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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Comments Which Conservatives Block From Their Blogs For June 15, 2016

June 5

To Bradly Birzer and his blogpost that cites a work by a James Otteson and Thomas Smith which declares the end of Socialism and how Socialism can never work. This appeared in the Imaginative Conservative blog.

While Professor Otteson would like to pronounce the end of socialism and condemn it at the same time, the trouble that exists in this article is defining socialism. For the definition given here is not very precise or accurate. It is defined by example as well as the notion of centralized control. 

The problem with the definition is that examples such as the Paris Commune, the Spanish Revolution, and Nicaragua are not at all represented by the examples given nor is a form of Socialism called Libertarian Socialism represented by either the definition of central control or the examples given. Libertarian Socialism actually oppose the existence of the state. But Otteson insists on equating the models provided by people like Lenin-Stalin, Mao, Castro, and the rulers from North Korea with Socialism. However, not all Socialists would agree that these examples were examples of Socialism. As Chomsky pointed out, that both the West and the Soviet Union wanted to call what was practiced there Socialism was motivated by two different reasons and both were wrong. The reason why Chomsky saw the Socialism label as being wrong was because the necessary ingredient to Socialism from the Marxist tradition, the proletariat dictatorship, was missing. In fact, at a session on Stalin presented at the Left Forum this year, I challenged the leaders of the session on this point. I asked about the breakdown of the central committees that existed during the times of Lenin and Stalin. And the response was to note that Lenin was not even a worker, he was petty bourgeoisie. And thus they could not show that workers were in control of these governments.

To make a long story short, Marxist Socialism does not equal centralized government. Centralize governments that were run by elites is what the Socialist and contemporary of Lenin, Rosa Luxemberg called a bourgeois dictatorship. Why is Marxist Socialism not a part of such an organization? It is because workers are not in charge. And if the workers are not the ones with power, it is not Socialism from the Marxist tradition. 

If the workers were in charge, they would rule by a partial democracy consisting of workers. Though the exclusion of the bourgeoisie from this democratic form of governing is the weakness I see in Marxist Socialism, we are not talking about weaknesses, we are talking about definitions. Thus, only the Paris Commune and the Spanish Revolution serve as examples where workers had the political power. Nicaragua would be more socialist leaning, but it deserves mention because, despite the terrorist war the US supported against the Sandinistas, Nicaragua not only provided programs to help with the various needs of the people, it relied on democratic procedures for determining its leadership as evidenced by the fact that the Sandinistas have been voted both out of power and then into power.

Though while employing a continuum between Socialism and Capitalism as evidenced by the concepts of Socialist-inclined and Capitalist-inclined are strong positive contributions made by the writers Birzer is relying on; in the end, this blogpost is simply another attempt to scare people out of an honest look at Socialism and it employs an imprecise and faulty definition of Socialism to accomplish that task. In addition, what is never mentioned here are the governments that either Socialism replaced in the places used by Birzer or the governments installed by US interventions to replace elected Socialist-inclined governments in places not mentioned here. For these were dictatorships in the vast majority of cases. And for its interventionists efforts, what the US has become is a centralized planning committee for much of the world. In other words, by Birzer's working definition of Socialism, the US has run much of the world employing Socialism

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June 7 

To Tim Keller and the Gospel Coalition Staff as their blogpost consists of a podcast discussion on revival. This appeared in the Gospel Coalition website.

Praying for revival and praying for others to believe can be two different things The former could be a sign of being insular and waiting for God to prove we are right. Praying for the latter shows an interest in another person. I think revival has become a combination of both our Godot and the Holy Grail that keep us distracted from some important issues that are being ignored.

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To Joseph Pearce and his blogpost on multiculturalism and what makes for creating a successful melting pot of people and cultures. This appeared in the Imaginative Conservative blog

We should note here that some of the melting pots celebrated in the article above came into existence through the rule of force. Does such suggest that we adopt an ends justify the means ethic or some form of moral relativity? In addition, it isn't as if Europe and America are the only melting pots in the world, global capitalism itself is creating some melting pots in other areas of this world and perhaps some of the refusal of some Muslims to fit in here in the West has to do with what is being forced on them in their own homelands.

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The official status of the comment below has been changed from awaiting moderation to published.

June 9

To Thomas Kidd and his blogpost that defended the Declaration Of Independence from accusations of being systematically racist. This appeared in the Gospel Coalition website.

Was the Declaration systematically racist? With race not being a key issue, I think that the sparse comment about Native Americans and Blacks slaves indicates that it was a racist document. But more important than to question the Declaration is to question our Founding Fathers. For when we see how our founding documents were implemented, we have ample evidence that the nation they had created was not only racist, it was sexist and based on economic class. 

As for the Declaration being sexist, we should note that not only did Jefferson say that all men were created equal, a woman's right to vote didn't come until well over 100 years later. In fact, women still feel the sting of sexism in society.

As for racism, we only need to note the emerging British attitudes on slave trading at the time and question whether the Founding Fathers thought that continued allegiance to Great Britain would threaten our nation's use of slaves in the future. Perhaps this was a contributing factor to our declaring independence and the fighting of the Revolutionary War. We should also note that during that time, the predominant view was that Blacks were not viewed as being equal to Whites. That belief even carried through to some who opposed slavery during Lincoln's time.

We should also note that economic classism played a significant part in the founding of our nation. Though not apparent in documents like The Declaration Of Independence, we should note that The Constitution was written in response to widespread dissent and Shays Rebellion. It was written to give the Federal government power to put down such insurrections--the latter point is evident in The Constitution's references to the militia. So while the Declaration of Independence was written in protest of the actions of British elites, The Constitution was written in order to maintain the status quo for the American elites who replaced them.

We should also note the awareness of class distinctions discussed during the Constitutional Debates (see http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/yates.asp ) and we note how Charles Pinckney listed  3 economic classes of the time--Professional men, Commercial men, and the Landed Interest--and how the first two classes must forever depend on the last class while saying how these classes should not be able to infringe on the rights of the other classes. Here, research is needed to determine the definition of those classes especially since  many people were not included in that list as evident from Federalist #10 (http://www.constitution.org/fed/federa10.htm ). Or perhaps we should quote James Madison while expressing his fears that Great Britain might open their elections to all classes of people (see http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/yates.asp ):


In England, at this day, if elections were open to all classes of people, the property of the landed proprietors would be insecure. An agrarian law would soon take place. If these observations be jsut, our government ought to secure the permanent interests of the country against innovation. Landholders ought to have a share in the government, to support these invaluable interests, and to balance and check the other. They ought to be so constituted as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority. 

Here we should note that around 5% of Americans could vote when The Constitution was ratified and that was based on class. We should also note that what was called innovation were the demands of those from the lower economic classes.

Despite the talk of equality by our Founding Fathers, it was never intended to apply to all whether that all was based on gender, race, or class. That we have started to approach equality for all is due to people demanding it;  it is due to activism. And it is only with this understanding, rather than romantic views of both our Founding Fathers and Documents which would place both on pedestals, that we could properly interpret both and then go beyond what they said to  accomplish what is just.

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June 10

To Joe Carter and his blogpost on what Christians should know about Crony Capitalism. This appeared in the Acton Blog.

Though I agree with Carter in that we should reject crony capitalism and that such has been going on for a while, his criticism is wanting because it is overly simplistic. It is overly simplistic because it looks at this form of Capitalism from a limited perspective: the view of the consumer. And while mentioning the producer, the seller, and the buyer, what is missing are the other stakeholders in the Capitalist venture. Those other stakeholders include the workers, the community in which a business is located, the environment, and vendors to the business. Thus, to solely focus on what happens to the consumer when crony capitalism is practiced forgets these other stakeholders. And because these other stakeholders are forgotten, they are more vulnerable to being exploited. And such exploitation can happen even when it provides the lowest prices for the consumer.

There are other names for crony capitalism. One such name state capitalism. In state capitalism, the state ensures the survival or even the prosperity of a business by becoming a valued customer and thus a valued consumer. The Defense Industry, for example showers its blessing on many kinds of businesses from those that expand technology to business that produce means of transportation to the arms industry to those businesses that provide basic goods and services to our troops. 

In addition, to state capitalism, there are many times when foreign policies are pursued that protect business interests ahead of the rights of the people of a given nation. So, when we orchestrated a coup in Chile (1973) to prevent the democratically elected government from nationalizing communications, our policies helped ITT. When we jointly orchestrated a coup in Iran (1953), we not only helped our oil companies, we helped our arms manufacturers because Iran, under the Shah, bought weapons from us. When we orchestrated a coup in Guatemala (1954), it was done to protect the interests of United Fruit. That is just a small sample of over 50 interventions we have practiced since WW II. We should note all of the ways that crony capitalism paid off for businesses during the Iraq invasion of 2003. And one only needs to look at the pre WWII interventions described by former Marine Corp Major General Smedley Butler to see how they were used to benefit banks, the oil industry, and other businesses. 

See, crony capitalism has been a way of life for us at least since the 20th century if not earlier. And all incidents of crony capitalism, both the ones listed here and the ones not mentioned lead us to ask this question: Can we have Capitalism without Crony Capitalism?

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To Anthony Bradley and his blogpost on how the funding of our justice system is hurting the poor. This appeared in the Acton blog.

Anthony Bradley brings up an important issue about the cost of justice in society. But we shouldn't be surprised because many of those who benefit the most from society, private sector elites, find more and more ways, many times with the cooperation of elected officials, to reduce or even avoid contributing to the society, through the paying of taxes, from which they benefit and could not exist without. If we are really concerned and interested in stopping the problems that come from how justice is funded, then private sector elites must step up to the plate and contribute their fair share in taxes.

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To Joe Carter and his blogpost containing a video tape comparison of Milton Friedman’s statements with those of Bernie Sanders. This appeared on the Acton Blog.

So according to Friedman, Roosevelt's economic initiatives didn't help the nation back then? And would Friedman celebrate the greed-based speculative economic system that led to both the stock market crash of 1929 and the economic collapse of 2008? After all, wasn't it people acting out of their own self-interest that led to both economic crises?

And what does Russia and China have to do with Sanders' Democratic Socialism when we know that Sanders is basically an FDR New Dealer?

And has Friedman ever looked at the Paris Commune or the Spanish Revolution? After all, in neither of those cases did we have either Capitalism or a dictator. Or should we examine how his economic theories were installed in Chile or Argentina where a military coup and dictatorship paved the way for the implementation of his economic theories? How much freedom does a military dictator allow?

This post is so overly simplistic  and ill-fitting in its comparisons of Friedman to Sanders that it misrepresents both people. Friedman warned that that a market participant could get so big as to disrupt the Free Market. And isn't that what happened in the economic crisis of 2008? And Friedman explicitly stated that it is the government's job to prevent the players of the market from gaining such an advantage. And as said before, Sanders is an FDR New Dealer. That makes Friedman's references to Russia and China inappropriate when describing Sanders' views.

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June 11

To Suzanne Sherman and her blogpost that laments how revisionist history has dominated the telling of our founding fathers at the historical sites of their homes. This appeared in the Imaginative Conservative blog.

People's political values and beliefs are not just made evident by their words, but they are also demonstrated by their actions. And if the focus on the slave owning penchant of our founding fathers seems to be revisionist history to Sherman, we should note that the validity of history revisionism depends on the quality of the original accounts of history. And with what Conservatives consider to be the original accounts, at least some revisionism is in order. And perhaps Conservatives might consider the writings of Frederick Douglas on slavery to be revisionism as well (for example see http://www.masshumanities.org/files/programs/douglass/speech_abridged_med.pdf ).

What seems to be the problem experienced by the writer of the above article is that the pedestal many of us put the founding fathers on is not merited by the accounts of how they treated people from other groups, such as from other races. For the treatment of nonWhites by our founding fathers should be cause for national shame rather than something that can be glossed over while we gush over their political ideas where the beneficiaries of those ideas depended on the race and even class of the person back then. In fact, this is still the case.

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To Joe Carter and his blogpost about the Church of England’s assessment of Margaret Thatcher’s Christian faith. This appeared on Acton’s blog.

Here, we might want to ask if Thatcher's support for Pinochet was also guided by her Christian faith. Or we could ask what part of her Christian faith told her to denationalize certain British industries and to attack unions. Or, returning to the subject of Pinochet, we could ask what part of her Christian faith led her to embrace the kind of Neoliberal Capitalism that Pinochet first installed in Chile when he was ushered into power through a military coup. See, it just wasn't provisions that she objected to. it was a more democratic society she guided the nation away from. Because that is what she did when she embraced Neoliberal Capitalism. For this kind of Capitalism relieves private elites from more and more of their social responsibilities. The result is that there is greater consolidation of wealth and power into the hands of private sector elites. Here we should compare the degree of democracy the British now enjoy vs the degree of democracy they experienced before Thatcher came into power.

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June 13

To Bruce Frohnen and his blogpost on the West’s War on the family.This appeared in the Imaginative Conservative blog.

It would be interesting to see who is at war against whom here: Is Christianity at war against Western society and culture or is it the West at war against Christianity and the family?. For I don't remember our society and its culture forcing Christians to do anything outside of their Christian values while I see some Christians trying to force unbelievers in society to try to adhere to Christian values. And outside of the abortion issue, there is no compelling reason for Christians to press for laws to ensure that nonChristians adhere to Christian values. Thus, wouldn't it make sense to answer the question of who is at war with whom by examining who is trying to use laws to force the other to comply?

But I guess in an age of victimization, the mere presence of counterexamples to Frohnen's  model of the family with its male and female roles could be considered to be a firing of shots of sort. But doesn't that tell us something about the degree of control Frohnen expects Christianity to have over society?

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June 14

To R. Scott Clark and his blogpost interview of Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse on what government is and how it should function. This appeared in Heidelblog.

I listened carefully to the interview between R. Scott Clark and Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse and this is what I came up with. There seems to be a lack of awareness of the ease in which we can easily call the ways we grew up or live in exceptional or special. The references to the desire to return to what is Tocquevillian along with claiming that the job of gov't is to provide an environment so that we can live while focusing on what is going on in our local communities are such examples. We should note that when Tocqueville is mentioned by conservatives, it done uncritically. There is no mention of Tocqueville's, what would now be considered to be, racist views toward Blacks and Native Americans. Likewise, there is no mention of why Tocqueville regarded British society as the most superior society in the world. Nor is there mention of how society and our nation's economic system has changed since Tocqueville's time. All there was were positive comments on Tocqueville and how he saw the dynamism of American society and its economic system.

But in the glowing comments of the past, which those in rural states would naturally relate better to than those from more urban settings, one of the main factor's for America's economic dynamism was the use of exploitation of people. One of the reasons why America grew was because it ethnically cleansed the land of Native Americans. Another reason why America grew was because of our use of slavery and child labor. We should note that in 1820, over half of factory were children under 10 (see https://www.apstudynotes.org/us-history/topics/a-growing-national-economy/  ). These workers were often abused. And children were not the only ones who were exploited for their labor. Of course, what enabled this exploitation of people by business is the emphasis on individualism and a disdain for government interference. We see a continuance of worker exploitation today only the means of exploiting workers have changed some.

Something else we should note about the interview is this: the conservative view of government as expressed by Sasse is that government is almost considered to be a foreign entity to its people rather than an instrument of self-rule. Thus, not only is there a certain detachment between government and its people, so that the people can be free, government should be limited to certain duties such as protecting the people from foreign enemies. At the same time, government should take special care not to infringe on personal freedoms of individuals and business owners and this is one of the reasons why Sasse opposes raising of the minimum wage and makes a disparaging remark about the EPA.

Here we should note that such a conservative view of government plays well in midwestern states like Nebraska and thus we have another example of seeing the settings in which one grew up to be exceptional. For both Clark and Sasse are from Nebraska. But in discussing the minimum wage issue, what is neglected is the fact that many businesses use government assistance programs to subsidize their payrolls. How this works is that because many of the wages, such as minimum wage, are too low to live on, workers must apply for government assistance to survive. In fact, there is a significant number of full-time workers who, because of their income, are homeless. Of course, conservatives like Clark and Sasse wouldn't want this foreign entity called government to infringe on the individual rights of employers to pay their workers as they deem fit. However, such an approach to the individual rights of employers helps continue the dependence on exploitation our economic system maintains.

Thought there should be limits on government actions in society, if we viewed government as an instrument of self-rule, government would speak for the people in determining how we will live with each other. This puts a different perspective on how much government should intervene in the society of people who it represents.

Other things could be said, but to stop here allows one to connect the historical dots between where we are today and the past. The views expressed by Clark and Sasse, since they are both religiously conservative Christians, makes the Conservative Church a supporter of wealth and power over the individual. Clark and Sasse would disagree here but only because both associate power with government authority. But those who have studied or worked in the business world know that power and authority are not the same. Now this support of wealth and power by American Conservative Christianity has historical parallels in the times leading up to the French, Russian, and Spanish Revolutions where the Church, in each of those cases, stood with wealth and power. And during and in the aftermaths of those revolutions saw a persecution of the Church and a dishonoring of the Gospel. And the question becomes for us religiously conservative Christians, are we contributing to the present and future dishonoring of the Gospel by political positions that support wealth and power?






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