One reason why American political dialog has become so unpleasant is that increasingly, everything is a political issue. Matters that are life-and-death to individuals…metaphorically life-and-death, to his financial future or the way he wants to live his life, or quite literally life-and-death…are increasingly grist for the political mill. And where that takes us is that:
People who disagree with your agenda are “attacking” you or “robbing” you. How commonly do you hear dissent described in precisely those terms nowadays?
When the government controls everything, there is no constructive relief valve for all this pent-up tension. It all boils down to a “historic” election once every couple of years, upon whose outcome everything depends. They’re all going to be “historic” elections from now on. That’s not a good thing. (link)
I’m reminded of something Arthur Koestler wrote, in his great novel Darkness at Noon. Rubashov, the protagonist, is a dedicated Communist who has been arrested during the Stalin purges of the 1930s. (Although Stalin is never named in the novel, he is only referred to as “Number One.”) During the interval between his arrest and his execution, Rubashov has plenty of time for thought and reflection:
A short time ago, our leading agriculturist, B., was shot with thirty of his collaborators because he maintained the opinion that nitrate artificial manure was superior to potash. No. 1 is all for potash; therefore B. and the thirty had to be liquidated as saboteurs. In a nationally centralized agriculture, the alternative of nitrate of potash is of enormous importance: it can decide the issue of the next war. If No. I was in the right, history will absolve him, and the execution of the thirty-one men will be a mere bagatelle. If he was wrong…
Rubashov of course was incorrect in his assertion that “If No. I was in the right, history will absolve him, and the execution of the thirty-one men will be a mere bagatelle”…even if the dictator had been correct on this specific issue, the system of top-down rule and suppression of dissent absolutely ensured that there would be other issues, with potential for equally or even more disastrous outcomes, on which he would be wrong, and his wrongness would guarantee catastrophe.
When everything is centralized, the temptation to deal with dissent in a draconian manner becomes overwhelming. Just as Rubashov (at that stage in his thought process) justified Stalin’s ruthless suppression of dissenters on agricultural policy, so do many American “progressives” today seek the silencing of those who disagree with their ideas. It will not be surprising if they escalate their demands to insist that dissenters should not only lose their jobs or be imprisoned, but should actually be killed.
12 thoughts on “Thoughts on the Politicization of Absolutely Everything”
Worse, sometimes potash may be the best and sometimes nitrate. So, no central edict will be correct.
Telling people what to do is a deeply satisfying experience.
10/10/09 – Robin Hanson in Denying Dominance
Humans attend closely to status, an important part of status is dominance, and we show dominance when we tell others what to do. Telling someone else what to do affirms status.
We do not notice most of our status moves, and we attribute them to other motives. When possible, we claim the most admired of motives, altruism. We think we are directing others in order to help them, not to dominate them.
I was struck by two things.
The reason that political or central planning issues/decisions are so confrontational is that they are fundamentally a zero sum game. If one side wins something, it must be taken from another. These can be even be intergenerational transfers. There is no net wealth creation and there is significant (even increasing) dead weight loss of potentially productive effort. In other words, the political process is very high cost compared to market decisions. These costs reduce the net resources devoted to actually producing the goods and services actually being politically contested. The bigger the stakes for concentrated interests, the higher the political dead weight costs. The federal tax code being a poster child.
Secondly, the frictional costs of changing a costly mistake arrived at through the political, as opposed to a competitive market decision, are always much higher because of the combination of emotional attachment to sunk costs and the concentrated interest of beneficiaries of such decisions. Since the market counts every vote made in the market, sunk costs are more properly discounted and concentrated interests are more easily overcome when the dispersed general interest is greater. An example is the ethanol fuel requirement.
These characteristics are major reasons why political rent seeking displaces productive efforts as central control increase until the system collapses when there comes the point that production falls to the point it can not support the increasing dead weight costs.
Actually, on a number of blogs and online publications of the Left, such calls have been made for at least the last year. Along with various calls to suspend provisions of the Constitution for the benefit of the Left. And we have the example of one Professor William Ayers; confidant to “Teh Won”, arguable author of his two pre-apotheosis “autobiographies, and admitted domestic terrorist. There was a statement by him, which unfortunately I don’t remember well enough to put in quotes, to the effect that 15 million or so Americans who refuse to be re-educated will have to be killed.
Things are probably already in motion.
“…on a number of blogs and online publications of the Left, such calls have been made for at least the last year. Along with various calls to suspend provisions of the Constitution for the benefit of the Left.”
Seen them myself – and I am not one who goes snorkling into the darker lefty depths of the blogosphere, any farther than the account I had at Open Salon, some years ago. But there were enough evil wishes expressed in the ones that I did read, with regard to Tea Partiers, conservatives and libertarians in general, and Republicans in particular. Some of them voiced by otherwise fairly respected voices on the leftish side, like Garrison Keillor.
In the movie Witness, there is a line about guns, spoken by the old pacifist Amish grandfather to his grandson – along the lines of ‘what you take into your hand, you take into your heart.’ It’s reversed, these days, I would say; what the lefty-progs take into their heart, they will very soon take into their hand.
What they say they want to do … very likely, elements of the lefty-prog front will try to do.
Collectivism is a religious movement, a Christian heresy, in many ways, even though it is usually hostile to traditional religious beliefs. Once a person grasps that central element, then the endless lunacies carried out in its name, and in pursuit of the earthly paradise it promises, become comprehensible.
It is the gnostic element of collective dogma that underlies the smugness and arrogant superiority that characterizes their attitudes. Collectivists truly believe that they possess “hidden wisdom” akin to the mystery cults that once infested the Roman Empire, and which reared its head again in the Gnostic heresy during the early Christian era.
Marx talked about turning Hegel on his head, but in fact he was merely another of the acolytes of the European philosophical school of the 19th century that created endless idealistic and animating forces to power and explain society. There were any number of others, and their intellectual and cultural heritage was the gruesome collection of political monstrosities that blossomed in the 20th century to plague mankind, literally, in a way not seen since the “Black Death”.
Collectivists cannot comprehend the truth of Acton’s warning about power, and are fated, inevitably, to prove its validity over and over again.
There are several millennial cults which have predicted the second coming, even giving the date and time of the final judgment, and then either withered or struggled desperately to recover from their failed predictions.
We can see this same pattern again and again in the various permutations of collectivist ideology when they gain power and confidently predict the imminent arrival of their perfect society, only to cast about in a panic of increasingly hysterical scapegoating when one calamity after another results from their policies.
Collectivist ideas fail because they are not of this earth, much as so many religious and other magical forms of thinking fail when confronted with a stubborn reality of physical and economic laws, and the actual composition of human nature instead of their fantasized “collectivist” nature.
The increasingly vicious and brutal aspects of collectivist regimes are a result of the same mindset that allowed inquisitors to torture and burn in the name of the preacher who gave us the
Sermon on the Mount, confidant they were doing god’s work as their victims screamed and begged.
So too do the disciples of the collective shrug at the mountains of corpses their comrades have left across the globe, justified by their faith they were serving the common good, and building the socialist utopia that was just around the corner, once everybody got in line.
Why is everything politicized? Because everything, and everyone, belongs to the collective.
Resistance is futile.
“I am not one who goes snorkling into the darker lefty depths of the blogosphere,”
I used to read some lefty blogs and even comment. One of the better ones was Kevin Drum’s. Eventually, they began to delete all my comments and any that disagreed with the leftist theme. They don’t want to see or hear other opinions.
>>that 15 million or so Americans who refuse to be re-educated will have to be killed.
Bill Ayers, Pol Pot, not a lot of difference there. It’s good to remember he’s one of Zero’s mentors. And a big influence on Hillary and others. Keep that in mind.
All above true, but they’re also desperately in need of money so all resources will be seized that can be; we’re all in this together, etc.
I’ve come to the conclusion the scope of action for them must be broader.
The next native American Tribe marked for extinction to seize the resources they’re tying up is: ‘Muricans.
Hence the necessary de-humanization. The hatred, the mocking. Up until now it’s been “economics”, the same tool and priestly blessing for genocide from Ireland [Famine] to the USSR to Mao’s China. Truly economics has killed more faster than all religions combined.
Since robots can build everything cheaper all that’s needed are some domestic servants to do the jobs American Robots [Chinese made] can’t do cost effectively, these domestics are the deceptively submissive Meso-Americans.
15 million doesn’t cut it, try 150 million. That leaves about 1/3 of the whites that are here now [200 million].
Somebody’s gotta fix stuff of course, and somebody’s gotta oversee the programmers, cops etc.
No I’m not racist, but they are. Rabidly so.
So when you’re facing not the standard 15 million but 2/3 or 150+ million it’s a different ballgame.
Remember that economics drove the Irish famine, the Ukrainian Famine, the USSR Gulags [slaves to extract resources], most of Mao’s 70 million.
If you don’t believe they’re serious about this look at the Rust Belt, look at Detroit. That’s “economics”.
Oh and they need the wealth/resources real, real bad. Desperation drives them now, not greed. They are animated by survival now. Are we?
PS – this of course tosses Congressional midterms in Toilet for Dems. Because Congress doesn’t matter as much as warm bodies on the ground.
” There was a statement by him, which unfortunately I don’t remember well enough to put in quotes, to the effect that 15 million or so Americans who refuse to be re-educated will have to be killed.”
I believe that came from Larry Grathwohl. He was a young Vietnam Veteran studying at the University of Cincinnati, who was approached by Weather Underground members looking for recruits. Grathwohl’s father in law was a cop, and talked him into attending the WU meetings. He became the only FBI informant to penetrate the group.
Given his military explosives training he was viewed as valuable to the leadership, which included Bill Ayers, Bernadine Dohrn, Jeff Jones, Mark Rudd, Terry Robbins, and Ted Gold. It was at a meeting of the leadership that Grathwohl asked what the plans were once their communist revolution succeeded. It became clear they had no ideas on how to ensure that the citizen’s basic survival needs were maintained, but they had put a lot of thought into guarding against a counter-revolution. The Weather Underground had decided that assorted communist nations would occupy sectors of the US, and the WU would construct slave labor/re-education prisons in the southwest. Those who would refuse to accept “the new way” would be killed. The WU estimated that 10% of the population – 25,000,000 at the time – would be slaughtered.
Here’s a video of Grathwohl recounting that meeting: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HWMIwziGrAQ
Excellently well put. Far too many people are unaware (or willfully ignore) that politics is strife, pure and simple. The market allows for many participants rather than choosing a “winner” and disposing of all the other competitors; in politics, with apologies to Highlander fans, “there can be only one.”
Correction sir, we are already at the stage, where there is a call for the death of dissenters, though criminals (saying some thing that is deemed to be non-politically correct, or “offensive” to some one). It is now a question of when and how many. Given the abuses by the various paramilitary LEO agencies, one could make the case that we are already there. Those who would dominate you, want your soul as well.
Mary, The Mother of Jesus speaks of world economics
4. The Few Who Control the World
In seeking their own interests, people act immediately, but when thinking of others, action is postponed. Tomorrow seems acceptable. However, the time is short and the first step to peace is to pay attention to the great discrepancies between rich and poor.
I now cast my eyes to the greatest and to the most powerful evil in the world of economics. The entire world financial markets lie in the hands of a powerful few. For decades, they have tilted the world. Their money always increases because they control the rules and the regulations. Even elected leaders of great nations come under their control, unable to act without their consent.
From these few people come every kind of evil. They control world events for their own financial interests. They begin wars, destabilize legitimate governments and fund countless hidden, covert operations. These few people who control the finances of the world are the main obstacle to world peace. They want to bring about a one world order where their power is supreme. However, their fortress is not impregnable. There is a path to removing them from power.
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