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OFGS

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That’s a new acronym, invented by me. It means, “Oh, for God’s Sake.”

I invented this acronym specifically for an article posted on FB yesterday by several of the people on my FB friends list.  You can find it here

http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2013/09/bringing-back-feudalism-is.html

And I’ll get to it in a moment.

First, however, I’d like to formulate a Useful Rule for Everyday Life.

This useful rule is like the other one I’ve come up with–“never defend a government that has to pass laws to prevent its own citizens from leaving.”

This new rule will also save you a lot of trouble, and it goes like this:

If somebody starts telling you that the period of this country’s greatest prosperity was also the period in which taxes were highest and regulation was expanding–

And he tells you that as “proof” that high taxation and regulation is good for us.

Then stop reading.

The writer either has no idea what he’s talking about, or he’s willing to engage in any kind of fraud to manipulating  you into agreeing with him.

Why?

Because the period of America’s greatest prosperity was also the period of America’s greatest autonomy on the world stage.

It was World War II and it’s immediate aftermath.

It was the period when all our traditional competition–all of it–was busy blowing itself up and laying waste to its industrial plant. 

After that, it was the period in which these same countries were trying desperately to rebuild.

Marshall Plan or no Marshall Plan, you don’t rebuild overnight.

So, yes, during that period when we had no real competition anywhere in the world and everyone who couldn’t compete with us needed to buy our products to survive, we had the most prosperity we’d ever have. 

Unfortunately for the people who want to make this “proof” of the goodness of high taxation and higher regulation, all it actually proves is that, in conditions like that, we could have been governed by Bozo the Clown and we’d still have had a great time.

As you’ve probably guessed, the article makes that particular argument, among others that are equally assinine and silly, and that doesn’t even begin to be the worst of it.

The worst of it–aside from the fact that the writer doesn’t seem to know what “feudalism” means–is the nonsense of the bait and switch with “libertarianism.”

That is, the writer assumes that whatever caricature of idiocy his side has so far defined as “libertarian” is what “libertarians” believe, and then processes to have discovered a scandal because he’s actually read a couple of libertarian writers now and…THEY DON’T SAY THAT!

Instead of doing the obvious and honest thing and wondering if he might, just might, have been misunderstanding what libertarians are saying, he decides that libertarians don’t know what libertarianism actually said.

This is an incredibly neat maneuver, because it means he doesn’t have to listen to any of the contemporary advocates of libertarianism, or respond to anything they’re saying.

After all, you can’t respond to what you don’t know is there.

This leads him to declare that rule by bureaucrats is actually more “libertarian” than rule by “oligarchs” (he means corporate CEOs) because there are more bureaucrats than oligarchs, and “libertarianism says” that rule by bureaucrats is bad because there are so few of them and they therefore can’t know what people actually want.

But libertarianism does not say anything of the kind.

Libertarianism says each individual man and woman is a better judge of his own interests that ANYBODY else is, no matter how numerous (or not).

Bureaucrats do a bad job because they are not the individuals themselves. 

Libertarianism would certainly also agree that “rule by oligarchs” (if we had it) would be just as bad, if now worse, except for one thing.

Except for those cases (very common in the present US) where corporations have managed to grow the regulatory state to their advantage (to use to protect themselves from competition), those “oligarchs” are always held accountable by consumers.

You don’t have to buy their products.  If you don’t like what they’re selling, they lose, and if  they lose often enough they cease to exist.

At least half the great, invincible corporations of my childhood have ceased to exist, somehow finding their oligarchic power not enough to keep them alive.  You give the people what they want, or you die.

Bureaucrats, on the other hand, are accountable to nobody.  When they do wrong, or make mistakes, it’s still almost impossible to fire them, and no matter how bad they are, they metastasize.

Libertarianism does not know, and has not ever, recommended an end to all regulation or to all public provision.

It says instead that the preservation and protection of individual liberty is the first business of government, and that regulation should therefore be:

a) limited in extent

b) limited in area (that is, pr0hibited absolutely in most areas of private life)

c) democratically and publicly imposed.

That is, that we shouldn’t erect an oligarch of regulators empowered to enact laws without the consent of Congress and to micromanage anything and everything it can get its hands on.

Nor do libertarians say that there should be no public schools or dam projects or libraries or public universities.

We’re happy to have public institutions as long as:

a) we really NEED them and

b) they are not used to enforce a virtual Official State Church on the public at large.

The issue in libertarianism is how to make it possible to allow every single human being to make his own decisions about his own life and, outside REAL crime, to protect him from people who would force him to toe the conformist line.

That means libertarians won’t care very much if your school decides to serve quinoa and passion fruit that none of the children will touch, but they WILL care if lunchroom officials confiscate the lunch you sent with your child because it doesn’t meet their idea of standards.

Yes, that’s right.

I want parents to have the right to send whatever lunch they want even if that lunch is Twinkies and potato chips. I want local school boards to decide on their curricula even when that means teaching creationism and climate “denial.”  I want individuals owning stores and businesses and running hospitals and practicing medicine and law to be able to do all that without directly violating their religions, even if that means not paying for abortion coverage or not making wedding cakes for gay couples.

In case you’re wondering, the other article, this one

http://www.salon.com/2013/09/12/11_questions_to_see_if_libertarians_are_hypocrites/

the article the first article calls a straw man argument, is just as silly as the first link I posted.

This one actually starts with a paragraph that misrepresents every single thing libertarianism is about.

Nobody ever said that “selfishness” makes everything better for everybody (assuming you’re defining “selfishness” as it’s commonly used), but that millions of people each making decisions about their own private interests results in better overall outcomes for everybody than “experts” and rulers trying to impose their own ideas of the good on everybody else.

This has been proved so conclusively true that I can’t believe anybody can deny it any more with a straight face.

Ah, but you deny it by pretending it says what it doesn’t say–you pretend it says “millions of people making private decisions will end up making the BEST decisions.”

But it doesn’t say that.  It says that the outcome from millions of people deciding to eat Twinkies and chips instead of fruits and vegetables will be better overall than the outcome from experts and rulers trying to make everybody eat right.

It’s not that the first set of positions will lead to The Good, but that the second will lead to the Inevitably Worse.

Then there’s the thing about how libertarianism  was resurrected by big corporations for their own advantage.

By and large, big corporations hate libertarianism, because it affords them no protection against competition.

Think of it–no bailouts, no being able to use regulatory agencies to keep upstarts from muscling in on your business, no big juicy government contracts for just about anything, never mind privatized prisons or the war in Iraq.

The other thing I’d really like is for people to stop telling me what’s wrong with Ayn Rand while making it completely obvious that they either haven’t read her or they don’t understand what she says.

I know that I’m in the presence of somebody who hasn’t read her or doesn’t know what she says when they use the common definition of “selfishness” and claim that’s the way she’s using it too.

One more time:  when Ayn Rand uses “selfishness,” she means “being absolutely and inflexibly true to yourself.” That means holding onto your ideals and values even if you lose every material thing by doing so, even if you’re put in jail or tortured or killed.

In other words, she’s not talking about what we call “selfishness” in everyday usage, but about what we call “integrity.”

And, yes, the world would be a better place if everybody practiced that.

Next, I’ll start taking your seriously when you claim that libertarianism only exists now because Evil Billionaires and their Evil Corporations give it money when you start saying the same thing about Evil Billionaires and Evil Corporations who give money to the left.

Which they do.

There is money on both sides of these issues, and neither side is capable of making the populace believe what it wants them to believe no matter how much money it throws into the mix.

As for the “libertarian hypocrisy test,” it’s so ludicrous it makes my head ache.

It defines “hypocrisy” as “any disagreement with its own definitions and ideas,” so that it claims that libertarians who aren’t “willing to admit” that “production is the result of many forces, each of which should be recognized and rewarded” is being a hypocrite, when

a) in fact, libertarians do recognize that and

b) the real point of contention is not THAT each of the players should be rewarded, but what percentage of the rewards it is “fair” for each player to have.

If you start with the assumption that rich guys couldn’t get rich without the work of their employees, you get one answer.

If you start with the assumptions that employees couldn’t be employed if the guy didn’t start the business, you get another.

But the worst, and the most hypocrital, of the question in the test is:

>>>Does our libertarian believe in democracy? If yes, explain what’s wrong with governments that regulate.

This is the worst because I’ll guarantee you that the person who wrote this article has a whole list of things it would deny the right of any government, no matter how democratic, to regulate–abortion, for instance.

The issue isn’t “democracy,” but natural rights–there are some things no government should be allowed to regulate no matter how many people want it to.

There’s more that’s even worse–Ayn Rand never in her life suggested that government should “not regulate anything,” although, being a mostly sane person, she preferred laws passed by democratic bodies to “regulations” issued by bureaucratic fiat.

Well, whatever.  The man, as I said, has no idea what Rand actually said, and if he’s every read anything but a quote here and there,  he didn’t understand what it meant.

The final howler is the statement that Rand was “adamantly opposed to good works,” which the right “proves” by quoting a statement

The man who attempts to live for others is a dependent. He is a parasite in motive and makes parasites of those he serves.”

that does not say anything at all about doing good works.

It is, instead, about living an inauthentic life with no ideas of your own, no tastes of your own, no values of your own, but pursuing conformity at all costs.

A King and a Gandhi do the opposite of that.  They were, in living the way they lived, “selfish” by Rand’s definition–they were true to themselves.

But, you know, what the hell.

It’s much easier to declare you opponents stupid and hypocrites if you haven’t a clue what they’re actually saying.

Written by janeh

September 16th, 2013 at 9:48 am

Posted in Uncategorized

3 Responses to 'OFGS'

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  1. On behalf of science fiction, I’ll have to apologize for Brin. We obviously haven’t been pruning our defectives.

    If you’ve got a lot of friends who think that article was useful or entertaining, you need new friends. The man obviously can’t be troubled to read, and so has no clue what he’s missing. It is striking that whoever summarized Adam Smith for him did a better job than whoever summarized Ayn Rand–so much so that he has no notion of their similarity.

    The logical errors cover so much ground I was tempted to break out THE CHRISTIAN’S GUIDE TO CRITICAL THINKING and see whether he missed any.

    He also has not the remotest notion what feudalism means–to the point that he’d have had a rough time in my high school world history course–and the wrestling coach taught that one.

    However, there are SF authors who have done their homework and reflected on feudalism and the modern bureaucratic state in the proper form for novelists–that is, in their fiction. I recommend in this context Poul Anderson’s NO TRUCE WITH KINGS and Niven & Pournelle’s OATH OF FEALTY–but even Piper’s TWO GUN PLANET shows more thought and research than went into this mess.

    robert_piepenbrink

    16 Sep 13 at 10:26 am

  2. I read that first article (I see we must share some of the same friends) and kept thinking, “wait, when do we get to the feudalism?”

    FWIW, I have always found Brin as an author to have interesting ideas but a tin ear for how people actually behave and speak. This is just piled higher and deeper.

    Lymaree

    16 Sep 13 at 11:01 am

  3. I propose another useful rule.

    Never believe what a supporter of one political party says about the policies of the other party.

    jd

    16 Sep 13 at 8:52 pm

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