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On the Astonishing Resemblance Between the Old Pigs and the New Pigs

Discussion in 'Political Debates' started by Sunstone, Jun 4, 2018.

  1. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    “One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.” -- Carl Sagan


    It seems so strange how reliably we humans can be duped again and again and again by the same ancient tricks. I think it's especially true that each generation in turn falls for the same cons as its parents once fell for. But I notice so many individuals never learn much either, but over and over become marks for, at most, marginally different scams.

    Maybe more so than most things, it's so true of politics. I'm sure you will agree with me that easily up to three-quarters and probably more political promises are broken. And, beyond promises, it's so simple to dupe the people into supporting things that are not in their own best interests to support.

    Want to start a war -- even an unjust war of aggression? It's not hard. Label some group or nation an enemy, an existential threat, tell the people they are in imminent danger of attack, and denounce any domestic opposition as fools and traitors. Nothing more is needed, but it works, and it's so frequently used again and again almost without fail.

    In Animal Farm, George Orwell warned of the one of the oldest, most dangerous, yet effective, tricks in anyone's political playbook. It's as simple as going to war, and it's basically a bait and switch con. Portray yourself as a common person, an ally of the people, and viciously denounce the current ruling elite as oppressors. Then foment a revolution promising freedom and liberty from their oppression. When the people succeed in overthrowing the old oppressors, pull the "switch" and become the new oppressor.

    Which brings us to the actual focus of what I wish to discuss: I believe a rock solid argument can be made for asserting that extreme right libertarianism easily lends itself to being used as a mask for the sort of bait and switch con George Orwell described in Animal Farm, and is therefore an inherently risky political ideology -- in much the same way that Marxism is in practice

    In my opinion, it's the perfect tool for the job. And I think that's despite -- or more likely, even in part because of -- the great attractiveness of the libertarian principle, "maximize individual human freedoms and liberties for everyone as much as practically possible."

    Superficially, it would seem obvious that the libertarian principle does not allow for either an oligarchy or a tyranny of one. After all, how can you possibly have either an oligarchy or a tyranny and still maximize human liberties for everyone? I just can't be done.

    But as Animal Farm teaches us, it can indeed be done if the "for everyone" becomes merely a ploy, merely smoke and mirrors, in some group's or person's political tool kit. And I submit, there is nothing intrinsic about extreme right libertarianism that would serve with much effect as checks on any group or individual wishing to use the ideology as a ploy to gain dominance over all.

    Surely you are now thinking, "But what about other groups or individuals? Wouldn't they be natural checks on the ambitions of other groups or individuals?" Up to a point, I agree with you. But only up to a point. So long as folks remain more or less equal in wealth and power, they can -- and probably would in actual practice -- serve effectively to check each other's ambitions to dominate everyone.

    Yet how often can you honestly say such a state of affairs has ever been long maintained by any society in human history -- apart from small bands of egalitarian hunter/gathers? Even a fairly shallow study of history quickly reveals the trend is almost invariably towards increasing disparities of wealth and power until at some point a ruling elite emerges that -- over time -- becomes smaller and smaller in number until only a few or one remain who then dominate everyone. Over and over that's been the story of humanity.

    Of course, you might now think, "All of that's nice, but it's also beside the point, because all one really needs is a constitution full up with strong checks on balances on political power. Hah! You fool, Sunstone! Got you there for sure!"

    Upon due reflection, I am sadly forced to reply, "You're absolutely right. I cannot for the life of me think of any answer that defeats you're point. Gods, but how I hate you and will now live out the remainder of my days bitterly wishing the hamster you kept as a kid had died even sooner!"

    Just teasing! The truth is I believe it simply naive to imagine a constitution -- any constitution -- could long withstand being subverted if and when there arose such a great disparity of wealth that one person or a group of people could buy the government despite any attempts by much poorer people to stop them. "Well, what if the government is so weak, so powerless, that even if some person or group controlled all of it, they'd never be powerful enough to truly dominate the nation?

    As an aside, you so often hear surprisingly earnest variations of that sentiment these days! "Let's keep the government weak in order to make it powerless to enslave us." I say "surprisingly" because it is astonishing how very little people think through to see weakness of that idea these days. I have no explanation for that. Even perfectly intelligent people do it.

    Of course, the obvious thing is that if the government is truly weak, then it becomes easy to over match it, and then either with or without its apparatus go on to take the whole country -- assuming only you have a great enough advantage over others in wealth and power. But even if the government has, say, a strong military and is therefore not truly weak, you are at most only set back until you can marshal enough resources to seize it one way or another, along with control of its military.

    The point of all this has been to first present the notion that extreme right libertarianism is a risky investment if you are genuinely interested in both yours and others freedoms and liberties, and a ready and handy mask to hide behind if you are truly only interested in maximizing your own. Second, that it provides no effective guarantees against either tyranny or oligarchy, ultimately because it provides no checks on the historical tendency in any given society towards increasingly vast disparities in wealth and power.

    Somewhat in the imagery of Animal Farm, extreme right libertarinanism is the perfect tool for the new pigs to rise up, overthrow the old pigs, only to then become just like the old pigs.

    Comments? Questions? Cake recipes? Descriptions of new and exciting depravities? Invitations to listen to you play Bohemian Rhapsody using only a tuba?
     
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  2. Hockeycowboy

    Hockeycowboy Well-Known Member
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    Hummingbird Cake Recipe
     
  3. sun rise

    sun rise "Let there be peace and love among all"
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    I started to write a lengthy and erudite exposition on the psychological underpinnings of your main thesis But then I realized it was bed time and the thought of that wonderful song being played on the tuba became something that I know will help me get to sleep tonight
     
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  4. Valjean

    Valjean Veteran Member
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    "Those who forget history..."

    Scaring people is always an effective tactic. In an "emergency" -- contrived or otherwise, -- Scared people are likely to abandon law, religious and cultural values for a quick fix, and to uncritically follow a Strong Father type leader. Despots know how to take advantage of Klein moments.

    Revolutions do happen, when the disparity of wealth and power becomes too oppressive, but the royalists always seem to claw their way back to power, sometimes with violence (France, Russia, Spain, Chile, San Salvador), sometimes slowly and stealthily, like the US since the '30s.
     
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  5. joe1776

    joe1776 Well-Known Member

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    Someone once advised us that, to understand something, we should ask: What is its essential nature? A society is essentially a cooperative endeavor. As such, there are some basic rules which apply to all cooperative endeavors if they are to function well.

    In order to cooperate, the individual agrees to trade some rights in return for greater benefits. For example, if a man wants the right to poop anywhere he likes, he should live alone in the wilderness. But, should he go into town, he's entering a cooperative endeavor, so he must trade in his right to poop anywhere for the greater benefits the town has to offer.

    I have no quarrel with the flavor of libertarian whose position is that a government should not trample individual rights unless they are in conflict with the group's interest in the highest possible quality of life but some libertarians go beyond that.
     
  6. PureX

    PureX Veteran Member

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    I have always been mystified, and I still am, by the fact that we humans keep allowing those among us who want to abuse and exploit us all to gain and keep the ability to do so. I suppose it must be written into our DNA, somewhere, a hold-over from our days living as dumb animals on the savannah; maintaining rigid 'pecking orders' regulating who has sex with who and who gets first dibs at the food troth.
     
  7. Vouthon

    Vouthon In varietate concordia
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    @Sunstone another stellar post, and some creative use of language there as well with the animal farm/pig analogy, if I might say so!

    Your lengthy, highly detailed critique of the libertarian ideology pretty much hit the nail on the head from where I'm standing.

    I think you've touched upon something really important with regards to the subtle way in which libertarian economics and philosophy tends towards oligarchic tyranny, albeit by an underhand means. So many people miss this, because they are taken in by the allure of "
    unlimited and unconditional maximization of the individual" without truly reflecting upon what this ultimately means in a society with deeply-ingrained (and, indeed, ever-widening) inequalities of status and income.

    My own religious tradition - as you know - has long been critical of capitalism, marxism/state-collectivism and libertarianism (among other political philosophies). In May 2017 for example, the current pontiff, His Holiness Pope Francis, explicitly identified libertarianism for scrutiny:

    Message from the Holy Father to the participants in the Plenary Session of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences (28 April – 2 May 2017)


    I cannot but speak of the serious risks associated with the invasion, at high levels of culture and education in both universities and in schools, of positions of libertarian individualism. A common feature of this fallacious paradigm is that it minimizes the common good, that is, “living well”, a “good life” in the community framework, and exalts the selfish ideal that deceptively proposes a “beautiful life”.

    If individualism affirms that it is only the individual who gives value to things and interpersonal relationships, and so it is only the individual who decides what is good and what is bad, then libertarianism, today in fashion, preaches that to establish freedom and individual responsibility, it is necessary to resort to the idea of “self-causation”. Thus libertarian individualism denies the validity of the common good because on the one hand it supposes that the very idea of “common” implies the constriction of at least some individuals, and the other that the notion of “good” deprives freedom of its essence.

    The radicalization of individualism in libertarian and therefore anti-social terms leads to the conclusion that everyone has the “right” to expand as far as his power allows, even at the expense of the exclusion and marginalization of the most vulnerable majority. Bonds would have to be cut inasmuch as they would limit freedom. By mistakenly matching the concept of “bond” to that of “constraint”, one ends up confusing what may condition freedom – the constraints – with the essence of created freedom, that is, bonds or relations, family and interpersonal, with the excluded and marginalized, with the common good, and finally with God.

    The fifteenth century was the first century of humanism; at the beginning of the twenty-first century, the need for a new humanism is felt ever more strongly. The transition from feudalism to modern society was the decisive engine of change; today, there is an equally radical transition from modern to postmodern society. The endemic increase in social inequalities, migration, identity conflicts, new slavery, environmental issues, and bio-political and bio-legal problems are just some of the issues that trouble us today. Faced with such challenges, the mere upgrading of old categories of thought or the use of sophisticated collective decision-making techniques is not enough; we need to attempt new roads inspired by Christ's message...

    What is most disturbing today is the exclusion and marginalization of the majority from equitable participation in nationwide and planetary distribution of both market and non-market assets such as dignity, freedom, knowledge, belonging, integration, and peace. In that respect, what makes people suffer the most and leads to the rebellion of citizens is the contrast between the theoretical attribution of equal rights for all and the unequal distribution of goods for most people. Although we live in a world where wealth abounds, many people are still victims of poverty and social exclusion. Inequalities – along with wars for dominance, and climate change – are the causes of the greatest forced migration in history, affecting over 65 million human beings. Think too of the growing drama of new slavery, in the forms of forced labour, prostitution, and organ trafficking, which are true crimes against humanity.

    It is alarming and symptomatic that today the human body is bought and sold, as if it were a commodity for exchange. Almost one hundred years ago, Pius XI envisaged the affirmation of these inequalities and iniquities as the consequence of a global economic dictatorship that he called the “international imperialism” of money (Encyclical Quadragesimo anno, 15 May 1931, 109). And it was Paul VI who denounced, almost fifty years later, the “new and abusive form of economic domination on the social, cultural and even political level”. (Octogesima adveniens, 14 May, 1971, 44). The point is that a participatory society can not settle for the objective of pure solidarity and assistentialism, since a society that was characterised only by solidarity and assistance, without being fraternal, would be a society of unhappy and desperate people from whom everybody would try to flee, in extreme cases even by suicide.

    A society in which the true fraternity dissolves is not capable of having a future; a society in which only “giving in order to have” or the “giving out of duty” exist, is not capable of progressing. That is why neither the liberal-individualist vision of the world, in which everything (or almost) is an exchange, nor the state-centric vision of society, in which everything (or almost) is a duty, are safe guides for overcoming inequality, inequity and exclusion that now overwhelm our societies. It is a search for a way out of the suffocating alternative between the neoliberal thesis and that neo-state-centric thesis. Indeed, precisely because market activity and the manipulation of nature – both driven by egoism, greed, materialism and unfair competition – at times know no limits, it is urgent to act on the causes of such malfunctions, especially in the financial field, rather than just correcting the effects.

    I couldn't really put it more elegantly than that!
     
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  8. Valjean

    Valjean Veteran Member
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    Yes, in essence, Jesus was a socialist Hippie.
     
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  9. Vouthon

    Vouthon In varietate concordia
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    Well, his early movement did abolish private ownership and practised a communalization of goods and when this is taken into consideration alongside his open condemnation of personal wealth and tyrannical power structures, in tandem with his counsel that one should sell everything one owns and follow him, I think that's a fair claim to make (although perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the socialists and hippies followed in Jesus's footsteps given that he predated these social movements by nearly 2,000 years).

    The popular Eastern Orthodox scholar and philosopher David Bentley Hart had to directly grapple with the implications of this when Yale University asked him to translate the New Testament for a new edition (published earlier this year to much acclaim).

    See:

    Opinion | Are Christians Supposed to Be Communists?

    The early church’s radicalism, if that is the right word, was impressed upon me repeatedly over the past few years, as I worked on my own translation of the New Testament for Yale University Press.

    It was in 1983 that I heard the distinguished Greek Orthodox historian Aristeides Papadakis casually remark in a lecture at the University of Maryland that the earliest Christians were “communists.” In those days, the Cold War was still casting its great glacial shadow across the cultural landscape, and so enough of a murmur of consternation rippled through the room that Professor Papadakis — who always spoke with severe precision — felt obliged to explain that he meant this in the barest technical sense: They lived a common life and voluntarily enjoyed a community of possessions. The murmur subsided, though not necessarily the disquiet.

    Not that anyone should have been surprised. If the communism of the apostolic church is a secret, it is a startlingly open one. Vaguer terms like “communalist” or “communitarian” might make the facts sound more palatable but cannot change them. The New Testament’s Book of Acts tells us that in Jerusalem the first converts to the proclamation of the risen Christ affirmed their new faith by living in a single dwelling, selling their fixed holdings, redistributing their wealth “as each needed” and owning all possessions communally. This was, after all, a pattern Jesus himself had established: “Each of you who does not give up all he possesses is incapable of being my disciple” (Luke 14:33).

    This was always something of a scandal for the Christians of later ages, at least those who bothered to notice it. And today in America, with its bizarre piety of free enterprise and private wealth, it is almost unimaginable that anyone would adopt so seditious an attitude...

    The New Testament’s condemnations of personal wealth are fairly unremitting and remarkably stark: Matthew 6:19-20, for instance (“Do not store up treasures for yourself on the earth”), or Luke 6:24-25 (“But alas for you who are rich, for you have your comfort”) or James 5:1-6 (“Come now, you who are rich, weep, howling out at the miseries that are coming for you”). While there are always clergy members and theologians swift to assure us that the New Testament condemns not wealth but its abuse, not a single verse (unless subjected to absurdly forced readings) confirms the claim.

    Well into the second century, the pagan satirist Lucian of Samosata reported that Christians viewed possessions with contempt and owned all property communally. And the Christian writers of Lucian’s day largely confirm that picture: Justin Martyr, Tertullian and the anonymous treatise known as the Didache all claim that Christians must own everything in common, renounce private property and give their wealth to the poor. Even Clement of Alexandria, the first significant theologian to argue that the wealthy could be saved if they cultivated “spiritual poverty,” still insisted that ideally all goods should be held in common.


    As late as the fourth and fifth centuries, bishops and theologians as eminent as Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, Ambrose of Milan, Augustine and Cyril of Alexandria felt free to denounce private wealth as a form of theft and stored riches as plunder seized from the poor. The great John Chrysostom frequently issued pronouncements on wealth and poverty that make Karl Marx and Mikhail Bakunin sound like timid conservatives. According to him, there is but one human estate, belonging to all, and those who keep any more of it for themselves than barest necessity dictates are brigands and apostates from the true Christian enterprise of charity. And he said much of this while installed as Archbishop of Constantinople.
     
    #9 Vouthon, Jun 4, 2018
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2018
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  10. sealchan

    sealchan Well-Known Member

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    People should have the freedom to "automate" certain collectively approved of processes (government/bureaucracy) or to assign to a specialist (representative) the role of problem solving collections of such automated social processes. Of course, this introduces new problems but, hopefully, in time, we will optimize such things in a way that is fair and balanced.

    To allow an individual with sufficient personal interest insight into how his or her complex society operates it is necessary to have order. In order to make it flexible it needs to admit some level of disorder. A slightly messy, but not too messy, governmental order is about the right balance of personal liberty and collective responsibility. Having overlapping powers and processes allows things people think are important but controversial from causing severe swings in policy. When everyone agrees things get done.

    A good story gets everyone motivated, but stories have half-lives and untruths. Who has the time to master the whole governmental process? Rather we steer based on stories and individual time and interests. Over-steering is avoided by the messiness and inefficiency of automated processes.

    Messy, but not too messy...ordered, but not too ordered...that's what keeps democracy operating in fertile soil. That's what keeps us oscillating between red and blue every four to eight years or so. Its a purple world after all...
     
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