Open Discussion

This post is the result of an animated discussion that took place between four o’clock and seven o’clock this evening (30 December) at Old City Hall in Oswego, NY.

I invite discussion of the following proposition:

The Left destroys everything it touches – including socialism.

27 thoughts on “Open Discussion

  1. Mises argument explaining why socialist decision making goes wrong and strangles everything in red tape is independent of left or right. The larger the scale, the harder the problems identified by Mises. Socialism on the scale of the family works. Maybe socialism on the scale of the Lord of the Manor would not fail so badly.

    Hayek’s argument explaining why socialist decision making tends to evil primarily applies to left wing socialism, but Nazi socialism was not a huge improvement.

    • I have read Mises and Hayek and I understand their expositions.

      In the conversation at the bar this evening, I made the following points to my main interlocutor:

      Under the right-leaning Democrat-Party and fiscally responsible Republican-Party governments of California in the period between, let us say, 1950 and 1980, public high-school students who graduated in the top four per cent of their class were invited to attend the State University of their choice. There was a small fee. In 1972, when I began as a freshman, it was called a “registration fee” and it was around fifty dollars. Of course the student had to buy books and either live at home or pay for lodging near campus, but these things were also inexpensive. In the 1980s, a baccalaureate holder from the University of California with good grades and some recommendations was virtually guaranteed acceptance in a matching graduate program. The number of scholarships and fellowships was large although the “filtration rate” at the master’s degree was high. I am the beneficiary of these arrangements. I have never accrued any education-related debt. (Neither has my wife, who completed her undergraduate education in New York State, but her graduate education in California.)

      Since 1980, under the Left-Democrat regime in California, the cost of any degree, undergraduate or graduate, from the University of California, has increased many-fold and a large percentage of degree-holders take away tens of thousands of dollars in loan-related debts. The degrees mean less and less.

      One difference between then and now is population. There are at least fifty per cent more people in California now than there were in 1970. Another difference is the demographic of that population – much more homogeneous then and much more heterogeneous (and fractious) now.

      The rationale of this system was that Californians, as a community, agreed that they needed educated people to help run their society, and they were willing to pay for it.

      Is this agreement in contradiction with the principles of The Orthosphere?

      • If ‘help run their society’ and ‘educated people’ mean what someone plucked from pre-collapse times would have assumed they mean, then I would say the principle is — or, more to the point, was — basically sound although, by 1980, an unusually perceptive and principled leadership might have seen what was coming and taken prudential steps. Today, those are loaded phrases and the fact that the schools still turn out ‘educated people’ to ‘help run society’ is an ironic truth.

    • I think it is not scale that ruins socialism. It is the nature of the group to which is applied. There are two kinds of groups: groups with a genetic or love bond (family, groups of friends, people in a village or a commune, clan, tribe) or groups without such a bond (nation, world), which are only a atomized group of individuals. Following (although my idea is slightly different), I will name the former “communities” and the latter “societies”.
      Some of these groups (both societies and communities) have transference of resources: that is, some members of the group give resources to other members (fathers to children, rich people to poor people). But this transference can be willing or non-willing.

      In communities, the giver of resources is giving them willingly. So fathers give resources to their children with no coercion. This is because they love them.

      In societies, members of the group don’t give a damn about other members. So members are not willing to give their resources to others. There must be a government that enforces this transference must under a threat of prison or death. This is socialism.

      So socialism is trying to impose to a nation the same solidarity that a family has. “The grapes of wrath” used the “human family” conception to refer to socialism. This is why it fails. It goes against human nature.

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  3. I’ll paraphrase someone (I forget who), in reminding you that today’s Leftist is an SJW who sits in the HR department of a major corporation.

    • I condemn and revile all SJW’s and “Human Resources” people. To Hell with them! And the sooner, the better. My question is: Has the Left destroyed socialism?

      • That was in fact my response to the original question. The new Left is, de facto, in ideological lock step with the big capitalist corporations. They’ve left economic socialism behind, in favour of SJWism, Starbucks lattes and Hollywood billionaires.

  4. In China it seems to me that, if you define socialism in the strictly Marxian way, the communists have or are in the process of destroying it. Regardless of whether the turn toward free markets has been brought about by forces beyond the control of the Communist Party or is to some degree a deliberate plan to create a larger cow to milk or a bit of both, the experience of China (and Russian and Viet-Nam, etc.) supports the view that classical Marxism cannot be sustained — that it destroys itself one way or another. But if you think of socialism as a phase of progression toward totalitarianism then socialism is alive and well in China.

    In the West, I expect that leftists will continue to dominate and that leftist policies will eventually cause an economic collapse from which they would most likely emerge in an ever stronger position which is to say that the totalitarian future will probably be realized and that, with every subsequent collapse, the immense strength of the modern state would continue to sustain ‘socialism’ indefinitely.

    I ask God for faith and for understanding. These challenges are really tests of faith. The proverbial Chinese curse is actually a blessing. Keep the faith.

    I wish there was an Old City Hall around here.

    • I think Nassim Taleb coined the Black Swan event that occurs completely out of left field yet seems obvious in retrospect. The same could happen to socialism and the power of the modern state to impose it.

      No kingdom empire or society lasts forever.

    • Old City Hall is an organic outgrowth of a very peculiar place. Oswego is, in a way, the end of the world – if you keep driving once you get here, your car had better be equipped with a snorkel. Old City Hall’s proprietor is a product of the hippy-dippy, rock-and-roll 1970s, who nowadays holds his nose while he votes Republican. Larry cultivates his characters, and the premises are, by a conscious intention, an actual First-Amendment-style free-speech area.

      PS. The odious Garrett Smith was nominated as a presidential candidate in the auditorium on the third floor of Old City Hall, which in the Nineteenth-Century was one of Oswego’s two “Opera Houses.” The odious John Brown was present. Sigismund Thalberg and Louis Moreau Gottschalk played recitals there – Gottschalk three times. Earlier, James Fenimore Cooper, who had relatives in Oswego, liked to visit the building, which, at the time, was the Customs House, with a daily market in season where the bar is now. These are among the many reasons why it is impossible to have an Old City Hall just anywhere.

      Thorne Smith wrote The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit in Oswego; Rod Serling, who hailed from Syracuse, rented a cottage at Oswego’s “Loop” in summers to work on The Twilight Zone in the late 1950s.

  5. Pingback: Open Discussion | Reaction Times

  6. @Tom – Certainly you are correct – the New Left destroyed the Old Left. The Old Left’s premier heroes/ victim group were the Proletariat who were in practice the white, male, native working class in industrial occupations. And the Old Left was focused on economic issues.

    I was raised in the Old Left (in Britain, where it was invented and powerful – the large Trades Unions leadership were equal/ dominant partners in several Labour Governments of the twentieth century) and when the New Left ideas (sexual revolution, feminism, antiracism etc) began to filter-in from the US from the late 1960s they seemed alien and hostile to the Old Left — and they were.

    Having said this the New Left grew from the Old, most of the leopards of the Old Left changed their spots and became New (rather than leaving, or seeing the error of their ways), and clearly the seeds of the New were always present in the Old.

    wrt Christianity – the Old Left in England was substantially (but not fundamentally) Christianized – for example the Anglo Catholics became Christian Socialists, and Nonconformists such as Methodists were influential in the Labour movement.

    But the more Leftist Leftism became, the less Christian it became; because the two were in opposition. Leftism is most accurately regarded as Christian apostasy: the history of Leftism is the history of a leaving-of Christianity, and *not* the story of a Leftist ‘heresy’ – as non-Christian Rightists incorrectly assume.

    This is obvious from the fact that the positive programme of the non-religious Right is a type of Leftism – for example National Socialism, Fascism, or the recent theoretical-Neoreaction; and all the supposed ‘Far Right’ parties of modern Europe and the UK are actually mostly-Leftist parties (with a few exceptions, such as attitudes to immigration), if their economic and social policies are examined.

    (In fact there is no real political ‘Right’ – the true polarity is between Religion and (various types of) the Left – including communism, socialists, social democracy, conservative and republican parties, libertarians, fascists and national(ist) socialists, and the (theoretical) Alternative Right/ Neoreactionary intellectuals, feminism, antiracism, and the sexual revolutionaries).

    Your implicit point is therefore correct – that the Left is *intrinsically* destructive; in other words it has no real and stable positive programme (only expedient/ discardable/ tactical policies for getting power and attacking Christianity, tradition, effectiveness etc) – and its true underlying (mostly implicit) programme is the destruction of everything Good.

    So the Left destroys itself, esepcially its own Good aspects (because there was originally much Good on the Left, despite that it was mistaken).

    What disguises the obviousness of the historical process is the fact that this destruction is done by incremental stages, and by *rotation* of targets, with today’s ‘good’ becoming tomorrow’s intolerable wickedness. Thus the Left routinely uses one Good to attack another Good – e.g. using fairness to attack justice – but then turns and attacks the Good principle it has just used as a justification for ‘reform’ – as when fairness is attacked for being racist.

    But this is to be expected when a movement is fundamentally and intrinsically destructive.

    • I don’t think everyone posits right-left as religion v. the Left, as you put it, although you are free to define your terms and paradigms as you wish. I might posit right-left as: Evaluation of something outside the human individual v. ultimate value only in the human individual.

      Under this definition, even explicitly Leftist denizens (think stodgy old Communists) give off a conservative feel, for instance when faced with rainbow warriors disapproving of Communism’s condemnation of homosexuality as bourgeois decadence. The Ultimate Left revolves around “self-actualization” (What does Comrade Justice Kennedy call it? Define one’s own meaning?), while the defunct labor socialism feels relatively “Right.”

      Cartesian epistemology and Kantian ethics are destructive of knowledge and duty.
      The Left does not simply destroy; it IS destruction.

      • “Cartesian epistemology and Kantian ethics are destructive of knowledge and duty.” It has occurred to me that no terrorist atrocity actually violates Kant’s categorical imperative.

      • I agree with you but I don’t think the vocabulary is accurate. There is a fundamental division: believing in a non-human standard (God’s will, virtue, The Good as in Plato) or not believing (or not caring about it, at least at the societal level). In today’s Western culture, the former are the reactionaries (today we are a tiny minority).

        The latter are everybody else (and the vast majority of intellectuals since Descartes) and can be progressive (the ones that led the destruction of society) and conservatives (the ones that want to preserve yesterday’s progressivism). The vanguard and rearguard of the revolution. The Right and the Left. Both of them are destructive because the philosophy created by Descartes is destructive. Since the Left is more evident, we believe the Right is not destructive but it is, although in a lesser degree.

  7. Recently I saw a book in a local bookstore trying to describe the communist regime in Czechoslovakia as basically fascist. I did not read the book so I don’t know how it’s author arrived to such conclusion.

    At first I thought of it as another attempt to describe everything not sufficiently liberal and democratic as fascist but then I realized that it’s at least partially true. There is an overlap between those two antagonistic movements. Both were collectivist, nationalist (communism of the fifties built upon Slavic nationalism of the late 19th century) and totalitarian. To modern conscious Leftist (and to lesser extent to classical liberal) all of this must sound awfully fascist. To an ordinary member of modern liberal, democratic, individualist and consumerist society it is just embarassing and I am appalled how much we differ from our grandfathers.

    I agree with bonald that honest future historians will not describe 20th century in terms of fight of capitalism and free societies against socialism and totalitarian societies. I also agree with Zippy that modern leftism is descendent of classical liberalism and that modern Leftist is right to be anxious that his dreamed “tolerant” society (“sentimental” in Weaver’s words) might collapse into its “commufascist” totalitarian version (“brutal”).

    • Dear RT: As I am trying to keep a discussion going, you will forgive me for acting as an agent provocateur – so here goes…

      At the least the Brezhnev-era hard-line Communist regime in Czechoslovakia did not try to force gay marriage, transvestite equality, or multiculturalism on the Czech and Slovak peoples; nor did it ever propose to flood Bohemia and Slovakia with thousands of uncivilized and hostile people from – let us say – Berkeley, California, or some other equally savage place, like Point Dume, in Malibu.

      • I don’t think Brezhnev hated the Czech and Slovak people whereas I do think that Obama and his people hate half of America with a passion. For example, I would argue that forcing the Marines to accept women in combat positions was at least partially motivated by a desire to humiliate, to luxuriate in social conquest. You might also attribute all sorts of changes that have been forced on the common people in recent years, at least partially, to an act of taking pleasure in watching them weep — and the really good ones do weep. The difference between contemporary America and Cold War Czechoslovakia is that the latter was not in a state of civil war.

  8. Responding to Stephen Prescott

    Dear Stephen, you write: “If ‘help run their society’ and ‘educated people’ mean what someone plucked from pre-collapse times would have assumed they mean, then I would say the principle is — or, more to the point, was — basically sound although, by 1980, an unusually perceptive and principled leadership might have seen what was coming and taken prudential steps. Today, those are loaded phrases and the fact that the schools still turn out ‘educated people’ to ‘help run society’ is an ironic truth.”

    You may take it for granted I use such phrases as “help run… society” and “educated people” in the antediluvian and unadjusted manner, but I recognize, of course, that contemporary Leftists have utterly perverted the language. Like you, I believe that, in its context, namely a culturally heterogeneous society, the socialist arrangement of the University of California with the State’s meritorious high-school graduates was entirely proper – although even in my time, the 1970s for my undergraduate education, the seeds of destruction were present . All the young assistant professors in the humanities were proto-pomos. The Philistinism of the new intelligentsia was beginning to solidify.

  9. The Left always runs into a diminishing return on investment. This is obvious in your example of public subsidies to higher education. There was a great deal of untapped potential in the working class of 1945, say, so there was a big payoff from sending those sons of farmers and mechanics to college. But at some point in the expansion of subsidized higher education, the percentage of “diamonds in the rough” began to fall, and with it the average efficiency of the Leftist program.

    Something similar occurs in the liberationist or emancipatory program of Leftism. The most obvious (or at least widely perceived) cases of oppression are ended first, to general acclamation. The emancipatory program them moves on to tackle less obvious cases, which fewer people feel sympathy for, until it ends up looking like a freak show.

    Because the Left is ideological rather than pragmatic, it doesn’t care about this diminishing return on investment. It doesn’t care that programs that once did some good are now mostly destructive.

  10. Leftism is an occult motivator that tends towards entropic destruction by breaking down organic structures and bonds. Anything this cult is involved in will tend towards its own annihilation, but socialism is poorly thought-out anyway.It grants to the heteronomic sovereign power in the society more responsibility than it can use either efficiently or morally.

    Traditionally, the heteronomic state has seen a great quality of powers, but a very small QUANTITY of them. By upsetting this finely tuned balance, socialism is positioned against the organic order and thus is an avenue to an eventual chaos, even if this does not manifest immediately due to an exceptional manager or unforeseen natural events.


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