Friday, July 01, 2011

This is Great?

Got an email last night with a link to this video attached.  The subject line was "This Is Great".

It's a satire video, clearly aimed at the Tea Party.  Only satire works a whole lot better when it is making fun of real people, not a fictional fantasy group of people that you have projected onto another.

It starts out with people at the beach, who discover signs that say it is a Public Beach, and then they ask, "Isn't that -- SOCIALISM?"

No, it isn't, and this Tea Partier doesn't know anybody who would say it is.   So it pretty much misses the mark as far as real people, but I suppose it's spot on to the fictional group of people the media has made us out to be.

It goes on to ridicule these fictional people who don't believe in any environmental regulations or public property such as parks or beaches.   Ha ha. (it defends itself by noting that some Capital "L" Libertarians have talked basic anarchism up for quite some time. But the Tea Party and sympathizers Glenn Beck and Ted Nugent ... aren't such Libertarians and their images were used in the video.)

Now this guy is not a leftist.  He used to be a hard core Libertarian, and maybe he assumes I am because I use it with a lower "l" as an adjective to describe myself .... a libertarian conservative.   But he quit work many years back and went to college, only to never be gainfully employed again save a part-time job here and a part time job there, and has been hanging out with Intellectuals™ feeling awfully smart.   I think it's got something to do with compensating for low self-esteem, flailing around for something to be superior about.

He's latched on to Catholic Social doctrine that developed out of Leo XII's Rerum Novarum, and does not see our Founders' vision and the Constitution as compatible with it.  At one point he said he sees "nothing good" about what our Founders built.  

I fired back that this was a misrepresentation of most Tea Partiers position -- that it was ignorant or dishonest.  He replied that it must be true because it obviously "hit home" and irritated me.   Well, you know it "hit home" the way someone accusing an innocent person of, say, robbery -- would "hit home". 

The subject line on his reply was a tip-off.  It was simply, "Polemic".

People who use words like "polemic" in every-day conversations are trying to prove something to themselves and to those they are talking to.  Nobody uses "polemic" outside of academics speakin' the lingo.   And I do think he was way too impressed by the academics he's been hanging around.  It goes along with words like "heteronormative", "hegemony", and "reify". 

And as Severian put it, there's a certain hyper-specificity (ok, now am I being a hypocrite here? ;-)  Nah.  Everyone knows what "hyper" and "specific" mean) to his argument, in that he had to insert a definition of capitalism into the email so that it was clear what he was talking about.

Capitalism: an economic system that prioritizes property over persons, recognizes no limits on the accumulation of property, rewards accumulation of token wealth, presumes that the only criterion for judging the justice of a contract is the absence of fraud, presumes that every individual is free to reject any contract offered, and that the common good is advanced by this.
Well is that, down to the last dotted "i" what you mean when you talk about "capitalism"?  Because if it isn't, there's no point in arguing with him.  But it's a bit of a red herring anyway, because capitalism isn't a morals system or even a cultural blueprint.  Nobody "designed" capitalism and imposed it on us.   It is natural human behavior.  It was observed and described.   And if you're looking to it for moral guidance, you're looking in the wrong place.

In his email he also said that the Constitution is horribly incomplete.   Of course, when you design in an amendment process that is a de-facto recognition that it might be incomplete. But more importantly, it really wasn't designed to be a morals system, either.  If you are looking to the Federal Government for moral guidance, you're looking in the wrong place.  That's not what it's for.   If you're looking for your house to feed your kids, you're looking in the wrong place.  That's not what it's for.

It was written to unite the several states, to guarantee certain rights, put the power in the hands of The People, and to restrict the Federal Government so that it would be difficult to abuse, because the Founders' recognized the imperfection of humans, including and perhaps especially their own.

Capitalism is what it is.  It is not a belief system or a political system like socialism or communism or fascism.   It's just human nature.   The Founders put a few curbs on it to outlaw fraud, and otherwise treats us as big boys -- to be self-reliant and teach our children to be the same.

As a matter of fact, (and I should put this somewhere more prominent) I think that pretty much sums up my beliefs on what makes for a good person and thus good social rules for living.

Self-reliance, personal responsibility, empathy, charity, and a recognition of the weaknesses inherent in the human condition.   Christianity calls this "sin".  Christ himself said even the just man sins seven times daily.  

This last bit is important for several reasons.   If we don't expect people to be self-reliant and personally responsible, blanket charity becomes a crutch and a hinderance.   If we don't help people when they truly can't make it for whatever reason, it makes us a cold society.  But if we can't decide for ourselves, each and every individual one of us, when to give and when to stop -- when it has become counter-productive, we encourage this crutch and encourage larger swaths of society to be dependent on them -- and everyone is the poorer for it.

This is why government ideally has no place in the charity business.   But that does not mean that we don't have a place in it.    When you look to government for it, you're looking in the wrong place.


Whitehawk said...

"Well is that, down to the last dotted "i" what you mean when you talk about "capitalism"? Because if it isn't, there's no point in arguing with him. But it's a bit of a red herring anyway, because capitalism isn't a morals system or even a cultural blueprint. Nobody "designed" capitalism and imposed it on us. It is natural human behavior. It was observed and described. And if you're looking to it for moral guidance, you're looking in the wrong place."

Excellent point Philmon. Capitalism doesn't establish a morality -unlike any other economic system in the world. To be sure Christianity (a moral system) tempered capitalism to minimize its abuses in American history. Even the Chinese recognised this in a recent study.

Capitalism is not a source of morality but those who hate it are the first to say their prefered economic system e.g. socialism is "morally" superior to capitalism. It confuses the issue.

In reality, they are seeking to use socialism, an economic system, to impose their morality... social justice.

When the governemnt tightly controls the levers of an economy, those with the "right beliefs" and those who have "gotten their mind right" are the one who get the green lights to succeed.

Capitalism has no such prejudices.

jeffmon said...

It's not polemic, anyway. Polemic needs to have its arguments rooted in fact. The video is an example of a meme and may therefore be safely and very promptly dismissed. Way different.

And I don't know where that definition of capitalism came from. My only real beef with it is the first phrase:

"...prioritizes property over persons..."

Spoken like a socialist. A real one. Or a Democrat. Or someone with prejudice, trying to taint a discussion.

How about:

"Capitalism is an economic system in which the means of production are privately owned and operated for profit." -Wikipedia (Oh Noes!!!)

Or how about:

A system which favors the existence of capitalists.

where a capitalist is:

One who has accumulated capital; one who has capital available for employment in financial or industrial enterprises. -Oxford English Dictionary

Call me old-fashioned, I'll stick with the OED.

Severian said...

"...prioritizes property over persons..."

God, the reek of self-righteousness coming off that is worse than b.o., garlic, and chili farts combined. I wonder what this jagoff would say to my definition of socialism:

an economic system that prioritizes faceless bureaucrats and red tape over individuals, recognizes no limits on the government's accumulation of power or property, rewards conformity by assigning moral kudos to people who further its ends, presumes that the only criterion for judging the justice of a contract is that it transfers wealth from the productive to the unproductive, presumes that virtue inheres in society's misfits but that "the rich" are by definition evil, believes in confiscating the wealth of some to subsidize others who make no contribution to the public fisc, is characterized by extreme sanctimony and narcissism... and that the common good is advanced by this.

If I could be one-tenth as wonderful as all leftists think they are when they write this recycled, jargonated gobbledygook, I'd be Mother friggin' Theresa.

philmon said...

Well, it got even better. In a later reply I got this:

> Capitalism wasn’t designed and imposed, it was observed and described.

I described what I observe going on around me. Its defenders call it “Capitalism”. So do its opponents.

> It is an economic system, not a social one.

This is hilarious. And typical. But you contradict yourself later… I think.

> It is not meant to value people

Which is why it has to go.

Capitalism has to go. So he's gone full-on progressive, right down to the "I laugh so your argument is invalid" defense.

And, ahem "typical".

Well, there are reasons I won't get abusive with this guy. Jeffmon nailed it with the "meme" bit, though.

As did Whittle.

Severian said...

Yeah, "it has to go." To be replaced by what, exactly?

Whatever else it is, capitalism is, at bottom, the exchange of stuff for other stuff. The only way to stop people from exchanging stuff for other stuff is to centralize production and exchange. Massive government and extreme coercion are features, not bugs, of that system. Which I'm sure is groovy for the centralizer, but not so hot for the workers.

I will believe these "capitalism has to go" people are serious when one of them volunteers to go be a factory hand or a subsistence farmer for the sake of "social justice." Not everybody gets to be a commissar in the socialist utopia, comrade...

philmon said...

From what I gather, some nebulous idea of "solidarity". Which is awesome. On the economic model, the idea he subscribes to is to allow business licences to be for sale for $x. If you want to expand into another business, the next license might be $2x, etc to basically keep people from having things like supermarkets. Back to the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker.


And solidarity is great. When it's voluntary. Just like fun, solidarity -- when it's mandatory ... isn't.

Like other progressives, it sounds to me like he wants government to mandate a new human nature. In my book, you can no more extricate "capitalism" from human nature than you can extricate hunger or fatigue from it, or gravity from bodies of mass.

Eggheads, sitting in a room talking about abstractions of abstractions, laughing haughtily about ideas that aren't, and pretending they have come up with a holistic guide to planned society that's gonna work this time, because they'll be the ones in charge.

Severian said...

Leveled licenses... that's cute.

It's back to the WalMart thing, I see. I finally realized the mindset I was dealing with when I got into an argument with a colleague over WalMart. My argument -- which I feel is irrefutable -- is that WalMart dramatically raises the standard of living in rural areas, since it lowers the cost of everyday items and even brings "luxury" goods well into reach of limited budgets. Say what you will about its effects on the local Mom-and-Pop, its labor practices, "globalization," and what have you-- and these are all serious issues -- the fact that you've dramatically improved the everyday lives of "The Poor" and "The Workers" has to trump just about everything in the calculus of caring, right?

You know... if liberals really believed all that crap they spew about privileging "people over property."

But no. WalMart is Bad, and they are Good, and therefore WalMart has to go, and if it hurts the blue collar communities they're so all-fired concerned about... well, you can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs and all that, right, comrade?

philmon said...

nd if it hurts the blue collar communities they're so all-fired concerned about... well, you can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs and all that, right, comrade?

Zing! Severian strikes again. Awesome! ;-)

Cylarz said...

I'd argue that capitalism isn't an economic system at all, but in fact the lack of one.

Let me explain what I mean. Define for me the word "weather." Now I'm sure you could come up with a dictionary definition of the word, but in practice, the word "weather" is by definition actually bad weather.

A warm sunny day is actually the lack of weather when you think about it. When we get some weather, it means we get a storm, some wind, some rain, whatever. There is really no such thing as good weather per se.

In like manner, capitalism could be defined as simply the lack of central planning associated with communism, the lack of controls associated with socialist or fascist economic systems. Capitalism is the government staying out of the business of private commerce. It consists of the government doing nothing...nothing to interfere with buyers and sellers meeting directly to negotiate prices and exchange goods & services.

One could argue that capitalism has to be refereed at some level, lest monopolies appear which eventually become so big and powerful as to impose a de facto communism on the market all their own. This scenario appeared in the late 19th century and eventually led to laws like the Sherman Antitrust Act. Whether you agree that was a necessary step or not, the fact remains that pure capitalism is found nowhere on Earth. All governments are socialist by definition, the only question is, "To what extent?"

Unfortunately, some want government to go beyond merely ensuring a competitive marketplace. They want it to pick the winners and losers, or even abandon the role of referee and become a coach or even a player.

It's illogical to say "capitalism has to go." There's nothing to get rid of; what he means is the imposition of socialist economic controls because he views the current setup as unfair in some way. (Isn't it interesting that the people who've actually lived under communism, usually want no part of it? Funny how many Poles and Czechs and Bulgarians want to vote Republican when they get over here...)

The fact that the Soviet Union is no longer around, should have been the end of the discussion for all time as to which was the superior set of economic ideas. And no, it wouldn't have mattered if someone else had been in charge.

Cylarz said...

As much as I like Wal Mart, I had to snicker at hearing them complain that online retailers are cutting into their business.

It was the CEO of or Amazon or something, on hearing Wal Mart complain about this, said (and I'm paraphrasing), "Wal Mart came into town and put all kinds of small companies out of business. They said it was a new business model and that change was in the wind. Now, the Internet is giving them a taste of their own medicine. They've got some nerve complaining about it." And I don't really understand the griping, because Wal Mart sells plenty of stuff online, too.

philmon said...

I hadn't heard anything about WalMart complaining. Are we sure they were complaining rather than just pointing out a fact that they're going to have to deal with? I could buy that more easily. But we do have a lot of whiners around here, for sure.

As far as Capitalism being the "lack of" an economic system... that's kind of what I was getting at. I don't know that it's so much a lack of one as it is a lack of an externally imposed one.

It exists like metabolism exists in living things. Oh I suppose you could say that God designed it, and I could buy that. But it is what naturally happens in the course of human affairs.

We may want our metabolism to be different... perhaps run on silicon or something, but that's not what it was designed to run on, and it will fail if you try. Or we could try to live on bread alone, but we all know that won't work, either. Not for terribly long before things start going haywire.

Capitalism is the economic system built in to human nature.

Whitehawk said...

"It exists like metabolism exists in living things. Oh I suppose you could say that God designed it, and I could buy that. But it is what naturally happens in the course of human affairs."

One of our Founders (at the moment I can't remember which) noted that private property (the lowest common denominator of capitalism) is referred to twice in the Ten Commandments.

God may very well have designed this aspect of human nature.