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Einstein, the Dangers of Pure Capitalism, and “Goldilocks Freedom”

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Socialism – the mere mention of the word brings fear and loathing to conservatives all across America. When we were young, we all just knew that there’s no such thing as individualism and constitutional rights in a socialist country – and all the proof we needed was the Soviet Union a.k.a. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. But what is socialism? Here’s one definition:

Socialism is an economic and political theory advocating public or common ownership and cooperative management of the means of production and allocation of resources. A socialist society is organized on the basis of relatively equal power-relations, self-management, dispersed decision-making (adhocracy) and a reduction or elimination of hierarchical and bureaucratic forms of administration and governance; the extent of which varies in different types of socialism. This ranges from the establishment of cooperative management structures to the abolition of all hierarchical structures in favor of free association.

Now most of us who were raised in capitalist democracies are aware that such political structures – like true communism, true anarchism, and true libertarianism – sound nice in theory, but are simply unworkable on a macroscopic scale. Why are these political philosophies, these ‘isms’ doomed to fail? Because in order for society to function under such regimes, the great majority of people must be like-minded. The populace must by and large be okay with everyone having a say in such ‘dispersed decision-making’, with management and leadership being minimized or eliminated altogether. The problem with this is that (1) society as a whole is suddenly run by committee, and (2) the leadership positions that remain will then expand to fill the power vacuum left by the departure of the other management.

In other words, due to the fact that humans tend to either lead or follow, any political structure that by design leaves a leadership power vacuum will lead unerringly to dictatorship. This is true not only of pure socialism, but also of pure forms of communism, anarchism, and libertarianism.

But does that mean that pure capitalism is the best and most effective solution for society? It turns out that Albert Einstein had some very interesting, indeed, even prophetic warnings about ‘pure’ capitalism. Now some might question his wherewithal to speak on any subject other than high-energy physics, but I strongly feel it would be a great error to ignore his opinion. Why? Because those of high intelligence are not limited to one interest or field of study. Here is what Einstein had to say about capitalism:

Private capital tends to become concentrated in few hands, partly because of competition among the capitalists, and partly because technological development and the increasing division of labor encourage the formation of larger units of production at the expense of the smaller ones. The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights.

 

Einstein goes on to note where this would ultimately lead:

Production is carried on for profit, not for use. There is no provision that all those able and willing to work will always be in a position to find employment; an “army of unemployed” almost always exists. The worker is constantly in fear of losing his job. Since unemployed and poorly paid workers do not provide a profitable market, the production of consumers’ goods is restricted, and great hardship is the consequence. Technological progress frequently results in more unemployment rather than in an easing of the burden of work for all. The profit motive, in conjunction with competition among capitalists, is responsible for an instability in the accumulation and utilization of capital which leads to increasingly severe depressions. Unlimited competition leads to a huge waste of labor, and to that crippling of the social consciousness of individuals which I mentioned before.

This crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career.

Is this not precisely what has happened over the past thirty years of ‘trickle-down economics’? But genius though he certainly was, Einstein was not infallible, for I suspect every reader here on BC can see the errors inherent in his proposed solution:

I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals. In such an economy, the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilized in a planned fashion. A planned economy, which adjusts production to the needs of the community, would distribute the work to be done among all those able to work and would guarantee a livelihood to every man, woman, and child.

Indeed, Einstein himself sees the danger inherent in his proposal:

A planned economy as such may be accompanied by the complete enslavement of the individual. The achievement of socialism requires the solution of some extremely difficult socio-political problems: how is it possible, in view of the far-reaching centralization of political and economic power, to prevent bureaucracy from becoming all-powerful and overweening? How can the rights of the individual be protected and therewith a democratic counterweight to the power of bureaucracy be assured?

Is this ‘enslavement of the individual’ not the same danger of socialism rightly warned against by conservatives? Yes, it is.

So what’s the solution? How can we achieve the profitability demanded by the immutable laws of the marketplace, of supply and demand, while still preserving the social justice and the social safety net that enables a high standard of living even by those in low income brackets? I presented the solution a few days after the last presidential election: Goldilocks freedom. Not too much freedom and deregulation, nor too little. Moderation in all things…even with individual freedoms. We need to ensure proper and pragmatic governance and regulation. We must resist depending upon the old saw that the government that governs least, governs best…the error of which should be evident in the everyday function of any region that has no functioning government.

As Einstein so eloquently illustrated, pure capitalism will unerringly lead to an oligarchy that is disastrous for the populace…but he was wrong about the necessity of the wholehearted embrace of socialism. We need to accept the most beneficial tenets of capitalism and combine these with those facets of social democracy that ensure the rights of the people are protected. I strongly feel that the resulting combination – Social Capitalism based on the framework of a small-d democracy – is the most realistic and most effective form of human governance. This is what most of the British Commonwealth and Western Europe have now…and this is why, despite the overwhelming size of our economy – our GDP is greater than China, Japan, and Germany combinedAmerica does not have the best standard of living in the world today.

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About Glenn Contrarian

White. Male. Raised in the deepest of the Deep South. Retired Navy. Strong Christian. Proud Liberal. Thus, Contrarian!
  • Doug Hunter

    Alot of time spent is arguing over the proper mix, thanks for at least admitting there is another side to the coin. ‘Pure’ socialism, or at least leaders under it’s guises, can lead to dictatorship, see Libya, Venezuela, etc.

    People pick sides based on what is comfortable for them, all the very important aspects of the ‘safety net’ that you hold dear have never really applied to me. I was raised by the self employed/small business owners: no unemployment, no retirement, no sick leave, no overtime or limits to working hours, pay your own healthcare, no workers comp, no union bargaining on your behalf, no minimum wage, no one cared whether you had a degree or an education only if your product was good, no telling when or how much the next paycheck was just whatever you can agree a job is worth. Other than my little jaunt in the military I haven’t spent much time outside of very competitive industries in the business world (I’m not getting corporate welfare, no bid contracts, of government sanctioned monopolies… although it’s on my to do list!) and I like it. I think it teaches you not to take things for granted, to live within you means, and plan for the future… qualities that portions of the general US population seem to be lacking.

  • Arch Conservative

    It’s foolish to believe that any society based solely on any single “ism” could ever be a well balanced, well adjusted, generally healthy society.

    As someone who recently on another post responded to a love of George W. Bush that I’ve never professsed, you don’t know shit about me Glenn.

    Yes I am a conservative. Fundamentally this means that I believe all able bodied and able minded adults should do as much for themselves as possible and be entitled to as much of the fruit of their effort as possible.

    It does not mean that I do nt have compassion for others.

    It does not meant that I don’t get angry when I see greedy, ammoral businessmen and business practices.

    It does not mean that I don’t believe in some form of socialist conecpts in our modern American society. (I actually do Glenn.)

    However at this point in time it’s become more than obvious that neither big business nor big government gives a damn about doing what’s best for this nation or it’s people. In fact you could say that more often than to they are working together to F- us in the A.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Socialism – the mere mention of the word brings fear and loathing to conservatives all across America.

    The nuclear industry (often supported by those who hate socialism), the military, and all large too big to fail business enterprises benefit from socialism. So, I disagree (sort of), I think really they only dislike socialism for people.

    Personally I don’t think they have any more room to complain about social programs. The way I see it, they’ve spent their allotment on war, banks, welfare for the rich, and nuclear energy.

    They are hereby dismissed.

  • troll

    …seems to me that we’d do well to focus on the ‘fatal tendency’ to lead or follow – the egoism that Einstein pointed to

    Death to Gurus (and speed typists)

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    It’s foolish to believe that any society based solely on any single “ism” could ever be a well balanced, well adjusted, generally healthy society.

    I agree! And I think it is about time we base our society on something other than narcissism.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Doug –

    I can understand and appreciate your preference for the life you’ve experienced…and that’s much like what I’ve heard from many conservatives, that because it worked for you, that it should work for everyone.

    But that’s why I included Einstein’s warnings about ‘pure capitalism’ and unregulated competition. Since the advent of ‘trickle-down economics’ thirty years ago, the rich have profited mightily – even after allowing for inflation, their income has risen something like 400% in that time. The income level of the rest of us, however, has stayed largely stagnant.

    And that’s what I try to point out again and again – look beyond what you have personally experienced. Look instead at the BIG picture, at how the conservative fiscal policies (like deregulation is the cure for all that ails us) has greatly benefited the rich…but has NOT greatly improved the lot of the rest of America.

    And this is precisely what Einstein warned against.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Let me correct this:

    “…most of us who were raised in capitalist democracies [were taught to believe] that such political structures sound nice in theory. [Because, of course our capitalist system would not survive for a minute if we used our brains to question it’s religious teachings, so we’ve been inoculated against thinking that anything but ‘our’ system could work.]”

    There you go.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Which is farking hilarious when you think that we all spend practically every day arguing about why ‘our’ system does NOT work!

  • Arch Conservative

    Capitalism, when taken to its extremes can encourage greed, selfishness, callousness and an “i got mine so screw everyone else mentality.”

    Socialism, when taken to its extremes, can encourage laziness, stifle creativity and entrepenuership and lead to the mentality that one should not do for oneself what one is capable of doing for oneself but rather wait around for someone else to provide.

    Neither extreme is very appealing or desirable.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Arch #9 –

    Is that not PRECISELY what I’m arguing, what I’m proposing?

  • Doug Hunter

    #8

    Yes, that is quite hilarious. Our system is so miserable, so pathetic, so unfair, so enslaving, that we can barely manage to fit in bitching about it all day long every day on the internet from the comfort of our home… ooh, the humanity… capitalist life is so unfair!

  • Arch Conservative

    Glenn, when you author an article on the evils of “Pure socialism” and acknowledge some of the beneficial aspects of capitalism then maybe I’ll believe that you truly recognize the benefits of a multiism society.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Arch #12 –

    Did you read the article? Did you not see where Einstein – even though he KNEW the dangers of ‘pure socialism’ – still supported it? And did you not read where I said quite plainly that he was wrong?

    Indeed, Einstein himself sees the danger inherent in his proposal:

    A planned economy as such may be accompanied by the complete enslavement of the individual. The achievement of socialism requires the solution of some extremely difficult socio-political problems: how is it possible, in view of the far-reaching centralization of political and economic power, to prevent bureaucracy from becoming all-powerful and overweening? How can the rights of the individual be protected and therewith a democratic counterweight to the power of bureaucracy be assured? [Einstein quote ends]

    Is this ‘enslavement of the individual’ not the same danger of socialism RIGHTLY WARNED AGAINST against by conservatives? Yes, it is.

    (all caps added for emphasis – in other words, I’m pointing out that I AGREED with conservatives that pure socialism is dangerous)

    Did you not read this?

    As Einstein so eloquently illustrated, pure capitalism will unerringly lead to an oligarchy that is disastrous for the populace…but he was wrong about the necessity of the wholehearted embrace of socialism. We need to accept the most beneficial tenets of capitalism and combine these with those facets of social democracy that ensure the rights of the people are protected.

    Pure socialism – like pure capitalism – is a BAD thing, Arch…you said as much in comment #9, but I had already said it in so many words in my article!

    You and I are BOTH saying the same thing, Arch – but it’s as if since I’m a commie pinko liberal, you can’t believe that I actually said something that you would agree with!

  • Glenn Contrarian

    And Arch –

    Did you not read the following in my article?

    We need to accept the most beneficial tenets of capitalism and combine these with those facets of social democracy that ensure the rights of the people are protected.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    #11

    Doug,

    You don’t need to be told why that comment is crap. You either already know or you never will.

  • Doug Hunter

    I thought you did good Glenn, as fair and balanced as it gets (without actually switching over to the dark side of course). It’s refreshing to see you acknowledge a somewhat logical reason why someone would oppose socialism, this is not good versus evil, these are opinions on the best way forward in which everyone has a vested interest (I don’t want a polluted third world slum for my children either, believe it or not). Also, I hate it when I get lumped in with ‘Conservatives’, but that’s just the nature of our binary political system… gotta be one or the other I suppose.

  • http://tmackorg.com/ Tommy Mack

    “Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions.”

    Albert Einstein

  • Doug Hunter

    #15

    I’m going with ‘never will’. You’re welcome to try and enlighen me though, I love the insight into how you see things as it’s fairly foreign to me…

  • Arch Conservative

    No I didn’t read the article. I skimmed through it.

    My apologies. You did acknowledge the potential benefits of the capitalist approach.

    Creating a healthy society is like creating a really killer spaghetti sauce. You need all the ingredients in just the right amounts to make it work. Stay away from the chef that only uses one ingredient.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    #18

    Your implication there is that capitalism financially deprives everyone. It seems obvious that if it did not work for anybody at all it would not be supported.

    So to look at you and I and judge the deficits of capitalism based on how we fare is ludicrous. We are among those privileged within the capitalist system.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    So, to disprove the theory that man lives by greed alone…just because capitalism has been to my benefit does not make it acceptable.

    Some people got seats on the lifeboats when the Titanic went down. That doesn’t mean it was a great cruiseline.

  • Dan

    We probably need to dial back socialism a bit in favor of a more pure capitalism. We now allegedly have “jobs Americans won’t do” because the social safety net is too generous.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Dan –

    We started ‘dialing back socialism’ when Reagan took office, and we’ve had ‘trickle-down economics’ ever since. After allowing for inflation, the wealthy have seen their income rise an average of 400% since then, while everyone else has watched their wages virtually stagnate with little growth.

    And you want MORE capitalism? What we’ve watched with Reaganomics is the largest transfer of wealth – wealth redistribution, really – in all human history…and it was from the American middle-class and the American poor to the benefit of the rich.

    And you want MORE of this????

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Arch –

    No I didn’t read the article. I skimmed through it. My apologies. You did acknowledge the potential benefits of the capitalist approach.

    Don’t sweat it – that’s nothing that I haven’t done on BC many times before (and yes, it was embarrassing)…

    …but I will say I sincerely respect any man who’s strong enough to apologize…and I strongly distrust those who are too weak to do so.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    22 You mean like pick fruit for below minimum wage? I guess people should be willing to lie down and be raped for pennies an hour. Whatever The Market bears, eh? Why does the market always insist that those with money make all the rules and have totalitarian power over those who don’t have it? How did this get to be supported by ‘freedom fighters’?

    I am thinking that the Libertarian (and the right wing) ideology with its freedom and liberty guise is really about something else. It has a recurring theme a projection of ‘laziness’ onto people. This is the most consistent belief I have found among people who do not think this system can change or who believe this system is the best. They belief in human ‘laziness’ and its ultimate evil.*

    How ’bout, “we have benefits that capitalists aren’t willing to pay.” Doesn’t pack as much punch, does it. Doesn’t seem ike it comes with any same at all. This is what I tried to explain to Dave Nalle. he didn’t get it. We are so conditioned to believe that individuals should be willing to do ANYTHING for a wage even one that won’t support them, that it sounds ludicrous to put the shoe on the other foot. Guess we know who holds the upper hand in the free world. Money rules freedom drools.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Cindy –

    That was a pretty vicious – and accurate – rant. Remind me not to get you mad at me….

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Despite the garbledness of the sentence structure. I think my point is clear.

  • Doug Hunter

    #25/26

    Accurate? Coming to terms in a free market is slavery so I suppose mandating wages, terms, and redistribution at the barrel of a government gun is what? Freedom maybe. I find Cindy’s views to be puzzling to say the least. If you don’t like the arrangements people come to on a free system I see government as the only solution (as Glenn would clearly agree), I don’t understand how Cindy solves this problem in anarchist world. I gather that it has something to do with people programmed a different way, perhaps with better morals, principles, etc. If we’re all given that leeway then any -ism will work. If people cared enough about their fellow man, were not corrupt, put society and the future first then capitalism could work, communism could work, anything could work (even anarchism). I think any political thought needs to assume that there are going to be different views, that we’re not going to get some ideal population who agrees with us 100%.

    That’s why I support freedom and choice, and limiting goverment (especially at the higher levels). That lets the most people have the most options to live the way they prefer.

    Nothing in my worldview prevents you from doing anything you choose. You want workers to own factories… there’s not a law against it now. You want to pay people a ‘living’ wage, start a business and have at it… there’s nothing stopping you. You want your resources to go to this or that cause, but certainly not to Middle Eastern wars… great I support you expending them as you see fit. If you want to get with the likeminded, buy a ranch in the wilderness and live like a primitive tribal commune that a fantastic idea (sell tourism packages where I can do it for a week and you might even see me there) Unlike you (Cindy) I’m not an anti- any particular view so long as it doesn’t require that I participate. I see the positive, you care about your fellow man, so does Glenn, but believe it or not so do I. We even see the same issues and problems, but while you see greed corruption and corporatism as capitalism, I see them as greed corruption and corporatism problems not inherent with economic freedom.

    I support many counters to those problems, meritocracy, estate taxes (the perfect time to give back BTW), transparency in government, antitrust enforcement & policies to ensure marketplace competition, programs supporting small business, entrepeneurship, and opportunity for people to actively participate in the market, switching the tax/benefit system for the poor to reward positive choices rather than punish them or taking away benefits abruptly as they try and improve their situation.

    ***In case you forgot, in an actual free market competition is supposed to drive profits to owners down in the same way you so well understand it drives wages for workers down. The end result being plentiful, efficient, low cost goods. If you and everyone else are working for pennies and competition is keeping the owners profits down then the goods will be selling for pennies and the relative wage will be fine.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Doug –

    That’s why I support freedom and choice, and limiting goverment (especially at the higher levels).

    1. But my argument, Doug, is moderation in everything, that just as too little freedom is a bad thing, so is too much freedom. Freedom of the individual is a wonderful thing, but right now we’ve got a political culture that supports corporate freedom to the extent that despite all the rampant fraud and collective scheming that led us into the Great Recession, not a single banker has landed in jail.

    And I think that is a crying shame.

    2. The concept of ‘limiting government’ has two major flaws: one, the greater the size of the population, the greater the size of the government needed to properly govern the population, and two, nature abhors a vacuum. Wherever there is a lack of authority, someone will move in and take charge, for good or for ill. You cannot show me any example of a sizable modern country with ‘limited government’ that is prosperous. The answer is NOT ‘limited government’, but proper and pragmatic government. Come up here this summer and take a look at Vancouver or Victoria B.C. and you’ll see what I mean.

    an actual free market competition is supposed to drive profits to owners down in the same way you so well understand it drives wages for workers down

    So why is it that since Reagan instituted ‘trickle-down economics’, the income of the wealthy has boomed 400% (after inflation), yet the income of the middle- and lower-classes stayed largely stagnant?

    Why is it that oil companies are making profits greater than dreams of avarice? Why is it that drug companies are able to pay millions in salaries to nearly all of their senior executives?

    “Free market competition”, when it is unregulated, will lead to the same problems that Einstein warned against with pure capitalism. And we see it every quarter when the corporate earnings statements come out.

  • Doug Hunter

    #29

    1. I was mostly arguing Cindy’s view, I don’t understand how you solve the problems as she sees them without government involvement. There’s definitely common ground between us, smart regulations don’t actually increase the size or cost of government that much. One of my concerns is the general size which has been trending up and over 40% GDP into a territory I don’t think is healthy, but that’s really a different issue than the types of regulation. We can limit government spending, make sensible decisions on entitlements including means testing so I won’t get any(see Cindy, we’re not all greed either), and first and foremost create opportunity and environment where people don’t need as much government assistance in the first place while still enforcing smart regulations. Regulation is not all bad, deregulation is not all bad either.. as you said it’s a balance.

    2. You know as well as I that big corporation abhor a free market (except for the generally low tax part), they prefer a captive market, a monopoly, corporate welfare, lobbying for a contract rather than earning it by cutting price, and special regulations grandfathering themselves in while burying the competition in red tape. They’re not against government, they’re in bed with government. Cut out those things and you eliminate much of causes of uneven distribution. As opportunity and competition increase, corporate profits decrease and wealth is a multiple of corporate profits. There will still be windfalls and captains of industry and megacorporations will still be able to pay big bonuses, but a little leveling of the playing field goes a long way. The good news is, alot of those regulations (yes, the dreaded R word) can be instituted without increasing the size of government or it’s percentage of GDP as mentioned above.

    Now where do we find some politicians that aren’t sold out to special interests where we can get it done……

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Doug –

    Yes, we do have some real common ground here. Now, if they’d only hand over the reins of government to thee and me, we’d get something done here!

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Cindy, did you get my last email? Can we talk this evening? It’s important.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Roger,

    I still didn’t get any email from you. Sure thing I will call this eve. 8-9pm your time I hope is okay.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Doug,

    People would have a say (could be accomplished by a vote, say) in everything that affects them personally and not in those things which do not affect them. Representatives who carry forth the actual will of the people (rather than their own will) could be delegated. People would not run for an office, but could be nominated or assigned to the position. The position of representative carries no ability for personal decision-making, so it only matters that the person can comprehend and communicate what has already been decided.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    That is one scenario…other means would flourish with the technology we have.

  • troll

    Doug – what gives you the idea that anarchist society would require your participation?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    What I would like to see is some kind of proof that a modern society can indeed work with the types of limited government proposed by ‘pure’ anarchists, communists, socialists, and libertarians…

    …because I see NO indication in history that a limited government can exist for any period of time without someone moving in to fill the vacuum of power. Can anyone prove differently?

  • troll

    Glenn…as what we know of history is its collection of archaeological artifacts and the stories that we make up about them your request is loaded

    what would such a proof have to look like to satisfy you?

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    …because I see NO indication in history that a limited government can exist for any period of time without someone moving in to fill the vacuum of power. Can anyone prove differently?

    Australia: at least 10,000 years, possibly as much as 40,000 if some archaeological evidence is to be believed.

  • zingzing

    australia: in a world that no longer exists.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    This is true, zing, but he did ask.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    troll, Doc, zing –

    The example of Australia doesn’t work. Why? For the same reason that using tribes in the Amazon or using the Inuit wouldn’t work. All of these were (often nomadic) hunting/gathering tribes…and we cannot have today what they had then. That is, unless you want to close down the local Safeway and tell everybody that in order to eat, they’ll have to hunt and grow their own food…and that might be a bit difficult in the city.

    But let’s go with the tribes – in each and every case, was there not a headman, or a witch doctor, or a chief, or whatever? And how did their personal authority compare with, say, a modern mayor of a small town? Who had more authority? The mayor? Or the headman/chief/whatever?

    My challenge still stands – nature abhors a vacuum, and when there is a power vacuum in a society, someone WILL move in to seize power.

    Can any of you prove differently?

  • troll

    I ask again – what do you mean prove in this context?

  • zingzing

    should be obvious, troll…

  • zingzing

    “prove” should be in quotes up there, yeah? that changes things. the lack of quotes confused me for a moment.

  • troll

    in quotes – yes (sorry for the confusion)

  • Glenn Contrarian

    troll –

    I’m trying to show that it is a fool’s errand to try to have ‘limited government’…because such is impossible for any extended period of years in a society above the tribal level. Instead of chasing after ‘limited government’, what we should be aiming for is “proper and pragmatic government”.

  • troll

    Glenn – I understand what you are claiming to show…my question concerns your challenge:

    is your demand for proof a rhetorical device or do you have some guidelines as to what an acceptable proof would look like?

    btw – proper and pragmatic government is exactly the goal of anarchism

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Glenn,

    So far, in 17 years no one has tried to seize the vacuum amongst the Zapatistas. Their vacuum is stronger than ever. How’s the vacuum in your home, Glenn? Do you or your wife try to seize the family power from each other?

    But let’s go with the tribes – in each and every case, was there not a headman, or a witch doctor, or a chief, or whatever?

    Actually no, there is not. But you already know this (at least I hope you do), because you spoke about it to Doug on the other thread. Wait, you mean you did not even look up the very tribe under discussion to find out anything at all about them before you gave your opinion?

    The Kung San, the tribe from the bit of movie I posted and whom Doug posted the murder stats for have some interesting values for such bloodthirsty ‘lawless’ murderers. Here is one of their practices (historically, as by now their culture like many has all but been destroyed).

    The Practice of ‘Insulting the Meat':

    When a man brings home a good catch the Kung San have a practice that includes insulting and ridiculing it. Tomazo answers why they do this: “Arrogance. When a young man kills much meat, he thinks himself as a chief or a big man. And the rest of us as his servants. We cannot accept this. Some day his pride will make him kill somebody. So we always speak of his meat as worthless. That way, we cool his heart and make him gentle.”

  • Glenn Contrarian

    troll –

    What I want to see is any historical indication that the concept of ‘limited government’ has actually worked with a sizable, organized nation…and particularly if that nation was able to withstand people moving in to fill the power vacuum as I say would happen.

    For instance, America was a confederation of states until 1789 – states’ rights took center stage, and the central government was almost an afterthought. Problem was, there was no strong central government, no way to collect taxes to provide for said government, and as a result, America wasn’t able to protect its shipping.

    We were essentially too weak to defend ourselves because we couldn’t muster the national will to band together for the defense of the nation as a whole. That’s why we decided to write the Constitution and ensure a strong central government that could ensure our national defense.

    There’s also the examples of many, many third-world nations that were too weak to defend themselves from internal coups d’etat.

    Perhaps you could use ancient Greece as an example of city-states who banded together to repel invaders…but the problem with this particular line of argument is that the cities themselves had strong governments who could exert their will on the populace.

    And that’s my point – nations with a ‘limited government’ are weak and not able to effectively defend themselves from either without or within…and I historically see no indication otherwise.

  • Roger B

    28 – Doug
    “… Coming to terms in a free market is slavery so I suppose mandating wages, terms, and redistribution at the barrel of a government gun is what?”

    I guess you’re referring to some kind of metaphorical gun. But there was a time in the 20s and 30s, in my fathers time, when real guns wielded by real policemen were used to threaten and even murder union organizers upon orders from management.

  • troll

    Glenn – since air travel only ‘actually worked’ in the 20th century does that mean that it was impossible before then? or again as constitutional monarchy only ‘actually worked’ in the 16th century (? – correct my dates if needed) does that mean that it was impossible before then? Perhaps ‘limited government’ is impossible in the sense of these examples and will become a reality with the passage of time.

    I suggest that you consider our friend Roger’s argument that the EU represents a trend in the direction of limited State sovereignty and government and progress towards anarchism.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    troll –

    Air travel is a matter of technological progress. And I believe you’ll find that constitutional monarchy – albeit by different names – has been tried many times over the centuries with varying levels of success, not just in the 16th century. But what we’re discussing here is a matter of human nature.

    But there is NO instance of which I’m aware of any human nation above the tribal level where ‘limited government’ has worked. It didn’t work in America the first time we tried it, which is why we got the Constitution in the first place.

    Again, nature abhors a vacuum. If you’ve got a situation where no one’s in charge, SOMEone’s gonna step up and take charge and others will follow. Why? Because there are people who love power, who feel they MUST be in charge, that it is their RIGHT to be the one in charge…and then there are the followers.

    This is human nature, troll – and I think you must agree with my last paragraph.

  • troll

    Glenn –

    Air travel is a matter of technological progress.

    and still would be illustrative of my point even if I were to agree contrary to fact that there is no more to the development of air travel than simply technology

    I suspect that it will require a technologically advanced society to make anarchism work on any scale beyond tribes

    And I believe you’ll find that constitutional monarchy – albeit by different names – has been tried many times over the centuries with varying levels of success, not just in the 16th century.

    what are some examples of these experimental pre-16th century constitutional monarchies that ‘actually worked'(your criterion)?

    in any case although you’re wrong about the nature of human nature I see no point in arguing about it – we will not change each other’s mind – I can find very little in your position that I do agree with and certainly not the idea that nature abhors a vacuum (given the fact that there is so very much of it in the universe) and the idea that the Rabelais’ saying reflects some necessity about all human societies

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    what are some examples of these experimental pre-16th century constitutional monarchies that ‘actually worked'(your criterion)?

    Imperial Rome, perhaps? Or Pericles’ Athens?

  • cindy

    53 – Because you will likely prefer “expert” opinion…when I get to my computer I will demostrate that our social sciences have moved past your narrow and outdated (by the standards of academic thinking within the educational system you hold in such esteem).

  • troll

    were those constitutional monarchies?

    I guess I’m wrong again

  • troll

    yup – ‘monarchy’ applies to those cases…so I guess anarchism is impossible due to human nature

  • cindy

    …narrow and outdated pic regarding human nature.

  • cindy

    pic should be pov (phone spelling nazi…)

  • Glenn Contrarian

    troll –

    Yes, anarchism IS impossible due to human nature. Like the ‘pure’ concepts of communism, socialism, and libertarianism, it is incompatible with human nature. As I keep telling you, nature abhors a vacuum…and this applies to political power – always has, always will.

    Here, troll (and Cindy) – let me tell you when such concepts WOULD work: when all people are like-minded, and when everyone is equal in every sense.

    But when are people all like-minded and equal in every sense when it comes to money? Some are single-minded about becoming richer than Midas. Some others – like myself – don’t really care about money…unless there’s not enough of it to live fairly comfortably. The old saying goes “Everyone is equal , but some are more equal than others.”

    But true equality in every sense, though we truly strive to achieve it, is impossible – with money, with authority, with responsibility, with capability.

    So yeah, anarchy sounds good on paper – just like communism, socialism, and libertarianism did. But when it comes to its practical application…no. Ain’t gonna happen no matter how hard we try. Why? Because we’re too human.

  • Clavos

    …and certainly not the idea that nature abhors a vacuum (given the fact that there is so very much of it in the universe)

    Thank you, thank you, thank you troll. That has needed saying for some time now…

  • cindy

    Glenn’s presumption is flawed. Where equality replaces slavery, Glenn claims there is a vacuum.

    Where is the vacuum, Glenn? It is not as if power, protection, etc are eliminated. They are merely redistributed. So I am having trouble seeing your vacuum.

    Glenn, it seems to me your idea reduces down to the point where nothing exists. If what you suggest is true…the US gov’t cannot exist as it represents a power vacuum from previous more authoritarian modes of governence.

  • cindy

    Governance?

    (stupid phone doesn’t actually help you spell; just changes stuff you don’t want changed)

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    How very logical of you! Interstellar space exists…so that means limited government is quite compatible with human nature!

    Such an in-credible leap of imagination!!!!

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Cindy –

    The US federal government is a strong central government – there is no power vacuum…though your counterparts on the far right would have you believe otherwise…just like they try to get you to believe that the government’s TOO powerful – “There they are a-comin’ in their black helicopters, an’ they’re a-comin’ to take our guns away!”

    Don’t you see it, Cindy? Do you really want to argue that there’s a power vacuum in America while at the same time arguing that the government’s got too much power? Do you not see the contradiction?

    Has human nature changed over the millenia? Not really. Along with love, courtesy, honor, courage, and gratitude, we still have hate, jealousy, suspicion, greed, spite, malice…

    …and the need for power.

    Cindy, ‘Limited government’ has been tried before…even in America. It didn’t work then, and it won’t work now. Not now, not ever, not as long as human beings are human.

    As with communism, socialism, and libertarianism, anarchy sounds really nice in theory…but it will never work in the real world. As before, I invite you to show me one nation – even ONE NATION – where it has worked for any real length of time before. I suspect you’ve already tried to think of examples…but you’re stumped. And there’s a very good reason why you’re stumped. Just because there’s never been a successful nation with a limited government in all of human history, that may not mean that it’s impossible…but neither does it mean it’s possible at all. Just ’cause you want it to be so doesn’t mean that it can happen. Ever.

    And I strongly suspect that some here agree with this (not you), but are supporting you just for the sake of argument. As far as I’ve seen, you are always sincere – but I cannot say that of everyone here.

  • cindy

    Glenn,

    Did I mention how the Zapatistas got where they got? They took on the Mexican army. Their intent was so popular that the gov’t had little choice but to let them have their land. The people supported them. They even hoped the Zapatistas would lead the country. But the Zapatistas understood why accepting power would not work.

    Who am I to argue with you or to show you anything? You are stubbornly ignorant. And you are the very worst kind of ignorant-hthe kind who prevents himself from knowing it.

    I could wager my bank account that you know as much about the Zapatistas the

    !Kung, or Anarchism as you ever did.

    Please try not to brag endlessly about your superior fact-based pov. It’s like a shell game. You are as guilty of utter ignorance of available

  • cindy

    information as those you accuse. You are as narrow in thinking and controlled by you bias and anti-intellectual as those you hold in contempt.

    You want people to just show you what you demand. Well you’ve second-guessed the form the evidence takes because you don’t know what you don’t know.

  • cindy

    As long as you claim to know what the evidence SHOULD look like, your mind will be convinced not to bother looking at what is there openly.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Cindy –

    I know this is very narrow-minded of me to even suggest such a thing…but a revolutionary movement is NOT equivalent to a sovereign nation.

    Perhaps you’d like them – according to this pro-Zapatista blog:

    Zapatista communities prohibit the cultivation, trafficking, and consumption of drugs. It’s not even permitted to drink or sell alcohol there. This isn’t a new fact. The rebel commanders have made this law public since the beginning of the armed uprising. The measure remains in effect under the civil authorities who have been put in charge of the autonomous municipalities and the good government councils.

    Ah. Not only no drugs, but no alcohol either. And SOMEone is enforcing that law! Yes, SOMEone among your anarchists is enforcing a law STRICTER than any law found in America! And who, exactly, were the ones who put ‘civil authorities’ in charge? Seems to me, those in authority were placed in charge by someone in GREATER authority!

    Nature abhors a vacuum. Where there is a lack of authority, someone will take over for good or for ill. Your own reference is a great example of that!

  • cindy

    Glenn,

    Yes, someone IS enforcing that “law”. Each individual child, man, and woman is abiding by that “law”. Did someone say there were no rules? You are demonstrating just what I claimed above…you are speaking from ignorance.

    How do you live with such arrogant belief that you know what we are discussing without even looking at it?

    You are embarassing yourself. Good thing you aren’t able to see that.

  • cindy

    Glenn,

    I just realized we agree. Whatever half-baked lame-brained idea you have in YOUR mind about what anarchism is. THAT definitely would never work.

  • cindy

    People can choose to make whatever rules work for them. They could decide to drink at work (like some worker run businesses do) or they could decide not to drink at all. I told you as much over a year ago.

  • Clavos

    How very logical of you! Interstellar space exists…so that means limited government is quite compatible with human nature!

    Once again, putting words in my mouth, Glenn.

    It’s not that interstellar space exists, nor did I even mention limited government, much less liken it to interstellar space (though our government’s leadership and staffing is about as spacey as they come) it’s that it’s a near-perfect, frictionless vacuum, and thus demonstrates the vacuity of the old wives’ tale that “nature abhors a vacuum,” which you’ve been quoting ad nauseam of late.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Cindy – here’s a suggestion: while I may be quite stubborn and quite sure that I’m right (which can be said about almost everyone on BC), I’ve yet to insult you or anyone else. Is it truly so offensive to you that I post my opinion as strongly as I do (but without insults) that you feel the need to reply with insults?

    BE THAT AS IT MAY, I looked more deeply at the Zapatistas, and particularly at their Councils of Good Government. It does seem that it can work, for it seems to have been working for the Zapatistas since 2004 as best as I can gather. I’m hesitant to say anything more concrete about it because I’m not seeing more than one side of the story online.

    But in any event, this DOES give credence to your argument. Perhaps it can work. I could continue to be stubborn and argue that this still applies to a largely rural population…

    …but then it could be argued quite correctly in return that the group is conducting self-government not only within their region, but effectively conducts diplomacy not only with the Mexican government but with other governments.

    So it appears that I am wrong. And my determination has always been that if someone proves me wrong, then I will be sincerely grateful to them. Why? It’s not a matter of pride and it never was – it’s a matter of what is factual and what isn’t. You showed me a fact I did not know…and helped remove some of my ignorance.

    So thank you, Cindy – I am sincerely grateful. I really did not think that such a socioeconomic system was compatible with human nature. While their system may not stand the test of time, the fact that it has lasted this long even in the face of the Mexican drug war says much.

    So again, Cindy – thank you. I would ask you to please do not insult those who do not insult you…but that observation does not detract from my gratitude to you.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    Pls. note that Cindy won the argument…and did so because as angry as she was, she provided what I asked – proof that such was not only possible, but extant.

    If you want to convince me that you and yours are right, then show me proof that I am wrong. As I told her, it’s not a matter of pride, but of what is factual and what is not…and as long as those on the right insist on ignoring facts in their proclamations and positions, I’ll continue standing with those who are more wont to stick by the facts…which in the case of American politics occurs much more on the Left than on the Right.

    Unless you can show me facts that prove otherwise.

  • Clavos

    If you want to convince me that you and yours are right,…

    I don’t.

    Stick with the lefties, Glenn you’ll be happier over there, they have all the “facts.”

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Lemme see –

    The Right has birthers, AGW deniers, creationists, the black-helo’s-a’comin’ crowd, the family-values bunch, the deficits-don’t-count-unless-a-Dem’s-in-the-WH crowd, the don’t-give-me-GAY-cooties crowd, the rape-is-YOUR-fault crowd, the Civil-War-wasn’t-about-slavery crowd, the America’s-a-Christian-nation crowd…and a significant portion who can see Russia from their front porch…

    …but you’re the real Americans, I know….

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Why is this conversation degenerating into the usual Left vs. Right tirade?

    Just askin’

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Roger –

    If you’ll look at the bottom of the previous page, I agreed with Cindy. Roger, I’m not hidebound to any philosophy or political school of thought – show me proof that I’m wrong, and I’ll be grateful for it…and as you can see by my last comment to Cindy, those aren’t just words. Not too many people can say the same.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Yes, I find it very encouraging, Glenn, that you’re not beyond considering new POVs. Just didn’t think the Right vs. the Left tired old horse did much to move the discussion forward.

  • Clavos

    Why is this conversation degenerating into the usual Left vs. Right tirade?

    Because it always does when Glenn shows up…He can’t even assert how good the Democrats are without comparing whatever “good” he’s praising with the corresponding “bad” on the part of the Republicans, in whom he lumps everyone who’s left of Mother Teresa.

  • Clavos

    Erm. That should have been …everyone who’s RIGHT of MT…

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    I should say it displays a failure of the imagination, being stuck, as Glenn seems to be, only with comparative values to be assigned to either “goodness” or “badness.”

    Does Glenn’s dogged commitment to his version of “realism” and the noble art of compromise necessitate such a stance? Does his commitment to such Christian values as charity, empathy and love call for more of the same? And if not, what are the relevant criteria for making a Glenn-type of distinction?

    I suppose it’s for the reader of Glenn’s commentaries to ask and Glenn to answer.

    See you all tomorrow.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Roger –

    Think on this, Roger – How many times have you seen someone on this website for months – as I have with this particular subject, not only with Cindy but with you – and then that someone not only admits that he was wrong but is also grateful to those who proved him wrong?

    No.

    Second question – how many times have you seen someone on this website admit error at all (except for minor gaffes)? Very, very seldom. I’ve been here since 2008, and I can count all such times (other than my own) on one hand.

    So that begs the question – Am I really wrong more often than everyone else here (from all sides) combined?

    No.

    So one could say that leaves the strong indication that either everyone else here is almost always right and I’m the puddin’-head who’s so wrong so often…or I’m the only one here who thinks that ‘winning the argument’ is less important than being on the true and factual side of that argument.

    Call me proud in my humility if you like…but I call it holding strict adherence to ethical behavior as more important than personal pride. It’s rarely “goodness” or “badness”…it’s much more often “factual” or “not factual” – thus my concession to Cindy yesterday. Why did I concede to her? Because even though she did not present the specific facts that proved me wrong and it was ME that went searching to find out the facts about what she was talking about, she did point me in the right direction and so she deserves the credit.

    Now all this will probably offend you on some level since I seem to be claiming the ethical high ground – but I learned a long, long time ago not to trust a man who didn’t have enough courage to own up to even the least of his errors.

    One more thing – you’ve pinged me on my imagination at least three times now. Tell me, Roger – how many times have you brought something to this website that was completely new to all readers?

    A Possible Biological Basis for the Differences Between Conservatives and Liberals

    An Observation That – Like the Symbiosis between Morlocks and Eloi – Conservatives and Liberals Need Each Other

    Elastic Space

    Freedom is Impossible Without Secrets and Lies

    How Reaganomics May Be Responsible for Global Prosperity Outside the U.S.

    Liberal Kudos for George W. Bush

    Yeah, I’ve got ZERO imagination and am SO hidebound that I think that anyone to the right of Dennis Kucinich is a Nazi, right?

    While you’re at it, Roger, can you point out ANYONE else on this website who’s been as considerate of the other side (whatever that other side may be) as I have been in the last two articles I listed above? Or would it be easier for you to simply continue thinking of me as an ideologue unwilling to see past my own dogma?

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Glenn,

    I will reply more later. I would like to say THANKS! for looking. :-)

    The Zapatistas have been working since Jan. 1 1994 — they are a peoples’ response to NAFTA.

  • Shane

    Doug said:”‘Pure’ socialism, or at least leaders under it’s guises, can lead to dictatorship, see Libya, Venezuela, etc.”

    I’m not so sure socialism lead to Gaddaffi. “On 1 September 1969 a small group of junior military officers led by Gaddafi staged a bloodless coup d’état against King Idris of Libya while the king was in Turkey for medical treatment.” Socialism didn’t cause that! Gaddafi accomplished what he did because the king kept all the oil money! “resentment began to build over the increased concentration of the nation’s wealth in the hands of King Idris.” It was the LACK of either socialism or capitalism that was the problem. Additionally, it was the LACK of public input (democracy).

  • krochetkids

    he essence of social capitalism is that private markets are the most effective allocation mechanism, and output is maximized through sound state macroeconomic management of the economy.

    social capitalism