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This Month's Scripture Verse:

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
2 Timothy 3:1-5


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Comments Which Conservatives Block From Their Blogs For May 14, 2014

May 7

To Greg Forster and his blogpost on hating the Bourgeoisie. This appeared on the First Things blog.

What is the point of creating a buffer class? Is it so that one class can continue to live in an economic apartheid of his/her own choosing while the other is forced to sing, "Que sera, sera"? This only transfers to the wealthy and the poor what has been true about the powerful and the weak: That one does as they wish while the other endures what they must.

If we know that human nature, which includes all people, has a problem with greed, then should we have adopted an economic system that encourages greed because it claims to have the tools to make the necessary corrections for its abuse? For this is how the free market is sold. Since the market is self-correcting, then one can indulge in self-interest without any worry or pangs of conscience. And what becomes true of the market is what Marx observed about the Bourgeoisie, that all human connections become based in "naked self-interest." And when all 3 classes become infected with this ethic, then instead of 2 classes at war with each other, we have 3.

We should also note the psychological problem that comes with reducing all interest to self-interest. The problem is that we end up with a reduced thinking capacity because we can only exercise 2-dimensional,  all-or-nothing thinking. In contrast, the more we have to consider the interests and welfare of others, the more complex, and thus expanded, our thinking becomes.

So again, if greed is a problem, is it logical to cleave to a system that tells its participants to embrace greed because it has the capacity to make the necessary corrections? Or will such a system only increase the greed in all existing classes?

One other point, doesn't our current system place a higher value on wealth than work? That is that work is the price of admission to gaining wealth but once one has paid the price, one can live off the work of others and thus we have the rich shareholders. And one of the perks of being that rich is that one can be represented by purchased lawmakers whose legislation creates an economic apartheid.

I don't see how the existence of the middle class can mediate between the classes with the above mentioned values. Rather, the solution is to have an economic rights movement much like we saw in the  Civil Rights movement. Such a movement would constantly invite those who oppress to join the oppressed but until that time comes, controls from our Democracy could be used to prevent the spirit of gradualism from preventing any change at all. And one of the tasks of this economic rights movement would be to usher in a different economic system that does not sell us a bill of goods regarding greed.


May 8

To Dale Coulter and his blogpost on the bourgeois which followed up on Forster's blogpost. This appeared in the First Things blog.

First, like Socialism, Capitalism cannot be spoken of as a monolith. From after WWII to the mid seventies, we saw the Bretton-Woods system which allowed countries to control currency and flow of capital. After that time, we saw neoliberal Capitalism gradually come into play where businesses sought freedom from the chains of social responsibilities and more latitude with less gov't oversight over how they conducted their affairs. In addition, neoliberal capitalism saw the end of countries having control over their currency and the flow of capital. In both periods, you saw certain players from the private sector benefit from State Capitalism--that is where businesses were either kept alive or thrived due to gov't contracts or the results of gov't research such as in the hi-tech industry.

We should note that in the current state-capitalism arrangement, many corporations are using gov't assistance programs to subsidize their payrolls while trying to avoid paying taxes. In addition, state-capitalism as seen in the military industrial complex but also in pharmaceutical companies and gov't health programs to ensure an adequate customer base with profitable prices and are facilitating a transfer of wealth from the public sector to the private sector. This was also seen in the bailout programs for financial institutions  that fraudulently sold defective financial products and then got very low interest loans to recover from the failure of their activities. BTW, the private sector made sure that the gov't didn't significantly change the rules of the game that would enable another collapse.

And so what should we make of the sentence, "Capitalism, at its best, unleashes the creative impulse commensurate with human freedom" when the private sector elites are so dependent on the gov't for their success in the first place? In addition, the freedom spoken of here is individual freedom, the kind of freedom that allows the individual to excel but sometimes at the expense of one or more communities. We should note that not only do we have individual liberty to maintain, we have corporate (nonbusiness) liberty, which is demonstrated in a democratic society, to maintain. The latter allows society to determine how we will live with each other. Understanding that there is an inverse relationship betweenindividual liberty and   corporate (nonbusiness) liberty, we should seek a balance between the two but that is precisely what is being prohibited by today's neoliberal Capitalism. For its adherents cry tyranny and ask where is individual liberty should Society use democracy to place limits what the individual business, corporation, or financial institution can do.

So where is the middle class person who mediates between the upper class bourgeoisie and the poor? Is he/she there to make life endurable for the poor while the rich find their own Galt's Gulch? What the middle class is being told is to support the rich in their attempts to free themselves from whatever social responsibilities they have left because their battle is also the battle of the Middle Class. At the same time, the  Middle Class is suffering because of this increased individual liberty for the rich. First, the Middle Class jobs are disappearing either because the jobs vanish or the pay does. Second, the tax burden is being shifted from corporations and the rich to the Middle Class--please remember the French Revolution here. This results in less public services for the Middle Class as well as a crumbling infrastructure. It also causes some in the Middle Class to treat the poor the way that the rich have treated them. Third, demands by the rich limit how some in the Middle Class do their jobs. For example, some franchise owners are being squeezed by the demands that corporate shareholders place on them through their representatives.

Finally, what is meant by the term "free markets?" What is meant is that big businesses have more latitude and less social responsibilities in how they conduct business. And sometimes, free markets are forced on nations by those who have developed their own comparative advantage.

I don't believe in denouncing anyone because we all have faults. But we need to take an honest look at the system in which we live and hail as being free and the producer of wealth. And if the above does not make us question our current system, our growing wealth disparity and the immunity to criminal charges enjoyed by private sector elites should.


May 10

To Frank's comment on a blogpost commemorating Churchill's announcement about the end of the war in Europe. His comment asked where certain qualities like patriotism, leadership, civilization, and resolve were. This appeared on the Heidelblog.

    Sometimes leadership is nothing more than authoritarianism, patriotism becomes tribalism, and civilization glorifies privilege while hiding exploitation. So what does resolve become when any of those three are true?

    To give an example, after we fought so hard and lost so much to free Europe, we helped the French as they tried to recolonize Vietnam.


To Sarah Stanley and her blogpost against government expansion. This appeared on the Acton blog.

What the Conservatives often miss about State power is this, it is not the only issue. What is another just as important issue is the degree of citizen participation in the state. For as long as I lived, what Americans want is a laissez-faire relationship with the government. They want to elect officials every x number of years and then be able to go on with their lives without having to think about or have to petition their government for anything. If the government demanded citizen attention outside of the elections, then it was because it had misbehaved. I should note that such a view shows that I grew up in the midst of Middle Class privilege.

But the tradeoff we experience on such a laissez-faire relationship with government is that government is viewed more as alien entity. Such is not a government of the people but a government of a necessary evil.

The trouble with such a view of government is that is ignorant of others, particularly those with or who are seeking wealth, who know what a valuable resource government can be in helping them gain wealth and power. The conservative response to this is to limit the size of government so as to control the damage it can cause. But those with wealth know that they can also gain power in the face of an impotent government, which can be characteristic of small government, as much as they can when government is big enough to be a resource. And this is what the conservative approach to limiting government in the name of freedom never addresses.

In any form of democracy, we have two kinds of liberties: individual and corporate or societal. The former concerns what we can do as individuals and the latter is concerned with how we as a society wish to live with each other. Since there is an inverse relationship between these two kinds of liberty, we need to hold them in balance. What Conservatives fail to realize is that the more we take an all-or-nothing approach to individual liberty, the more we court tyranny. The more we stress individual liberty, the more we limit corporate liberty which democracy enables. The more we limit democracy, the more we empower elites whose concern is to either maintain or improve their current status. Thus, without a proper balance between individual and corporate liberty, we court tyranny--and there goes your liberty.

What enables corporate liberty is citizen participation in the government. Such participation prevents government from becoming an alien power. And without that participation, the more those who financially excel in society will have opportunity to limit our freedom if the government doesn't. So it isn't government expansion that is the only issue.


May 13

To Jonathan Witt and his blogpost on Tolkien and war. This appeared on the Acton blog.

What we should note here is that according to the Just War Theory, we might not have gotten involved in some of the post WW II intervention that we did. Why? The civilian casualty rate. That Cuban civilians were targeted by the US right after the revolution and up to the Bay of Pigs.  That civilian casualties soared during Vietnam and why not with how we conducted bombings. Civilians again became targets by the people we sponsored in Central America during the 80s as was the case in Afghanistan. And what about the civilian casualties from our two wars with Iraq. The first was caused by the combination of the aftermath of attacks on the infrastructure along with sanctions, and the second because that is where the fight was. And before closing the book on Iraq, we should remember that we supported and armed the leader we eventually fought.  If we went by the Just War Theory, would we have done much of what we did since WWII especially with the motivations we acted on?

We might also want to note how the Just War Theory was written before the development of WMDs. And even before proliferation became a foreseeable inevitability, the Russell-Einstein Manifesto told us that, without a doubt, we had to choose between war and existence. And now that proliferation is an inevitability, how much more true is that choice today?

Most wars are fought for avarice and ambition, something patriotism blinds from seeing when looking in the mirror. So perhaps that song War, What Is It Good For  has a message we need to hear more than reading Tolkien.

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