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Charity’s tragedy and farce

Here is a video worth watching and in an easy-on-the-understanding format:

Thanks to The Geek Whisperer for the hat tip.

37 comments to Charity’s tragedy and farce

  • Laird

    Well, the animation is clever enough (if ultimately distracting), but I don’t understand where the speaker is going with this. Perhaps it’s because the tape seems to cut off before he reaches the end of the talk (did the hand get tired?), but what is his recommendation, or at least his conclusion?

    For the most part this seems to be a classic Randian rant against altruism, but then he throws in lines like “It is immoral to use private property in order to alleviate the horrible evils that result from the institution of private property.” So is he one of the “property is theft” crowd? And is he opposed to all charity, or is he merely opposed to state “charity” (a logical inconsistency) and large-scale institutional charity?

    Ultimately, a very unsatisfying video.

  • You just won a bet for Adriana, Laird 🙂

  • newrouter

    can you really call what soros or starbucks charity? seems more like investing in politics.

  • Laird

    Glad to be of service! 🙂

  • Mike Lorrey

    “we don’t want to go back to 20th century communism/leninism, but we must totally restructure society so that poverty simply does not exist….”

    A bit of a long winded oxymoron there…. but this is the clincher, particularly when he gets all disasturbationist about the environment and so on, he’s part of the whole global government by watermelons movement.

  • “We don’t want to go back to 20th century communism/Leninism, but we must totally restructure society so that poverty simply does not exist…”

    But this is typical of Žižek’s rhetoric. It’s a pattern he follows repeatedly.

    Žižek will say something contrarian about, say, tyranny being better than democracy. Then, almost immediately, he says he means something else, something ostensibly more high-minded but enormously tendentious or simply question-begging. This, if taken seriously and pursued, leads one back towards the original, ludicrous, statement, or somewhere very close.

  • Well, he’s clearly a leftist, and fundementally anti-capitalist.

    He kinda strays near to the truth, but not near enough. The poor are poor not because Westerners have access to the engine of global capitalism, but because they don’t.

    Yes, there’s an important role for charity, and yes the fairtrade/rainforest friendly/soil association guff does push the “good person” buttons without actually achieving anything, but if we are to abolish global poverty in our lifetime, it will be global capitalism wot duz it.

    Incidentally, I buy organic when I can afford to because IMOHO it does taste better. Particularly eggs and fresh fruit. 😉

  • I buy organic when I can afford to because IMOHO it does taste better



  • I want my ten minutes back.

  • He kinda strays near to the truth, but not near enough. The poor are poor not because Westerners have access to the engine of global capitalism, but because they don’t.

    Oh I think he understands that just fine and actually wants the nominally capitalist countries to be more, not less capitalist. He thinks the west is devouring itself… and he is right about that. And the fact he obviously dislikes Soros suggests to me that his heart is in the right place.

  • Laird

    “And the fact he obviously dislikes Soros suggests to me that his heart is in the right place.”

    Well, maybe. “The enemy of my enemy” and all that, right? Unfortunately, while the enemy of your enemy may be a useful ally of convenience, that doesn’t necessarily make him your friend. And now that I know who he is (thanks, David Thompson) I can dig a little deeper into his philosophy to try to glean where he’s going with this lecture.

    According to his entry in that font of all knowledge, Wikipedia, Žižek is “a Slovenian continental philosopher and critical theorist working in the traditions of Hegelianism, Marxism and Lacanian psychoanalysis.” That’s not a good start. He “uses Lacanian psychoanalysis, Hegelian philosophy and Marxist economic criticism to interpret social phenomena.” Getting worse. “In a 2008 interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! he described himself as a ‘communist in a qualified sense,’ and in another appearance in October 2009 he described himself as a ‘radical leftist’.” Well, I think that about seals it: he’s just another leftist making sterile arguments about how to resurrect that failed and ultimately anti-human philosophy. No friend here.

    The Wikipedia article notes that Žižek “is widely regarded as a fiery and colorful lecturer who does not shy away from controversial remarks.” That seems true enough, but to what end? Controversy can be a useful tool for gaining attention, but unless you have something substantive to offer it’s ultimately pointless. Which, in the end, is what I think Žižek is: sound and fury signifying nothing.

  • Which, in the end, is what I think Žižek is: sound and fury signifying nothing.

    And I would have to disagree with you. The folks from ‘Spiked’ are Marxists, that does not mean everything they say is wrong and their critiques of the follies of caring modern sharing regulatory statism often vastly surpass the turgid stuff coming out of much more ideologically simpatico libertarian and conservatives sources… the same applies to Žižek.

  • John B

    He dislikes Soros for the wrong reasons. Ultimately they are on the same side. The want truth destroyed. They want an elite in control.
    He is that big Marxist guy who I saw on Hard Talk that spent most of the time metaphorically passing wind at the interviewer. (Oh yes, I see you put: Zizek.)
    Sure, the hypocrisy and deceit of much capitalism is pathetic.
    But that’s just because it is part of the human condition.
    Socialist capitalism is worse because it is more collectivist and coercive.
    The only viable position for the human race (humanly speaking) is the libertarian, where each person is free as possible, and responsible for their actions.
    We have to be responsible as individuals.
    And the only way to do that on a cooperative basis is through the free market.
    To be humane, okay, a free market tempered by mercy.
    We are not aliens to love.
    But all we need to do to get there is just to remove as much restrictions and coercions as possible.
    In human terms.

  • The fact that someone is right on some points does not mean that their heart is in the right place. I dare to guess that, amid much rationalization, he dislikes Soros for being mega-rich, that’s all. Oh, and what Mike said.

  • Laird

    The Blind Pig Syndrome in action.

  • Mike Lorrey

    I am vastly amused by Žižeks hatred of Soros for giving half of his earnings to his “charities”, as if attempting to buy the Presidential election is a charitable act. And all this time I was suspecting Soros was a trojan of the international left, making billions by monkeywrenching the capitalist system as a literal expression of Lenin’s saying about the capitalist selling you the rope you hang him with. Soros’ achievement has been to convince capitalists to pay him to take the rope he’s hanging them with.

  • Worth watching only for the clever animation technique. Other than that, 100% agreed with the first comment by Laird, it was an extremely weird mixture, and actually going nowhere.

  • Verity

    Agree with the posters who see absolutely no point, or advancement of an argument, here. Animation good, if widely available … but it led nowhere … nor did it even direct one’s thinking anywhere …

    I couldn’t see his point. Lefty liberalism-fascism wrong. Check.

    But he needed all those animations to make that point? … and in the end, I’m not even certain that was the point he was making.

  • I couldn’t see his point.

    I know, not many here could. Pity really 🙂

  • Laird

    Perhaps you could enlighten us, now that you’ve had your obfuscatory fun. Is there a punch line?

  • Is this Greek weirdo only an apparent weirdo? Does he simply have the appearance of a lefty while trying to push lefties in a more capitalist direction with disguised arguments? In other words is this guy running a false flag operation?

    Or is he just a buggered between the ears continental lunatic spouting contrary positions all over the shop?

    Have I just won Adriana another bet?

  • davydai nikolenko

    Am i mistaken in thinking that his point is that ‘capitalism should be allowed to eat itself’ by reaching some cartoonish conclusion of absolute selfishness.
    Perhaps he considers the continuation of ‘charidee’ merely serving to perpetuate the status quo, and prevent glorious utopian collectivism from blossoming?
    I dunno… he’s a bit obscure.

  • Have I just won Adriana another bet?

    Pretty much.

  • Am i mistaken in thinking that his point is that ‘capitalism should be allowed to eat itself’ by reaching some cartoonish conclusion of absolute selfishness

    No, his point is that the “caring-sharing” ‘schtick is helping to perpetuate a great many of the very things that create the poverty that these feel good measure ostensibly aim to alleviate.

    This is a contention that a great many more ideologically sympathetic commentators have made for many years but because Žižek is a leftie, certain non-lefties cannot sort the signal from the noise (which was what Adriana predicted… in fact many of the comments from quite worth commenters were nevertheless almost pre-scriptable 🙂 ).

    The whole point was not “vote Žižek-for-Prime-Minister cos he has the answers” but “here is a rather pointed critique of of the sheer absurdity that is ‘compassionate capitalism’.

  • mehere

    Yep, socialism and communism has done little to change things despite the froth. I got that years ago. Sure lefties say change the world, okay. They always did. I also got Starbucks is a commercial organisation and what they print on labels isn’t the sole cure for society’s ills. More froth on top.

    So, the point is?

  • davydai nikolenko

    but is he not just attacking this guardianista-liberal ‘caring-sharing’ schtick from an even harder-left pomo position?
    (which hardly endears him to me)

  • “…but because Žižek is a leftie, certain non-lefties cannot sort the signal from the noise (which was what Adriana predicted…”

    So OK, who among the commentariat was betting on that revelation?

  • Lee Moore

    Colour me underwhelmed by Perry’s revelation. Certainly it was a pointed criticism of compassionate capitalism, much enlivened by the graphics (though one tired of them after a while.) But it wasn’t a particularly enlightening criticism. It merely asserted that the compassion didn’t work to better the lot of the poor, without offering any evidence one way or the other. Indeed at points it seemed to assume that it did work to some extent, and that the problem with it was that it softened the hard edges of capitalism, delaying capitalism’s replacement by something better. A very ancient Marxist theological dispute, as I recall. The point that most people on here would recognise – that the compassion involved actually works very well to make the right-on consumers feel good about themselves was conspicuously undeveloped. Seen in that light – compassionate capitalism is just an ordinary manifestation of free markets, consumers choosing to pay for things that deliver them utils. The fact that Perry wouldn’t be seen dead buying the same sort of utils as fair trade coffee consumers wish to buy is no different from my lack of interest in hiring a rent boy for the evening. A proper libertarian shouldn’t get so exercised about how other people get their kicks.

  • John B

    I’m all for bread and circuses as long as they don’t try and legislate how the bread should be made, sold, nor eaten.
    If anyone is suffering hunger and has some flour and water, well, let them make cake and eat it.
    If my situation is freed up from other peoples’ ideas and constraints, then the free exchange should enable prosperity all round, and we won’t need any politicos, or community organisers, at all.
    I kind of agree with Lee, but I’m still trying to work out, exactly, what is a “proper libertarian”.
    We really should get away from this “Left – Right” perception and perhaps more accurately think: meddlesome or non-meddlesome?
    Of course, nothing to stop a kind heart unconditionally giving.

  • Phil Mill

    I’m with Laird 100 per cent on this. If Perry is SO clever and the rest of us so dumb we just don’t geddit, why the hell won’t he enlighten us all?

    Fwiw my take on the vid…his fundamental argument rests on the assumption that old skool philanthropic capitalists steal from society with one hand and give back with the other. Nothing in this ten minute flight of intellectual fancy substantiates this basic argument. The rest of the talk seems mildly thought-provoking.

    I await Perry’s fascinating exposition with baited breasts.

  • Lee Moore

    Afternoon John B

    A “proper libertarian” is someone who has achieved oneness with the notion that he should mind his own business. To be distinguished from a “libertarian in training” who thinks he has achieved such oneness, though it is in reality still a work in progress.

  • “I await Perry’s fascinating exposition with baited breasts.”

    Did you smear your man nipples in bacon grease or something? If not, you might want to carefully rephrase that…

  • joe

    Can’t say i find anything to agree with in this video. Essentially this is a marxist criticising charity on the basis that it simply improves the life of the poor but perpetuates the capitalist system. Reading between the lines you might say he thinks it prevents the poor from gaining a “class consciousness” as they will not be in quite enough poverty and misery to overthrow capitalism in a workers revolution etc etc. The oscar wilde quote regarding slavery is significant here. For Zizek, wage labour is no different to slavery as both fit the marxist definition of exploitation. His basic reason is for disliking charity is that it cannot abolish poverty. No, but the idea of creating a society in which poverty is impossible is perhaps the definition of utopia, something which i cannot and never will buy into. There has been, under current capitalism, over the past few decades a lifting of millions out of poverty by mass economic growth that comes from having a world economy organised largely along the lines of supply and demand. This will continue. Under a world economy free from all forms of government intervention in the market, this change would be hugely accelarated. Under the utopian socialist society that zizek wants to create it, would halt. That is the reality and this is a misinformed, if entertaining, cartoon.

  • If Perry is SO clever and the rest of us so dumb we just don’t geddit, why the hell won’t he enlighten us all?

    Because if you can’t figure it out yourself then you are too dumb to geddit of course… and I refuse to take the bait… even if it is breasts 😛

    Essentially this is a marxist criticising charity on the basis that it simply improves the life of the poor but perpetuates the capitalist system.

    But the system he is criticising is not actually that capitalist is it? The Soros reference is key to this critique as never was there a more clear foe of free markets than the Obama loving Soros.

    A great many impeccable free market commentators have made the exact same point about the problem of charity perpetuating what it seeks to alleviate.

  • Paul Marks

    Contrary to the claims about “robber barons” most businessmen (in the United States and elsewhere) actively helped people by their very act of providing goods and services.

    They did not “grab the money” (Soros may – but they did not) they WORKED and created things of value. And that including bankers like J. P. Morgan. They were not perfect people (they did bad things as well as good) – but most of their work EVEN BEFORE THEIR CHARITABLE WORK did good.

    However, yes they also got their profits and either reinvested them or used them in charitable work (luxury living took up a very small percentage of profits with most people).

    And yes even the ones who did not give away all their wealth tended to “tithe” – the idea that (for example) most American industrialists and other businessmen were “social Darwinists” (whatever that means exactly) is a myth. Most of them had not even heard much of Darwin (they did not tend to have been to college, and their schooling was limited), they tended to be fairly ordinary Christians (of one sort or another) NOT hostile to ideas of biological evolution, but not thinking of evolution as a “social philosophy” either.

    So they tithed (at least) – yet even before they gave a Dollar to charity they aided mankind (by the very act of their work), the man on the video is (however much he has tried to liberate himself) still trapped in the fallacies of Karl Marx.

    Contrary to what the man on the video claims private property does not cause poverty (even though people like President Teddy Roosevelt seem to agree with him – with the claim that American steel mills had the created poverty, actually they had the highest wages in the world and vastly higher than at any time in history).

    However, the man on the video is right to mock “fair trade”and “eco capitalism”.

    It is the duty of a businessman to buy at the cheapest source and to produce at the highest quality level that can be done.

    Going to Starbucks and buying fair trade coffee does indeed NOT help the poor (it is absurd to buy higher price coffee kidding oneself that this helps the poor).

    Coffee should be produced as cheaply and well as possible – it is THIS that will help people in Honduras.

    This “consumer caring capitalism” is absurd.

    Buy products you like at the cheapest prices you can – do not buy expensive (and lower quality) products in the deluded belief that you are helping the poor.

    By your WORK (your production) you help the poor – and if you wish to help them more, then give money to aid them directly.

    For example, buy textbooks and pay teachers to help poor children to learn to read.

    Take the example of the half a million people (and it was actually over a half a million) who attended the Glenn Beck “Restoring Honor” event in Washington on Saturday.

    They are working people – one could tell that by the way they left the place clean (indeed clearner than it was when they arrived) they picked up all their bits of paper and water bottles (and so on) and removed them themselves.

    Compare that to a leftist rally – for example Barack Obama’s swearing in as President, the students and other such who came left that part of Washington looking like a garbage dump.

    And with a normal leftist rally it is worse – smashed windows, turned over and burned cars (such things are the norm – but the media ignore it).

    It is NOT rich and poor – many of the people who came on Saturday were poor (they had to sacrifice a lot just to afford to come), and many leftists are rich and come from rich families.

    It is the type of people – which can be seen in their actions (not the size of their bank accounts).

    However, it was a lot more than keeping Washington tidy.

    These people go back to their homes and they WORK (in humble jobs most of them – but they do the best they can), and they also tithe.

    In spite of the crushing weight of local, State and Federal taxes these people (these half a million – and all the millions of people who support them but were not there for this event) give a least 10% of their income to the poor (mostly via their churches).

    They do not go to Starbucks and feel good about themselves – they go down the street to the house that is a bad state of repair lived in by a family with the father who is out of work and say “neighbour please let me help you – I know you would help me”.

    Not just sentimental story telling by me – look at the figures for ordinary people, who gives and who does NOT give.

    (you might start by looking at how much of their large incomes Barack Obama and Joe Biden gave to help people – BEFORE they stated to run for the office of President).

    The bedrock (the foundation) of what the man in the video might call “traditional capitalism” is still there – the people who WORK (both as employers and employees) and the people who GIVE, for they are the same people.

  • TDK

    It’s a standard socialist argument that charity is immoral. The basic line is that the money/food being given is the poor’s already by right of need, which overrides any right of ownership. Given this argument, charity becomes offensive because it makes the claim that people can own more than their fair share of resources and are only under a moral obligation to redistribute it.

    For example money handed over to a beggar is equivalent money being returned to the rightful owner by a thief. The thief has no right to feel morally good.