as much cooperation as possible, and exercising as much compassion as possible, within the constraints imposed by some others’ unwillingness to do the same.

But even aside from the fact that what I am calling “No Presumption Pragmatism” is recommended by enlightened self-interest, it is also an inevitable expression of our core values as a people and a nation. We are not a people who define ourselves as oppressors, who believe that it is right and good to prosper with indifference toward those who are not so fortunate, who are willing to explicitly say that the plight of the poor and unfortunate is no concern of anyone other than those few who care to make it their concern. I believe that few in America today are willing to explicitly advocate for social injustice for the sake of social injustice, that the vast majority of Americans today believe that indifference to the welfare of others is bad. That means that one of the things we need to be pragmatic about is how to most effectively and efficiently implement our commitment to human decency.

One need not be a Socialist, or a Tea Party Libertarian, or a Godless Atheist, or a Bible-Thumping Inquisitor, or a Traitor to One’s Country, or a Militant Nationalist; one can be a pragmatist, without presumption, in service to the welfare of oneself, one’s family, and one’s other in-groups, which, in the long run, coincides completely and inextricably with the welfare of humanity (and of the living planet itself).

Such pragmatism isn’t merely a matter of eschewing the mindless extremes, but rather of embracing the mindfulness that they do not. It is not a default position, the mere absence of manias, but rather an affirmative position, the presence of disciplines of the mind and heart and body and soul. It favors methodology over ideology, commitment to procedure (e.g., the rule of law) over such zeal of false certainty carried by such hubris that no deference to procedures such as scientific methodology or rule of law is necessary (see, e.g., The Elusive Truth, The Hydra’s Heads, The Signal-To-Noise Ratio, Ideology v. Methodology, The Voice Beyond Extremes, Discourse, Diderot & Deity, The Real Political & Cultural Dichotomy, Sacred Truths, The “New” Reductionism, Irrational (but rationalized) Belligerence, The Tyranny of Blind Ideology, An Argument for Reason and Humility).

NPP is the ideology of reason applied to evidence, leavened with imagination, in service to humanity. It is something we can and should develop, elaborate, explore, define, refine, and implement. This blog, in many ways, is committed to just that purpose. (See, for instance, my essays that explore the descriptive paradigm on which we should rely, hyperlinked in the first box at Catalogue of Selected Posts; my essays that explore the normative and strategic paradigm on which we should rely, hyperlinked in the second box at Catalogue of Selected Posts; and the remainder of my essays, exploring the bridges between the two, the specific issue details, and the complexities and nuances surrounding both.)

So, here’s to No Presumption Pragmatism! May ever more of my neighbors and fellow countrymen (and countrywomen) flock to its banner, and sing its hymns! It may be the case that we can never really be anything more than elaborately grunting apes, but we can and do grunt in ever-more elaborate ways, with a consciousness that continuously blossoms as a result. Let’s, therefore, be conscious human beings striving to do good in the world, and leave all of the absurd and self-destructive noise on the dust-heap of history, where it belongs.

Buy my e-book A Conspiracy of Wizards

Buy my e-book A Conspiracy of Wizards

This Week With Christiane Amanpour hosted an excellent debate this morning, with conservative pundit George Will and Congressman Paul Ryan on one side, and Congressman Barney Frank and Clinton Administration Labor Secretary Robert Reich on the other, over the fundamental, perennial issue of the optimum size and scope of government. First, please note that I did not frame it in the conventional way, with “small government” (SG) on one side, and “big government” (BG) on the other, because that is the frame created by SG advocates to mislabel their opposition. The real debate, as I see it, isn’t between SG advocates and BG advocates, but rather between SG advocates and advocates of “No Presumption Pragmatism” (NPP).

The legitimate concern is that NPP may tend toward limitless growth in government, but it is not therefore the case that those who are advocates of “no presumption pragmatism” are advocates of big government. Rather, it might be that there is an un-met challenge facing NPP that, if met, is a preferable path to either dogmatic SG advocacy or a careless, unrestrained-government growth version of NPP.

But there is an inherent tension between wanting government to perform an endlessly growing list of functions, and wanting government to be a minimalistic agent in our national affairs. ABC News’ John Donvan summed up that aspect of the debate nicely:

In the following introductory comments and opening salvos in this incarnation of The Debate, the participants lay out the parameters nicely, challenge some assumptions, redefine some positions, and offer some compelling insights and arguments:

Paul Ryan does an impressive job advocating his position, arguing that adhering to strict principals that generate optimal outcomes is superior to overreliance on government to take care of all challenges and address all issues, the latter error leading to a sprawling and cumbersome burden on human creativity and enterprise rather than an effective reduction in social problems and increase in human welfare. Barney Frank and Robert Reich respond that the government is too big in some ways and too small in others, and that reducing one’s position on the issue to an anti-government presumption fails to address the real challenges of managing a popular government.

Frank points out that many SG advocates are perfectly happy to rely on government to impose their will on others, advocating restrictions on women’s reproductive rights and a lack of definition of civil rights for gays and lesbians, while opposing the use of government in the productive manner of addressing “public goods” and “public bads,” not defined by arbitrary moral convictions, but rather by the real effects of our inevitable interdependence on our individual well-being. Reich reiterates that the question isn’t the size of government, but rather what factions of the population government is assisting or failing to assist.

Paul Ryan’s argument that smaller government is inherently more efficient and more effective than big government simply ignores the inevitable fact that any government function costs money, that, in a complex modern economy, there are a plethora of inescapable and quite expensive government functions that must be performed (e.g., regulating information-intensive markets such as financial and energy markets, which are easily gamed at potentially catastrophic public expense, but costly to monitor effectively); that the majority of the government programs targeted by SG advocates (with the notable exceptions of Social Security and Medicaid) actually involve piddling expenditures in relation to these large inescapable costs that government must be able to meet; that advocacy not to meet those inescapable costs is advocacy for a wildly self-destructive public policy; and that many of those piddling expenditures are in programs which research strongly demonstrates reduces far larger future costs that occur in their absence (such as those we currently incur in our enormous criminal justice system, far larger and more expensive, per capita, than those in other developed countries, incarcerating a far larger proportion of our population).

Since, in reality, there are expensive functions that a modern government must perform, and since, in reality, some social welfare programs have been strongly demonstrated to be cost effective over time, all things considered, what we as a polity really need to do in this debate is to transcend both the “big government is bad” platitude and the “every problem has a direct government solution” habit, and move into thinking more systemically, more intersectorally, and engage, in ever larger numbers with ever more commitment and knowledge, in the real challenge of using government as a disciplined and effective agent of our will, a portal into the organic processes of which we are a part, through which the essential functions of consciousness, of collective decision-making, of necessary oversight, of intentionality and value-driven intervention, can be implemented.

The debate in response to the audience question at the end over bailouts v. limiting the size of banks so that none are “too big too fail” is, as Robert Reich pointed out, an example of an information-intensive issue on which the relative positions of “conservatives” and “liberals” is not quite clear. The conservatives in this debate favored limiting the size of banks, while Frank on the liberal side argued that we require a different paradigm that allows for the existence of big banks in order to be internationally competitive. Though this Great American Debate historically began, in many ways, over a very similar question (should we have a national bank or not?), in its modern incarnation, it’s less ideological than technical, both sides admitting to the need to rely on economic analysis rather than blind ideology, neither side having the definitive solution to what is in reality a very complex problem.

The next segment deals with economic inequality and collective responsibility:

Elizabeth Warren’s introduction to this segment of the debate is, I believe, a very eloquent expression of the fundamental truth undermining the extreme SG/Libertarian argument: We are interdependent members of a single society, our political economy not being, never having been, and simply not capable of being, a mere market place for exchanges among atomized individuals, but rather an arena of coexistence in which some aspects of our shared lives are coordinated through market exchanges, but some aspects are necessarily coordinated in other ways as well.

These “extra-market” aspects of our shared existence aren’t just cultural, aren’t just a matter of family relationships and community relationships and voluntary organization memberships, but are also political and economic, involving our collective decision-making apparatus, our laws, and the ways in which a modern capitalist economy is populated with corporate actors whose own internal structure is hierarchical rather than “free market” based, and which wield enormous political power as a result.

The distribution of wealth and opportunity in America is clearly not a function of some mythical perfected meritocracy, but, as in all times and places throughout human history, is primarily a function of historical injustices reproduced through the chances of birth and the inherited opportunities and burdens that come with them. Our current legal system, evolved through periodic cleansings of the codification of those injustices, has certainly diluted the effects of those historical injustices, but their remaining legacy is clear to see, and is, in fact, a statistically undeniable current reality. Whatever policies we implement or decline to implement today, doing so with blithe disregard for the realities that currently exist is indefensible on both pragmatic and moral bases.

Paul Ryan’s response to Christiane’s opening question about economic inequality bordered on disingenuous: He blamed “current economic policies” for that growing disparity, despite the fact that the disparity has grown with the greatest acceleration, as it has in previous historical epochs, with the growth of deregulation and the success of SG political advocacy. This trend can clearly be seen in the three eras of most obscene concentration of wealth in America: The era of “The Robber Barons,” the “Roaring Twenties” of the Hoover Administration, and the current Reagan and post-Reagan era.

Ryan also, as he did throughout this debate (and as is an endemic deficiency in his ideological camp’s position), acted as if there is no other nation in the world with which we can compare our policies, to determine which kinds of policies really do increase social mobility and decrease economic inequality, and which ones really do exacerbate the lack of social mobility and the increase in economic inequality. The inconvenient fact is that a comparison to the social democracies of Western Europe and Canada demonstrates what the historical record I mentioned above also demonstrates: Social mobility is increased through social democratic government interventions in the economy, economic inequality is decreased, and prosperity is not undermined.

Paul Ryan argues that any attempt to decrease social inequality inevitably serves only to impoverish the wealthy rather than enrich the poor. This is an assumption and a fallacy. Historically, in fact, our political economic institutions have evolved in large measure to decrease social injustice (including economic inequality) without undermining the productive engine from which we all benefit. We’ve been successful enough at the latter goal that we consider merely slow growth to be economic failure, and periods of economic stagnation to be a crisis, and have, on average, maintained a fairly constant and sustained continuing growth in overall economic prosperity. While we’ve met that side of the challenge rather soundly, we not only have failed to address the increasingly inequitable distribution of the wealth thus created, but have actually devolved into a debate over whether we should care about that failure or not.

Ryan and Will represent the more “urbane” branch of their ideological movement, counterfactually insisting that their position decreases inequality and increases social justice, rather than that inequality and social injustice don’t matter. Unfortunately for Ryan and Will, the history of our own nation, and a comparison to other nations, demonstrate that the truth is the precise opposite of what they are claiming it to be.

Robert Reich added the observation that both the marginal tax rate on the wealthiest, and economic growth, were astronomically high under Dwight D. Eisenhower, debunking the assertion that they are antagonistic to one another.

George Will argues that Big Government always favors the wealthiest and most powerful, because it is most responsive to those who can pay expensive lobbyists and make large campaign contributions. Well, yes, government is skewed in favor of those with greatest political economic power, which is why the anti-government, deregulation movement has been so successful: It favors those with the greatest political economic power. To argue against using government to favor the interests of the less powerful on the basis that any government action is somehow inevitably going to favor the more powerful is a bizarre tautology, especially given the historical fact that disenfranchised groups have with some regularity successfully organized to gain power and legal protections throughout our history (e.g., women, African Americans, workers, environmental activists, etc.)

George Will then brought up the interesting observation that (therefore) the welfare state in America is primarily a transfer of wealth from the poorer young to the wealthier elderly (in the form of social security and Medicare). But this is a surprisingly sloppy representation, since neither the young nor the elderly are monolithic in their economic condition. I do agree, however, that social security and Medicare should be means tested; as a nation, we simply can’t afford to subsidize the wealthiest with public programs designed as safety nets.

But it is completely disingenuous to argue that the primary reason for that intergenerational disparity in wealth is due to Social Security and Medicare. The fundamental reason is insufficient government regulation of a market successfully exploited by a small minority of citizens over the course of their lives, such that they accumulate astronomical wealth by old age, creating the disparity that Will cites.

Ryan, however, made a potentially good point that Big Federal Government concentrated in Washington creates a convenient geographic and institutional nexus of power for corporate America to influence the political class. However, ironically, the policies that are most implicated in anti-BG advocacy are those policies that are most antagonistic to corporate interests, such as improved public health and safety standards, improved environmental standards, and expanded social services and programs for the neediest. The success of corporate lobbyists isn’t primarily the increase of government action to their benefit (though there is, of course, some of that), but rather the decrease of government action to their benefit (i.e., deregulation).

I do believe, however, that we need to move toward a paradigm of government facilitated public empowerment to carry out some of the functions currently embedded in governmental bureaucracies. Government can serve best to channel resources and pass legislation that will fund and guide local efforts. We need to think and act more systemically, in a more decentralized way, rendered coherent and conscious through our central agency of collective action (i.e., government), but utilizing all of the social institutional material on the ground in pursuit of social problem solutions and social institutional improvements.

The audience question that opens the next segment is very timely for me, since just yesterday I received my first “photo surveillance” ticket in the mail:

Paul Ryan’s repetition of the notion that economic equality automatically grows with economic growth is well answered by Barney Frank, who pointed out that economic growth is a necessary but not sufficient condition of wide-spread economic well-being

In fact, aggregate economic growth and economic equity (distributive justice, which is one aspect of social justice) are neither diametrically opposed nor perfectly compatible. There is a tension between them, in which some policies could indeed increase aggregate growth at the expense of distributive justice, some policies could increase distributive justice at the expense of economic growth, and some policies increase both economic growth and distributive justice at the same time. Obviously, the last category has the most to recommend it, but there are also times to accept trade-offs between aggregate growth and equitable opportunity to partake of the wealth produced by it.

As a thought experiment, consider the extremes: Few would support an arrangement by which one person accumulates ten times our current GDP every year, but everyone else is left in abject poverty. And, similarly, few would accept an arrangement in which there is absolute equality of abject poverty. There is clearly some balance to be struck between these two values.

Of course, Paul Ryan is right on target in the gist of his last remarks at the end of this segment: We need to end crony capitalism, eliminate subsidies to the rich, and address our economic challenges systemically. Those observations, however, do not belong to the larger ideological package that he is advocating, and, in the final analysis, are not compatible with it.

And on to the closing arguments:

Diminutive Robert Reich’s joke during his closing argument, reminding the audience that he has worked in government most of his life and then standing up and asking, “Do I look like Big Government to you?” struck me for a moment as funny but irrelevant, until I reflected on it a bit: Government is a human institution, comprised of human beings, acting in human ways. It is how we use it (and how we fail to use it), and what we do with it that defines its value. It is a vehicle of human will, not an external imposition, and it is, and should be, exactly as “big” as we are.

But, despite all of my arguments above, the take-home lesson from this debate, for everyone, should be that there is a legitimate debate to be had. From there, we can begin to acknowledge that no platitude suffices, and that the question is not one that can or should be answered with a slogan or reductionist philosophy. The responsibility of popular sovereignty, of self-governance, is that we govern ourselves wisely, succumbing to the manias and oversimplifications neither of the left nor the right. The more of us who take that step, who seek to transcend blind ideologies and embrace the challenge of being reasonable people of goodwill working together in a complex and subtle world, the better off we all will be.

Buy my e-book A Conspiracy of Wizards

Buy my e-book A Conspiracy of Wizards

(The following is a complete Facebook thread on DW’s Facebook page, omitting only a few casual initial comments, and adding in two new paragraphs -the third and fourth- inserted into my final comment, on the anti-intellectualism of oppressive movements, even those that were established on the basis of intellectual doctrines, and one long parenthetical on the meaning of “republic.” I post it, as usual, to highlight the contrast between the tone, tenor, and substance of the opposing positions.)   DW: “Timid men prefer the calm of despotism to the tempestuous sea of liberty.” Thomas Jefferson.   Steve Harvey: I like the quote, but to transcend historical context I would amend it to read: “Timid men prefer the calm of false certainties to the tempestuous sea of true liberty.” What we normally mean by “despotism” is one kind of false certainty, but the broader reality of despotism is the despotism of blind ideologies over minds that cease to believe in their own capacity for freedom, the despotism of anti-intellectualism and ignorance.   BS: In the era of Obama “freedom” refers to the freedom to live off the labors of others, “anti-intellectualism and ignorance” is the refusal to believe in globull warming, and the insistence that embracing the principles of the Constitution and Bill of Rights is a “false certainty.”   BS: The current Occupy Wall Street movement is the best illustration to date of what President Barack Obama’s America looks like. It is an America where the lawless, unaccomplished, ignorant and incompetent rule. It is an America where those who have sacrificed nothing pillage and destroy the lives of those who have sacrificed greatly.

It is an America where history is rewritten to honor dictators, murderers and thieves. It is an America where violence, racism, hatred, class warfare and murder are all promoted as acceptable means of overturning the American civil society.

It is an America where humans have been degraded to the level of animals: defecating in public, having sex in public, devoid of basic hygiene. It is an America where the basic tenets of a civil society, including faith, family, a free press and individual rights, have been rejected. It is an America where our founding documents have been shredded and, with them, every person’s guaranteed liberties.

It is an America where, ultimately, great suffering will come to the American people, but the rulers like Obama, Michelle Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank, Chris Dodd, Joe Biden, Jesse Jackson, Louis Farrakhan, liberal college professors, union bosses and other loyal liberal/Communist Party members will live in opulent splendor.

It is the America that Obama and the Democratic Party have created with the willing assistance of the American media, Hollywood , unions, universities, the Communist Party of America, the Black Panthers and numerous anti-American foreign entities.

Barack Obama has brought more destruction upon this country in four years than any other event in the history of our nation, but it is just the beginning of what he and his comrades are capable of.

The Occupy Wall Street movement is just another step in their plan for the annihilation of America .

“Socialism, in general, has a record of failure so blatant that only an intellectual could ignore or evade it.”

–Thomas Sowell (born June 30, 1930) is an American economist, social theorist, political philosopher, and author. A National Humanities Medal winner, he advocates laissez-faire economics and writes from a libertarian perspective. He is currently a Rose and Milton Friedman Senior Fellow on Public Policy at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

Steve Harvey: 1) “Living off the labors of others” exists in some form or another in all paradigms, including a radical libertarian one, in which investors still live off the labor of workers. The main difference is whether you are concerned that there is some semblance of equality of opportunity and a diminution of the effects of inequalities due to chances of birth. Certainly, the issue of avoiding perverse incentives, in which effort isn’t rewarded while non-effort is, is a vital consideration. But reducing that to some simple platitude which both ignores reality and rationalizes various forms of predation and exploitation is not the right way to address it.

2) Those who crow the loudest about their commitment to the Constitution are, ironically, those who are working the hardest to undermine it, by arbitrarily insisting that it supports only their own ideology in every instance, whether it does or doesn’t. In a previous discussion, when I pointed out the clauses that do not support your interpretation (e.g., the necessary and proper clause, the general welfare clause, the commerce clause, etc.), you insisted that your interpretation had to prevail, because otherwise the Constitution could be read to mean something other than what you want it to. That may be convenient for you, but it’s death to Constitutional Democracy. When the meaning of the Constitution becomes subject to ideological plebiscite, there is no constitution, but only ideological plebiscite.

3) The science supporting global warming, for example, is truly overwhelming. But you’re right that all questions should be subject to the discipline of scientific methodology, rather than the whims of those who wish to impose their own arbitrary truths on society at large, justifying actual tyranny with the ruse of claiming it to be the response to a fictional tyranny. It’s as old as the Inquisition, and smells exactly the same.

Steve Harvey: Buddy, I have my own issues with the “Occupy” movement, and especially with the argument that enforcement of laws is unconstitutional whenever someone claims that they are breaking it as an act of free speech, but are you suggesting that demonstrating is itself un-American? So, when Sam Adams led the Sons of Liberty on such lawless acts as The Boston Tea Party, he was emblematic of the America of Obama that you would rise above? No demonstrations, no lawlessness, but rather an America ruled by non-Ignorant people like yourself, people who have transcended ignorance by arbitrarily declaring themselves omniscient, whatever they believe or assert or advocate to be by definition the inviolable truth, and therefore all who disagree with them the weak and parasitic who must be extermina…, uh, let’s just say “reviled”?

You’re going to tell me that all “intellectuals” are incompetent and ignorant, while wise blind fanatics such as yourself have simply gotten it right? And how do we know that you got it right? Because you insist that it is so! No damned peer-review articles for you! Oh no! That’s the clever ruse of those idiot intellectuals, who think that you have to try to discipline knowledge by applying reason to evidence. The hell with that crap! Everyone knows what the one absolute truth is: Whatever Buddy Shipley says it is!

This is the fundamental, obvious flaw in all that you are saying: While those of us who realize that absolute truth is harder to determine than simply claiming that whatever the speaker believes it to be must be it, there are others who simply never take that step, and insist that the only truth that matters is the one they are already certain of. Might global warming be wrong? Absolutely. But not because people shout loudly enough that it is, but rather because careful application of scientific methodology bears the weight of evidence against it. And that is simply not the case at this moment in time. (All of the narrative used to claim that is just normal, human-cluttered science in action; always imperfect, and always better than arbitrary claims to knowledge forged without recourse to any, even imperfect, methodology at all).

I know that I don’t know, despite my decades of studying as diligently and broadly and intensively as I can. I’ve studied economics, but am less certain than you of the absolute economic truth, because I recognize complexity, I recognize uncertainty, I recognize the limitations of human comprehension. And without that, those who fail to take that step, are just a bunch of Jihadists trying to impose their own fanatical false certainty on a world that does not necessarily reduce to the caricature of their imaginations.

What we really need, what would really serve us as a nation and humanity as a whole, is to recognize our imperfections, to commit ourselves to some degree of humility and to reason and to goodwill, and to work together in that spirit to do the best we can. That’s the one absolute truth you can hang your hat on.

WS: It is very interesting that the people who say the most, actually say the least. Factual correction – the USA is a Republic, not a constitutional democracy.   Steve Harvey: I’m well aware of that semantic obsession, but the particular rigid label you’re relying on is relevant in the context only of one particular taxonomy, and not in the context of using words according to their generally applicable meanings. It is, in fact, perfectly correct to refer to the United States as a constitutional democracy, since it operates according to a combination of democratic and constitutional principles. It is also perfectly correct to refer to it as a republic, because it is by definition a republic within a taxonomy of political forms established in classical times. Either terminology is acceptable, and both are in widespread usage, including among political scientists and others who spend their lives studying precisely these issues.

(In a broad sense, “Democracy” and “Res Publica” are merely the Greek and Latin terms, respectively, for essentially the same thing: Government by the people. The classical meaning of “republic” is that of mixed government, incorporating elements of monarchy, oligarchy, and democracy, and that is the reason why America is “technically” a republic rather than a democracy. Ironically, the fact that it is technically a republic rather than a democracy disfavors rather than favors the ideology of those who insist on rigid adherence to this terminology: America was designed to balance democratic processes with a strong executive and a deliberative legislature rather than to reduce to government by plebiscite. The major distinction between a republic and a democracy is that a republic has a stronger central government.)

Secondly, it’s remarkable how frequently people who are unable to make a compelling substantive argument zero-in on form instead (such as harping on a shallow semantic obsession, or referring to the length or writing style of the argument they would like to debunk but can only flail against).

Third, the notion that more quantity automatically corresponds to less quality or substance is convincing to those who will grab hold of anything they can, but is absurd on the face of it. The Encyclopedia Britannica is rather lengthy, but says much, as would a library of all scientific literature, or any other comprehensive examination of any aspect of our existence or our surroundings. What I write may or may not be substantive; it may or may not be compelling; it may or may not be well-argued; but mere declarations in service to a desperate ideological preference, shored up by nothing other than an irrelevant observation about length or style, does nothing to inform anyone of whether it is or isn’t.

Steve Harvey: Now, I’d like to address the frequently invoked specter of anti-intellectualism that is so essential to your ideology. Intellectualism can indeed go astray: Marxism, for instance, was an intellectual doctrine that was disastrously wrong, both pragmatically and theoretically. The banner of intellectualism guarantees nothing. And all human endeavors, whether intellectual or not, are still human endeavors, contaminated by the messiness of all things that are pursued by mere talking animals.

But some disciplines, some procedures, some frameworks that humans create channel that messy on-going enterprise better than others. Scientific methodology, for instance, has proven itself to be much more robust in the reduction of error, and the production of insight, than any alternative approach to discerning the nature of our empirically observable context. Even though this is so, no scientific enterprise, no great discovery, no evolution of thought, was ever devoid of the human messiness that is inherent to all human enterprises. The effort to debunk science by pointing out instances of that human messiness is really just an effort to obscure the more reliable source of information in favor of less reliable sources of information.

Though some brutal and oppressive doctrines and movements have intellectual roots or supports (often, though not always, through misinterpretation of the theories they claim as their legitimation), it is also true that virtually all liberating and life-affirming doctrines and movements do as well. Furthermore, many oppressive doctrines and movements do not, relying instead on blind dogmas and fanaticisms without even a veneer of rational justification.

All oppressive or inhumane doctrines and movements eventually rely on anti-intellectualism to survive, because there is no bulwark against them as effective as the active engagement of the human mind, in service to humanity, and so no enemy against which they must more vigorously rally. (In fact, the presence of anti-intellectualism in a doctrine or movement is a fairly certain indicator that it is an oppressive or inhumane doctrine, for if it were not, it would not have to fortify itself against the glare of rational scrutiny.) No blind dogma, no rote deference to the often perverted and always interpreted doctrines of the past, no rigid enslavement of the human mind to any set of seemingly error-proof platitudes on which to rely, can or should free us of the responsibility to exercise our freedom as conscious and compassionate beings, applying the wisdom of the past to the challenges of the present and future.

We should all strive to be as rational, as imaginative, and as disciplined as we can be, and always apply that vital resource of human consciousness to the benefit of humanity to the best of our ability. We all implicitly agree with that. For instance, Buddy likes to post long strings of quotes by more or less revered thinkers of the past, as proof that his position is venerable and well-conceived. He is invoking intellectual authorities in service to his argument (such as it is). The problem is that you have to do it with a certain amount of integrity, based on testing tentative hypothesis in a context of skepticism and uncertainty, rather than doing it as an exercise in confirmation bias, cherry picking quotes to shore-up a presumed ideological certainty.

There is nothing undemocratic about using our brains. It does not undermine democracy to try to apply more rather than less living human genius to the challenges that face us as a nation and as humanity. We will do so more or less efficaciously, with better or worse results, bungling it sometimes, and achieving marvelous successes in others. But there is no better way to go, no preferable approach to confronting the challenges of self-governance and human existence.

Part of that methodology involves listening to and reading the diligent research and analysis of others, since no one of us has the time to contemplate and study and research all things all on our own. I can’t make a particle accelerator, or use one, or even interpret the data collected by using one, but I can benefit from the efforts of those who do. That is how human consciousness grows and is used to greatest effect.

We are in a shared enterprise, a complex and subtle and very significant one. We should treat it with the respect it deserves, and treat humanity with the compassion and commitment that we all deserve.

Buy my e-book A Conspiracy of Wizards

In the comments to Tina Griego’s recent favorable column on the “Occupy Denver” movement (http://www.denverpost.com/ci_19375895?source=bb), I noticed a cartoon showing how much more respectable the Tea Party participants are than the Occupy participants, various comments about how “sad” and otherwise disreputable the latter are, complaints about the “liberal media” and its fellow travelers dismissing the Tea Party as a radical fringe movement, and at least one completely gratuitous xenophobic rant blaming all of the woes of the “Occupy” participants on illegal immigrants (and illegal immigration on Tina Griego). Mere non-condemnational attention to those protesting Wall Street is enough to unleash a torrent of those simultaneously reviling them and rallying to their never-mentioned ideological counterpart. It’s clear that not only is our government caught in the gridlock of two opposing political ideologies (at least one of which is too uncompromising for any cooperative action to be achieved), but our nation and population are also caught in a tug-o-war between two diametrically opposed (but in many ways overlapping) movements.

Several commenters engaged in the remarkable contortion of simultaneously dismissing the participants of the “Occupy” movement as subhuman parasites, while bitterly complaining that liberals have dismissed the participants of the Tea Party movement in a similar fashion. This in itself almost completely captures the underlying essence of the ideology these folks are embracing (so lost in an in-group/out-group world view that identical actions are defensible when they commit them but reprehensible when their “enemy” does). But they do have a point: While their movement is almost completely saturated in this attitude, their opposition exhibits far too much of it as well. It is one thing to make unflattering but accurate observations; it is another to foam at the mouth while doing so.

So let’s transcend the debate about which movement is more irrational and belligerent, and contemplate the movements themselves. I have criticisms of both the Tea Party and the “occupy” movement, and see some legitimate points being made by each. For example, I think the “Occupy” movement errs by trying to claim that any otherwise illegal act is protected by the Constitutional right to free speech, and the Tea Party movement is correct that the exercise of power by government is problematic and difficult to control. But, taken on balance, I do indeed consider the “occupy” movement to be more on target than the Tea Party, not based on comparisons of how the respective members of the two groups dress or clean up after themselves or who is better employed or any other misdirectional irrelevancies, but rather because the content of the concerns of one is closer, in my assessment, to what is most economically and politically rational to be concerned about. In other words, my relative support of the two movements is based on their substance, not their form.

The basic divide is between those who see government as the primary threat to liberty, and those who see large corporations as the primary threat to liberty. An argument can be made for both, and both spheres of power are certainly problematic. Both are comprised of entities which exert formidable control over our lives, profoundly affecting us all in service to the welfare of some more than of others. Both also serve valuable purposes, either producing wealth or acting as a collective agent negotiating the challenges we face as a polity, respectively. Both are necessary, and both need to be subject to checks and balances such that we do our best to maximize their benefits to our welfare and minimize their costs to our welfare, all things considered.

But the emphasis on reducing the power of government is a strategy which reduces the one nexus of power which is at least somewhat controlled by a democratic process, in favor of the other major nexus of power which is not at all controlled by a democratic process. The result is to cede power to the more despotic and less democratic vehicle through which power is exercised, leading to more rather than less tyranny.

In the modern era, democratic, constitutional government is less the vehicle of tyranny than the bulwark against tyranny. It is still problematic; those who exercise power within it are still hard to rein in and control; the “agency problem” of ensuring that our agent (our government) acts in the interests of the principal (the people) rather than of the agent and its allies (the government officials themselves, and those who do the most to keep them in power) is an ever-present and very real challenge we must face. But, in the case of government, well established, long-standing, and relatively (if imperfectly) effective mechanisms exist for confronting that agency problem. In the case of corporations, only very weak and difficult to implement mechanisms (such as boycotts) exist to do so.

Government is the portal through which we, as a polity, have the opportunity to stand up to, tame, and channel the loci of power that inevitably exist, and that can serve broader or narrower interests depending on how well we continue to refine our social institutional arrangements. To relinquish that one opportunity in fear that we can’t control it after all is to relinquish our liberty completely, and surrender to power over which we have no effective control at all instead.

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