Saturday, March 14, 2009

Lib/Commie/Socialist/Progressive

The title of this post is a partial list of labels that have been attached to our current president. Now, I'm only talking about political labels here. Of course words like, buffoon, idiot, jerkwad, schmuck...all these seem to apply the more we hear of what he's doing to prolong our fiduciary suffering, increase our risk to attacks, and other buffoonish, idiotic, jerkwadian and schmuck-like moves on his part.

But again, I'm speaking only politically here, and that's been bad enough for some. Some of our left-leaning visitors have defended Barry against charges of socialism or communism, though mostly because Barry states he isn't one of 'em. We on the right have taken a more "if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck" attitude. So, to that end, I present these two articles about the Duck in Chief. The first is from the wonderful Selwyn Duke who also takes legitimate shots at lefty journalists who should have seen this guy coming. The other is from a recent Randall Hoven article.

For me, anything left of center is merely a matter of degrees, all shades of the same beast, right until fascism. It's just a matter of how far the lefty in charge wants to take it, how how far he is allowed to go by the rest of us. But no matter what the left wants to call him, and no matter what Barry calls himself, it's damn clear he's a Duck.

62 comments:

Bubba said...

Personally, I think the following are the best labels I've been able to come up with, to describe Buckleyite/Reaganite conservatives and our political opponents: libertarian traditionalists and radical collectivists.

It's not the most elegant pair of terms. I would prefer avoiding compound nouns, and there isn't a perfect parallelism of opposite terms: libertarian pairs with collectivist, and traditionalist pairs with radical, but it's more euphonic if each term ends with "-ist."

However, it does make clear what the "fusionist" right defends and what the modern left opposes or seeks to subordinate: both individual freedom AND traditional institutions.

(And, it even implicitly leaves room outside this dichotomy, for those who tend to be allies on the right while eschewing one part or another of fusionism: libertarians who aren't faithful defenders of traditional institutions, and traditionalists who aren't principled defenders of individual liberty.)

I prefer the term of "radical collectivist" to "liberal" because the latter is a perversion, as the modern liberal stands almost completely opposed to the "classical liberalism" of Burke and Adam Smith.

And, I prefer it to "progressive" because that term simply begs the question of whether the often radical political changes that the left supports are actual improvements: not all change is progress.


Going by his history and, now, his brief record as president, I think it's completely accurate to describe Barack Obama as a radical collectivist.

A brief example of his statism was discussed briefly at The Corner at National Review Online. A graph of the Obama Administration's own projections shows the incredible amount of deficit spending they expect over the next decade.

The SMALLEST projected deficit ($533B, 2014) will still be significantly larger than Bush's LARGEST deficit ($455B, 2008). And the largest projected deficit will be nearly FOUR times greater than Bush's worst: this year's deficit, of $1.752 trillion.


If a leftist wants to quibble that Obama isn't a Marxist because he believes in private property, it's worth remembering that every real-world project with roots in Marxism deviated from Marxist orthodoxy. For instance, where Marxism entails international communism, Stalin himself promoted a thoroughly nationalistic, Russian communism.

Obama is pushing us into radicalism and collectivism as quickly as political reality allows. He's even doing so in a very dishonorable manner, using the current financial crisis -- a crisis primarily about credit and banking -- to push his agenda regarding the completely unrelated sectors of energy, education, and health care.

Obama is quite explicitly invoking the threat of a crisis to circumvent the normal poltical process where bills are throughly drafted in committee then throroughly debated in the larger legislative bodies: Rahm Emmanuel, Hillary Clinton, and Obama himself have been clear about not wanting this crisis to go to waste, about using this crisis to accomplish what would otherwise be politically difficult.

He is pushing as hard to the left as he can.

His supporters who quibble about what label should be used to describe his beliefs and actions don't offer a clear, precise, and accurate alternative label, because their goal isn't clarity: it's obfuscation.

Vinny said...

That a hell of a good strategy that Hoven's got there: just keep screaming "Communism!" "Communism!" "Communism!" Maybe no one will notice that it was libertarian ideology that got the economy into this mess. The reactionaries have been following that playbook for eighty years and plenty of people still fall for it.

Bubba said...

I wonder if Vinny would mind explaining: what part of libertarian economics entails the government encouraging the banks to make bad loans?

Vinny said...

None, but government encouraging banks to make bad loans had nothing to do with this mess. Most of the loans were made by non-banks who made them because they thought they would be profitable because they foolishly believed that an ever-rising real estate market would bail them out of their troubles.

Neither did the government encourage AIG to write billions of dollars of credit default swaps without reserving any capital to pay them off. AIG did that because the federal government, led by its top libertarian Alan Greenspan, embraced the idea that counter-party surveillance would be more effective than government regulation in deterring inappropriate extensions of credit.

Marty said...

The United Methodist Women, the largest women's organization in the world, of which I am a proud member.... must be a communist organization. We advocate many of the things that Hoven listed as coming off the CPUSA website.

Marty said...

Obama's No Socialist. I Should Know.

Bubba said...

What can one say to someone like Vinny, who believes that government pressure to issue subprime mortgages had "nothing" to do with the current credit crisis?

What can one say to Marty, who cites, as apparently persuasive, an article that voices the suspicion that Obama is "firmly committed to free-market policies"?

I wouldn't know where to begin to correct such delusional thinking.

Mark said...

As any good Communist knows, these things cannot be accomplished in one fell swoop. The people would revolt. They must be accomplished incrementally.

Lenin accomplished it through a long, drawn out, bloody revolution, which caused some negative set backs to his movement. Things like people suddenly realizing they could get oppressed, and have their liberties taken away, and be sent to "re-education" camps, and executed if they failed to acquiesce to the leaders demands, no matter how unreasonable.

Obama is no different than Lenin, except he (like all Communists) has learned from Lenin's mistakes.

Better to take it relatively slow, so the people don't notice their freedom is being taken away, than to go for the brass ring all at once and risk losing the support of the sheeple.

Vinny said...

I wouldn't know where to begin to correct such delusional thinking.

How about facts?

(BTW, for clarity's sake, let's not conflate "subprime loans" and "bad loans." Subprime lending can be a perfectly good line of business if the lender appropriately prices the risk and follows good underwriting practices.)

Erudite Redneck said...

Marshall, awhile back, you asked me what kinds of things I said to my congregation, as a deacon. At that point, being a new deacon, I hadn't had opportunity, so I din't have anything to tell you. This morning, I did present a little talk, and I posted it on my blog.


As for this post: I'll take a little socialism, which you don't like, if that's what it takes to counter a lot of market-driven greed, which is sin whether you like it or not.

Marshall Art said...

Vinny,

I don't see what "the mess we are in" has to do with Obama's political leanings. Totally different subject in my opinion.

Hoven isn't "screaming" anything, but merely using the Commie Party's own platform to show how closely Obama's own actions and proposals match it. Certainly way too closely for his supporters to spend much time defending him against charges of communism or socialism. Better they try to change the subject. Sorta what you did.

Vinny said...

The mess we are in doesn't have anything to do with Obama's political leanings. It has everything to do with the conservative ideology that dominated Washington during the last administration. However, rather than acknowledge the mess that they made and try to work towards pragmatic solutions like Obama does, conservatives like Hoven just scream "Communism!" If I am changing the subject, it's because arguing with conservative ideologues about labels is a waste of time. Figuring out what went wrong and what might be done better isn't.

Marshall Art said...

ER,

I don't know why you'd think I wouldn't recognize greed as sin. I also don't know why you'd believe a different economic system would eliminate it. Greed is greed and will exist no matter what. The free-market system is the best available to allow for the most people to achieve the best standard of living. It picks up the standard even for those who are too lazy, stupid or unable to pick themselves up. What's most required is a moral people. The system used won't help at all if the people under it are greedy bastards.

Marshall Art said...

Vinny,

You're a goof if you think Obama's got the smarts to get us out. He's already proving otherwise by implementing the very moves the conservatives didn't like Bush making. What do you think he's doing that new or innovative, or has shown success elsewhere?

BTW, there hasn't been a whole lot of conservatism in the last administration as far as economics, particularly at the end. Sure, Bush cut taxes, and that's always a great idea, but he didn't do a whole lot of spending cuts. He DID call for more oversight and regs on the very institutions that played a major role in "this mess" and was called a fear-monger again for his troubles.

Vinny said...

I would be a bigger goof if I gave Republicans another chance to show what conservatism can do.

Marty said...

"He's already proving otherwise by implementing the very moves the conservatives didn't like Bush making. What do you think he's doing that new or innovative, or has shown success elsewhere?"

Then did you think Bush was a commie/socialist?

According to the The 14 Characteristics of Fascism by Lawrence Britt, the case could be made, and was made by some, that Bush was a Fascist.

I personally wish Obama was a democratic socialist. Unlike you, I've not seen any indication of that.

Marshall Art said...

Vinny,

Which Republicans have been showing a whole lot of conservatism in economics during the last administration? If you've been paying attention, the reason we lost so many seats during the last midterms is due to a decided lack of conservatism on the part of Republican members of Congress. And that's particularly in the area of economic policy.

Obama, in the meantime, is doing the same things Bush did, that we conservatives didn't like, and doing it on a much larger scale. If it didn't help when Bush did it, and it didn't, what makes you think doing more of it will?

Marshall Art said...

Marty,

Anyone who thinks they can tie Bush to any more than possibly two of those fourteen are making shit up. The two in question are 1 and 7, which shouldn't be surprising after an attack that murdered 3000 of our fellow Americans. The rest are major stretches except for the Daily Koz crowd.

There's no way you haven't seen indications of socialism on the part of Obama. You just refuse to ackowledge it. What does "spread the wealth" indicate to you?

Vinny said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vinny said...

I have heard communists claim that the Soviet Union was not really a communist state. They claim that its leaders didn’t really follow Karl Marx’s teachings. They claim that communism should not be considered a bankrupt political philosophy based on the Russian experience because Russia didn’t do it right. They claim that “true” communists could do better.

As far as I am concerned, the Soviets called themselves communists and they ran the place into the ground. That’s good enough for me. That’s enough to tell me that there is some fundamental flaw in their theory of government.

Now I hear lots of conservatives telling me that I shouldn’t reject conservatism just because a bunch of Republicans who called themselves conservatives ran the United States into the ground from 2003 to 2007. They claim that “true conservatives” could make things better. I don’t buy it.

The fundamental flaw in the conservatives’ theory of government is their belief that government is inherently a bad thing. When they get control of the government, they try to make their belief come true.

Unfortunately, what conservatives say they like and what they do when they get in power are very different things.

Bubba said...

Vinny, the presentation of facts, either in arguing that the government is at least largely responsible for the credit crisis or in arguing that Bush was hardly an exemplary fiscal conservative, would be an excellent approach to changing the mind of someone who is merely misinformed but open to correction.

(Regarding the credit crisis, I would point to the CRA, which Carter signed and Clinton strengthened, and I would point to Congress' efforts to encourage Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to further promote bad loans. I would point to Fannie and Freddie's current financial state. I would point to the Bush Administration's efforts to persuade Congress to further regulate these government-sponspored enterprises, and I would point to the arrogant reassurances of Fannie and Freddie's strength, offered by Democrats like Dodd and Frank.)

But, because I'm not sure you're open to correction, I hardly see the point.

Still, it might be useful to provide correction even if you're not apt to accept it, so let's discuss one small but important fact.

George W. Bush explicitly campaigned on his support of an activist government.

Hence, his use of the phrase "compassionate conservatism" to justify big government, in contrast to the limited-government conservatives he smeared as implicitly uncompassionate.

"We have a responsibility that when somebody hurts, government has got to move."

That's hardly the rhetoric of a fiscal conservative, yet that's what Bush said, and writers at National Review (for instance) have been expressing their distaste of then-Governor Bush's "compassionate conservatism" since 1998.

You write:

The fundamental flaw in the conservatives’ theory of government is their belief that government is inherently a bad thing. When they get control of the government, they try to make their belief come true.

Unfortunately, what conservatives say they like and what they do when they get in power are very different things.


The thing is, what Bush said on the campaign trail DID match up with what he did in office. He didn't argue, as Reagan did, that all too often government itself is the problem. He didn't campaign as a Republican alternative to Clintonian triangulation: he campaigned, and subsequently governed, as a Republican VERSION of Clintonian triangulation.

To smear Bush, you have to distort his record.

Bubba said...

Marty, the modern American left has far deeper intellectual similarities to fascism, than does the modern American right.

Even taking at face value that list you cite, it's not clear that Obama is a marked improvement over Bush.

"Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights"? Obama has overturned Bush's executive orders that prevented federal funding of activities that lead to the destruction of human life, in (largely redundant) scientific research at home and in abortion abroad.

"Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause"? Have you not noticed that Obama, his staff, and his party are targeting a radio talk-show host and a private citizen, trying to brand him as the source of our political discord?

"Rampant Cronyism and Corruption"? An unsettling number of Obama appointees have withdrawn their nominations because they have failed to pay their taxes; one tax cheat who didn't withdraw is now at least nominally in charge of enforcing the goverment's tax laws.

"Fraudulent Elections"? In the last election, Obama's old friends at ACORN were at the heart of quite a few instances of voter registration fraud. So far as I know, ACORN isn't going to be carefully investigated; instead, they're going to get a substantial piece of the stimulus pie.

Things like the intertwining of church and state, and a propagandistic media, can't be put solely at Obama's feet: some of his supporters are choosing to offer truly blasphemous praise, and much of the media chose to advocate quite blatantly for Obama's election -- and they now, quite voluntarily, choose to attack their own, like Cramer, for daring to criticize the messiah.

Nevertheless, much of that list could apply to Obama.

But I'm not sure Britt has a firm grasp on what fascism entails.

He writes that it includes the protection of corporate power and the suppression of labor, but this simply isn't true.

As early as 1919, Mussolini's fascist platform included support for 8-hour workdays, a minimum wage, age limits for hazardous work, and government bodies run by labor representatives.

The German Nazi Party's 25-point program, proclaimed by Adolph Hitler in 1920, also included points that contradict Britt's caricature of fascists as anti-labor and pro-capitalist: Abolition of unearned income, profit-sharing of heavy industries, and the expansion of old-age welfare.

(Both platforms also mention seizing war profits from industy.)

The thing that is worth remembering is that National Socialists were SOCIALISTS.

They were nationalists rather than class-warriors: they attempted to unify the people under the banner of one nation rather than unify just the workers, but they were by no means anti-labor.

More broadly, I believe that fascism is defined by its all-encompassing secular religion, and it was antagonistic towards those things that modern conservatives seek to protect: individual freedom and traditional institutions.

The fascists in Italy didn't have an American analogue in Calvin Coolidge (Reagan's favorite president). Instead, the same attempt to control the nation from the top-down, justified by portraying crises as the moral equivalent of war, was being made by Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt.

The early 20th-century Progressives saw Moscow and Rome as the great experiments to emulate, and the most obvious heirs to the statism of Wilson and FDR are Democrats like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

The degree that Republicans like Bush resemble Wilson or European fascists is tied to the degree that they resemble Democrats in their statism.

Vinny said...

The fact that you believe the CRA myth demonstrates that you are the one who is impervious to facts Bubba. The Federal Reserve has debunked it and no banking executive has cited it as a factor in the subprime mortgage boom.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are certainly badly run over-leveraged companies, however, the delinquency rate on their loans is much lower that the rest of the mortgage industry indicating that they were making better loans than everyone else.

The fact is that nobody made these loans because they were encouraged to by the government. They made them because they thought that they would be profitable. They were making the kind of free market decisions that conservatives and libertarians celebrate.

Nobody encouraged AIG to write credit default swaps on trillions of dollars worth of mortgage backed securities without setting up any reserves for losses. They did it because they thought that the loans they were insuring were good loans.

Nobody stopped AIG from doing this because regulators with libertarian ideologies like Alan Greenspan thought that counter-party surveillance was better than government surveillance. When the investment banks asked the SEC to lift capital requirements in 2004, the SEC did so because libertarian-minded regulators thought that the investment banks themselves were in the best position to decide how much leverage they should be permitted to take.

Bush’s rhetoric notwithstanding, the financial regulators were guided by libertarian principle and things blew up in their faces.

Bubba said...

Vinny, you present a quandry.

The CRA was intended to encourage banks to make loans that they would not have otherwise made. The way you write, it sounds like the act had no effect whatsoever on the market...

"The fact is that nobody made these loans because they were encouraged to by the government."

...so I wonder, if the government is so ineffective in having an impact on the economy, why do you apparently advocate further government intervention to correct the problem?

It seems to me that the only way you can deny the role of government interference in the current credit crisis, is to portray the government as impotent, which undermines the reason to advocate for further government action.

You have to pretend that the current economic landscape is defined by libertarian ideology, despite the presence of GSE's like Fannie and Freddie, and government interference like the CRA. In doing so, you have to act as if the gross amount of government action up to this point, has had absolutely no effect.

It's a tired trick from a very old playbook. Political realities force statists to work incrementally, so every step they take is incomplete; the wonderful benefits promised by this half-step never materialize, so they deny the existence of any unanticipated and unintended consequences of their actions, in order to place the blame squarely on that part of the market that remains free and so justify a further tightening of the ratchet.

Erudite Redneck said...

Re, "The free-market system is the best available to allow for the most people to achieve the best standard of living."

I absolutely agree, as does the president. Where we and you part is this: The free market works best when we, using the democratic (not "Marxist") tools at our disposal, keep it on a leash, lest it run away with itself. Again.

Bubba said...

In other words, ER, you support the free market so long as it's not actually free.

Thank you so much for clearing that up.

Erudite Redneck said...

Bubba, are you really that simplistic in your thinking about the dance between democracy and economics?

Unregulated markets are socially Darwinistic anarchy. Sorry, but I am against that.

You, presumably, are free to drive. You are not free to drive as fast as you want anywhere you ant. So, are you free or not?

Marty said...

"There's no way you haven't seen indications of socialism on the part of Obama. You just refuse to ackowledge it."

Quite the contrary. I would not only acknowlege it, I would welcome it!

Bubba said...

ER, the problem with the driving analogy is that the regulations I believe you support aren't remotely analogous to speed limits. They're much closer to being like laws dictating when a driver can get behind the wheel, and to what destination he can drive, and on what route.

It's one thing to support laws criminalizing fraud, theft, assault, and murder. It's another thing entirely to support regulations on fundamental economic activities -- such as setting prices -- and I believe that you go beyond the former to support the latter.

If you think a truly free market is anarchic, then you shouldn't say that you support a free market.

A "leashed" free market -- an "intelligently regulated" free market, as I've seen others describe it -- is not inherently free.

It's dishonest to say that you support a free market.

Marty said...

"Even taking at face value that list you cite, it's not clear that Obama is a marked improvement over Bush."

Anyone would have been an improvement over Bush Bubba, even McCain. It was Palin I couldn't stomach.

Obama wasn't my first choice for president. And I am sure McCain wasn't yours. The person I would like to see as President, Bernie Sanders, Senator from Vermont, didn't run.

McCain and Obama were what we had left to choose from. I had a throw away vote, really, living in Texas. But no third party candidate thrilled me either.

Bubba said...

You miss my point, Marty. You brought up that list of fascist features, and my point is that Obama fits that list at least as well as Bush does.

And, for what it's worth, I think anybody who thinks that literally anyone would be an improvement on Bush hasn't thought through things nearly enough.

Marty said...

No, I didn't miss your point Bubba. I don't have time nor the inclination to address it.

And I assure you've I've done nothing but think things through the last 6 years. Before that, not so much.

Vinny said...

”Although the current problems appear to be rooted in high-risk subprime lending, I would like to dispel the notion that these problems were caused in any way by Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) lending. The CRA is designed to promote lending in low- to moderate-income areas; it is not designed to encourage high-risk lending or poor underwriting. Our analysis of the data finds no evidence, in fact, that CRA lending is in any way responsible for the current crisis. In our analysis of loan originations, we found that approximately 60 percent of higher-priced loans went to middle- or higher-income borrowers or neighborhoods, which are populations not targeted by the CRA. Additionally, more than 20 percent of the higher-priced loans that were extended in low- to moderate-income areas, or to low- to moderate-income borrowers, were loans originated by lenders not covered by the CRA. In fact, the analysis found that only 6 percent of all higher-priced loans were made by CRA-covered lenders to borrowers and neighborhoods targeted by the CRA. This very small share makes it hard to imagine how CRA could have caused, or even contributed in a meaningful way, to the current crisis. Further support for this conclusion comes from our finding that serious delinquency rates for subprime loans are high in all neighborhood-income categories, not only those in lower-income areas, as might be thought if the CRA were a contributing force to the subprime crisis.” Federal Reserve Board Governor Elizabeth Duke

Go read Alan Greenspan’s book Bubba. He was a libertarian ideologue and a disciple of Ayn Rand. He was opposed to government regulation of credit default swaps and mortgage backed securities on the grounds that the parties entering into these contracts were in the best position to determine what extension of credit was appropriate. These are the areas of the financial markets that blew up, not the areas where regulation was strong. Letting the magic of the market work its wonders was the problem, not regulation.

Marty said...

Plus I only brought up that list of Fascist features to show that Bush had been labeled a Fascist according to that list just as Obama is being labeled a commie/socialist according to the list on the CPUSA site.

Ron said...

Applying your own personal values to words is a typical far right tactic. In academics it's called "semantics". I know what I believe in and if you want to call it socialism..or sin...or hell, I don't care. Call it what you want. I know what I believe in and am not intimidated.

I won't even get into the Obama debate. Mainly because I could care less what you call him. Labels and symbolism bore me to tears. Let me just say if you want to call ME a socialist I will accept it. Just don't say I believe in things I don't ..or vis versa.

Erudite Redneck said...

Bubba, upon further reflection, you may be right -- not that I was being "dishonest," you judgmental ass, but that I've been holding onto language, out of habit, that no longer describes my views.

So, to hell with free markets, if you can find any. I'm for regulating markets.

Absolutely. Free markets hardly exist anymore -- and look what we got with the last ones that went out of whack.

So, yeah. I am NOT a free-market advocate. Regulate them all.

Bubba said...

You will notice, ER, that I questioned your honesty only after you asked whether I was being simplistic, in a comment that was (no doubt) devoid of any judgementalism on your part.

Erudite Redneck said...

Oh, shut up. I judged your critical thinking skills, which is an assessment of ability.

You judged my honesty, which is an assessment of ethics, or morals.

Here's an overt judgment: You might be a swell fella in the RW, but you have come across as a real jackass in every. single. encounter. I've ever had with you online. Every one.

Bubba said...

Well, since we're being completely honest, ER, I think you're a hypocrite, particularly when it comes to defending the faith.

You apparently don't believe that God is capable of communicating through inerrant written Scripture, but you criticize those who do by saying that we're the ones who have put God in a box.

You have no problem routinely accusing us inerrantists of idolatry, but you get furious the moment any of us entertain the possibility that you're guilty of heresy.

You deny the trustworthiness of the Bible, the only credible record of what Jesus said and did, but that doesn't stop you from invoking Christ's name in denouncing those who disagree with you.

When it's convenient, what Christ taught is perfectly clear to you, and you defend your incoherent and ahistorical conceptions of Christ in the harshest possible tones. When that's not convenient, you act as if Christ's teachings are a vague and unknowable thing, and you're just as fierce in attacking those who believe that Christ's teachings are clear, when we don't agree with you on what they are.

I call you out on your inconsistent behavior, and you think I'm a jackass. I hope you'll forgive me for not taking that criticism to heart.

Vinny said...

Bubba,

You realize of course that in a market that was genuinely free of regulation, you would not have corporations. The only permissible business combinations would be simple partnerships in which the investors who stood to enjoy the profits of a venture would also be on the hook for any potential losses. Corporations are artificial persons created by law—i.e., government regulations—that permit investors to enjoy the profits of a business while limiting any losses to the amount of their investment. This government regulation shifts the risk of losses exceeding the initial capitalization onto third parties or society as a whole.

This is what Alan Greenspan missed. He thought that financial institutions acting in their own self-interest would avoid overly risky extensions of credit. Unfortunately for that theory, institutions don’t make risk-reward decisions, individuals do. The various actors who sold the MBS’s and the CDO’s as well as the executives who oversaw them acted in their self-interest because their compensation was tied primarily to the commissions and fees they generated over the short term rather than the long-term viability of the companies they worked for. Although they were exposed to decline in the stock, that risk was the same whether it was only their own company that failed or they brought about a catastrophe that brought down other corporations or even the economies of whole countries.

Personally, I think corporations are in fact good things because they allow the pooling of capital in ways that leads to efficiencies that the market might never reach on its own. Nevertheless, they are in fact a form of government interference in the markets and they need to be regulated in order to avoid unintended consequences.

Erudite Redneck said...

Stopped reading at "faith."

Not the subject here, Pharisee. When I'm in the mood to hear echoes from a whited sepulcher, I'll come back and give it a looksee.

Erudite Redneck said...

Bubba.

You misrepresented what I think in the first half of your second graf, the second ha;f of your third graf, and the first half of of your fourth graf, and in your fifth graf, "convenience" has nothing to do with it.

The rest, I'll cop to.

Not that your opinion counts for much with me, considering the misrepresentations buried therein.

Bubba said...

To be completely honest, Vinny, I agree that LLC's are artifical entities that would not exist in a truly free market, and I agree that they distort the market by allowing the owners the opportunity to make unlimited profit at (sometimes very) limited risk.

But there's an equally egregious distortion in the opposite direction: punitive damages. If LLC's distort the relationship of risk versus reward, punitive damages violate the principle of lex talonis, where the punishment fits the crime.

A more truly free market would do away with both, and there are reasonable disagreements about the precise process by which they should be dismantled...

...but since individual freedom is not exactly on the march domestically, this is hardly the fiscal conservative's most pressing priority. We should do everything we can to prevent further government encroachment, and only after that is it appropriate to work to undo the damage that has already been done.

Vinny said...

We should do everything we can to prevent further government encroachment, and only after that is it appropriate to work to undo the damage that has already been done.

That's what Greenspan tried to do in financial markets and it got us AIG and Lehman Brothers. What rational person would want to try more of the same?

Bubba said...

Vinny, even assuming that economic freedom is the cause of our current troubles -- and I don't make that assumption -- free-market economics don't guarantee eternal booms with no busts, or new businesses without any old businesses going under.

Even if the current situation is bad, a rational thinker must ask, would limiting individual economic freedom lead to a worse outcome -- and that is a reasonable position to take -- and would it be immoral on principle?

Bubba said...

ER, if I follow you correctly, you object to the following claims, but it's not as if I pulled these claims out of my backside.


1: "You apparently don't believe that God is capable of communicating through inerrant written Scripture."

If you DO believe that God is capable of communicating through an inerrant written text, then routinely accusing inerrantists of idolatry is hardly a good indication of it.


2: "You get furious the moment any of us entertain the possibility that you're guilty of heresy."

You deny this?

I quote:

"Every time you or anyone else refer to me as a 'professed Christian' or a 'false teacher,' you're judging men and announcing that you have the authority to judge me and drum me out of the tent. You. Do. Not."

(Notice that this righteous indignation on your part doesn't prevent you from repeatedly calling me a Pharisee.)



3: "You deny the trustworthiness of the Bible."

You apparently believe that EVERY New Testament writer put words in Jesus mouth to suit their own purposes: "they all did."


In each of these cases, I don't seem to misunderstand you.

And about convenience, I know you think it's difficult to live out your particular faith, but I see no principled reason for why you vacillate on whether Jesus' teachings are clear: when it's convenient to your arguments, you deny such clarity and pretend that Christianity is such a vague thing that nothing can ever be called heretical. And when that position is inconvenient to your arguments, you go the other way to accuse Christians with whom you disagree of idolatry and to call us Pharisees.

Erudite Redneck said...

Readin' comprehension are hard, I knowm, but dang.

1. God CAN. God didn't. Clearly. Unless God is contradictory and prone to error.

2. I guess I don't consider holding a heretical view to be "outside the tent" of the faith, only outside the bell of the most widely held beliefs. "False teacher" suggests "outside" or even "against" the faith. So do the scare quotes around "professed Christian. Am I heretical in some of my views. Yes. So, call me heretical in those views if you like. I promised to get furious every time if you presume to drum me out of the tent, though. You can't. It's not up to you.

3. Re, "they all did." Got me. But we were talking aboout the Gospels, so those writers are what I was referring to. Now, I don't think that touches on the authority of the Bible, because 1., the authorioty of the Bible doesn't rest on what it says, but on its place in our Christian history, and 2., the New Testament writers' purposes weren't outside the purposes of God, so the reality they obviously put words in Jesus's mouth is no threat to the integrity of the Bible's main message!

On "convenience": You're so off base with that, I'm just not going to engage you on it. Sorry!

Erudite Redneck said...

Bubba. Some fool let me in front of a church full of some 300-400 people Sunday morning. I posted my sermonette. Come over and read it -- I'm sure you'll find fault with it.

Bubba said...

ER, my disagreemnts with you aren't personal. I don't go looking for reasons to argue with you: they just come up.

For instance, I don't understand how you believe that God "clearly" didn't communicate through inerrant written scripture while you claim -- simultaneously -- that the Gospel writers' supposed deception isn't outside God's purposes and doesn't undermine the Bible's integrity.

You deny inerrancy because you believe -- rightly -- that God doesn't lie, but then you seem to say that God doesn't have a problem with the Evangelists' lies.


You also write that the Bible's authority has nothing to do with its content. I disagree. The Bible asserts its own divine authorship and claims to be a reliable record of what Jesus taught: you deny both of these things, so I don't see how it can be said that you do not also deny the text's authority, at least in part.


About what Jesus said, I stand with the writers of the New Testament, Jesus' own hand-picked Apostles and their closest associates: He said what they record that He said.

About the authority of Scripture, I stand with Jesus and with His Apostles: it is authoritative to the smallest penstroke, because its authorship ultimately rests with God who breathed it.

And about the existence of heretics and false teachers who stand "outside the tent," I also stand with Christ and His Apostles: not everyone who claims to be His is His, may those who preach a different Gospel be accursed, and those who contradict the essentials of the faith -- such as Christ's coming in the flesh -- are teaching against Christ.

Who you stand with, it ain't entirely clear.


You write that the Gospel writers "obviously put words in Jesus's mouth."

If it's so obvious, I'd like you to argue for your case, here or at your own blog.

Ignore passages that are present in our oldest manuscripts, because we're talking about what the Gospel writers claimed in the original copy.

Aside from that, I challenge you to pick a passage, ANY PASSAGE, from any of the four Gospels, and explain why it's "obviously" not something that Jesus Christ Himself said.

Don't make appeals to authority: I don't care what so-called scholar thinks it's obvious, and I don't care that people have been making claims like this for a couple hundred years -- over a millennium and a half after the texts were first written.

Instead, give me the actual arguments for why a certain passage in the Gospel is "obviously" a fabrication.

Erudite Redneck said...

Who the hell said anything about deception? Not me!

And re, "I don't care what so-called scholar thinks ..."

That's the problem, and if you won't accept scholarly authority, there's no need for me to play.

No thanks. I'm making no argument. I'm pointing to scholarship. Take it or leave it.

Erudite Redneck said...

So, anyway.

MA, sorry to follow Bubba when he led this thread so far stray.

Obama good. Not socialist. But I'll take a sprinkling of socialism if that's what it takes to fix what the free market screwed up.

Free market: Good, until it runs away with itself, leads to monopoly or burns out and burns up people in the process.

Regulated market better. An act of our democracy. Debatable. Decided in the ballot box. Y'all lost this go-round. So sorry.

Bubba said...

The problem with your appeals to "scholarship", ER, is that not all scholars agree that the Gospel writers put words in Jesus' mouth.

For the purposes of the challenge I offered you, I don't want a list of scholar's names: I want their arguments. Ultimately the scholar's good name should stand on his argument, should it not?

If you stand by "scholarly authority" when it opposes the Bible's authority, I would think that you should know the scholar's arguments well enough to know whether it's plausible. If you don't, why should we believe that you're right?


About Obama's economics, just because the Democrats won an election doesn't mean that their policies shouldn't be argued over. After all, it wasn't that long ago that we were assured that dissent is the higest form of patriotism.

And, if Obama wasn't entirely clear about the economic programs he supports, then I'm not sure whether he actually holds any real high ground in being able to claim that the people have spoken by electing him.

But you say that Obama isn't a socialist -- apparently Obama is "good" and the precludes socialism. I wonder what label you think applies to his economic philosophy as you understand it.

At the very least, I think it's clear he's a statist who's moving us to collectivism as quickly as political realities allow.

Erudite Redneck said...

On the top part, Bubba, I've said all I'm gonna say now. I'm making no argument; I'm not gonna give you what you want. It's not about arguing; it's about trusting researchers who will follow the research wherever it leads more than trusting religious people, leaders or followers, who are to defend their own position no matter what. So, read up, or not, But I'm done here right now.

On the bottom part, you haven't said anything new, or anything I feel obliged to respond to anyway.

Hey, I think we're done here!

And with that, I bid you adieu!

Bubba said...

Don't let the back door, etc., ER.

It's just worth reiterating exactly what you wrote: you wrote that the Gospel writers "obviously put words in Jesus's mouth."

I inferred that you meant that it was obvious to you. If you're not willing to present an argument for why one single passage is "obviously" a fabrication -- if, instead, you act as if we must take scholars' claims on faith (at least, SOME scholars, since again there isn't scholarly unanimity) -- you give me no reason to believe you.

If you can't or won't easily explain why even one passage is "obviously" a fabrication, maybe you shouldn't use that adverb.

Vinny said...

It is not the booms and busts that concern me; it is the bubbles and the panics.

Since free-market economics gained ascendancy with Reagan, we have had the S&L debacle, the 1987 stock market crash, Long-Term Capital, the dot.com bubble, and the current crisis. During that time, manufacturing declined while financial services grew as a percentage of GDP and the United States went from the world’s biggest creditor to its biggest debtor. We had nothing comparable in the prior thirty years. Now we have the biggest crisis of them all.

The “free market” has never been much more than an academic construct. Government has always played a role and when it declines to do so, things often degenerate into a Darwinian free-for-all. I believe in markets and capitalism because they are useful for achieving economic prosperity by harnessing individual self-interest, but I think it is pragmatism, not principle that makes them superior. When they don’t achieve the desired goal, I think they can and should be modified and regulated.

Before I could be convinced that limitations on individual economic freedom are immoral on principle, I would have to be convinced that the existing distribution of wealth is moral on principle. I do not think that can be done. For every fortune that could be argued to be solely the product of the industry and ingenuity of its possessor there are banking fortunes that were made by dealing in government bonds, railroad fortunes that depended on government land grants, government financing, and government troops to drive Indians from their lands, chemical fortunes that came from selling munitions to the government, steel fortunes that depended on government troops to coerce labor, fruit fortunes that depended on government interference in Central America, and oil fortunes that depended on government in the Middle East.

Bubba said...

Vinny, pragmatism comes with its own principles, its own ideological assumptions. I believe the so-called pragmatism of modern progressives entails the assumptions that government power should not be limited and that the individual has no inalienable property rights.

At any rate, the free market compares very unfavorably to a utopian ideal that does not and cannot exist in the real world, but I think it's more helpful to compare, e.g., Reaganomics to real-world alternatives: the New Deal that didn't bring an end to the depression and arguably made it worse, a War on Poverty that accomplished nothing, and the stagflation of the 1970's.

Better still, let's compare the (relatively) free markets of the United States against those economies that have long since gone down the path you support.

You lay the current financial crisis solely at the feet of the free market and say that it is "the biggest crisis of them all," but going to a European model hardly promises to improve things when Europe has stagnant growth and double-digit unemployment.

When America's worst days, economically, are still better than Europe's best days, it's not unreasonable to question an economic solution that follows Europe's lead.


And, Vinny, it's a very convenient thing to say that the immorality of past state interference prevents you from standing against the immorality of future interference, but I do appreciate your honesty: until we reach the Shangri La of a Year Zero where wealth is distributed fairly at the very beginning, you have no moral qualms about crushing property rights as they exist now -- for purely pragmatic reasons, of course.

Vinny said...

On the other hand, the 1950’s and 1960’s were a period of unprecedented prosperity. In those days labor unions were strong and the top marginal tax rate was as high as 90%.

If state interference is inherently immoral, than I don’t see how we ever establish any person’s inalienable right to property because it is very hard to eliminate the possibility that government interference played role in their obtaining in the first place. Declaring the right to property inalienable without regard to how the property was obtained does not sound moral to me.

Marshall Art said...

Excellent conversation and back and forths!

It's really silly to pretend that Barry ain't a socialist. When he's rated as being more to the left than admitted socialist Bernie Sanders, to say otherwise is, well, silly. This is a guy who wants to "spread the wealth". This one pronouncement is all one should need to hear to know the speaker has socialist leanings. The question is simply, "how socialist?", and time will tell for sure. As I said, any lean to the left is only a matter of shades of the same color.

Vinny's troubles with the free-market implies that it lends itself to more unethical behavior. I don't much disagree with the premise, but I would qualify my belief by saying that a lack of conservative and/or Christian values is the true cause, not the economic system itself. That more intrusive government might reign in such behaviors might be true, but it would do so by also reigning in economic progress. Unethical behavior will prevail under any system without the influence of and and adherence to strong, traditional and Judeo/Christian principles of human behavior and ethics. It's what self rule is all about. If one is immoral, one isn't qualified to rule one's self. Regulation should never be suggested until it's plain that we are incapable of regulating ourselves.

I don't think anyone, certainly not Bubba or myself, would suggest that a totally free-market would work considering the shortcomings of human nature. However, that is an ideal that we should attempt to achieve in order for the most people to have a real chance of succeeding. I don't want to see regulations put in place that inhibit the potential of good people. I'd prefer to see punishment for those who abuse their freedoms, just as we do in civil law.

As to our current "crisis", it seems to be more of a crisis now than it was before last November. Why should that be the case? Barry's put a ton of uncertainty into the equation and his stimulus and bail out packages will, like every other time such has been done, will prolong our agony. The markets work themselves out of these situations when allowed to.

Bubba said...

Marshall:

I don't think anyone, certainly not Bubba or myself, would suggest that a totally free-market would work considering the shortcomings of human nature.

It's not that I think a truly free market -- largely free with the obvious exception of criminalizing fraud, theft, assault, murder and the like -- "works."

It's not that the free market is a solution. To use Thomas Sowell's saying, there are no solutions, only tradeoffs.

(Well, in earthly matters, there are no solutions. In the cross God has provided the ultimate solution to sin and death, and one of my biggest problem with utopian political philosophies is that they confuse the worldly realm of tradeoffs with the divine realm of real solutions.)

The fundamental economic question is meeting needs and wants -- a theoretically unlimited number -- in light of a scarcity of resources, far too few resources to meet everyone's needs.

The free market isn't a perfectly moral or perfectly efficient approach, but it's far more moral AND far more efficient than any real-world alternative.

One reason it's more moral is that it accounts for individual property rights, and one reason it's more efficient is that it accounts for individual self-interest, including the sinful excess of self-interest, greed.

Collectivist economics in any stripe -- from Bolsheivism to Italian Fascism to supposedly "pragmatic" Progressivism -- fails to account fully for self-interest. The system would work if self-interest were somehow eliminated, but it cannot be elminated.

The socialist scheme, which largely ignores self-interest, is as useful as plans for some perpetual motion machine that ignores the reality of friction. An internal-combustion engine that accounts for friction is still going to break down at some point, but it's still going to get you further down the road than a machine that's perfect in theory and hardly useful in practice.

Writing in Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote about social morality, compared to the morality that is concerned with an individual's internal condition. Comparing men in society to a fleet on the ocean, he had this to say:

"What is the good of telling the ships how to steer so as to avoid collisions if, in fact, they are such crazy old tubs that they cannot be steered at all? What is the good of drawing up, on paper, rules for social behaviour, if we know that, in fact, our greed, cowardice, ill temper, and self-conceit are going to prevent us from keeping them? I do not mean for a moment that we ought not to think, and think hard, about improvements in our social and economic system. What I do mean is that all that thinking will be mere moonshine unless we realise that nothing but the courage and unselfishness of individuals is ever going to make any system work properly. It is easy enough to remove the particular kinds of graft or bullying that go on under the present system: but as long as men are twisters or bullies they will find some new way of carrying on the old game under the new system. You cannot make men good by law: and without good men you cannot have a good society. That is why we must go on to think of the second thing: of morality inside the individual." [emphasis mine]

I agree with all of this, that even a free market will fall apart because of sinful men, but I believe the free market is the most robust system available: it can trudge along quite well with merely reasonably civil people, while collectivist systems need pretty-much purely virtuous saints in order to achieve its expected results.

Marshall Art said...

Vinny,

I'm not following your reasoning. Are you suggesting that government inteference played a role in the aquistion of my property? If so, how?

Ron said...

Haven't read the comments but fascist is far RIGHT. Its corporate and government teaming to control. Which is exactly what we have in the US.
If Barry was a socialist I'd be far happier. I suggest you ask a socialist or communist if they think he adhears to their tenets.
The will say profoundly NO. You can call people anything you want but if the actual socialists or communists don't agree and can prove where he's not(they can, go to a socialist web site and see) then that means that you are labeling quite loosely.

beyond that..from the rasmussen poll(not a left wing poller by any stretch):
Only 53% of American adults believe capitalism is better than socialism.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 20% disagree and say socialism is better. Twenty-seven percent (27%) are not sure which is better.

Oops, better pick a new symbol of evil.

Marshall Art said...

Ron,

"Haven't read the comments but fascist is far RIGHT."

Only to lefties. In reality, it is the furthest left one can go, right after communism. Glen Beck recently said it this way, and I agree, that to one side is more government and to the other less. At the extremes is fascism on the left, which is total control with no concern for the individual, and on the other side, total anarchy as a result of absolutely NO government. If one looks at the definitions for socialism, communism and fascism, there is no doubt that all are degrees of the same thing. Again, the left always moves toward more gov't and the right less, so fascism is not a right-wing extreme. Anarchy would be.