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Winning the Popular Vote

Politics Posted on Sun, June 30, 2019 15:56:40

Whoever Wins the Electoral College
Would Have Won the Popular Vote

Since
they lost the 2016 election to Donald Trump, many Democrats have become
preoccupied with abolishing the electoral college. They point out that Hillary Clinton “won the
popular vote”—a misleading turn of phrase, as we shall see. They conclude that
there’s something both undemocratic and un-Democratic about the electoral
college, that it’s unfair, and more importantly, biased against the left, and
should therefore be abolished.

Sometimes they even assert that if
the election had been decided by the popular vote, Hillary Clinton would have
won. A different point of view comes
from President Donald J. Trump, who remarked just after his election victory
that he would have won more easily if the election had been decided by the popular
vote.

I think in this case President Trump
is right and most of the Democrats wrong.
In fact, I would like to propose the following fundamental rule:

Whoever wins a presidential
election under the electoral college system would also have won if the election
had been decided instead by popular vote.

Quick-witted readers will have
already figured out why this might well be true. But for the benefit of the
sleepy-heads, I will now unpack this proposition at more length.

The obvious rationale for the claim
that Hillary would have won if the election had been decided by the popular
vote is that she certainly got more votes than Trump, and getting more votes
wins you the popular vote.

The equally obvious rebuttal is that many people would
certainly not have voted the same way if the election had been decided by
popular vote. Knowing that the election
was being decided by popular vote, not by the electoral college system, many
people would have voted differently, including some people who would have voted
for Trump instead of not voting at all.

Abolishing the Electoral College
Would Probably Not Help the Democrats

There’s
no going back to the electoral college as conceived by the Framers. People who vote in presidential elections
think of themselves as voting for one or another candidate for president. They don’t think of themselves as voting for
wise persons who will later pick the president.

Although there is no popular demand for abolition of
the electoral college, it does appear that any future attempt by states to
depart radically from a popular-vote system within each state (something they would
be entitled to do under the Constitution) would be met by widespread outrage. And so, the electoral college is tolerated
because it produces a result which approximates quite closely to a nationwide popular
vote. And inasmuch as it departs from a
nationwide popular vote, it does so in a way which is easy to understand and
chimes with the idea that the United States is a federation of states. People easily comprehend that the president is
chosen state by state.

Arguments for the electoral college include
the claim that some autonomous role for the states is a good thing, and the
claim that the electoral college tends to favor political tendencies which are more
evenly spread across the country, as against tendencies concentrated in some
areas. I am not going into these
arguments here. On balance, I wouldn’t shed
any tears if the electoral college system were replaced by direct election of
the president, along the lines of the system in France.

What I do want to point out is that abolishing the
electoral college would not help the Democrats, or at least that it’s not clear
it would help the Democrats and might just as likely help the Republicans.

People who want to abolish the
electoral college, currently mostly Democrats, typically say things like this: “If
the 2016 election had been decided by popular vote, then it follows that Hillary
Clinton would now be president.” This
assertion is blatantly false.
The
people who make this claim appeal to the fact that Clinton got more votes—a bigger
popular vote—than Trump in 2016. But, of
course, the conclusion most certainly does not follow! There’s all the difference in the world between
“winning the popular vote” in a system where no one who matters gives a flying
freak about the popular vote, and winning the popular vote in a system where
the popular vote is the all-important decider.

If the 2016 election had been decided by popular vote,
then the popular vote would not have been the same as it was in the actual
election. Many people would have voted differently
than they did. Many people would have
been caught up in the campaign who in fact ignored it almost completely, while voters
in certain counties, who in the actual election became centers of attention,
would have gone unnoticed.

The campaign would have been, in some conspicuous
ways, unrecognizable compared with what actually occurred: absolutely no one,
for instance, would have cared who “won” Florida or Pennsylvania, a virtually
meaningless concept under a popular-vote-decided system. A few thousand more or less Republican or
Democratic votes in California, which would have counted for absolutely nothing
in the actual 2016 election, would have been exactly as important as a few
thousand more or less Republican or Democratic votes in Michigan.

The Rules of the Game

One
point to be clear about is that under the electoral college system, no candidate
ever tries to win the popular vote
. The
popular vote is just an incidental outcome which no one is aiming for. It follows (though this is a bit harder to
see) that every candidate deliberately aims to reduce their popular vote
below what it might have been
. If
you can’t see this immediately, I will get to it shortly. (When I say “every candidate,” I mean every
candidate who’s seriously trying to win the presidency; this doesn’t necessarily
apply to candidates who’re running merely in order to “send a message.”)

Hillary Clinton was not trying to win the popular vote
in 2016; she was trying to win the electoral college. She would never knowingly have sacrificed a
single vote for state electors for the sake of any number of popular votes. And she would have sacrificed any number of
popular votes to get one more vote for the electoral college. Of course, many things a candidate might do
to increase their electoral-college vote total would also incidentally increase
their popular vote, but where there is any conflict between these two objectives,
then increasing the popular vote counts for absolutely nothing.

This is why it’s misleading to talk
about “winning” or “losing” the popular vote under a system of rules where everyone
trying to win views the popular vote as irrelevant to the capture of power. It’s like saying that someone who lost a game
of chess by being checkmated “won” the piece-taking score because he captured more
pieces than his opponent. This is just not
the way chess games are scored. And if
it were the way chess games were scored, then both players would have
played very differently, and very likely the same player would have won (because
skill in one game is transferable to skill in a somewhat similar game).

Most people with little interest in politics probably
suppose that a state is given electors in proportion to its population. In fact, states are allocated electors
according to their total number of House representatives plus senators. While this is roughly in line with population,
it does give a definite built-in advantage to voters in low-population states, each
of which has two senators just like the high-population states. While my impression is that currently this way
of determining electoral college votes probably favors Republicans slightly, it
does not favor them hugely—we can all think of some low-population states which
are solidly Democratic (Hawaii, Rhode Island, Delaware).

Incidentally, I have not seen an
arithmetic breakdown of the causes of the phenomenon where a candidate “wins the
popular vote but loses the electoral college.”
In Hillary Clinton’s case, how much (if any) of this disparity was due
to low-population states having higher electoral college representation because
of their two senators, and how much was due simply to the heavy concentration
of Democratic voters in states like California and New York? No doubt someone has analyzed this, but I haven’t
come across their conclusions.

I’m not going to do the math here, but common-sense guesswork
suggests that the heavy concentration of Democratic support in some states is much
more consequential than the built-in advantage to low-population states (though
that would not necessarily remain true if all or nearly all low-population
states happened to be of the same party).

Thwarting the People’s Will

A
typical argument by Alex Cohen for the abolition of the electoral college (in
this case, back-door abolition by means of a compact between states) asserts
that when a candidate wins the presidency despite “losing” the popular vote, this
“thwarts the people’s will.” <www.brennancenter.org/blog/national-popular-vote-explained>.

Now, first of all, as a pedantic and strictly irrelevant
yet irresistible observation in passing, anyone who favors Roe v. Wade accepts
that the people’s will should and must often be thwarted. That is the entire point of Roe v. Wade
and other Supreme Court decisions beloved of Democrats. Thwart the people’s will, dammit! The Democrats are passionately devoted to
using the Constitution to thwart the people’s will, and in this I completely
agree with them.

But, more to the point, the way the popular vote turns
out, in a system where the popular vote is not the decider, will be very different
from the way it would turn out in a system where it is the decider. And therefore, if the latter would express the
people’s will, the former cannot express the people’s will. Going only on the facts and arguments assembled
by Alex Cohen, his conclusion that the electoral college thwarts the people’s
will simply does not follow.

Alex Cohen also throws in the remark
that the electoral college “potentially lowers voter turnout,” with a link that
strongly suggests the lowering is more than merely potential. Mr. Cohen apparently says this because a high
voter turnout is considered a good thing and so this is one more strike against
the electoral college. He doesn’t notice
that this explicitly recognizes that many people don’t vote the same way under
the electoral college as they would have done under decision by popular vote,
and that therefore it removes an essential premiss for his conclusion that the
electoral college thwarts the people’s will.

A Game of Skill

Republican
voters in California, New York, and Illinois would be more inclined to vote if
we switched to decision by popular vote.
Republicans know that under the electoral college system, as long as the
state is heavily Democratic, their votes count for nothing. Under a popular vote system, they would know
that their votes count the same as any other votes anywhere in the country.

It’s not quite as simple as that, because
most people, having made it to the polling place, vote for a number of
candidates, national, state, and local, as well as for referenda (in states
like California that allow them). Having
made the effort to get to the polling place, the additional cost of voting for
one more item, such as president, is very slight. On the other hand, many California voters will
see themselves as on the losing side of state and local contests as well as the
presidential choice, so there will be some disincentive to show up to vote at all.

You might think that the number of Republicans
who don’t bother to vote for president in California because they know they
have no chance of winning will be balanced by the number of California Democrats
who won’t bother to vote for president because they have no chance of losing. However, it’s a recognized fact of voter behavior
that voters do like to vote for the side which wins, and assuming that to be true,
it seems reasonable to infer that the disincentive effect of knowing that the
state’s vote is a foregone conclusion will more severely affect California
Republicans than California Democrats.

So, we see that people will vote
differently under the two systems, regardless of anything the candidates
do. But it’s additionally true that the
candidates will campaign differently, and this will affect how people vote. That’s the entire point of campaigning, after
all. So, not only would many voters with
the same attitudes and preferences vote differently under the two systems, but
also, many voters’ attitudes and preferences would be changed in different ways
by campaigning under the two systems.

Trump won the 2016 election largely
by superior strategy. He campaigned heavily
in rust-belt states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. (There were other components to his
strategy. He continually pounded away at
a dozen key policy issues, whereas Clinton avoided talk about policy in favor
of painting Trump as an evil monster.)

Great campaigns, like great battles
and great chess games, tend to look easy in retrospect. Some people have second-guessed Napoleon at
the Battle of Jena. If things had gone a bit differently, they conclude, Napoleon
would have lost Jena . . . No! If things had gone a bit differently, Napoleon
would, in all probability, have won Jena in a different way. We have to add “in all probability” because
there’s always an element of luck.

Before the election, many conventional
experts scoffed at Trump’s decision to campaign so heavily in the rust belt. Couldn’t this amateur, this dolt, see that he
had no chance in those states? But Trump
had superior intel (Cambridge Analytica) and superior strategic vision. He had been pondering, developing, and honing his
working-class, protectionist, America-first electoral strategy for over thirty
years. Trump did not win because Hillary
was “a bad candidate,” as so many people now like to intone. Her “badness” corresponds with the conventional
wisdom of all the accredited cognoscenti before the election, who all confidently
expected her to win. Trump won because
he was an extraordinarily capable candidate
. He out-generaled the highly competent yet
conventionally-minded staff of Hillary Clinton.
Trump beat Clinton by better science and deeper thought.

Under a popular-vote system, the campaign
would have played out very differently. But
a brilliant strategist is a brilliant strategist. No doubt both Trump and Clinton would have
spent a lot of time in California, New York, and Illinois, places where, in the
actual campaign, they did next to nothing. Voter turnout in California, New York, and Illinois
would have been higher—and the increased turnout would have been higher among Trump
voters than Clinton voters. Trump would,
in any knowledgeable judgment, have won the popular vote, probably by a bigger
margin than he actually won the electoral college vote.

If you see that winning elections is a contest of abilities,
a game of skill, you will appreciate the point that a better campaigner under
one system will also be a better campaigner under a different system, just as
Napoleon was usually a better general than his opponents, whatever the terrain
or the weather. Add to that the fact
that under the present system, candidates routinely sacrifice the popular vote
to winning the electoral vote. There is
a definite trade-off between the two, and the only reason we don’t hear more
about this trade-off is because everyone is so thoroughly aware that the popular
vote just doesn’t count.

There are parts of California and other solidly
Democratic states which are “natural Trump country,” but where Trump did no
campaigning, because it would have been a complete waste. An hour’s campaigning, or a million dollars’
worth of campaign spending in California would have netted Trump more popular
votes than similar expenditures in Michigan, but this kind of move could have
lost Trump the election (while winning him the popular vote), and Trump understood
this perfectly.

Any presidential candidate deliberately makes
decisions which he or she believes will reduce his or her popular vote
(compared with what it would have been, given different decisions), in order to
maximize his or her electoral college vote.
This must always necessarily occur, whether or not the actual aggregate outcome
is to “lose” the popular vote, because a candidate will allocate each unit of
campaign resources where it will yield the biggest return in terms of electoral
college votes alone, and there will always exist many more alternative ways to
allocate each unit where it would tend to increase the popular vote by a
greater amount while being less effective at increasing the electoral college
vote. These alternative ways, as long as
they are accurately perceived as such, are just instantly dismissed from
consideration, so we tend to overlook the fact that serious candidates
always deliberately sacrifice their popular vote to their electoral college
vote
.

The Complication of Runoffs

If
the United States were ever to be converted to the popular-vote system for the
presidency, it’s certain that provision would be made for a runoff second election. In France, for example, if the first
presidential election does not give more than fifty percent to one candidate, then
a second, runoff election is held, with only the two top-scoring candidates from
the first election competing.

A runoff system for US elections under
a new popular-vote system introduced by constitutional amendment would be certain
because the people designing the new system would want to rule out the possibility
that anyone could be elected with a minority of the votes. If there were only one round of voting, with
victory going to the candidate who got the most votes, it would be possible for
a candidate with a minority of the votes to gain the presidency. Indeed, it would be more than possible, it
would very likely happen in the great majority of presidential elections.

Now, it could also happen under the electoral college system
that a candidate could get more electoral votes than any other, yet still get a
minority of all the electoral votes—even, with several strong candidates, a
fairly small minority. The Constitution provides
that in that situation, the choice of president goes to the House of Representatives.

It doesn’t look very likely at first, as a matter of practical
politics, that the Constitution will be amended to replace the decision by the
House of Representatives with a runoff election, while otherwise preserving the
present electoral college system. Referring
the decision to the House strikes most people as strange and unsatisfactory, yet
it happens quite rarely—only twice so far in US history. If it were to happen again, the House might
feel obliged to give the presidency to the candidate who had won a plurality of
electoral college votes, or might even arrange a runoff election of the top two
candidates as its way of deciding who would be awarded the presidency.

If for some reason neither of these expedients worked,
and if there were a long period of three big parties (for example because the
Democratic Party went into chronic decline and the Republicans split between
traditional Republicans and Trumpists), then a runoff election for the electoral
college might become a real possibility.
Why didn’t the Framers hit upon this obvious solution? Calling a nationwide election was not such a
simple matter in the eighteenth century.
Many voters would require a journey of a day or two to get to the
nearest polling place, assuming they could get ahold of a horse. But more significantly, presidential
elections were not originally intended to be democratic. The members of the electoral college were not
expected to follow the wishes of the voters, as they are now.

The mechanics of the electoral college
system favors an outright majority for one candidate, whereas it’s quite common
for the candidate who “wins the popular vote” to get a minority of the popular
vote—this happens in about fifty percent of presidential elections. Hillary Clinton, for example, though she “won
the popular vote,” received a minority of the popular vote in 2016. More people voted against Hillary Clinton than
voted for her, and the same, of course, is true for Donald Trump.

Hillary Clinton got 48.18 percent, compared with Trump’s
46.09 percent. Just to keep the numbers
in perspective, and not because it has any profound significance, note that Donald
Trump plus Gary Johnson got slightly more votes than Hillary Clinton plus Jill
Stein (Johnson got more than three times as many votes as Stein). If Johnson’s votes had gone to Trump and Stein’s
votes to Hillary, Trump would have “won the popular vote.”

You might point out that very likely,
in a runoff, a higher percentage of Stein’s votes would have gone to Clinton
than the percentage of Johnson’s votes which would have gone to Trump. This is probably true—if there were no
campaigning between the first and second elections. And yet, between the first and the second elections,
there would have been a second campaign, and it can’t be ruled out that Trump
would have won over more Johnson voters, and even captured some Stein voters
and disgruntled formerly Sanders voters in the second campaign, not to mention
possibly a few other Clinton voters!

This kind of exercise doesn’t prove
anything at all about the real world, because if the election had been run
under popular-vote rules, the actual vote totals, for the first round of voting,
would have been quite different from the actual vote totals in 2016. But it does serve to illustrate some of the
numerical issues.

A Test of Steele’s Rule

If
you’ve followed me this far, you’ll be able to see that the so-called “loser”
of the popular vote who wins the electoral college might easily have won the
popular vote under a system decided by the popular vote. This is entirely elementary and indisputable.

You’ll probably also agree that who wins the electoral
college is a much better indicator of who “would have” won the popular vote
under a popular-vote-decided system than is the popular vote under the
electoral college system.

These two propositions will be quickly accepted by
most people who give any serious thought to the matter. But I’m going further. I am saying that whoever wins the electoral
college would have won the popular vote (under a nationwide popular-vote
system).

My rule refers to an abstract and simplified model of
the world. (So does the contrary claim
that the winner of the popular vote under the electoral-college system would
have won the election under a hypothetical popular-vote system.) It compares an actual situation where someone
wins the electoral college with a hypothetical situation where the election would
be decided by nationwide popular vote and where the attitudes and preferences
of all the voters would (to start with, let’s say one year before the election)
be identical to what they are in the actual situation. It says that the gross outcome—who wins the
presidency—would be the same.

In practice we can never make this
comparison directly. There can’t be two
worlds where the attitudes and preferences of the voters are identical but the electoral
systems are different. So we’re dealing
with an abstract model which sheds light on reality, rather than a direct observation
of reality.

But there is an indirect empirical
test of the rule, which goes as follows.

There is a positive association between votes for the
presidential candidate and votes for House representatives of the presidential candidates’
party (all House seats are up for election on the same day as the presidential
election). If the party of the winning
presidential candidate gets the majority of House votes when the winning presidential
candidate “loses” the popular vote, this would tend to corroborate my rule and
to refute the rule tacitly appealed to by those Democrats who suppose that
Hillary would have won a hypothetical election decided by popular vote in 2016. If those Democrats are right and I am wrong, you
would expect the party of the presidential candidate who won the election but “lost”
the popular vote to get fewer House votes than the other party.

We have two recent cases where the presidential
candidate who won the election “lost the popular vote”: 2000 and 2016. In both these cases, the victorious
presidential candidate’s party “won the popular vote” for the House of Representatives. (We’re looking at the total votes cast in
elections for House candidates, not how many House seats were won or lost.)

In 2000 the Republicans got 47.6
percent of the popular vote for House seats, as against the Democrats’ 47.1 percent
and in 2016, they got 49.1 percent, as against the Democrats’ 48.9 percent. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2000_United_States_House_of_Representatives_elections><https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2016_United_States_House_of_Representatives_elections>.

In elections for the House, there’s
a comparatively large number of minor-party candidates (twenty-five in 2016,
plus those classed as “Independent” and those classed as “Others”). If we count only the Republicans, Democrats,
Libertarians, and Greens, the Republican plurality in 2000 rises to 49.28 and
in 2016 to 49.70.

So, the popular vote for House representatives of the
party which won the presidency but “lost” the popular presidential vote was in
each case the plurality vote. On both
occasions the party which won the electoral college while “losing” the popular
vote for president “won” the popular vote for House seats. This corroborates my rule and lends support
to the view that the electoral college vote has a fair claim to be taken as an
expression of the people’s will.

The rule I am proposing is not a theorem,
logically derived from axioms, but a generalization about two alternatives, one
of them purely hypothetical, a “counterfactual conditional.” It can therefore never be conclusively “proved”
nor even directly tested. But if we think
seriously about what’s going on in presidential elections, it seems to hold up
well, in terms of both its internal coherence and its agreement with the data.

We’re in a good position to conclude that Steele’s Rule
is worth accepting as at least highly probable, as the best practical guide to thinking
about presidential elections, and as maybe even true: Any candidate who wins
the presidency under the present electoral college system, even if he or she “loses”
the popular vote under that system, would have won the popular vote and
therefore the presidency, if the election had been conducted and decided according
to a popular-vote system.



How I Could Have Made Hillary President

Politics Posted on Thu, February 22, 2018 06:31:41

How I Could Have
Made Hillary President

In
his book Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World
Where Facts Don’t Matter
, Scott Adams analyzes the formidable persuasion
skills of Donald Trump and the comparatively feeble persuasion techniques of
the Hillary Clinton campaign of 2016.
The book is very funny, full of insights, and well worth reading. For those who haven’t read it, what I’m going
to talk about here is a tiny sliver of the richly entertaining material in the
book, but it does illustrate Adams’s approach.

Adams compares what he calls Trump’s
“linguistic kill shots” with the attempted kill shots of the Hillary campaign,
and he compares Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again” with the numerous
easily forgettable slogans considered or actually employed by the Hillary
campaign.

Here are the more powerful of
Trump’s linguistic kill shots:


Low-energy Jeb


Crooked Hillary


Lyin’ Ted


Lil’ Marco


Pocahontas

Scott Adams
analyzes these in detail to show exactly why they’re so effective. They all appeal to the visual and they all
plan for “confirmation bias.” Probably
the best of them is “Low-energy Jeb.”
The very day this nickname came out of Trump’s mouth, Scott Adams
blogged that Jeb was finished, as indeed he was, though no other commentator
saw what had just happened. Recall that
Jeb Bush had a war chest of many millions and spent far more than Trump. He was a natural for traditional Republican
voters and for the fabled “Republican establishment,” as yet another dynastic
Bush but a more likeable personality than the preceding two Bushes.

Even after Trump had released his kill
shot into what we can call the rhetorosphere,
most seasoned pundits were still naming “Jeb!” as the most likely nominee. Yet, Trump had given Jeb Bush what Adams
calls his “forever name,” and it was henceforth to be altogether impossible for
anyone to see Jeb or think about him without instantly thinking Low-energy. His presidential ambition had been killed
stone dead, not just for that electoral cycle but for all time, in a fraction
of a second, by the Master Persuader, Donald Trump.

Adams offers similar analyses for
the other nicknames. “Pocahontas” was
the name given to Elizabeth Warren, one of the leading Democratic Party
politicians and a likely future Democratic presidential candidate. Warren, a blue-eyed blonde, had claimed to be
of Native American, specifically Cherokee, ancestry and had gotten an academic
job by impersonating a “minority.” The
Cherokee Nation, which has a database of everyone they have been able to find
with Cherokee ancestry, has repeatedly protested against Warren’s claim. Warren also once contributed a “Native
American” recipe to a book of supposedly Native American recipes called . . .
wait for it . . . Pow Wow Chow. It turns out that Warren is not Native
American, the recipe was not Native American but French, and the recipe itself was
plagiarized from another source.

A look at this book on Amazon shows
that Warren is in even deeper trouble.
The subtitle of Pow Wow Chow
is A Collection of Recipes from Families
of the Five Civilized Tribes
, and the book is published by Five Civilized
Tribes Museum. This blatantly insinuates
that the Apache didn’t routinely solve quadratics or use trig to calculate the
circumference of the Earth, and this is indisputably the filthiest kind of
racism.

I would be
irresponsible if I didn’t point out that this kill shot illustrates Donald
Trump’s disgraceful carelessness with facts.
The Cherokee belong to the Iroquoian group, whereas the historical Pocahontas
belonged to an Algonquian-speaking tribe.
How low have we sunk when our president tells such appalling lies?

Everyone
could see that Trump’s nicknames were effective, and so the Hillary campaign burned
the midnight oil to come up with an effective nickname for Trump himself. They tried three in succession:


Donald Duck

● Dangerous Donald

● Drumpf

“Donald
Duck” is obviously the sort of thing a committee would come up with. “Duck” tries to make the point that Trump was
“ducking” various issues and various criticisms, including releasing his tax
returns. But of course, associating
Trump with a beloved if distinctly ridiculous cartoon character doesn’t mesh
well with the idea that Trump is a fearful Hitler-like menace.

“Dangerous
Donald” doesn’t really work, especially because a large portion of the
electorate positively wanted someone “dangerous,” someone who would go to
Washington and break things.

“Drumpf” is
the real surname of Trump’s Austrian immigrant ancestor, a perfectly
respectable German name which isn’t so congenial to Americans, so it was
changed to “Trump.” This idea that
having a non-Anglo-Saxon name in your family tree is a dirty little secret is
not a winner, for several obvious reasons.

As everyone knows, Trump’s election
slogan was “Make America Great Again.”
This is a brilliant slogan which can hardly be faulted. Adams lists its strong points (Win Bigly, pp. 155–56).

As against this, the Hillary
campaign considered eighty-five slogans (yes, 85!, according to Scott Adams, p.
157, citing the New York Times) and
eventually ended up with “Stronger Together.” Here are the ones which were actually tried
out.


Love Trumps Hate


I’m with Her


I’m ready for Hillary


Fighting for Us


Breaking Down Barriers


Stronger Together

These all have the flavor of
mediocrity and ineffectiveness that comes out of committees, and especially committees
of bigoted leftists. “Love Trumps Hate”
literally begins with “Love Trump,” and as Scott Adams points out, people’s
attentiveness declines steeply, so they often pay more attention to the
beginning than to the end of a sentence.

“I’m with Her” and “I’m Ready for
Hillary” both have a patronizing tone, as though you can prove yourself by
being open to a female candidate, just because she’s female; that kind of thing
is off-putting to some voters. And as
Bill Maher pointed out, “Ready for Hillary” evokes the resignation of being
“ready” for that uncomfortable tetanus shot from that possibly sadistic nurse.

“Fighting for Us” makes you wonder
who the “Us” really is. During World War
II, George Orwell pointed out how a British working man might interpret the
government poster that said: “Your
Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution, will bring Us Victory” (the first three sets of
italics in the original, the fourth definitely not!).

“Breaking Down Barriers” has good
rhythm but an uncertain appeal because most people feel strongly that they
really want some barriers between them and some kinds of other people.

“Stronger Together” was the final
throw, and it came just as voters could hardly ignore the fact that violence
was coming from the left. Some of Hillary
supporters were bullies, and bullies are always stronger together. The news was already out that the “violence
at Trump’s rallies” was deliberately engineered by paid agents of the DNC.

Scott Adams Doesn’t
Give His Alternatives!

Although
Scott Adams does an excellent job of identifying the strengths of Trump’s
slogan and nicknames for opponents, and the weaknesses of Hillary’s, he doesn’t
come up with his own, better proposals for Hillary.

This is a bit of a disappointment, and a surprise,
as he emphasizes that it’s all a matter of conscious technique, not instinct.

And so, I decided to cook up my own
suggestions. Here goes!

My proposal for the nickname Hillary
should have given Trump is:


The Don

Here’s how this works. Before Trump announced for president, he was
often called “The Donald,” a phrase which usually went along with either patronizing
amusement or mild and grudging admiration.
Use of “The Donald” died out, presumably because the US population was
mobilizing into two great camps, one of which viewed Trump as a satanic
monster, the other of which saw him as the nation’s redeemer, and neither of
these would perceive “The Donald” as entirely apt.

My plan would be for Hillary supporters
to refer to him several times as “The Don,” and just occasionally, for those who
might be a bit slow on the uptake, “The Godfather” (or variations like “The
Godfather of Greed”). Hillary would then
take up “The Don,” as an already established nickname for Trump.

Trump has many of the popular
attributes of the Mafia boss: a commanding presence and a weakness for vulgar
display (his golden toilets). All the
points actually made against Trump’s character by Clinton could have been given
a slightly different coloration. Thus,
when making the allegation that Trump had stiffed some of his sub-contractors
(which the Hillary campaign did), this would be described as “making them an
offer they couldn’t refuse.” You could
throw in a reference to one of Trump’s business dealings with someone who has
since passed on, and add the jocular remark, “He now sleeps with the
fishes.” When complaining about the fact
that Trump wouldn’t release his tax returns, this could be framed as “the Trump
Family [Family, get it?] has sworn the oath of Omertà never to reveal their sources of income.”

But aren’t mafiosi supposed to be
Italian? Yes, but now they’re often
Russian too. Hillary’s campaign promoted
the story that Trump had “colluded with the Russians.” This appears to have been a pure fabrication,
simply made up (no one has ever faulted Hillary for being over-scrupulous or
excessively candid) but it would have been so much more believable if
associated with the Russian mafia.

It’s a self-evident truth that every
Russian has “ties to Vladimir Putin,” and this can always be asserted of any
Russian without fear of rebuttal. Similarly,
it’s a self-evident truism that every Russian businessman has “ties to the
Russian mob.” It would have been a
simple matter to dig up every occasion when Trump did business with a Russian,
call that Russian an “oligarch” (who could deny it?) and declare that this
Russian oligarch had ties to organized crime (or deny that?). In this way, it would have become impossible
for voters not to think of Trump’s business activities as steeped in
criminality.

Now, what about a campaign slogan
for Hillary? This is quite difficult,
because of the fact that Hillary had spent the previous eight years as
Secretary of State within the Obama administration. She could not therefore put any emphasis on
“change,” and it would be hard to imply anything radically new. But anything that looked like a defense of
the last eight years could only run the risk of implying that “the status quo
is fine and we just want to keep things the way they are.” This is a disadvantageous position to be in.

A slogan that goes negative and tries to focus on
the evil of Trump is liable to boomerang—remember that meeting of Democrats, where
a speaker referred to Hillary using the word “honest,” and the entire room
spontaneously erupted into laughter?

As Scott Adams hilariously points
out (p. 159), a rather different kind of boomerang was a major feature of the
campaign. One of Trump’s problems, as a
former reality TV host, was to get voters to take him seriously as a real
president. Hillary continually urged voters
to “imagine” Trump as president, and thus provided Trump with exactly what he
needed. He needed people to imagine him
as president, and Hillary did an excellent job of helping voters to do just that.

The Hillary campaign slogan has to
have the following qualities:


It mustn’t directly mention the rival product.


It mustn’t be easily interpreted as merely a response to Trump’s slogan or
campaign.


It can’t, unfortunately, make a bold plea for change.


It can’t, unfortunately, make a bold claim for Hillary’s trustworthiness or
other personal virtues.


It must have rhythm.


It mustn’t allow the interpretation that some special interest will be
benefited.


It must take the high ground.

So here’s my proposal:

● A Win-Win for
America

This slogan would occasionally
follow the words “Hillary Rodham Clinton.”
(It’s bad luck that “HRC” doesn’t trip off the tongue like “LBJ” or even
“JFK.” There is no other memorable
version comparable with “Doubleya”.
“HRC” might evoke “hardcore,” but we probably don’t want to go there.)

The slogan is positive and inclusively
patriotic. It therefore crowds out the
undesirable thought that Hillary appeals chiefly to welfare recipients,
criminal aliens, and billionaire hedge-fund managers. “For America” takes the high ground and
crowds out the thought that Hillary’s election would be a win for Hillary, an
undesirable thought because Hillary might be considered a loser, and also because
we don’t want voters thinking about any personal advantage Hillary might reap.

The term “Win-Win” has several
functions. Literally it refers to a
situation where we win, whichever of two alternate possibilities occurs. There would have to be a story about this,
ready for those times when Hillary or her henchmen were directly asked about
the meaning. But that’s
unimportant. We could even come up with
a dozen different stories and get people arguing about which one was true. Really the term is simply a repetition of the
positive word “win,” and gives the slogan distinctiveness and rhythm.

It also has something which Scott
Adams has talked about on a number of occasions: he has pointed out how
President Trump utilizes the tried and tested marketing ploy of putting slightly
“wrong” formulations into his tweets to enhance their effectiveness. A slightly doubtful formulation or a feeling
that something is not quite conventionally correct helps a phrase to lodge in
the memory. “Win-Win” therefore gains
something from the fact that what it means is slightly obscure and off-key,
while its emotional associations are entirely positive.

So there we are, Trump is The Don and Hillary’s slogan is A Win-Win for America. This would have been enough to give her the
electoral college, though it wouldn’t have hurt to have also done a bit more
campaigning in Michigan and Wisconsin.

Hillary threw tens of millions of
dollars at various “consultants” who were out of their depth and out of touch
with public feeling. As I’ve just proved,
I could have gotten Hillary elected by a few commonsense marketing touches. Given my unpretentious proletarian origins
and unimpressive net worth, I would have done it for, say, half a million
dollars. That would have been a terrific
deal for Hillary, and would have enabled me to pay off a good chunk of my
debts.

But, I can already hear you saying,
you’d be enabling this disgusting warmonger, purveyor of PC bigotry, and
criminal sociopath to take power. Could
you really live with yourself?

Yes, I have to admit, I would feel
bad about that. So, make it a round
million.



Robert Henderson on Free Trade

Politics Posted on Sun, February 26, 2017 17:11:57

The following is a response by David McDonagh to blog post by Robert Henderson on the Libertarian Alliance (not to be confused with this blog of the same name). Because Mr. McDonagh’s response strictly follows the outline of Mr. Henderson’s post, there is some repitition. The context of the reply can usually be gleaned from the comment, but it may be useful to read Mr. Henderson’s post first. (Mr. McDonagh’s response was casually edited by Lee Waaks.)
——————–

The politically correct [PC] ideal of equality and democracy, like politics and the state itself, has never been popular with the masses; and they haply never will be either.

Free trade boosts all incomes by boosting greater output than we would otherwise have.

The Navigation Acts held progress back, as politics and the state always does.

Liberal ideas are hardly unquestioned but then Henderson seems to get nearly everything wrong about liberalism.

While the state exists, the market will never quite be free. The state needs to tax the market just to exist.

Adam Smith hardly needed his metaphor of the invisible hand for the division of labour, as, clearly, it gears self-interest to serve others by specialisation, or by learning a trade. Almost any job requires some expertise.

Socialists are just statist Tories. Fascists are also Tories. Bolsheviks are Russian Tories. Collectivists are Tories. Liberalism is anti-politics, so it is against democracy and the state.
The state is anti-social. Its aims usually tend to mess up society.

Henderson is not wise to call the liberals dishonest. I think he is very ignorant and thoughtless, but he is most likely not dishonest. He loves the state so much that he cannot credit that it is sincerely rejected by the liberals.

Monopoly is almost impossible to obtain, as it is not easy to stop new firms from entering any market. But the idea that the market ends in a monopoly is a long-standing folk dogma, and the main hope of Marxism, but the idea is way older than Karl Marx. However, monopoly did not increase in Marx’s lifetime, nor has it increased since his death.

Liberalism is about repealing laws not passing them; not on monopoly or on anything else.

Free markets are what emerge when the state has been totally rolled back to non-existence, or to anarchy. Liberals are against the state, not monopoly per se. Henderson loves the state so much that he doubts that there are some that hate it. But, yes, the state is the only institution that can enforce a monopoly, but that is not why the liberals reject it.

The market is not natural, but it is anarchic. It does not need the state.

The liberal idea of no state is not empty-headed. Politics is anti-social and negative sum, i.e. wasteful. It is what looks like support for what is wasteful that is nearer to being empty-headed but, presumably, it is down to mere ignorance.

The market fits humans as they are, though they prefer to be consumers rather than producers. But the state is at odds with humanity, as people do not like being bossed bout.

Protectionism is no more natural than is smuggling (black markets) that, nearly always, flout it.

No one owns markets. It is just where people freely trade with each other.

Lower prices are clearly better for the customer.

The mass urban society gives rise to potential jobs being infinite. A village often lacks jobs, but never does a big city. Employment becomes a function of pricing ourselves into work rather than there being a lack of jobs in the big city.
Society is polycentric, and it is never a whole. If you hear the bell toll, then it tolls for another person. Economic interest groups related to the factors of production are as mythical as the supposed inexorable movement of free trade to monopoly theorized by Marxism, and both are clearly bogus. The idea of the class struggle is about as unrealistically Romantic as one can get. There never was anything like it in the past, which is why E.P.Thompson’s 1963 book, The Making of the English Working Class, mentioned not even one example of it in more than 900 pages of his book.

Liberals claim that any trader gains, in his own estimation, from trade. The liberals do not postulate society, as a person, or as a quasi-person, who gains from trade. Both the consumer and producer surplus resulting from any trade is subjective to each trader. Trade is a positive sum transaction.

Liberalism is anti-politics, not a recipe for a type of politics. The anarcho-liberals that make up most of the active Libertarian Alliance [LA] are never happy with any state activity; none whatsoever. But the alliance in the LA is with minimal statists, who do accept a vital need for the state.

Liability is going to be limited in any case. The 1862 Act just spared a bit to settle for what traders chose to risk. Having all at risk would not be much more actual liability, in most cases. Limiting what is put at risk, to what we freely want to put at risk is not, somehow, unfree in some way. To say that only a claim to all a person owns must be involved if ever one is to invest is not more free, or more honest, but just a sheer stupidity.

A free market is the market free of the state. Yes, that means no taxation, no state money, indeed, no politics whatsoever.

Henderson seems not to know that the LA is against the state. The active LA members hold that the state has no business at all but, indeed, that it is immoral. The LA most of all opposes taxation, which the LA has often called theft. But Henderson imagines the LA endorses taxation and that it is only really against monopoly (or something else). Liberals do not care much about monopoly as such, for most of them hold that the market can sort it out by new firms starting up to exploit the monopoly price that the big firms might charge. Liberals only essentially hate the state and taxation — taxation because it aids the illiberal state activity.
Liberalism is not particularly fussed about monopoly, but we might still note that the daft dogma that competition leads to it is clearly false. It is clear that it is not easy to keep new firms out of most trades, especially if the big firms are charging high prices. Henderson believes roads are an exception, but they have substitutes like air, rail and sea travel. In any case, there can be efforts to buy up particular roads on the market.

No, there is haply not fewer firms in the car industry than there were 40 years ago. British firms have declined but Japanese firms have emerged since then. Chinese firms are now emerging.

No, free-trade liberals do not want a single market but only no states. The market will never be a whole and there will never be “a level playing field” (to cite a statist metaphor from sport), but liberals, as such, do not seem to care much about that. The economists recommended the statists to allow free trade to exploit comparative advantage, which thrives on inequality and any unequal advantage that we might find. However, the state cannot completely indulge free trade, as freedom needs to be trade free of the state, ipso facto.

The EU aims at being a super-state, not a free-trade area. It seeks power and influence in the world. It aims to be the number one state no less.
What classical liberal ever complains about dumping? I have seen no pristine liberal complain against cheap goods.

Henderson says free trade does not mean free immigration, as, logically speaking, trade is made for humans, rather than humans for trade. But free trade usually does tend to mean a free flow of immigration too.

Henderson claims we can exchange goods and services without allowing free immigration if society does not want to, but there is no such person called society. However, in a liberal society no one needs to accept immigrants, to give them jobs, lodgings, etc. if they do not wish to do so, as social liberty is liberty on both sides. Society cannot decide but any person can decide for himself.

Yes, taxation scotches free trade, as does any state.

Democracy is not liberal but an attempt to govern: voting is illiberal, gratuitous, coercion against others.

Henderson says that comparative advantage has little reality to it. But it is very clear that some parts of the world (e.g., South America) grow bananas, say, way more easily and more cheaply than can be grown at other places, say, Northern Europe. They expoit the uneven playing field. He believes that as this may change, so it does not matter, but that is not germane, not even one iota. Every person does what he does best at any one time. That the comparative advantage can change, in some cases, hardly means it is not important at any one time.

Higher tax regimes and higher welfare provision tend to lower real wages, but Henderson writes as if he thinks they can boost them. Only greater output can do that and the state hampers output by taxing it to pay for services that no one wants but the rulers think is vital to civilisation. So, for example, we have the spectacle of subsidised, often empty, buses circulating around UK towns and cities to maintain an alleged social service on a regular timetable.

As we have had the modern state since the rise of the modern market, we have never had completely free trade. Henderson believes it was reckless to go in for freer trade in the nineteenth century. He believes industrial dominance, primitive transport
levels, and the slow industrialisation of the USA and other European lands, allowed the UK to dodge the hazards. But after 1870, that was not the case any longer and the British market was then flooded with food and wool. Many states then went protectionist, but Britain failed to do so. It paid the price for this folly of freer trade, he argues, as the industrial predominance it had once enjoyed was soon lost. The UK’s agricultural markets were destroyed and new industries (e.g., chemicals) soon arose that left the UK behind. In contrast, Henderson argues, the protectionist policy of the USA and Germany enabled both states to exceed the UK’s GNP. But there was no need for the UK to retain the lead in any industry. The fact that other places were catching up and then overtaking the UK boosted wages even in the UK. Henderson seems to think the object is for the UK to forever lead the world in this or that sector, but the objective of economic activity is to boost the standard of living, not to dominate the world. He overlooks that state protectionism is very wasteful and seems to think that there is a clash of interests on the world division of labour, but very little of the market is in competition. Firms compete for customers but most of the market, as Alfred Marshall pointed out in 1890, is the result of cooperation. Even the competition, he noted, was within a cooperative framework.
Bismarck seemed to overlook the wastefulness of protectionism and of politics in general.
What he thought was wrong is hardly anything to do with the truth. Trade is to do with firms, not nations; still less to do with the wasteful state. Trade aids both a producer and a consumer surplus, so both sides gain by trade but taxation is negative sum, so we all lose out, on the whole, from any political action; and maybe both sides do too; though the
politicians act as if they gain from what they do.

It was not protectionism that made the first industrial “revolution” but the flourishing of science, technology and business. Henderson overestimates bias to home trade and he writes as if the EU and the WTO aid free trade rather than hindering it, ipso facto, by their very existence. The idea that free trade needs to be mitigated is on par with the idea that economic growth or increased income needs to be mitigated. Henderson also overrates the British Empire in trade, even though he is explicitly cautious about that. He believes free trade was a risk in 1850 for Britain, and that it is for all nations now, but he
overlooks that it is the best way that firms can do well. Politics is wasteful, by contrast, but Henderson believes that the state is a boon. He tells of free trade as idiocy, but it is clearly politics that is perversely negative sum and thereby clearly wasteful idiocy.

It is not clear that Henderson fully understands free trade, let alone the history of it, but he loves the state and the state-imposed wasteful problem of defence, that he believes the nineteenth century liberals were careful about, but the truth is that the liberals hated warmongering. Liberals, like Richard Cobden, were out to stop the backward state courting war. But it is true that the pristine liberals of the LA are more against the state than the Manchester School ever was.

Henderson postulates that complete free trade today would be dangerous for the West. He believes no firm can compete with low wages around the world. But this wage gap with what they call the “Third World” was caused by the backward rejection of free trade after 1914 and after the war that ended in 1918. Why would the wage rates on the other side of the world affect most of the trade in Britain? Could it affect local plumbers, carpenters and the like? Most trade will remain local but given free trade, then international wages will soon even up around the world anyway owing to the export of capital.

We are told by Henderson that experience tells us that industrialisation is best achieved by protection but that is wasteful, ipso facto, as all politics is. He overlooks that, or, more likely, he has never yet quite realised it.

Henderson tells us “the most lethal ammunition to discharge at free traders is the fact that no country in the history of the world has industrialised successfully without very strong protectionist measures being in place”, but this is a mere fallacy of post hoc; ergo propter hoc and it overlooks the cost of such protectionism in every case. The point is a brutum fulmen. However, it haply is about the best any protectionist can do.
The spread of British capital overseas would have haply stopped the “Third World” from arising, thereby dodging the current problem of mass immigration to where the capital, and thus the higher wages, are to be had. Nationalist measures “distort” the world division of labour. Free trade (or freer trade) did/does aid economic development everywhere, including in pre-1913 Germany. Henderson should note that the protectionism imposed after 1914 created the main problem that seems to concern him today, viz. the existence of lower wages in the Third World that threaten to pull down wages in the First World. Athough an increase in world production would likely lead to higher real wages for the First World, his protectionist “solution” would not remove this problem, but rather prolong it. As previously mentioned, freer trade was evening up wages around the world before 1914.

Protectionism did not aid the UK to recover after 1931. Henderson fails to explain this beyond his aforementioned post hoc fallacy, as there is nothing to aid economic development in protectionism. It simply allows firms to be free from competition from abroad. As free trade is basic economics, there is no need to call it a “secular religion”, as there is nothing whatsoever religious about it. Firms need to keep up to date with all other firms under free trade, but they can become stagnant with protectionism. There is always free trade within a nation, and as the EU was attempting to become a super-state (or a new nation), then there would be free trade within the nations it was attempting to make mere provinces.

Protectionism always taxes the economy. Henderson argues that free trade is not necessary for rapid economic growth; that state regulation of the domestic market and international trade is not a recipe for disaster; and that being a “free trader” when the rest of the world is not reciprocating is a mug’s game. But some liberty is vital to economic growth and politics taxes the public, so even when it dodges being a total disaster, the state never dodges imposing extra costs. Anyway, one-way free trade is fine as there is no need at all to respond to tariffs of others with those of your own, as that will only increase the dysfunctional politics. Contrary to Henderson, it is politics that is the mug’s game, as it is always negative sum. Trade, by contrast, is always economic, so it is always positive sum. Henderson imagines we do not know whether protectionism is dysfunctional or not, but it always costs extra taxation; thus, it is always uneconomic or negative sum. So we do know that it is wasteful.

Free trade is the same as the free market. In the colleges since about 1900, they have attempted to define laissez-faire as trade within the state’s domain and free trade as between states, but this distinction is not very realistic because states do not trade, only firms and customers.

Governments are not the natural suppliers of health care; or, indeed, of any good.

Trade results in gains to the customer and producer immediately, not later. The gains may not be uniform but they are immediate surpluses to both traders. In what way do the later generations thereby lose out? As for politicians, they live off taxation, thus they make the public poorer to the extent that they tax them.

The fact that many lands are poor today is the result of the interruption of free trade by the 1914 war, which Henderson argues was a distortion of domestic trade. But this idea that domestic trade should be separate from the worldwide division of labour is an arbitrary idea. Free trade would soon iron out the Third World, such that there would be soon no longer a massive advantage in mass immigration to seek jobs elsewhere, though some competition in a more even world would continue. The capital would go to the workers rather than the workers emmigrating for better pay.

Most of the jobs out there need no skills. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair was utterly deluded with his “education, education, education” idea, viz. the popular idea that education was investment rather than being just sheer consumption, as it usually is. But increased output from successful new capital investment (including human capital — but that is usually mustered by on the job learing rather than at college) means all wages are higher as a result of extra innovation that, if successful, increases total output.

Henderson believes that nitpicking over how exact are measurements of wealth might aid his case against liberalism. But the fact that the “poor” today are rich in absolute terms is clear no matter how useless the means of wealth measurement are.

Why does Henderson call council housing “social housing” when it is clear enough that it is very anti-social and, indeed, that it is a recipe for thugs? The popular press in the UK calls council housing “CHAVs”, i.e. council house and violence.

What is called the welfare state is a public menace. That it has been rolled back a little bit since the 1960s is a social boon.
Why was unemployment so low till about 1970? It was obviously owing to the cleared labour market, but the media, falsely, held that to be a thing of the past in the 1970s and since. But we can always clear the labour market whenever the price, or the wage levels, are right. In the 1960s, the dole was taboo, as only a few workers, when exchanging jobs, would ever go there; it was a sign that a worker did not really want a job. By the
1970s, however, many thought that full-employment and the cleared labour market had naturally broken down, so from then on many accepted the need for the dole. The story put out by the media obfuscated the fact that only the dole allowed mass unemployment to ever be mustered in the mass urban society.

In absolute terms, it is easier than ever to support a family on a single wage today. But people want to do all the other things too. It is false that the mother does better for the family by taking a job. It is also false to say there is no choice involved. We do not need to conform to social norms.

A bigger state clearly needs to tax more.

Most people never did think much of state provision, falsely called social provision, although Henderson ignores the fact that it is anti-social. It is very clear that most in the UK are better off than in 1960, especially the poorest third, who are today fairly rich, with all the modern conveniences. In 1960, most households did not have running hot water, phones, or most other modern conveniences. The market, which needs to be free to some extent, and was so even within the late USSR, is alone responsible for progress since 1750. At no time has the state done other than impose a cost. Henderson does not seem to grasp that fact; he thinks it is something to do with elite ideology.

If people buy things then they usually want them more than they want the money they need to pay to obtain them.

People often fail to provide many things in computers and elsewhere.

Few things are truly necessities.

Brainwashing is a mere myth.

Henderson absurdly says people do not really want computers, but then he tells us why they want them. He says we all need computers today; so we want them as a means. As Thomas Hobbes said, we choose to do all we do, either as a means to an end, or as an end in itself.

Free trade ebbs power, so all lose power whenever trade gets freer. But then power is a certain evil and, as Lord Acton famously said, it tends to corrupt.

The poor are not subordinated to the rich on the market. The market lacks any power as, qua market, it is free.

I have never met anyone who loves equality and I tend to think that no one does. It is a silly, unexamined, school teacher dogma, worthy only of contempt.

The gains of trade are immediate; they do not trickle down.

No society is truly more than economic relationships. That is a mere misunderstanding of economics. Any desire for certainty will be for an aspect of the standard of living.
There has never been a working class. That is a myth of college sociology and politics departments. The Labour Party would win every election, hands down, if there were a UK working class interest, but rather than see the plain truth of very diverse economic interests, the backward academics hold those who voteTory are fooled in some way. But the workers are not the only ones who cannot see this purely imaginary proletarian economic class interests, for the sociologists cannot see it either.
People rarely notice where things are made.

It is no absurdity that free trade tends to crowd out war. Firms cannot afford to fight wars and the state can only afford to fight them owing to taxation.

Yes, the illiberal coercion of crass democracy is hostile to free trade, as it is an attempt at government, thus it is against liberty.

Henderson imagines democracy is a boon to the masses, but it never was. Nor was it ever popular. Protectionism is credited with this and that, but no explanation of how it does what he imagines it to do is attempted. Similarly, he gives no detailed charge against free trade apart from his fallacy of post hoc.

Similarly, he assumes a movement towards monopoly but he seems not to know this dogma was around before Marx was born in 1818 and it is not greater today than it was, say, in 1800.

The actual reality of things is that total output determines what wages can buy and, thus, their value.
Immigrants may destroy a nation by destroying the idea that it is a large family, thereby making many natives no longer feel they have a homeland. Nevertheless, immigrants do, boost output, which leads to rising real wages. The same is true for “exporting jobs”, which also boosts real wages. But Henderson thinks the value of wages are lowered thereby and he adds:

“Those whose jobs opportunities have been degraded have suffered a form of theft. Had mass immigration and the export of jobs been prevented, the wages for the jobs taken by immigrants would have been higher than they are when subjected to the additional competition of immigrant labour and the exported jobs would not have been exported, which in itself would have tightened the labour market. In societies of rising aspiration, this could result in jobs considered menial being better rewarded than those which enjoy high status under ‘free trade’ circumstances. It might be necessary to pay a sewage worker as much as a doctor. Doubtless many would throw their hands up at this. But there is no logic to such a response, because in a society with a large private enterprise component a wage is simply a response to the value the market puts on a job. Unskilled workers may not earn as much as the average doctor or lawyer at present, but skilled tradesmen such as plumbers and builders often do.”

But workers can only be paid from total output and that would be way lower in the set-up that Henderson imagines here. But it is true that supply and demand (i.e. free trade) tends to equalize wages and salaries. Free trade would end aristocracy rather than fostering it, as Henderson imagines. “Class” is just a bogus idea of the PC religion of Sociology. Anyone who talks class thereby talks crass stupidity. Democracy never did give the masses any control and the masses hate voting anyway. Participation is a waste of their time. It is boring at best and they want to be free of it. As the saying goes: “Committees take minutes but waste hours”.

Henderson repeatedly imagines that there is something social about the state, but the plain fact is that the state is intrinsically anti-social.

Democracy was an elite fashion, not something the masses ever wanted or needed; it thrived only on elite thoughtlessness. But Henderson tells us that, in fact, it was originally oligarchy, not true democracy. But then he absurdly adds that it nevertheless brought with it a lot of control by the masses. His contradiction is self-refuting. The true half of the contradiction is that it was oligarchy; the false half is the claim that democracy brought any real control by the masses.

The urge towards the EU was one for a successful warmongering super-state not a stand against democracy. It was for power and influence in the world. There is no effective democracy to oppose. Nor is it going to be more popular in the future, and ditto politics and religion. They never were popular but the acme of what little popularity they
ever had is, now, well in the past.

Henderson imagines this class interest of the elite is unconscious! It all arises from psychological and sociological forces; forces arising from PC religion, or from the anti-social sciences or the unnatural sciences.
A lot of wastage in any nation is owing to measures taken just in case of war, and the whole lot tend to foster war rather than to deter it. Free trade tends to crowd war out. But Henderson seems to welcome war. It is silly to call free trade a religion, but a bit less silly to call liberalism one, as it is a creed rather than mere phenomena. But state worship seems to have something nearer to the God worship of many religions, so religion is more to do with the immoral state.

Henderson is a fine one to write about the ignorance of others.

Smith was not quite right to say that the state was needed to do certain things. As the economist Milton Friedman said, anything the state can do the market can do better, but he overlooked that war was an exception.



Let’s do something!

Politics Posted on Fri, June 05, 2015 16:21:39

If you attend a lot
of libertarian gatherings, you will start feeling like everything
talked about is very repetitive. Every argument being made sounds
familiar and if someone new might show up you can predict what their
objections are going to be. Nevertheless, I am not really getting
tired of them for a number of reasons. There is the psychological
aspect of feeling sane and understood. I know a lot of libertarians
who come to meetings for this reason alone, as it is an experience in
contrast to what they are experiencing in their normal environment.
And sometimes you might actually come across an interesting viewpoint
that you have not heart before. So despite all the repetition, you
might actually learn something. In any case, arguing a lot, even if
repetitive, certainly trains you in making your points in other
debates. In the end it helps spreading libertarian ideas.

But there is a
series of talks that come up fairly regularly that annoyed me from the
first time I attended one of them. It is a series that I would like to call ‘Let’s do something’. The ‘Let’s do Something’ talks follow a
common structure. Whoever gives the talk will start by saying that he
or she has observed that libertarians are arguing too much and spend a
lot of time with books. That is all nice and well, but he or she has
decided that now the time has come to stop this childish complaining
and take real action instead.

The proposal to ‘do
something’ is always presented as some kind of fantastic new break
through idea that obviously a lot of libertarians could not come up
with themselves. And the moment the words ‘Let’s do something’ have been
uttered you will find some libertarians getting overly excited. From
this moment, they do not let any argument count, as arguing looks
like falling back into the childish complaining status. As a result,
any proposal following these words will be seen as worth supporting
and superior to talking.

Don’t get me wrong,
I am all in favor of taking action. So are most if not all
Libertarians. One topic that is reliably discussed on every
libertarian gathering is, how do we get to a libertarian society or
at least, how do I get the state out of my life. Libertarians are
spending a lot of time trying to figure out a solution to the state
problem. However, this problem, not surprisingly turns out to be a
very difficult problem to solve. If the power of the state was so
fragile that all it needed to topple it was for some people to get
together and ‘do something’ it would have gone away a long time ago.

Having said that,
there are some strategies that libertarians have come up with that
actually might get us to a libertarian society in the long run. However, the
remarkable thing about the ‘Let’s do something’ talks is that they are
consistently disappointing in coming up with persuasive solutions.
People who start their talks with ‘Let’s do something’ will usually
not tell you about strategies like agorism, how to reduce your tax
burden, how to use alternative currencies or stop the state from
spying on you. No, none of that. People who start their talks
dismissing debate and demanding action fairly reliably will give you
the proposal to get involved in politics one way or another.

The most common one
is to propose a new libertarian party. “Hey guys, a lot of you are
just sitting around debating. But a few of us have decided to grow up
and we have founded this new libertarian party that will change things in this
country”. Sorry mate, but this is not new. It has been tried many
times with not very persuasive results. So why come up with the same
old non solution?

The last talk in
this series that I attended and that inspired me to write this piece
was from an MEP of the Tory party who somehow is sympathetic to
classical liberalism. Becoming an MEP I guess was his idea of doing
something. I could not quite figure out how this action is helping,
but then again if I were to fight MEPs I should probably start with
the less libertarian ones. At least he seemed like a sincere guy. Although, he did have this typical talking style of a politician of being deliberately vague to please as many listeners as possible.

He thought one of
the big problems of libertarianism is that they don’t have a good
answer to the problem of poverty. They are just assuming that the
poor will be better off in a free market, without delivering any proof
for it. That is why people do not understand the libertarian
solution. So instead of talking, libertarians should practically show
how the market helps the poor. He proposed going into the community and help poor
people run their own businesses. An example he gave was, how he
helped a drug dealer using his entrepreneurial skills to now run a
sandwich shop instead.

This proposal is odd
on many levels. First it smells a lot like central planning for
politicians to go around and tell people how to run their businesses.
It does not need the guidance of the state to run businesses. Maybe
the drug dealer is now better off selling sandwiches, or maybe not. I
don’t have a principal problem with either one of those businesses.
But for the life of me, I cannot figure out how getting him into the
sandwich making business is helping Libertarianism. No tax has been
reduced, no regulation has been abolished. The structural problem of
the state remains. I told him that, but his answer was that
regulations, while nasty are not the main problem. There are still
many entrepreneurs who succeed in a statist environment. So the problem has to be the attitude of people.

True, people in
state education are systematically educated to be irresponsible. But
then again, that is a structural problem of state education and the
welfare state. To say that regulations are not the main problem, is a
dangerously wrong analysis of why the standard of living of so many
people is going down. True, there are successful entrepreneurs in this
statist environment. Some people are so productive that even after
all the taxation and regulations they still are able to run a
profitable business. But these are strong people. This is exactly not
a solution for the poor, who tend to be a little bit less skilled.
The less skilled a person is, the more likely every stone you put
into his or her way will kill his or her ability to run a profitable
business. It is exactly the poor who are most dependent on us solving
the structural problem of the state, for they are the first to suffer
under it. And btw isn’t ‘not letting you being put off by regulations’
exactly what drug dealer are doing? Here you can see, how regulations are helping the strong. They get even richer than they
deserve to be, because the state has killed the competition.

It is indeed
unfortunate, that economics can be counter intuitive, as one needs to
understand that a lot of consequences are not directly visible. And
to be honest, my suspicion was that the MEP did not fully understand
that himself. He seemed to suggest that poor people really are benefiting from the state. Of course it is not intuitively clear why poor
people are better off if the welfare state stops giving them money.
But it is nevertheless true and therefore there is no alternative to
spreading this idea. If you do not spread the idea, whatever actions
you take could still produce non libertarian results.

Which brings me to
the biggest fallacy of the ‘do something’ philosophy. Ideas are not
useless chit chat. They are the most powerful weapon this movement
has. Therefore, spreading propaganda very much qualifies as doing
something. And it is probably the best thing most people are able to do. If we
look throughout history we see the powers of ideas everywhere. For
example, how did democracy or socialism become so powerful? They
started out as ideas of a few nutters. These ideas slowly started to
grow before their time finally had come. That is why you cannot just
implement a democracy in countries that never had any democratic
process. People do not yet understand the idea.

Because ideas are so
powerful, you will find strong forms of censorship in every
dictatorial system. The reason why a country like North Korea is so
cut off from everything is not because they fear the nice consumer
products from the rest of the world. Their real fear is that ideas
will come over and topple the regime.

Ideas are also the
foundation of actions. If someone acts against the state he first
needs to identify the state as a problem. There might be some people
out there who are really able to do something great against the
state. But first they need to understand that the state is a problem. Whoever invented the block chain for example certainly was
influenced by libertarian thoughts. With these ideas in mind, he then realized that he had some skills that could be turned into action. If it was not for libertarian propaganda, this might have never happened.

In my experience it
is not that libertarians are too lazy to act. They are more than
willing to do so. But that does not mean they have big opportunities
to do so. Most people find small opportunities to increase the amount
of freedom in their lives. Few are capable of inventing something big
like Bitcoin. I certainly could not have done that. But I don’t have
to. The division of labor also works for Libertarianism. The best thing most of us can do is to spread ideas, so that
those with the exceptional skills to act on it can be influence by
libertarianism.

The problem with
ideas is that they don’t show immediate results. You will not step in
front of a crowd of statists, explain libertarianism to them and see
them collectively saying ‘I was blind, but now I see’. Whether people
are listening to you depends on many things like their motivation,
their age, intelligence, personality etc. Not everyone can be
persuaded and it is a slow process. That makes ideas very annoying
for impatient people. They start concluding that spreading ideas is a hopeless exercise. It also makes you feel like you are not in
control of the process. However, there does not seem to be a real
alternative to ideas if you want social change.

If your ideas are
correct and attractive, they will sooner or later win followers. The
good thing about ideas is that once they pick up steam, they can grow
exponentially. We also don’t need to win over everyone. A lethal
doses of ideas for the state is far below the threshold of persuading
everyone. We just need a significant number of the right people. So
let’s not complain about people not doing anything. Everyone does what they can do best, just like in the rest of the economy. But one thing that really everyone can do is to continue spreading ideas.



Is it folly to ignore art?

Politics Posted on Sun, March 29, 2015 12:43:45

Is
it folly to ignore art?

In Sean Gabb’s latest talk to the LA he seemed to
have embraced a completely bogus thesis viz. that art aids society in general,
especially the morale of the ruling class.

Sean also feels that the progress of the LA has been
very disappointing and he expressed the rather odd idea that this was because
there is not enough libertarian art. Some libertarians on Sean’s LA blog agreed
with Sean on both art and on the more realistic looking idea of a lack of liberal
progress since 1979, especially on the futility of LA activity, but, despite appearance
on that latter idea if we have different ideas from the LA on the progress rate
of the spread of ideas, if the LA was right in 1981 then that is a similarly
unrealistic outlook on expectations of progress from libertarian propaganda and
some of those who agreed with Sean even expressed that it was not clear to them
of whom the enemy of liberalism is, or of what progress of the pristine liberal
idea would amount to.

I will begin with a short re-statement of what I
take to be the main content of the 1981 purpose and strategy of the LA.

The main idea is that ideas change slowly. We cannot
realistically ever expect rapid progress. We can witness instant conversion, of
course, in the odd individual case, but customs change way more slowly, for
most people are conservative with a small “c” and so tradition is often against
change, but customs do change nevertheless. It simply takes time. It takes
decades, or even centuries, rather than days or weeks.

There is short run propaganda and long run
propaganda that manifests in society in two forms of politics, that we might
call 1) practical politics and 2) theoretical politics. Harold Wilson, a career
politician, rightly said that “a week is a long time in politics” and this was,
and is still, clearly true for his sort of politics.

Theoretical politics, or ideological politics, would
haply be better off with the statement that a decade is not very long in the
aim of changing society. But slow change does take place.

The LA was never thought to be a pressure group to
get practical politicians to do just one thing, such as the Anti-Corn Law
League, or recently, the UKIP [though they decided to go into a party before
their pristine aim of getting out of the slowly emerging super-state was
achieved] but rather it was a long run ideology group. The aim of the LA was to
muster propagandists or “intellectuals” or extraverts who habitually tend to
foster or change public opinion. They may not be bright people but they are
usually outspoken.

It usually takes about fifty years to make
noticeable headway in this quest to change fundamental ideas. Such propagandists will be few in number yet
they matter way more that the general public in this quest to change
fundamental customs, here the aim is to roll back the state.

The foremost violator of social liberty is the
state; so our enemy is the state. Getting that rolled back, or reduced to zero,
is the aim of the LA, and recruiting the propagandists is the peaceful means to
that long run aim; but tax cuts are fine in the short run. But no results can
be soon attained and facile pessimism and disappointment in the LA needs to be
carefully dodged. Pessimism is not realism.
A rise in membership to a thousand or two thousand in five to ten years
would be success for the LA. That is
what we thought in 1981.

How do things stand now? We had a bad upset in 1982,
of course. Before then we seemed to be growing quite well.

The Internet shows support for ideological groups
and below is the statistics for meet-up groups.

50 Socialism meetups: http://socialism.meetup.com/

5,377 members

238 Feminism meetups: http://feminism.meetup.com/

42,389 members

442 Conservative meetups: http://conservative.meetup.com/

73,728 members

487 Libertarian meetups: http://libertarian.meetup.com/

74,410 members

Now
I will give an account of Sean’s talk then criticise it, as well as a few
comments made by others on the blog. Sean, more or less, said the following:
that at the end of the 1980s many thought that libertarianism was doing well.
We had seen off socialism. Most were optimistic but one young man was not: Sean
Gabb.

What
have we achieved in 25 years? One LA puts on monthly meetings. My LA collects money but apart from keeping
the movement in being, it seems not much has been done.

It
might be different in the USA, but I doubt it.

Since
the 1980s it has been stagnation or decline for libertarianism. We are all
intellectuals and that is the problem.

I
always thought it was stupid to get people talking at bus-stops but nowadays we
do not even seem to be doing that but only talking to ourselves. This is not
the way to win debates or to influence the world.

How
did the left come to dominate things? They were not concerned with mere ideas.
They won because they focused on culture.

Films
made by John Ford starring Henry Fonda spread leftist ideas by a narrative and
a world view that rendered them acceptable. J.B. Priestley in the play, later a
film An Inspector Calls (1954) with
Alastair Sim delegitimises the past. We all have duties, not just rights. I read the play at school.

It
is the likes of J.B. Priestley and George Orwell that count, and even G.B.
Shaw, though I always thought he was a bit of a windbag, but they all three won
the day, but not Laski. Laski and Marx are not all that important.

All
this culture established Political Correctness [PC] but The New Statesman and The New
Society
, Marcuse, and the like, are not so important but art succeeds
brilliantly.

The LA go on about von Mises and so not
surprisingly we are ignored. We ought to produce novels and plays or ballet
rather than books on economics. No one reads books by Eamonn Butler.

The
left have took over as they focus on what is important. We need a counter narrative in the UK. It is
a bit better in the USA, as there is more of a culture for libertarianism
there. They have novels, music, film-makers there and similar are needed here.

We
need libertarian poetry, ballet, novels for we need to give up going on and on
about the economic calculation argument [eca] and defence problems. We have had
40 years but there are no libertarian film-makers yet.

Hayek’s
Road To Serfdom (1944) had no
particular influence but Orwell’s 1984
(1949) and Darkness At Noon (1940)
Arthur Koestler did influence have a great impact and those books destroyed
communism in the UK. I was converted by 1984
but I was not much affected by The Road
to Serfdom.

Lenin
and the Bolsheviks won out owing to art. Eisenstein, Shostakovich and general
Socialist Realism culture made the late USSR look glamorous. On recent visits, I look up at the tops of
the buildings of the tower blocks and I see excellent art. It was not Marx or
the theory of the Bolsheviks that maintained the USSR for so long but the
art.

Do
you associate art and libertarianism? I don’t.

There
Sean handed it over for discussion.

I
think that art plays no part at all in politics. That we have zero allows us to
be exact about its actual role.

Sean
has his own theories about the ruling class but my own view on class can be
prefaced by what Marx said on class for he said we can classify people as we
wish but objective economic interests is what matters and I would say that Marx
got nowhere near discovering such objective class interests, for there never
were any to be found. In fact, there are none. So, far from history being full
of class struggle there are no classes like the ones Marx imagined, none at
all, in history. The Marxist meme of class is pure Romance. There is a ruling
class [i.e. a group in government and in the administration of the various states]
but no objective economic class interests.

Sean
seems to have overlooked how bleak establishment thought it was in 1944, when
Hayek wrote that book. One man it did influence was Orwell, who wrote a review
of it. He had thought, beforehand, that capitalism was doomed. The Times in the 1940s was full of the
over confident E.H. Carr editorials stating that the market might not last even
another week. It all looks silly today and the cited book was a factor. Hayek was a way bigger factor in ending all
that gloom than Orwell or Koestler ever was.

As
for ballet, has even Sean ever been to a performance of that? Girls seem to love
it but I am surprised to see a man even mention it, and Sean seems to be about
the only male that I have known to do so, but then I do not know a female who
does not claim to have wanted to be a ballet dancer and actively aimed at it by
dancing when young. Until Sean’s talk, I thought only females ever cared about
it. It clearly does not influence politics very much, if at all.

I
read 1984 in 1968 but I saw it as
anti- Bolshevik rather than anti-socialist. It did not affect my, then, enthusiastic
socialism one bit.

As
I said, the media is not dominated by the left today. They feel that it is,
instead, the right wing that dominates the BBC, but I would agree that that is
not very realistic of them and I think they are even less realistic than Sean
is, in that respect. I think the BBC is more statist than market biased, as it
is state owned [though it began as a private company], but they do try to be
fair.

The
enemy is the state. Some socialists imagine that they, too, are against the
state. Orwell was one. I used to be another.

The
liberal idea is the top idea today but few see they need to get rid of
illiberal ideas to be coherent on it, at least not outside the LA. So the
majority of people today do not see the state, especially democracy, as
illiberal. But the LA does.

Culture
itself [culture qua culture] never
matters much, as it is too vague and nebulous anyway, but the things that do
matter will often be cultural; like the nation, love, justice to cite but three
items out of many that are important for people.

One
chap said that the state might decide all our entertainment. But what
entertainment thrives depends on what sells, not on the rulers. Politicians
often pretend they like that, but whether they do, or not, hardly matters much
to the masses. When Gordon Brown pretended to like Cold Play he haply alienated
more people than he successfully pandered to. In any case, the ruling class
cannot determine successful entertainment.

What
the LA opposes is cultural but it is also illiberal; it is the state. Liberty
uses private ownership as a means but no one who thinks clearly defines liberty
as mere private ownership. I do not need to own things to be free. To think so is to be confused.

Of
course the shorter word, liberal is more apt than libertarian, as many on the
blog rightly said, and one chap said those who are against liberty should be
called puritans, but many puritans can be liberal. So statist is clearly the
proper name for those who want to restrict liberty, not puritan.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Sean
replied:

“I’ll begin the comments by thanking David for an
accurate and fair summary of what I said last week. Beyond that, I’ll only
repeat myself that we do seem to have been barking up the wrong tree – forty
years devoid of measurable success.

The Great Schism of 1982 may not have helped. On
the other hand, two fairly vibrant Libertarian Alliances emerged from that. The
truth is that we had no impact on British politics when we were a unified
movement, and none when we were spitting venom at each other, and none when we
came to our senses and became friends again.

Look at it this way. Christ was crucified in 33AD.
Within thirty years, there were enough Christians to be worth blaming for the
Great Fire of Rome. In 1983, Peter Tatchell lost a safe Labour seat because he
was outed as a poofter. Thirty years later, we had gay marriage. In the early
1960s, South African apartheid seemed unshakeable. Thirty years later, it had
fallen apart. In 1985, we were talking to each other and hardly anyone else.
Today, we are talking to each other and hardly anyone else.

Oh – thirty years ago, some of us were predicting a
police state. Today, we live in one.

You don’t get a paradigm shift in five years. But
we’ve been in this game longer than the average life expectancy of 1900. We
ought by now to have some indication of success. We are so marginal, I don’t
believe we are being watched even passively by the security services.”

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Thank you for your reply and criticism, Sean, and for
making my reply into an independent blog article.

I think we are barking up the right tree but we need to
be way more active. However, even if we were as active as I wish we were and
there had been no upset in 1982, so there had been a more robust LA all along,
as well as a better one today, things would haply look much as they do today. It
is not so easy to see the results of long run liberal propaganda in the short
run but it is clear how silly the1940s The
Times
columns of E.H. Carr look today.
I think Hayek was the main factor there but it is not at all easy to exactly
measure progress.

I do not think that two active LAs emerged from the 1982
upset but rather that an active base in London was cut off from the national LA
network. Things never were quite the same again. Both groups were weakened compared to the
pristine LA.

It never was the aim of the LA to directly affect British
politics. We were out to capture the extraverts, or propagandists, and to bias
them against politics and more action
by the state.

Christianity has a nominal success but a “Christian” is
as ignorant of the creed as an Irishman of actual Irish history or a Marxist of
the ideas of Karl Marx. But the main fact here is that versions of the creed
were going a lot longer than only a few years between when Paul converted and
the persecution of the creed by the Romans and Paul converted to a network that not even his energy
created in the short time that you think. There never was a pristine Jesus
Christ, of course, the word never was made flesh, but we pitch his death just
before Paul converted to the creed, but I think the network was being built up
a long time prior to then. G.A. Wells
once said he thought it was around about three hundred years prior to Paul.

Do you feel that if Peter Tatchell had a heart attack on
failing to win that safe Labour seat then daft David Cameron would be any the
less keen on gay marriage, such that we would not have it today? You seem to be
the complete Romantic, Sean!

Ever since 1962, Christianity has seemed utterly perverse
to me. It is phenomenal that it ever
caught on, even with brilliant and hard-working propagandists like St Paul
spreading it. But so is a Conservative
Prime Minister pressing for a gay
marriage law that must alienate most of
his natural supporters, and the fact that a Conservative party ever wants to modernise is also phenomenal.
The majority are always going to be conservative. Even New Labour upset many
people by modernising. Those examples
certainly show the power of ideas, or of fashion, or of both. But the long
march of what we now call Political
Correctness [PC] was going long prior
to 1900. It is, basically, the very perverse ideal of Equality.

South Africa did not
look solid in 1960 to many, certainly not to me, but it had the USA on its side
at that point for there was, back then, about as much apartheid in the cities
of USA as there was in South Africa.

PC need not be statist, of course. Many liberals, maybe
most liberals, have been exceedingly fond of the crass idea of equality. It has
never been the very top idea. Liberalism is! It was in 1800. Maybe it was very
much before then too. As I said above, in the now blog article, few people want
to vie or mesh their ideas together for coherence. They simply do not see democracy, or even the state, as
illiberal. But the LA is right that it clearly is such. But it is not obvious
today. It will be in the future. This is because people are not often
interested in those things, just as they are not often interested in art. If
the public do not look, then they will not see even the clearest things.

That you were about the only one who looked up at the top
of the buildings on your visits to the lands of the late USSR should have told
you about the little effect on others was of the excellent art that you enjoyed,
Sean.

Statist PC is not only illiberal but totalitarian thus
the emerging police state you cite, Sean. But the ideal of PC, which is
equality, the market, has served way better than the state ever can, and the
free market would serve even faster and better but it would be free of totalitarian
coercion.

Adam Smith saw
that fact back in 1776. He felt that the workings of supply and demand tended
towards price equality and he was quite right.

Now the economists have developed the theory of the price
system, it is way easier today to see that he was right. There has been a long
run societal movement towards equality beginning long before 1776 and it
continues to happen to this day, off-set only by short run new inequalities introduced
by innovation, invention, amongst other things, like new fashion, that tends to
make the whole process a levelling up one. The luxuries of one generation that
had to be in short supply to begin with have often become the everyday goods of
the next, and this the statists call “trickle down” just as they call
competition “cut throat” but both are
social boons. Nothing needs to fall from a table and no throats need to be cut.
That is merely the hyperbole of statist propaganda.

Indeed, profit is the hallmark of social service just as
taxation is the sign of abuse towards others. The market is largely colour
blind, indifferent to homosexuality, but it does not privilege groups by
coercive law, as statist PC does, but then such privilege flouts the PC ideal
of equality, as politics cannot be even or just, to one and all.

Politics has to oppose some group as the enemy, a
Romantic ideal that is anti-liberal to its core but it is anti-equality too. So
PC ought to go free. Liberalism has an
institution
as an enemy rather than any class of people, including the
ignorant ruling class. De jure
statist equality law is always de facto
privilege.

When Enoch Powell said in 1968 that a constituent told
him that in ten years’ time the black man would have the whip hand over the white
men he might have replied that they already had the metaphorical whip hand since
1963, as the whites were under-privileged in relation to the blacks privilege owing
to the racial discrimination laws of that year.

Sean, the plain fact is that we have only just begun to
talk to each other theoretically. I
do hope we continue a little before we decide break off. I have no idea what
your ideas of class amount to. But I am an ex-smoker so not the best chap to
champion the liberal right to smoke, and similarly, as an ex-Marxist, I tend to
think class is sheer bosh rather as I tend to think that Christianity is, as an
ex-Catholic.

But I ought to confess that I do not mind being marginal,
or unnoticed, by my enemy the state. As people, I wish state employees, at any
level, no harm at all. The Enlightenment outlook, which I champion against the
Romantic reaction that reacted against it, has no enemies. That politics intrinsically
gratuitously uses proactive coercion against at least some people is the major
fault of the state and it is why politics can never be fair.



What is Politics?

Politics Posted on Sun, January 04, 2015 10:56:23

Why do people think politics
are a sign of concern but the market is not? Most people seem to have no idea
of what politics is. Many people, especially many students, feel all we do is
political but this is a de facto, if
unwitting, totalitarian outlook.

So when the state
spreads into fresh aspects of life, like trying to stop people smoking, or to
slim down, the de facto totalitarians
feel those zones were/are political already, as all that we do is somehow
political. So they feel the state need not be limited.

Politics is state
action in the main, though the state has a few rivals, like the coercive bodies
that we call Trade Unions. Politics is not just free decisions that affect
others but rather it is forceful or coercive action against others. Coercion is
the realistic threat of force or open violence; not mere speech about imaginary
force. The state has it. Some Trade Unions have it. Firms usually lack it
entirely. But a few firms in the past, maybe, had the use of coercion and thus they
were political.

A free market can
only emerge once the state ceases to exist. Many hold we cannot have a
free market. A lot of the LA members are such, as were most classical liberals;
but no anarchist agrees to that. Most liberals thought the state was a good
thing but they held that it is best to keep it to doing only a few things, like
keeping law and order.

The market gives the people way more control than politics ever could but
not over but rather in society. It is not central control that most might first
think of but rather it is polycentric control over our own affairs. David
Ricardo erred badly in comparing the use of money to votes, an inept
comparison that is still used in economics books today. If money was like votes
we would all be dead. Churchill was haply right to say that democracy was the
best form politics but it is still crass politics thus it is still illiberal
coercive action against other people. Thus politics is anti-social, not caring for
others, as fools feel to be the case. It is the jackboot, even when on the feet
of basically well-meaning people.

Many free decisions do
affect other people but they have no threat of force or violence, so they are
not political. Politics is about using force against other people. Politics is gratuitous
hostility towards others. It is thus very unfriendly.

Many might say that
free actions can be worse than violence might be in their impact. One foreman,
at a firm I worked for in the 1960s, used to often repeat that he would sooner
hit a man than sack him, and it was said that he had acted on this idea, often,
in the past, before I arrived, but I never saw anything like that from him;
though he was over six foot three inches tall and clearly physically fit enough to
repeat it again. In fact, he was a friendly chap but he did repeat his maxim
often. I used to reply that the sack might be better for them, but it is easy
to imagine some men who might agree with him.

This could be liberal
if he put the choice to the victim beforehand so that he could choose, but if
he assumed it, without consent, then it would be illiberal; but sacking a man
is no more illiberal than a man deciding to leave the firm. But if he is the
best worker in a small firm then it could cause the firm to decline. I recently
watched the 1950s film Hobson’s Choice (1954) that
featured that in its story line.

Most of society
[i.e. human interaction; this post is part of my society, for example] is
effectively free of coercion, thus it is apolitical. It even was such in the
late USSR; as Michael Polanyi realised, despite the mythology surrounding that
state.

There never was a
mixed economy or a state centrally planned driven economy either. It is quite true
to say there never was a free market too, but some, not all, in the LA think
the latter will be achieved some time in the future.

Monopoly is a reason
for expecting dysfunctional activity and the state is the sole cause of actual
monopoly, and near-monopoly too. Liberty is vital for human welfare.

Where we go, how we
make a living and the like, is best left to the individuals concerned. The
state should keep out of it. That is the basic pristine and anarcho-liberal creed.
But even well before we get rid of the state, money needs to be privatised, so
the 2008 financial mess can be dodged that fools on the mass media tend to
think was caused by free market values. One man more than any other who was for
loose money was Keynes and a great liberal propagandist [as even Keynes was
once] who aided the process , especially around 1970, was Milton Friedman.
Those who the mass media speak of as free marketers are often in favour
of state regulation. The USA is in a mess today owing to the national monopoly
of money. That alone would rule out a completely free market.



Can Libertarians be zionists?

Politics Posted on Mon, July 14, 2014 17:35:04

Libertarianism is all about maximising interpersonal Liberty. In
order to achieve this goal, Libertarians have identified the state as
the main obstacle to a free society. Many Libertarians are anarchists
for that reason. Some are minimal statists, who support a limited
mandate for a monopolists power to secure the rule of law. But even
the latter kind of Libertarians does realise that the state is a
great danger to liberty. They usually argue that practically states
cannot be completely abolished. If they were, a new state would
emerge automatically. But this new state would then be at risk of
being much more anti liberty then the previous one. Therefore,
Libertarians should work towards making the existing state more
minimal, rather then advocating to abolish them all together.

This is certainly a perfectly acceptable position to take within
Libertarianism. I personally happen to be an anarchist and personally
do not subscribe to the idea of minimising the state. I think this is
a dangerous strategy with very little prospects of success.
Nevertheless, I do see that minimal statists are libertarians, as
their goal still is to maximise liberty. We just happen to disagree
on the strategy.

In any case, this is of cause a very theoretical view of
Libertarianism. Currently, Libertarianism is picking up steam. It is
more and more developing into a real political movement. As this
happens, more and more people are coming to the party that are not
too concerned with details of what it means to be a libertarian.
There are now people calling themselves libertarians, who try to
introduce all kinds of positive liberty concepts into the Ideology.
This ranges from people arguing in favour of certain welfare
programs, to people arguing in favour of closed state borders. In
principal this is a very good sign. It means that Libertarianism has
become so strong that a lot of people, who are not really
Libertarians in the purest sense, nevertheless feel that
Libertarianism is the place to be. If Libertarianism wants to be
successful, it will need to tolerate a number of these people despite
the fact that they are not Libertarians in the most strict sense.

However, it is also clear that this tolerance needs to have some
limits. Otherwise Libertarianism will become meaningless and will
fail. The success of a political movements very much depends on how
successfully this line between Libertarians and non-Libertarians can
be drawn. That is why one needs to be a bit wary about people coming
to this movement with all kinds of positive liberty concepts. If I
was the Establishment, trying to get in control of a rising
libertarian movement, I would almost certainly try to make the word
meaningless, by defining libertarianism in my own way. This happened
to the word liberalism, which today in the english speaking world
describes someone who does believes the state needs to control
capitalism. The classical liberals, which were of cause libertarians
in the modern sense, made the mistake to integrate certain welfare
ideas, like state education, into their agenda.

Luckily, most people who don’t like liberty, so far don’t want to
call themselves Libertarians. But there are exceptions. One group of
people that I am particularly wary about are ‘Libertarians’ who are
also strong zionists. Zionism can mean all kinds of things, but here
I am referring to supporters of a jewish state in the middle east. It
seems very odd to me that Libertarians should support such a state.

There are two groups of arguments, why people may want liberty.
There are moral reasons on the one hand and utilitarian reasons on
the other. No matter which one you prefer, the Israeli project looks
rather bad from both angles. Why was there a zionist movement? There
were two main goals of zionism. At the end of the 19th and
the beginning of the 20th century, Jews were facing two
problems. In eastern Europe, where the majority of european jews were
living, and of course in Germany as well, Jews were facing an
increasingly hostile population. That lead some of them to conclude
that they will never we accepted. The other problem was, that there
were places in the world in which they were to well accepted. That
meant that jews increasingly stopped being jewish and simply adapted
to the local culture. The solution for the zionists seemed to be
clear. Jews needed their own homeland, a place in which they were the
domineering culture and in which they could be safe. So far so good.
From here on, the story could still end well from a Libertarian point
of view. The problem with zionism is that they decided to create a
jewish state on a territory largely owned by Palestinian Arabs.

First let us look to the decision to create a state. One of the
problems of statism is that it surprising consistently tents to
achieve the opposite of what it wants. If the state fights poverty,
you will get more poverty. If it fights gun violence, you will get
more gun violence. It it fights terrorism you will get more terrorism
etc. This should be a basic inside to every Libertarian. So jews
decided to use a state to make them more save and preserve their
culture. What would you expect to happen? Exactly, less security and
a destruction of the culture. And that is exactly what we are seeing.
Does anyone believe that jews are now more save or jewish culture
more prosperous since the state of Israel came into existence? So in
principal, the strategy of using a state to achieve any goal should
be highly suspicious to libertarians.

Unless we are talking about a minimal state, states are of course
highly problematic if you want to maximise liberty anyway. States
turn always out to be rent seeking organisations. They always produce
a class of people that is able to exploit the rest of society. Israel
was never intended and therefore never was anything close to a night
watchman state. It was planned to be a racist jewish state. One of
the earliest supporters of Israel was the Soviet Union. Although it
likes to count itself as a western country, Israel till this day has
a higher level of bureaucracy and regulations than other western
countries. And that although pretty much all western countries at
this point are closer to socialism than capitalism. It is a country
with a long military draft, state censorship of the media and even
legalised torture. Why, in principal would any Libertarian become
exited about such a state?

And then of course there is the big problem, the problem that any
supporter of Israel would rather not talk about. How come, jews are
now in a majority in a territory that when zionism started only had a
very small jewish population? The initial jewish population there got
along with the local Arabs without any major problems. And yet
supporters of Israel will tell you that all the opposition to Israel
comes from a vicious irrational anti-semitism. At first zionist,
indeed started to settle peacefully in the region. And if that was
all they were planning to do, there could be no objections from
Libertarians. Libertarians of course ought to support the movement of
people, free from government intervention. The problem was that they
had already decided and announced that they were planning a jewish
state in the region. They had won over the British, who occupied the
territory at the time as their ally in it. The British paid lip
service to the rights of the Arabs in the region. But the Arab
population, totally correctly started to sense that there was a
conspiracy being planned to make them second class citizens in their
own home. There were a number of Palestinian rebellions against the
British in the 1920th and 30th. Being good
imperialists, the British every time send over commissions to assess
why the Palestinians were rebelling. Every time they concluded that
it was obvious that they were rebelling against the prospect of a
state in the region that would make them second class citizens. When
the state of Israel was then announced, war broke out immediately. A
lot of Palestinians got out of the territory of the newly announced
state. It is still a bit of a dispute among historians, why they got
out. Were they forced out or were they fleeing from a war zone? It
was probably a mixture of both. But whatever it was, the fact remains
that after the war they were not allowed back onto their rightfully
owned property. Israel had to get them out in order to create a
jewish majority state. None of this is in any form compatible with
Libertarian principles. Zionism is an inherent collectivist and
statist ideology. Individual liberty does not play any role in it.

And yet, in these days when the conflicts gets escalated again by
Politicians, I see a lot of same proclaimed libertarians, waving
enthusiastically Israeli flags to support the government fighting
evil Palestinian terrorists. Not that there aren’t any terrorists
among Palestinians. But what is going on now has very little to do
with fighting terrorism. The Israeli government lied the people into
war operations. These war operations are pretty much the equivalent
of shooting fish in a barrel. The Israeli government with its highly
sophisticated military weaponry is bombing the homes of civilians in
Gaza. The people there are largely unarmed and literally locked up,
they cannot get out. Most of the casualties are women and children so
far.

But all of that does not seem to bother zionist Libertarians,
because you see, what is happening in gaza is self defence. And self
defence is of course perfectly compatible with libertarianism. The
Israeli, in their love for humanity are even calling a few minutes
before they hit a house. Isn’t that nice. No it isn’t! Because they
certainly do not check whether the people really got out. They
sometimes hit the wrong target. And anyway, since when are such acts
legal, without even a trial? Calling that self defence is like
justifying a rape with the argument that it is her fault, since she
was wearing a short skirt. But try to mention to a zionist Libertarian that the Israeli government might not always have the
best intensions, yes it may even sometimes outright lie to the
public, as it did to justify these airstrikes. You will be
immediately accused of being anti-semitic, a crazy conspiracy nutter
or both. According to zionist Libertarians, the state is bad, unless
it is fighting terrorists or is called Israel.

No sorry, this is not a form a Libertarianism that I can accept.
It basically rejects everything that libertarianism is about. The
reason why I am finding this particularly annoying is, because our
governments are all good allies of Israel. This state seems on a
suicide mission with its crazy policies. And because our governments
are supporting it, it is dragging us down with it. Every new enemy
Israel makes will also be an enemy of the rest of the west. Zionist
libertarians are supporting all these crazy policies of our
governments, because it is perceived to help Israel. They are
damaging the goals of Libertarianism and should therefore not be
allowed to get away with it.



exploitation

Politics Posted on Wed, April 09, 2014 20:03:15

exploitation
The two main meanings for this term are
1) using for gain (i.e., without intending any *moral evaluation
of the process), and 2) unfairly using for gain (possibly by “taking advantage
of someone’s weakness”). The main issue here is whether using *persons
within the framework of the *free market, is ever exploitation in the unfair sense;
and, if so, whether this is *rights-violating unfairness.

There is no ‘surplus value’
that the employer or ‘capitalist’ ‘extracts’ from the employee or ‘worker’, as *Marxist
theory has it. *Marginalist theory explains that the employee tends to
be paid his marginal product: exactly what he contributes to the business. Employers
and employees use each other to their mutual benefit. In particular, the
employer tends to offer the least wage he can to attract the necessary employees,
and the employees tend to take the greatest wages they can find. Typically, the
employers have a choice of employees and vice versa. Even where the choice of
either is severely restricted, by no unlibertarian means, it is hard to see how
it can be unfair (let alone rights-violating) for an employer to offer a ‘low’ wage
or for an employee to require a ‘high’ one. Both sides freely participate; both sides gain; there is no moral
obligation to pay more, or work for less, than we can; and flouting the market
rate of pay would disrupt *economic efficiency.

Mutual and voluntary ‘exploitation’
among persons is cooperation, not *oppression. The alternatives are 1) *aggressively
to impose a *privilege for one of the parties, or 2) aggressively
to prohibit such cooperation. The *state, by contrast, necessitates *proactively
imposed exploitation of its *subjects and this is both immoral and *criminal.

See also *competition and cooperation; *factors of production; *sweatshops; *unions.

A Dictionary of Libertarianism



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