Modern Political Debate Follows a 200-Year Tradition

The argument between Thomas Paine and Edmund Burke never went away.

What sound like fights between capitalism and socialism or between “religious traditionalism and secular cosmopolitanism,” turn out to be battles between “progressive liberalism” and “conservative liberalism,” echoes of the more than 200-year-old dispute between Thomas Paine and Edmund Burke.

That’s the argument of Yuval Levin, whose The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and the Birth of Right and Left is published this week by Basic Books. Mr. Levin, the editor of the journal National Affairs and a former aide to both House Speaker Newt Gingrich and President George W. Bush, provides a valuable service by dusting off the writings of Burke and Paine and by clearly, concisely, and accessibly summarizing them in a way that highlights their relevance to contemporary politics and policy.

Burke, a member of the British House of Commons, was, by Mr. Levin’s telling, a gradualist reformer, a “forward-looking traditionalist” wary of the dangers of unchecked democracy, conscious of the ignorance and fallibility of mankind, and respectful of obligations to family and nation.

Paine, a pamphleteer influential in the American Revolution, was, by Mr. Levin’s account, a utopian who emphasized free choice and the consent of the governed, opposed monarchy, was skeptical of religion, had confidence in new structures based on reason, and was impatient in confronting injustice.

Part of why both men are still remembered is their skill as writers. Mr. Levin provides enough quotations and excerpts for readers to understand why.

Paine is known not only for his “Common Sense,” which helped launch the American Revolution, but also for “The American Crisis:” “These are the times that try men’s souls.”

Burke’s “Reflections on the Revolution in France” and his other writings also includes some keepers: “What is liberty without wisdom, and without virtue? It is the greatest of all possible evils; for it is folly, vice, and madness…” And also: “The idea of forcing every thing to an artificial equality has something, at first view, very captivating in it.” However, “Those who attempt to level never equalize” — the very attempt is a “monstrous fiction, which by inspiring false ideas and vain expectations into men destined to travel in the obscure walk of laborious life serves only to aggravate and embitter that real inequality.”

Mr. Levin acknowledges that, 200 years later, America’s right-left arguments don’t always map so neatly onto the Burke-Paine diagram. I found myself recognizing the libertarian hero Milton Friedman of “Free To Choose” fame in Mr. Levin’s description of Paine’s emphasis on the individual and choice. Levin refers once to “the often communitarian Burke” and “the often libertarian Paine,” which makes some mischief with the book’s subtitle’s case that Burke is the father of the right and Paine is the father of the left.

Today’s left, Mr. Levin writes, “could learn from Paine’s insistence on limits to the use of power and the role of government.” Today’s conservatives, in Mr. Levin’s view, are “far too open to the siren song of hyperindividualism,” and “could benefit by adopting Burke’s focus on the social character of man.”

Mr. Levin, clearly an admirer of Burke, makes the case that he was not “merely a defender of the established order” but also “a leader in almost every reform effort,” who favored moderating excessive punishments in British criminal law, ending the slave trade, and making British law more friendly to dissenters from the Church of England.

Yet Mr. Levin doesn’t flinch from recording some of Burke’s more abject fawning on the British nobility, including a 1772 letter from Burke to the Duke of Richmond: “You people of great families and hereditary trusts and fortunes are not like such as I am, who, whatever may be the rapidity of our growth, and even by the fruit we bear, and flatter ourselves a little that, while we creep on the ground, we belly into melons that are exquisite for size and flavor, yet still we are but annual plants that perish with our season, and leave no sort of traces behind us. You, if you are what you ought to be, are in my eye the great oaks that shade a country, and perpetuate your benefits from generation to generation.”

One reason Burke gets traction among American conservatives is for his supposed support of the American Revolution. Burke was more sympathetic to the complaints of the colonists than many other members of Parliament. Yet I write in my biography of Samuel Adams, Burke spoke out in Parliament in favor of targeting the Revolutionary ringleaders. “The persons guilty were Mr. Hancock and Mr. Samuel Adams,” Burke said on March 25, 1774 during the debate on the Boston Port Bill. “Punish Hancock, Adams, and others you know, but not all.” Later, in Burke's 1777 “Letter to the Sheriffs of Bristol,” he wrote, “I am charged with being an American. If warm affection towards those over whom I claim any share of authority be a crime, I am guilty of this charge. But I do assure you (and those who know me publicly and privately will bear witness to me,) that if ever one man lived more zealous than another for the supremacy of parliament, and the rights of this imperial crown, it was myself.”

The monarchist Burke and the religious skeptic Paine, an early supporter of the bloody French revolution, would seem to be unlikely models for today’s American politicians of either party. But Mr. Levin has made a convincing case that, 200 years later, we can still learn from both men.

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  • Enough About Palin||

    Dead people debating? That's crazy-talk.

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  • ||

    Correction. Dead white people. Get your facts straight.

    I read Common Sense and the ferocious Paine-Burke debate. Alas, impressive as it was, I fear the left simply don't see the relevance of such men anymore.

    They don't fit the narrative.

  • Winston||

    Correction: Dead Straight White Cisgendered Euro-Males

  • seguin||

    Over a hundred years old. Back then people didn't speak English right, or understand modern things, like iPods or fire.

    How could they possibly conceive of jet travel, or automobiles, or sushi? We all know Japan was invented in the Sixties, along with sex and critical thinking.

    Also, they were made of rocks.

  • Smack MacDougal||

    Yuval Levin clearly doesn't get politics and political doctrines. Libertarianism isn't even on the left-right spectrum of the left-right paradigm.

    Here is the correct model of the spectrum:

    Communism ↔ Socialism ↔ Syndicalism ↔ Oligopolism ↔ Fascism.

    All of the foregoing doctrines are political doctrines designed to control right of ownership, which always has been called property since the Ancient Romans. Militarism always pushes any people to one of the two extremes of the spectrum — communism, fascism.

    Libertarianism is an individualist moral philosophy with political implication. Thus, if each of a people adhered to libertarianism, it would be impossible to arrange a government of communism, socialism, syndicalism, oligopolism, fascism.

    Whether it is Communism, Socialism, Syndicalism, Oligopolism or Fascism — all violate libertarianism.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Libertarianism is an individualist moral philosophy with political implication.

    Nope. libertarianism is a political ideology with little or no moral content. You can tell because people arrive at libertarian ideas from a variety of religious, secular, cultural, and social frameworks. That's why it's possible to be a Christian- Jewish- Buddhist- Atheist- Individualist- Communitarian- etc etc etc -libertarian.

  • Smack MacDougal||

    Nope. Libertarianism can be summed up with one phrase — the non-aggression principle.

    There is nothing political about it. Political doctrines are aggressive arrangements of mass control.

  • Jquip||

    People keep parroting this line without thinking about it. Where is the violence in a breach of contract?

    There are further difficulties, such as the Hatfields and McCoys; classic example of a violent feud. If you state that time delayed retribution is legitimate, then both the Hatfields and McCoys were legitimated -- by their epistemology -- under the NAP.

    If you state that such a time delayed retribution is not appropriate, then the statute of limitations for violence is 'out of sight, out of mind.' Which is so thoroughly ripe for abuse that it is beyond conscience.

    NAP is fine as a general point of principle. But it is not sufficient as a single, sole premise for Libertarianism.

  • Smack MacDougal||

    People are parroting an argument against the NAP as somehow not foundational to libertarianism.

    You and those who parrot the false argument have conflated aggression with violence. Aggression doesn't need violence.

    Contract entered into English from the Old French in the early 1300s from the Latin contractus meaning to draw together, thus in agreement. Agression enters into English from the French in the 1600s meaning unprovoked attack.

    A beach of contract is an unprovoked attack, an agression over the state of agreeing (agreement).

    Violence entered into English in the 1200s from the from Anglo-French and Old French meaning physical force used to inflict injury or damage.

  • Jquip||

    Ok, so your definition of 'aggresssion' is 'unprovoked attack.' So it's not the Non-agression principle, it's the Non-unprovoked-attack-principle. Where attack is not, by any means, solely violence.

    eg. My original response to you was hostile to your opinions. But provoked by your post. Your post was an unprovoked attack on good reasoning.

    So who decides what an 'unprovoked-attack that-is-not-violence-containing' is? You're going to need another sole, sufficient premise.

  • Smack MacDougal||

    Words. Have you heard of such things? Humans use words as short-cuts to concepts.

    If misuse your words, you label the wrong concepts.

    That leads to all manners of mental mischief, from which you seem to suffer.

    The NAP is what it is. Breaching a contract is a kind of aggression committed by one against another, an aggression which disrupts the harmony between them.

    You might not like reality, but reality exists independently of you and your fantasy of the NAP requiring a physical attack done by one upon another.

  • Jquip||

    Indeed, and you are misusing aggression. Specifically as to breech of contract -- which is most often a lack of action, rather than an action itself.

    You are stuck here trying to defend the idea that sloth is active hostility.

  • Generic Stranger||

    People keep parroting this line without thinking about it. Where is the violence in a breach of contract?

    It's the Non-Aggression Principle, not the Non-Violence Principle. An aggressive act isn't necessarily violent.

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    And a violent act in defense of self or one's property us not the initiation of aggression.

  • Jquip||

    So by 'agression' you don't mean violence but 'not violent hostility.' So now we need a second sole sufficient premise to cover what 'not violent hostility' counts as aggression.

    Which was precisely my point, in the first.

  • Generic Stranger||

    Force, fraud and theft, the three actions that are morally wrong in terms of the NAP, seem to fairly handily cover everything. Fraud and theft, for instance, aren't necessarily violent, and would include breaking a contract, depending on motivation.

    The only point that you seem to have is that you don't sufficiently understand the NAP.

  • Scarecrow Repair||

    Isn't fraud superfluous? If you defraud someone but they lose nothing of value, what crime has been committed? Seems to me that fraud is merely an indication of premeditation.

  • Smack MacDougal||

    Not one thing in existence has value.

    Value arises from exchange of property for property, that is, of right of ownership in something for right of ownership in something else. So value is the ratio of one thing to another in exchange.

    When one of two things in exchange can be denominated in money, we give value another name. We call it price.

    Value requires two things in exchange.

    That said, fraud is criminal deception.

    Theft means a steal that arise from stealing. Most often, in law, a theft, a steal arising from stealing gets relegated to chattel. Always such action is committed fully by the criminal.

    In fraud, the crinimal intends to get the victim to act, voluntarily, through deception, to give away property (right of ownership) in something.

  • Scarecrow Repair||

    Quibblers like you are just damn fools in disguise.

    Value has clear meaning to just about everybody. If I brag how fast my car is, and lie about it, that is fraud, but no value is lost. If you offer to buy my fast car and I sell it to you, my fraud has cost you money. That loss is the theft, and the fraud adds nothing to the loss, but does show intent.

  • Smack MacDougal||


    Quibblers like you are just damn fools in disguise.

    ~Scarecrow Repair

    My you amuse! Academia is nothing but an ongoing debate on disputed definition.

    The concept of value in economics has been debated since the 1820s!

    I have rendered here the correct concept.

    Consider a new bicycle. When sold to a customer, the bicycle retailer sells the bicycle and buys money. Likewise the customer sells money and buys the bicycle.

    In that moment of exchange, both the bicycle and the money instantaneously became wealth. Both ceased to be wealth thereafter.

    The value made by the bicycle was so many dollars for one bicycle or one bicycle for so many dollars.

    Let's say after awhile, the bicyclist trashes the bicycle, giving it two flat tires, bent rims and handlebars, a ripped seat.

    If the bicyclist goes to sell the bicycle on Craigslist and no one buys it. The bicycle is worthless. No longer is it wealth. It cannot make value.

    Bragging about your car is lying. It's not fraud.

    Fraud is criminal deception intending to get another to commit an act.

    Theft is a noun. It's not a verb. There isn't such thing as thefting. The verb is thieve, which means to steal, to take by theft. It is an act undertaken by a thief.

    Words and their definitive labelled concepts — if only people knew about such ...

  • Scarecrow Repair||

    You can't even quibble and stay on target. I never once used the word thefting. What kind of straw are you smoking?

  • Smack MacDougal||

    Never were you on target. Your beliefs are quite false.

    You don't get economics nor law, clearly.

    Fraud = criminal deception intending to get the victim to act.

    Stealing = criminal act of a criminal taking away something, often chattel, from a victim.

    Value = the result of ratio of exchanging revealing the relative importance of two commodities.

    What is that Internetism? Isn't it pwned

    LOLZ

  • Lord at War||

    Fraud is criminal deception intending to get another to commit an act.

    Smack MacDougal is obviously Bo Cara Esq Jr!

    If you read Scarecrow's post, he specifically mentions knowingly lying about the capability of the auto he is selling.

    Which is fraud.

    Go back to 1st yr law.

  • Smack MacDougal||

    And Scarecrow also said, and said first, "If I brag how fast my car is, and lie about it, that is fraud.

    Of course, he is wrong there. Lying isn't a punishable offense. Yet, Scarecrow believes that merely lying along with lying while selling a car are both fraud. Decidedly, Scarecrow is wrong.

    And since you failed to catch that, go back to first grade and learn how to read again, but this time for comprehension.

  • Scarecrow Repair||

    No, you are a wannabe lawyer and illustrate that by your failure to comprehend English as she is spoke by mere mortals. I leave lawyering to lawyers. You should too.

  • Smack MacDougal||

    Meanwhile, you're the one with the subnormal reading comp skills.

    Living must be a struggle for you. Good luck!

  • Jquip||

    Let's state that you're correct, and that I don't understand the NAP sufficiently. Then what has so far been on exhibit is that no one else understands it sufficiently either.

    As otherwise, any one could have stated: "Here's the unambiguous definition of non-violent hostility, derp."

    Without that unambiguous conception: Then there is more needed than just the NAP.

  • Smack MacDougal||

    What part is hard to understand?

    Non-Aggression Principle.

    The word principle enters into English in the 1300s from the Anglo-French meaning rule of conduct.

    The prefix non enters into English in the late 1300s also from the Anglo-French meaning not, lack of.

    As stated earlier, aggression enters into English from the French in the 1600s meaning unprovoked attack.

    Non-Aggression Principle = the rule of conduct, the way of living by not engaging in unprovoked attacks against others.

    It doesn't get much simpler in both meaning and a way of living.

  • Mickey Rat||

    The concept of inherent individual rights is a moral idea. To say a person has rights is to affirm that they have moral value. To say libertarianism has little moral content is to entirely misunderstand what morality is.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Not all libertarians believe in the concept of inherent individual rights.

  • Smack MacDougal||

    Those people who call themselves as libertarians who deny the concept of individual rights aren't libertarians. Merely, they are collectivists of one stripe or another who have usurped the name libertarian for rhetorical trickery purposes. Either that or they are quite confused and perhaps quite intellectually deficient.

    Anyone is right to want to live, to want to live without an overlord and to pursue that which might give pleasure. Those are the only rights of anyone.

    All else are privileges masquerading as rights and doled by those holding sway over others.

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    He didn't say some libertarians denied individual rights; he said some libertarians deny INHERENT individual rights. There's a difference.

  • Smack MacDougal||

    The essence of fully experiencing human life, fully actualizing one's own life, of approaching the idealized man and not a distorted caricature, such as a slave or submissive, is wanting to live, wanting to live freely without an overlord and pursuing that which might yield pleasure.

    All of that is inherent in the design of any human and every human.

    Since your only rights are these — right to want to live, to want to live without an overlord and to pursue that which might give pleasure — and since pursuing those is the way toward the idealized man, et sequitur, such rights are inherent, definitional in what it means to be human.

  • SForza||

    Yeah, but what about chickens?

  • Smack MacDougal||

    In short, all political doctrines are collectivist doctrines.

    Libertarianism is an individualist doctrine and as such it is doctrine on how to live. That makes libertarianism a doctrine of moral philosophy, decidedly so.

    In short, Libertarianism is God-agnostic expression of Jesus' principle of love your neighbor as yourself.

    That principle forms one of the halves of all of Jesus' teaching:


    You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.

    ~ Luke 10:27

    and


    And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

    ~ Matthew 22:37-39

    It's too bad that far too many hyper-indoctrinated, both for and against, conflate religion with Jesus, the Libertarian.

    You might not like reality, but it is reality nonetheless.

  • Libertarius||

    If Jesus (the fictional character, btw) was a libertarian or an individualist, then the words 'libertarian' and 'individualist' have absolutely no meaning, and you can project whatever meaning onto anything you feel like rationalizing about.

  • Smack MacDougal||

    Fictional? You are free to live in any irreality of your own making.

    That said, Roman historian Tacitus didn't believe Jesus was fictional, nor did Roman historian Josephus.

    But hey, this is not an apologetics for Jesus.

    If it helps your mind to believe Jesus as fictional so believe it. However, even your fictional Jesus espoused the non-aggression principle, the essence of libetarianism, long before anyone in the 20th century uttered the word libertarianism.

  • Scarecrow Repair||

    I understood 'fictional' to mean the legend, as opposed to whatever the real man was, which is unknowable now.

  • lafe.long||

    That said, Roman historian Tacitus didn't believe Jesus was fictional, nor did Roman historian Josephus.

    You're going to have to do better than that. There are SERIOUS problems with both.

    Josephus is almost certainly a Christian redaction, and Tacitus does not hold up under scrutiny, either.

    And you'd think there would be more than TWO, wouldn't you?

  • LynchPin1477||

    I can see a case for Jesus being a type of libertarian socialist/communist. It is just a weird label since so many of the ideas associated with both libertarianism and communism weren't defined back then.

  • Smack MacDougal||

    Jesus wasn't communistic nor socialistic at all.

    Those who make the claim about Jesus as such are socialists and communists.

    Jesus was an individualist who respected property. To know this is so, one need only read the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard.

    Far too much mischief has been made with respect to Jesus only because Jesus told one miserable rich guy obsessed with his possessions to sell his possessions, give away the proceeds and learn to live with himself first.

  • MJGreen||

    Libertarianism is an individualist doctrine and as such it is doctrine on how to live.

    What a mighty fine non-sequitur.

    So it's "an individualist doctrine." How does it guide us on how to live?

    It's not morally neutral - no 'political' philosophy can be value neutral - but it has the best claim to individualism because it has as few broad rules as possible. Don't hurt, don't steal, don't lie. With fewer rules, individuals have greater opportunity to live life as they see fit. It's individualistic because it's not telling you how to live.

  • Smack MacDougal||


    "What a mighty fine non-sequitur."

    ~MJGreen

    Non-sequitur means it does not follow.

    You have misused the expression.

    Saying, Libertarianism is an individualist doctrine and as such it is doctrine on how to live. isn't a conclusion. It's a statement.

    Thus, you can't claim it to be non-sequitur. From what doesn't it follow then?

    Thanks for the giggle.

    Perhaps you needed it worded thus:

    Libertarianism is an individualist doctrine on how to live.

  • Lord at War||

    Jesus to Smack MacDummy-

    Learn HTML, and keep it wholly.

  • Smack MacDougal||

    You're quite the dork being obsessed with all things me.

  • Lord at War||

    What?

    No "Love thy neighbor" bullshit from a
    "typical" So-con?

    You are a leftist twit attempting to mimic a Christian viewpoint--and embracing a "total fail"!

    Can we get better trolls?

  • Smack MacDougal||

    My you're most amusing. Mere words have triggered you into rage. Look at you go!

    You're like a little marionette and my words are the strings that make you dance.

    Oh, and since it's unlikely you would pull a good Samaritan on my behalf, that means you're not my neighbor. Didn't you know that bit?

    It looks like you're the one suffering the total fail

  • MJGreen||

    as such means a conclusion. The premise is that libertarianism is an individualist doctrine; therefore (in conclusion), it is a doctrine how to live. It does not follow that, because libertarianism is individualist, it is a doctrine on how to live. I argued that it's the exact opposite.

  • Smack MacDougal||

    Libertarianism is an individualist doctrine that instructs one how to live. It's a statement.

    What doesn't follow — what is the non-sequitur — is saying therefore libertarianism isn't a doctrine of a way to live.

  • lafe.long||

    In short, Libertarianism is God-agnostic expression of Jesus' principle of love your neighbor as yourself.

    Though the scriptures quoted may be Jesus' co-opting of the "golden rule" (which predates the historical Jesus)..

    "Do unto others..." and "Love thy neighbor..." is the ultimate justification for controlling others... and socialists absolutely love this.

    Libertarianism (and the NAP) is consistent with the silver rule - the former being a positive command to action, the latter, "Do NOT unto others..." being a restatement of the concept "do no harm".

    "Political tags -- such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth -- are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire."

  • David Wall||

    "Nope. libertarianism is a political ideology with little or no moral content."

    If this is so, then libertarianism has no long range future. The prevailing moral dogma, altruism, must be forthrightly challenged to have any hope of eradicating force out of our lives. We are in the midst of a philosophical war. Your comment is equivalent to leftest refusal to name Islam as an enemy of the West. Please consider the intellectual cowardice of your comment.

  • reardensteel||

    Hey, I sense a little Objectivism creeping through there.

  • Free Society||

    Nope. libertarianism is a political ideology with little or no moral content. You can tell because people arrive at libertarian ideas from a variety of religious, secular, cultural, and social frameworks. That's why it's possible to be a Christian- Jewish- Buddhist- Atheist- Individualist- Communitarian- etc etc etc -libertarian.

    That's absurd. Of course it's a moral philosophy. Libertarian arguments are not predicated on the pragmatic usefulness of liberty. Libertarians believe in the principles of limited government (or no government at all) not simply because it breeds prosperity, but because it's the right thing to do.

    Smashing out your neighbor's windows because you don't like the books he reads is wrong, not because of pragmatic considerations about repercussions of smashing his windows, but because it's simply wrong to aggressively attack others in order impede their free choices. Libertarianism is a moral philosophy without any doubt whatsoever. To claim that libertarianism is about not smashing your neighbor's window out of pragmatic concerns for repercussions, as opposed to the illegitimacy of such an act, is to fundamentally misunderstand libertarianism.

  • Libertarius||

    Your spectrum presumes the (unfounded) leftoid mythology of a huge ideological gulf between communism and fascism, as if two variations on the same totalitarian-collectivist theme could be so wildly different.

    The leftoids were foaming at the mouth over the rise of European fascism in the 1930's; after WWII, it suddenly became politically expedient to throw fascism under the bus and rewrite it as an allegedly right-wing ideology. It isn't. But it *is* useful if you want to set up a pincer movement, where you fix the coin to read "Collectivism" on both sides, as the leftoids have a patently obvious incentive to do.

    Nor is the true political spectrum a transitory, relative, shifting circle of muddy identity, like that ridiculous Nolan chart the libertarians are always pushing. As usual, the correct answer --in this case, to properly identifying the political spectrum--is provided by the Objectivists.

  • Smack MacDougal||

    Your silly, false claim,


    Your spectrum presumes the (unfounded) leftoid mythology of a huge ideological gulf between communism and fascism ...~ Libertarius

    quite amuses.

    Under communism, the state owns everything. Political rulers own the state.

    Under fascism, the state owns little. Private ownership reigns. The economy is an oligopolist economy existing to support militarism objectives.

    Enjoy your irreality!

  • Smack MacDougal||

    *Political rulers own control (power) of the state.

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    In fascism, the state effectively owns everything, unless you don't believe in the concept of ownership.

  • Smack MacDougal||

    "In fascism, the state effectively owns everything ..."

    ~ Neoliberal Kochtopus

    LOLZ. That is what everyone else the world over calls communism.

    The Berlin Stock Exchange operated during NAZI Germany and functioned the same as it did before the NAZIs, to transfer ownership of shares of stock between individuals. Prices floated freely until February 1943.

    Under fascism, individuals own production.

    The political establishment structure the economy as an oligopoly — few firms in each industry dominate the market in non-price competition. A "Russian doll" chain of suppliers and sub-suppliers exist to support the firms at the top.

    However, under communism, in Russia, stock exchange was closed in 1917, failed attempts at its revival in the 1920s not withstanding.

    Under fascism there is private ownership of production. Under communism there isn't private ownership of production.

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    No, under Communism the state overtly owns everything. Under National Socialism the state indeed does effectively own everything by commanding what will be produced and consumed.

    In one there are no deeds, in the other there are notional, almost humorous pieces of paper called deeds that really do not mean a thing.

  • Smack MacDougal||

    You are free to believe that all day long. However, your belief fails to comport to reality.

    During the NAZI era, ownership was effectively private. Some firms were connected to the government (Henkel, Krupps) selling to government products on contract. Yet, ownership was fully ensconced into the hands of individuals.

    Sure, there was intense amount of price fixing (the stock market effectively operated with prices fixed by government technocrats after February 1943), but ownership and the proceeds of ownership yielded directly to individuals.

    Communism and Fascism share but a few traits — militarism, state security apparatus. Lives are micro-managed under communism but not fascism.

    Those under communism suffers from absolute totalitarianism. Those under fascism suffer from flexible totalitarianism.

  • ||

    If there was an "intense amount of price fixing," then there wasn't really ownership. If you are told under threat of force what to do with your possessions, then you don't really own them, no matter what the deed says.

  • Smack MacDougal||


    "If there was an "intense amount of price fixing," then there wasn't really ownership."
    ~alan_s

    Property means ownership. Property is a bundle of rights — Jus Possidendi (right for possession), Jus Utendi (right for using), Jus Abutendi (right for destroying, alienating), Jus Vindicandi (right for recovery when found in the wrongful possession of another.

    Even under price fixing, there is ownership. Price fixing distorts efficiency, not ownership.
  • ||

    "right for using," "right for destroying".

    Again, those aspects of property are directed by the state under fascism, so they are owned by the state, whether it says so in a legal document or not.

  • reardensteel||

    Dude, you seem to draw highly theoretical lines between things that are for the most part the same.

    According to your approach, Obama is correct when he says O-Care didn't make you lose your health plan, your insurance company did.
    That's only true in an "irreality".

    I mean, how free would you feel if you could "own" things, but could only do with them what the State allows you to do? And then you were taxed heavily to enable the State's purposes, whatever those may be? Sound familiar?

    That's why the spectrum of political ideologies is really more like a circle. Totalitarianism is at 12 o'clock and Libertarianism is at 6. 1-5 are ideologies favorable to religion (Conservatism, Monarchy, Fascism, Theocracy, etc). 7-11 are ideologies that reject religion (Progressivism, Socialism, Communism, etc). (BTW, please don't anyone start an argument over whether I categorized those all correctly; that's not the point.) Finally, each ideology is arranged according to how much freedom it allows and how much it restricts gov't power (more freedom=closer to 6; less freedom=closer to 12).

    That's how I would do it, at least.

  • toolkien||

    Fascism was centralized planning without sweeping away the old order, communism was centralization after sweeping away the old order. Whether one gets to totalitarianism as a traditionalist or as a progressivist, the end result is the same as time goes by. As centralized economies fail, minorities are triangulated to be the scapegoats and done to death.

    In the end, the continuum isn't a line, it is a circle, with anarchy at 12 o'clock and totalitarianism at 6 o'clock. Traditionalism runs between 12 and 6, progressivism runs from 6 to 12. 11'ish would be left-anarchy, 1'ish right anarchy. 5'ish fascism, 7'ish communism. From any point on the circle you can move forward or backward and agree with a principal of another and not be very far away in one respect, but very far away in another respect (a short curve working backward between 1 and 11, passing through 12, is a very long curve passing through 6 o'clock). If you agree on a lack of Force and coercion, 1 and 11 aren't that far apart. If philosophies refuse to find common ground, they will inevitably resort to Force and coercion and gravitate toward 6 0'clock. How much Force traditionalists or progressivist use dictates how much State they require.

  • Smack MacDougal||

    You present an interesting model, which reflect much upon yourself. However, it's not useful for anyone else.

    "Fascism was centralized planning without sweeping away the old order, communism was centralization after sweeping away the old order. "

    That is an interesting observation, but the sweeping away or the lack thereof is not necessary for either to exist.

    There is not such thing as "left anarchy" nor "right anarchy.

    By definition, anarchy means without (a) an arch (overlord). There is no government with anarchy. Thus there can't be left (communism, socialism, syndicalism) anarchism nor right (oligopolism, fascism) anarchism.

    As there is no government, anarchy cannot exist on a spectrum nor on a the dial of clock.

    Political doctrines are collectivist doctrines of mass control designed to control right of ownership, which always has been called property.

    Anarchism lacks control because there are no controllers. Thus, anarchism isn't a political doctrine. It's an apolitical doctrine.

    Traditionialist is another way of saying conservative.

    The struggle that arose in the Progressive Era was fought between conservatives and their conservativism — bureaucracy by spoils, policy through voting — and progressives and their progressivism — bureaucracy becomes meritocracy through earning and technocracy with policy through the scientism of enlightened academicians.

  • Free Society||

    Fascism is not the equivalent of communism nor is it a blood relative of (classical) liberalism. In a fascist system, there is a fusion between big government and big business. The commanding heights of the economy are under the direction of the state through it's chartered cartels (corporations). These private property rights you say exist in a fascist system, are merely ostensible. Those rights can never supersede the will of the state. Small enterprises continue to function in a hyperregulated market, but the big producers exist as servants of the state in exchange for politically protected market share.

  • Smack MacDougal||

    So.

    In America, Americans can exchange property, e.g., deeds to improved land, and enjoy all the proceeds therefrom. As well, any level of government can step in and confiscate anyone's property in any improved land, condemning such land as blight (Kelo v State of Connecticut). Is the U.S.A. fascist?

    Also, for some chattel (cars, houses), taxes get levied on exchange transfers and for possession maintenance.

    Brushing that aside, the argument above arose because someone posited and failed to defend the false belief that communism and fascism are the same. The doctrines are not.

    Facts remain. Under fascism, individuals own production. Under fascism there is private ownership of production. Individuals reap the rewards of any profit in production.

    The political establishment holding sway with fascism structure an economy around markets of oligopoly with price-directed competitive markets for subcontractors.

    The political establishment holding sway with communism structure an economy without markets and in so doing, try to eliminate economy. There isn't legal exchange, only allocation of whatever is produced.

    Does taxation levied against property make property illusory? I would argue yes.

    Also, what would make for good discourse would be discussing the effects of regulatory capture on prices, which deteriorates anyone's property in what would otherwise have become capital employed in competition against the regulatory-capture firms absent regulatory capture.

  • Free Society||

    Is the U.S.A. fascist?

    Yep. But not because of the existence of eminent domain authority, which is primarily utilized at local and state levels. The regulatory regime, from the SEC to the EPA, is an indispensable part of the fascist institutions they use to promote centralized power.

    Facts remain. Under fascism, individuals own production. Under fascism there is private ownership of production. Individuals reap the rewards of any profit in production.

    These private owners of production only own what they own because it serves state interests. You're argument isn't too far from the notion that "cronyism=capitalism" or "fascism=capitalism" that we hear from socialists and progressives. These individuals that reap the rewards are state selected cronies who don't face market pressures because they enjoy the favor of the political system. Their profits are politically protected and their losses are often socially subsidized.

    Does taxation levied against property make property illusory? I would argue yes.

    I would agree. It makes 'ownership' more of a lease type of arrangement. That said, there does need to be some mechanism to protect one's property claims. I just don't think the protection of property rights is something that the government should have a monopoly on. If not using private sector enforcement, at least some kind of Common Law approach would serve consumers better.

  • Smack MacDougal||


    "These private owners of production only own what they own because it serves state interests."

    ~ Free Society

    First, the phrase the state is short-hand for the state of affairs.

    "The state" doesn't exist. It's abstraction. Abstraction lacks interests. Only individuals have interests.

    Again and again, facts remain. Under fascism, individuals own production. Under fascism there is private ownership of production. Individuals reap the rewards of any profit in production.

  • Smack MacDougal||

    Oh and there is no such thing as crony capitalism. Parroting the misguided phrase spoken from ignorance — crony capitalism — fails to do service to anyone. The horrible, wrong label — crony capitalism — implies there is something wrong with capitalism, when never there is.

    The problems are Crony Politics, Crony Governance and Crony Regulatory Capture. The problem rests in politics and governance rather than people in pursuit providing wanted products efficiently.

    Capitalism means living by using capital in pursuit of ongoing exchange of buying power. Said another way, capitalism means living by using products to produce a surplus of another product and hoping to sell that surplus for a price such that the sum of sales exceeds the cost to gain those sales. There is no other kind of capitalism.

    When exchange is not hampered by artificial restriction of supply, nor inflated by artificial giving of buying power, the righteousness of a free market prevails. Only through markets free from Crony Politics, Crony Governance and Crony Regulatory Capture can all benefit owing to efficiency.

  • reardensteel||

    If you read my comment above, just know that I had not read your comment before writing mine.
    Clearly, you and I agree on the best way to conceptualize political ideologies.

  • Libertarius||

    Your equivocation does not amuse, it is tiresomely common. Fascism differs from any other variant of totalitarianism only in matters of particular detail; fascism maintains "private property" in name only, wherein you are allowed to own property so long as you do whatever the State orders you to do with it.

    But your common equivocation *does* help the left to pretend that capitalism = fascism.

    And to your religious comments--are you serious? Christianity is just a half-baked offshoot of Plato's mystical philosophy. The "irreality" is yours, bub.

  • Smack MacDougal||

    You continue to amuse!

    Let's deconstruct more of your irreality and silliness.

    • No where have I made religious comments.

    If by discussing Jesus you mean that I have discussed religion, you are quite amusing. Jesus opposed religion and all the religious authorities of his days. They nailed him to a cross for his opposition of religion and religious authority.

    • Christianity is a people and not philosophy. Some Christians adhere to Catholicism, a doctrine, the details of which are not germane here (the claim of Pope as vicar of Christ, the triune godhead).

    Many self-purporting Christians do not adhere to such a doctrine. Many are anti-trinitarian and anti-pope. The list is quite long who are one or both.

    However, conflating Christianity, a people, with a doctrine of some of those people is a mistake.

    • Totalitarianism means living by centralized, total control. Fascism isn't a kind of totalitarianism.

    Under fascism, individuals have property. Profit-seeking is allowed.

    There is local control of local governments. Not every aspect of life is legalized under fascism.

    Keep amusing Libertarius!

  • ||

    Yep, the award for irreality definitely goes to Smack MacDougal.

  • Smack MacDougal||

    So you're the winner of the irreality award 20 years running, every year since its inception. Bully for you alan_s!

  • Free Society||

    Totalitarianism means living by centralized, total control. Fascism isn't a kind of totalitarianism.

    By your definition of totalitarianism there has never been a society living under totalitarian government in the history of the world. Totalitarianism is not limited to Borg Collectives in the Star Trek universe. The "total" in totalitarian refers to the amount of power of the state over the individual. The rights people are afforded in such societies are demoted to the rank of privileges granted by government, as opposed to being inviolable natural or human rights that only the due process of law can overturn.

  • Smack MacDougal||

    Bah. Russians living under the USSR were living under totalitarianism. Central planning and dictate over occupation, housing, location and the like were all a part of totalitarian life in the former Soviet Union.

    No matter how many times people above want to equate communism with fascism, regardless of all their feet stomping, never shall their want to do so be true. Never shall such silly beliefs of theirs ever comport to reality.

  • David Wall||

    "Under fascism, the state owns little. Private ownership reigns."

    The wholesale eradication and confiscation of Jewish life and property in fascist Germany makes this statement absurd. A book detailing the confiscation of Jewish heirlooms that were then given to supporters of the Nazi regime and still in the possession of their descendants recently rocked Germany.

    Or are you a Holocaust denier of some kind?

  • Smack MacDougal||


    The wholesale eradication and confiscation of Jewish life and property in fascist Germany makes this statement absurd.

    ~ David Wall

    Germans decreed Jews non-citizens in the same way that post-Colonial Americans decreed Indians non-citizens. Like the Germans, Americans confiscated the Indians property in land and all that lived upon that land and all that lay dormant beneath.

    According to fascist Germans, Germans had property, unlike contemporary communist Russians. From the German perspective, Jews weren't Germans and thus had no rights in NAZI Germany.

    Likewise, according to post-colonial Americans, Americans had property. From the American perspective, Indians weren't Americans and thus had not rights in America after British rule.

    Next.

  • Free Society||

    They had rights. But those rights were protected only by a system of weak treaties that were constantly breached. From a Constitutional perspective, the "Indian Nations" were foreigners and not constituent members of "We the People". As I recall, it took an amendment to extend constitutional protections.

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    All that stuff is on the left under the heading of statism. Libertarianism and anarcho-capitalism is on the right, polar opposite of the statists.

  • Smack MacDougal||

    The entire left-right paradigm is a paradigm of statism.

    To accept the left-right paradigm is to presume a state must exist and not merely a state, but most often a strong state.

    Libertarianism, an individualist moral doctrine, isn't on the spectrum at all because libertarianism is not a political doctrine. By definition any political doctrine is a collectivist doctrine, the dogma on how a people living within a bounded region should be ruled by others.

    Murray Rothbard did the world a disservice by slapping the prefix anarcho to the word capitalism.

    Capitalism means living by using capital in pursuit of ongoing exchange of buying power.

    Said another way, capitalism means living by using products to produce a surplus of another product and hoping to sell that surplus for a price such that the sum of sales exceeds the cost to gain those sales.

    Slapping anarcho upon the word capitalism doesn't change capitalism.

    Rothbard should have called his political doctrine anarcho-legalism. However, if he did, his belief would have been exposed as not being anarchy — without an overlord — at all.

    Perhaps Rothbard ought to have called his doctrine privatism or privatized legalism and privatized financialism.

  • Drake||

    Nope. That's the European scale unfortunately. The American scale starts with Statism on the far left and goes to Libertarianism on the far right.

  • seguin||

    In his defense, metric is hard. SO HARD YOU GUYS!

  • Smack MacDougal||

    Nope.

    By definition ALL political doctrines are COLLECTIVIST and are devised by men and the means to rule over other men.

    Libertarianism is an individualist doctrine that guides anyone to rule over himself alone.

    That word political should give you a big hint. You might want to look up the Latin politicus as well as the Greek politikos.

    There is interesting learning to had from the classics.

    Next.

  • Winston||

    Charles James Fox was quite supportive of the American Revolutionaries being that he dressed in the uniform of the Continental Army.

  • Winston||

    far too open to the siren song of hyperindividualism

    Yes because we all know the problem with the Modern Right everywhere is that they are too individualistic and anti-government. That would be quite a surprise to the folks here.

  • Libertarius||

    Everybody not being a slave to everyone else = "hyperindividualism"

  • GroundTruth||

    +1

  • seguin||

    Thinking you own thoughts again, are you Libertarius? You're lucky the Inquisition belongs to the SEIU or it'd be burning at the stake for you.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    Well, that's Levin's view, not Stoll. And I think that that perception from Levin belies his thesis that the modern political debate draws directly to Burke-Paine. In effect, he's saying that Burke's views are the "True Scotsman" of conservatism. So, modern conservatives who emphasize individual liberty aren't true conservative Scotsmen.

  • Ken Shultz||

    I don't think engaging in these ideological debates with people on the left is helpful.

    Most of them just support Obama as a person. Validating that form of hero worship the veneer of leftist ideology is probably destructive.

    It's like taking a Lyndon LaRouche supporter's ideology seriously. By arguing with most of them, you're just lending legitimacy to their personality cult.

  • MJGreen||

    I don't know which I prefer:

    "Society in every state is a blessing, but government, even in its best stage, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one." - Thomas Paine

    "In vain you tell me that Artificial Government is good, but that I fall out only with the Abuse. The Thing! the Thing itself is the Abuse!" - Edmund Burke (hopefully not being sarcastic, just youthful and idealistic)

  • lap83||

    I like this one from Edmund Burke “There is a boundary to men's passions when they act from feelings; but none when they are under the influence of imagination.”

  • SQRLSY One||

    Man, I just dunno about that them thar ancient old Dead White Men… I just DO NOT know, because they NEVER EVER (not a ONE of them!) took ANY kind of stance about “time cube theory”… I guess I just gotta forgive them for that, it was WAY more hippagroovalistic than ANYTHING they’d have a CHANCE to ever learn about, back in them thar olden days… Until I can evaluate what the Esteemed Ancient old dead white men had to say, evaluated according to the “time cube theory”, see, http://www.timecube.com/timecube2.html , I will have to continue to ‘fess ignernce… And even I, Profoundly Deep as I admittedly am, can NOT decipher the Time Cube, can ANYONE please HELP me? Is there anybody… OUT THERE?!?!?

  • RishJoMo||

    Rol lthat beautiful bean footage!

    www.AnonTru.tk

  • ibcbet||

    Libertarianism can be summed up with one phrase — the non-aggression principle. i think

  • juris imprudent||

    Today’s conservatives, in Mr. Levin’s view, are “far too open to the siren song of hyperindividualism,”

    What is this siren song that lures conservatives into... what again? Is it hyperindividualism behind social conservatives? Maybe neo-cons? Sure not paleo-cons! What conservatives are so committed to individualism that they throw out the state, church and community?

    If this is a serious contention then the book has a fatal flaw.

  • Free Society||

    Yeah anarcho-capitalists might be described as "hyperindividualist", but certainly not conservatives. The difference between modern liberals and conservatives is their answer to the question of how best to form and run a political collective. Even calling anarcho-capitalists "hyperindividualists" is unfair since anarcho-capitalists stress the importance of markets (voluntary decentralized collectives). The only groups that could be accurately described as hyperindividualists are the types of folks who go live solitary lives in a cave somewhere.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    I can't say I find myself particularly persuaded by Levin's thesis. Burke and Paine were both creatures of the English Enlightenment. As such, they shared a lot more assumptions about the world and the proper order of things than they differed on. Both, for example, would be horrified by the progressive efforts to refashion society to suit its outlook and desires, albeit for different reasons. If you want to call Burke a communitarian, you're hard-pressed to put him on the political right, as communitarianism, as a coherent ideology in the modern world, is much more heavily rooted on the political left. If Paine supported the French Revolution, he most certainly wasn't a product of it. In fact, he was imprisoned by the Jacobins. Any analysis that doesn't recognize the modern left as essentially not of the English Enlightenment tradition, but stemming from the French Revolution and rooted in much different assumptions about the world is going to fall on its face.

  • On The Road To Mandalay||

    Political ideologies however labeled are nothing more than different types of b s produced by the human race. Religion is another invention of the same.

  • Free Society||

    Ideologies are not created equal. Some are clearly irrational to most reasonable people. Some are well-thought out descriptions of reality, while most others are poorly thought-out versions of what the person wishes or believes reality ought to be.

  • parkerbce586||

    until I looked at the draft that said $8761, I have faith ...that...my best friend had been actualie erning money part time at their laptop.. there mums best friend has been doing this 4 only about 8 months and resently repaid the morgage on there villa and purchased a brand new Aston Martin DB5. see here now
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  • Car Scanner||

    Interesting story.

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