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The July 6, 2019 issue of The Economist had a feature article on "The Global Crisi in Conservatism."  By which they mean the conservatism of gradualism tradition and social cohesion, not the deranged nationalism that seems to be pushing it aside. Might interest people as a reminder of what "conservative" once meant.

 

Still, it also reminds me that while I appreciate cautious and gradual change, recognizing that people are not infinitely flexible; and I appreciate the need for multiple institutional channels instead of focusing exclusively on the State as a medium for getting things done; I cannot ever consider myself "a conservative." Too often even the mildest and most superficially reasonable, Edmund Burke-style conservatism seems to act as an apology or figleaf for established wealth, power, and irrational prejudice. The same arguments used for "Why we must not disrupt the Traditional Family" or "Why we must accept wealth disparities" have so much the same form as "Why we must preserve slavery" or "Why we must burn heretics." It's like a Mad-Lib where you just plug in different words for whatever institution you don't want to change.

 

Dean Shomshak

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Another win for the right. Argue about what to call the concentration camps, while toddlers remain caged. Argue about whether Trump can be labeled a racist, while his racist actions go unchecked. As a delaying tactic, fighting over labels is incredibly effective. 

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19 minutes ago, Old Man said:

Another win for the right. Argue about what to call the concentration camps, while toddlers remain caged. Argue about whether Trump can be labeled a racist, while his racist actions go unchecked. As a delaying tactic, fighting over labels is incredibly effective. 

 

And in general, it's much nicer to argue about that than, let's say, what policies your donors / lobbyists are writing for you.  It wouldn't surprise me if they encourage it, just so they don't have to talk about taxes/etc.

 

There are a number of voters who seem to know that and like that it's a distraction... but they either are really happy with the concept of the Voting Teams (because politics is now football) or they must -really- like those tax cuts...

 

It's frustrating.  As a diehard environmentalist, it's especially frustrating.

 

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It's been Trump's M.O. since his election campaign: if the media are covering something problematic to him, he'll say something outrageous but that will play well to his base, so all their attention will be diverted to that.

 

He's been an object lesson that all the laws, rules, accepted conventions that are supposed to provide checks and balances in a democracy, are only as good as the people's willingness to respect them.

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I wonder how many people on the left will pick up the straight line Trump just handed them with his "You hate America, then leave" comments? Because while his followers claim to love America so much, they sure seem to hate the America that really exists right now.

 

And it would seem that Russia supplies what they crave. White Christian people are totally in charge, no non-white, non-Christian immigrants AFAIK, a "strong" leader, media obedient to authority (if they don't want to get whacked), etc.

 

I can already hear the late-night monologues and Saturday Night Live sketches.

 

Though the news story in the morning paper says Trump thinks he wins no matter how Dems react. If they come to the defense of AOC, Ilhan Omar and the others, he gets to paint the whole party as raving Socialists. If they don't, Dems look fractured. I just hope that this time, his tactical instincts are as defective as his morals.

 

Dean Shomshak

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Quick Googling...

 

A bunch of Presidents owned slaves. Some while they were in the White House, others not. Jefferson seems to have owned the most.

 

It's anachronistic to speculate on who would have if it had been legal during their lives, but Trump's father was a piece of work, and it wouldn't be hard to imagine Donnie inheriting some from him.

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10 hours ago, DShomshak said:

Though the news story in the morning paper says Trump thinks he wins no matter how Dems react. If they come to the defense of AOC, Ilhan Omar and the others, he gets to paint the whole party as raving Socialists.

There are times I wonder how many people who dump on socialism can actually define it.  They always point and say Venezuela (it's like the new Benghazi), but they never look at Canada, Sweden, Norway and the like.

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A lot of people don't have any understanding beyond basic talking points.  There's been a lot of 'memeing' since before it was a hobby for internet people.  I can say this about any particular movement or political party, but it's hair raising how destructive and galvanizing it has been for Trump in particular.

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I don't think any of the 26 Democratic presidential candidates, nor the 4 members of the "Squad"(the 4 freshmen congresswomen), have actually advocated workers' ownership of the means of production, so none of them are really socialists.  What they are, more generally, are Social Democrats, in the vein of FDR and LBJ, who both created and expanded the so-called welfare state.  Social Democrats see a role for government in offsetting the ill effects of capitalism--exploitation of labor, corruption, concentration of wealth, environmental pollution etc.--and providing a safety net for all citizens while distributing the benefits of prosperity more evenly throughout society.  

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The term "Socialism" today seems to have taken on the connotation for many Americans that "Communism" used to have: the antithesis of the American way of life. "Socialist" is used by no few Conservatives as a convenient label by which to categorize anyone who advocates changes to the socio-economic status quo as enemies of the people, thereby denigrating any of their arguments as being unworthy of consideration by real Americans.

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11 hours ago, Lord Liaden said:

The term "Socialism" today seems to have taken on the connotation for many Americans that "Communism" used to have: the antithesis of the American way of life. "Socialist" is used by no few Conservatives as a convenient label by which to categorize anyone who advocates changes to the socio-economic status quo as enemies of the people, thereby denigrating any of their arguments as being unworthy of consideration by real Americans.

 

I grew up in a largely socialist system of sorts. It was hardly perfect, had it's problems, and had it's share of jerks... but it was hardly the end of the country. You see, I was a military dependent.

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Well, yes, 'Socialism' has become just the latest scare-word of choice.

 

I looked it up in Scruton's A Dictionary of Political Thought and found nothing to which I objected. I'll see if I can dig up and repost the summary I posted when this subject came up a while ago.

 

Scruton began, however, by noting that 'Socialism' had become an extremely flexible term, meaning different things to different people.

 

Dean Shomshak

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Ah! Here we go. Warning: Long and a bit academic.

 

Now, socialism. For some Americans, trying to hold a rational and analytical discussion of socialism is like trying to hold a rational and analytical discussion of pedophilia: for them, the most important attribute of socialism is that it is EEEVIL and Un-American. Let us nevertheless see what the Dictionary of Political Thought has to say in defining socialism, without trying to argue whether it’s good or bad.

 

As a purely economic doctrine, I’ve been told that socialism simply means that the state exerts some control over the means of production and distribution. One should probably add: For conscious pursuit of social or political goals. After all, in Medieval Europe the feudal aristocracy controlled the principle means of production — land — but this was not for some conscious program of social engineering, so I don’t think it would be fair to call manorialism “socialist.”

Scruton notes that, as with so many political terms, “socialism” is a wide term. He sees two principal, though related meanings:

 

First, “In Marxian theory and official communist language… the means of production are taken into social ownership, and the state persists as an administrative machine, upholding a new order of legality, and a new system of rights, in such a way as to permit the emergence of true common ownership, and the eventual abolition of the state.” I.e., the state owns everything in the name of the workers and peasants, with the promise that the state will eventually become superfluous and the workers and peasants will own and control everything themselves — but in common, not individually.

 

(Scruton wrote his dictionary in 1982. Leaving aside the morality of socialism as practiced by the USSR and others, we may say this “hard-core socialism” has not fared well in experimental trials.)

 

[ADDENDUM: In practice, Communism seems very often to function as a way for tiny elites to extract wealth from the populace, in the exact opposite of its stated goals. Acemoglu and Robinson's Why Nations Fail discusses examples in some detail.]

 

In a second meaning, socialism is a philosophical and political doctrine that makes “a broad and comprehensive outlook on the human condition.” It’s also conceived as permanent, rather than a transitional stage to some future utopia. This broader interpretation of socialism is based on three postulates:

 

1) Equality: Equal opportunity as well as equal rights under law, with an eye toward equalizing outcomes for individuals. “The main consideration is that human beings have equal rights, since they are equal in every way relevant to those rights.”

 

2) The state as administrator: “The state is seen, not as the legal and ceremonial representation of civil society, but rather as a complex administrative device, designed to guarantee individual rights, and to distribute benefits among the citizens in accordance with those rights.” It must “provide and maintain the institutions which ensure that human goods — food, medicine, education, recreation — are made available to everybody on terms hat are as equal as possible.” But the state is not an end in itself; and it should not be used to propagate “religious doctrine, or nationalist ideology.” It is a powerful tool, but just a tool.

 

3) Elimination of systems of control. Class systems, hereditary privileges, and other means by which people control and compel each other violate the principle of equal rights, and so are unjust.

 

Private property receives special mention: “Private property is permissible, but only insofar as it does not amount to a system of control.” While “Type 2 Socialists” reject the hard-core Marxian condemnation of all private property as a means of privilege and control, and may believe that private property is a legitimate expectation of citizens in a well-ordered society, socialists do think that vast concentrations of wealth and property can harm the interests of society and the citizens. “Hence, the state must always be ready to nationalize major assets, and should curtail or forbid the transactions that lead to large-scale private accumulation — such as gifts and inheritance.”

 

As Scruton notes, socialism has a long and natural affiliation with labor movements, “for the obvious reason that, while it promises very little and threatens much to the class of property owners, it promises much and threatens little, or seems to threaten little, to the workers.”

 

He also notes that under Western parliamentary government, socialism has shown it can be implemented pragmatically, democratically and with compromise, without attempting to impose any of the three underlying principles in pure form. Some even say “this ‘parliamentary road to socialism’ is in fact a creature so different from the socialism of the communist state as to be only misleadingly called by the same name.”

 

Criticisms of “Type 2 socialism” reject one or more of its postulates, or see contradictions between them. For instance, some people insist that 1) is wrong and all people are not and should not be equal under law.

 

Some thinkers argue that the state must be treated as an end in itself in order to obtain the loyalty of the people: As a pure service-provider “it comes to seem arbitary and dispensable, and therefore holds increasing power with increasing instability.”

 

Other critics see a conflict between 2) and 3), arguing that the all-pervading power of the state merely creates another self-interested élite. It is also argued that the ideal of “social justice” that runs through 1) and 3) is “incompatible with the assertion of natural rights and freedoms.”

 

I don’t see anything monstrous in this “type 2 socialism.” Arguable, either in theory or practice, but nothing outside the normal bounds of rational discourse. In fact, I accept postulate 1) without reservation; and I agree with postulate 2) with reservations (I see the state as a rational machine for achieving practical goals, but accept that to achieve those goals it may need to pretend to some greater majesty). 3) seems to be where the practical difficulties seem greatest, though I appreciate the goal. It’s a bad joke to talk of “rights” and “freedom” to people who are externally constrained by poverty, racism, etc. from being able to exercise them.
 

Dean Shomshak

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