Wednesday, July 15, 2015

One Small Step for Progressives, One Giant Leap Backward for Mankind

I guess I don't have time for an all new post. However, I do have time to add new material to an old post that also happens to be related to what we've been discussing anyway. It came to my attention via a tweet from someone who claimed it changed his life or something. He didn't give any details, but it sounded like he meant it in a good way. I'm going to review it very carefully to see if I can detect any basis for his extravagant witness, or whether it's just the standard coonchow. New commentary is either within brackets or preceded by double dashes.

As anyone who has read the bʘʘk knows, there’s not much politics in it -- at least nothing explicit. Regarding economics, I can only think of a single paragraph. And yet, it’s probably all you need to know about economics. On page 149 it reads,

“For millennia -- until quite recently -- human beings struggled to rise above subsistence because of a stubborn inability to recognize how wealth is created. Certainly into the late 18th century, people mistakenly believed that there was simply a fixed amount of wealth in the world, and that it was left to individuals and governments to fight over their share. Not until Adam Smith was it recognized that wealth can grow without limits, but obviously even now people have a hard time wrapping their minds around this idea.”

--In fact, Sowell says this is one of the four fallacies that bedevil economic -- or better, uneconomic -- thinking, the zero-sum fallacy. Why is this fallacy so persistent? Why is it so impervious to logical and especially empirical evidence? The answer may surprise you!

In my view, one of the central mechanisms that kept mankind in its rut of subsistence was the expression of constitutional envy ["constitutional envy" is a psychoanalytic term of art, essentially meaning inborn]. In past posts I have theorized that envy was actually selected by evolution because humans evolved in small groups where it functioned to create harmony between members.

Humans were group animals long before they ever became individuals. Like an anthill or beehive the group was the unit of survival, not the individual. Individuation is a very recent historical phenomenon [c.f. Inventing the Individual], at least on any kind of widespread scale. It is accompanied by a new type of mental disturbance, the neurosis, which is a “private culture,” so to speak. Conversely, cultural envy is like a public neurosis.

--For Klein, envy is innate; it is an attack on the good object because of its goodness; it is triggered by an intolerable awareness of being separate from the good object. Therefore, if I can't have it, no one can -- that is, I will destroy the good so as to eliminate my painful envy (which all occurs in unconscious fantasy). Think of an extreme case, such as Hitler. When it became increasingly evident that Germany would lose the war, he expressed an explicit desire to see Germany destroyed, because it had proved itself unworthy of him.

The further back in history we travel, the less individual neurosis we see. Instead, the whole group is nuts. But from the standpoint of the group, the “nut” is the one who will not or cannot conform to the crazy group -- like that decent Muslim who was kicked out of his mosque in Omaha last week for writing an editorial that was critical of Islam. To us, he is “sane,” but to his primitive co-religionists he is a “crazy” or “evil” apostate.

You see similar phenomena in other primitive groups such as the progressive nutroots vis-à-vis their treatment of Joe Lieberman. Here is a fellow who had a near perfect liberal voting record, but he took one forward step outside the closed circle of the liberal hivemind, so he was banished. [And now all it takes is a single stray joke.]

To further quote myself -- I’m almost done -- “One of the things that makes the creation of wealth possible is the accumulation of surplus capital to invest, but here again, for most of human history this was quite difficult to accomplish because of envious mind parasites that could not tolerate the idea of one person possessing more than another.” Thus, envy is "one of the psychological barriers to material development that humans have struggled to overcome.”

The tenured persist in their delusion that primitive groups were egalitarian and that their members got along beautifully. Actually, the opposite is true. Because of completely unregulated envy, individuals would rather part with their possessions than to live with the anxiety of the envious “evil eye” being directed at them. Thus, primitive groups are not envious because they are primitive, but primitive because they are envious.

--Note also how the left transforms its own envy into projected greed. Just the other day a commenter claimed that the "dominant conservative wealthy capitalists... show an utter lack of civic interest, hostility to the very ideas of democracy and human rights, love of hierarchy, fear of technology and progress, reliance on military and force to maintain 'order,' and with no concern of inequality, as if it were an order divinely ordained by God. Elites who dare to argue for increased investment in the common good, infrastructure, and believe that we should lay the groundwork for a better future, are regarded as just silly and soft-headed."

--It is quite impossible -- or pointless, anyway-- to respond to a fantasy, or to argue with a hallucination. "Conservative capitalists talk about 'losing liberty,' the loss of the ability to dominate the people and property under their control -- and, worse, the loss of status and the resulting risk of being held accountable for laws and taxes that they were once exempt from -- is what they're really talking about. Anything that gives more freedom, benefits, and rights to lower-status people can't help but viewed as a loss of capital and limiting the freedom of the wealthy to use the working class as they please. These type of wealthy conservative capitalists have come to dominate present day America."

--What an eery way to live, imagining oneself to be controlled and dominated by one's own projections.

Which brings up a fascinating irony about so-called progressives. Now, it is a truism that progressives are not just ignorant of economics, but that they confidently embrace and promulgate what can only be called economic innumeracy. Why is this? How can people be so confidently and yet demonstrably wrong?

Comes now an article forwarded to me by reader Brian that breaks it all down for One Cosmonauts. Entitled The Economy Revealed: Why Understanding Economics is Hard [link no longer linking], the article reveals.... why understanding economics is hard: “It's not because of complexity. The rules of supply and demand aren't inherently more difficult to fathom than those that apply to, say, politics, or cooking, or sports. Yet while most people have no trouble wrapping their brains around these subjects... few have a similar appetite for economics.”

Cassell refers to a theory by anthropologist Alan Fiske, to the effect that the deep structure of human relations involves only four kinds of interactions which he calls 1) communal sharing, 2) equality matching, 3) authority ranking, and 4) market pricing:

“Communal sharing is how you treat your immediate family: All for one and one for all. Or as Marx put it: From each according to ability, to each according to need.

“Equality matching, by contrast, means we all take turns. From kindergarten to the town meeting, it's all about fair shares, reciprocity, doing your part.

“Authority ranking is how tribes function, not to mention armies, corporations and governments. Know your place, obey orders, and hail to the chief.

“Market pricing, of course, is the basis of economics. It's what we do whenever we weigh costs and benefits, trade up (or down), save or invest.”

Economic conflicts arise when one group or person is operating under a different type of interaction than another. For example, if you are a primitive progressive operating under the aegis of small group “communal sharing,” you may well believe that college, healthcare, housing, infertility treatment, counter-fertility treatment (abortion), tattoos, tattoo removal, and gender reassignment surgery should all be granted to you by the government free of charge.

The problem -- as I touched on in the book -- is that the primitive progressive is operating under an economic theory that is not so much cognitive as genetic. In a way, it’s deeper than thought, since it was programmed into us for survival in small groups (obviously, natural selection did not anticipate a high tech, competitive, free market global economy). Thus, Fiske confirms my speculation that the logic of market pricing was a very late development which is not at all “hard wired” -- and even goes against our genetic programming.

Cassell agrees that this “makes sense. For hunter-gatherers in small bands, sharing, matching and ranking were probably as fundamental to survival as eating and breeding. But market pricing involves complex choices based on mathematical ratios.... Commerce and global trade, of course, require a finely honed version of the market-pricing model. But if humans developed this model relatively late, it might well be less than universal, even today.”

The money money quote:

"In other words, to have an intuitive grasp of economics, you might just need to take a step or two up the evolutionary ladder."

Ho! Progressives need to stop living in the genetic past and evolve into the post-biological world of economic abundance.

In short, to cure oneself of progressivism, one must grow and evolve. This is exactly the problem we are facing in the Islamic world, for if we cannot even lift our own tragically backward progressives out of economic magic and superstition, imagine the difficulty of doing so with an explicitly tribal and authoritarian mindset. Imagine flying over dailykos headquarters and dropping thousands of copies of the works of Friedman or Hayek. Would it help? Probably not. Genes are powerful things.

Brian emailed me a related article, Progressives Come Out! Against Progress! It too reaffirms what I wrote in the book. Like me, the author once thought of freedom "as being something that people... naturally want, which accounts for my tendency to dismiss Marxism and socialism as abnormal systems which have to be imposed by external authorities (generally called 'the government') upon people who only desire to be Left Alone.” But there exist billions of people "who find the idea of being left alone to be culturally repugnant.”

“Even now, the word ‘progressive’ is often used in praise of backward economic systems.... If we use the evolutionary model, I wonder whether the emotional appeal of Communism might have represented an evolutionary step backwards, repackaged rhetorically so that its proponents could pat themselves on the back and maintain they were moving forward.”

Ya think?

The author brings up the recent example of a student who had applied to MIT with a perfect SAT score of 2400. Nevertheless, an admissions expert was quoted as saying that “I am not convinced she's a shoo-in -- I'd want to see more evidence that she's giving back to the community."

The author acknowledges that the communal sharing mindset naturally has its place. "But to inject the idea of ‘giving back’ in the case of a person whose obvious merit has been earned is another example of human progress being attacked by backward thinking primitivism -- smugly masquerading as modern sophistication. Progressives who place primitive principles first tend to be consumed by childish notions of what is ‘fair’ -- which they cannot keep to themselves, but which they must project onto other people. In their minds, success in anything (even at math) means ‘taking’ from someone else.”

From there, it is but “a small step from saying that a person should ‘give back’ to saying that ‘we’ should ‘take it back’ from him.”

Yup, if the most advanced people "are those with a concept of market economics, one of the great tragedies of the modern age has been their systematic destruction by less progressive people who call themselves the most progressive.... I'm wondering whether there might be a basic, persistent inability to distinguish forward from backward. I used to think that ‘progressives’ imagined themselves to be forward in their thinking, but I'm now thinking that ‘scientific Marxism' might have been grounded in an unacknowledged need for primitivism.”

Would this explain how leftist economic theory functions as a sort of seductive door through which all sorts of other barbarisms rush in? To put the answer in the form of a bumper snicker, “Come for equality, stay for the tyranny.”

18 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

...leftist economic theory functions as a sort of seductive door through which all sorts of other barbarisms rush in? To put the answer in the form of a bumper snicker, “Come for equality, stay for the tyranny.”

Yep. The only kind of equality that leads to freedom is equal protection under the law. Once we decided, in the name of equalizing outcomes, that some people are more legally equal than others, we flung open the gates to the most barbaric elements of human nature.

Yesterday seemed like a banner day for horrifying news articles, at least that I came across, starting with the Planned Parenthood video. Most of those stories would have been far less likely to have happened in a nation with greater freedom and less corruption.

7/15/2015 09:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yea, "imagining oneself to be controlled and dominated by one's own projections."

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/10769041/The-US-is-an-oligarchy-study-concludes.html

Is that why: in 81% of American counties, the median income, about $52,000, is less than it was 15 years ago? The wealthiest 85 people on the planet have more money that the poorest 3.5 billion people combined? The slice of the national income going to the wealthiest 1% of Americans has doubled since 1979? Tax rates for the middle class have remained essentially unchanged since 1960. Tax rates on the highest earning Americans have plunged from an almost 70% tax rate in 1945 down to around 35% today. Corporate tax rates have dropped from 30 percent in the 1950s to under 10 percent today? CEOs in 1965 earned about 24 times the amount of the average worker. In 1980 they earned 42 times as much. Today, CEOs earn 325 times the average worker. More than half of the members of the United States Congress, where laws are passed deciding how millionaires are taxed, are millionaires themselves. Between 1979 and 2007, the wages of the top 1% rose 10 times more than the bottom 90 percent. etc....

It is clear that the oligarchs that run America have one important task, to get the voters to vote against their interests. This is now confirmed FACT (link above). And how do you do that? Demonize the left and cloud the issues. Push religious / moral imperatives like gay rights, abortion. Create paranoia and fear against the gov't, gun rights, Jade Helm, minorities. Praise the the oligarchs as the new Lords and 'job creators' (who'd fire you in a minute to make a better buck in China). Attack education and higher ed, anything that might advance the electorate. Keep 'em dumb, scared, confused, and angry at the gov't. No wonder white Right Wing killers have killed more than Islamists is America since 9/11:
http://time.com/3934980/right-wing-extremists-white-terrorism-islamist-jihadi-dangerous/


7/15/2015 10:06:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

When it became increasingly evident that Germany would lose the war, he expressed an explicit desire to see Germany destroyed, because it had proved itself unworthy of him.

The [other] Godwin's law hushes my mouth.

7/15/2015 10:10:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

“Come for equality, stay for the tyranny.”

Indeed, if we are all going to be equal, somebody has to be in charge of the Ministry of Equalization.

We have ways of making you equal.

Communism will work pretty well up to about two families. After that, history shows we have to go to something else.

Ananias and Sapphira come to mind. There was no compulsion involved. They were not expected to put in the full amount, as best I can tell from what Peter says to them. They weren't struck dead for greed but for dishonesty. It sounds like they were still operating in the tribal mindset with regard to the Church.

7/15/2015 10:25:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Anony whined, "The wealthiest 85 people on the planet have more money that the poorest 3.5 billion people combined"!1!111!!

So what?

7/15/2015 12:07:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

So many other fallacies there, e.g., conflating household income and personal income (since increased affluence has led to fewer people per household), or confusing an abstract statistical category with flesh and blood people (the "1%," which is always changing, not static), mixing up tax rates with amount of taxes paid or the percentage of government revenue paid for by high earners, confusing wealth with income, thinking that raising taxes on corporations won't simply be paid for by higher consumer prices, thinking that economics has some "norm" to appeal to, etc., etc. All of these fallacies are easily remedied, but the leftist doesn't want to remedy them because it would deprive them of the persecution and moral righteousness that organize their lives.

7/15/2015 01:16:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

And what a weird article even by Time Magazine standards. One might as well say that half of all murders are committed by blacks, that blacks are 90% Democrat, so liberals are responsible for thousands of murders.

Except leftist polices have caused the breakdown in the black family, being that most violent criminals grow up in fatherless homes.

Therefore, I judge my unfair charge mostly true.

7/15/2015 01:30:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Re. the fallacies, indeed. I started to critique them, but honestly reading the screed made my eyes cross and who has time? So much wrong there, but it seems like mostly it boils down to envy. Re. the economic norm, it is as silly an idea as the conceit that there is some ideal global temperature which is in our power to adjust, if only everyone would get with the pogrom.

I would agree on one thing, that much of big business does not have the best interests of America or Americans at heart. There are some practices which I have to think are just plain evil, for instance the popular game of shipping groups of foreign H1B workers here to do the jobs American were quite happy to do, the details of which bear a disturbing resemblance to indentured servitude if not slavery in all-but-name (Disney, Microsoft, and many, many more). Or the ease with which Walmart decided to throw their weight around recently regarding RFRA laws.

The answer, though, is not to make it pointless and/or impossible for people to do the things which create wealth.

7/15/2015 01:47:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Absolutely true about big business. To suggest that they are somehow conservative is just plain absurd. Democrats have many more wealthy donors than Republicans, as exemplified by the billions in bribes paid to the Clintons. Republicans have many more donors of modest means. Which is why they toss out the Marxist idea that we are "voting against our interests." They've been saying that for 100 years, which is why they needed totalitarianism. We average folks just don't realize that removing our liberty is good for us.

7/15/2015 02:03:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Julie said "I would agree on one thing, that much of big business does not have the best interests of America or Americans at heart."

There are few more opposed to the Free Market than big business, and disinterest or dislike for America follows naturally from that. It takes a unique and dynamic CEO that's visibly committed to Free Market principles, and so to Individual Rights, and so to America, to counter the natural lazy group think of corporate culture.

7/15/2015 02:38:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Probably the most cowardly people after university deans.

7/15/2015 02:40:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

The truth about "income inequality." One thing that rescued me from liberalism was the realization of how liberal elites knowingly manipulate people to propagate their lies in good faith. It causes good people to fight on behalf of lies.

7/15/2015 03:00:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Gagdad said "Probably the most cowardly people after university deans."

And those students who were the, er, Apple, of those dean's eyes, were the very one that were infected into the heart of the corporate body, far, far, from the interference of reality, measurable productivity, or any contribution to the bottom line, through which dept? Anybody? Anyone? Beuller? Yes, that's right, Human Resources.

Big business was already lazy and amoral, but as mentioned the other day, pure Clintonian amorality pales, so to speak, in comparison to the obama-ish anti-morality of distilled wacademic evil.

And those people were put in a position to influence hiring, firing, PR and fund raising, for not only the entire corporation, but the vendors they do business with.

Rotten to the core, from the top down and inside out.

7/15/2015 04:15:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"To further quote myself -- I’m almost done -- “One of the things that makes the creation of wealth possible is the accumulation of surplus capital to invest, but here again, for most of human history this was quite difficult to accomplish because of envious mind parasites that could not tolerate the idea of one person possessing more than another.” Thus, envy is "one of the psychological barriers to material development that humans have struggled to overcome."

I've even seen more acute cases of envy that are so bad, the envious think they deserve more than everyone else simply for existing. Or they think people should be forced to pay more because they don't share the same ideology of the biggest group of enviers, the left.

I think you are right that those who allow envy to control them simply refuse to evolve, let alone transcend their base urges.
Quite a few are actually proud of their envy, while others don't like to be associated with the word and try to call it something else, such as "fairness" or "equality" or some form of "justice."
As if they ever cared about that, but of course how could they if they refuse to evolve (or learn basic math)?

7/15/2015 09:08:00 PM  
Anonymous There Is No We In Envy said...

I think, therefor I deserve to be a millionaire.

7/15/2015 09:11:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

If greed were the cause of wealth there would be no poverty.

7/15/2015 09:14:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

If greed were the cause of wealth there would be no poverty."

Good one. That's a keeper, Bob.

7/16/2015 07:05:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

If greed were the cause of wealth there would be no poverty."

Good one. That's a keeper, Bob.

7/16/2015 07:05:00 AM  

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