We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

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As annoying?

We’re confident that North Carolina’s politics will annoy us from the right as much as California’s does from the left, but we’re equally confident that center-right North Carolinians won’t try to personally and professionally ruin us for daring to disagree with them.

The quote is from a comment to this article (that I found from instapundit). The commenters – Californians who have decided to vote with their feet – complain they’ve seen one too many

smart, talented colleagues fired, and their reputations blackened, because they had the temerity to utter a heterodox opinion, or made it known that they voted for a Republican, or were insufficiently enthusiastic about adopting the latest politically-correct newspeak.

They expect to be as annoyed by NC’s right-wing politics as by CA’s left-wing politics. It may be just their way of expressing it. And I suppose it will be a culture shock (understandable they’ve not moved to Texas, or Alabama – or Samizdata 🙂 ). But I have a hard time imagining being as annoyed by politics that will allow me to dissent as by politics that will punish any hint of dissent.

But maybe that’s just my typical right-wing focus on the honesty of the process rather than the nobility of the goal.

60 comments to As annoying?

  • Paul Marks

    Let us say that someone in North Carolina (or Georgia, or Alabama – or anywhere in America) supports abortion-on-demand, and “Gay Marriage” and so on. They are NOT going to be kicked off Social Media, they are NOT going to be persecuted in government (or government supported) universities, they are NOT going to have their bank accounts “have problems” or face “problems” from Mastercard and other financial services providers.

    But if someone has conservative political opinions they may well be persecuted in California – indeed they may be persecuted (by Big Business which is joined-at-the-hip with the education system and the government bureaucracy) even if they live in North Carolina.

    This is the difference between “right” and “left” in the modern West – not just the United States, but all of the West.

    It is the LEFT that believes in persecuting people for expressing their opinions – and it is the LEFT that “Woke” Big Business supports. Even though it is still the case that the long term objective of the “Cultural” Marxists is still ECONOMIC – they still want to take the “means of production”.

    Take the example of the corruption of Scholastic Aptitude Tests (SATs) in the United States and Oxford University entrance in the United Kingdom – these things will no longer reflect MERIT, instead they will reflect SOCIAL CLASS (with the poor getting higher scores).

    The billionaires who are backing the “cultural” Marxists (the Social Justice types) are FOOLS.

    The left do not really care about “the rights of women” or “black lives matter” or “Gay rights” or any of these cover stories – these are just FRONTS for the same old agenda of STEALING.

    The left are after your money and your goods “Woke” billionaires and “Woke” corporations – but you are too stupid to see it. You think that persecuting conservatives will make the left love you – it will not, they are laughing at you.

    The left are laughing at you “Woke” billionaires and “Woke” corporations – and when they have finished USING you to get rid of conservatives, the left will cut-your-throats.

    And, by the way, there are plenty of leftists in North Carolina – the university towns are full of them.

  • Snorri Godhi

    The issue is not whether Californians moving to NC (or Texas, or wherever) are annoyed by the locals: the issue is whether the locals are annoyed by the Californian immigrants.

    To be more precise, the issue is whether Californian emigrants are going to vote for the pathologies that drove them out of California, in their new State. I am not sure that they are (that is, that most of them are), but if i were (still) a US resident, i’d be worried.

  • XC

    Well, it really depends on where they move…. Chapel Hill, Charlotte, Hillsboro, Apex, … Basically SFO without the total crazy. Well, ok, not Durham.

    But out in the counties or piedmont area they will stand out, bless their hearts.

    -XC

    PS – They’ve already ruined Colorado, could we just keep them there somehow?

  • Runcie Balspune

    This is the difference between “right” and “left” in the modern West

    The traditional view of the “right” and “left” is the former are socially authoritarian but tend to be economically liberal, and the latter are the reverse – socially liberal and economically authoritarian.

    What has happened is that the “right” have gradually come to generally accept socially liberal viewpoints, such as gay marriage, and whilst not actively supporting them they are acceptable under a more liberal banner and certainly no serious efforts are being made to (re-)criminalize any activity. There are exceptions of course – Nanny May is more concerned with kids watching porn than kids being stabbed.

    Whereas the “left” have gravitated towards a social authoritarianism with an emphases on criminalization of certain viewpoints, the “politically correct”, “social justice” and “woke” policies are all about human behavior management backed by the threat of jail, and are extremely similar to past religious conservative dogmas. It is no wonder that modern leftists have no problem associating with extreme religious conservatives if their “moral compass” aligns regarding the behaviour of other people, viz “upsetting people who you disagree with”.

    The end result is that the “left” has become the total authoritarian model, how it got there from “progressive” is a mystery.

    Many authoritarian governments started off as economically authoritarian and ended up being socially authoritarian as well, so it is no surprise that the “left” have gravitated in this way.

  • Ferox

    how it got there from “progressive” is a mystery.

    But it isn’t, really. One of my favorite notions is that a core idea of Progressivism is “Rawlsian Justice“, the idea that social policy should so be constructed that a person would end up with no preference on how they were born with respect to race, gender, intelligence, and other natural capacities. The ultimate leveler.

    Another core idea is “social Marxism”, the idea that conflict between oppressing and oppressed groups is the central theme of history, and that membership in your groups is the core of your identity.

    Add those two together and you get Progressivism, and the long slow march toward a boot stamping on a human face, forever.

    That transition you are talking about reflects the increasing illiberality of the Left, as they have embraced the authoritarianism of Progressive thought. They are grinding, grinding on the society and on the culture, trying to make a surface smooth as a mirror – and they intend to grind away until every trace of human liberty is gone.

  • neonsnake

    Interesting and inisghtful comments from Runcie Balspune and Ferox.

    (I understood Rawls to have meant that “with no preference”, it would still be “just about ok” no matter who you were, not that everyone was level? As in, the worst off would still have the very basics, but that the much better off would still be just that – much better off?)

    My pet theory is that economic authoritarianism leads inevitably to cultural homogenisation – if I don’t have choices in what I may spend my money on, nor on how much I choose to pay for it (eg. I can’t shop at different stores because one of them is cheaper), then slowly society drifts towards a monotonously grey and dull centre, without any excitement on “the edges of the crowd”. In order to keep the population under control, one needs to silence those people on the edges (hence the murderous purges in Russia and Cuba) – and then you’re into social authoritarianism.

    I wonder if the same may be true in the other direction? IE. that the “right” recognised that suppressing the people at the “edges of the crowd” was philosophically at odds with economic liberalism?

    Runcie Balspune says (and I agree):

    the “right” have gradually come to generally accept socially liberal viewpoint

    My feeling is that there was a period in the mid-90s (in the UK) where this was very true – most of the old stereotypes about the “right” were either gone,no longer true, no longer believed in cases where they were never true to begin with, or were noticeably on their way out; many things were considered socially unacceptable but not yet illegal (although some were made illegal in the Public Order Act of 1986, I think).

    The blatant racism of the 70s and 80s (think “paki-bashing”) had pretty much gone away (not entirely but largely), I think, but we hadn’t yet descended into a world where just my using of the phrase “paki-bashing” would get me into trouble (despite the obvious context that I think it is despicable and am merely using it as an example of something despicable).

    Might just be a feeling; I was in my early teens at the beginning of the 90s, so it was when I was doing my “growing up”, but that’s how I remember it.

  • The blatant racism of the 70s and 80s (neonsnake, May 22, 2019 at 3:57 pm)

    The UK was not a society of ‘blatant racism’ in those decades. By any sane comparison with the world and with the past, Britain was a welcoming society – which is why so many eagerly came and made lives here.

    There were football hooligans in those decades. And there were those cheapskate hooligans who, rather than buy scarfs and rosettes to pick sides, used the colours nature painted on. (Trying to reform them by lecturing on the evils of racism was like trying to end football violence by lecturing Spurs supporters on the footballing achievements of Arsenal.)

    And there were Antifa’s precursors. Via a friend with a brother in the Sheffield branch of the Socialist Workers Party, I learnt in detail soon after it happened about the ’embarrassing’ Socialist Workers Party incident of the early 80s when the London and Sheffield groups arranged for both to go to Brighton on a bank holiday weekend to confront the ‘paki-bashers’ they expected to be there. The two groups saw each other, yelled “Fascists!” and piled into each other. They had to have special negotiations and a peace meeting after that. My friend’s brother was really annoyed because the Sheffield mob had two actual genuine black people amidst its crowd of whites looking for ‘Nazis’ to punch, and they all felt the London mob really should have noticed that. (They also said the London mob had no blacks so the Sheffield mob’s mistake was understandable. Whether that was true, or whether this further example of Maggie’s slogan ‘Socialism can seriously damage your eyesight’ was mutual, I do not know.)

    Britain in the 70s and 80s was no heaven on earth, but it was the narrative that sold the idea of ‘blatant racism’ then, just as the narrative sells the idea of ‘blatant racism’ now.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Runcie:

    The traditional view of the “right” and “left” is the former are socially authoritarian but tend to be economically liberal, and the latter are the reverse – socially liberal and economically authoritarian.

    I beg to disagree: the original (though no longer “traditional”) view of the Right and Left is that the Right is authoritarian in both “social” and economic issues, and the Left might or might not be authoritarian, but is in any case opposed to the current ruling class.

    This is pretty much the opposite of the present situation (especially in the Anglosphere), but it should not make us lose our compass: there are authoritarians in power, no matter whether you call them “left” or “right”; and not all the people who oppose them are libertarians, no matter whether you call them “left” or “right”.

  • neonsnake

    The UK was not a society of ‘blatant racism’ in those decades.

    Oh, right. I must be misremembering my classmates being referred to as wogs, pakis and coons, then.

    Just because it was better than the preceding decades, or better than other countries, doesn’t mean it was non-existant. It was. I was there.

    We live in a country that is by most measures, freer and more conducive to liberty than most others in the world. This doesn’t stop us from pointing out its flaws, or from wanting more from it. So just because the 70s and 80s weren’t as bad as preceding decades, that doesn’t mean they weren’t worse than the 90s, or that blatant racism didn’t exist.

  • Ferox

    Is that what a society of blatant racism looks like? Schoolboys using slurs?

    Because if it’s that simple, I invite you to take a listen to the most popular genres of music today … simply filled to the brim with racial slurs and expressions of racial animosity.

    When I was a child, in the 70s, I never heard those sorts of slurs in the popular music. And I really doubt that young boys were more likely then than now to be obnoxious boundary-testers.

    Doesn’t that make today’s society the blatantly racist one?

  • Agammamon

    They will be ‘as annoyed’ by all those alt-right hicks who insist that third trimester abortions, mandatory solar power, and a high speed rail train are not things the taxpayer should be on the hook for and that, maybe, going to church wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

    They’re going to end up doing the same things that are ruining CA – but they just think that because *they’re* enlightened, they’ll get it right this time.

  • neonsnake

    Schoolboys using slurs?

    I’m talking about adults, but still, I understand your point.

    Think of it like this: in the early 90s, the word “queer” in the UK would be a signifier of upcoming violence. Today, it’s not, necessarily.

    People reclaim words, and take them away from the oppressors.

    The word “libertarian” is famously been taken from the left and used by the right, for example.

  • Ferox

    the word “queer” in the UK would be a signifier of upcoming violence

    Today, in the US, it is often a signifier that someone is about to be compelled to do labor against their will – lest they be subject to violence by the State.

    So I guess that’s a kind of progress – but I am not sure in which direction.

  • neonsnake

    Ah, ok; are you from the US, Ferox?

    I’m very much into UK punk; I’m also into US hip hop and rap from the 80s, I view them as similar. When you talk about music, are you referring to the current penchant for rap and hip-hop for reclaiming certain racial slurs?

  • Ferox

    reclaiming

    I fear that you mean by this that you hold different standards for the usage of slurs, based on the putative ethnicity/skin color/sexual orientation of the speaker.

    For some, it’s fine. For others – (fill in the blank)ism.

    If so, I am disappointed. For my part, I think slurs are slurs. I think that people should be allowed to say them, that it should never be illegal to do so, but always distasteful. And I don’t need to know anything at all about the speaker’s demographics in order to fully evaluate the distastefulness of their speech.

    It’s akin to the idea of “cultural appropriation” – which I regard, frankly, as social Marxist horseshit.

    PS – Yes, I live in the US. I have lived in the UK in the past (early 90s) … a clear memory of racial politics from that time in the UK was hearing a news announcer (BBC? I don’t know) describe how physically beautiful a black woman was in a story about a car accident – in which she was the victim. I thought that a little odd.

  • bobby b

    ” . . . there are authoritarians in power, no matter whether you call them “left” or “right” . . . “

    That’s one of the basic problems with trying to turn government in liberty’s direction.

    People who are anti-authoritarian aren’t naturally drawn to aspire to and campaign for authoritarian positions.

    “I want to take power so that I can divest my position of power” is a bit counter-intuitive. It’s authoritarians who want to be in charge. Becoming a leader to stop people from seeking and following leaders is a leap.

    “Schoolboys using slurs?”

    What better way to remove the power of a slur than to adopt it and use it ironically? I call myself an OWM (old white man) frequently. Wouldn’t have occurred to me to use it until it became a progressive slur against me.

  • Mr Ed

    The word “libertarian” is famously been taken from the left and used by the right, for example.

    And most people probably think of it as a dietary preference with a slightly preachy, political edge.

  • bobby b

    “I beg to disagree: the original (though no longer “traditional”) view of the Right and Left is that the Right is authoritarian in both “social” and economic issues, and the Left might or might not be authoritarian, but is in any case opposed to the current ruling class.”

    Exactly. This is why it was so hard, back in the 70’s, to switch from a hard-core lefty/antiwar/oppo philosophy to conservatism. It meant joining up with a lot of closed-minded people I couldn’t stand in order to support the idea that government wasn’t meant to lead, just administer.

    One of the most interesting things about watching and playing in 45 years of politics is how we’ve all completely switched sides, repeatedly. It almost makes me think that people can profess any philosophy so long as they can profit from it. But that would be cynical.

  • bobby b

    ” . . . Californians who have decided to vote with their feet . . . “

    It’s amusing how many signs you see out in rural parts of the middle of the USA that say “Californians not welcome!”

    Sure, they tend to move out because, individually, they can do much better financially elsewhere. But they seem to have taken on a permanent progressive mindset, and they turn everywhere they go into little Californias. They’ve infected the entire West coast, and they’re creeping eastward every day. Don’t go out in non-Austin Texas and say you’re from California – it’ll get chilly.

    And I say this as someone who grew up in South Los Angeles.

    One administrative question: since tomorrow is Election Day over there, do we all need to refrain from commenting starting at midnight if we wish to follow your law? How do UK blogs not run afoul of the no-election-day-commentary ban?

  • Gavin Longmuir

    Niall K: “The two groups [of Socialist Workers Party intellectuals] saw each other, yelled “Fascists!” and piled into each other.”

    This brings to mind that old (1979) movie “Quadrophrenia”, with music by the Who. Mods & Rockers. In those days, there was no need for British youth to go Paki-bashing or search public toilets for queers who needed an attitude adjustment. It was not even necessary for Londoners to seek out people from Sheffield who looked like they needed a beating. A Bank Holiday weekend on the south coast of England was all that was required for the kind of white-on-white violence that spurred memories of the remark attributed to the Duke of Wellington — ‘I don’t know what effect these men will have on the enemy, but by God, they terrify me.’

    Changes can happen slowly. It is only when we stop and look back, we wonder — What caused the apparent decline in violence in English life over the last 4 decades?

  • neonsnake

    If so, I am disappointed

    It’s not an unusual reaction, brother.

    🙂

  • neonsnake

    This brings to mind that old (1979) movie “Quadrophrenia”

    One of my faves! If only people understood the significance of the last scene, where Jimmy drives his scooter off the edge of the cliffs of Dover!

  • bobby b

    “What caused the apparent decline in violence in English life over the last 4 decades?”

    All of the false idols were exposed, and the fake causes went away, leaving nothing to battle over.

    (Like Sting.)

  • Gavin Longmuir

    Neonsnake: “If only people understood the significance of the last scene [in Quadrophrenia], where Jimmy drives his scooter off the edge of the cliffs of Dover!”

    Being of simple mind, I attributed his suicide to being depressed at the blandness of ordinary English life after the thrill of violence. But why get depressed? It was not even raining. 😀

  • in the early 90s, the word “queer” in the UK would be a signifier of upcoming violence. (neonsnake, May 22, 2019 at 7:46 pm)

    20 years earlier in the UK, it could signify a joke or a discussion or an insult or an ironic self-assertion (see bobby b’s remark at May 22, 2019 at 8:23 pm), or, like many a term, it could lead to violence from a would-be offender or a would-be offendee, but your idea it would signify upcoming violence is incorrect of the 70s and 80s, let alone the 90s. (By the 90s, the campaign to make gay the only term had had much success.)

    The narrative would have us ignore intent while it assigns some slurs an unspeakable political meaning and others praiseworthy rebuke of wrongthink. I prefer politeness. I also prefer to assess for myself. No more of the past than of now will I let the narrative override my memory and awareness of the particular circumstances behind any given use of any given term.

    Neonsnake, I suggest we agree to disagree about this. By all means have the last word in this thread if you wish. All old-enough UK readers can consult their own memories. (And any interested US readers can perhaps more usefully reflect of the US whether and when the word queer would, or only probably would, or only could, or only possibly could “signify upcoming violence”, and how its tendency to do so compared with other possible signifiers in those past decades.)

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Being of simple mind, I attributed his suicide to being depressed at the blandness of ordinary English life after the thrill of violence. But why get depressed? It was not even raining.”

    Do I need to give a spoiler alert? I think it was Ace’s scooter, that he stole and sent off the cliff, and actually the beginning scene of the film is set after the end – the view of him walking away from the cliff edge.

    Anyway, Jimmy appeared in the sequel ‘To be Someone’ set years later. Make of that what you will.

    “All old-enough UK readers can consult their own memories. And any interested US readers can perhaps more usefully reflect of the US whether and when the word queer would, or only probably would, or only could, or only possibly could “signify upcoming violence”, and how its tendency to do so compared with other possible signifiers in those past decades.”

    It would depend on where you lived and what sort of crowd you mixed with. The social change was unevenly distributed over both time and location. In some places it was tolerated as far back as the 60s, in other places there can still be a risk of violence today. As I recall, by the 90s being openly gay was starting to be accepted without comment in the more civilised parts of society but would still definitely be risking trouble on a night out with friends. But obviously, how often you see instances would depend on whether you was gay or not, or went with friends who were.

    The graph here shows how general attitudes changed over time in the UK. The start of the change seems to be about 1990. I think this survey timeline was from the US. It looks to me like it didn’t start really ramping up until about 2000.

  • Julie near Chicago

    I suggest that whether a “slur” really is a slur (that is, is meant as a slur and is intended to insult) depends on the context: on who is using the term, and in what social context, and why.

    Many ethnic “slurs” come to be used by at least some persons of the particular ethnicity as purely joking self-reference, whether or not making an actual point.

    I have referred to myself as a Spic, being 1/4 Spanish.

    There are also in America Micks, Paddys, Limeys (though I don’t know that that one’s ever been considered an insult), dagos, wops, guineas, etc. etc. As far as I can tell, many Irish and Italians refer to themselves or their ethnic confréres using one of these terms; at least when they are among friends.

    In one example, there is a fairly well-known conservative weblog entitled “Yid with Lid.” I doubt that its author, Jeff Dunetz, is overcome by the awfulness of the “Yid” epithet, even though it was once and perhaps in certain circles still is considered derogatory.

    Another example of the appropriation of a slur is the American dance-rock band “The Slants,” whose members are of Chinese extraction.*

    Then there is the horror of being called a Teabagger, which is just the most hateful epithet there could ever be. I am a target of the term, as I claim membership in the Tea Party movement (unfortunately dormant). Years ago this was term was considered a dreadful insult; my advice then was to adopt it and use it often in a humorous way, thus robbing it of most of its negative effect. (Besides, there is a theory that in the political context, the term was invented to refer to the people who in a moment of shared ire sent a whole bunch of tea-bags to Congresscritters in order to make a point that the original Tea Party was a protest over unjust taxation.**)

    So again, I think we should not be in too great haste to condemn all uses of what some, or even most, people consider “ethnic” or “racial” (or certain other types of) slurs.

    I don’t agree that it’s necessarily awful for persons of Negro ancestry to refer to themselves as “n***ers.” If there weren’t the race-hustlers and the political classes’ race-baiters, and things had continued on the track they were on in most of the second half of the 20th century, the term might have lost a good deal of its hurtfulness and its ability to provoke.

    So, while I wouldn’t use such terms as “kike” (or “yid”), or other possibly-derogatory labels unless I was sure that they would be taken in good spirit, I still say:

    We all need to toughen up some.

    .

    *From the Great Foot’s article on the group:

    [The Slants’ SCOTUS case] has opened the door for minorities to reclaim their identities through reappropration, as Elizabeth Squires wrote:

    “Simon Tam’s successful attempt to infuse meaning into a term by trademarking it was brilliant. He and other newly minted trademark holders have been unleashed to kick-start a new era of free speech and cultural reclamation, where we as market participants have a voice. Now, more than ever, what we have to say and what the market thinks matters. Society should take note from The Slants® and we should be sure to speak loud enough and proud enough for the lexicographers to hear.”[6]

    .

    **At

    https://theweek.com/articles/494697/evolution-word-tea-bagger

    there is a piece that begins by noting a that the term refers to a sexual practice, and that some wonder if it was taken and applied to Tea-Partiers as an insult based on that reference.

    This is total news to me!

    Whether or no, the rundown is mildly interesting. It does say that I’m not exactly the only one to advocate claiming the label and using it proudly!

  • Julie near Chicago

    By the way, as persons may gather, I agree with Niall above at 10:33 pm.

    And bobby has his own example, to go with my “Teabagger”:

    “Schoolboys using slurs?”

    What better way to remove the power of a slur than to adopt it and use it ironically? I call myself an OWM (old white man) frequently. Wouldn’t have occurred to me to use it until it became a progressive slur against me.

  • Gavin Longmuir

    NIV: “I think it was Ace’s scooter, that he stole and sent off the cliff, and actually the beginning scene of the film [Quadrophrenia] is set after the end – the view of him walking away from the cliff edge.”

    Clever! Very observant.

  • bobby b

    “Clever! Very observant.”

    Sting was Ace, the alluring idol whose allure proved false and thus disillusioned Jimmy into ditching Ace’s scooter, and Ace, and The Life.

    Nicely tied into the lyrics:

    “I’m finished with the fashions
    And acting like I’m tough
    I’m bored with hate and passion
    I’ve had enough of trying to love”

    (I’m a Quadro, too, but mostly the Who’s part, and much less so the movie. WTH is a Mod?)

  • Bruce

    Interesting that the stylized bleakness of “Quadrophenia”, the movie (1979), post-dated the utterly dystopian movie of “A Clockwork Orange” by almost a decade, with Burgess’ book originally published in 1962. “Singin’ In The Rain” was never quite the same after that.
    .
    Does “life” really imitate “art”?

    If so, how does one discriminate “good’ art from “bad” art?

    As for California: many of the “refugees” seem to be carriers of a nasty, statist pathogen that is visibly infecting Nevada, Arizona and places beyond.

  • As for California: many of the “refugees” seem to be carriers of a nasty, statist pathogen that is visibly infecting Nevada, Arizona and places beyond. (Bruce, May 23, 2019 at 2:55 am)

    One of the things I’ve noticed reading defector literature is how some may reject the ideology in toto (e.g. Jung Chang got very ‘over’ Mao) but others may grow up in it, believe it, eventually be broken by some event and so defect, but never go back through their minds and memories to see how much of what is there comes from the very ideology they’ve left, how much of what they noticed and did not notice was dictated by others. Kravchenko (‘I chose Freedom’) is very aware of Stalin’s evil, and very aware of how the left in the US (to which he defected) was being run by it, but he nevertheless praises the turn to the left that he expects to happen post-war and thinks it will be great if only it can avoid being coopted by the Stalinists. A revealing momemnt is when his revolutionary father begs the still-loyal Kravchenko to notice what communist Russia is really like. “You don’t want the Tzar back”, is the son’s retort and his father swiftly unhesitatingly agrees – and although he’s just been explaining that it was better then. Both their clever minds are working within limits.

    This kind of thing happens a lot – and may happen to defectors from California. They eventually realise that something about their one-party state is bad, even realise that their politicians are its cause and are lying about it, yet never apply that knowledge to going back through their memories and seeing how much they noticed because it was well spun and their attention was directed to the spin, how much they never noticed because the media lied in silence, etc.

    Glen Reynolds has advised other states to have a welcome wagon package for arrivals from California. The package should include brefif mentions with good references to some of Californias “it did not happen as they said” incidents.

  • NickM

    I have heard it argued that the reduction in violence in many societies (including the UK) correlates very strongly with banning leaded petrol.

    Make of that what you will because I’m not a neuroscientist, I’m a former astrophysicist.

  • neonsnake

    Neonsnake, I suggest we agree to disagree about this.

    We can; although I’m not actually in disagreement with you. I strongly come down on the side of “intent matters”; I also agree absolutely whole-heartedly with other commentators praising reclamation of words.

    I note that I do take factors into account – were bobby b to call me a OWM, I’d smirk knowingly, as I would judge that he’d be using it as a friendly ironic jibe, knowing both that he calls himself an OWM, and knowing further that he knows that I’m white and a man (as to the old, well…).

    If a young woman called me an OWM, and I knew her to be a vocal supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, I might judge the intent differently – with the caveat that my judgement might be incorrect. So in that sense I do judge terms differently on who is using them.

    As to the change in attitudes bit: we might have to agree to disagree on that; and where we lived in the 70s, 80s and 90s may influence our views, of course (NIV says something similar upthread). I grew up in East London/Essex, where racial tensions were high and the NF and skinhead groups still had significant presence. Clashes and incidents were not uncommon.
    For “queer”, whilst I’m perfectly comfortable with using it now, and being called it now, please understand that the early 90s were a different matter. I can’t speak for 20 years earlier than that; but in the early 90s I only ever heard it as a pejorative. Maybe this is just personal experience and the rest of the country was very different, but the only two times I’ve got into serious trouble (ie. needed a trip to A&E instead of coming out with just a couple of bruises and cracked ribs) have been started with someone saying “oi, queer” before laying into me. It wasn’t until mid-to-late 90s that I recall anyone I know using it even self-ironically.

  • neonsnake

    In a valiant attempt to link to the original topic…

    WTH is a Mod?

    I wasn’t there in the 60s, so this is a broad generalisation, but we had two groups – Mods and Rockers. As per the film, Rockers rode motorbikes, listened to rock and roll, and wore leathers (my Dad was a Rocker)

    Mods comes from “modernist jazz”, apparently grew from the jewish community in the East End, wore sharp suits, rode Italian scooters, listened to jazz, soul and r&b (as well as the more well-known Kinks, Who, etc), and were generally (I think?) considered a bit more “sophisticated” than the rockers.

    That’s an ENORMOUS generalisation, but that’s the gist. Open to challenge, though!

    Then, the rest you know from Quadrophenia – they had lots of fights in Brighton on public holidays (as ever, apparently the media exaggerated the extent of it, and it was nowhere near as violent as we were led to believe. Again, I wasn’t there, so can’t say for sure).

    The legend of the guy who paid a fine with a cheque is apparently true – but the cheque bounced.

    All of which leads me back round to…NIV correctly points out that the scooter is Ace’s, and also that the scooter goes over, but not Jimmy. As you say, he rejects the Life – and (here is where I attempt to get back on topic) – he also rejects the tribalism of the Mod vs Rocker conflict.

  • Ferox

    I also agree absolutely whole-heartedly with other commentators praising reclamation of words.

    You can certainly keep multiple sets of standards for each group in your taxonomy. Lots of people do. I have an uncle who believes that when you see a young ruffian being shown on tv news for committing some outrage, you can’t judge him too harshly if his skin is a certain color, because “you don’t know how hard he’s had it, what he’s been through.”

    I contend that it creates precisely the sort of unequal, paternalistic identitarianism that we are currently suffering through. That it’s socially unhealthy to assert that one group is more fragile than others, that one group is less able to self-regulate than others, or that one group is more culpable and capable of racism than others.

    I could be wrong. I probably am. But if so, tell me – in Julie of Chicago’s reply listing all the reclaimed slurs she has encountered – why did only one of those slurs have to be asterisked out?

  • neonsnake

    I’m not sure I’d have even noticed, had you not pointed it out, that’s how used we are to seeing it asterisked.

    I hesitated over whether to asterisk my earlier list of terms. Is there any etiquette on here that I should follow?

    (Genuine question, am thinking about our host’s wishes as much as anyone else)

  • neonsnake (May 23, 2019 at 5:07 pm), to answer your question, an automatic process can flag a comment which then waits till either Perry or the writer of that thread’s OP clears it or trashes it. As befits this blog’s free-speech beliefs, things that are not spam usually get cleared and appear in the thread, even if a bit fruity, but Perry will invoke the samizdata smitebot’s destructive power if he feels the maintenance of a quality libertarian blog requires it. (It’s his blog and we respect his judgement.)

    You may or may not have noticed at the time that one of your comments got held up for a couple of hours till either Perry or Johnathan (I forget whom) cleared it (as I would have cleared it if it had appeared in a thread of one of my posts).

    The automated smitebot has in the past very occasionally gone through phases of being ‘overzealous’ needing retraining. Some two years ago or so, both Paul Marks and I had to train it to be more trusting of us, and IIRC long ago a picture of sad kittens captioned ‘Why samizdata smite us” was one commenter’s way of asking Perry to review its operation.

    So you can asterisk a term you fear the automated process might dislike or else risk waiting a bit before your words of unrestrained wisdom enlighten the masses – choose and abide patiently by your choice.

  • neonsnake

    Fair enough. I didn’t notice that one, although some of my angrier and more frustrated early comments probably did warrant some clearance 🙂

    I can be a bit fruity, as you say, but don’t think I’m not listening, reviewing and thinking. We’re not going to agree on everything, but we agree on more than you might think, Niall.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Thank you, Niall, for the anti-smiting explanation*. That is indeed part of the reason why I didn’t spell out the word, plus the fact that I have no idea what is WP’s policy, nor even if it cares.

    The other part of it is that the N-word is so widely considered to be beyond insulting but rather downright abusive, except sometimes when used by persons of Negro ancestry at least, that I wouldn’t use it in any case.

    As a general rule I wouldn’t use any of the words I used as examples. Would be unusual and highly dependent on circumstances and context. Same for “queer,” except of course in its proper sense of “odd.”

    .

    *Is that why we don’t see the wonderful smite-cats anymore? Good grief! They’re amusing and a sort of consolation prize for having been “smited”; and with just one exception, IMO they’re not even photos of unhappy cats. (The exception being the photo of the cat who has clearly just been subjected to a bath, whether or not at human hands.)

    Since we’re playing Truth here, I’ll just say that some people need to get a life. *grumble*

    Anyway, I managed to find and save them, and I still enjoy reviewing them from time to time. :>)))

    [I could here tell of another case of alleged dog-abuse, on UT, where it’s obviously no such thing. (See “Funny Dog Bailey.”)]

  • Julie near Chicago

    P.S. — Warning: Completely O/T.

    What makes the Smite-Cats so great is the captions made up to go with them.

    Whoever created these wondrous images deserves a 100% raise.

    😀

  • Whoever created these wondrous images deserves a 100% raise. (Julie near Chicago, May 24, 2019 at 6:43 am)

    Consider it done: they are now receiving 100% more nothing than they did before. 🙂

    I speak out of turn, as this is nothing to do with me, and indeed I do not know that these images were made gratis. But just as I may not know how yesterday’s election went here, but I guess that May’s resignation means that if it was in Australian-poll-flunking-style then it was not in the direction she hoped, so I think I can make a safe guess how much money there is in photographing smite-cats for samizdata. 🙂

    some people need to get a life

    Sorry, no time for that – I need to get back to my day job (as several slowly-growing samizdata post drafts sadly know).

  • we agree on more than you might think, Niall. (neonsnake, May 23, 2019 at 8:09 pm)

    I’m a great believer in the wisdom of C.S.Lewis remark that when he was young he sometimes argued for victory but later he argued more honestly, and so learned that “you may discover 10 years later that the very man who shouted you down has been influenced by what you said.” And of course he likely understood the phenomenon all the better (as I do) from seeing that it sometimes applied to him, not just to those he argued with.

    One thing we likely agree on is that it shows more respect for someone honestly to debate with them than cringingly to agree with them. And as for style, well, you can tell from the unaltered quote in my OP that I do not asterisk or correct even the words of a split infinitive – now that’s what I call respect! 🙂

  • Paul Marks

    I think Snorri is right about the tragedy of people who the results of people who flee the results of statist policies carrying those statist policies with them in their IDEAS (the beliefs they have been taught).

    The EDUCATION SYSTEM is the key here – whilst the schools and universities continue to teach collectivism (in various forms) the problem of statist policies will just get worse and worse. As people do NOT just forget all the attitudes they have been taught when they leave school and university (especially as these ideas are reinforced, constantly, by the “mainstream media”).

    However, “the right originally meant economically and socially authoritarian” – NO, that is not true in the English speaking world – and PERHAPS not outside the English speaking world either.

    The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius set out the the position of the defence of traditional liberties (the right) near the start of his “Meditations”….

    “the idea of a polity where there is same law for all, a polity administered with regard to equal rights and equal freedom of speech, and the idea of a kingly [“kingly” does not mean monarchy in this context) which respects most
    of all the freedom of the governed”.

    As opposed to the sort of planned society set out be collectivist thinkers such as Plato.

    In France one should examine the limitations on state power admitted by King Charles “the Bald” as early 877 AD – for example that the government could NOT interfere with the doctrines of the church, or take land from one family and give that land to another family. These “old rights” MUST be respected by righteous government, or it is NOT righteous.

    Even many centuries later opposition to the collectivist policies of such Kings as King Louis XIV (the “Sun King”) was based on the defence of traditional liberties against the new absolute monarchies (see the conservative writer M.J. Oakeshott “One The Character Of A Modern European State” in his “On Human Conduct”). The term “laissez faire” comes from opposition to the policies of the Sun King – it means leave people alone (let them carry on as they wish – as long as they do not aggress against others). The traditional “Estates” of many lands NOT just France were meant to limit government power.

    In England some have traced “the right” all the way back to the Declaration by King Henry the First in 1100 that he would respect traditional liberties (which he had been so horribly violated after the conquest of 1066) – Henry did this in order to gain the support of the English against his older brothers.

    In 1215 there was another such declaration in defence of traditional – a much more famous one. The Magna Carta.

    Opposition to the statist policies of THOMAS CROMWELL (the statist minister of Henry VIII – and revered by the British left to this day) is also often pointed to in the origins of the English “right”.

    HOWEVER, some people insist on only using the term “right” from the French Revolution onwards – but that leads to Edmund Burke.

    People who think the ideas of Edmund Burke (the leading English speaking opponent to the ideas of the French Revolution) were “economically authoritarian” or “socially authoritarian” just do not know what they are talking about.

    I do not know what things are like in the history of the Netherlands – but certainly to say that the “right” was originally “economically and socially authoritarian” in the English speaking world, just does not make sense.

    The “left” is opposition to those in power??????????????????

    Well that certainly does not make sense in American context – as the left has dominated the the government bureaucracy, and the leading universities and so on, since the early 1900s – how can the left be “in opposition” to THEMSELVES?

    For example, Harvard Law School (the leading Law School – the training ground of the elite) has been arguing for bigger government since at least the early 1900s (more than a century) and the other elite training grounds (Yale, Princeton and so on) are much the same.

    Even in the 1880s the Pledge of Allegiance was written and pushed by two socialists (the cousins Francis and Edward Bellamy) – that is why it talks of the “flag” NOT the Constitution of the United States (because the Bellamy cousins – like “Teddy” Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson – HATED the Constitution of the United States). It is true that the Bellamy cousins were considered extreme by most of the establishment elite – but they were very much part of the establishment elite (the Progressives), they just took the ideas of the left to their logical conclusion.

    People such as Richard Ely (the mentor of both T Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson) have dominated establishment elite thinking since the end of the 19th century – and even in the early 19th century there were people such as Mr H. Mann (creator of the education system in Massachusetts). The establishment elite evolved this way – there was no revolt against the establishment elite.

    How can these leftists be in revolt against the establishment elite? THEY ARE the establishment elite.

    How can they be in revolt against THEMSELVES.

    But then perhaps things are different in the Netherlands – I do not know.

    As for the United Kingdom – condemning the Conservative Party for not really standing up for traditional liberties (for NOT really being RIGHTEOUS) is an old past time.

    People have been condemning the Conservative Party for going along with leftist “Social Reform” (collectivism by the instalment plan) for a very long time indeed – and the condemnations have often been CORRECT, as Conservatives have too often made “compromises” i.e. GIVEN IN.

    The question is not “what is righteous, what is defending traditional liberties, “old rights”, being “of the right” is well known, – the problem is that British Conservatives and American Republicans often FAIL in their moral duty to oppose “Social Reform” (collectivism by the instalment plan – the destruction of traditional liberties). They go along with the flow – they make endless concessions to the Progressives, and end up being fellow executioners of liberty.

    To go along with the forces of evil (the left) is to be one’s self no-good. This is why the dictum of Richard Nixon (which he supposedly got from Prime Minister Disraeli) is so horrifically wrong. “conservative men, liberal measures”.

    First “conservative men, liberal measures” just ASSUMES that the Progressive definition of “liberal” as EVER BIGGER GOVERNMENT is correct. And if someone is undertaking such ever-bigger-government measures then one is NOT a conservative.

    To call people such as President Nixon “conservative” robs the term of any meaning.

    If ever more Welfare State spending and regulations (even general price controls) are “conservative” then one might as well call the Emperor Diocletian, or the “Sun King” (Louis XIV) or President Franklin Roosevelt and President Woodrow Wilson and President “Teddy” Roosevelt (whose picture was on the wall of the room of Richard Nixon when he was boy) “conservatives”.

    Properly understood there is no contradiction between being a CLASSICAL Liberal (the opposite of a “New Liberal”) and being a defender of the traditional liberties (a Conservative), indeed they are THE SAME THING.

  • Paul Marks

    Short version – to be righteous (to be of the right – to oppose the forces of evil) to defend traditional liberties based in natural law (as the Scholastics said – the natural law is the law of God, but if God did not exist the natural law would be EXACTLY THE SAME), is BOTH being a CLASSICAL Liberal (the opposite of a New Liberal\) and to be a Conservative – correctly understood. Which is why I totally reject the claims of such people as Richard Nixon or Theresa May to be Conservatives – they are not Conservatives.

    Whereas a person such as Marcus Aurelius is a Conservative – at least in intention.

    Ardent, indeed fanatical, Progressives include Mussolini and Hitler. Any definition of “the right” that includes such Progressive doctrines as Fascism and National Socialism makes no sense.

  • Paul Marks

    Hat tip to the late Erik Von Kuehnelt-Leddihn for some of the above – just in case anyone thinks “this is just Paul thinking only of English speaking Conservatives”.

    But certainly such thinkers as Thomas Hobbes and Jeremy Bentham were precisely what Conservatism (“the right”) is AGAINST. The idea that the state should have no limits on its power – and the disparagement of traditional (natural) liberties as “nonsense” and “nonsense on stilts”.

    “Legal Positivism” (the law is just the will of the ruler or rulers – as with Thomas Hobbes) is exactly what Conservatives are AGAINST.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “However, “the right originally meant economically and socially authoritarian” – NO, that is not true in the English speaking world – and PERHAPS not outside the English speaking world either.”

    History is messy, and the world of political ideas is messy, and there are a lot of different political positions that have been labelled “right” or “left” that are quite distinct. If you’re asking people to define their terms, or pointing out that their definition is not the same as yours, then fine. If you’re saying that yours is the One True Definition, demanding that everyone else adopt it forthwith, then it’s not going to happen.

    The terms “left” and “right” originated in the French parliament where the revolutionary commoners sat on the left of the house and the aristocratic supporters of the Royalist regime sat on the right. The right (in that particular historic context) were about the divine right of kings, maintaining the social hierarchy, and social order, protecting the property rights of the land owners, and maintaining tradition, enforcing traditional moral standards in which society’s ruling class ruled wisely over the lower classes for their own good and the good of society, and the lower classes had a duty to respect and obey their betters. The left (in that particular historic context) were about overturning the hierarchy, raising up the commoners and dragging down the aristocrats to the same level, about equality and equal rights, about breaking with tradition, about rejecting moral constraints and laws that they felt were there only to serve the established ruling class, about redistributing wealth and property, and giving everybody the opportunity to rise up and live free.

    Based on those historical origins, political sides that defend tradition, property, wealth, social and moral order and the social hierarchy tend to be classified “right-wing”, but it’s a grab-bag of ideas that we can pick and mix from. Later movements in a different historical context might be for property but against enforcing traditional morals, or all for enforcing traditional morals but against the ruling elite. Which get classified as “left” or “right” is somewhat arbitrary, depending on which elements out of the mixture the proponents and their opponents want to emphasise rhetorically. Similarly, you can classify political movements occurring before the French Parliament the same way. But it’s an invitation to equivocation to do so, and try to mix definitions of “left” and “right” across wide spans of history that way. It’s far better to break it down to the individual elements, and choose terms to accurately convey exactly what policy position you mean, rather than rely on loose association into “sides”.

    Thus, I don’t care if it’s classed “left-wing” or “right-wing”. I care if it’s authoritarian or libertarian. Do they seek to enforce social and moral norms on the rest of society, ostensibly “for their own good” or “for the good of society”, without the restriction being justified by preventing uninformed/unconsented harm?

    Groups traditionally classified as “right-wing” have often been authoritarian. Or more commonly, a mixture of both authoritarian and liberal policies. As have their opponents. It’s not uncommon for the main war at a given time to be two different groups of authoritarians fighting one another for dominance. History is complicated.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Sorry, Paul but i did not say that “the right originally meant economically and socially authoritarian”.
    What i said was:

    the original (though no longer “traditional”) view of the Right […] is that the Right is authoritarian in both “social” and economic issues

    And i did not say that “The “left” is opposition to those in power”.
    What i said is that

    the original (…) view of the […] Left is that the Left […] is […] opposed to the current ruling class.

    This sort of misquotes is why i am convinced that you hardly ever interpret correctly what you read.

    FYI the original view of the Right (or of anything, for that matter) is not the same as what the Right was in the real world: the original view is what people THOUGHT the Right was. And only the opinion of French people counts, and then only up to 1830, because the Anglos did not start talking of Right and Left for another century: nothing original, by that time.

    Anyway, as late as the 1930s, Mussolini (or his ghostwriter Gentile) identified the “right” with “authority, the collective, and the State”.

    As for the Left, i need only point out that, even now, people voting for “the left” in the Western world are under the illusion that they are voting against the ruling class; that is to say, their view of the Left is that it is opposed to the current ruling class.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Still off-topic, but i guess it doesn’t make much difference at this stage.
    I think in terms of intellectual genealogy rather than a “political spectrum”. It seems to me that the 4 most important intellectual genealogies today can be traced back to
    (1) the Roman historians and Cicero (though in my opinion the Sagas of Icelanders are even better, if less influential);
    (2) Locke;
    (3) Bentham, JM Keynes, and Rawls;
    (4) Rousseau, Hegel, and Marx.

    Most people here will probably realize that i identify primarily with (1) and (2); and believe that pretty much anything originating from (3) and/or (4) is bad, if not outright evil.

    It might interest Paul Marks that i do not include Hobbes among the baddies because i reckon that Hobbes was an important influence on Locke, and therefore i cannot reject everything that originates from Hobbes.

    As for Hume, he seems to fit best under (1): Cicero seems to have been a fundamental influence on both Hume’s epistemology and his politics.

  • The terms “left” and “right” originated in the French parliament [Assemby – the French parliaments were courts] … The right (in that particular historic context) were about the divine right of kings, (Nullius in Verba, May 24, 2019 at 11:55 am)

    Even at the very beginning of the post-1789 assembly, a lot of the “right” favoured a constitutional monarchy like that in the UK. Soon after that, left meant ‘kill the king’ and right meant being not so keen on that.

    How can these leftists be in revolt against the establishment elite? THEY ARE the establishment elite. (Paul Marks, May 24, 2019 at 9:42 am)

    How can Hollywood celebs be woke as they lie on (or are dragged to) the casting couch? How can billionaires champion social justice? By indulging their feelings. Why feel what you rationally should when you can despise actual underdogs, make yourself feel like a put-upon underdog, yet avoid any unsafe confrontations with any overdogs.

    That said, Snorri is absolutely right that (wherever the left control the narrative) they will still portray themselves as the rebels and the right as the authoritarians – and the more they are the ones in power the more they will do this. “They judge, we listen” say the woke haters of free speech. “They look back, we look forward”, say the ChangeUK-ers dedicated to preventing a change.

  • Julie near Chicago

    O/T, back to the cats, Confession: Niall, I think I misinterpreted your remark about the “sad kitten.” Apologies to the commenter.

  • Snorri Godhi

    That said, Snorri is absolutely right that (wherever the left control the narrative) they will still portray themselves as the rebels and the right as the authoritarians – and the more they are the ones in power the more they will do this.

    It’s nice to be absolutely right for once: usually, i am only fundamentally right 🙂

    Still, i’d like to clarify that i said or implied more than that: i implied that lefties actually believe that they are the rebels, that they are fighting against the ruling class.
    That is why it is important to learn to identify the ruling class. To quote Sun Tzu: know your enemy, know yourself, and in 100 battles you shall not suffer one defeat.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Still, i’d like to clarify that i said or implied more than that: i implied that lefties actually believe that they are the rebels, that they are fighting against the ruling class. That is why it is important to learn to identify the ruling class.”

    Authoritarians never notice all the stuff where they get to tell other people how to live, because that’s just the way things are, or how they should be. That’s not their ‘opinion’ being imposed, it’s the truth. They only notice the stuff where somebody else tells them how to live, where they don’t agree.

    Thus, there can be many different simultaneous ‘ruling classes’ for different aspects of life, depending on your perspective. Group A bans behaviour X, because it’s obviously morally wrong, and don’t think of themselves as a ‘ruling class’ for doing so. But Group B do; they don’t think it’s obvious at all – just Group A’s opinion! But then Group B get the ban overturned, and forbid Group A taking any action to prevent or discourage the behaviour. Now Group A think of Group B as the ‘ruling class’, while Group B think of themselves as rebels defeating the ruling class. The ‘ruling class’ is just ‘whichever group of competing authoritarians is currently beating us in some battle’.

    To know your enemy, first know yourself.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Wait a minute, NiV: not everybody who voted for the party in power, is a member of the ruling class. If you vote to ban X, and X is banned, that does not make you a member of the ruling class. At most, it makes you a member of the party of the ruling class (PRL).

    As i said once before in this forum: most members of the PRL are not members of the ruling class, and a minority of member of the ruling class are not members of the PRL. Reagan was a member of the ruling class, obviously, but not of the PRL. The same for Trump, and for the Koch brothers (who are members of the ruling class by virtue of having enough money to influence elections).

    Also, sometimes the PRL is not authoritarian. Viking Iceland and Victorian Britain come to mind. In such times and places, opposing the PRL can lead to more authoritarianism.

    The other thing is that sometime you have to ban things to keep the ruling class in place. Judicial torture is an obvious example.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Wait a minute, NiV: not everybody who voted for the party in power, is a member of the ruling class. If you vote to ban X, and X is banned, that does not make you a member of the ruling class.”

    I’d agree with the first part of that, but not the second. The ruling class is the group who “get to tell other people how to live”. If somebody votes for the Conservatives and the Conservative MPs impose a ban on unbreakable encryption, say, that doesn’t mean the voter wanted such a ban, or is responsible for imposing it on others. Even if it so happens they did want it, they had virtually no say in the matter.

    But if you (as a group) vote to ban X and as a result X is banned, then you’re the ones making the rules. You rule by virtue of being in the majority (or plurality, or whatever). The ‘ruling class’ are the class of people who make the rules, by definition.

    It doesn’t have to be about government legislators, either. Remember JS Mill?

    “Like other tyrannies, the tyranny of the majority was at first, and is still vulgarly, held in dread, chiefly as operating through the acts of the public authorities. But reflecting persons perceived that when society is itself the tyrant – society collectively, over the separate individuals who compose it – its means of tyrannizing are not restricted to the acts which it may do by the hands of its political functionaries. Society can and does execute its own mandates: and if it issues wrong mandates instead of right, or any mandates at all in things with which it ought not to meddle, it practises a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression, since, though not usually upheld by such extreme penalties, it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating much more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul itself. Protection, therefore, against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough; there needs protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling; against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them; to fetter the development, and, if possible, prevent the formation, of any individuality not in harmony with its ways, and compel all characters to fashion themselves upon the model of its own. There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence; and to find that limit, and maintain it against encroachment, is as indispensable to a good condition of human affairs, as protection against political despotism.”

  • Snorri Godhi

    But if you (as a group) vote to ban X and as a result X is banned, then you’re the ones making the rules. You rule by virtue of being in the majority (or plurality, or whatever). The ‘ruling class’ are the class of people who make the rules, by definition.

    That’s a thought-stimulating objection.
    I can think of 2 related counter-objections.

    The first counter-objection has to do with the definition of ruling class. I would define it as the minority that holds most of the powers of coercion and persuasion. By this definition, the majority cannot be the ruling class.

    But, you might say, this is only quibbling about definitions. Where there is majority rule, then the ruling class might not exist by some definition, but there is still coercion. The power of coercion is diluted, but not decreased.

    I accept this counter-counter-objection, but i claim that it is purely theoretical, because majority rule is a practical impossibility. I base this claim on James Burnham’s excellent book, The Machiavellians; specifically, on the chapters on the ruling-class theories of Gaetano Mosca and especially Robert Michels. (Arrow’s impossibility theorem also seems relevant.) Basically, representative “democracy” is an oligarchy in which part of the ruling class is made up of people good at winning elections.

    (Note also that absolute “monarchy” is actually an oligarchy in which the ruling class is made up in large part of people good at gaining the trust of the monarch.)

    That does not mean that there cannot be a democratic component to the constitution, but it is only one component, and it is at constant risk of being eroded, as we are reminded by reading the news.

  • Snorri Godhi (May 25, 2019 at 3:48 pm), James Burnham had a marked and consistent tendency to be wrong in what he predicted, which is one (though not the only one) of the reasons I take little stock in his theories. They were clever but not correct.

    Mill’s point (in the quote NiV gives) is one I would agree with. A mere majority, if untrammelled by a free speech culture, may or may not be called a ruling class but, whatever you call it, it can be like a ruling class in being an obstacle to the experience one associates with living under a free government.

    (Of course, a mere noisy minority, noisy enough to cause preference falsification and/or organised enough to be the power in any confrontation, can be the same. “Ten men acting together can make a hundred thousand tremble apart.” The number can be larger than ten – too large to be called a ruling class in your terms – yet still a minority.)

    absolute “monarchy” is actually an oligarchy in which the ruling class is made up in large part of people good at gaining the trust of the monarch

    Stalin established an absolute and untrammelled ability to kill anyone in his entourage. Goering said, “When the Führer makes a decision, none of us count for more than the stones we are standing on.” Burnham’s attempt to shoehorn their rule into his ‘managerial’ theory is just one of his many errors. (That he so clearly liked both states suggests another kind of error.)

  • Nullius in Verba

    “but i claim that it is purely theoretical, because majority rule is a practical impossibility. I base this claim on James Burnham’s excellent book, The Machiavellians; specifically, on the chapters on the ruling-class theories of Gaetano Mosca and especially Robert Michels.”

    An interesting reference!

    I do favour Gaetano Mosca’s concept (following Pareto) of the “circulation of elites”, although I’d not define “elite” quite the same way they do. I don’t think the connotation of an elite being good at what they do necessarily follows when it comes to ruling. But the idea that revolutions consist of one authoritarian elite replacing another continually throughout history is a perceptive one. (Much the same as my Orwellian “boot” argument. Possibly connected via “The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism”!)

    With regard to Robert Michels’ “Iron Law of Oligarchy”, I propose the counter-counter-counter-objection of the Free Market, or von Mises’/Hayek’s “Catallaxy”. Collective organisation can arise without any centralised control point; emergent behaviour from the interaction of a swarm of millions of individual autonomous components each interacting only with its immediate neighbours. The Iron Law of Oligarchy would seem to imply that a decentralised Free Market without some form of centralised control is impossible. Only command economies controlled by bureaucracies can exist. Which I suggest is likewise thought-provoking, possibly controversial (especially here!), and may be worth discussing further on some more appropriate occasion.

    Thank you. That was interesting!

    “Note also that absolute “monarchy” is actually an oligarchy in which the ruling class is made up in large part of people good at gaining the trust of the monarch.”

    I would also note Machiavelli’s dictum – “No prince may govern without the cosent of the governed.” An absolute monarch or dictator can only rule so long as they have a force of people who will voluntarily obey them sufficient to compel the rest. The monarch is whoever can get the biggest and most powerful faction to consider them the rightful monarch. (For the lieutenants of Stalin or Hitler, for example, the relevant consideration is whether they can get a sufficient force of the other lieutenants to rebel.) Dictators and monarchs are overthrown when those supporters change allegiance. Very often, it’s the army that decides.

    Much is made of the role of individual dictators in history. But usually they’re the representative figurehead for a broader cultural movement, and if not that one, it would have been somebody else just the same. The art of leadership is persuading others to follow. The followers are thus often as significant as the leaders, when it comes to explaining how society is ruled.

    I propose that Machiavelli’s principle may apply to oligarchies, too. They can only take power because the rest of us let them. Thus, the rest of us influence the outcome by what we tolerate. Possible?

  • Snorri Godhi

    NiV: as i remember, Pareto’s and Mosca’s theories of the elites are to a significant extent orthogonal. Pareto (also in Burnham’s book) saw Pareto distributions everywhere, not just in power of coercion. OTOH, unlike for Mosca and Michels, Burnham does not attribute to Pareto any rationale for why there must always be a ruling class.

    Your contrast between the Iron Law of Oligarchy and Catallaxy reminds me of Herbert Spencer’s dichotomy between the “industrial” (i.e. commercial) and “military” (i.e. centrally planned) types of society. Of course, all societies have a bit of both. My interpretation of the Iron Law of Oligarchy is that it refers only to the “military” component of society. The greater the “commercial” component, the less total power of coercion there is in society, because people are free to choose. Remember what i said about distributing vs reducing the power of coercion: the aim should be not to distribute it (which i believe to be a fool’s errand anyway), but to reduce it.
    But the society will remain an oligarchy when it comes to what little power of coercion is left.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Niall: the theories that i was talking about are not Burnham’s. He was only making them accessible to American readers, and English-speaking readers generally. When he got to present his own ideas in the last chapter, they were rather sketchy.

    Also, i thought Burnham was at fault for not letting readers know that Pareto and especially Michels supported Mussolini, while Mosca opposed him.

    Of course, a mere noisy minority, noisy enough to cause preference falsification and/or organised enough to be the power in any confrontation, can be the same. “Ten men acting together can make a hundred thousand tremble apart.”

    That is pretty much Mosca’s theory that an organized minority will always prevail over a disorganized majority. (Mancur Olson’s work seems relevant here, although his book that i read does not discuss elite theorists.)

    Michels’ rationale for the Iron Law of Oligarchy is more sophisticated. How Michels could ever become a Mussolini supporter, is beyond me. Perhaps, not unlike Olson, he thought that a strong ruler can counterbalance the oligarchs?

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