Category Archive 'Marxism'
04 Oct 2017

Spengler on Marxism

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“Our Marxists show strength only when they are tearing down; when it comes to thinking or acting positively they are helpless. By their actions they are confirming at last that their patriarch was not a creator, but a critic only. His heritage amounts to a collection of abstract ideas, meaningful only to a world of bookworms. His “proletariat” is a purely literary concept, formed and sustained by the written word. It was real only so long as it denied, and did not embody, the actual state of things at any given time. Today we are beginning to realize that Marx was only the stepfather of socialism. Socialism contains elements that are older, stronger, and more fundamental than his critique of society. Such elements existed without him and continued to develop without him, in fact contrary to him. They are not to be found on paper; they are in the blood. And only the blood can decide the future.“

Oswald Spengler, Prussianism and Socialism.

via Zentropaville.

19 Jul 2017

Intersectionality is a Religion

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Elizabeth C. Corey, at First Things, describes the First Church of Intersectionality.

In 1968, the political philosopher Eric Voegelin published a little book called Science, Politics and Gnosticism. In a section of that book entitled “Ersatz Religion,” he argued that modern ideologies are very much like ancient Gnostic movements. Certain fundamental assumptions, Voegelin wrote, characterize both ancient and modern Gnosticism.

The gnostic, Voegelin observed, is fundamentally dissatisfied with his situation and believes that the world is “intrinsically poorly organized” and that salvation from the world’s evils is possible. The gnostic further thinks that “the order of being will have to be changed in an historical process” and that this is possible through human effort. Finally, the gnostic looks for a prophet who shares saving knowledge about how to make the transformation happen. It turns out that the intersectional project accords in every detail with Voegelin’s description.

Intersectional scholars are, by definition, unhappy with their situations in life. From an outsider’s perspective, this seems more reasonable for some than for others, though it’s apparent that everyone feels it to a greater or lesser extent. Most affectingly, at the Notre Dame conference, several black feminist scholars from South Africa described the explicitly repressive measures they had endured at their universities, where the prejudice against them is overt and sometimes results in violence. As one scholar put it, “It’s not like I’m full of despair.” Then she paused and thought for a moment. “But, of course, I am full of despair.”

This nearly moved black American women to tears. They detailed their feelings of inadequacy in American universities, confessing that they feel they have no legitimate place, or that they are expected constantly to serve, because this is what has always been expected of black women. A young Hispanic assistant professor explained that United States immigration policy was a systematic attempt “to deny intimacy and family” to immigrants from Mexico. A self-identified “Chicano gender non-conforming queer Latinx” detailed the exclusion she had felt until she discovered a support group of other transgender people in Los Angeles. And the stories continued.

Expressions of hurt and exclusion were inevitably followed by anger at the system—at the patriarchy, racism, unjust institutions, and structural prejudice—and then by exhortations to do something about it. In Voegelin’s terms, they were rebelling against the poor organization of the world, and maintained the hope of salvation through human effort.

Voegelin’s idea that the order of being must be changed “in an historical process” nicely captures the mandate of intersectionality. If schools, churches, and families are the primary institutions that have always formed people, and if they are fundamentally shot through with oppression and prejudice, then these institutions must themselves be thoroughly remade. In light of such an objective, the self-conscious deconstruction of what we take for granted makes sense. Gender, sexuality, family, ­hierarchy, capitalism, and, most of all, the university and its “pretense” to objective knowledge must be destroyed and reconstituted. Scholarship is secondary. Activism is what matters most.

RTWT

12 Mar 2017

Intersectionality as Religion

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Andrew Sullivan takes time off from crying over the election of Donald Trump to identify and explain the new religion that has taken charge on elite campuses all over the country.

Intersectionality” is the latest academic craze sweeping the American academy. On the surface, it’s a recent neo-Marxist theory that argues that social oppression does not simply apply to single categories of identity — such as race, gender, sexual orientation, class, etc. — but to all of them in an interlocking system of hierarchy and power. At least, that’s my best attempt to define it briefly. But watching that video helps show how an otherwise challenging social theory can often operate in practice.

It is operating, in Orwell’s words, as a “smelly little orthodoxy,” and it manifests itself, it seems to me, almost as a religion. It posits a classic orthodoxy through which all of human experience is explained — and through which all speech must be filtered. Its version of original sin is the power of some identity groups over others. To overcome this sin, you need first to confess, i.e., “check your privilege,” and subsequently live your life and order your thoughts in a way that keeps this sin at bay. The sin goes so deep into your psyche, especially if you are white or male or straight, that a profound conversion is required.

Like the Puritanism once familiar in New England, intersectionality controls language and the very terms of discourse. It enforces manners. It has an idea of virtue — and is obsessed with upholding it. The saints are the most oppressed who nonetheless resist. The sinners are categorized in various ascending categories of demographic damnation, like something out of Dante. The only thing this religion lacks, of course, is salvation. Life is simply an interlocking drama of oppression and power and resistance, ending only in death. It’s Marx without the final total liberation.

It operates as a religion in one other critical dimension: If you happen to see the world in a different way, if you’re a liberal or libertarian or even, gasp, a conservative, if you believe that a university is a place where any idea, however loathsome, can be debated and refuted, you are not just wrong, you are immoral. If you think that arguments and ideas can have a life independent of “white supremacy,” you are complicit in evil. And you are not just complicit, your heresy is a direct threat to others, and therefore needs to be extinguished. You can’t reason with heresy. You have to ban it. It will contaminate others’ souls, and wound them irreparably.

And what I saw on the video struck me most as a form of religious ritual — a secular exorcism, if you will — that reaches a frenzied, disturbing catharsis. When Murray starts to speak, the students stand and ritually turn their backs on him in silence. The heretic must not be looked at, let alone engaged. Then they recite a common liturgy in unison from sheets of paper. Here’s how they begin: “This is not respectful discourse, or a debate about free speech. These are not ideas that can be fairly debated, it is not ‘representative’ of the other side to give a platform to such dangerous ideologies. There is not a potential for an equal exchange of ideas.” They never specify which of Murray’s ideas they are referring to. Nor do they explain why a lecture on a recent book about social inequality cannot be a “respectful discourse.” The speaker is open to questions and there is a faculty member onstage to engage him afterward. She came prepared with tough questions forwarded from specialists in the field. And yet: “We … cannot engage fully with Charles Murray, while he is known for readily quoting himself. Because of that, we see this talk as hate speech.” They know this before a single word of the speech has been spoken.

Read the whole thing.

11 Mar 2017

Edgar the Gramscian Bug

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Dystopic identifies Gramscian “Long March Through the Institutions” Marxism as the bug in an Edgar suit.

In the movie Men In Black, there’s a scene where an abusive farmer gets killed by the villain, some kind of giant alien cockroach. The alien then possesses his body and walks around in comic fashion, like some kind of rotting zombie. The farmer’s wife exclaims “like an Edgar suit.”

Social Justice Marxists operate in the same manner. They take over institutions, groups, corporations, movements, whatever… and kill them. They then wear the skin of the destroyed, rotting institution like an Edgar suit, ambling around in comic fashion, expecting to be treated as if they were still the institution itself.

Only unlike the movie, there are a great many of these alien bugs on Earth. They are legion. And the thing is, most rightists suspect this is true, because the Edgar suit doesn’t act like Edgar. He acts like an alien cockroach. But they nonetheless give the benefit of the doubt, because they aren’t sure.

It is in that space of uncertainty that Marxism is permitted to spread, and infest every sizable organization. Once infected, forget bringing the organization back to life. It’s a rotting husk. It’s dead. You aren’t going to take it back, and even supposing you did, it’d still be a rotting sack of skin.

I think this is the greatest weakness of the political right. We permit Marxism to spread because we are not confident in our assessment that the people in question are Marxists. Most of them deny it, of course.

Read the whole thing. It happened to Yale.

25 Apr 2016

Venezuela’s Suicide

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Venezuela1

Joel Hirst looks on as the lights begin to go off in Venezuela. That country has arrived recently at a point resembling the closing chapters of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.

Tonight there are no lights. Like the New York City of Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”, the eyes of the country were plucked out to feed the starving beggars in abandoned occupied buildings which were once luxury apartments. They blame the weather – the government does – like the tribal shamans of old who made sacrifices to the gods in the hopes of an intervention. There is no food either; they tell the people to hold on, to raise chickens on the terraces of their once-glamorous apartments. There is no water – and they give lessons on state TV of how to wash with a cup of water. The money is worthless; people now pay with potatoes, if they can find them. Doctors operate using the light of their smart phones; when there is power enough to charge them. Without anesthesia, of course – or antibiotics, like the days before the advent of modern medicine. The phone service has been cut – soon the internet will go and an all-pervading darkness will fall over a feral land.

All it would take is the election of one more radical Progressive democrat like Bernie Sanders and the USA could share in the full Venezuela experience.

11 Feb 2016

What’s Very Old Is New This Year

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AshHeapofHistory

25 Apr 2014

Property Rights Matter

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Marxist

Cory Doctorow reports:

Lawrence and Wishart, a radical press founded in 1936 and formerly associated with the Communist Party of Great Britain, has asserted a copyright over “Marx-Engels Collected Works,” a series of $25-50-ish hardcovers, and demanded that they be removed from the Marxist Internet Archive. As Scott McLemee notes, the editions in question were “prepared largely if not entirely with the support of old-fashioned, Soviet-era Moscow gold” and consist, in large part, of arguments about the moral bankruptcy and corrupting influence of claims of private property.

Marx-Engels Collected Works will be removed from Marxists.org on May Day. Here’s a torrent of the full set.

Hat tip to Walter Olson.

23 Apr 2012

Why Marxism?

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C. Bradley Thompson asks: “Why Marxism?”

“Why do men become communists? And more particularly, why do they become communists despite everything that we know about communism? In the last century, as many as 120 million people were murdered by Marxist-inspired regimes. And yet, certainly in the United States and in Western Europe, we have the remarkable spectacle of virtually an entire intellectual class that has been seduced by the allure of Marx’s ideas… It’s not Marx’s labour theory of value [or] dialectical materialism that has drawn people to his philosophy, and it’s certainly not the interminably boring Das Kapital.”

David Thompson aptly summarizes.

[Bradley C.] Thompson refers to Marx’s “angry, spitting moralism” as a chief enticement and in this longer video he elaborates on its idiocies, referring to the result as “a philosophy of malevolence.” It seems to me one can’t explain the appeal of Marxism without addressing the psychological license that it offers, specifically for coercion and petty malice. It’s a golden ticket for a certain kind of sadist. Why Marxism? Start with rationalised envy and a vindictive desire for power over others, wrap it in a drag of altruism, and then take it from there.

23 Sep 2011

Dropping the Mask

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Charles Krauthammer explains the president’s recent tax proposal. This is politics, but it’s not only politics, this is the real Barack Obama.

A most revealing window into our president’s political core: To impose a tax that actually impoverishes our communal bank account (the U.S. Treasury) is ridiculous. It is nothing but punitive. It benefits no one — not the rich, not the poor, not the government. For Obama, however, it brings fairness, which is priceless. …

Obama has actually gone and done it. He’s just proposed a $1.5 trillion tsunami of tax hikes featuring a “Buffett rule” that, although as yet deliberately still fuzzy, clearly includes raising capital gains taxes.

He also insists again upon raising marginal rates on “millionaire” couples making $250,000 or more. But roughly half the income of small businesses (i.e., those filing individual returns) would be hit by this tax increase. Therefore, if we are to believe Obama’s own logic that his proposed business tax credits would increase hiring, then surely this tax hike will reduce small-business hiring.

But what are jobs when fairness is at stake? Fairness trumps growth. Fairness trumps revenue. Fairness trumps economic logic.

Obama himself has said that “you don’t raise taxes in a recession.” Why then would he risk economic damage when facing reelection? Because these proposals have no chance of being enacted, many of them having been rejected by the Democratic-controlled Congress of Obama’s first two years in office.

Moreover, this is not an economic, or jobs, or debt-reduction plan in the first place. This is a campaign manifesto. This is anti-millionaire populism as premise for his reelection. And as such, it is already working.

Obama’s Democratic base is electrified. On the left, the new message is playing to rave reviews. It has rekindled the enthusiasm of his core constituency — the MoveOn, Hollywood liberal, Upper West Side precincts best described years ago by John Updike: “Like most of the neighborhood, she was a fighting liberal, fighting to have her money taken from her.”

Added Updike: “For all her exertions, it never was.” But now with Obama — it will be! Turns out, Obama really was the one they had been waiting for.

That is: the new Obama, today’s soak-the-rich, veto-threatening, self-proclaimed class warrior. Except that the new Obama is really the old Obama — the one who, upon entering office in the middle of a deep economic crisis, and determined not to allow “a serious crisis to go to waste” (to quote his then-chief of staff), exploited the (presumed) malleability of a demoralized and therefore passive citizenry to enact the largest Keynesian stimulus in recorded history, followed by the quasi-nationalization of one-sixth of the economy that is health care.

Considering the political cost — a massive electoral rebuke by an infuriated 2010 electorate — these are the works of a conviction politician, one deeply committed to his own social-democratic vision.

That politician now returns. Obama’s new populism surely is a calculation that his halfhearted feints to the center after the midterm “shellacking” were not only unconvincing but would do him no good anyway with a stagnant economy, 9 percent unemployment and a staggering $4 trillion of new debt.

But this is more than a political calculation. It is more than just a pander to his base. It is a pander to himself: Obama is a member of his base. He believes this stuff. It is an easy and comfortable political shift for him, because it’s a shift from a phony centrism back to his social-democratic core, from positioning to authenticity.

The authentic Obama is a leveler, a committed social democrat, a staunch believer in the redistributionist state, a tribune, above all, of “fairness” — understood as government-imposed and government-enforced equality.

That’s why “soak the rich” is not just a campaign slogan to rally the base. It’s a mission, a vocation. It’s why, for all its gratuitous cynicism and demagoguery, Obama’s populist Rose Garden lecture on Monday was delivered with such obvious — and unusual — conviction.

He’s returned to the authenticity of his radical April 2009 “New Foundation” address (at Georgetown University) that openly proclaimed his intent to fundamentally transform America.


In a 2001 NPR, State Senator Barack Obama complains of constitutional constraints on redistributive change.

23 Sep 2011

Stanford Football Fans Respond to Elizabeth Warren’s “Nobody Got Rich On His Own”

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Liberals are burbling in delight over Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren’s full-throated expression of the left’s soak-the-rich version of the social contract.

Warren said:

I hear all this, you know, ‘Well, this is class warfare, this is whatever. No. There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own — nobody.”

“You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police-forces and fire-forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory — and hire someone to protect against this — because of the work the rest of us did.

“Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea. God bless — keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is, you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”

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One of Glen Reynolds’ readers, who signs himself Fog City sent along his own rejoinder to Warren, originally posted in a discussion of her remarks in the Current Events section of a Stanford Football Fan forum:

“You built a factory out there? Good for you,” “Built a factory” is a summary for a lot of work. Put up equity, designed a business, took risk to buy land, get permits, pay property taxes and use taxes and permit fees. Then, bought a bunch of equipment and had it installed …and paid sales taxes. Hired some employees and paid them a bunch of money and paid payroll taxes on top of that. Bought a bunch of raw materials from companies that paid a bunch of salaries and a bunch of taxes. Building a factory is a huge private investment that pays the public a lot of taxes for the right to be built.

“But I want to be clear: you moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for.” Between fuel taxes, license fees, tolls and various taxes on transportation related activities, the roads budget is smaller than the total tax take.

you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate; No, you did not educate them. You babysat them for 12 years. Then I hired them, taught them how to be responsible and show up for work, taught them how to communicate in clear sentences, taught them that there are rights and wrongs and (unlike with your schools) wrongs have consequences in the workplace. Then paid for extended education for my employees so they could continue to improve themselves and better add value to what we do around here.

“You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for.” Funny, my factory has 24/7 security guards because the last time it was broken into, the police did not even bother to take a report, they just said “call your insurance company”. As for fire? The closest fire department is 10 miles away. My insurance company requires that I have a full wet sprinkler system to qualify for insurance because there is no local fire protection.

“You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did.” Well, that is not exactly true. When the AFL-CIO tried to unionize my workforce, they staged three days of noisy protests outside my factory. The police forces just stood around and watched as the protesters intimidated my workers, vandalized their cars and destroyed my property.

You say “we” like the government and society are the same. They aren’t. My company and my community and you politicians are not “we”.

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Another Stanford fan signing himself neodymian60 remarked in disgust:

I’ll weigh in because she could be my next Senator and the Democrats here are scrambling to unseat Scott Brown. Somehow she seems like the perfect insufferable replacement for the insufferable Ted Kennedy.

She has the big 3. Harvard. Lawyer. Academic. Check.

She is shrill, contentious, and condescending as only the elite can be.

While any idiot knows that there can be no market without roads and consumers, she insults everyone’s intelligence by having to explain that to them. And then insults the successful by making it seem as if they have betrayed everyone with their talents. …

I just got a call from the Brown campaign and gave them $110.

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mendicant98:

You built a factory out there? Good for you,” she says. “But I want to be clear: you moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for; you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate; you were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did.”

Um – the thing is – those who built the factory and employed the workers generated the revenue that allowed the ctizens to pay for the roads, police etc. It sure as hell wasn’t built by the poor.

She continues: “Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea? God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”


Um – again. THEY HAVE ALREADY BEEN DOING THAT. Hey if she questions that – just go to a town that revolved around a factory that went out of business and see how that town is faring. The factory – as it employs the citizens and pays its taxes etc (not to mention all its fees etc under the various regulations/licensing requirements) IS TAKING A HUNK OF THAT AND PAY(ING) IT FORWARD FOR THE NEXT KED WHO COMES ALONG.” Course if the factory shuts down – then that kid loses that opportunity and the town loses a whole lot of revenue.

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Rocky 17 vented:

Elizabeth the Harvard and Rutgers Prof, Head of TARP, lawyer, marxist, head of consumer affairs, candidate for US senate in Mass. friend of Obama, friend of Harry Reid…

If anyone on this board doubts that she is for the social contract that successful people need share their success with those who aren`t successful and have no cause for personal celebration or reward, that she intends that wealth redistribution is necessary and good, that she is not a marxist, you must be Palcal. There is no successful individual except those who have earned it on the backs of others and therefore owe the masses. There are no successful countries except those that earned it on the backs of other countries and therefore owe those countries.

Thus the apology tour at the initial stages of the Obama administration, the rage at successful people, the class warfare rhetoric. She and Obama are two peas in a pod, share the same values and cannot be called anything but Marxist redistributionists. To me, this is the antithetical behavior and value of what made the US exceptional and why the country is headed into the deep morass with policies that slowly and quickly drain the wealth of America over the world.

Gosh, it looks like some Stanford grads must have gone into business and become conservative.

15 Jul 2010

“Worse Than Kagan”

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Daniel Henniger, in the Wall Street Journal, argues that Obama’s appointment of Daniel Berwick, aptly headlined by Gregory as: Obama Appoints Marxist to Lead Death Panel, is decidedly worse than the Kagan appointment.

Barack Obama’s incredible “recess appointment” of Dr. Donald Berwick to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is probably the most significant domestic-policy personnel decision in a generation. It is more important to the direction of the country than Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court.

The court’s decisions are subject to the tempering influence of nine competing minds. Dr. Berwick would direct an agency that has a budget bigger than the Pentagon. Decisions by the CMS shape American medicine.

Dr. Berwick’s ideas on the design and purpose of the U.S. system of medicine aren’t merely about “change.” They would be revolutionary.

One may agree with these views or not, but for the president to tell the American people they have to simply accept this through anything so flaccid as a recess appointment is beyond outrageous. It isn’t acceptable. …

These excerpts are from past speeches and articles by Dr. Berwick:

“I cannot believe that the individual health care consumer can enforce through choice the proper configurations of a system as massive and complex as health care. That is for leaders to do.”

“You cap your health care budget, and you make the political and economic choices you need to make to keep affordability within reach.”

“Please don’t put your faith in market forces. It’s a popular idea: that Adam Smith’s invisible hand would do a better job of designing care than leaders with plans can.”

“Indeed, the Holy Grail of universal coverage in the United States may remain out of reach unless, through rational collective action overriding some individual self-interest, we can reduce per capita costs.”

“It may therefore be necessary to set a legislative target for the growth of spending at 1.5 percentage points below currently projected increases and to grant the federal government the authority to reduce updates in Medicare fees if the target is exceeded.”

“About 8% of GDP is plenty for ‘best known’ care.”

“A progressive policy regime will control and rationalize financing—control supply.”

“The unaided human mind, and the acts of the individual, cannot assure excellence. Health care is a system, and its performance is a systemic property.”

“Health care is a common good—single payer, speaking and buying for the common good.”

“And it’s important also to make health a human right because the main health determinants are not health care but sanitation, nutrition, housing, social justice, employment, and the like.” …

“Young doctors and nurses should emerge from training understanding the values of standardization and the risks of too great an emphasis on individual autonomy.”

Previous Berwick posting.

12 Jul 2010

What Is a “Progressive?”

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Gallup polling reveals widespread public uncertainty about the “progressive” political label — a label recently embraced by no less than Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan. While Kagan described her political views as “generally progressive” during her Senate confirmation hearings, fewer than half of Americans can say whether “progressive” does (12%) or does not (31%) describe their own views. The majority (54%) are unsure.

Allow me to clear it up for you, fellow Americans.

The Progressive Movement was originally a post-Civil War American political popular movement in favor of statism, regulation, and general (so-called) reform.

The earlier expressions of the Progressive impulse involved the creation of a Civil Service, the gradual expansion of state and federal regulations, the creation of new regulatory bodies, and the licensing of professions. Antitrust legislation, alcohol and drug prohibition, the Income Tax followed.

In recent years, particularly since the West learned of Communist massacres in Cambodia, China crushed demonstrations in favor of democracy in Tiananmen Square, and the Soviet Union fell, persons on the extreme left have become uncomfortable with describing themselves as Marxists or socialists. Radicals never liked being referred to as mere liberals. They despise liberals as dupes, fellow travelers, and useful idiots. And even “liberal,” since the days of Jimmy Carter, has become widely regarded in America as a pejorative and its successful application to someone a potential political liability.

Aspiration to major political office is intrinsically incompatible with describing oneself as a radical or a revolutionary, so the preferred term of art has become “Progressive.”

The progress that progressives are in favor of is directly down the path Friedrich Hayek referred to as “the Road to Serfdom,” toward ever more statism, ever more regulation, ever more redistribution, socialism, and coercion, supposedly resulting in the ultimate triumph of the rule of experts and a world in which the calculative power of human reason will have abolished tragedy, poverty, inequality, all of the ills to which flesh is heir and all the consequences of human vice and folly.

As Edmund Burke observed: “In the groves of their academy, at the end of every vista, you see nothing but the gallows.”

If Americans recognized exactly what Progressives really are, they would not be getting elected to much of anything or confirmed to Supreme Court seats.

01 Jun 2010

Economics and Crime

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Times are hard and crime is down. How can that be? Liberals have always understood that crime is produced by economic hardship and deprivation. More government assistance, more redistribution, liberals have consistently argued, are essential. Otherwise, the victims of structural injustice will probably revolt. Yet the most dramatic economic downturn since the Great Depression, though producing plenty of hardship, unemployment, and misery, has failed to produce the crime wave liberal social theory inevitably ought to expect.

Richard Cohen, at the Washington Post, reflects on the situation.

For liberals, this is bad news. …

From 2008 to 2009, violent crime was down 5.5 percent overall and almost 7 percent in big cities. Some of those cities are as linked with crime as gin is with tonic or as John McCain is with political opportunism. In Detroit, for instance, with the auto industry shedding workers, violent crime was down 2.4 percent. In Washington, D.C., murder was down 23.1 percent, rape 19.4 percent and property crime 6 percent. …

[I]t now seems fairly clear that something akin to culture and not economics is the root cause of crime. By and large everyday people do not go into a life of crime because they have been laid off or their home is worth less than their mortgage. They do something else, but whatever it is, it does not generally entail packing heat. Once this becomes an accepted truth, criminals will lose what status they still retain as victims.

24 Apr 2010

Is Obama a Socialist?

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Jonah Goldberg addresses in a serious essay the commonly heard debate on whether terms like Marxist and Socialist may be accurately applied to Barack Obama.

[I]s it correct, as an objective matter, to call Obama’s agenda “socialist”? That depends on what one means by socialism. The term has so many associations and has been used to describe so many divergent political and economic approaches that the only meaning sure to garner consensus is an assertive statism applied in the larger cause of “equality,” usually through redistributive economic policies that involve a bias toward taking an intrusive and domineering role in the workings of the private sector. One might also apply another yardstick: an ambivalence, even antipathy, for democracy when democracy proves inconvenient.1 With this understanding as a vague guideline, the answer is certainly, Yes, Obama’s agenda is socialist in a broad sense. The Obama administration may not have planned on seizing the means of automobile production or asserting managerial control over Wall Street. But when faced with the choice, it did both. Obama did explicitly plan on imposing a massive restructuring of one-sixth of the U.S. economy through the use of state fiat—and he is beginning to do precisely that.

Obama has, on numerous occasions, placed himself within the progressive intellectual and political tradition going back to Theodore Roosevelt and running through Franklin Roosevelt. With a few exceptions, the progressive political agenda has always been to argue for piecemeal reforms, not instant transformative change—but reforms that always expand the size, scope, and authority of the state. This approach has numerous benefits. For starters, it’s more realistic tactically. By concentrating on the notion of reform rather than revolution, progressives can work to attract both ideologues of the Left and moderates at the same time. This allows moderates to be seduced by their own rhetoric about the virtues of a specific reform as an end in itself. Meanwhile, more sophisticated ideologues understand that they are supporting a camel’s-nose strategy. In an unguarded moment during the health-care debate in 2009, Representative Barney Frank confessed that he saw the “public option,” the supposedly limited program that would have given the federal government a direct role as an insurer in competition with private insurers, as merely a way station to a single-payer system in which the government is the sole provider of health care. In his September 2009 joint-session address to Congress on health care, President Obama insisted that “I am not the first President to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last.” Six months later, when he got the health-care bill he wanted, he insisted that it was only a critical “first step” to overhauling the system. Arthur Schlesinger Jr. was one of the relatively few self-described moderates who both understood the tactic and supported it. “There seems no inherent obstacle,” Schlesinger wrote in 1947, “to the gradual advance of socialism in the United States through a series of New Deals.”

Goldberg places Obama decidedly outside the Revolutionary Marxist “hot socialism” tradition and firmly in the Fabian tradition of incremental, gradual, “first step” subversion of liberty. Obama adroitly dismisses accuses of his being a socialist as evidence of his opponents’ ideological blindness. He is merely a pragmatist, committed to “solving problems.”

But whether one identifies Obama as a social-ist instead of a socialist, a neosocialist, or merely a progressive, there can be no doubt that Barack Obama’s political agenda is as thoroughly committed to expanding the regulatory authority and share of the economy controlled by government as the Romanovs were to the gathering of the Russian lands.

Denying that you are an ideologue is not the same thing as proving the point. And certainly Obama’s insistence that ideology is something only his critics suffer from is no defense when stacked against the evidence of his actions. The “pragmatic” Obama is only interested in “what works” as long as “what works” involves a significantly expanded role for government. In this sense, Obama is a practitioner of the Third Way, the governing approach most successfully trumpeted by Blair, who claimed to have found a “third way” that rejected the false premises of both Left and Right and thereby located a “smarter” approach to expanding government. The powerful appeal of this idea lies in the fact that it sounds as if its adherents have rejected ideological dogmatism and gone beyond those “false choices.” Thus, a leader can both provide health care to 32 million people and save money, or, as Obama likes to say, “bend the cost curve down.” But in not choosing, Obama is choosing. He is choosing the path of government control, which is what the Third Way inevitably does and is intended to do.

Still, the question remains, What do we call Obama’s “social-ism”? John Judis’s formulation—“liberal socialism”—is perfectly serviceable, and so is “social democracy” or, for that matter, simply “progressivism.” My own, perhaps too playful, suggestion would be neosocialism. …

In many respects, Barack Obama’s neo-socialism is neoconservatism’s mirror image. Openly committed to ending the Reagan era, Obama is a firm believer in the power of government to extend its scope and grasp far deeper into society. In much the same way that neoconservatives accepted a realistic and limited role for the government, Obama tolerates a limited and realistic role for the market: its wealth is necessary for the continuation and expansion of the welfare state and social justice. While neoconservatism erred on the side of trusting the nongovernmental sphere—mediating institutions like markets, civil society, and the family—neosocialism gives the benefit of the doubt to government. Whereas neoconservatism was inherently skeptical of the ability of social planners to repeal the law of unintended consequences, Obama’s ideal is to leave social policy in their hands and to bemoan the interference of the merely political.

“I would have loved nothing better than to simply come up with some very elegant, academically approved approach to health care, and didn’t have any kinds of legislative fingerprints on it, and just go ahead and have that passed,” he told CBS’s Katie Couric. “But that’s not how it works in our democracy. Unfortunately, what we end up having to do is to do a lot of negotiations with a lot of different people.”

Whereas Ronald Reagan saw the answers to our problems in the private sphere (“in this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem”), Obama seeks to expand confidence in, and reliance on, government wherever and whenever he can, albeit within the confines of a generally Center-Right nation and the “unfortunate” demands of democracy.

As with Webb’s Fabian socialism, one will never be able to say of Obama’s developing doctrine, “now socialism has arrived.” On the night the House of Representatives passed the health-care bill, Obama said, “This legislation will not fix everything that ails our health care system. But it moves us decisively in the right direction.” Then, speaking specifically of another vote to be taken in the Senate but also cleverly to those not yet satisfied with what had been achieved, he added, “Now, as momentous as this day is, it’s not the end of this journey.”

Under Obama’s neosocialism, that journey will be endless, and no matter how far down the road toward socialism we go, he will always be there to tell the increasingly beleaguered marchers that we have only taken a “critical first step.”

Read the whole thing.

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