This is a really great question — and one that is particularly relevant to the challenges we face on planet Earth.
Here are a few of the top considerations:
1. Any approach must be multi-pronged to address the many different stimulators of change (and many different resistors to change). We cannot rely on one, simplistic approach — no matter how attractive it may seem. This has always been true to a certain degree, but it is especially true in today’s complex, highly interconnected and interdependent, massively scaled society.
2. It is also important to appreciate that culture, more than any other factor, is probably the strongest driver of both the status quo, and potential change. Unless we address culture as a primary part of the mix, change may occur briefly, but it will not “stick.”
3. In dealing with ideology specifically, it is helpful to understand how that ideology came to prominence, and attempt address the same drivers with alternative ideas. One of the more effective ways of doing this is to evaluate the “values hierarchy” involved — that is, which values is a given ideology appealing to first and foremost, and what are the cascading values that support the primary values — that create the deeper foundation. You can read about this idea here: Functional Intelligence.
The idea is that any new ideology will need to be essentially better satisfying and reifying that values hierarchy.
4. But being “better” actually isn’t enough. Any new idea must also be “stronger” (I mean in the memetic, cultural sense), more compelling, and more persuasive than the old idea. Being “better” (more efficient, more rational, more effective, more grounded in evidence) is an important starting point — but the new idea also has to “have legs;” it has to be able to self-perpetuate, self-propagate, and endure. It has to sell itself.
5. Once these prerequisites are met, the next step is to implement a plan of influence, disruption of the status quo, and change — and this plan must include specific, well-defined goals for an outcome. This is the piece that many “idealists” completely miss: they believe that ideas will stand on their own. But human beings learn best through imitation, through following a demonstrated example, and look to the reenforcement of peers, media and culture to maintain the momentum of any set of ideals. So any new direction has to demonstrate its merit…and this is really the hurdle that keeps many new ideas from ever taking root.
I will provide an example of what I am talking about. Please visit this site: L e v e l - 7 Overview
. It attempts to provide many of the pieces to cultural change described above. For example:
1. On the home page there are seven “Articles of Transformation” that embody the values hierarchy of Level 7 proposals, and some specific goals for the reification of those values. Those values — and the philosophy that supports them — are more carefully laid out in the “Design Principles” outlined in each of those Articles.
2. Then there is a L e v e l - 7 Action
section on the site. This defines the multi-pronged approach necessary to migrate away from status quo ideologies and practices to more sustainable and equitable ones. It includes these fronts of change activism, with resources to support them:
a.Constructive grass-roots populism
b.Disrupting the status quo
c.Exposing misinformation and pro-corporatocracy PR campaigns
d.Recruiting elite change agents
e.Community-centric pilot projects
f.Individual development and supportive networking
g.Socially engaged art, and visionary art that inspires transformation
If I myself had infinite time, infinite resources, and infinite personal talents to do so, I would attempt to be involved in all of this. I believe that, if I could write a novel that illustrated the Level 7 vision, that might be very persuasive on a memetic, cultural level. If I could establish “Community Coregroups” in different cities, as described on the site above, this would also be extremely helpful. If I could design and champion demonstrative pilot projects (Land Trusts, NGOs, citizens councils, etc.) in multiple localities, this also would be ideal. And so on. But I’m not really at liberty to do any of those things in my current situation. Some of the other “prongs,” however, are things I can accomplish, and I’m attempting to do that. But no one can take this task on alone.
This presents both a profound difficulty and a profound opportunity: this can’t be a one-person effort, not in today’s world, but we also now have unprecedented ability to connect and coordinate within society — in ways we never had before. This new connectivity is really how movements like the Arab Spring were able to happen. However, just as one person cannot save us all, one single idea cannot save us all, either.
What we are really talking about — and what the OP’s question is inadvertently alluding to — is that “ideology” has become a sort of snowballing memeplex of many different ideologies glued haphazardly together. Sometimes that memeplex can even be full of internal contradictions, and so tangled up in values hierarchies that seem to oppose each other,
that it is impossible to tease it apart or “fix” from within. So an entirely new memeplex must be presented to replace nearly ALL of the existing, status quo tangle of ideologies. A new cohesive vision that integrates the best parts of previous ideologies,
which is what Level 7 attempts to be. And this, too, requires multiple layers of expertise, multiple prongs of engagement, and multiple avenues of exemplification and mimesis to understand, advocate, and implement.
I hope this was helpful.
This is a great question - thanks.
I’ll offer two avenues for consideration:
1. My own experiences and observations.
Without exception, every single person I have ever known — and every author or thinker I have ever read — who has held extreme ideological views has, at some point, experienced pronounced or prolonged trauma prior to age 25. There also seems to be a strong correlation between the severity, duration, nature of trauma, and the age in which it occurred, and the types of ideological and emotional distortions that manifest later on. In a fairly concrete sense, I would say that extreme trauma, combined with a lack of opportunity and/or willingness to heal, the weaknesses of a person’s innate psychological constitution, and early exposure to extreme ideologies, nearly always result in fanaticism of some kind. This is also a fairly predictable formula for the triggering of genetic dispositions toward mental illness. We might even roughly generalize that extreme ideological stances are forms of mental illness.
In attempting to understand this pattern, observed so consistently over many years, I’ve hypothesized that trauma encourages “exclusionary bias;” that is, denying some forms of information and experience (that are internally or externally generated) to have any influence over our perception-cognition. The chart in this article outlines some of these relationships: Sector Theory 1.0 – Todd's Take on Epistemology
2. More formal research.
An increasing body of research seems to indicate that childhood trauma and non-supportive environments retards development and cripples judgement and ideation in adulthood. The predictable consequence is that ideologies that capitalize on fear, make negative assumptions about people and outcomes, are disconnected from reality and concrete evidence, offer formulaic responses to risk, distort (attenuate or exaggerate) compassionate consideration of others, suppress flexible emotional/empathetic responses in favor of detached analytical judgement, perpetuate self-victimization identities, or appeal to an immature or juvenile mindset of rebellion and nonconformism, will all be more attractive to someone whose development has been affected by trauma. I’ve offered some resources on this research below.
Understanding the Impact of Trauma
Assessing and addressing the impact of childhood trauma: Understanding why childhood trauma leads to an increased risk for psychosis
Child Trauma Effects Often Last Into 50s and Beyond
I hope this was helpful.
Calling Thomas Sowell a “public intellectual” strains that term to its limits — so I’m not sure why he is being compared to Noam Chomsky at all. Sowell, like Chomsky, does offer public opinions, so that is where they intersect. But only fairly uneducated, uninformed or ideologically brainwashed people would ever take Sowell’s incoherent musings seriously — as virtually every position he holds has been undermined by overwhelming evidence over and over again, and for many years now. Sowell has basically parroted neoliberal groupthink in everything he has written or said — so of course he’s received honors from the likes of the American Enterprise Institute. But I’m sincerely bewildered that anyone could believe Sowell actually “thinks” very much at all…let alone “intellectually…” as the arc of his work is basically elaborate rationalizations of borrowed regurgitation (of Friedman, Hayek, et al).
That said, Sowell has made some salient and seemingly carefully considered observations over his many years of opining (his criticisms of Donald Trump, for example). But these have been the exception rather than the rule, as most of what he believes is utter nonsense.
Thus Chomsky wins this comparison by default — because even if you don’t agree with Chomsky’s views, his thinking is at least well-researched, original, and indeed “intellectual” in its breadth and depth…a level to which Sowell simply has not yet risen.
My 2 cents.
One way to approach this question is to ask: “Do outcomes differ based upon available resources, opportunities, conditions and relationships?” And the answer to that is an unequivocal “Yes!”
Okay, then if we aim to “level the playing field,” so that everyone in society has (roughly) equivalent quantities and qualities of resources, opportunities, conditions and relationships, will this result in a greater “equality of outcomes?” Well, it will — and does — tend to provide a higher probability that more people will achieve the same fulfillment of personal agency in measurable accomplishments. Essentially, it helps remove barriers that otherwise would — and do — exist. At the same time, this aim is a rather herculean task in the context of deeply persistent cultural racism, classism, sexism, ageism, and tribalism. It is, frankly, nearly impossible to “level the playing field” when any of these cultural prejudices are in play — because they will override and negate any and all “equality of opportunity.”
So then the question becomes: how can we encourage attenuation of these deep-seated prejudices? And for me, that is the much more interesting (and relevant) question.
My 2 cents.
First of all, capitalism is already striving mightily to end itself — by being inherently unsustainable, extractive, exploitative, and fraught with negative externalities that seem to balloon exponentially with each passing year — so we may not need to take active steps to end it.
That said, plenty of folks have offered viable alternatives to traditional capitalism, and proven that they work quite well. These include:
- Left-anarchist mass societies (see List of anarchist communities
), some of which still exist today.
- Non-profit worker’s cooperatives (see List of worker cooperatives
), many of which have done better than competing capitalist enterprises.
- The “common pool resource management” examples documented by Elinor Ostrom’s research, most of which arose organically as a non-capitalist, non-statist approach to managing the commons.
- Some pretty nifty market socialist approaches that create an interesting hybrid (one example being Switzerland’s non-profit health insurance system).
There are of course many other approaches that include “lessons learned” from failed socialist experiments — the book The Economics of Feasible Socialism Revisited
by Alec Nove comes to mind.
And here is my own offering: L e v e l - 7 Overview
Really capitalism hasn’t been around that long — it was a natural evolution from feudalism and mercantilism, and has never been entirely free of crony capitalist corruption. Mixed economies
that combined capitalism, socialism and strong civic institutions offset some of the worst abuses of capitalism in most of the developed world for a few decades, but even those efforts are now failing. So again…capitalism is already ending itself.
The real question, IMO, is whether we will be able to arrest the free fall and introduce something new before everything crashes and burns.
If by “intellectual inquiry” you mean critical, evidence-based evaluation or scrutiny, then I honestly don’t know of a single, current “right-wing” idea that stands up to it at all. There are a few left-wing ideas that falter as well, but far more that have been validated by the test of time. Most right-wing ideas are not just on the wrong side of history, and the wrong side of science — they are also on the wrong side of common sense. A very brief list of right-wing concepts that have proven to be disastrously wrong-headed include such central tenets as:
1. Trickle-down (supply-side) economics — an utter failure.
2. Economic austerity measures — also an utter failure.
3. Free-market solutions can solve any problem — no they can’t; for example: healthcare.
4. Corporations can be left to self-regulate — another epic fail: e-cigarettes; Boeing 737-Max; savings and loan crisis; mortgage-backed securities meltdown; Oxycodone; coal mining deaths; etc.
5. Opposition to teaching children sex-education or allowing them access to birth control — STDs and teen pregnancies abound everywhere this has been tried.
6. Climate change isn’t caused by people — yes it is.
7. Cigarettes don’t cause cancer — yes they do.
8. Good jobs are being stolen by immigrants — no they’re not, they’re being stolen by outsourcing and automation by companies that wan’t to increase their profits instead of pay decent wages.
9. Gay people shouldn’t be allowed to marry — that’s just dumb…and oppressive.
10. Black people shouldn’t be allowed to vote — also stupid and oppressive.
11. Women shouldn’t be allowed control over their own bodies — um…well, just wow.
12. Invading Iraq was the best way to fight Islamic extremism — LOL.
13. Obamacare has been a disaster — nope: it’s doing pretty much everything it promised to do (though it didn’t fare as well in Republican States that resisted Medicare expansion, and Republican efforts to sabotage Obamacare are weakening that success further).
14. Innovation comes from private enterprise — nope. Most “outside the box” thinking that has lead to major innovations was the result of academic or government-funded research (think the Internet, GPS, bar codes, microchips, wind energy, touch screens, etc.). Oops!
15. Capitalism lifts people out of poverty — wrong again: civil society (civic institutions, the rule of law, democracy, etc.) lifts people out of poverty in capitalist countries…in countries without strong civic institutions, the “capitalists” are just brutish thugs who keep all of the wealth for themselves.
16. Socialism has always failed. Really? The U.S. Postal Service? The Federal Reserve? The U.S. Highway System? The U.S. Military? NASA? K-12 Education? Public Lands? Public utility companies? Public transit? Social Security? Medicare and Medicaid? The FDA? Are all of these socialist enterprises failures…?
We could go on…and it would be exhausting…but this is why it so difficult for progressives to find common ground with American conservatives. Conservatives are just…well, unable to get their facts straight or clearly see the actual causes of the problems they want to solve.
My 2 cents.
Thanks for the question. In no particular order, these writers explore many of the same problems that Chomsky identifies, and with a similar level of complexity and supportive evidence:
- Naomi Klein
- Chris Hedges
- Yanis Varoufakis
- Greg Palast
- George Monbiot
And here are some folks who also explore these problems, and offer some remedies — mainly on the economic side, in answer to what could broadly be called “neoliberal, crony capitalist oligarchy:”
- Thorstein Veblen
- E.F. Schumacher
- Thomas Picketty
- Amartya Sen
- Elinor Ostrom
- Alec Nove
Here are some writers who look more deeply at the systems-level problems of industrial capitalism, and propose some ways out of the mess:
- Howard Odum
- David Holmgren
- Peter Pogany
And here are two folks who recognize many of the challenges described or addressed by many of the above authors, and offer their own unique take on either the nature of the problem, or a route to positive transformation of what is broken:
- Paulo Freire
- Paul Piff
And then their are the origins of the libertarian socialism that Chomsky subscribes to — the names and ideas of whom you will hear Chomsky reference from time-to-time:
- William Godwin
- Murray Bookchin
- Peter Kropotkin
- Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
- Mikhail Bakunin
- Rudolph Rocker
Lastly, there are my own writings and proposals, which you can find available for free on this website: L e v e l - 7 Overview (https://www.level-7.org
My 2 cents.
The really humorous thing about this dynamic (i.e. stereotyping “intellectuals” — or subject experts — as elitists who are out of touch with common experience) is that the folks usually using that stereotype it are even more out-of-touch with reality than “intellectuals” are.
The anti-intellectual sentiment coming from right-wing propaganda is quite deliberate in this respect: it wants to villainize anything that is grounded in critical thinking, science, evidence and data — usually in favor of ideological principles that are routinely undermined by that data.
Hence climate crisis is a left-wing conspiracy invented by academics to get grant money; solid historical economic data that shows how “trickle-down” theory (supported by the laughable “Laffer curve”) and austerity policies fail utterly can likewise be dismissed as “elitist” fabrication; statistics that prove how abortions decline wherever Planned Parenthood has a well-funded presence is crushed by hateful vitriol from pro-life folks who fervently believe Planned Parenthood should be defunded; science that proves cigarette use is linked to cancer becomes part of a “liberal anti-business agenda;” and so on ad nauseum. Such has been the relentless drumbeat of conservative think tanks since the early 1970s.
But can you see the problem? The folks who attack intellectualism (and/or left-wing elitism) have to do so to defend their completley-detached-from-reality beliefs and distortions of fact.
Which is of course advantageous to the wealthy conservative owner-shareholders who benefit the most from voters, politicians and talkshow hosts parroting right-wing lunacy. Hence voting Republican in the U.S. has become synonymous with supporting unicorn policies and practices that maintain plutocracy and insulate the wealthiest elite, while effectively knee-capping scientific counter-narratives that could actually benefit everyone else. Critical thinking and actual evidence-based approaches simply cannot be allowed!
So I will proudly say “Yes, I tend to trust well-educated experts who’ve spent their lives researching and testing ideas with real-world data.” You say these are “intellectuals?” I say they are simply competent — much more so than armchair bombasts who believe in unicorns.
As to why folks who decry intellectualism are so confident in their armchair fantasies, I recommend reading up on the Dunning–Kruger effect
An interesting question but an odd one, and I’m not entirely sure what to make of it. But I’ll give it my best shot….
1. Socialism is really about moral maturity. A mature person can have self-interest, while also caring about others. They can promote their own position and advantage, while also desiring to lift others up at the same time. Their “primary concern” can be “the good of All,” without necessarily sacrificing their own well-being.
2. Socialism is also about sharing both responsibility and benefits with everyone. It recognizes that there is no “individual right” without the agreement of the collective to support that right. “Self-interest” without civil society is just thuggery, but self-interest in the context of civic responsibilities and privileges that everyone shares becomes collective self-interest. In other words, “self-interest” becomes less individualistic/atomistic.
3. Socialism aspires to pure democracy. The most successful socialist experiments are those with the most vigorous democracy — because the more distributed power becomes, the more inherently equitable society (and wealth distribution, etc.) becomes.
Socialism is often misunderstood for two simple reasons: First, because of pro-capitalist propaganda that attacks straw men that socialism isn’t; and second, because socialist implementations occur across a spectrum — including intersections and combinations with capitalism.
My 2 cents.
Well I’d say that, considering the level of debate around the 2nd Amendment over many decades now, no one really understands in any absolute sense what isn’t supposed to be infringed — and that includes governments at all levels. The wording of that single sentence is not clear.
On the one hand, Amendment II seems to indicate that the federal government can’t infringe upon the right of states to have militias made of ordinary citizens. On the other, it also seems to indicate that citizens should be allowed to individually keep and carry arms — ostensibly for service in such a militia. But it really isn’t very clear beyond that what other conditions “shall not be infringed.”
Now, mainly as a consequence of military firearms manufacturers needing a new market as their military product orders declined, the debate about the 2nd has shifted. Should AR-15s be purchased by individual citizens, so they can participate in state militias to resist federal government tyranny? Well…okay, sure. But that’s not why they’re being purchased — and the original intent of the 2nd (if we in fact can discern it) doesn’t work very well as justification to sell military weapons to individual civilians who aren’t participating in a state militia. Which is why the propaganda and marketing focus shifted to a more absolute right than what is actually stated: the right to “keep and bear arms” for personal protection — or for personal resistance to government as a more general principle.
The problem, of course, is that the “personal protection” argument — which can in fact be supported by the many of the discussions, practices and documents from the period in which the 2nd was written — can rationally only be applied to non-military weapons.
Individual citizens don’t need to protect themselves from the incursions of other nation states, or brigades of rogue soldiers that happen to show up at their door. That’s what the state militias are for. And indeed the “individual resistance to tyrannical government” argument really doesn’t have any historical basis…it’s quite an imaginative invention that has no support in documents and reports contemporary to the writing of Amendment II.
So…we have a right to personally bear arms that are suitable for personal defense as one possible thing “not to be infringed;” and we have the right to personally keep arms in readiness for participation in a state militia as the other thing “not to be infringed.” And therein lies the problem: because at the time of the writing of Amendment II, those two separate conditions were served by the very same firearms: muskets and pistols.
You see the problem? It made complete sense at the time the 2nd was written not to differentiate between different weapons for different purposes…because they were one-and-the-same at that time.
Within a century, however, the two groups of weapons increasingly diverged, in both their specialized application and their lethality…and continued to do so more and more over subsequent decades. Hence individual citizens didn’t own machine guns for personal protection, and the military didn’t rely on compact 25mm purse pistols to defeat enemy combatants in the field. At the same time, a common sense distinction between the two types of weapons endured right up through the 1960s — and various laws (1934 NFA, 1968 GCA) were written to clarify that distinction. Interestingly, these laws also identified a third category of weapons and modifications: those designed for or associated with criminal activity
— such as sawed off shotguns, silencers, explosive devices, etc. And so we arrived at the rather extreme separation in categories of weapons and specialized functions that we see today, ones that common sense can still discern: explosive devices, missiles and poison gas are not the same thing — and simply do not serve the same purposes — as a handgun.
But then, when it became clear by the early 1970s that public sentiment and national politics were opposed to large scale wars, and sales of military weapons by firearms manufacturers began to plummet, those companies strategized a new tactic that they continue to employ today: Every American had a Constitutional right to own military weapons! (see articles below) By the the 1980s, that tactic was in full swing, and the “common sense distinction” that had existed for two centuries evaporated. So that’s how things got so confused…or rather, that’s how the firearms manufacturers were able to muddy the waters.
These companies lobbied for the ability to sell military firearms to civilians in order to enlarge their market — ignoring what had become a very large difference is weapons specialization, and using the 2nd Amendment and an implicit threat of government oppression as a smokescreen for their deceptive manipulations. And of course influential groups like the NRA, which were initially supportive of moderate gun control measures, were then taken over by those who supported the loosening of restrictions that benefited gun manufacturers (see 'Revolt at Cincinnati' molded modern NRA
And, as it turned out, a spirit of Constitutional righteousness combined with fear of oppression and the “helplessness” of not owning a gun was a great sales tool.
Gun profits soared.
Then, after firearms manufacturers had “militarized” the civilian U.S. population, they obviously needed to militarize law enforcement to match that rising firepower — and another juicy market for their products was born.
All of this has been, essentially, the perversion of the Constitution — and the annihilation of common sense — just to make a buck.
My 2 cents.
How it started: Militarization of Civilian Market.pdf
Using fear to sell guns: Fear Is the NRA and Gun Industry’s Deadliest Weapon
Gun profits soar: Gun boom: Smith & Wesson profits double, sales soar 40%
How it all fits together: San Bernardino shooting: US gun sales soar as new front opens in push for gun control
How it keeps happening: How Military Guns Make the Civilian Market
The militarization of law enforcement: We now have a terrifying, militarized law enforcement system
Comment from Ben Andrews: "I would say that the distinction between military and non-military weapons is facile. Like so many distinctions with regard to firearms, this military/ personal one is drawn after the fact, at a point convenient to the classifier."
LOL. I think everything posted on social media is facile, Ben.
The level of complexity of most topics here on Quora goes far beyond what brief statements can capture. I still try to add supportive links for folks to follow up and explore with more depth, but I find very few fellow Quorans actually take the time to read them. Everyone seems to want neat, easy-to-chew packages of info. This is understandable, given the firehose of information coming at us from all directions in the current age. But for the purposes of real, substantive discussions…well, it’s a little frustrating, to be sure.
That said, specialization occurs in every industry, and has snowballed with the industrial and technological revolutions. There are tools and gadgets in each profession now that are totally unrecognizable to every other profession. The same thing has happened with specialized language. It’s one of the reasons, I think, that society itself is fragmenting: people literally can’t understand each other. The only force countervailing this is mass media, which tends to overly simplify and gloss over any level of detail or specificity, in order to achieve a lowest-common-denominator stream of easily-digested communication. The only real remedy is…again…for folks to take actual time and effort to more thoroughly research something.
In this case, firearms have not been immune to specialization across different fields. Although there have always been specialized applications (neither deck cannon nor dueling pistols would likely be used for hunting in the 1700s, for example), those specializations have snowballed like everything else. The ~$1,300 SSK Contender, MOA Maximum, or Freedom Arms 2008 are single-shot pistols or hunting game. No one would ever consider these practical for self-defense or military applications. And yet this highly specialized style of firearm has a growing market. Likewise the Rheinmetall MG3 really only has one purpose: mowing down humans at 1,300 rounds per minute — again, not really useful for plinking, target practice or game. There are firearms that have some history of multiple specialties, like certain hunting rifles used for sniper applications (Remington Model 700, for example), but even here you won’t see any hunting rifle listed in the top choices for snipers nowadays — instead, you’ll see highly customized firearms like the Steyr SSG 69…which, again, isn’t generally used for anything else.
So this is the state of affairs for most technology. Just buying a tool in a hardware store can be overwhelming to folks who don’t know what specific
type of hammer, wrench or saw they need for their specific application. The same is true of paint for a specific surface or condition. Or clothing for a specific activity. And so on.
So this is really not an “after-the-fact” distinction. In reality, companies spend tremendous $$$ on R&D to develop new specialized lines of products that appeal to experts, hobbyists and professionals in a given field or activity. And, of course, this intended, planned and executed differentiation
is why civilians can’t easily purchase an M16, and must make do with an AR15.
Hopefully this is a slightly less facile explanation of specialization.
I don’t mean to be flippant, but deepening income inequality is a problem everywhere there is capitalism.
As to California specifically, “high taxes” is a bit of an incorrect stereotype. If you look at a combined burden of local sales tax rates, state income tax rates, estate and inheritance tax rates, and property tax rates, California is actually pretty low compared to many other states (NY State, for example) — especially for middle and lower income folks. And, in fact, there have also been tax revolts over time — everything from Prop 13 (limits property tax increases) to revoking a luxury tax on expensive vehicles statewide. In both cases, these taxes used to pay for a lot of public programs and services…and now that money is gone.
What is really burdensome in CA (especially where I live, in San Diego) is the overall cost of living — food, medical expenses, gasoline, water, energy, apartment rental, home purchases…pretty much EVERYTHING costs more in CA (Sperling’s Best Places puts San Diego at 160% of the U.S. average). And, let me tell you, 160% is painfully high. Now combine this with the fact that wages are very depressed in California — and especially SoCal — to the tune of about 65% of similar metropolitan areas. So you pay more to live here, but earn less. They call this the “sun dollar” tax: because it’s sunny, beautiful weather, you have to pay extra for it. It’s also a consequence of having a LOT of cheap professional labor from Mexico making daily trips across the border to fulfill routine business and consumer needs — this takes a sizable chunk out of local business revenues in some industries, and depresses prices across the board for many goods and services.
Homelessness happens because of many of these economic factors…but the homeless population in California has also grown because people will come here from other places in the U.S. due to the climate year-round. It’s really a great place to be homeless — you aren’t likely to freeze to death.
But again…the reason all of this happens DESPITE really successful wealth production in California is because capitalism doesn’t distribute the wealth it generates — instead that wealth accumulates with owner-shareholders (many of whom may not even live in the state), who don’t necessarily spend that money in California either…and certainly not a lot of it on poor and homeless folks.
My 2 cents.
What a great question.
In my own work across multiple disciplines, a theme that keeps recurring is that culture is one of the strongest memetic forces in existence — culture dominates nearly every human action and decision, both individually and collectively. Culture is often stronger than religion — so strong that religion tends to conform to culture over time. Culture is stronger than political economy — it informs how governance and economy actually function, regardless of expressed ideals or principles. I’ll offer a few examples that seem to nibble around the edges of cultural dominance:
1. Russian culture habitually gravitates toward strong man autocrats, regardless of their underlying system of government.
Tsars were replaced with authoritarian dictators, despite communism and then democracy claiming to represent “the will of the people.” The failure of communism and democracy in Russia are, IMO, a product of a deep and enduring cultural propensity to elevate and uphold a strong man autocrat.
2. Genital mutilation of girls and women continues to occur even where it opposed or unsupported by the dominant religion for centuries.
FGM is not supported by the Quran, nor by a majority of hadith (though there are some that seem to support a more limited practice), and some fatwas have even been issued forbidding it — and yet is occurs Muslim countries as a routine practice. It also occurs in neighboring Christian countries, where it has no scriptural basis and was opposed by the earliest Christian missionaries. Why does it persist? Because this *****cultural practice***** preceded both of these religions…and those cultures won’t let it die.
3. Misogyny and oppression of women persists in cultures where Christianity is the dominant religion — despite the fact that the New Testament is full of liberating feminist themes that were truly extraordinary for their time
(see excerpt from A Progressive’s Guide to the New Testament.pdf
). Again, this is because the culture preceding
exposure to Christianity was profoundly patriarchal, often treating women as mere property or brood mares, and those cultural practices and attitudes simply resisted religious reforms.
4. Democracy consistently fails when the culture in which it is being implemented has preexisting power structures that oppose democratic civic institutions.
This has been almost universally true — whether it is the consequences of the Arab Spring, U.S. “nation-building,” or some other abrupt introduction of democracy. Whenever the existing cultural
power hierarchies (i.e.deference to military or religious authority; deep-seated tribalistic conflicts; economies and governments where bribes, kickbacks and corruption are the norm; etc.) is challenged by democracy, democracy eventually fails.
5. Even where democracy thrives for a time, it can eventually be eroded by culture.
There is probably no better example of this than the United States. Although founded on the democratic principles of a republic, the U.S. has also had deeply-seated plutocratic, racist, patriarchal memes in its culture from the beginning. For example, a majority of the Founding Fathers envisioned wealthy white men who owned land as having the most justifiable power in society — at first, those were often the only citizens who could even vote (for U.S. Senators, in certain localities, etc.). Even John Adams — frequently the most progressive-thinking Founder — believed women and the poor should be excluded from voting (see John Adams letter to to James Sullivan
). And so, over time, we saw the continued march of racist, sexist plutocracy weakening democratic institutions in the U.S. The invention of “corporate personhood” by a court clerk in 1886; resistance to voting rights for minorities and women for over a century; today, the active disenfranchisement of minority communities by the GOP; unfettered corporate influence in U.S. politics (via lobbyists, A.L.E.C., RAGA, Citizens United
ruling, etc.); revolving door politics; and of course neoliberal crony capitalism that captures elected officials and regulatory agencies (see L7 Neoliberalism
). So the U.S., once envisioned as a beacon of democratic values, has become a de facto oligarchy.
In the same way, the cultural meme of “rugged individualism” has also undermined democratic function, as it confuses atomism and egotistical self-absorption with a “liberty” that must actually be agreed upon by everyone in society (see The Goldilocks Zone of Integral Liberty
So the answer to the OP’s question: “How does culture affect the emergence and survival of democracy?”
Is that strong cultural memes simply preempt or override interobjective structures in society as a matter of social function. It is more important what I learn from my parents, peers, immediate community and cultural tribe than any formalized, institutional elements of civil society. Democracy may seem
like a great idea to a society longing to be free — just as a particular religion may seem
like it resonates with prosocial values that are important to a given society — but longstanding cultural practices and groupthink can override or undermine both. Nowhere is this more evident than the election of someone like Donald Trump to office, with his ongoing support from Christian evangelicals and other religious conservatives — a person who demonstrates disdainful disregard for democratic civic institutions and most spiritual values, but is wildly popular among the cultural proponents of plutocracy, corporatocracy, misogyny, patriarchy, xenophobia, and the superiority of the white race.
My 2 cents.
both hidden in Shadow
and exposed by Light
as primal as the urge to fuck
destruction haunts our being –
than potent swarms
of tiny deaths
more fundamental than fear
able to discard guilt and doubt
like wisps of ashen doll
along with other childish things –
this is the enigma
we now see face to face:
There is a lie about what evil is.
All being is Light
there is no darkness in it
except the occlusions of ignorance.
Each iteration, expression
manifestation of existence
is love in different form
and only love
from unskilled and muddled brutality
to deluded passions
to perfectly crafted kindness;
So what we believe to be wrong, or bad
or the meanest opposing antagonist
is simply one part of love’s continuum
misunderstanding its own.
Within the mind
negation is no enemy
and emptiness can be full;
within the world
death entwines the genesis of rebirth
and deepest night
invites the sun’s return;
within our hearts
acquiescence opens us
and letting go
bringing clarity and strength.
But in the realm of spirit
in the Before, where love was born
annihilation has a different heft.
For here, return to nothingness is so complete
that even its conception is bereft:
the will to destroy
regressing to an ever-earlier state
defies the Absolute itself.
A contrast can be made this way….
To behold the face of the Divine
and then be rendered mute
in fiercest sundering of soul
is a soaring acclamation: “YES!”
within silence as a whole;
But Outer Darkness is just that –
it is outside all realms of love
not night with promise
of some future day
but eternal absence of the Light.
This is the truest evil
– the ever-present first
the “NO!” devouring itself
the prime annihilation –
which we confront today.
This is the gnashing maw of death
that deniers of science embrace;
this is the Beast
that evangelicals beckon
with reckless political choice;
this is the extinguishing flame
that industrial commerce
demands consume the Earth;
this is the calamity
that picky liberals
bring upon themselves
when they stay home on election day;
this is what childish, spiteful populism
hateful of progressive change
has voted into being.
And of course this is not new –
just one more cycle
where the center cannot hold –
every age has its genocides
from Holocaust to Holodomor
Armenia to Circassia
Algeria to the Americas;
its ruthless dictators
Genghis Khan, Attila the Hun
Joseph Stalin, Idi Amin
Augusto Pinochet, Queen Mary I
Tamerlane, Pope Innocent III;
its chaotic groupthink
Dancing plagues and the Spanish Inquisition
The Great Fear and Irish Fright
Clown sightings and “Strawberries with Sugar.”
So easily…too easily
we spiral hysterically
Our Death Drive is real
its longing for regression overwhelms
and though hope seems vanquished
and common sense crippled
and lunacy ascendant
(surely even demons
shriek in terror at such folly)
we still reside in love –
we still inhabit that continuum
no matter how foolish we become.
So if you know what evil truly is
and endeavor to resist
with earnest mind and heart
calling on your highest art –
the spirit of a perfect love
that leads to sacred sense –
perhaps all this silliness
can be undone.
Thanks for the question. A positive relationship between corporate tax cuts and “encouraging investment” that leads to economic growth is a fairy tale unsupported by data. It is, in fact, very similar to the fairy tale regarding supply side “trickle down” theory, which has also been soundly debunked (see The IMF Confirms That 'Trickle-Down' Economics Is, Indeed, a Joke
Just let the data speak for itself. Take a look at Corporate tax rates and economic growth since 1947
. Although there is a superficial correlation between higher
(not lower) corporate tax rates and better GDP growth, there is not much evidence that lower corporate tax rates increase GDP growth. The net effect is statistically pretty neutral.
However, how those tax dollars are spent (and when in the business cycle they are spent) can result in highly variable impacts on the economy — which is why there is such a wide range of “multiplier” estimates for government spending (frequently between 1 and 3). In general, government expenditures during recession have a much larger positive impact than during an economic boom. Expenditures on infrastructure may provide an immediate boost to certain industries, but then a much longer and more gradual multiplier as new business expansion is built upon that infrastructure. In the same vein, government spending that results in free education can have a substantial impact on economic growth many years after those students graduate and become productive contributors to the economy.
But probably the highest “multiplier-friendly” activity the government can do is research: there is lot of research the private sector simply won’t do — and hasn’t done in the past — which leads to new innovations, technological advances, and even entire new industries. Many of the things we rely on today (cell phones, the Internet, computers, life-saving drugs, etc.) were mainly the consequence of government research that was then used to deliver products to the marketplace by private companies. And of course whenever government programs are able to put more money into the the hands of consumers, while at the same time government is directly spending on goods services, this can stimulate aggregate demand (and, consequently, GDP) much more than business investment alone ever could.
At the same time, there are of course lots of things government spends money on that aren’t really all that great in the multiplier department. A good example is defense spending. Some research (see Mercatus Center study at George Mason U) suggests that the multiplier impact of defense spending on the U.S. economy is less than 1. The hypothesis is that in defense industries specifically, government spending “crowds out” private sector spending. So again it does make a difference how the money gleaned from corporate taxes is spent.
But if government doesn’t have money to spend, then clearly either there is going to be less of a multiplier, or there or going to be government deficits. Now the impact on deficits on the economy is a bit more complex, so I’m going to duck that one for now. But suffice it to say that long-term deficits can actually mess up the economy in a number of unsavory and dramatic ways.
My 2 cents.
They are all mistaken — probably owing to a shared, pernicious infection of individualist thinking — but I will order them according to who I think is least wrong:
1. Rousseau — surprisingly interesting insights about two central drives in primitive consciousness, but unaware of the group selection research since his time that establishes the centrality of prosociality for human survival.
2. Locke — offers an attractive vision that justifies features of civil society, but makes glaring mistakes with respect to his observations of primitive culture (for example, regarding private property’s existence there). Once again…if only he had access to the research we have today!
3. Hobbes — seemingly immersed in observations of high-testosterone, high resource-scarcity cultures only, and so unable to offer much insight about generalities of the human condition.
My 2 cents.
All anarchists are opposed to tyranny. The differences arise around the sources of that tyranny, and how best to mitigate them.
Thanks for the question, but I think that not only is it difficult to generalize in this area, but that it’s a moving target — the landscape is constantly changing. With that said, here is how I would approach some relevant characteristics:
1. My experience is that, on an interpersonal level, left-leaning and right-leaning people who have an honest, intimate and open friendship can come to understand each others’ position quite easily over time. Why? Because they build trust through friendship, and the politics are secondary.
2. It might be fairly easy to say that, the dumber and more ignorant two people are — and the more extreme their opposing political positions — the more challenging it will be for them to come to fruitful insight of each other’s POV. But, more importantly, if they already feel hostile and alienated towards each other, and are isolated from each other in terms of any interpersonal connection or shared experience, it might be pretty impossible for them to bridge the distance between their positions…ever.
3. Empathy is a powerful perceiver and communicator. If folks of opposing views have “strong empathy muscles,” they probably can achieve a basic understanding of each other’s perspectives with some concerted effort.
4. With all of these caveats, I would still have to say that I encounter more people with what we might call “identical, lockstep, reflexively regurgitated groupthink” on the right-leaning end of the spectrum than on the left-leaning end — and part of that groupthink is to deliberately distort and misunderstand left-leaning positions. That is not to say this same phenomenon doesn’t exist on the Left…it does…it’s just a lot more rare.
We can see a parallel example in media: if you compare the extreme bias and low factuality (or conspiracy-mongering) of media outlets on a site like Media Bias/Fact Check - Search and Learn the Bias of News Media (http://mediabiasfactcheck.com
), the ratio of really “out there” right-wing media outlets to left-wing ones is about 10 to 1. That is, there are roughly ten times the number of right-wing media sources that are basically promoting yellow journalism, counterfactual reporting and conspiracy propaganda. In my experience, that’s about the same ratio of right-wing folks who can’t understand the other side vs. left-wing folks who can’t understand the other side.
My 2 cents.
Thanks for the question. My take on why we can’t agree about politics:
1. Tribalistic groupthink:
for many people, it’s more important to belong to a group and feel safe or superior than be open to other people’s perspectives. Hence “us vs. them” or “ingroup vs. outgroup” is a natural and persisting tension.
2. Different information sources and authorities.
There is a lot of deceptive propaganda out there that is peddled as “news” or “fact.” Adding to this are phenomena like Illusory truth effect (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illusory_truth_effect
). This means that when someone proposes an opinion or solution based on actual facts and provable evidence, it can’t be accepted by the peddlers of deception and their followers. This is a difficult gap to bridge.
3. Variations in intelligence and critical thinking capacity.
For one person, a perspective may seem obviously false or ridiculous because that person is more intelligent and thinks more carefully than the person offering the “ridiculous” perspective. But they can’t just say “hey that’s really stupid” without being offensive….
4. Variations in real-life experience.
City-dwellers live a much different existence than someone raised in a rural town. Folks who graduate with an advanced degree from college have a different take on education than someone who dropped out of high school. Someone who grew up in a hunting culture with family members in the military has a very different attitude about guns than someone who was raised in a pacifist Vegan household. And so on. Such differences in lived experience have an enormous impact on ideological and political beliefs and convictions.
Sometimes folks can’t agree — or even agree to disagree — because they are emotionally invested in winning. This is pretty immature, but also pretty common.
6. Engineered division.
As to why we can’t seem to overcome all of these barriers to agreement, let’s not forget that it’s not to the advantage of the powers-that-be that any agreement be reached. Whether it’s the rabid partisanship encouraged in primary elections, or the “purity tests” with which each political tribe judges its members, or the “active measures” of Russia and China to amplify confusion and division among voters — all of this is driven by a “we must win at any cost” agenda.
My 2 cents.
Here are the primary disruptors of the status, popularity and trust of philosophy and philosophers, as I see them, in rough chronological order:
1. The predisposition of consumerist culture to believe what we are “sold”
— through advertising, marketing, etc. — seems to have created fertile ground for hucksters and con artists. By orienting our thinking and convictions (along with buying and voting choices) around what we are conditioned by advertising and marketing to believe, we essentially forfeited our critical thinking and reliance on interior and traditional (folk/religious) wisdom and common sense.
2. In tandem with well-established consumerism, a cultural movement grounded in postmodern sentiments began to question everything:
traditional values and institutions; the principles of past religious and philosophical thinking and doctrine; the veracity of anything claiming to be “truth;” and so on. Ironically, this was at least in part a consequence of postmodern (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postmodernism
) philosophers introducing memes of doubt and relativism.
3. The popularity and name recognition of pretenders who diluted the credibility of social sciences seems to have accelerated the slippery slope created by consumerism and postmodernism.
Folks such as Ayn Rand and L.Ron Hubbard, for example, who not only departed from academic discipline and rigor, but had little if any honest, carefully considered, or sincere a posteriori
or a priori
basis for many of their claims. In other words: we saw a decline in trust because of the popularity of irresponsible hacks who called themselves “philosophers.”
These folks pitched pseudo-philosophy as being equivalent to actual academic discipline…which, in turn, added to burgeoning postmodern skepticism.
4. Then conservative think tanks were created that, beginning in the early 1970s, made well-funded and highly organized efforts to discredit academia and intellectuals
(i.e. what became attacks like the “cultural Marxism” conspiracy, etc.). Why? Mainly in reaction to the cultural revolution of the 1960s, which was perceived to put the gravy train of corporate America in jeopardy (see The Powell Memo
). But also as a consequence of a growing political influence of religious conservatives who were opposed to science, education and critical thinking. (see The Religious Right's Power Grab: How Outside Activists Became Inside Operatives | Religion & Politics
5. Next came the steady weakening of academic institutions
— both K-12 and higher education. There are a number of reasons this occurred — an increase in for profit institutions, the prioritization of test scores and homogenous curricula, a shift of academic focus away from arts and social sciences into STEM and business, and of course the ongoing assault on “the life of the mind” by conservative ideology and activism.
6. In parallel with weakening education, there was a mass media revolution and the democratization of knowledge — as amplified by the profit motive:
broadcast TV, cable TV, the Internet, media streaming services (podcasts, YouTube, Netflix), and social media. This rapid evolution, accelerated and sustained by massive for profit enterprise, watered down the importance of expertise, research and academic rigor, replacing it with a vast army of armchair pundits and conspiracy mongers who could spout unfounded knee-jerk opinions that had equal or greater weight (in these media) to the opinions of academics, writers, researchers, scientists, philosophers, etc. Combined with the Dunning–Kruger effect (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning–Kruger_effect
), this trend snowballed into its current and fairly complete disconnection from facts, critical thinking and evidence.
7. The mass media weaponization of “active measure” disinformation campaigns by nefarious state actors (see L7 Opposition (https://www.level-7.org/Challenges/Opposition/)).
This is kind of the final nail in the coffin, if you will. When Russia, China and others began to create troll farms, hijack social media to spread division and confusion, and fund “alternative media” that furthered conspiracies and deceptions, the dilution of intellectual honesty — and “false equivalence” of pure invention with facts — was complete.
And that’s pretty much how we arrived in the mess where we are today.
My 2 cents.
This is a tough question to answer — mainly because I don’t know the questioner's situation or why they are asking this question. However, if they have been diagnosed with BPD and are observing this reaction from others, then I would offer the following, based on several years living with folks with BPD, attending BPD support groups and therapy, and studying up on BPD….
1. Part of the problem is perception and lack of education. If someone doesn’t understand the Borderline diagnosis, they will tend to make incorrect assumptions about what “looks like” sabotaging, manipulative, deceptive, or destructive behavior…but which is really just an overwhelming self-preservation response from someone with BPD. Borderline’s aren’t intending to act they way they sometimes do, they are coping with a powerful flood of heightened emotions with a primal and reflexive panic. These self-preservation responses can override all rational attempts to manage them differently (on the part of the person who has BPD) — and all rational attempts a friend or loved one might make to mitigate them. Imagine being so flooded by, for example, fear or anxiety that the only actions that seems available are to lash out, or lie, or run away, or try to desperately force the situation into a different condition. So the friends, coworkers, loved ones, relatives, etc. may simply not understand the immensely strong emotions the person with BPD is feeling in these instances…and so the Borderline’s actions seem inexplicable or inexcusable.
2. BPD can be extremely difficult to treat. One of very few effective options available is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), which provides a set of tools (practices, habits, thought patterns, etc.) that help Borderlines manage the intense emotional turmoil they experience — and help manage the negative impacts of common BPD behaviors on others. If a Borderline hasn’t ever engaged in DBT training and support groups, then it’s possible whatever therapy they try will have very limited effect. And this can be incredibly frustrating for everyone involved — for the Borderline and for everyone else in their life who is placing hope that therapy (or medications, etc.) will result in healing or constructive change. And if multiple therapeutic techniques are attempted — and fail to help — that can lead to everyone involved feeling more mistrust, exasperation, frustration, antagonism, etc.
3. Of course there are people who are mean to others and dislike them simply because they themselves are immature, and don’t care about trying to understand the other person — or to have compassion for them. This is often just a hallmark of immaturity and selfishness, in my experience. It wouldn’t matter if the person being disliked had BPD or red hair…the self-centered nasty person would be mean because that’s just who they are. Or — ironically — perhaps they themselves have a personality, emotional or mental disorder that is causing them to be mean…?
4. Just as with some other personality disorders (and some other mental illness diagnoses), someone suffering from BPD can feel sad, angry, depressed, paranoid, or judged by others in various situations, even when the other people involved aren’t actually trying to be mean — and don’t actually dislike them, aren’t judging them, aren’t angry, etc. This is one of the saddest situations that anyone trying to befriend or support a Borderline can experience: *to be suspected or accused of being mean, or of disliking their friend or loved one with BPD, when they really don’t feel that way at all. *It can be heartbreaking until everyone involved (including the Borderline) can eventually learn that these suspicions and fears are manifestations of a mental illness, and not actually real. It’s very hard to arrive at this place of neutral, non-judgmental awareness of these strong negative emotions, but that is what anyone with BPD — or anyone who is in a relationship with someone with BPD — must learn to do. Again, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy training and ongoing support groups can be incredibly helpful in this regard.
5. Lastly I would like to share one of the foundational pillars of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy: radical acceptance. Radical acceptance is available for everyone involved in these situations — for the Borderline themselves, and for the people in their life who wish to support them. And it’s just what it sounds like: acceptance without judgement, without expecting or forcing a change, without retaliating or punishing, without feeling shame. Just acceptance…and letting go. In my experience radical acceptance is extraordinarily liberating, and healing, for everyone involved. In fact can be a necessary and constructive first step in mending any tumultuous relationship.
I hope this was helpful info.
It depends on the form of socialism. For libertarian socialism, it’s pretty simple, really: Democracy runs everything.
Democracy governs the workplace. Democracy governs how the economy is structured and run. Democracy determines what is most important to society — at the community level, for the priorities of research and development, regarding whether or not to build national infrastructure, etc. And so on. And this is all done via consensus, direct democracy, nested elected councils, or a similar diffused form of democratic decision-making.
Of course, that is only one form of socialism. Here are some of the others, for which the answer would be different:
T. Collins Logan's answer to What are the different types of socialism?
My 2 cents.
Thanks for the question.
It’s a challenge, I think, for anyone to pick passages out of Smith’s work that apply exactly to today’s context of modern capitalism. Those who are friendly to classical liberalism and neoliberalism have made many errors doing so, and those who feel modern capitalism is problematic have also made errors picking-and-choosing from Smith’s work. With that caveat, here’s what I think might be relevant to this question:
1. The problem of business interests being at odds with public interests, and business having too much influence over both commerce and government. Smith touches on this frequently in Wealth of Nations, and uses the argument to encourage vigilant and thoughtful governmental oversight of business so that the public’s interests may be protected and business influence be reined in — Smith calls this “good government.” Without good government, Smith warns, the purveyors of commerce gain too much power. Why is this problematic? Because Smith observes that this particular breed of folks cannot be trusted with the public good; he writes of them: “The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order, ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but with the most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men, whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it.” (Bk 1, Ch.11) Further, Smith observes that such men often come to operate according to a disturbing principle: “All for ourselves and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind.” (Bk 3, Ch.4)
2. The “absurd tax” of monopolies, and — once again — the dangers of their influence on government. Also not serving the public’s interests are monopolies that eliminate competition — which Smith warns are a natural objective of business, in order to maximize profits. “To widen the market may frequently be agreeable enough to the interest of the public; but to narrow the competition must always be against it, and can serve only to enable the dealers, by raising their profits above what they naturally would be, to levy, for their own benefit, an absurd tax upon the rest of their fellow-citizens.” (Wealth of Nations, Bk 1, Ch.11) In addition, monopolies can gain inordinate coercive influence over government itself: “like an overgrown standing army, they have become formidable to the government, and upon many occasions intimidate the legislature. The member of parliament who supports every proposal for strengthening this monopoly, is sure to acquire not only the reputation of understanding trade, but great popularity and influence with an order of men whose numbers and wealth render them of great importance. If he opposes them, on the contrary, and still more if he has authority enough to be able to thwart them, neither the most acknowledged probity, nor the highest rank, nor the greatest public services, can protect him from the most infamous abuse and destruction, from personal insults, nor sometimes from real danger, arising from the insolent outrage of furious and disappointed monopolists.” (Wealth of Nations, Bk 4, Ch.2)
3. The lack of representation of worker interests and needs. “In the public deliberations, therefore, [the laborer’s] voice is little heard and less regarded, except upon some particular occasions, when his clamor is animated, set on, and supported by his employers, not for his, but for their own particular purposes.” (Wealth of Nations, Bk 1, Ch.11) Smith does seem to think laborers aren’t always capable of constructive input to government — because of their lack of education, information and time — but he clearly doesn’t trust businesses to represent worker interests either.
My 2 cents.
Please note: excerpts from Smith’s Wealth of Nations in the above answer can easily be found via a full search string in quotes.
Thanks for the question.
No, I don’t think individualism writ large is the motivating force of capitalism. I would break down capitalism’s motivations this way:
1. Acquisitiveness towards property, wealth and power seems to be a primary driver — especially in order to gain social position and prestige, and to exercise such collected power and wealth independently of government, society, or even moral expectations. In essence, we could say this is “selfish accumulation,” which is a rather ugly facet of individualism, especially when combined with lording it over other people. But individualism has other, more positive aspects — such as freedom of thought, creative freedom, expressive freedom, freedom of choice, etc. — for which capitalism falsely claims to provide advantages. In reality, capitalism deprives most people of most individual freedoms — through coercive marketing, addictive products, titillating groupthink, wage slavery, debt slavery, and so on — so it can’t claim the more positive benefits of individualism at all.
2. A mistaken but widespread belief that capitalist markets provide the best solutions to human challenges. In reality, capitalist markets provide profitable products and services to people by persuading them that those products and services solve certain challenges — even if they really don’t. Think of pharmaceutical products marketed to treat a certain condition that don’t outperform placebo or cheaper treatment options (this happens a lot). In fact, capitalism is quite ingenious at inventing “needs” that never existed, then synthesizing demand for products and services that fulfill those previously nonexistent “needs.”
3. A mistaken belief that wealth itself solves human challenges. Sure, lifting folks out of poverty is great, and capitalism has been pretty good at that. But at what price? This is the faulty reasoning of the capitalist, who tends to ignore the importance of strong civic institutions to sustain society over time; or the need to consider and plan for negative externalities (i.e. pollution, carbon emissions, destruction of ecosystems that support all life, etc.) created by rising standards of living in the industrial age; or how wealth in excess can make people childish, callous and disconnected from others (see Paul Piff’s research on this). In other words, wealth alone doesn’t solve some very important fundamental challenges…and in fact can make them worse.
4. A sort of anthropocentrism and egocentrism — a belief that humans are entitled to do anything they want, both collectively and individually. Again, this isn’t really “individualism,” it’s more akin to a mental illness like Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
My 2 cents.
Unfortunately, many discussions around this topic reflect a profound, heart-stopping, mind-boggling ignorance about a) the nature of the current existential threats to humanity, and b) the nature of what “far left” represents. This ignorance goes a long way toward enabling the worst human habits and systems of our status quo to continue its dazzling downward spiral. In part, this appears to be ignorance stemming from right-wing misinformation (or disinformation/propaganda, as the case may be), and in part this ignorance seems just a reflection of poorly educated people trying to grapple with problems they don’t understand — and don’t have the discipline to learn about or carefully consider. The rest of the mix just appears to reflect a sort of native abject stupidity, and we can’t do much about that. But for those who are open to learning and self-improvement — or who are willing see through the propaganda — I’ll try to offer some clarity.
Nearly all of the “existential threats” to humanity — and planet Earth for that matter — are a consequence of a snowballing nexus of these global factors:
1. A style of extractive capitalism that is rapidly exhausting natural resources, while grossly polluting and destroying ecosystems necessary for the survival of life at the same time, in order to prop up a modern first-world lifestyle of overconsumption and excessive waste. The industrial and technological revolutions of the past two centuries have made this extractive capitalist engine so powerful (and the overconsumptive lifestyle so entrenched) that it has become extremely efficient in its destructive capacities — and very difficult to stop.
2. Rapid population growth coupled with equally rapid and expanding economic growth that has amplified these negative impacts in exponential ways…with no obvious end in sight, outside of eventual chaotic collapse.
3. Pro-capitalist sentiments and political forces (i.e. market fundamentalists, plutocrats, neoliberals, right-Libertarians, traditional conservatives, corporate investors, etc.) that have tirelessly sought to protect the extractive capitalist engine that generates their wealth, even while seeking to destroy or cripple countervailing influences that could moderate their self-serving greed or mitigate wantonly destructive consequences of that greed. Part of that self-protective strategy, it should be noted, is the advocacy of unproven or disproven economic theories (Austrian School, etc.), conspiracy theories, weakening of government oversight, “science skepticism” bolstered by fake research, and social and systemic approaches that have not been proven or are not evidence-based.
The “far Left” is comprised mainly of the following groups — who consistently attempt to support their positions with actual science and evidence-based approaches:
1. Left anarchists/libertarian socialists
2. Social progressives
3. Social democrats
4. Democratic socialists
It should be noted that these groups do not support Soviet-Style Communism — the bogeyman that many posts in this thread stand up as their straw man to tear down. In fact, most groups mainly aim to gentle the toxic strain of capitalism that dominates the global economy today, reining it in with democratic controls, worker empowerment, a strong bulwark of regulatory oversight, and a shifting of ownership away from wealthy owner-shareholders who have been such poor stewards of corporate power, and into the hands of public control. Essentially, the “far Left” is all about increasing economic, political and environmental democracy — a strengthening of civil society — and eliminating plutocratic corruption of civic institutions.
As such, the “far Left” is almost certainly the best bet — as a starting point at least — for reversing our current descent into self-destruction.
However, there is one small problem with the “far Left” as so defined being the savior of humanity and planet Earth: none of its constituent groups have addressed the issue of population very vocally or aggressively. Some environmentalists will meekly raise the issue…but that’s about it. Most other groups equivocate, downplay concerns, or hold a false optimism about global populations leveling themselves out over time. So although the “far Left” gaining more influence could soften the toxic impact of extractive capitalism, and perhaps delay the “existential threats” we face for a time, unless and until the population crisis is actively engaged as well, the far Left’s salvation will be tenuous at best.
My 2 cents.
Voting is not an optional privilege, it is a civic obligation — a payment back to society for having roads, electricity, social safety nets, the rule of law, and so on. And with the scale and urgency of challenges we currently face around the globe (the resurgence of fascism; climate crisis; an accelerating loss of species and habitats from human misuse and mismanagement; and so on), “not voting” is akin to lighting oneself on fire — and then allowing those flames to spread and consume everything and everyone around us. Therefore no rationale “to not vote” matters: it’s basically a criminal offense, much like not stopping to aid a dying person on the side of the road.
That said, it is certain that selfishness, laziness, childishness, egotism, ignorance, stupidity and vindictiveness will become excuses for some people not to vote. Unfortunately, we’ve managed to engineer a modern society where such traits are vaunted and rewarded — heck, you can even become President of the United States by flaunting such traits. So that is a sad state of affairs.
But again, in the current context, not voting is simply lighting oneself on fire, and to do so with strong conviction is both suicidal and, ultimately, homicidal.
My 2 cents.
This question reveals the destructive tendency of capitalism to condition folks to falsely believe they require “external” motivations to do things. It really is a profound disconnect from how humans actually operate, which is mainly from intrinsic motivation — at least until that spark is repeatedly discouraged, snuffed out, and replaced with external drivers and addictions. Capitalism’s primary self-perpetuating mechanism is persuading and coercing consumers to consume, and that means creating dependency on such consumption — a process I call infantilization or toddlerization — and annihilating all self-sufficiency and self-directedness in the process. Ironically, this is often “sold” as freedom of choice…a sort of appeal to individualistic gratification. But it’s actually quite the opposite, because it removes the only substantive choice available to liberate oneself from addictive cycles of craving and buying.
So, to the contrary, people don’t need “society” to promote self-motivation and personal drive. It pre-exists and is hard-wired into most people. All any “non-capitalist” society would really need to do is to is resist interfering with this intrinsic capacity. Humans are quite ingenious about inventing things to do, as well as the reasons to do them — think of every folk tradition that predated capitalism, every creative act (symphony, painting, sculpture, poem) that wasn’t done for profit, every idea that was written down and shared because its author thought it was compelling, every invention and scientific discovery that occurred from the the pure joy of researching and experimenting. Really…human existence is mostly about such natural inspiration. Capitalism just commoditizes this output for a buck…and then perpetuates the myth that the only reason we do anything is for personal gain. It’s quite laughable.
Of course, capitalism isn’t the only system that exploits people or aims to interfere with self-sufficiency and create habitual dependence — that’s a longstanding goal of many systems of social enslavement, from dogmatic and controlling religious institutions, to political tribalism and purity testing, to authoritarian and plutocratic governance, to fear-mongering disinformation campaigns. It’s all basically about the same thing: an attempt to control masses of people for the benefit of a few ruling or affluent elite.
Which means that simply removing capitalism is not sufficient…we must also remain vigilant toward the many other faces of oppression.
I hope this was helpful.
Thanks for the question.
What’s really interesting about this question is how folks in different economic strata (and different disciplines) usually think they have some unique take on “entitlements” — a definition or locus that is entirely separate from other definitions and framing. In reality, however, most are really all talking about two sides of the same coin: either the feeling of “being entitled to” something, or receiving some benefit or advantage that other people view the recipients “feel entitled to” (whether they actually do or not). What this all seems to circle around are feelings of jealousy or resentment from those who aren’t receiving some benefit or advantage someone else is receiving, or feelings of self-righteous certainty about ownership or deservedness of a benefit or advantage. In reality, folks of all walks of life — and across all disciplines — can and do experience both of these feelings at one time or another. These are common human reactions, easily tracing back to the sibling and peer rivalries of childhood. And, really, no one is immune.
So the rich or lucky may feel entitled to the profits from money they inherited or stumbled upon by chance; the poor or unlucky may feel entitled to charity; the addicted or chronically ill may feel entitled to care and support; the academic researcher may feel entitled to data that aids in their research; the professional journalist may feel entitled to “the truth;” a customer may feel entitled to receive a reliable product or courteous service; a company may feel entitled to disregard the interests of stakeholders when distributing profits; the oppressed and exploited may feel entitled to speak truth to power; a parent may feel entitled to lord it over their own children; one child may feel entitled to hit another child when they feel wronged by them; and so on. And, from the outside looking in, all of these instances can appear to be “entitlements” that aren’t necessarily earned, just, reasonable or fair. They are instead merely negotiated arrangements or cultural habits within an ever-evolving status quo — transactional usurpations of relational trust that societies of scale tend to deploy — and nothing more.
As I mull this over, it seems as though both accusations regarding the entitlements for others, and presumptions of entitlement for ourselves, are both just really primitive, immature and unproductive responses to the messy economic and status arrangements of what is admittedly a pretty dysfunctional society. They are much like a dog barking and whining when we are eating a piece of meat…or that same dog biting our hand when we try to take a piece of meat out of their bowl. It doesn’t really matter how either we are the dog came by that meat…the sense of “entitlement” is really just a variation of “I want…gimme now…you can’t have!”
My 2 cents.
This is just one among many theories, and not a particularly compelling one. The debate as to “why” the neolithic revolution happened will likely rage on for many more decades. The most widely entertained hypotheses include:
1. Cultures began to be interested in staying put, and less interested in following food around — i.e. moving where the seasons provided adequate flora and fauna for subsistence — so they began cultivating food where they wanted to live.
2. There was a co-evolution of humans and plants that resulted in agriculture — a sort of “intentional” symbiosis.
3. Changes in climate disrupted traditional hunting and gathering patterns and demanded cultivation as an adaptive response to maintain sufficient densities of food stock. In the same vein, a companion hypothesis frames agriculture as a “safety net” developed in response to periods of acute food crisis.
4. Experimentation by humans with various species of plant and animal to produce desirable traits may have led to larger scale cultivation efforts.
5. A desire for greater surpluses in production in order to trade.
6. As a consequence of population pressure on available resources — agriculture became a “necessary innovation,” first to augment hunting and gathering…and then ultimately supplant it.
7. Some combination of a few or all of the above.
(A decent overview of different theories be found here: Persistent controversies about the neolithic revolution
Increased productivity is actually no longer considered a likely driver, as efficient agricultural production at scale, along with effective storing capacity, probably took centuries to perfect. Cultural adoption of private property seems akin to an older theory that offered lavish feasting as a status symbol and social capital generator that demanded increased agricultural production. I am skeptical of this line of thinking, if only because Occam’s razor suggests so many other, simpler and more plausible explanations that expect far fewer assumptions. In fact the “private property” hypothesis feels a bit like projection of a capitalist mindset onto pre-capitalist society.
My 2 cents.
This question smacks of political propaganda and disinformation. Vladimir Putin’s “active measures” — propaganda that aims to disrupt and confuse people in target countries — include just this sort of message: “You can’t trust the press. They’re lying to you. You can’t trust the government. You can’t trust each other….”
and so on. The way this Quora question is phrased presumes that Americans don’t trust their own media…which actually isn’t true of ALL Americans…just the ones who’ve bought into that Russian propaganda.
The reality is that major conservative media outlets like Fox News do lie to their viewers all the time. However, those viewers still “trust” FOX to tell the truth…which has indeed been fairly disastrous for our democracy. In other words, because some people DO trust fake news, they are woefully misinformed and make very bad decisions. Unfortunately, it is mostly right-leaning media that tend to have the strongest bias and the least factual reporting (see http://mediabiasfactcheck.org (http://mediabiasfactcheck.org)), and indeed far-right media that has the highest conspiracy and propaganda tendencies. It is also right-wing media that parrots Russian propaganda that mass media can’t be trusted. The irony of this situation is pretty extreme, don’t you think…?
According to the most recent Gallup
data, 69% of Democrats trust mass media, but only 15% of Republicans do. And liberal-leaning media actually has much higher factual reporting, and less extreme bias (again see http://mediabiasfactcheck.org
). So you can see the effect here: Republicans distrust factual reporting in mainstream media with a left-leaning bias, but trust fake news outlets like FOX that peddle Russian conspiracies! They’ve got things upside down!
So sure…the Republican mistrust in news media is having a negative impact on U.S. democracy. It’s how Donald Trump — likely the worst President in U.S. history and a truly awful human being — was elected and remains popular. And this horrific presidency, with its corrosive policies and fear-mongering, continues to be very damaging to America and the rest of the planet.
With that said, here is a Pew Research article with a deeper look at perceptions of media trustworthiness and democracy, with several relevant links:
An update on our research into trust, facts and democracy (https://www.pewresearch.org/2019/06/05/an-update-on-our-research-into-trust-facts-and-democracy/
For more on Russian disinformation, check out these links:
From Russia with Likes (Part 1) | Your Undivided Attention
The disinformation age: a revolution in propaganda
My 2 cents.
In most traditions that “fine line” is to simply be guided by love instead of dogma or rigid doctrine on the one hand, or cultural traditions on the other. Dogma is a kind of black-and-white reasoning that sees all situations through the lens of lockstep conformance. What is considered “common sense” can often be a cultural reflex that isn’t carefully thought through. Love, which in most religions was the original basis or inspiration of all primary religious tenets, is able to see through the eyes of compassion, acceptance, encouragement and support — it doesn’t rely on dogma. And when we can practice skillful compassion, which discerns the most constructive way to respond in each unique situation, we demonstrate wisdom. Ultimately, both “common sense” (cultural) and “religious” (dogmatic) responses to a given challenge become much more effective when framed with wisdom and compassion. In my experience, both common sense and religious doctrine are softened and refined by skillful compassion.
My 2 cents.
Well thanks for the question, but answering it with any confidence seems like the height of hubris. So I’ll begin with this caveat: I don’t think the ultimate impact of anyone’s individual actions will be known for a very long time — likely not in their lifetime. Which means that our most earnest intentions — and our attempts to become skillful at reifying well-meaning outcomes — is about all we can really use as a metric in-the-moment. It’s the”skillful” part of this equation that is the real challenge IMO.
With that said, I do actively cultivate a personal aim for the greatest good, for the greatest number, for the greatest duration, with the greatest skillfulness
in much of what I do in my creative work, interpersonal relationships, habits of consumption, social media communication, advocacy for various causes, and political activism. Some examples of such aims that could, possibly (hopefully), bear fruit over time:
1. Practicing genuine caring, kindness and constructive support in as many interactions as possible with strangers, family and friends.
2. Capturing or expressing wonder, beauty, gratitude, mystery, love, sadness, and other impactful experiences in my creative work (photography (http://toadlandproductions.com
), music (https://soundcloud.com/t-collinslogan/tracks
), poetry (https://www.tcollinslogan.com/poetry/index.html
3. Advocating, educating and writing (https://www.tcollinslogan.com
) about the problems of crony capitalism, as well as the positive, more egalitarian and democratic alternatives to crony capitalism (see also L e v e l - 7 Overview
4. Avoiding conspicuous overconsumption, and paying attention to environmentally friendly sourcing of goods and services.
5. Promoting multidimensional self-care through Integral Lifework
6. Supporting organizations that I believe facilitate positive change (see Constructive Organizations
7. Voting for candidates and initiatives that most closely reflect as many of these values as possible, and participating in political and information campaigns at the grass roots level.
Will any of these efforts make any difference at all? Will they truly bear fruit for a “greater good?” Who knows…it just seems like it’s worth a try.
My 2 cents.
No, taxation is not extortion — at least not in mature democracies, because folks get to vote on what the taxes are used for, and how much they are. In places like Switzerland, which has semi-direct democracy, the electorate can assert direct control over the national budget and spending priorities with only 100K votes. In the U.S., such a level of direct influence is restricted to referenda and initiatives at a more local or state levels. The feeling that taxation is extortion or theft often stems from folks who either don’t agree with how tax revenues are being spent, or who aren’t involved enough in their own governance to know how decisions get made. There are also, among many anti-tax movements I have observed, strong sentiments regarding not wanting to help the poor, minorities, immigrants, etc. And of course there is also dissatisfaction with mismanagement or inefficiency that can occur in any large bureaucracy — be it the federal government or a large corporation.
In terms of morality, the agreements around taxes are grounded in the most basic notion of reciprocity — about things that otherwise wouldn’t get done at the scale and consistency required for a functional society. Roads, physical infrastructure, national defense, the rule of law, social safety nets, regulation of industry, and many other aspects and institutions of civil society would simply not be accomplished without centrally coordinated systems and standards. So, in order for that society to function — for it to create the foundations for liberty that can be shared by all — folks agree to pay taxes. It’s a relationship that is outlined in the U.S. Constitution (Article I, Section 8), in terms of what federal government is supposed to provide for the taxes it collects. Simple reciprocity.
You might also be interested in this: T. Collins Logan's answer to What do you, as an anarcho-socialist, think of the notion propagated by right-wing libertarians that taxation is theft imposed by the government on citizens?
My 2 cents.
Here are some democratic (or, better yet, consensus-driven) communist mass societies:
1. Free Territory of Ukraine
(1918 - 1921)
2. Rojava (in Northern Syria)
(2012 - Present)
3. Revolutionary Catalonia
4. Korean People's Association in Manchuria
5. Morelos Commune
(1913 - 1917)
You will find other examples here: List of anarchist communities
Now one could nit-pick that these aren’t nation states…but they are certainly self-contained autonomous regions, some of which being quite large. One could also argue that many didn’t endure for very long — but that wasn’t a consequence of any inherent lack of viability, but instead most often the result of violent, authoritarian rulers who didn’t want them to exist. So either argument would be splitting hairs IMO.
In any case, these and many other examples throughout history (such as the Paris Commune, which Marx himself admired) demonstrate that communism (and socialist anarchism) are not incompatible with democracy…at all.
My 2 cents.
First, let’s remember that regulations are usually put in place when a problem has already been identified: when worker or consumer health, wealth and safety have already been jeopardized by business practices already in play. With that said, some of the worst examples of how deregulation (or not implementing or enforcing existing regulation…which is essentially the same thing
) hurts consumers and workers:
1. FDA “delayed review” of e-cigs (2017):
Vaping deaths and latest wave of teen nicotine addiction.
2. Trump rollbacks of OSHA and other worker safety regulations (2017):
steady increases in worker fatalities and injuries, especially in the mining industry.
3. Rollback of FCC oversight (2017–2018):
allowed carriers (AT&T, Verizon, etc.) to sell geolocation data of customers to bounty hunters, stalkers and other nefarious surveillance.
4. Non-enforcement of existing EPA regulations (2017–2019):
increasing health risks to workers, consumers and children from pesticides and petrochemicals; increasing health risks and shortened life expectancy for millions of people due to air and water pollution (see A Breath of Bad Air: Cost of the Trump Environmental Agenda May Lead to 80 000 Extra Deaths per Decade
5. Deregulation of airlines (1978):
loss of rural routes and service frequency to remote areas and low-volume airports (with the remaining service at much higher prices); decline in consumer safety; “sardine can” seating; nickel-and-dime-you-to-death pricing on everything (luggage, food, drinks, etc.); longer average travel and wait times; many lost jobs; etc. [Something very similar happened with the deregulation of railroads in 1976 and 1980, which likewise led to the abandonment of passenger rail service to rural areas.]
6. Deregulation of banking industry (repeal of Glass-Steagall 1999; deregulation of savings and loan industry in 1982) and lack of SEC oversight:
the 2008 economic crash; the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s & 1990s.
7. Deregulation of energy industry (1990s):
higher cost of energy; more interruptions and outages with supply; awe-inspiring financial misconduct and fraud (Enron); lack of innovation and new energy sources development.
8. Ending the “Fairness Doctrine” (1987):
opened the door to highly biased, inaccurate and deceptive “news” organizations (mainly right-wing like FOX News), that helped deepen polarization and paranoia in America, and eroded trust in journalism.
9. Deregulation of telecommunications (1996):
Rapid consolidation of media ownership into just a handful of companies (Clear Channel, etc.) who standardized content across all regions — leading to the loss of local news, local arts and entertainment performers and programming, and a general homogenization of broadcasts into identical, nationwide programs that, consequently, homogenized thought across America as well. The 1996 Telecommunications Act deregulating cable also led to much higher prices across the cable industry.
The list goes on…but these are some of the obvious ones. We will very likely have even more data on negative consequences of deregulation in the years after the Trump Presidency’s aggressive agenda has played out. In particular, the promised deregulation of the FDA approval process on medical products will likely have a devastating effect on human health.
My 2 cents.
Thanks for the question Thomas. Some good answers so far. Here are my 2 cents:
1. “Active measures” by Russia and other state actors that deliberately aim to polarize, confuse and disinform.
2. Newt Gingrich by sabotaging D.C. “cross-the-isle” cooperation and relationships.
3. Ronald Reagan by ending the Fairness Doctrine.
4. Dennis Hastert by creating the “majority of the majority” rule in the House.
5. Social media by facilitating hostile anonymity, radicalization, and in-group bubbles.
6. The Citizens United
7. Right-wing groupthink, propaganda and conspiracy media.
8. Left-wing extreme identity politics (now adopted by the Right as well).
9. Koch brothers via massive funding of propaganda and anti-government rhetoric.
10. Neoliberal crony capitalists by corrupting democracy (ALEC, revolving door government, regulatory capture, pro-corporate justices, etc.) and accelerating huge wealth inequality (i.e. Austrian, Chicago and Virginia School economics).
11. Lewis Powell via his 1972 memo.
12. Evangelicals by force-feeding a socially conservative agenda down the throats of all Americans through their alliance with corporate America.
13. The cultural and political revolutionaries of the 1960s that sparked the conservative backlash that has endured ever since.
14. SCOTUS appointments that have consistently placed warped, often ludicrous ideological decisions above both common sense and the civil rights enshrined in the Constitution: Scalia, Thomas, Rehnquist, etc.
15. James M. Buchanon (see The Missing Link
Thanks for the question Nick. The real problem here is that nearly every “big-name corporation” is competing for the honor of “doing the most harm to the environment.” Your pick of the litter:
1. Chemical pollution (Dow-DuPont, Northrup Grumman, Honeywell, Koch Industries, etc.)
2. Oil & Gas greenhouse emissions (ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron, Shell, etc.)
3. Plastic polluters (Coca-Cola, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, etc.)
4. Toxic air polluters (Boeing, BASF, Huntsman, General Electric, Eastman Chemical, LyondellBassell, etc.)
5. Deforestation (Palm Oil, Beef Cattle, Soybeans — mostly state-owned companies in Madagascar, Nigeria, China, etc.)
If you pick the worst-of-the-worst, who actually pollute in MULTIPLE ways to an astounding degree (air, water, persistent chemicals, greenhouse gases, etc.), then the list gets smaller:
2. Koch Industries
4. Northrup Grumman
6. Berkshire Hathaway
Here’s some helpful resources: Top 100 Polluter Indexes
, Powerbrokers of Zero Deforestation
My 2 cents.
Thank you for the question John.
We have learned an important lesson from history: whatever characterizes a revolution will tend to manifest in the new system at some point.
So violent revolutions almost always result in an oppressive system, and nonviolent revolutions almost always result in a peaceful, more egalitarian one. We even see this reflected in political campaigns and leadership: the strategies and rhetoric that a given politician uses to “win” are often reflected in their leadership style. Basically, then, the ends never justify the means…instead, the means inhabit the ends.
Many have spoken to this idea in politics specifically in “prefigurative politics.” I have expanded the principle into something I call Revolutionary Integrity
If this principle is true, then it is very important to carefully think through what characteristics will dominate a given social movement or “revolutionary” change. In the link above I have provided several links that outline varieties of nonviolent activism. My own proposals regarding activism and revolutionary methods that avoid overtly harming human beings, and attempt to conform (for the most part, at least) to the principle of revolutionary integrity, can be found here: L e v e l - 7 Action
My 2 cents.
That would be a difficult leap, because if there is agreement on “explicit” meaning, then Article V would have to be invoked to change it, and a “living constitutionalist” approach would not apply. If the meaning is unclear — subject to evolving interpretation — then judicial history has also already been “explicit” about how a given issue should be handled (stare decisis). So this begs the question: what is the reason for departure in either case? The real problem, IMO, is folks thinking they know what the Constitution “explicitly” means in instances that may actually be pretty difficult to parse (the 2nd Amendment is, unfortunately, a very good example). But all sides of the interpretation argument are projecting modern contextual and linguistic assumptions (embedded as they are in political bias) onto a 230-year-old document, whether they realize it or not — textualists/constructionists do this just as often as intentionalists, pragmatists, etc.
To address such challenges, Hegel and others promoted the idea of “historicism,” where we resist projecting our own current understanding backwards onto folks who wrote in different times, and instead rigorously explore the immediate history, culture, education, etc. of those times that influenced the writer’s thinking. This is difficult to do, but it seems to me the only way forward in terms of finding common ground about what the Constitution really meant at the time.
Unfortunately, the political pressures of today are so intense — and some judges are so profoundly influenced by them — that there is decreasing consistency about Constitutional interpretation from the bench. To date this has evidenced much more at the right-leaning end of the judicial spectrum, but it sometimes occurs with left-leaning folks as well. And when such inconsistency manifests at the level of SCOTUS, it has devastating consequences for the rule of law (i.e. it induces instability across all of society). It’s a sad state of affairs, regardless.
Lastly, I think the framers would take issue with many rulings today not because they aren’t logically consistent with a given hermeneutic, but because they depart so radically from common sense. Hence the “doctrine of absurdity” comes to the rescue (even though it shouldn’t have to).
My 2 cents.
Individualism and personal liberty can intersect, but they can also contradict and interfere with each other. So this can be a complex subject to parse. If I insist, for example, that my individual liberty always outweighs my social or civic responsibility, then I may end up interfering with other people’s liberty (and, consequently, invite interference with my own liberty, if I support such a society). Maybe I want to drive on the wrong side of the road, or take things from stores without paying for them, or pee in my neighbor’s fountain. To assert that I have the “right” to do these things despite social agreements not to do them is an extreme individualistic assertion.
In reality, no personal freedom would exist at all unless everyone else in my community or society agrees that it should — this is the error of much individualist thinking. When individualism places personal agency above everything else, it defeats the conditions that permit freedom to exisst at all.
At the same time, if I sacrifice all of my personal agency in service to collective systems and expectations, then I have also extinguished my personal liberty. By denying any importance of my own individuality — and supporting such a view as the status quo of my community and culture — I have done just as much harm to freedom as if I overemphasized my individuality.
So perhaps you can see the conundrum.
There is a balance between too much individualism and too much collectivism — both of which can extinguish personal liberty at their extremes — and a correlation between too little personal liberty and too little collective agreement.
I wrote an essay about this topic a while back that may be of interest: The Goldilocks Zone of Integral Liberty: A Proposed Method of Differentiating Verifiable Free Will from Countervailing Illusions of Freedom
My 2 cents.
Thanks for the question Randall.
My take on what most undermines a democratic society:
1. An uneducated electorate.
2. An electorate with a “consumerist” mindset that — even if they are well-educated — waits to be “sold” on a candidate or legislation, rather than actively participating in self-governance.
3. Crony capitalism (i.e. revolving door politics, regulatory capture, dark money funding political campaigns, etc.) and its handmaiden, neoliberalism
4. Huge concentrations of wealth — which lead to huge concentrations of power (i.e. plutocracy, corporatocracy, kleptocracy).
5. The weakening or active destruction of other civic institutions that support democracy (i.e. corruption or capture of the justice system, legislature, executive, election system, etc.).
At this juncture, ALL of these undermining factors have advanced fairly far in the U.S.,
which is really pushing democracy to the brink of collapse here. It’s a shame, but it’s also pretty obvious to anyone who has been paying attention, and has been advancing for many decades.
My 2 cents.
To discuss this topic fully would be to recap centuries of hermeneutics (i.e. how the Bible can be interpreted). There is plentiful scripture that addresses this question specifically, so perhaps that is a good place to start — though this, too, would require many hours of discussion and copious references. So, for the sake of brevity and as a general overview, I’ll offer you these few guiding principles for consideration:
1. Scripture is often multivalent
— it can sometimes be literal, sometimes figurative, sometimes poetic, sometimes prescriptive, sometimes exhorting, sometimes evocative, and so on. So quite often it is the level of understanding the reader has — and their level of spiritual or moral development — that will determine what a given passage “means” for them. This is not to say interpretation is subjective — not at all. It is just that scripture will actually have a different meaning based on the stage of a given person’s spiritual journey. This applies to both Old and New testaments scripture.
2. According to Christ and many New Testament teachings, there are additional components of Christian understanding where scripture are concerned — including active interventions by holy spirit.
In other words, holy spirit assists believers in understanding the deeper meanings of scripture, beyond its surface reading.
3. Having a consistent hermeneutic
is very helpful for understanding scripture over time. In the first chapter of my book, A Progressive’s Guide to the New Testament
, I cover what I believe to be a reliable but simplified hermeneutic. This combines and balances four methods of interpretation:
(author’s intent, context, language, cumulative NT references, and early Christian acceptance and application)
(inner inquiry and invocation)
(discernment through practice, and discipleship); and
(dialogue, communal insight, and communal experience)
4. One component of the analytical approach has been particularly helpful for me, and that is delving into the Koine Greek
of the original texts of the New Testament — and to a lesser degree the Hebrew of the Old Testament. An interlinear, an exhaustive Greek lexicon, learning the Greek alphabet, and understanding the basics of grammar can illuminate passages that were previously very difficult to understand.
5. As mentioned initially, understanding the history of Biblical interpretation can be extremely helpful
in working through this question. It is, of course, a rather involved area of study, but for me it was worthwhile. Perhaps it will be for you too.
My 2 cents.
Here are the top five reasons why there is a wave of right-wing governments across the globe:
1. Global corporate capitalism, as coordinated and directed by the wealthiest owner-shareholders around the world, is creating huge wealth disparities, increasingly destructive negative externalities (climate change, unbreathable air, undrinkable water, rapid species extinction, etc.), and exaggerated economic instability (boom/bust cycles that are increasingly extreme). This trend understandably frightens people, and they want a scapegoat for their fears.
The far-right rhetoric blames progressive social policies, recent waves of immigrants, and “government interference in free markets,” in simplistic, polemic rhetoric. None of these are the real causal factors behind what so frightens right-leaning folks…but they sure are easy targets for polarizing propaganda. It’s really easy to get scared people to vote against their own best interests, and ignore the real “man behind the curtain” (i.e. those wealthy owner-shareholders) who doesn’t want to be held accountable.
2. The actual solutions to many of these modern challenges are complex, nuanced, contingent, dynamic and abstract. To even fully comprehend some of the problems humanity faces requires an advanced understanding of specialized disciplines that take years to learn (i.e. economics, climate science, biology, medicine, genetics, etc.). Consequently, it’s difficult to explain how to move forward to “the average voter,” and much easier to hoodwink them.
And the conservative, right-leaning voters around the world have often had an uneasy relationship with evidence-based, scientific approaches, often mistrusting experts and academia on a fundamental level. And yet, these same conservative “average voters” feel empowered by misinformation they find on social media, in sensationalist journalism, on conspiracy websites, and through other unreliable sources. This creates a false sense of confidence (see Illusory truth effect
and Dunning–Kruger effect
), which combines with tribalistic “Us vs. Them” emotional reactivism, and in turn leads to mass movements that are highly irrational and easily manipulated. Unfortunately for those who gravitate towards the far-right end of the political spectrum, nearly all of the most strident, deceptive and manipulative propaganda today is housed in their media. So instead of becoming educated with real evidence or persuaded by rational reasoning, the right-leaning person becomes increasingly deceived and deluded.
3. Some rather unsavory folks with self-serving agendas have decided to double down on this ongoing deception. Whether it’s the fake science and science skepticism
(such as climate denial) funded by the Koch brothers and neoliberal think tanks; or the “active measures” of Vladimir Putin aimed at dividing, angering and confusing folks all around the globe; or the strategic social media influence campaigns from Cambridge Analytica; or the lies and exaggerations of a mentally unstable President Trump — all of these sources are just engineering and promoting their own accumulation of wealth and power.
It’s a pretty simple and transparent strategy…just “follow the money.” And social media platforms have now provided a powerful, dopamine-addiction-driven
tool to entrain mindless conformance among targeted groups of users. For more discussion of this pernicious pattern, see The Opposition
4. Progressives and technocrats are generally TERRIBLE at explaining their positions and the rationale for approaching complex problems a certain way.
To them, the situation and its solutions are painfully obvious…but very few have the gift of translating that “obviousness” into clear, easily shared memes on social media, or humorous quips on talk shows, or simplistic black-and-white tropes that uneducated folks can latch onto. This is one reason I have proposed creating a Public Information Clearinghouse
to help the “average voter” understand complex issues and appreciate evidence-based solutions.
5. I think…and this is perhaps the hardest thing to accept, let alone articulate…that humanity is getting dumber. Perhaps as a consequence of a combination of things — stress, pollutants, reliance on technology, poor diets, fast-paced lifestyles, etc. — or epigenetic changes that have been amplified by this same combination of factors, human beings aren’t thinking very clearly or cleverly. And there is also an increase — especially among conservatives and the far-right — to actively suppress their own intelligence. It’s quite disturbing to witness the extraordinary levels of cognitive dissonance conservatives must sustain to hold onto their most cherished but misguided beliefs. And this “cultivated stupidity” has a collective snowball effect
, which again is just amplified into lockstep in-group conformance by the mass media that crafts these deceptive narratives and perpetuates them.
So don’t allow yourself to be hoodwinked by the right-wing propaganda about why there is a wave of right-wing movements.
Over many decades, socially conservative, market fundamentalist, greed-centric crony capitalists have created the conditions that now make them so fearful and unhappy. But they are not willing to take responsibility for what they have done, and instead seek to blame others. It's a very human failing, but promises to be particularly disastrous in this situation — because it avoids engaging the actual causes for impending calamity.
My 2 cents.
Thanks for the question.
Historically, there have been many variations of proposed and realized socialism – so many, in fact, that you could write a lengthy book about them and still likely not be able to include them all. In addition, socialist philosophies have evolved considerably over time. What holds all of them together is, I think, a fundamental belief that capitalism must either be reigned in or eliminated in order for inequality to be reduced, and for individual and collective freedoms and well-being to be ensured.
That said, I would probably break down socialism in its current forms into these categories:
1. Authoritarian State Socialism
– such as Marxism-Leninism as widely implemented, with strict central planning of the economy, all productive enterprise owned by the State, and the State controlled by the select few of a single party.
2. Democratic Socialism
– a democratic and decentralized version of socialism that opposes authoritarian forms like Marxism-Leninism, and where more open democratic controls manage the means of production and economic planning, with worker self-management as a key feature. This form of socialism has traditionally relied on representative democracy to further socialist reforms.
3. Market Socialism
– is socialistic in that all free enterprise is publicly owned and managed, and workers and society benefit from all productivity; is market-based in that competition exists between free enterprise, and the economy tends to be less centrally planned.
4. Mixed Economies
– free enterprise co-exists with central regulation of the economy, some socialized production, and welfare programs, with markets ultimately subject to representative democratic controls.
5. Libertarian Socialism
– a broad umbrella in itself, this includes many proposals for non-State-centric (minarchist or anarchist) socialist political economies that emphasize highly distributed collective and egalitarian solutions, worker self-management, attenuation or elimination of private property, and governance via direct democracy, nested councils, etc. (rather than representative democracy). An example of libertarian socialism that has gained popularity and real-world examples in recents years is municipalism (see Which municipalism? Let's be choosy
– a form of Libertarian Socialism that has been implemented at various scales throughout history, and differentiates itself mainly in that it seeks a more complete, Stateless anarchy and facilitates individual agency above collective or communal concerns.
There are actually many other forms of socialism as well. The chart below
plots what some of these look like in relation to more capitalist or "proprietarian" traditions of political economy.
I hope this was helpful.
Yes, absolutely. Some examples:
1. Jesus was a radical feminist — not just for his time, but even by standards of the late 1950s.
2. Jesus promoted economic attitudes and practices that can best be described as anarcho-communist— and fundamentally at odds with capitalism and neoliberalism.
3. Jesus consistently respected and honored Nature — something that has been present in previous conservative values, but has been almost completely abandoned by modern day conservatives.
4. Jesus rejected the legalism and dogma of religious conservatives in his day — in fact the attitudes and rigidity of modern Christian conservatives very much resemble those of the Pharisees and Sadducees that Jesus railed against.
5. Jesus didn’t condemn “sinners” shunned by society, but forgave and embraced them — modern conservatives do pretty much the opposite, especially to any class of “sinner” they don’t understand or are culturally prejudiced against.
6. Jesus advocated caring for the poor, orphaned, widowed, etc. — conservatives consistently defund programs that have proven effective in helping these groups.
So, really, modern conservatives — and most certainly those who have embraced Donald Trump as their folk hero — are living, voting, opining and acting in complete contradiction to the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Then again…this is exactly what the New Testament predicted would happen in the apostate Church. So…modern conservatives are at least fulfilling prophecy in that regard.
My 2 cents.
What a great question to consider, Nathan. Thanks.
I can only ponder this by dialing through the many definitions of “real” — the many parameters ascribed to the idea — and then applying those to various branches of philosophy. What is “real”…genuine, fundamental, practical, actual, precise, independently existent…for metaphysics, logic, epistemology, ethics, aesthetics, logic, etc.? Is it possible to encompass all of this definitively?
A first impulse was to dismiss that such comprehensive intersection could ever occur — nearly all philosophy is inherently speculative, after all.
Yet, even though these variables frame a rather large semantic container for “real philosophy,” I find myself recalling those philosophers whose thinking operated across many of these dimensions, and whose conclusions gained momentum in a sort of inclusive resonance in meaningful and enduring ways. These form a loose constellation that could — in an intersubjective way — act as a finger pointing toward the moon.
Skipping across the centuries, a few glittering points shine back from the infinite….Lao Tzu. Heraclitus. Aristotle. The Prajnaparamita. Marcus Aurelius. Aquinas. Hafez. John of the Cross. Bacon. Descartes. Spinoza. Leibniz. Rousseau. Godwin. Hegel. Mill. Emerson. Darwin. Thoreau. Marx. Green. James. Kropotkin. Dewey. Whitehead. Sartre. Rawls. Chomsky…and many others worthy of mention.
All of them contribute something vital, IMO. No single one of these — or the philosophies they represent — rises above the others. They are all essential to our understanding of what actually is.
Which leads me to conclude that there is no single “real philosophy,” other than the multidialectical synthesis of everything in this vast constellation of knowing — a virtual point that floats lightly among them, as an intersection of the best each has to offer.
The “real” is, after all, forever additive.
My 2 cents.
This has always been a pretty humorous issue to my thinking, mainly because of the source — and because it’s part of a pattern. Consider what’s really going on here:
- Extracting natural resources from the planet — which is really held in common and belongs to everyone — and then selling them for private profit isn’t theft…but taxes are.
- Exploiting workers — their time, their effort, their creativity — in order to, once again, accumulate private profit that is not shared with those workers isn’t theft…but taxes are.
- Property ownership (think of patents or land ownership in particular) that excludes everyone from using or sharing in the benefits of that property — even if the property isn’t being used at all by its owner — isn’t theft…but taxes are.
Using services provided by the government, but not paying for them, isn’t theft…but taxes are.
Can you see the pattern here? It’s really a sort of childish, selfish, whiny entitlement — and it is utterly hypocritical, along the lines of “everyone else should have to pay ME for things I think are important, but that same standard shouldn’t apply to ME…I should not have to pay others for something just because THEY think it is important…”
This mindset embraces an utterly perverse and unworkable conception of freedom, a la adolescent pseudophilosophies like that of Ayn Rand. Why is it unworkable? Because it corrodes the prosocial foundations of civil society itself, where we collectively and democratically agree to limit our own selfishness, acquisitiveness and self-indulgence for the sake of societal stability and collective thriving. We relax I/Me/Mine for the good of All. That’s what adulthood looks like.
Of course, if enough folks don’t agree to given tax, and want to vote it out of existence, they can do that. But that means — in the context of the State — that they will need to give up something in return. A protection, a privilege, or possibly a perceived right. Not appreciating this leads to…well…soaring deficits.
My 2 cents.
Thanks for the question Arslan. Many thorough, compelling and persuasive attempts have been made to answer these questions, but my take is that they are still substantively “unanswered:”
1. What is the nature of being? Of existence? Of reality?
2. How do we know what we know — in the most inclusive, integrative and balanced way? And what is the most constructive relationship, and most dependable process, we can create when interacting with both the known and the unknown?
3. What is the nature of consciousness? And what is language’s role in it?
4. What ethical framework — both collectively and individually — has the highest efficacy for holistic thriving over the long-term? That is, not just for human thriving, but for humans and everything that human behaviors impact?
5. What is “that certain something” that great art captures/represents? (i.e. Kandinsky’s “Stimmung”)
6. What approaches to political economy will solve the dire global cataclysm our current political economy has created?
7. When will humanity (as a whole) begin paying attention to the greatest philosophers who ever lived? (For example, when will every eighth-grade student know Aristotle’s core positions on important topics?)
My 2 cents.
“What’s wrong with a moderate level of gun regulation” is that, in the United States, there are a lot of extremely irrational, fearful, self-righteous folks who allowed themselves to be hoodwinked by the firearms industry.
It wasn’t until after the firearms industry realized that its military weapon sales were tanking (i.e. no more wars) that the 2nd Amendment suddenly had more to do with personal gun ownership and self-defense, and not with well-regulated militias. This was part of a deliberate propaganda campaign to deceive and mislead American consumers. If not for the desire of gun mfrs to market military style weapons to civilians, there would likely only be a few fringe extremists who believe what is now fairly mainstream among card-carrying NRA members.
And of course it’s not infringement. You need a license and training to drive a car lawfully. You need a license and training to serve food to people safely. You need a license and training to build a house for someone. You need a license and training to operate a ham radio out of the privacy of your home. All of this has to do with public safety.
And for folks to say that applying what is a normal and reasonable consideration for other potentially harmful skills and privileges in society to guns is somehow unreasonable or unconstitutional
…well, what can I say? It frankly boggles the mind…until you realize these folks have been spoon fed their talking points by the companies that make assault weapons.
Unfortunately, it’s not all that surprising that this has happened in the U.S. Americans are hard-wired from birth to believe false advertising…it’s just part of our commercialistic culture: we tend to believe what we are sold.
Oh…and rest assured that nearly all of the claims that “gun regulations don’t solve or stop anything” are statistically dead wrong. Just more lies to sell more guns.
Lots of studies show that gun regulation has a positive impact on reducing crime stats and accidental death and homicide stats (both in the U.S. and in other countries). Again though…truth and evidence don’t matter to a lot of 2nd Amendments defenders, as they’re drunk on the Cool-Aid of “alternative facts.”
That said, here are some articles that may be of interest to reasonable, sane people who haven’t bought into the pro-gun-mfr-lobby con-job
How the NRA Rewrote the Second Amendment
How The Gun Industry Funnels Tens Of Millions Of Dollars To The NRA
State Gun Laws That Actually Reduce Gun Deaths
States with strict gun laws have fewer firearms deaths. Here's how your state stacks up
Firearm Laws and Firearm Homicides
The Supreme Court’s Worst Decision of My Tenure
(re: Columbia v. Heller)
My 2 cents.
Well take your pick:
1. The U.S.-based firearms industry has tremendous sway over U.S. politics through aggressive and well-funded lobbying efforts, complete capture of the NRA, additional lobbying and legislative influence through the NSSF and ALEC, and a decades-long campaign of amping up irrational fear and paranoia among lawful gun owners.
The U.S. would not have so many assault weapons in civilian hands had the firearms industry not used their leverage to market weapons that were — let’s not forget — illegal to manufacture in the U.S. for a decade after the Cleveland Elementary, Luby’s and California Street shootings. Why did gun makers do this? To make money of course. When military sales of the AR15 began to wane (not enough wars to increase orders!), they needed a new market. And, thanks to their ability to hoodwink the American public and influence Congress, they got one.
2. The U.S. Second Amendment is fairly unique among modern democracies, and wasn’t particularly well-written regarding the purpose of the “right to bear arms.”
Was it intended to create well-regulated state militias that could, at the state level, resist a federal government’s overreach? Or was it intended to allow every citizen in the U.S. to own military weapons (by extension up to and including nuclear missiles) so that they could defend themselves from their own government’s tyranny, if required? Until very recently (Columbia v Heller
, 2008), SCOTUS consistently linked gun ownership rights to militia membership. But clearer writing would have helped prevent the Second Amendment’s misuse IMO.
3. Let’s face it: a lot of Americans just aren’t that bright, don’t think about things very carefully, seem to be very gullible, and are particularly prone to the Dunning–Kruger effect.
I’m not sure if it’s the prevailing U.S. diet, or the constant deluge of advertising and mindless media, or a poor education system, or something in our water…but the average U.S. citizen just can’t seem to think very critically or clearly — certainly as compared to the folks in other developed countries I have lived in. In addition, there has been a concerted effort on the Right-leaning end of the political spectrum to “dumb down” their rank-and-file even further: by demeaning academia and defunding K-12 education; by trumpeting anti-intellectual rhetoric in conservative mass media; by actively opposing science with well-funded “Science Skepticism” campaigns; and by generally dismissing evidence and facts in favor of magical thinking and logical fallacies.
And this has been going on for many decades now. Just consider the election of Republican presidents Reagan, G.W. Bush and Trump. These men were verifiable idiots, and yet conservatives championed them as competent leaders. I don’t think any other developed democracy has ever fallen prey to this level of stupidity.
4. Guns are fun.
As a privileged white male in the richest society on Earth, I myself believe I am entitled to playing with the toys I want to play with. Having anyone tell me I can’t play with the toys I want is disheartening, and generally leads me into a bout of cranky pouting. And yes, I do like guns — including the most powerful military versions — and have liked them all of my life. The only reason I support various gun control measures is because I believe it is necessary to sacrifice at least some of my own whims, impulses and childish toy-obsessions in order for other people to feel free and safe. That’s kind of the deal I think folks need to make for civil society to exist at all: we can’t always have everything we want…not even our favorite toys. But I guess not everyone in the U.S. shares that point of view, which means a lot of other privileged folks maintain a perpetual tantrum when it looks like some of their favorite toys might be taken away.
My 2 cents.