Monday, October 15, 2007

About the underclass

Man, if only libertarians and those who think the poor deserve to be poor and the wealthy deserve to be wealthy (Don, you know we're talking about you here, dude) would read and understand this.

The playing field is not level if we play with loaded dice. This is why people like me will say to people like Don that it is not about "equality of opportunity" simply because not everyone is in position to take advantage of opportunity. That's difficult to understand for someone who began life's race fifty yards ahead of the average black man, and worked to get what he has. I do understand that. It doesn't feel as though you've been running downhill while others struggle uphill.

I think not understanding this -- or understanding it and pretending it doesn't matter, or is something so easy to overcome that it can be set aside -- is central to the libertarian ethos. I prefer the more simplistic "fuck you Jack, I'm all right" thinking of "Objectivists", who mostly at least are not pretending they aren't cunts.


At 12:38 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The best way to beat poverty is simple stop the poor breeding.
Poverty is a mentality and a way of life, very often the poor lack basic life skills their children then lack them its simply self perpetuating.
Some people do drag themselves out of poverty anyone who lives in a developed nation who has the determination can do it.

At 12:41 pm, Blogger Dr Zen said...

Stupid cunt.

At 12:45 pm, Anonymous said...

The best way to beat poverty is simple stop the poor breeding.

yeah, because the world would be such a great place if there were more Donald Trumps, George W. Bushes, Osamas, etc..

but hey, maybe you have an idea there... if the stupidly greedy stopped breeding...

At 5:05 pm, Anonymous theminotaur said...

"The best way to beat poverty is simple stop the poor breeding

Tell that to the pope, who preaches to entire continents that birth control is from Satan and abortion is murder.

At 5:16 pm, Blogger Dr Zen said...

Can we please make an effort not to be trolled by the most obvious shit that the lowest lamearsed twat could come up with?

Anyway, the Pope speaks according to his lights and in accordance with scripture. Berating him for that is like berating a cat for meowing. It's what the fucktard is paid for, after all.

At 5:55 pm, Blogger Father Luke said...

I loved this line from the article:

Then there’s organized crime.

There's a bumber sticker I like.
It goes:

Religion is what keeps the poor
from murdering the rich.

What makes the poor that way
is their desire to be like the
rich. The Rich have no such long
term desires about the poor.

The problem here, of course, is
obedience. Obedience to power, to
the rich.

- -
Father Luke

At 9:28 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can we please make an effort not to be trolled by the most obvious shit that the lowest lamearsed twat could come up with?

That was not a troll there is merit in the statement that the poor should not breed. After all children are born in to poverty more children means more poverty its self perpetuating.

The Pope is a cunt.

At 9:45 am, Blogger Don said...

Stupid cowardly trolling twat. Sucks that others respond to it.


No, opportunity can't be used equally, that's true. Further, the section you link points out how much better off kids are whose home lives are supportive of education. That support often correlates to income level. Lots of exceptions both ways, but statistically I accept it.

But is lack of support due to low income? Or are low income and lack of support together due to some other factor? I tend towards the latter belief. Kids whose working-poor parents don't have time to help them with school do a lot better than kids whose parents have fallen off the edge. My wife's school is full of kids whose parents are some combination of single, unemployable, uneducated, abusive and addicted. Some of the kids are rotten, most are great. It's heartbreaking when the great kids (or any kids, actually) are so obviously hampered by their parents being so fucked up as people. Equal opportunity doesn't seem to help them much.

I support public schools and think they don't get enough money. I think the funding should be completely restructured. Right now it's off local property taxes, and that seriously fucks it up. Education should have access to nearly limitless funds in the same way defense seems to. But how would we spend it? It should be possible to design a system that "makes up" somehow for fucked up families. But schools are run by humans and given enough money, will certainly find creative ways to waste it. Inefficiency can only be tolerated in political systems where the people have little say in how their money is spent. The idea with cutting taxes is to force efficiency into the system in the only way a free society can. Sometimes that works, often doesn't.

Anyway, back to the fact the equality of opportunity isn't enough. It isn't. But at what point do you stop insisting on equality of results? Age eighteen? When we all die of old age? Somewhere in between there, the system has had to become suppressive in order to pull it off.

At 10:00 am, Blogger Dr Zen said...

To take your points in order:

1/ I agree that your home life is extremely important. I think it's important too that we accept that a kid that does not have that supportive home life has not "deserved" it, and should not be punished for it.

2/ Yes, I know that you think that the poor are deficient, Don. You are simply wrong, repeating yet another baseless rightist meme. People are products of nurture far more than nature. Why do rightists believe otherwise? Because they simply cannot accept that they are wealthy and secure because they have been privileged, not because they were born special. But people are people, Don.

3/ Schools should not be funded by local taxes. That's a terrible idea. America seems to abound in them. In proper civilised countries, they are funded from the centre.

4/ How would we spend it? Space precludes explaining how, but believe me, there are ways to improve outcomes. Top of the list? Hire more teachers. Spend more money on training them. With more teachers, they can be out of class more. Use more targeted support. One-size-fits-all approaches, beloved of my side of the aisle, don't work. What works with the rich kids with good families simply doesn't work for poor ones whose parents are junkies. We have to recognise that and find ways to reach those kids.

5/ I am not going to discuss your profoundly fucked suggestion that somehow cutting taxes would improve schools. It simply is not true though that the private sector spends money more wisely than the public sector, and this is shown time and time again when public services are privatised at greater cost than they were provided by the government. That truth -- and it is true -- does not prevent rightists from lying about this though. The reason, it's simple, Don, is that the public sector wastes money, true, but it doesn't steal much. The private sector is all about increasing profit, and will do *anything* to that end.

6/ I never stop insisting on equity, Don. Because I'm practical, I take a Rawlsian approach to it though. Go look it up, so we can discuss whether my way is best, or your "devil take the hindmost, allow greedy capitalist fuckers to run it because they'll achieve 'efficiency'" is. (And they do such a bang-up job! Look at how "efficiently" Halliburton feeds your army, or how "efficiently" petroleum suppliers gouge... erm, supply us with affordable fuel.) In simple terms, I accept that we cannot have perfectly equitable results, but I will only accept as much inequity as you would be willing to accept if you had to make choices without knowing whether you would be the rich guy or the poor guy.

At 10:10 am, Blogger Don said...

Then I read the article. Pretty good. I was expecting it to lead to a call for equality of results in some fashion or other, but no. There really was no call at all. Just a description of the facts.

Is it your point that the current system will always create, or recreate, a miserable underclass? That people like me are fooling ourselves into believing otherwise? (And that other "wealthy" people actively depend on it? Some do. The popularity of illegal immigrant labor around here on account of it being cheap is disgusting.) There's something to that. But I've also an instinct that says, wait, what about, but I haven't time to explore it at present, sorry for the cop out.

At 10:14 am, Blogger Dr Zen said...

Don, the current system depends on there being an underclass. As you note, you're even importing one, because us libruls have made it too hard for you to exploit the native one sufficiently.

Yes, that's something for you to think about. Do immigrants "do the jobs the natives won't do"? Or do they do the jobs it would be illegal to pay the locals as little for?

At 10:15 pm, Blogger Don said...

The latter. I thoroughly reject the idea there are jobs Americans won't do. There are jobs Americans who have grown too accustomed to easy money (read broad welfare assistance) won't do for a low wage, so low wage earners get imported. But when I look at my grandparents' generation, it's clear Americans can do those jobs just fine. Well, their descendants have "risen up". I suppose that has opened an opportunity for others to rise up as well. But I'd rather Mexico et al get their act together so that sufficient opportunity can be found at home. It is enormously difficult on these people whose desperation compels them to migrate.

So I don't disagree the current system depends on an underclass. But what alternative won't depend on a violent imposition in order to get established? How do you guarantee it won't become another Cuba or Venezuela? And so far as I can see, the system is flexible enough, that when the entire human race has risen above desperation (pulled by the wealth-creation of the profit motive, something no known socialism can ever succeed at) and wealth inequality does not prevent everyone having a baseline (food, education, basic health), it will still work, or evolve trying.

At 10:29 pm, Blogger Don said...

1. Yes, though "should / should not" is a loaded term, as there's a difference between what is good / bad and what should be done about it.

2. I do not think the poor are deficient. Tell me where I say I do. The only difference between someone poor and myself is my own good karma. Being born a middle-class American was no guarantee I wouldn't fall back, indeed one of my youth friends is now AWOL in homelessness, and his home life was not worse than mine in terms of middle-class-ness. Actually, he clearly had deficiencies I do not. Hm, how do you slice that up? Maybe what you do with what opportunities you get does matter after all. I think maybe you're too simplistic on this one. As for those born into poverty, I've never suggested they deserve that fate. But so far, revolutionary attempts to pull them all up have failed miserably.

3, 4. Yes.

5. I don't believe cutting taxes improves schools. Was just mentioning that people "like me" tend to make that happen, and explaining the reason why, because you remain mired in this belief that the powerful (those who design what we vote on) actively desire inferior schools for the less powerful, which is silly. They're just out of balance in their self-interest.

6. Reading up on Rawls is on my to-do but that's an awful long list, sorry. I am softening up, though, drifting away from the influences of Objectivism. They're not compassionate enough, and are paranoid, and ignore the ameliorating effects of our way of continual elections and system readjustments.

At 9:04 am, Blogger Dr Zen said...

What exactly do you think is wrong with Venezuela? You keep saying this shit, but all you're doing is parrotting rightwing talking points. Venezuela is okay. Chavez is a populist who has actually done things for the people. Like all Latin American countries, Venezuela is saddled with a relatively small elite that has worked very hard to prevent the mostly landless poor from achieving any wealth at all, so that they can continue to be exploited. Chavez has redistributed a ton of wealth. That's why he's hated, not because he's some sort of repressive dictator. Chavez has given hope to desperately poor people. The elite hates him for that, and of course, so does the US.

I'm not going to discuss Cuba -- an enormous success story despite America's opposition -- with you. All I'll say is that it should not be compared with Belgium, but with Haiti.

At 9:11 am, Blogger Dr Zen said...

1. I use "should not" advisedly, because I precisely do want to prescribe it. Here is, I think, where we differ. You see the inequity and say tough shit, and I see it and say, something must be done. Must be. Not could be.
2. "are low income and lack of support together due to some other factor? I tend towards the latter belief." "so obviously hampered by their parents being so fucked up as people". You could not have more clearly have given the opinion that the poor are deficient.
5. I said I would not discuss it with you. And you are wrong again, anyway. The "powerful" would rather the poor had nothing that the "powerful" had to pay for.
6. I gave you the short version. It's called "the veil of ignorance" and I agree with Rawls that it's the best pragmatic approach to equity. The world cannot be completely equal as it stands. Attempts to make it that way are quickly derailed by elites. But the elites can be constrained, and this is a good way to do that. Google "the veil of ignorance" next time you have five minutes to spare.

Dude, objectivism is for schoolboys and other morally retarded types. It's not just poorly thought out and a one-way street to a horrible world; it's repulsive to anyone with a shred of human decency. Nice to know that as you mature, you're developing that shred.

At 2:37 pm, Blogger Don said...

Chavez' decision not to renew the license of the remaining opposition news medium pales next to his decision to require public AND private schools try yet again the oft-failed recreation of Man as the New Man. Through miseducation he is going to hamper and isolate an entire generation of Venezuelans, much as happened in Cuba. Of course, he has oil wealth to soften the results with. Cuba is hardly a success story, enormous or otherwise. I disagree with the US policy of disengagement -- the people would be much better off with factories and banks and access to capital. But the obstacles those people have to overcome are of Fidel's making more than ours. I know nothing of "rightwing talking points", I do not read much of anything anymore, but glances at the news wherever I get them do tell the story. Of course Chavez has done some good, he could not hold power if he didn't. That that is why we dislike him is ridiculous. Pick an easy example, I don't know, is the success of Japan a reason for us to hate them? They are after all scary brown people, should have kept them in thrall, oh my gosh. No, Chavez is odious not because he is tossing more crumbs to the poor but because he is a thug and a hugely cynical opportunist, kissing up to you know who, for dog's sake, the president of a country that hangs teenage boys for loving one another. And for good reason? No.

The rest of it, you are really quite cynical. Your view of the powerful has clearly been formed from a tremendous and alienating distance. Your miscasting of my attitude towards the poor also speaks of a narrow mind. "Deficient?" Some people become poor because they are unable to avoid it. If this is deficiency, fine, but that sort of deficiency by no means describes people who are born to poverty and are unable to crawl out. It is an enormous challenge to do so and it can be done, but most of those who do not aren't "deficient" in some way. Well, maybe I don't understand what you mean by deficiency. If you don't mean it as ingrained, genetic (which is how you come across), but instead simply mean that poverty is a natural result of essentially being a fuckhead such as my long lost friend, then all right -- but I don't think that's what you meant.

At 2:53 pm, Blogger Dr Zen said...

1. I will not discuss Chavez with someone whose impression of him has been formed by FauxNoise and CNN.
2. You are simply wrong about Cuba. It is a tremendous success in the circumstances. I'd rather be sick in Cuba than the States!
3. The obstacles they face are down to Fidel? WTF? Not having a free press is barely an obstacle at all, when having a free press simply means being forcefed bullshit by corporatists.
4. The US hates Chavez because he is a populist. You didn't understand my point, and as I said, I will not debate him with you. You may continue to be completely clueless on that score. I don't care.
5. Chavez is not in fact a thug, all considered. Dude, again, you cannot compare a nation with a less well developed civil society to one that has a well developed one, so the correct comparison is to Colombia, not the States.
6. Your ignorance of Iran is almost as profound as your ignorance of Venezuela. There are reasons for his associating with Ahmadinejad. I wouldn't do it, but I don't
think it's a lot worse than getting all kissyface with "democrats" like Putin and Hu.
7. You are damned right I am distant from the powerful. You just aren't all that empowered when you are a working stiff, dude.
8. You have changed your tune on the poor. Go back and read your earlier comment. You are now more or less saying what I am saying. In any case, I said you suggested the poor are deficient, not me. The chief reason I had for that was your suggestion that children were both low income and lacked support for some other reason than their circumstances, and continued to suggest that the kids suffered because their parents were "fucked up". If you do not think being "fucked up", and being "deficient" are the same thing, I'd suggest you stop thinking of fuckedupness as an adornment. It's not.

At 4:55 pm, Blogger Don said...

1. But I never watch Fox, nor CNN, nor any other TV "news". My information (most recently) comes from the random sampling from Google News and airplane perusals of The Economist.
2. Only if you are chronically unemployed. Your knowledge of Cuban and US healthcare comes from sources no less narrow than Fox and CNN.
3. If that's a free press, whence *your* information? Anyway, I should be sure to remember you saying, "Not having a free press is barely an obstacle at all". Unbelievable, really.
4. If a "populist" steals property so he can gain popularity by doling it out, then he can't be trusted. Truly, oftentimes something must be done. Land reform is badly needed most parts of the world. But populism isn't automatically just. Besides, populism in various forms has a long history in the US.
5. No less a thug than other SA leaders, then. Well, Bush is a thug as well, and Clinton most certainly, so what the hell, your point.
6. Putin and Hu have not handed jurisprudence over to medieval religious fanatics. What in my reference to Iran's execution of young homosexuals betrays ignorance? Anyway, getting along with Putin and Hu isn't based solely on antagonism to a third party, but attempts to be constructive in nature.
7. So you admit to bigotry born of ignorance.
8. I am confused over your meaning of deficient. You seemed to suggest I thought the poor were deserving of their poverty. I only am not overly sympathetic to the fucked up and, okay, deficient, and they need not be born poor to deservedly wind up poor. IOW some become or remain poor due to deficiency. Most poor are poor due to bad luck at their start in the long slow climb - a climb your family and mine was on too, until only two or three generations ago. (Don't get me wrong, I would have far more drug rehab available than there is, and assistance to those homeless who are sober, and a few other things. This is mainly about "deficiency" and its multiple shades of meaning.) If I appear to have changed my tune, it may be that each comment causes me to clarify, and that I'm not necessarily better at it than you are.

*sigh* Does this never end? You're quite good at adjusting the opponent's expressed views so that he must continually clarify. If the point is to wear him out and gain the battlefield, then take it already.

At 8:03 am, Blogger Dr Zen said...

1. The Economist is like Neocon Weekly these days. You're wrong about where I get my knowledge of American (and Cuban) healthcare. The former is currently extensively covered, and the latter, well, let's just say that my sources are much broader than yours.
2. "Only if you are chronically unemployed." Are you mad? Your job must have some smashing health insurance, dude, because most people would agree with me that getting seriously sick in the States is a total disaster. Of course, if you get sick like that, you probably lose the job too. And your house and car.
3. I don't get all my information from the mainstream media, you fuckwit. That would be the clear point I was making. And yes, I do not think not having a "free press" is the problem you think it is. Venezuela has free speech. Chavez simply doesn't license TV stations run by the people who attempted to overturn his election in a free and fair vote. I think that in the scale of repression, that actually weighs less than locking people up without charge and spying on citizens' phone calls. YMMV.
4. I will not debate Chavez with you. Property is theft already though, dude. What? You think the oligarchs in Venezuela didn't steal it in the first place? How did they come by it, do you think?
5. Well then. I mean, ultimately this is what it turns on. Is Chavez an embodiment of evil or just another leader, dealing as best he can (which is not necessarily perfectly) with circumstances not entirely of his own making? I think all in all he's much more decent than the run of SA leaders, and considerably superior to Bush. You rightists will whine about Big Dog until your dying day and he'll still be overall a positive for your nation.
6. Dude, this is about the stupidest answer you could have come up with. The *people* handed jurisprudence to "medieval religious fanatics" in Iran. As it happens, jurisprudence is not so backward there as you make out. Apprising yourself of the facts would help you not say such stupid things. I suggest you find out more about who Iran has executed and why before spouting off about it. I am LOLing about your comment about Putin and Hu. When we consort with fuckheads, it's "constructive". When they do, it's the worst thing evah!
7. Well, I suppose you could consider hatred of the robber barons who are fucking most of this world "bigotry", but the way I look at it, I wonder why a man who gains nothing by being their lickspittle wants to bend over for them? One wonders whether you would describe antifascists in the last world war to have been "bigoted" because dude, they just didn't see the fascists' point of view.
8. I'm perfectly clear to begin with. I only seem to be clarifying because you didn't get it on the first go round.

"to deservedly wind up poor"

Ho hum.

"You're quite good at adjusting the opponent's expressed views so that he must continually clarify"

No, dude. All I'm doing is speaking to what you're saying. I'm of the opinion that you don't always know what you're saying, because you often unthinkingly parrot rightwing talking points. When forced to think about it, you have to back off your positions, because you actually do have some human decency.

At 8:09 am, Blogger Dr Zen said...

And I will never, never accept "constructive" as a synonym for "we make money". It is not better to side with fuckheads because you trade with them than it is to side with them for the political leverage that gains you. I think Chavez's calculation of that leverage is probably wrong, but I don't think there's any principle on our side that lacks on his.

Of course, I also accept that the US *must* consort with China. After all, they've paid for the dance, so you owe it.

At 3:12 pm, Blogger The Quiet Unknown said...

Have you read Atlas Shrugged?

I dislike Objectivism in general. But discounting all of the ideas behind it neglects to account for our innate ability and need to create and sustain for our Selves.

And unlike a lot of hardcore libertarians, I do not think we should abolish the FDA, the education department, and other regulatory agencies that--hopefully--keep some of my food and consumer goods relatively clean.

But lumping all libertarians into a group of retards or cunts is not fair.

Libertarians are not generally rightist idiots. They are usually moderate but always, always essentially concerned with real, honest-to-god individual freedoms, from speech to religion to guns to taxes to peoples' sex lives.

Libertarians may generally be against massive government bureaucracies handing money to the poor, but they are certainly not against charity or giving, unilaterally.

You might be confusing libertarians with hardcore right-wingers who generally dislike welfare and think universal health care means pure, absolute socialism.

I agree with you that Bush may have committed some serious and unconstitutional offenses in regards to treatment of detainees and many other issues.

But Chavez is still an oppressive idiot. And you won't catch me moving to Venezuela anytime soon.

At 3:32 pm, Blogger Dr Zen said...

Okay. Just in case you return for the reply, I'll take your points in order.

1/ Yes, I've read Atlas Shrugged. I have no idea what you think we're neglecting there.
2/ That's good. You're sort of a milquetoast libertarian then. Me too, effectively. We call that being a liberal.
3/ What does "fair" have to do with it? That's my honest opinion of selfish cunts.
4/ Libertarians are by definition rightist idiots. I've discussed this many times before with you rightist idiots. What I think you don't understand is that someone like me believes in wide personal liberties. That is not the defining feature of a "libertarian". A belief that the individual's desires trump the common good is. That puts you way out on the right, son.
5/ That's immaterial. The lack of basic understanding that you do not exist outside society is sufficient to damn you.
6/ I am not confused at all. I think you're simply not clear on *why* rightists dislike those things.
7/ There is no "may have" about that.
8/ You are just repeating rightist talking points. Chavez is not seen as "oppressive" outside the States. Did you know that?

At 6:21 am, Blogger The Quiet Unknown said...

This is the first time I've ever been accused of repeating rightist talking points! Is it impossible, in your view, to dislike Bush but to also dislike Chavez?

Does being a liberal mean siding with someone who--if not seen as "oppressive outside the United States" (have you conducted your own poll on that?)--is at least considered a bit of a mockery?

Believe me Dr. Zen, I probably agree with you on more issues than you think. I'm no rightist and I'm no libertarian.

One thing I think you're certainly neglecting, however, is the completion of what might be an intelligent argument, and you do that by labeling all libertarians "selfish cunts."

This is just as bad--and inaccurate--as someone like Rush Limbaugh labeling all liberals "wimpy commie socialists."

The actual definition of a libertarian is closer to this: an advocate of individual rights and minimal role for the state. They generally believe that securing individual rights and freedoms IS in the common good compared to a massive government or bureaucracy dictating how one's money is spent or how their lives are led.

This--obviously--is something worth debating. And surely there have been many libertarians who are, in practice, rightist idiots. (Just like there are plenty of leftist idiots out there). But skewing their basic tenets and overwhelmingly generalizing their attitude belittles your actual opinion altogether, because you are basically just calling people you disagree with, selfish cunts.

"The lack of basic understanding that you do not exist outside society is sufficient to damn you."

This is, by far, your most interesting statement. The thing is, it isn't that libertarians--or even the most crazed objectivists--think they exist outside society. They simply differ from you--and me, generally--on how society should best function.

They simply feel that maintaining individual rights and freedoms is the supreme way of benefiting society. Others feel that improving the equality and benefits of a society are the best ways to maintain individual rights and freedoms.

Neither are by definition cunts or idiots. Only the radicals on either side should be labeled as such, and even then, with caution and objectivity.

At 7:21 am, Blogger Dr Zen said...

Hello again. Thanks for the reasoned comment. All wrong, but at least you're thinking about it.

I'll take your new points in order (makes it easier to follow).

1/ Of course it's possible to dislike both Bush and Chavez. It's a question of why though. On the spectrum of oppression, Chavez scores higher than Sweden, lower than China. The argument is over where. I don't need to take a poll; I read a wide variety of opinion, and it's only really Americans who think Chavez is anything like "oppressive". For many people, redistributing land and nationalising a nation's own resources are not oppressive; quite the opposite.
2/ I'm glad to hear you're not a libertarian. They're horrid, selfish cunts.
3/ I'm not really interested in fine gradations of libertarians but I take us to be discussing "big L" libertarians, not what you might call European libertarians, who are not selfish cunts at all in the main.
4/ Your definition of "libertarian" sounds like a selfish cunt to me, dude. It's a question of motive. Why would you advocate "individual rights" in a world that clearly depends on community? And how come "individual rights" so often translates into "rights not to pay tax"? Two things are a lot less clear to Europeans, particularly those who live in welfare states, than they are to Americans: first, that money you pay in tax is "yours", rather than the contribution you pay to society in return for its support; and second, that big states are necessarily bad things. I had a public education; my children were born in a public hospital; if I get sick, I visit a publicly provided doctor; public services put out fires, provide roads, prevent businesses from poisoning me or my environment. I'm unconvinced those are bad things.
5/ I think rightist idiots far outnumber leftist idiots. The main reason is that rightism is a lot less tenable than leftism for intelligent people. There's not space here to explain why I think that. Were you a leftist, it would be apparent ;-)
6/ I'm not trying to win a debate, so I'm not too fussed about "belittling my opinion". Anyway, it *is* my opinion that libertarians are selfish cunts. It's a precis, but it pretty much covers it.
7/ I think your suggestion that libertarians differ from me on how society should function does not answer what I say. Society involves a trade of the "rights" they claim for benefits that they are quite happy to make use of, although they'd hate to have to admit to it. Of course, I'm one of the "others" you mention, although I don't believe it makes sense to think of individual rights in isolation, because we are not individuals in that absolute sense, but always brothers, fathers, friends, citizens.
8/ Naturally, I don't agree that radicals on either side should be labelled "cunts", on account of being a radical on this side!

At 12:22 pm, Blogger The Quiet Unknown said...

Well thanks for your reply. Again, you and I agree on more than you may suspect.

Advocating individual rights is not some new evil American libertarian phenomenon. Indeed, it does too often translate to hording as many tax dollars as possible, but not every American feels that is the definition of freedom. There may be a fine line between a selfish cunt and an advocate of individual rights, but surely many non-cunt individuals exist while understanding that they are a part of a community.

Our American Bill of Rights, while clearly not perfect (and even more clearly not perfectly followed or executed), attempts to bridge the interests of the individual with interests of a people.

Most supposed democracies and republics do this, even welfare states.

Just a little example. In this country and many others, an individual has at least the right to start a small business. Difficult as this is (capital, fees, licensing, permits, employees, etc.), it still happens for many hard-working capitalists who are also good citizens in their community and only on their worst days could be described as cuntish.

Now, does every individual have the right to start--or maintain, or even keep--their own business in Russia? Cuba? North Korea? Venezuela? China? These countries--which often nationalize resources--sometimes prevent a human being from even starting a business, stifle free speech, and limit access to the Net, among other much more serious atrocities.

Is that good for the community? Is that good for humanity?

Don't get me wrong. Please don't assume I'm some rightist moron who ignores my own nation's hypocrisy: our government seems to want to spread democracy through war...we outsource so much of our business it's ridiculous...and it's becoming increasingly difficult to maintain a small business with companies like Wal-Mart eating into the market.

But is it not possible that an individual's rights are as important as a society's/state's ability to provide? Aren't both vital to a nation's/people's success? What kind of a community does not want each of its citizens to have--and take pride in--individual freedom?

My point here is that balance is essential. The extremities on either side of this issue are quite faulty. One leads to a complete desecration of the self for the sake of the state. One leads to anarchy. Both tend to lead to quite cunt-like individuals in power.

I am hardly someone convinced that public education, public health, or public services are bad things. Americans certainly do not have a monopoly on efficiency, to say the least, and most of us honestly want a balance of public service, public duty, and individual freedom.

But I am also hardly convinced that any government or state meant to represent a society of individuals ever truly or wholly or consistently represents the ideals of either A) the citizens or B) the society at large.

The bottom line is that in most societies, individuals, not the whole society, decide what the hell is going on with said society!

So if I give up too many of my rights, freedoms, (or, yes, tax money) to a big state...I run the risk of one day succumbing to those in power who are, let's face it, typically politicians out for themselves, not the community.

I think there are probably an equal number of rightist and leftist nuts. If there weren't, I think we would have had World War III by now and one side would have won.

Rightism isn't custom made for dummies ;-) I've known intelligent leftists and brilliant rightists. Intelligence and logic are not political. Were you a moderate, you'd agree!

You're right that it makes no sense to think of individual rights in isolation. That line of thinking--only truly popular amongst radicals--makes about as much sense to me as thinking of all of us as one big community without individual freedom, rights, free will, potential, and identity.

We are individuals in a community, and a community of individuals. Thinking of either as wholly independent diminishes the importance of the other...and in turn the importance of everything.

At 12:47 pm, Blogger Dr Zen said...

Thanks for posting again. It's refreshing to talk to someone who at least thinks about it. Again, your points in order.

1/ We agree mostly because like most liberals, I support individual rights too. But it's like taking a different road to the same village.
2/ I think you're not grasping that I believe that libertarianism is an outcome of the greedy and selfish thinking and liberalism an outcome of the less selfish thinking. The beginning points for the two viewpoints seem to me to be "I'm okay" and "are you okay?". Those different starting points lead to very different emphases.
3/ The Bill of Rights is clearly the work of liberals. It correctly balances the belief that there should be a strong state with the belief that the individual should have clearly marked protection from that state. I agree that all liberal states do that. The US is not constituted as a libertarian paradise. You should be thankful for that. It would be horrible to live in.
4/ I am not understanding why you think that a belief in society would lead me to think not letting people start businesses is good. I am a small business owner myself, as it happens. You should steer clear of rightist propaganda though: it's no problem to start a business in Russia or Venezuela. They should not be lumped in with North Korea (fascist hellhole) or China (fascist hellhole). Authoritarian socialism is as bad as fascism, dude. I'm not advocating that.
5/ You need to read more of my blog if you think I am for curtailment of human rights. I simply think that there is a balance.
6/ Funnily enough, you then go on to agree with me. Well, that's nice. You are no libertarian. Libertarians say retarded things like "any infringement of an individual's rights is bad".
7/ You are right that most Americans want a balanced state. You're not all idiots! A libertarian state would be a disaster for all but the very wealthy. Even they are almost certainly better served by a welfare state.
8/ You need to read some Rousseau on the subject of what the state does or should represent. I'm not saying he was right, but it's a way of thinking about it. For mine, equity should be the guiding principle of a state. I mean that in a broad, macro way, and not necessarily that the state should function as a leveller.
9/ Yes, individuals do choose. The problem is that they are so rarely motivated by the desire to do good for all, and so often motivated by the desire to do good for themselves and their friends.
10/ The bit about surrendering freedoms and tax money to a big state is just way off. Those states that do take a big tax take tend not to be all that corrupt, strangely enough. I don't have space to go into why, but it would be obvious to you if you thought about it. The reason they are not corrupt is pretty close to the reason they are big taxers in the first place.
11/ No, there are not equal numbers of rightist and leftist nuts. Rightists definitely win the day in nuttiness. Mostly, rightists are swayed to vote, and to think, against their own interests. Take inheritance tax (I think you might call it estate tax). It simply is not in the interests of 90%+ of the population to repeal or cut this tax. But rightleaning voters can be convinced to do it, because the greedy shits are so convinced they will themselves be rich one day.
12/ There are rather few intelligent rightists. The reason is simply that most liberal positions are just sane, sensible and well thought out. Many positions on the right are impelled by greed, hatred, narrowmindedness. You don't get too many nationalists on the left, for instance, because leftists are just too smart to fall for it. Why would we think our nation better than others just because we are citizens of it? That's dumb. Yet it's a common position.
13/ I don't say we are a community without individual rights. I say simply that individuals are (in the main) nothing without the community they are part of. I say "in the main" because it's possible wealth, if it's vast enough, would sufficiently insulate you from needing others. Even so, even the rich drive on our roads.

At 4:05 pm, Blogger The Quiet Unknown said...

Thanks for your reply.

Again we probably differ more on those finer gradations you mentioned earlier.

I'll indeed read more of your blog.

I definitely understand that you think libertarianism extends from selfishness and liberalism from selflessness. It's not even that I disagree with that premise necessarily--though I think it a bit too simple. I honestly just find it interesting when someone--whether on the right or on the left--so passionately disregards an opposing philosophy.

With my background, I've seen a lot of extremes. To me, it seems easier to buy into ANY extreme, whether leftist or rightist, crazed socialist or greedy capitalist, staunch atheist or Jesus-loving cult-member...because absolutism is easier than reality.

So, while I do agree that it's almost stupefying how many seemingly dumb fuck conservatives are out there buying into every so-called conservative platform...I also think there is a ridiculous number of highly intelligent people out there so attached to liberal causes that their brains have quite possibly shut down, and they--like any member of a cult--believe anything a leftist says, hence making them as dumb as the cut-and-dry rightists they love to criticize. (I'm not saying you're one of these, Zen, I wouldn't even be commenting if I thought that.)

I'm just saying that extremism itself is what is dumb...but because people are naturally only slightly above dumb, extremism is quite popular nowadays.

It's possible that a greater number of intelligent folk pick the extreme of liberalism...(we can look, for instance, at so many Republican followers of the president actually PROUD that the president "isn't much of a reader" for a bit of evidence here). But from my standpoint, because those smart liberals are picking an extreme, their intelligence may be wasted altogether...let alone their ability to compromise or actually legislate.

As someone almost completely down the middle on a majority of issues, I find it hard to square with the idea that selfishness is limited (or more frequent) within rightists or conservatives. Call me a relativist then. My experiences with extremes tells me both extremes are rather dumb if not impractical. (Especially when you consider that the further left or right you go on the spectrum, you still end up with a dictator).

Obviously, a typical rightist, especially in America, is a capitalist, and economically is primarily concerned with him or herself.

But selfishness extends into supposed liberals too. There are plenty of liberals out there who--when they say they care about either the environment and the children and the planet--may simply, deep down, dislike cigarette smoke.

It's a small example, of course, but the hardest of liberals would then want to ban all smoking, thinking anyone who differs with them on the issue is being selfish, when it is they who want to strip personal rights away from the smoker.

(I'm not a smoker, and I'm not saying everyone against smoking is like this, and we need to do so much more--decades ago--to help the environment; this is just one little issue where I tend to side with stickler rich conservative bastards with cancer!)

Your example of the inheritance tax is a classic one, and a damn good one. This is an example, of course, of the extremities on the right (i.e. rich cunts), attempting to take advantage of others. But I'd argue that it isn't that we've got a bunch of right-leaning nuts and idiots out here passionately believing in repealing said tax. Rather, those rich cunts and lobbyists and politicians have done exceedingly well in utilizing the media (even getting everyone to call it The Death Tax!) in order to convince enough people to vote accordingly. It isn't that all those people are dumb and that everyone who disagrees with repealing the tax is smart. (I'd argue there are plenty of liberals who don't even know the facts of the tax--to know that it truly is pointless to repeal it--but just want to disagree with Republicans on another issue).

There is a difference between dumb, misinformed, ill-informed, and essentially apathetic. And the largest bunch of Americans either doesn't know about it, or, sadly, doesn't care. (And a moderate, I'd even argue there is an equal amount of apathy within closet rightists and closet leftists!)

I think it is just as likely for a left-leaning average person to fall for an idea that would one day be a detriment both to his own rights and his society's equality. First it's smoking, then it's politically correct speech, then it's banning trans fats, etc. These may seem like nitpicking, but I know just as many leftists as rightists who disagree with these notions and find them quite Big Brotherly laws and statutes that border on intrusion of freedom and privacy when they go beyond a state or city level.

Extreme leftism--like extreme rightism--really isn't good for anyone in the long run. Both have led nations into oppression, repression, conquest and war.

I'm glad you're not advocating authoritarian socialism; I wasn't assuming you were. It's just that extreme leftism leads there eventually. Just like extreme rightism leads down a dangerous road as well.

Extremism of almost any kind simply doesn't make sense to me, especially in individuals I believe to be intelligent!

It's not that I thought YOU thought a nation or state should not let one start a business. I used that as an example because I consider it an intrinsic right (beneficial to all), I respect small-business owners quite a bit (good for you, what do you do if you don't mind me asking?) and I know it isn't as feasible (or even legal) in other nations.

I included Russia and Venezuela in that list due to their nationalization of many (albeit mostly larger) businesses and resources and their stifling of media...more so in Russia with quite frightening stories of journalists being assassinated. The story of Politkovskaya should not be ignored here. Russia's history alone is so interesting we could probably talk endlessly about it--or at least I could.

Nonetheless I agree that they are not as bad (in more ways than one) as China or North Korea. It's sad, honestly. I've studied Chinese history a bit, always been intrigued by the culture, but quite bluntly don't know how safe I'd feel going there at this time.

It's difficult to argue with a generalization like "leftists are just too smart to fall for [nationalism]," without using another stereotypical generalization that a hardcore rightist might use, something like "well maybe they're just too confused and dissident being hippies while they find themselves."

My point here, if it isn't somewhat obvious, is that sweeping generalizations limit one's argument to an extreme lack of objectivity. And if you're not objective, you're impelled by things other than a sense of community or humanity.

"Rather few intelligent rightists"?

"Many positions on the right are impelled by greed, hatred, narrow mindedness"?

Who is repeating talking points now? ;-)

It's just too easy to label people you disagree with dumb.

A liberal saying most conservatives are me, that's like a conservative calling most liberals hippies.

Both statements lack objectivity, rendering both practically pointless.

I like Rousseau. But of course, I don't agree with everything he wrote.

I respect a lot of politicians. I am a tireless viewer of C-SPAN (a rather objective television network if you compare it to the big media, and unapologetically boring, but I enjoy it), and after watching enough congressmen and senators during speeches, interviews, floor debates, and hearings, it's hard not to see most of them as, at least, mostly human. (Even the ones I disagree with from time to time!)

But Khrushchev's famous quote will still ring true to me, no matter what kind of nation, state, or socioeconomic policies are in place, and no matter where I have lived or will live in the future:
"Politicians are the same all over: they promise to build a bridge even where there is no river."

So it's hard for me to think of big taxers as any less corrupt than small taxers. States are states, politicians are politicians. Money's money. Any system has good and bad qualities, and any system can be corrupted.

I don't think vast wealth insulates one from needing others. Not everything is about money. As a moderate I do find it quite humorous that liberals talk just as much about money as conservatives.

I'm no scientist, but if my understanding is right, humans were not meant to be lone wolves. We are indeed communal. Even a vastly wealthy person eventually needs someone else to do something for them: build their home, drive their car, or simply maintain their roads as you mention. Even someone so rich they can afford to do nothing...if they can afford a robot to do everything for them, someone built and programmed said robot!

Let alone all the psychological, physiological, and biological needs we have that simply require another human present, including procreation! Rich people fuck, I'm sure.

Again, your penchant for saying individuals are nothing without community is really hard to back up objectively, because the exact opposite can be said by a well-meaning, intelligent, seemingly objective person.

Here we get into nature versus nurture stuff. And were I a complete individualist or libertarian prick (typical of many pricks who comment on liberal pages), I'd argue that we, as individuals, need to DECIDE to act on our instincts and fuck before the community exists anyway. And then you could easily come back to me, quite logically, arguing that without the community or world around us, we wouldn't know what the fuck or how the fuck to fuck to begin with!

I end this endless comment--forgive me--with a quote from the film Forrest Gump for goodness' sake, giving you an idea of how fruitless I think such extreme lines of thinking tend to be:

"I's a bit of both."


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