The idea that Nazism is a more extreme form of conservatism has insinuated its way into popular culture. You hear it, not only when spotty students yell “fascist” at Tories, but when pundits talk of revolutionary anti-capitalist parties, such as the BNP and Golden Dawn, as “far Right”.
What is it based on, this connection? Little beyond a jejune sense that Left-wing means compassionate and Right-wing means nasty and fascists are nasty. When written down like that, the notion sounds idiotic, but think of the groups around the world that the BBC, for example, calls “Right-wing”: the Taliban, who want communal ownership of goods; the Iranian revolutionaries, who abolished the monarchy, seized industries and destroyed the middle class; Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who pined for Stalinism. The “Nazis-were-far-Right” shtick is a symptom of the wider notion that “Right-wing” is a synonym for “baddie”.
One of my constituents once complained to the Beeb about a report on the repression of Mexico’s indigenous peoples, in which the government was labelled Right-wing. The governing party, he pointed out, was a member of the Socialist International and, again, the give-away was in its name: Institutional Revolutionary Party. The BBC’s response was priceless. Yes, it accepted that the party was socialist, “but what our correspondent was trying to get across was that it is authoritarian”.
In fact, authoritarianism was the common feature of socialists of both National and Leninist varieties, who rushed to stick each other in prison camps or before firing squads. Each faction loathed the other as heretical, but both scorned free-market individualists as beyond redemption. Their battle was all the fiercer, as Hayek pointed out in 1944, because it was a battle between brothers.
Authoritarianism – or, to give it a less loaded name, the belief that state compulsion is justified in pursuit of a higher goal, such as scientific progress or greater equality – was traditionally a characteristic of the social democrats as much as of the revolutionaries.
Daniel Hannan, “Leftists become incandescent when reminded of the socialist roots of Nazism”, Telegraph, 2014-02-25.
January 25, 2016
December 31, 2015
Nigel Davies found a bit of time to write this week, including this section on the EU’s founding myth:
The European Union […] is founded on the ridiculous, and incorrect, 1950’s assumption that all Europe’s problems can be traced back to Nationalism.
This was a knee jerk reaction to World War II, where the problem was supposed to be Fascism, which was supposed to be a Nationalist version of Socialism (literally the National Socialist Workers Party in the Nazi case).
It conveniently ignores the fact that the Communists were just as territorially aggressive and expansionist – in the name of ‘internationalism’ – as the fascists were – in the name of nationalism. In fact Stalin’s deal with Hitler to divide up Eastern Europe under the Molotov-Ribbentropp pact was what actually started the Second World War. (A factor swept under the carpet when, at the end of the war, Finland – one of the victims of Communist aggression in 1940 – was prosecuted for the ‘War Crime’ of resisting Soviet occupation, by the Soviet Empire that had been expelled from the League of Nations for its unprovoked invasion of peaceful and democratic Finland 5 years earlier…)
So when the delusional Social Democrat types in the decades after the war were looking for something to blame that could be phrased in such a way as to hide their share of the guilt: they picked the term ‘nationalism’ and launched the ‘ever closer union’ concept for Europe as ‘the one ideal way to end all future troubles’. Possibly the most idealistic stupidity since… well, since the same type of people launched Communism as ‘the one ideal way to end all future troubles’ thirty or forty years earlier.
In fact, so carefully do such people hide the truth from themselves, that it would probably come as a surprise to them to learn that European conflict did not start with the modern nation state!
You will no doubt be amazed to learn that there was not ideal peaceful harmony in Europe before the rise of modern Nationalism. Frankly, Europeans have never needed much excuse to slaughter each other. Some the reasons over the centuries since the Ancient World have included: forced and voluntary migration; droughts, floods and famines (most of the above as results of variants of what we now call ‘climate change’ issues); religious and political movements; social changes and class civil-warfare; trade issues; international exploration and colonization and de-colonization; dynastic conflicts and treaty obligations; slavery and attempts to end slavery; blatant territory grabs at other people’s expense; conquests, reconquistas and ‘liberations’; and plain simple ‘prestige’ conflicts (such as the War of Jenkin’s Ear).
The decision – by people who want to hide their share of any guilt – to throw all the blame onto something carefully chosen to exclude them from any blame (and to carefully fit a requirement for a solution that would require their own preferred world order to save everyone), is an unfortunately common one in history.
December 2, 2015
Nigel Davies pops up for one of his very occasional blog posts, and in this one he explains that there are actually two different Enlightenments, not just the one we tend to casually refer to:
There is the English style Liberal Enlightenment (sometimes called the ‘moderate’ enlightenment according to sceptics like Jonathan Israel), accepts that people are people, so we can only do the best we can do to get them to all agree and play happily together.
Then there is the European style Radical Enlightenment, which believes that the only way to make people play well together is to change them, by moulding them into better people. Into people who are designed, built, trained, and FORCED, to fit the correct mould.
If you are a victim of the superficial attractions of the fuzzy idealism of the Radical Enlightenment, you probably believe that the state, and its education and punishment systems, are there to make people fit into a ‘socially desirable’ mould.
If you are such a person, you usually call yourself by benign titles like ‘socialist’, or a ‘multi-culturalist’; or perhaps by titles that have gone out of fashion but mean exactly the same sort of state intervention in people’s lives like ‘Eugenicist’ or ‘White Man’s Burden’ worker; or perhaps you even still hang grimly on to the ultimate idealism of sickening movements like Communism or Fascism. (See any recent European news for samples of both.)
No matter which of these fantasies you are attached to, you become a dangerous fundamentalist the second you believe that ‘the world would be a better place if everyone thought the same way’.
“Sure as I know anything, I know this. They will try again… a year from now, ten, they will swing back to the belief that they can Make People Better…”
No matter how many times they fail, or how appalling the results, ‘they’ keep believing that their idealistic fantasy just needs a bit of ‘perfecting’. It is simply beyond their comprehension that you cannot build a stable, or indeed sane, system on Radical Enlightenment beliefs.
The Liberal Enlightenment gave birth to the dozens of Constitutional Monarchies of the older parts of the British Commonwealth, or of the Protestant parts of Northern Europe — Scandinavia and Benelux etc. Countries that, despite their whacky, cobbled together and often unwritten constitutions, have generally had between two and five centuries of internal peace and economic development. (Unless attacked or invaded by their Radical Enlightenment neighbours.)
The Radical Enlightenment gave birth to the — literally — hundreds of ‘Republics’ that tend to break down into political chaos, dictatorship, civil war, mass murder or genocide of their own people, or just violent attacks on all their neighbours. Usually within twenty years of being founded.
From the French Terror to the Napoleonic wars; from the Weimar Republic to the Nazi state; from the Soviet Socialist Republics of XXX, to the Muslim Republics of XXX, to almost any post WWII African or Asian republic you care to name — including most ‘new Commonwealth’ ones; or indeed the interwar Western European or postwar Eastern European ones.
The four, FOUR, successful republics out of the hundreds of failures — that have not been just tiny city states like Singapore — are: Switzerland, Finland, Israel, and Botswana. Three that held together mainly because they were monocultures under constant threat from invaders for most of their existence, and the third an effective tribal monarchy even if it is not called one.
(The United States is the standout weirdo of the modern world… enough English Liberal Enlightenment in its legal structure to keep it to only a single Civil War — and only 600,000 dead — despite the unstable French Radical Enlightenment elements in its constitution. But if you watch the US Congress — Liberal Enlightenment — and President — Radical Enlightenment — systems in conflict recently it constantly amazes that it works at all…)
You cannot build a state purely on Radical Enlightenment ideals, which is why all such states run in to trouble sooner or later. Usually much sooner. Which just reinforces why the US hybrid state and other Radical Enlightenment states (even functional Constitutional Monarchy states like Australia that should know better) trying to force illiterate tribal cultures in Central America and Asia and Africa and — more recently — the Middle East: to become ‘democratic republics’ has been so woefully unsuccessful. (And which has also dropped the average survival of modern ‘republics’ to even lower levels, because the ‘imposed’ idealistic republics are even less successful than the ‘revolutionary’ idealistic ones.)
October 28, 2015
I have long argued that the real function of libertarian involvement in politics, including the Libertarian Party, is not to get libertarians elected. It is to get libertarian policies to the point where the major parties will find it in their interest to adopt them — the strategy followed with striking success by the U.S. Socialist party over the first half of the 20th century.
David Friedman, “Good News for Libertarians”, Ideas, 2014-10-30.
October 23, 2015
No, seriously: Ever wonder why? “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need” sounds very fine, but by the time socialism rolled around, this idea had been tried, and fallen apart, in multiple communes. Moreover, sponging, shirking relatives had been observed in families from the dawn of history. The universal desire to work less than needed had long been countered by some variant on the biblical rule that “he who does not work, does not eat.” Why, then, did people want to throw out the profit motive and have the government run everything?
Conservatives and libertarians who ask themselves this question generally assume that socialists must have been naïve pointy-heads who didn’t understand that socialism would run into incentive problems. And of course, as in any sizeable movement, there were just such naïve pointy-heads. Even if I’m no expert on the history of socialist thought, the reading I have done suggests that the movement itself was not actually this naïve; there were people who understood that, as economists like to say, “incentives matter.” They thought that socialist economies would perform better despite the incentive problem because of various efficiencies: streamlining overhead, creating massive economies of scale, eliminating “wasteful competition,” and the many-splendored production enhancements possible through “scientific planning.”
In hindsight, this sounds ridiculous, because we know that socialized economies failed on a massive, almost unprecedented scale. Scientific planning proved inferior to the invisible hand of the market, scale turned out to have diseconomies as well as economies, and administrative overhead was not, to put it lightly, reduced. But before socialism was tried, this all seemed plausible.
Megan McArdle, “Will Ebola Be Good for the CDC?”, Bloomberg View, 2014-10-20.
October 9, 2015
“Democracy,” or populism, has always delivered the Nanny State — which to my understanding is something more than a centralized bureaucracy. The Communists tried to deliver it by force, but politicians in our parliamentary free markets advance it by appealing to the lowest common denominator. The two systems — falsely contrasted “socialist” and “free market” ideologies — are animated by the same Enlightenment ideals. Both claim to speak for the mute and anonymous “little man”: to stuff him with material goods, and inflate him with rhetorical gases. Both play, directly and indirectly, on the envy in that little man, and his resentment of his betters. Both are thus effectively in opposition to the natural hierarchical ordering of society (which made and would make most politics unnecessary). Both promise, as a matter of course, what the serpent offered to Eve and Adam: the fruit that will make the little men “like gods.”
The purpose behind this is not to build the bureaucracy, as an end in itself, but bureaucracy as the means towards moral debilitation. The excellence of bureaucracy, from the diabolical point of view, is that it reliably punishes the good, and rewards bad behaviour. Its weakness remains an inability to predict that human behaviour, including sudden manifestations of the “hostile inflexibility” mentioned in my last post.
For there is in nature something besides the original sin that felled our first parents, and has been the trickster of history ever since. There is also a positive, which I’m inclined to call “human decency,” or in its most extreme and inflexible form, Love. This cuts across all diabolical intentions, and in moments of grace even faces them down. It should be said that the free market approach to moral debilitation leaves rather more scope to this human decency, though it tends to draw the line at Love. Violent tyranny leaves no scope at all, but as a consequence of plugging every vent, triggers the response of pent-up forces. At some point, the signal from a fracture spreads, and in a kind of earthquake, Berlin Walls come down. The genius of the rival consumer democracy is that it releases the pressure, one riot at a time.
But democracies, too, are fated — like every material aspiration on this earth, to die and leave no traces. When they deny the immortal dimension of man, the unchanging reality of creature and Creator, they become dry husks. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and in every direction the dry husks are scattered away. Only by God is the living implanted, and only on God’s terms will it grow. That jealous God, who will have no other gods before Him; against Whom we have, in truth, opposed our little “democratic” pie-in-the-sky.
David Warren, “Ottawa in the news”, Essays in Idleness, 2014-10-23.
October 1, 2015
Paul T. Horgan explains why socialist politicians love “siege economics”:
Labour loves siege economies, really adores them. It allows full throated socialism to operate, enabling properly-selected and correctly-motivated state officials to mediate on every commercial transaction between individuals and entities, all in the name of necessity. This is Pitt’s ‘creed of slaves’, using controls to dictate how much can be sold to whom and if it can be sold at all.
Socialists love these economic dictatorships where the function of money as a storage of value and provider of price information is destroyed, where maximum wages and profits are imposed through penal taxation. State ownership of commerce is a given.
Socialists swoon at the thought of regulating demand by rationing supplies to all but a favoured few; it means there is no need for an economic strategy. No need for an interest rate policy if no amount of borrowed money can buy anything. Official inflation is perpetually low when prices are under statutory regulation, despite the inevitable shortages and consequent rise of the black market and the crime of hoarding newly-scarce everyday goods, which requires more Peoples’ Commissars to detect and punish.
Ordinary people who are forced to commit economic crimes just for everyday survival are easier to dominate as their guilt promotes a constant fear of the State and denunciation by their neighbours and friends. Control a person’s economics and you control the person, and socialism is all about the control. And Labour loves to run people’s lives by occupying the commanding heights of the economy to maximise dependency and promote clientelism in the electorate.
This explains why Labour were in their element when Churchill left Atlee, Morrison and Bevin to run the civilian economy while Britain’s greatest warlord used all his energies to create and focus a a domestic military machine and a global coalition to destroy fascism. It is ironic, given modern socialist rhetoric, that the greatest anti-fascist in human history was a Conservative. Perhaps leftists still feel guilt over their fellow travellers’ 1930s pacifism.
September 19, 2015
J.R. Ireland explains how the New Republic has it all figured out, so we can stop fretting about that boring old “capitalism” thing:
The beautiful thing about confirmation bias is that you never actually have to provide any evidence for your argument. All you have to do is find the first person or the first scrap of evidence which can be twisted and distorted to fit an already extant narrative, and you can carry on your marry way, gleefully the nearly infinite number of reasons that the argument you just made is actually quite terrible.
For example, in The New Republic, a once important magazine now fading into oblivion, Elizabeth Stoker Breunig wrote an article which declared airily that Paid Parental Leave Is Fueling Sweden’s Start-Up Boom. What evidence does she have for this? Well, she doesn’t actually have any — it just fits her biases so she purposefully chose not to actually look into any of the claims being made. If she had, she probably would have realized that virtually everything she is saying is wrong.
First of all, her entire argument is based on one woman’s opinion, which Breunig, true to form, never bothers to check up on:
Each week, Sweden’s national Twitter account allows a different Swede to take over tweeting and tell his or her story. Last week it was Louise Samet, a new mom and an employee of Swedish e-commerce giant Klarna. But unlike Amazon, where women only receive eight weeks of paid leave and men receive none, Klarna supplements 68 weeks of paid leave, which is split evenly between mothers and fathers. According to Samet, Sweden’s parent-friendly policies mean not only a better corporate culture, but also fertile ground for people interested in breaking into the start-up scene. I caught up with Samet to get a little more of a tech start-up insider’s view on paid leave, innovative business, and workplace culture.
Samet began her week of tweeting discussing paid leave. “I have a son who’s 5 months old and am currently enjoying the generous parental leave,” Samet tweeted on Monday, adding a few minutes later: “[Paid leave] enables me to have a career and spend time with my son, and it really promotes gender equality.” A little later in the week, Samet considered the role of Sweden’s robust welfare system, of which paid leave is a part, in shoring up its start-up companies: “I find the startup scene in Sweden very interesting, people dare to try out their ideas, prob partly thanks to the social welfare system.”
How very European! All that is good in life is thanks to the welfare state! Wunderbar!
The problem, however, becomes immediately apparent — this is just one random women’s opinion. She thinks the reason that there are so many startups in Sweden is because of the ‘social welfare system’ but offers quite literally no evidence that this is so. Breunig just takes her at her word.
September 16, 2015
Place your bets, folks … will the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn lead the UK Labour Party back into power or keep it far from that goal for years? Daniel Hannan is of the latter opinion:
For the first time in a lifetime of political analysis, I find myself lost for words. Nothing I write can do justice to the calamity that Britain’s Labour Party has just inflicted on itself. The best I can do, to give you a sense of the man newly elected as Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition, is to summarize some of his opinions.
Jeremy Corbyn is happy to talk to Irish Republican Army men, avowed anti-Semites and Hezbollah militants; but he refuses “out of principle” to talk to the Sun newspaper, a right-wing tabloid.
He campaigns for the national rights of Venezuelans and Palestinians; but he opposes self-determination in Northern Ireland and the Falkland Islands.
He’d like to admit as many Syrian refugees as possible, but is curiously ambivalent about why they became refugees in the first place, telling RT that Assad’s chemical attacks may have been a Western hoax.
He is relaxed about Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon, but he can’t stand the idea of Britain having one.
He says taxpayers should be able to opt out of funding the military, but not out of funding trade unions.
He wants to re-open coal mines that have been uneconomical since the 1960s; yet, oddly, he wants to wean us off fossil fuels.
He can’t even unequivocally condemn the Islamic State without adding a “but…” to the effect that America shouldn’t have been in Iraq.
He is, in short, happy to ally with any cause, however vile, provided it is sufficiently anti-British and anti-American.
Jeremy Corbyn, whose steady and surprising march to victory runs parallel to Sen. Bernie Sanders’ unexpected success in the Democratic presidential race, is a shambling, self-righteous repository of every second-rate, lazy, 1960s Marxist nostrum. And Labour’s activists can’t get enough of him. They haven’t just picked the lowest card in the deck; they have slammed it belligerently on the table, giving Corbyn 59.5 percent of the votes in a four-candidate race. Fifty-nine point five percent for a man who has never held any office, who has spent 30 years rebelling against his party, and whose speaking style makes Ron Paul look like a mesmerising demagogue.
September 11, 2015
Published on 10 Sep 2015
While the Socialist movement gathers in Switzerland and calls for peace on the Western Front, on the Eastern Front and the Balkans the signs are set for the opposite: An escalation with new offensives. The French and British want to attack near Artois and in the Champagne, Germany wants to finish the war weary Russian Army. At the same time Bulgaria agrees to attack Serbia within the next 30 days. Even in London the war can still be felt when German Zeppelins continue to drop bombs on the British capital.
September 9, 2015
Every ideology needs to believe in its inevitability. Religions get their inevitability from prophecies; secular ideologies get theirs from the modernist fallacy.
The modernist fallacy says that history is moving on an inevitable track toward their ideology. Resistance is futile, you will be liberalized. Marxism predicted the inevitable breakdown of capitalism. Obama keeps talking about being “on the right side of history” as if history, like a university history curriculum, has a right side and a wrong side. All everyone has to do is grab a sign and march “Forward!” to the future.
The bad economics and sociology around which the left builds its Socialist sand castles assume that technological progress will mean improved control. Capitalism with its mass production convinced budding Socialists that the entire world could be run like a giant factory under technocrats who would use industrial techniques to control the economic production of mankind in line with their ideals.
The USSR and moribund European economies broke that theory into a million little pieces.
The dot com revolution with its databases and subtle tools for manipulating individuals on a collective basis led to a Facebook Socialism that crowdsources its culture wars and “nudges” everyone into better habits, lower body masses and conveniently available death panels.
The iSocialist, like his industrial predecessor, assumes that technology gives superintelligent leftists better tools for controlling everything. The planned economy failed in the twentieth because the tools of propaganda posters, quotas and gulags were too crude. This time he is certain that it will work.
Daniel Greenfield, “Science is for Stupid People”, Sultan Knish, 2014-09-30.
September 8, 2015
More to the point, the notion that we should give up our labels is an ancient grift, a venerable con, a time-honored ruse used by ideologues to clear the field of opposition (as I chronicle at some length in my new book, the tactic was pioneered by none other than Napoleon Bonaparte, who invented the practice of using “ideologue” as an epithet). This Jedi mind trick has two parts. First, the liberal says: “In the spirit of civic cooperation and problem-solving, we must all abandon our ideological priorities!” Then comes the implicit Step 2: “So we must accept my ideological priorities as fact and wisdom.” It’s like saying “Nice doggie” until you can find a rock.
You never hear people say, “We’ve got to get beyond labels for the good of the country. So that’s why I am abandoning all of my principles and agreeing with you.”
In past decades, the serious Left was at least a bit more honest about this game. That’s why John Dewey begged the American Socialist party to abandon the label “socialist” but keep the policies. Earl Browder pushed the Communist party to brand itself as “20th-century Americanism.” And, as historian Ronald Radosh has chronicled, this has also been the tactic of Browder’s heirs, down to Obama’s erstwhile “green-jobs czar” Van Jones, who gave up honestly proselytizing Marxism in order to sell his wares with more attractive packaging. “I’m willing to forgo the cheap satisfaction of the radical pose for the deep satisfaction of radical ends,” he explained in a 2005 interview.
Today the grift is played by liberals who don’t even seem to understand what they’re up to. For instance, whenever Arianna Huffington is accused of spewing boilerplate leftism, she responds with a long, canned answer about how the left-right paradigm has outlived its usefulness. Here she is on CNN: “This whole framing as a right-versus-left debate — a liberal-versus-conservative debate — is completely flawed. It’s obsolete. It’s making it much harder for us to solve our problems as a country.” And here she is ranting in one of the books with her name on it: “Someone please alert the media: not every issue fits into your cherished right/left paradigm. Indeed, that way of looking at the world is becoming less and less relevant — and more and more obsolete.”
This argument might have been a teeny-weeny bit more compelling if it hadn’t appeared in a left-wing screed of a book titled Right Is Wrong: How the Lunatic Fringe Hijacked America, Shredded the Constitution, and Made Us All Less Safe (And What You Need to Know to End the Madness). For Huffington the anti-ideologue, only one ideological perspective is too ideological.
The most basic problem with “I don’t believe in labels” talk is that it is incandescently stupid. “Label” is another word for “word.” Everything we associate with civilization, decency, and progress depends on labels. If we cannot label something poisonous, people will die. Similarly, labeling policies, or politicians or commentators, with ideological or party identifiers helps make clear their underlying assumptions and values. If you cannot understand why having a rule against labels is such a terrible idea, I urge you to march into your kitchen and peel the wrappers off all of your cleaning supplies, prescription drugs, and canned goods. Natural selection will take care of the rest in due time. (Though in many cases, refusing to label politicians is like refusing to label men and women by gender; the difference is usually easy to see regardless.)
Jonah Goldberg, excerpt from The Tyranny of Clichés, published by National Review, 2012-04-22.
September 1, 2015
As everyone on the left knows, the Koch brothers are blackest avatars of evil incarnate and any of their works are tainted with pure, unadulterated evil … which might make some heads explode because The Intercept is reporting that the Koch fortune might be put to work to help elect Bernie Sanders:
I have a prediction: Charles and David Koch will soon announce they’re backing Bernie Sanders for president.
Here’s my logic, which is irrefutable:
We know the Koch brothers, and the organizations they fund, hate corporate welfare more than anything. They hate it!
The top priority of Freedom Partners, which oversees the Koch network of donors, is “tackling ‘rent-seeking,’ ‘corporate welfare,’ and other forms of cronyism.”
Charles Koch himself just told Politico’s Mike Allen that “We have to show that this corporate welfare and cronyism is unjust.” Sure, said Koch, it makes their friends unhappy, but “so what? You’ve got to do the right thing.” So as Allen wrote, “Rolling back corporate welfare is one of the top issues Koch is pursuing.”
Similarly, when Koch spoke recently to 450 of his fellow big donors at a recent Koch event in California, he demanded that “they have to start opposing, rather than promoting, corporate welfare.” In the Wall Street Journal, Koch wrote that “I have spent decades opposing cronyism and all political favors, including mandates, subsidies and protective tariffs.”
It might sound outlandish, but there aren’t many of the four hundred Republican candidates who are as staunch against crony capitalism, corporate welfare, and rent-seeking as good old self-declared socialist Bernie Sanders (aside from Rand Paul, I can’t think of any current Republican candidates who might even hint at biting the corporate hands that feed their campaigns’ insatiable demand for fresh funding…).
August 3, 2015
Knowledge is local in the economic system, meaning that the centre of that system can never actually access all of the required information — most certainly not in anything like a reasonable timescale — to be able to plan effectively.
Unsaid but implied is the idea that, given the tossers who get elected to do the planning, a central planning system wouldn’t work even if the planners themselves worked as hard as they could. But the real killer point is that we simply don’t know what it is that we’re trying to plan.
What actually is the algorithm? What is it that we’re trying to optimise with our plan for the economy? Tractor production has rather gone out of favour as a measure of human happiness, so what actually is it that we’re going to try and maximise the output of?
The standard answer is that we want to maximise human utility, which can descend into a form of madness where economists try to measure utility, although the concept is sound enough. But what the buggery is that? What blend of shiny-shiny, bling, housing, hip-hop concerts and smoked salmon actually maximises human utility as a whole?
As befits one honoured to write for El Reg, my desire for shiny-shiny is reasonable while my demand for bling, zero. I live and work in two separate countries, so my housing consumption is higher than many; smoked salmon is merely an interesting treat; and hip hop (in concerts or otherwise) provides me with negative utility. That mixture will be different for each and every one of us: I’m sure we could find several hip-hop fans among the commentards who enjoy jiggin’ wiv da beat.
In fact there are 65 million different mixtures of what contributes to human utility, in a country of 65 million humans. Don’t forget that as prices change, then so does each and every one of those utility functions. They also change as technology changes: what rational planner would have predicted the success of the iPhone back in 2007?
So, in theory, we don’t and cannot know what the hell we’re trying to plan.
Tim Worstall, “Gov’t control? Hah! It’s IMPOSSIBLE to have a successful command economy”, The Register, 2014-08-13.
July 29, 2015
It is often urged against the so-called scientific Socialists, with their materialistic conception of history, that they overlook certain spiritual qualities that are independent of wage scales and metabolism. These qualities, it is argued, color the aspirations and activities of civilized man quite as much as they are colored by his material condition, and so make it impossible to consider him simply as an economic machine. As examples, the anti-Marxians cite patriotism, pity, the aesthetic sense and the yearning to know God. Unluckily, the examples are ill-chosen. Millions of men are quite devoid of patriotism, pity and the aesthetic sense, and have no very active desire to know God. Why don’t the anti-Marxians cite a spiritual quality that is genuinely universal? There is one readily to hand. I allude to cowardice. It is, in one form or other, visible in every human being; it almost serves to mark off the human race from all the other higher animals. Cowardice, I believe, is at the bottom of the whole caste system, the foundation of every organized society, including the most democratic. In order to escape going to war himself, the peasant was willing to give the warrior certain privileges — and out of those privileges has grown the whole structure of civilization. Go back still further. Property arose out of the fact that a few relatively courageous men were able to accumulate more possessions than whole hordes of cowardly men, and, what is more, to retain them after accumulating them.
H.L. Mencken, “Types of Men 9: The Average Man”, Prejudices, Third Series, 1922.