Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Progressives vs. Conservatives on Power

I've been having an email exchange with Craig Greenman, who I emailed on a whim after reading a comment of his on NRO. Our exchange is labeled "Definition of a Conservative." His latest email puts up his definition of what progressives want to do against my definition of conservatives as not that interested in power.

In Craig's formulation "both progressives and conservatives want to empower the individual". He allows that a progressive is "someone who *is* interested in power, specifically the *empowering* of other people." The "question therefore is ḧow far to get the government involved in empowering people".

OK. Now I am going to analyze this under the assumptions of my Three Peoples theory, that there are three kinds of people in the political world: People of the Creative Self, who I would think include progressives and thinking conservatives, People of the Responsible Self, and People of the Subordinate Self.

I interpret progressive politics as having two objectives. The first objective is to attempt to empower the People of the Subordinate Self, the workers and peasants. Workers and peasants do not want formal rights and power; they want substantive rights, like minimum wages and union rights and pensions and health care and education. The second objective is to empower themselves, the People of the Creative Self. This is where the progressive interest in LGBT rights and the environment comes from.

Now, when I was a control systems engineer I had a conversation once with a communications specialist. He reminded me that when doing data communications the key is what the system does when things go wrong. Anyone can communicate data over a gin-clear line. But what happens when there is an error? The astonishing success of the Internet, for example, is its amazing ability to deal with all kinds of errors about which you and I have no idea.

The problem with government is that nobody can agree what to do when things do wrong. And if they do, it will be too late. And the fact is that things always go wrong, in every human endeavor, in government and in the private sector. This truth is encapsulated in the elder von Moltke's dictum that no battle plan survives contact with the enemy. And he was probably the most successful general in history.

So what do you do if the minimum wage creates unemployment in minority youth? What do you do if the VA provides lousy service and covers up its failures? What do you do if Social Security is underfunded by trillions? The answer is: nothing, not until the sh*t hits the fan, and maybe not even then. Why is that?

The answer is that when a government goes about empowering people it really just hands out free stuff and subsidies, in accordance with my dictum that a government is an armed minority occupying territory and taxing the inhabitants thereof to reward its supporters. But what happens when the government starts running out of money to reward its supporters? The answer is: nothing. Why is that?

The answer is that the one thing that we humans utterly resist is a diminution in our standard of living. We think of our wages and our government benefits are our rights. What was the great railroad strike of 1877 about? The railroads were cutting wages because they were going broke. What about the fictional coal strike in Zola's Germinal? The owners were cutting wages because they were going broke.  It's not just the capitalists that have this problem. The Bolivarian government of Venezuela dare not reduce the subsidies and handouts to the workers of Venezuela when the price of oil gets cut in half. Instead it lets the Venezuelan economy go to rack and ruin in a hyperinflation that hurts the poor the most, just like Germany and Austria when their government revenues got hammered after World War I. They dare not cut government spending to fit the reduced revenues, because the people would toss them out.

I'd say there is a problem with a politics that gets into this kind of a hole. In fact I would argue that it is utter folly for the government to promise any benefits to people, because of what happens when things go wrong. When things go wrong people thrash around looking for scapegoats and woe betide the politician that proposes to cut benefits.

But why? Why does government get in such a hole all the time? I'd say it's because of the very nature of government which is to lead us to safety against existential perils, starting with invasion. It is an all-or-nothing thing. Either you beat the invasion, or you are toast. You do not taper or adjust; you bet the country on winning.

Notice that the transnational governing class takes exactly this approach on climate change. Climate change is presented as an existential peril, and we must push ahead on all fronts, because to temporize is to court disaster. Anyone that objects to the full-court press is a "denier" which is progressive-speak for cowardly traitor.

But how much of human relations should be conducted under this all-or-nothing model? Slavery? Well, we had a civil war in the US about slavery, and it didn't end well, not for a century, because the Republican victors quit defending the freed slaves from their former masters after about ten years; they had other fish to fry. Civil rights? It all started well, except that the only way that government could think about implementing civil rights was by quotas and applying the rubric of over- and under-representation.

That's why I have developed my catchphrases: government is force; politics is violence and division; system is domination. Everyone wants to empower people, but is government force the means, is political division the answer? And when something goes wrong, how do we fix it?

Then there is the little wee problem that comes next is that everyone -- conservative, progressive, liberal, fascist, Bolivarian socialist, Bernie bro, BLM activist -- wants to empower himself first. Give me the power, so I can empower you.

I don't know how progressives would propose to empower people in the best of all possible worlds, but the only thing they have tried up to now is to take money from Peter to pay Paul, or to regulate the economy with bureaucrats. Surely, progressives, there must be a better way to a better world than the violence of force and the domination of administrative system.

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