Tuesday, May 21, 2013

note taking my comments elsewhere.
"a class of people who are better than the rest of us, on whom we depend for our salvation and prosperity"

That sentence is a hoot. We're left to choose between the elitism of the rich or of economists and technocrats. Philosophy professors refer to "the folk". Somehow I doubt James Kwak and Mark Thoma would consider themselves folk. And DeLong?

It drives me nuts that our technocratic elite, with their fixation on ideas are so willfully ignorant of their own complexities, simply as people.

Logicians and moralists divide the world in twos, but the law of non-contradiction doesn't apply to books any more than people.  Nietzsche connects to fascism; a lot of people did and do. The problem he faced as we do is how to come to terms with the modern desires for "equality" and "liberty".  Hayek and Rand are secondary and minor figures facing the same questions.

The old aristocracy and the intellectuals around it were both anti-bourgeois and anti-capitalist, and in their contempt for mediocrity in bourgeois culture they had a point, which is why so much of the cultural left over the past 200 years has been intellectually aristocratic.  Foucault learned from the Surrealists and Symbolists, Baudelaire, Stendhal and Tocqueville.  The flaneur is aristocratic observer. Technocracy qua technocracy, in service to itself, gets us this:
"Italian rules allowing candy makers to label their products as “pure chocolate” breach European Union law, the region’s highest court said.
Permitting chocolate made from pure cocoa butter to be called “cioccolato puro,” or “pure chocolate,” clashes with EU-wide measures which allow chocolate laced with vegetable fats to be marketed as chocolate, the tribunal in Luxembourg said."
That's not an important example but it's part for whole.
A focus on the mean puts downward pressure on the mean.

Robin mocks [links below]: “The ancients sought virtue, a life of excellence lived in and through the polis; the moderns (Machiavelli, Descartes, Bacon, Hobbes, and Locke) perpetrate ‘a lowering of aims.’ ”

If everyone is equal then its just a small shift to say we can refer only to averages: the average man becomes the benchmark for analysis by the new elite. And there is a new elite. What do you think it means every time Krugman says "it's a bit technical". Equality? No.  And of course experts can make stupid mistakes, and who's the first to get hurt? Any engineer can lecture you on efficiency, redundancy and stability, but somehow efficiency makes economics take on the character of a morality play. If I were less of a determinist I'd be shocked.

An exchange with Chris Bertram:
SE: "Arguments for the nobility of greed are a recent development."Bertram: "If, by “recent” you mean 1705, you may be right."
I wasn't raised to think of greed as noble. Yet somehow in the minds of technocratic liberals, facts became ideals, and actions became secondary, so we get elitists preaching equality, meaning the equivalence of everyone in the majority to each other, while taking their own superiority for granted. Technocracy is not democracy.

Democracy is founded on obligations before freedoms.  Libertarians are finally open in their dislike for democracy; maybe it's time defenders of democracy should develop a healthy skepticism regarding freedom defined as individualism. Freedom of speech serves the health of the polis.  And maybe compulsory education should extend over the course of a life.

If you pay attention to the culture that produced you, you'll understand your contradictions. If you think you're not contradictory, you're wrong. Too many liberals think saying "I'm a nice guy" makes it so. And of course, if I am what I say I am, others are what I say they are too.  According to Cory Robin, Nietzsche and Burke are bad guys.  Robin's arguments are based in simplistic assumptions about history, historical figures, and himself. His writing is shallow and obvious.  His primary politics is self-promotion.

US mythology includes puritans and drunks, Carry Nation and John Wayne; individualized self-righteousness is the only universal. Scandinavian mythology includes Janteloven. Social democracy wasn't the product of an idea; the ideas were the product of a culture.  If you want to debate social democracy, as I've it would make sense to read Henning Mankell before John Rawls, and read for contradictions and questions not ideas.

Responding to two comments:

1-"The wealthy are not better than the rest of us. The 1% have taken the opportunity of the past 40 years and managed all the gains in production…"

The US has 4.5% of the population of the planet. Think, just for a minute.

2-"I'm not particularly a Hayek fan, but bald statements like this are pitiful.
'Hayek cared about liberty for ultimately elitist reasons: liberty is not an end in itself, but a condition that enables the select few to make the world a better place'
How about a citation that doesn't require starting with an assumption of corrupt motives?"

Technocrats left and right refer to the need to foster "progress" and "innovation". What percentage of the population does that directly refer to? The majority are supposed to benefit from these policies only because as employees they've been given jobs. Pundits demand increased funding for education in science and technology for a new generation of leaders not for teaching all 5th graders, brilliant or not, the foundations of the Bill of Rights. A popular econ blogger (or at least one with a PhD in economics) says: 
"I'm not sure why people are surprised and even upset that some teenagers don't know who the hell bin Laden is." 
I won't even ask if they know anything about the Vietnam war, or any one before it.
But I'm sure his friends kids know something. They're the educated elite.

Another blogger, an academic whom I doubt any of you would read says:
"Yesterday, I asked 130 students in my American Government class: who has never ever heard of a country called Lebanon? Some 40 students raised their hands."
Leave it to someone born in another country to make the point a native born American would not. It's safe to say I won't be able to talk to most of you about economics for the same reason I won't be able to talk to you about foreign policy. One is no more or less based on science than the other.

The American Dream has done more damage to the world than born again Christianity, but American liberals defend one while being horrified by the other, as if they had no relation.

"They have the power. Look around and see what they have done with it."
Yes we do. And power corrupts.

Read the Krugman link above. It's not just wrong it's stupid. Krugman is fond of saying the economics is not a morality play, but the his defense of free trade is founded on cheap moralism.

Dean Baker complains that proposals to eliminate SS income for billionaires would be unfair. That's an argument from normative American morality, not logic.

The debate on blogs like this one is part of a debate among the elite in and out of power.
Let me express my condolences to her two surviving sons John Evron and Stuart Alan Kirkpatrick, whom she loved beyond all measure.
She was a good friend to my grandfather Earl. She was an American and a world patriot: her counsel--even at its most boneheaded--was always devoted to advancing the security of the United States and the cause of liberty and prosperity around the world."
"Efrain Rios Montt." The three words you need to know this week.

Dani Rodrik's defense of his father in law, a Turkish General.
"The military has long set the ground rules of Turkish politics. Its hard line defending secularism has resulted in frequent clashes with political movements it views as "soft" on Islam, such as the Justice and Development Party (AKP), which has governed the country since November 2002. Periodically, the military has intervened, bringing down governments and, on occasion, establishing periods of military rule, most recently from 1980 to 1983."
Kwak: "Corey Robin's fascinating article on nineteenth-century European culture".
That sentence is bizarre. It's written from the logic of an elite happily unaware of its place as an elite. "Oh, I don't know anything about power, I only deal in numbers and logic".

The logical foundation to any argument by American liberals is that other people are the problem. Just as American individualist liberalism is the product of American culture, "the Scandinavian anomaly" in economics is the product of Scandinavian culture. There is nothing new in Robin's article. What he adds is moralism.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal". DeLong doesn't believe that; Krugman doesn't believe that; Rodrik doesn't believe that; I don't believe that; and neither do you. Robin wants to pretend he does, so he needs to describe a Manichean world. He writes for a journal published by graduates of Phillips Exeter and Harvard and named for 18th century revolutionary terrorists. In 200 years another crew will name their journal "Hamas". It's safe to say I won't be able to talk to most of you about economics for the same reason I won't be able to talk to you about foreign policy, because that obvious point, a cheap observation about cheap politics, is lost on you.
"I like to walk about among the beautiful things that adorn the world; but private wealth I should decline, or any sort of personal possessions, because they would take away my liberty." George Santayana
Santayana was not a liberal. I am. But I learn from him as I learn from Burke. I learn from Nietzsche. I learn as much from Robin as I learn from Ayn Rand, or Hayek, or Likudniks and Salafists. I learn about fear and pathology.

Libertarianism isn't an idea it's an ideology, extended from ideas most of you share; that why you go over it as much as you do. Hayek is debated in American academia the way Islamic scholars in other countries argue over Sayyid Qutb. The myopia is the same.
In the end, all simply product of the times.

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