Saturday, May 19, 2007

Stone Age Economics and the Religion of the Left: What Would Jesus Bankroll? (5.24.09)

Susannah asks, "What is your take on ostensibly religious left-wingers" and "how they come by their horizontality?" In her experience, "anytime I meet a Christian who is left-oriented in their politics, it invariably stems from their low view of divine revelation. Others are downright hostile to scripture and attempt to deconstruct it. Yet others use wretchedly sloppy hermeneutics."

This is a very complex question, in part because the world is so very different today than it was 2000 years ago or even 100 years ago. At least the modern world is. One of the the reasons human beings have always had difficulty understanding economics is that they are exceedingly temporo-centric, and do not appreciate the much larger trends at any given time.

To cite just one glaring example, when Marx was writing his critique of industrial capitalism in the mid 19th century, living standards were finally rising after hundreds, and I suppose, thousands, of years of stagnation. Workers were finally rising above subsistence levels and beginning to be able to purchase necessities and eventually luxuries that would have been completely unavailable to them in the past.

In short, the means of creating unlimited wealth was not really stumbled upon by human beings until the rise of industrial capitalism. Human beings had finally discovered the key to economic growth, which came down to individual liberty, free markets, strong private property rights, sound money, and the rule of law.

And even then, it took several hundred more years to tame the "boom or bust" cycle, to the point that people no longer expect economic recessions, much less, depressions. It is now as if people imagine that unlimited economic growth and prosperity is the norm instead of an extraordinary deviation from the past. And with that, a sense of entitlement is nurtured, which in turn is rooted in what the psychoanalyst Melanie Klein called constitutional envy.

As I have written before, I believe envy must have had some evolutionary utility, or else it wouldn't have survived the process of natural selection. Since 99% of human evolution took place in small bands of hunter-gatherers, my view is that envy must have ultimately served the purpose of group cohesiveness.

Human beings could not possibly have survived as individuals, but only as part of a group. Therefore, anything that promoted the fitness of the group is likely to have been strongly reinforced. In a small group, it would have obviously been detrimental for one member to horde all of the resources, so we might say that envy is a mechanism that is actually selected by evolution in order to maintain our intrinsic communism. In other words, communism is our default state (as seen in our immediate families), whereas certain traits and habits of mind associated with capitalism must be learned, among them, trust of the stranger, the tamping down of envy, and a focus on the future instead of the present.

Back when I was writing my book and trying to assimilate as much world history as I could in a short period of time, one of the more provocative books I came across was one called From Plato to Nato: The Idea of the West and its Opponents. Gress believes that we have been misled by scholars who, because they live in the abstract world of thought, overvalue their own ideas. As such, they came up with the idea of the "grand narrative" of Western history extending back to its roots in ancient Greece.

But Gress believes that such critical ideas as liberty, democracy, and the free market were not so much ideas as behaviors that people lived out and only later reflected upon, in the manner, say, of Adam Smith. In other words, no one invented capitalism, or liberty or democracy, and that's sort of the point. These things had to first be lived and experienced in order to be valued.

I think we can understand Gress's point in analyzing the difficulty of transplanting "the idea of freedom" to the Middle East. Frankly -- and this is a little alarming to contemplate -- you can't just unproblematically transplant such an idea, because it is a value rooted in centuries of collective experience. I remember Dennis Prager discussing this on his radio program, and it came as a bit of a jolt to me. Like President Bush, I had had it in my mind that the desire for liberty was a universal human wish, something built into us. Therefore, all you have to do is "give" it to people, and that will be that.

Quite the opposite. Liberty is not a built in -- much less universal -- value, and I think you can see how this is a major part of understanding the motivations -- or shall we say, the deep structure -- of leftism. Classical liberals wonder why leftists do not value freedom, but they shouldn't. Rather, the question is why we do value it, because it is an obvious aberration in the human race. Most humans value security over liberty, predictability over change, conformity over individuality, and authority over self-rule. So when we see that leftists hate freedom and progress but love authority and comformity, we should not be the least bit surprised, for it is true of most rank-and-foul humans.

To finish up with Prager's thought, he noted that it was God who wanted humans to have freedom, not humans. For the vast majority of human beings, liberty is not a particularly important value, much less the most important one. They would just as soon barter it away for security, as they have done in western Europe. Once you understand this, then much about the left begins to make sense. In Europe, we can see how the welfare state puts in place a system of incentives that creates a new kind of enfeebled man, but that's not exactly correct. In reality, it simply reveals man for what he is -- a lazy, frightened, selfish, superstitious, instinct-loving and lowdown rascal. Leftism aims low and always reaches its target.

Only liberty unleashes the possibility of man and reveals what man can be, as an alternative to the unimpressive specter of what he is.

Much of this is laid out quite succinctly by Robert A. Sirico in the latest edition of the Hillsdale College Imprimis. The entire article is well worth reading, but I will attempt to summarize some of the key points. Sirico points out that leftism was not always the anti-progressive, anti-human movement it has become. Rather, it began with fairly noble aspirations, especially when we remember that the means of creating wealth were not at all well understood at the time. As such, the early socialists naively thought that socialism could achieve what capitalism could not:

"The core of the old socialist hope was a mass prosperity that would free all people from the burden of laboring for others and place them in a position to pursue higher ends, such as art and philosophy, in a conflict-free society."

But there was the problem of human temporo-centrism alluded to above: "The Marxist prediction of a revolution that would bring about this good society rested on the assumption that the condition of the working classes would grow ever worse under capitalism. But by the early twentieth century it was clear that this assumption was completely wrong. Indeed, the reverse was occurring: As wealth grew through capitalist means, the standard of living of all was improving."

That should have been the end of socialism, but it wasn't. And that is precisely when it transitioned from something that could at least be defended on rational or humanitarian grounds to a substitute religion. And again, it is specifically not a new religion, but a resurrection of mankind's default religion. Leftism is actually the abstract articulation of the "economic psychology" of Stone Age man. There is nothing new about it, which is why we see so much "born again paganism" associated with it -- the cult of the body, the exaltation of the senses, barbaric art forms, the vapid mystagogy of the "new age," etc.

What was truly new and progressive were all of the massive changes wrought by the unfettered free market:

"Historians now realize that even in the early years of the Industrial Revolution, workers were becoming better off. Prices were falling, incomes rising, health and sanitation improving, diets becoming more varied, and working conditions constantly improving. The new wealth generated by capitalism dramatically lengthened life spans and decreased child mortality rates. The new jobs being created in industry paid more than most people could make in agriculture. Housing conditions improved. The new heroes of society came from the middle class as business owners and industrialists displaced the nobility and gentry in the cultural hierarchy."

In light of everything that had gone before, this was truly a miracle. But one of the less flattering characteristics of human beings is that there is no gift so miraculous, no grace so bountiful, that they cannot take it for granted. As such, another trait of the leftist -- as we all know -- is the conspicuous absence of gratitude, for gratitude is another spiritual value that does not come naturally to human beings. In one sense it must be cultivated, but in another sense it is a spiritual reward, since it frees one from the painful constitutional envy that motivates the leftist -- the ouch they can't stop screeching.

Put it this way: the "glass" of wealth is exponentially larger than it has ever been, and it is growing all the time. But no matter how big it gets, the leftist is condemned to seeing it as half full and obsessing over the fact that someone else has more. Thus,

"In the midst of all this change, many people seemed only to observe an increase in the number of the poor. In a paradoxical way, this too was a sign of social progress, since so many of these unfortunate people might have been dead in past ages. But the deaths of the past were unseen and forgotten, whereas current poverty was omnipresent. Meanwhile, as economic development expanded in the nineteenth century, there was a dramatic growth of a middle class that now had access to consumer goods once available only to kings -- not to mention plenty of new goods being created by the engine of capitalism."

Needless to day -- at least for a classical liberal -- "The poor didn’t get poorer because the rich were getting richer (a familiar socialist refrain even today) as the socialists had predicted. Instead, the underlying reality was that capitalism had created the first societies in history in which living standards were rising in all sectors of society. In a sense, free market capitalism was coming closest to realizing what Marx himself had imagined: 'the all round development of individuals' in which 'the productive forces will also have increased' and 'the springs of social wealth will flow more freely.'"

Well, that's about all I have time for today, which could be a day to test the Gagdad Spirit. Mrs. G. is going away overnight on a secret mission of the utmost importance, leaving the boys to fend for themselves for the first time ever. This will be interesting. Would it be wrong to just place a large pizza in the back yard and allow Future Leader to run around naked all day? I mean, if it's good enough for me....

69 Comments:

Anonymous the drive-by kegger said...

While Mrs. G is away, the coons shall play.

Paaarty at B'obs!!!!

wv: BYOB (j/k ;-)

5/19/2007 07:04:00 AM  
Anonymous the drive-by industrialist said...

This post was really good Bob. So much of finding the Truth begins specifically with a correct view and appreciation of Man's natural and undeveloped state (i.e., the carnal state). You have in past posts done this with violence and human sacrifice, infanticide, slavery, the treatment of women, and many other topics. I appreciate you taking the same approach to economic history here.

It is often so hard for us in our current prosperity to even imagine the sort of grinding poverty that were the hallmarks of most people's lives before the industrial capitalist revolution. Heck, its hard to imagine the kind of poverty even many Americans routinely faced a few generations ago. So far have we come, and so quickly we forget.

5/19/2007 07:19:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

This is one of the nuttiest leftist websites I've seen yet. It's almost too rich -- a playground of feminist pathology. Sample from today:

"I’m the oldest daughter in a Tongan American family... The 2000 census reports that we Tongans and other Pacific Islanders are some of the hardest working Americans here in California, our myriad contributions are often unrecognized and images of Tonganness are seldom painted with affirmative brush strokes.

"Tongans are many times defined by our big bones and ample brown bodies. Our physical differences are 'othered' and hyper visible in the media."

*****

How naive of me. Before today I had no idea I was Tongaphobic....

5/19/2007 07:36:00 AM  
Anonymous joseph said...

I loved this quote from the site you reference Bob:"... the fingers and hands of young Tongan youths are frequently classified by the police as “weapons” similar to loaded machine guns and other dangerous ammunition. In the U.S. imagination, Tonganness is defined as an imminent threat, a “weapon” to be contained..."
Sounds like the police has the same experience I have. All you have to do is find yourself in a pick-up basketball game with a Tongan, and accidentally foul them.

5/19/2007 07:56:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I think Dupree must have some Tongan blood. As a matter of fact, he was complaining the other day about feeling "othered" by me. I must have misheard him, for only now do I realize that he was calling me an "otherf**er."

5/19/2007 08:06:00 AM  
Blogger I R A Darth Aggie said...

Running nekkid around a pizza is a good thing. Isn't that one way to attain a higher state of consiousness? besides, if Deer Future Leader should decide to play in the mud/dirt/grass and get messy, you can simply hose him down and not get his clothing messy. Thus, when Mrs. G returns to her castle, DFL will be as clean and spotless as the little angel that he is.

And Gagdad Bob will look like a stinkin' genius. Which we know, but Mrs. G might grumble that he spends way too much time on the computer... ;-)

5/19/2007 08:14:00 AM  
Anonymous dilys said...

Pictures please! And safe and rapid return of Mrs. G to the cheesy back yard and to us all.

they live in the abstract world of thought
The conservative making some effort to maintain cultural and biological roots, natural order and natural law, vs. the capitulation to post-Enlightenment Cartesian theory-driven existence, well, pace, I'm not going to carry on in that vein....

Related, however, the really interesting discussions by Philip Jenkins -- here and here -- imply that a divorce from deep, explicit, experiential connection with the material necessities of the past makes for a drained liberal American religion, in that the Biblical metaphors compute in that context mostly conceptually and schematically, not viscerally and thus transformatively. There are ways back to the visceral (some find it to their profit here),  but not via more Marie-Antoinette let'em eat grass approximations of back-to-nature communitarian play-acting.

Also interesting-sounding is Deirdre McCloskey's The Bourgeois Virtues.

5/19/2007 08:20:00 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

It is not only not wrong, but it is your duty! Don't forget to fill the baby pool with beer! ;)

Can Tongans flip chicken on the grill without using a utensil? Dangerous weapons and kitchen aids....cool.

5/19/2007 08:42:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Tongans can eat chickens whole while simultaneously spitting out the feathers.

5/19/2007 08:44:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Excellent post, B'ob, with extra pepperoni and mushrooms on top!

This reminds me of a recent conversation I had with another chess player (economics, not the pizza).

He said, out of the blue: "If only the rich paid their fair share, then there wouldn't be any poverty in our country.
Why can't the rich understand that?"

I replied: "I concur, for the most part. If the rich did pay their 'fair share', there would be a lot less poverty. Unfortunately, the rich are forced to pay more than their 'fair share', which only increases poverty."

Needless to say, my opponent was convinced henceforth, I was an "evil capitalist pig", among other things I shan't mention here.
I was now branded a heretic.
He didn't want a lesson in basic free market "mumbo jumbo", I believe he called it.

Oh well, at least I won the game. :^)

5/19/2007 08:51:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Tongans don't read books. They stare them down until they get the information they want.

Tongans don't use condoms, because there's no protection from a Tongan.

Rather than being born in the usual way, Tongans punch their way out of the womb. Then they eat a whole chicken.

Tongans don't sleep. They wait.

The chief export of Tonga is pain.

Tongans drink napalm to cure heartburn.

5/19/2007 08:52:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

The first time I was alone with our oldest daughter for a few hours, she really cut loose with the stinkiest, stickiest goo-poo I had ever seen.
She had just turned 3 months, I think. About the time that foul odors accompanied said poo.

As I attempted to clean her up, I realized a quick 'n easy way to get the job done!

Unfortunately, my DW came home as I was rinsing our daughter's butt off in the kitchen sink.

Hey, we had a garbage disposal at the time!
My great idea was deep-sixed by DW.
I still don't get it...

5/19/2007 09:00:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Gagdad Bob said...
Tongans don't read books. They stare them down until they get the information they want.

Ha ha! I knew a Bos'n Mate that was Tongan (or maybe he was Samoan, I dunno. One of them big islander types).
That's exactly how he read books.

5/19/2007 09:04:00 AM  
Anonymous Fellow Tongan said...

No offense guys, but you haven't even scratched the surface.


"So easy, even a Tongan can do it"

5/19/2007 09:07:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Pffft!
I'm still laughin' at B'ob's revelations about Tongans.

What are the odds that there is even one feminist Tongan?
Imagine how long it would take to do the math on that one.

Especially with a Tongan calculater.

5/19/2007 09:11:00 AM  
Anonymous dame edith waterfowl said...

It so happens my new pool boy is a Tongan.

5/19/2007 09:15:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

When I was a cop, we didn't arrest Tongans.
We gave them amnesty.

Once, my partner used pepper-spray on a Tongan.
He asked if he could keep the can for his breath.

We never shot Tongans.
That only makes them mad.

5/19/2007 09:19:00 AM  
Blogger walt said...

Bob,
Your left-leaning readers will not likely have a problem with the nudity -- but you KNOW they wondered (right away!) whether the pizza will be vegetarian, or what...??

5/19/2007 09:21:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

There's no such thing as a feminist Tongan, just male Tongans that are so macho they circle back around and become women. But not for long.

5/19/2007 09:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Nick said...

When I read the part of your post referencing leftist preferring, or choosing, security over freedom I was reminded of a couple of truths revealed in the Scriptures... that those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. That those who are sons of God no longer have a spirit of fear, but a spirit of son ship.

In light of the Word, the way I see is that man without God doesn't simply prefer security (as in makes a conscious choice), but rather is a slave to fear. Which is to say he doesn't in fact choose for example to prefer socialistic policies and politicians, he doesn't even see the two options. Rather he's driven by fear to the only option he sees (without realizing on a conscious level he is in fact mastered by the fear which deprives him of the choice of other options, or from even seeing those options).

Just my take on it.

5/19/2007 09:23:00 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

I bet a feminist Tongan could kick Edward Scissorhands' ass!

5/19/2007 09:26:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Paper beats rock, rock beats scissors, but Tongans beat them all.

5/19/2007 09:31:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Question -- is it okay to call 911 for a diaper change?

5/19/2007 09:37:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Wasn't George Orwell Tongan?
He was always talkin' about 'thought police' and 'big brother.'

Why do Tongans have big nostrils?
Because they have big fingers.

Why do Tongans go to school?
For free lunch.

The last Tongan romantic comedy was:
The incredible Hulk

5/19/2007 10:04:00 AM  
Anonymous dame edith waterfowl said...

What?? Those are his fingers??

5/19/2007 10:04:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

USS Ben USN (Ret) said "The first time I was alone with our oldest daughter for a few hours, she really cut loose with the stinkiest, stickiest goo-poo I had ever seen."

Ever hear Bill Cosby's routine on when baby poo first gets its smell? Hilarious.

My graduating-in-two-weeks child got his first fully odorized poo in the most appropriate place imaginable - standing in line to vote! Funny now, but ohh so embarrassing then!

5/19/2007 10:08:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Why is the cost of public 'education' so high?
Because Tongans go to school for free lunch.

What do feminist Tongans major in?
Poi studies.

What do feminist Tongans listen to?
The linebacker monologues.

5/19/2007 10:17:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"Liberty is not a built in -- much less universal -- value, and I think you can see how this is a major part of understanding the motivations -- or shall we say, the deep structure -- of leftism."

That is an idea that takes a long time to overcome... but everything we have that is good is, in the strictest sense, unnatural.

The leftist desire to seize the wealth of others, is the most natural thing there is, just as a pack of hyenna's will try to seize the leftovers from a lion - if he looks fat & happy & tired & alone... back to nature has always been their cry.

The Good, the Beautiful and the True are so rare in history, they must be developed, nurtured and taught - or they will be lost. And remember, without them, there's no pizza streaking in the back yard!

5/19/2007 10:19:00 AM  
Blogger Webutante said...

Pleeeese stop writing so much good stuff so fast everyday...I can't read that fast and am falling behind in my household chores.

Right now I'm suppose to be at Porter Paint getting a quart of paint for my next painting task on my deck today. But oh no, here I am trying to pull myself away and then spending precious paint time commenting.

If you don't slow gown a bit, I'll have to hire an assistant to read to me while I work, scrub, toil, row that boat and bail that hay.

Have a little mercy. I'm just a country girl....

5/19/2007 10:20:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Van said-
My graduating-in-two-weeks child got his first fully odorized poo in the most appropriate place imaginable - standing in line to vote! Funny now, but ohh so embarrassing then!

That brings new meaning to holding your nose and voting. :^)

B'ob-
Yes, I do believe 911 is appropos for changing diapers.

5/19/2007 10:24:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Webutante said-
If you don't slow gown a bit, I'll have to hire an assistant to read to me while I work, scrub, toil, row that boat and bail that hay.

Um, no offense meant, but it would probably be a lot easier to bail hay with a truck instead of a
row-boat.
Just sayin'. :^)

5/19/2007 10:28:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Advice for feminist Tongan-
You don't need a man for a good lei.

5/19/2007 10:33:00 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

yeah, just a good Brookstone massager

5/19/2007 10:38:00 AM  
Blogger Webutante said...

Well, I could try, couldn't I?

Maybe one of them-there Tongans could help me catch up with my to do list?

OK, enough is enough.

Goodbye.

5/19/2007 10:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Sawdust said...

One of the reasons that the left gives for leaving Iraq is that , somehow or another, they just don't want or need freedom. I believe that the Iraqis have proven that they very much want freedom, simply by turning out to vote under a very real threat of death. The actual doing is a bit more elusive, and their ass-backwards religion is a huge stumbling block.

5/19/2007 11:23:00 AM  
Blogger Susannah said...

I would love to be a fly on your wall today. LOL! I'm not opposed to nekkid 2yo's, though, esp. if it's warm out and a hose (pref. attached to a sprinkler) is involved. Just so long as you have a privacy fence...some nosy nortons would report you to CPS for that. :)

Well, well, well...I'm not the only one who says "nekkid" or thinks a hose is a good idea. (Reading comments as I type here.) Oh. my. gosh. Y'all are hilarious.

*****

As for the entry, good stuff. It doesn't really answer my question, but it's still good! :) I differ on the evolutionary points, and I would probably say "self-interest" instead of envy. I do believe self-interest is God-granted; without it, no one would have a decent work ethic. And that's why capitalism works and socialism doesn't.

"Liberty is not a built in -- much less universal -- value, and I think you can see how this is a major part of understanding the motivations -- or shall we say, the deep structure -- of leftism. Classical liberals wonder why leftists do not value freedom, but they shouldn't. Rather, the question is why we do value it, because it is an obvious aberration in the human race."

Prager's point that it is God who wants us to be free is a mind-opening thing. Biblical and ancient history definitely support your point. I'm reading Herotodus right now and I can see the truth of this played out even among the Greeks resisting the Persian empire.

Speaking of nekkid kids, my 3yo just walked up to me without a stitch on. When I asked why she was naked she answered, "I'm not naked." See, leftism is the natural condition of humanity.

5/19/2007 11:29:00 AM  
Blogger juliec said...

After reading today's comments, I was inspired to create an artist's rendering of the scene at Gagdad's house today.

5/19/2007 11:37:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Susannah:

That was just an initial approach. I will try to look at the question from a different angle tomorrow, assuming all hell doesn't break loose in the middle of the night.

5/19/2007 11:49:00 AM  
Anonymous In other words.... said...

BoB said.....

"Mrs. G. is going away overnight on a secret mission of the utmost importance, leaving the boys to fend for themselves for the first time ever. This will be interesting. Would it be wrong to just place a large pizza in the back yard and allow Future Leader to run around naked all day? I mean, if it's good enough for me...."

Never does a man's appreciation for his wife soar higher than when he alone is holding the reins! Been there done that and still doing with 3 and you too will shine!

sq

5/19/2007 11:51:00 AM  
Blogger Susannah said...

You know, my mind is opening like a flower because of this post. (sleeping babe at keyboard--forgive typos pls.)

In recent years I've watched what's happening in the UK, Canada, and even in certain school districts here in the U.S., and thought, "Why is it that free-born people are not rising up in protest over these assaults on their liberty?" This entry is kind of a "duh" moment for me. Of course, if they valued liberty, people *would* protest. They don't, and this explains why.

5/19/2007 12:26:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

P.S. Julie, you've got to get Bob a copy to frame! Great work!

5/19/2007 12:28:00 PM  
Blogger walt said...

Van mentioned,

"Liberty is not a built in -- much less universal -- value
...everything we have that is good is, in the strictest sense, unnatural.

The Good, the Beautiful and the True are so rare in history, they must be developed, nurtured and taught...."


Nicely stated - and so missing amidst all the socio-political rhetoric! I, too, forget the gist of this.

5/19/2007 01:03:00 PM  
Blogger The Bunnies said...

Bob refers to man's desire to not be free, and it reminded me of Dostoyevsky's "Grand Inquisitor," where he argues that Christ paved the way for man's freedom by rejecting Satan in the desert.

I would be incredibly curious to hear Bob's take on that story, or even better, Bob's own take on the three desert temptations.

5/19/2007 01:12:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Susannah said "...I would probably say "self-interest" instead of envy. I do believe self-interest is God-granted; without it, no one would have a decent work ethic. And that's why capitalism works and socialism doesn't."

self-interest is a very interesting concept, and I think can be used/applied in a couple ways. You can call getting, taking or earning what you want as satisfying your self interest, but it very much depends on what it is you're after, how you are going about getting it, and why on both. To qualify as a proper, classical-liberal concept, it needs to be something worthy of your time and effort in acquiring it, getting it in a proper manner - by civilized production or trade, and that it complements your goals. The alternative could be seeking crystal meth, killing someone for $100, all so you can get a rush.

So the urge to do what it takes to get what you want in order to satisfy your 'self-interest' is there by nature, but the reasons, purposes and rules followed in doing so may come from the crudest of horizontal urges, or the highest Vertical abstractions.

Also, I think fundamental to a civilization of free trade and rights, is a respect for Law, for rules, and more than that, for what brings about those rules and laws - some recognition of your right to your property, and the conception that respecting anothers right to their property, helps to protect your as well.

Something that can come from an intermixture of farming and trading cultures, but in no way is a given, or if it does begin, there's no guarantee that it'll endure. The middle east was the original crossroads of farming, fishing and trade, but after some fitful starts at law - it either faded away or was halted.

It took the practice of the Greco-Roman culture (Victor Davis Hanson has some interesting ideas on this as stemming from the citizen farmer/hoplite warrior and the unique approach to warfare of the west, rooted in the early greeks) to provide the theory and codified legal structure, and the Judeo-Christian culture to provide a sense of value for individuals and their rights, whether or not they had power themselves.

Of course there's quite a bit more to it than that... interesting stuff - and vitally important to Western Civilization, which explains why it isn't taught in public schools.

5/19/2007 01:43:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Susannah said "I'm reading Herotodus right now ..."

Yes!

"...and I can see the truth of this played out even among the Greeks resisting the Persian empire."

Even?

;-)

5/19/2007 01:47:00 PM  
Blogger MizzE said...

Van said:....self-interest is a very interesting concept, and I think can be used/applied in a couple ways. You can call getting, taking or earning what you want as satisfying your self interest, but it very much depends on what it is you're after.....

A story for all Moms and GagDads:

So, we had this great 10 year old cat named Jack who just recently died. Jack was a great cat and the kids would carry him around and sit on him and nothing ever bothered him. He used to hang out and nap all day long
on this mat in our bathroom.

Well we have 3 kids and at the time of this story they were 4 years old,3 years old and 1 year old. The middle one is Eli. Eli really loves
chapstick. LOVES it. He kept asking to use my chapstick and then losing it. So finally one day I showed him where in the bathroom I keep my chapstick and how he could use it whenever he wanted to but he needed to
put it right back in the drawer when he was done.

Last year on Mother's Day, we were having the typical rush around and try to get ready for Church with everyone crying and carrying on. My two boys are fighting over the toy in the cereal box. I am trying to nurse my little one at the same time I am putting on my make-up. Everything is a mess and everyone has long forgotten that this is a wonderful day to
honor me and the amazing job that is motherhood.

We finally have the older one and and the baby loaded in the car and I am looking for Eli. I have searched everywhere and I finally round the corner to go into the bathroom. And there was Eli. He was applying my chapstick very carefully to Jack's . . . rear end. Eli looked right into my eyes and said "chapped." Now if you have a cat, you know that he is right -- their little bottoms do look pretty chapped. And, frankly, Jack didn't seem to mind.

And the only question to really ask at that point was whether it was the FIRST time Eli had done that to the cat's behind or the hundredth.

And THAT is my favorite Mother's Day moment ever because it reminds us
that no matter how hard we try to civilize these glorious little creatures, there will always be that day when you realize they've been using your chapstick on the cat's butt.

5/19/2007 01:54:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

MizzE said "...no matter how hard we try to civilize these glorious little creatures, there will always be that day when you realize they've been using your chapstick on the cat's butt."

OMG!!! LOL!!!

2,500 years of political theory and pretensions laid bare!

5/19/2007 02:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Aquila said...

Gagster,

Re nutty lefty-feminist websites: I'll see your Tongan, and raise you a Nikki Craft!

5/19/2007 02:05:00 PM  
Blogger The Bunnies said...

To prevent confusion in my own interactions with others and my writing, I've actually coined the term "selfist" to apply to that wich properly augments one's self-interest, as opposed to selfish.

A selfish person wants whatever he can get however he can get it. A selfist person wants to do well, but does so ethically, for he realizes that to satisfly himSelf he can't be exploiting others.

A selfist person, in the small groups that Bob described in his post, would probably willingly cooperate with the group because he realized that his own self-interest coincided with everyone else's, he recognizes the need for trade-offs, etc. However, a selfish person would become an enormous drain, continually sniping, stealing, etc.

Hence our conflation between "selfish" and "selfist." We both have to and should combat selfishness in its lower sense, because people doing what's in their own self-interest without an ethical framework can destroy a society. However, some people can't grasp that "selfist" behaviors are possible, and deried perfectly healthy instincts like the profit motive, assuming that selfishly making a lot of money will drag the rest of us down.

Some of us recognize that it's possible to ethically benefit oneself, and that doing so helps society. Others assume that there's nothing really wrong with theft and that to not steal when one can get away with it is a sort of self-deprivation. Most leftists can't tell the difference betweeen the behaviors and assume that CEO's must be experts at the latter behavior, for the former concept doesn't even exist to them.

5/19/2007 02:10:00 PM  
Blogger MizzE said...

> > 2,500 years of political theory and pretensions laid bare! < <

Times like these I think there's something to be said for the "Numbers".

28er got a 28er!

5/19/2007 02:11:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

This is supposed to be a very good book on the various political religions of the left. His new book continues the story into the 21st century and is reviewed on NRO today. Looks like he also wrote a fascinating history on the Third Reich with a similar thesis.

5/19/2007 02:14:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

BTW, I made it to nap time. One shift down. One more from 3pm - to 8pm, and then tomorrow morning from around 7am to 1pm, and I'm home free.

5/19/2007 02:16:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

The Bunnies said "However, some people can't grasp that "selfist" behaviors are possible, and deried perfectly healthy instincts like the profit motive, assuming that selfishly making a lot of money will drag the rest of us down."

The leftist doesn't differentiate between them because from his point of view, in essentials, they are the same. Those essentials being that either self## has stuff that the leftist wants, and they're standing in the way of him getting it! Now!

5/19/2007 02:28:00 PM  
Blogger juliec said...

Mizze - that's the funniest thing I've read today!

the Bunnies - I like the distinction you make. I may have to borrow that selfist concept sometime.

5/19/2007 03:52:00 PM  
Anonymous the drive-by yokozuna said...

A Tongan's tears cure cancer. Too bad they never cry. Ever.

A Tongan counted to one -- twice.

Hungry Tongans have already been to Mars. That's why there's no sign of life there.

The chief export of Tonga is pain.

A Tongan has two speeds, walk and stomp.

Tongans are men of few words. They are not men of few meat-slaps to the face.

The Great Wall of China was originally built to keep Tongans out. It failed miserably.

Hadrian's wall was originally built to keep Tongans out -- See Great Wall.

US immigration policy was proposed to keep Tongans out, until Tongans sent their friend Akebono to 'talk' to the Congressmen. See Great Wall.

A Tongan kicked Neo out of Zion, now Neo is "The Three" (After Chuck Norris "The Two").

Carmen Sandiego has been found, in Tongan belly.

The fat-bastard Scotsman in Austin Powers is actually a cloned "mini-me" Tongan with a pint-sized appetite.

If you have a dollar and a Tongan has a dollar, the Tongan has more money than you.

Chuck Norris is only famous because a Tongan whipped his butt.

Chuck Norris learned all his moves from a paraplegic Tongan.

Chuck Norris do roundhouse kick to the face, which tickles Tongan nose pleasantly, like a cool ocean breeze on a hot day. Tongan does roundhouse punch to the gut, which goes right through Chuck Norris body, like a roaring locomotive through a soft pat of butter.

All good Chuck Norris jokes come from Tonga.

5/19/2007 05:18:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

Bob said:
“Human beings had finally discovered the key to economic growth, which came down to individual liberty, free markets, strong private property rights, sound money, and the rule of law.”

This is a little beside the point of the post I think, but, you sort of left out one key that certainly was “something new under the sun”:

Civilian control of the military – which makes all the other keys possible (particularly the rule of law) without falling back toward the dictatorship we escaped. We can thank God and General Washington for realizing it and demonstrating it when he handed his sword back to Congress at the end of our Revolutionary War.

I don’t think mentioning this is picking a nit because without civilian control of the military our rule of law would be treated as any other paper…and we traitors most likely even less than paper.

5/19/2007 05:23:00 PM  
Blogger walt said...

While I was re-reading today's post, I reached the part where Bob wrote, "Liberty is not a built in -- much less universal -- value." I recalled a time several years ago when two of my employees were about to take their tests to become American citizens. They had to memorize lots of historical facts, and they had aquired some tapes that gave them all the questions and answers on the test, so they were rehearsing for the big event every day.

This led to several conversations with me about American history, beliefs, etc. I was forever ranting about freedom and liberty, but I noticed those ideas seemed to mean little to them. It was definitely a case, as Bob wrote, that "...humans value security over liberty, predictability over change, conformity over individuality, and authority over self-rule."
Freedom and liberty were simply threats to them; ideas that fed their fears.

But what I wanted to share was that, finally, they did explain to me why they felt freedom was "muy importante." They said that, "American freedom would guarantee their right to be Mexicans in this country." This was their understanding. And they both passed the test.

All I can say is, "Same country; different worlds."

5/19/2007 05:40:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

Bob said,
“I had had it in my mind that the desire for liberty was a universal human wish, something built into us. Therefore, all you have to do is "give" it to people, and that will be that.”

I still think it is built in - and built-in by God of course. Maybe it seems to not be naturally there because of the eons of mind parasite layers covering it. The earliest layers placed there out of necessity for survival. Liberty because of these layers can’t operate like a light switch that you can turn on and off quickly. It must be learned and lived, as you say, to appreciate it and therefore “recognize” it again. It’s not a universal human wish because they don’t recognize it yet. Liberty has been kept from them.

So the small mistake may have been thinking it was a “wish.” Can you wish for something you don’t know exists?...or rather, if you are raised to think it doesn’t?

If liberty exists in us now, then doesn’t it mean it always existed, even if only as a potential?

I think the left can’t appreciate the gifts they have because they’ve never had to live without them. Really live without them. Not give them up willingly, but have them ripped from them.

You’ve heard this one:
Q. What’s the definition of a conservative?
A. A liberal who’s been mugged.

Mugged can mean a lot of things.
I was “mugged” when I decided to become self-employed.

5/19/2007 05:46:00 PM  
Anonymous canary said...

Sorry I'm late to the pizza flavored luau...I just found the site.

These Tongans sound like the best thing since sliced leftists!

Thought some visitors might be interested in some riciculous local customs, from "tongaholiday.com":

"In Tongan life, the family is of utmost importance. Each family member plays a role, with older persons commanding the most respect. Women benefit from a higher social status than in other parts of Polynesia as tradition gives them certain authority over male family members. Public life, however, is still dominated by men. The eldest sister acts as the family matriarch and oversees her siblings, nieces, and nephews. Children may reside with grandparents, aunts, or uncles as often as with their parents—with multiple authority figures in their lives, most children refer to their elders by first names. Every family member helps out in the care and discipline of younger children. Tongans hold first and twenty-first birthdays, marriages, and funerals in the highest regard.

Religion closely follows the family in importance, and almost all Tongans are churchgoers. This staunchly Christian nation honours Sundays across every island group—the Sabbath is declared forever sacred in the Tongan Constitution. Almost everything (except bakeries, a few restaurants, and resorts) is closed. No sporting events take place, it is unlawful to work or trade, and most tours do not operate. Contracts signed on a Sunday are void. It is inadvisable to create any disturbance, operate noisy equipment, or be loud on Sundays.


What a bunch of conniving slackers! Talk about an obvious need for some saving grace...

5/19/2007 05:56:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

Blue laws! Cool! I approve, although something tells me the gals at feministing would not.

Van, now you've got me reading on hoplite warfare. I have so much to learn.

5/19/2007 06:31:00 PM  
Blogger joyce said...

Beware leaving your two year old in the back yard with the garden hose if you have a dryer vent on the back of your house and he has seen you gas up the car...

5/19/2007 06:46:00 PM  
Blogger vogz said...

Bunnies,

I wonder who B'ob would figure on the postmodern Grand Inquisitor. Algore? Chomsky? John Shelby Spong?

5/19/2007 07:34:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Ricky Racoon said "If liberty exists in us now, then doesn’t it mean it always existed, even if only as a potential?"

Think of it as Michangelo's David - when it was just a block of granite. If we can see the statue in a museum, wasn't the David, always there?

Yes and No. Given the assignment to sculpt a statue of David, most would turn away from the block of granite as an impossible, gritty, dirty job that wouldn't work - a pipe dream.

Some, those with vision, would see a statue within, and it may or may not have been comparable with the David. Only Michaelangelo saw the David, and brought it to light.

Now, anybody can see it, no effort needed... Yes and No. Now anyone can see the statue, but it still takes effort to see the vertical virtues embodied in the stone - to see the inspiration Michaelangelo embodied into the stone.

So yes, liberty exists in the Individual, but it takes effort towards scalling the Vertical, in order to bring it to light. It even takes effort to see it, when its right in front of your face. Check some of those feminist, marxist & pomofo sites for how much they don't see when they look at it.

And so,

“I had had it in my mind that the desire for liberty was a universal human wish, something built into us. Therefore, all you have to do is "give" it to people, and that will be that.”

No free luncheither for the belly or the spirit.

5/19/2007 07:35:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Susannah "Van, now you've got me reading on hoplite warfare. I have so much to learn."

Aaaannddd lovin' it!

'The Other Greeks' and 'Carnage and Culture' are two of Hanson's books that show those connections, and what it is that he sees as being behind them.

All of his that I've read, about 7, have been very interesting and thought provoking. From a different angle, 'Who Killed Homer', which he wrote with John Heath gives a good illustration of how the education of Western Culture has been impacted by the progressives and pomofo's.

5/19/2007 07:58:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Canary, do Tongan's like humor? Of course. Lots of it. Usually medium rare, and heavily salted.

5/19/2007 08:03:00 PM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

What other potentials lie hidden...

Just got my collection of Shakespeare's works... its going to be thoroughly worn soon...!

wv: pxyava? That's a... tongan WV!!!!

*flees from the Blogger software!*

5/19/2007 08:04:00 PM  
Blogger NoMo said...

The NoMos are on the road again visiting family. Only have a moment to check in with the coon den - nice cozy fire burning as usual. Very important post, Bob.

For some reason today I've been imagining life in the Garden. Everyone truly Free. No one ashamed to be running naked chasing pizza. Pure economics, pure politics, pure religion. God walking down the path in the cool of the day, just waiting to engage in conversation. Pure laughter and community. Pure coons, pure Joy. No left, no right, only Real.

5/19/2007 08:10:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

Van, I think we agree. Especially here when you said, “So yes, liberty exists in the Individual, but it takes effort towards scaling the Vertical, in order to bring it to light.”

It was something about the concept that humans are built without it didn’t seem right.

My point was the actually error was thinking they would “wish” to be free. They can’t wish for it because of mind parasites. So, really, I prefer Bob’s mind parasite theory over Gress’s.

But I do like Gress’s idea here:

“But Gress believes that such critical ideas as liberty, democracy, and the free market were not so much ideas as behaviors that people lived out and only later reflected upon, in the manner, say, of Adam Smith. In other words, no one invented capitalism, or liberty or democracy, and that's sort of the point. These things had to first be lived and experienced in order to be valued.”

I agree that freedom can’t be fully appreciated (by some people) until you’ve been denied it and then later lived it.

RE the “feminist, marxist & pomofo sites”, I can’t get past the URLs anymore.
I think my point still stands on them. They’ve never had their freedoms ripped from them.

BTW, I like the David reference.
But one small, small, tiny, tiny, nit. It’s not granite. For a few, I think, interesting reasons too, by the way. Had many discussions with my sculpture prof on this and other related concepts. He was a pretty profound guy and I am so glad I met him. One of the lucky ones to have had a couple great teachers – as you talk about in your recent posts. I hope to add a section on my site soon of the things we talked about.

5/20/2007 07:11:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Ricky Raccoon said "It’s not granite."

?Granite?wt_?(scrolls up)"...block of granite as an impo..."

O.M.G.

(face blazes red)

er... uhmm... I posted it at 07:35:00 PM ... and 35 minus 7 is 28...(no that's good)... uhm... but it was PM not AM, so it wasn't I AM speaking! And Uranus was in my 7th house... and....

Oh... bollocks. m a r b l e ... (how embarrassing).

5/20/2007 08:13:00 AM  

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