This Post Brought to You by the the Vast Right Wing Propaganda Machine

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Salon excerpts Joe Conason's new book Big Lies: The Right-Wing Propaganda Machine and How It Distorts the Truth, the most recent rider on the What Liberal Media? bandwagon.

The piece is a useful reminder that Conason's brand of smug condescension can be every bit as noxious as Coulterian venom. I was gratified, for instance, to learn about all the wonderful things I owe to Joe's political allies:


If your workplace is safe; if your children go to school rather than being forced into labor; if you are paid a living wage, including overtime; if you enjoy a 40-hour week and you are allowed to join a union to protect your rights—you can thank liberals. If your food is not poisoned and your water is drinkable—you can thank liberals.

Golly, thanks liberals! I'd been under the misguided impression that these things were primarily made possible by technological development and economic growth, but it's good to be set straight. Why no mention of Al Gore's wonderful Internet, though?

It's not entirely auto-backpatting, however:


If Americans have a common fault, however, it's our tendency to suffer from historical amnesia. Too many of us have forgotten, or never learned, what kind of country America was under the conservative rule that preceded the century of liberal reform.

In other words, liberals aren't perfect: They suffer from the defect of being too charitable to their loathsome opponents.

The rest of the excerpt is a tedious recitation of cherry picked polls showing that the majority of the American people support big government programs. My first thought when seeing such stats is always… "yeah, they like Paradise Hotel and Chicken Soup for the Soul too… who cares?" But I do sometimes wonder about the mysteries of public attitudes.

See, among the polls Conason doesn't cite are those showing that Americans prefer "smaller government with fewer services" to "larger government with more services" by a margin of 54 to 41 percent, even when the polling question doesn't mention higher taxes. (Though when you characterize the services as "needed" people say that providing those—which count as "needed" is left nebulous—is more important than shrinking government by two to one.) Conason looks instead at approval of particular programs, and that's a pretty consistent trend. Ask people whether they want smaller government, and majorities say yes. But ask about particular programs and majorities want to keep them.

There are two explanations for that, and I'm not sure which is correct here. One is that there's a Condorcet circle such that a majority really does want to do away with some significant portion of what government does, but (different) majorities also prefer the status quo to the status quo minus any one particular program. That'd be a form of systemic irrationality, arising from the well established problem of intransitivity in social preferences. The other possibility is that it's a more garden variety kind of cognitive bias—individual irrationality. People like the sound of "smaller government" in the abstract, but not when it comes time to actually cash out the attractive sounding notion in concrete terms.

NEXT: Ecce Homophobe

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  1. the very air you breath was given to you by liberals, so get on your knees and give thanks to your masters!

  2. Coulter isn’t venomous, just a writer in the style of the old R. Emmett Tyrrell before he became an old woman. Personally she’s a dried up prune but that shouldn’t matter to anybody. Maybe it’s the Hamptons accent.

    Condescention on the other hand doesn’t have any redeeming social value.

  3. “I’d been under the misguided impression that these things were primarily made possible by technological development and economic growth, but it’s good to be set straight.”

    Did child labor end due to it being outlawed by the states (which it gradually was), via the market mechanism, or some combination thereof? I would suspect that its the latter. Also, wasn’t economic growth spurred by universal education and the like? Discovering which is the cart and which is the horse is not as easy as our ideological prejudices would have it.

    BTW, this sentence smacks of technological determinism – a common enough fallacy here on Hit & Run.

    As to the issue of why Americans are willing to allow big government in exchange for the particular programs they enjoy, the answer is simple and can be found in the “Federalist Papers.” The entire structure of the federal government was designed to play factions off one another; it does this rather well, and thus you have the aforementioned result. This of course includes class warfare, which Madison expected as a matter of course.

  4. I like the mention of Condorcet’s paradox.

    Say that every single voter wants to get rid of 1 government program and keep 2 (say only 3 programs are being considered). So everybody wants smaller government! (I know, I know, 2 programs are still big gov’t, but 2 is smaller than 3, and I said “smaller”, not “small”.)

    But 1/3 wants to dump program A while keeping programs B and C. Another 1/3 wants to dump program B while keeping programs A and C. And another 1/3 wants to dump program C while keeping programs A and B. So 100% of the public wants smaller government, and 2/3 of the public likes a given program. So smaller gov’t has unanimous support, and each program has resounding 2/3 support.

    When I try to write this down symoblically I don’t get something that is formally a Condorcet circle (as I understand it). However, the spirit remains the same.

  5. BTW, comparing what Coulter writes to what Conason writes, if these excerpts are a representative sample at least, is a bit of a farce. But go with whatever soothes your wounded ideological paradigm. 🙂

  6. thoreau,

    The problem is that the electorate as a rule is largely uninformed about what the government does and does not do. Most Americans only come face to face with the Federal Government via the post office; they might also interact with FEMA or some permitting agency as well. The 2002 election’s emphasis on the HSD seems to be an exception to this “lack of awareness” rule.

  7. Think how far we would be advance if the left weren’t throwing road-blocks in front of progress all the time?

  8. I’ll let you know when I feel a “wound.”

  9. Jean Bart: Shut up…

  10. I swear libertarians would cut off their nose to spite their face.

  11. ummm.. I don’t think paradigms can be wounded.

  12. Anon @ 2:56,

    *laugh*

    Now you’re sounding much like the leftists that you despise. 🙂

  13. Thoreau:
    You don’t get the circle if you only look at one program at a time with the numbers you use. I think that to make the math work, you’d have to look at preference orderings over the choice set:
    [{A, B, C}, {A,B}, {B,C}, {A}, {B}, {C}, {}]

    You could then have a situation such that you have intransitive preferences in pairwise contests, depending how the programs are bundled. (In other words, how logrolling happens…)

  14. John Brennan,

    A paradigm is the theoretical framework of an ideological system (scientific schools were what the term was originally applied to in its new meaning); in other words its a way of viewing, studying, etc. reality shared by a group based on a similar set of concepts, values, etc. I don’t see how this framework can’t be destroyed, attacked, damaged, evolved etc.

  15. Most Americans only come face to face with the Federal Government via the post office; they might also interact with FEMA or some permitting agency as well.

    Yup, the American redneck’s interaction with his government is limited to hiding from the mailman come bill time and beggin’ to the FEMA man after his trailer done got blown away by the last global-warming-spawned tornado.

    Did somebody say something about smug condescension?

    Me, I’ve always found Conason to be a garden-variety asshole; not really in Coulter’s league, though.

  16. The best part was Conason’s chest-thumping rally cry that “no Republikkkan president has won a majority of the popular vote since 1988!” Holy shit, you want to talk about limited scopes? Wow, that’s a grand total of THREE elections, two of which were won by the same Democrat (who, by the way, didn’t win a majority of the popular vote in 1992, either), and before that, you had three Republican majority wins in a row!

    Good god, it’s no wonder salon.com’s going bankrupt if they waste their money on nonsense like this.

  17. Mitch H.,

    Can you give me some examples to refute my statement then?

  18. Jean, small note: slavery very likely would never have ended were it not for the industrial revolution. I don’t know that you would call the mid 19th century Republics ‘liberals’ for one thing, yeh they were the abolitionists. The development of the middle class was a direct result of economic gains made possible by technological advances brought on by the IR. You actually think child labor and education were the results of social movements divorced from new economic realities? Farmer children dont have time to go to school year round, nor would labor laws have applied to them. It was the emergence of the middle class that made all these great changes possible, not some liberal idiology Im sorry to say.

  19. Mitch H.,

    Aside from the tax collection efforts of the IRS that is.

  20. couldn’t it just be some combination thereof?

    oh yeah, i forgot, ideological warfare and all that.

  21. No need for fancy theorems here. This goes right to the heart of politics. The costs of programs are widely diffused through taxes and deficit financing. The benefits of programs are concentrated. Taxpayers figure the tax losses are a given, and they want to hang on to whatever they get in return, even if they don’t place much value on it.

  22. Fatmouse: “Good god, it’s no wonder salon.com’s going bankrupt if they waste their money on nonsense like this.”

    Coulter’s book is selling just fine, Salon is smart and just following the same business model. What makes you think nonsense doesn’t sell?

  23. Just from my little corner of the world, most farmers & agribusiness folk have direct contact with the USDA in one form or another.

  24. What, are you forgetting the monthly cheques from SSI as well?

    Pound sand, Bart.

  25. “…slavery very likely would never have ended were it not for the industrial revolution.”

    Not according to the historical record. It was the industrial revolution which aided the profitability of slavery actually. Though the old saw that the “gin” saved slavery has now been disproven (it was still very profitable in the twenty years prior to the gin’s invention), it was the rapid industrialization in Britain and later the American Northeast that was a key to Southern agricultural fortunes. BTW, in 1860, Southern economic fortunes had never been higher, nor had the price of slaves that worked their way “down river” via the internal slave trade.

    Furthermore, technology could just as easily be used on slave-holding plantations as in factories; Cuba in the latter half of the 19th century is a perfect example of this. Cuban plantation owners made liberal use of the latest technological advancements in the sugar industry – from the newest vacuum pans to creating networks of privately owned rail lines.

  26. “couldn’t it just be some combination thereof? ”

    Thing is, that’s the kind of explanation Steven Pinker would call “too useless to be wrong.” (He coined the phrase talking about the idea that chidren are shaped “by nature and nurture working in tandem”) Yeah, sure, there’s some combination. But that’s not terribly helpful: what kind of combination? How much explanatory pwoer does each factor have? What would the effect have been of one influence wihout the other? Did one factor require the other? And so on.

  27. “You actually think child labor and education were the results of social movements divorced from new economic realities?”

    Hmm, no, which should be fairly obvious by my horse and cart language.

    As to the emergence of the “middle class,” you’ve as yet to create a chronology here. And you are committing the totalizing sin that you accuse me of.

  28. Julian Sanchez,

    Yet Pinker also warns not to take his notion too seriously. 🙂

  29. Julian Sanchez,

    BTW, I would argue that your ahistorical, deterministic statement wasn’t very helpful either.

  30. Now you’re splitting what ifs. What we do know is that slavery did end in America, and that there _was_ an industrial revolution. The war that ended slavery was won largely do to the Norths overwhelming advantage in technology and production capability. Industry created wealth on unpresidented scales. Markets needed to be created to further exploit such wealth and a slave system would have not accomplished this. Several key facts: slavery tended to end on a world wide basis as middle classes emerged (economic and social pressure), middle classes emerged as a direct result of industrial wealth creation. Doubtless slavery underwent a temporary boom do to industry, but the same pressure just as surely ultimately destroyed slavery. After all, if slavery was ultimately spurred by industrial advances, why would industrialists be the ones to end slavery? The answer it had temporary utility but was ultimately counter productive.

  31. I leafed through this book at an airport, expecting Conason to seize on something like “Saddam caused 9/11” and the debunk it and blame Fox News. Instead he came up with stuff like:

    – The myth that Republicans are fiscal geniuses and champions of free enterprise.
    – The right’s self-proclaimed monopoly on “family values.”
    – The conservative smearing of liberals as unpatriotic and anti-American.
    – And of course, the “compassionate conservatism” of George W. Bush. (It depends on the meaning of “compassionate.”)

    This is so broad as to be meaningless. In the chapter on “smearing,” I found nothing that PROVED “right-wingers” were able to destroy, full-stop, the reputation of “liberals.” It was just a collection of mean ol’ wingers (Coulter, Limbaugh) saying mean ol’ things. I imagine the chapter on “compassionate conservatism” is the same (it’s a phrase Stuart Stevens and the Bush campaign dreamed up, and the media were quite obviously critical of it). Conason’s “right-wing propoganda machine seems to consist of the Republican party, its flacks, and conservative commentators. So why isn’t, say, Salon.com part of the “left-wing propoganda machine?”

    This smacks of Greg Palast’s “investigative journalism,” which mainly consists of name-calling and referring to oneself as an “investigative journalist.”

  32. Wow i used ‘ultimately’ a lot in that post.

  33. And I spelled “propaganda” wrong for some reason. It’s all good.

  34. IMHO, society moves like an inchworm. The front is the where one philosophy reigns and the back is where the other does.

    The front moves forward, pushing against the back. Then, the back advances by pulling on the front. Seperately, the two parts would die. Together, they inch forward, even though each one bitterly resents the other for pushing / pulling against it.

  35. “The problem is that the electorate as a rule is largely uninformed about what the government does and does not do. Most Americans only come face to face with the Federal Government via the post office; they might also interact with FEMA or some permitting agency as well.”

    Yeah, Jean, that’s just it. If a majority of Americans had to put up with what small business owners and self-employed folks have to deal with on a daily or weekly basis – the IRS, FDA, ABC, FAA, FCC, SCC, DEA, … – the next American revolution would have begun already (still too late, IMHO). You never know what letter from what Federal or state agency will come in the mail in the morning to dick up your whole business plan.

    Maybe it’s better in France, non?

  36. Mark,

    I’m not splitting what ifs at all; slavery expanded in the US with help of the industrialization that occurred in Britain and the US. There is no arguing this point. Now if you want to clarify your position and say that northern industrialization brought down slavery because of the superior armies the Union was able to put into the field; but that’s not the same thing as your first position – that industrial revolution ended slavery. Its not my fault that you did not think through your argument clearly.

    “Markets needed to be created to further exploit such wealth and a slave system would have not accomplished this.”

    Why not? Northern industrialists found the markets in the South highly profitable because they could sell cheap clothing and equipment to the plantations. The North was very fond of the Southern plantations as markets to be exploited.

    “Several key facts: slavery tended to end on a world wide basis as middle classes emerged (economic and social pressure), middle classes emerged as a direct result of industrial wealth creation.”

    Slavery ended before there was even a concept known as the “middle class.” Furthermore, in Great Britain, most of the anti-slavery opposition came not from the professional classes and shopkeepers (the only people we could call middle-class), but in the 18th century religious adherents (Quakers, often prosperous ones), adherents of the nascent “romantic movement,” as well as the industrial and lower classes generally. Mass marches of a size never seen before erupted in Britain over the subject, and it was only the strenuous efforts of Pitt the Younger (police crackdowns, anti-marching laws, etc.) which quelled the movement during the Napoleonic wars. When agitation commenced again in the 19th century, it was the industrial classes that took the forefront, agitating not only for an end to slavery, but also such things as the right to vote. The end of slavery in the British colonies was part of a much wider effort to reform British society – thus it came about at the same time as the repeal of the corn laws, Speenhamland’s repeal, the destruction of rotton borooughs, etc. Let me suggest that you are absolutely clueless about why slavery ended in the British colonies.

    “Doubtless slavery underwent a temporary boom do to industry, but the same pressure just as surely ultimately destroyed slavery.”

    Temporary boom? *chuckle* A sixty year boom is hardly temporary.

    “After all, if slavery was ultimately spurred by industrial advances, why would industrialists be the ones to end slavery?”

    Industrialists didn’t end slavery; politicians and warfare did. Well, this and the slaves themselves. To wit the several hundred thousand ex-slaves who volunteered to put on Yankee blue to destroy slavery in the American south, the slaves in St. Domingue who created Haiti, the slaves Bolivar depended on in order to throw off the Spanish yoke, etc.

    “The answer it had temporary utility but was ultimately counter productive.”

    A Nobel prize winner disagrees with you; slavery had as much economic utility in 1860 and 1880 as it did in the 1820.

  37. Jean-
    But… you don’t actually argue that; you just say it, tossing out the epithet “technological determinist,” as if that automatically implied “wrong.”

  38. Mr. Sanchez, I think first of all that your piece misses the point of Conason’s argument–that a right-wing propaganda machine in the United States has, since the days of the New Deal, regularly hurled the epithets “Communist” and “traitor” at liberals and/or Democrats. The argument that economic growth and technological progress would somehow have brought about desirable social changes by themselves, as if governed by some metaphysical agency, is dubious in the extreme. Do we really have to rehash the whole history of how conservatives have fought tooth and nail against every positive and humane policy? From the fight over abolition through the battles to establish labor unions to the abolition of child labor, the ones on the side of progress were the “liberals”, however they may be defined, and the ones in opposition were conservatives. Your argument is devoid of specific historical references, which hopefully you will provide. If I am wrong, tell me specifically where I have been unfair to conservatives, and I will acknowledge it. Conason did NOT issue a sweeping condemnation of conservatives as humans (read the article again) and to compare his writing to the vicious ugliness of Coulter is farcical. You use the term “condescension” to characterize Conason’s argument. It would seem that this word has become an all-purpose criticism when confronting ideas, confidently stated, with which we disagree. It certainly is without validity here.

  39. More BS from Jean:

    “Why not? Northern industrialists found the markets in the South highly profitable because they could sell cheap clothing and equipment to the plantations. The North was very fond of the Southern plantations as markets to be exploited.”

    You don’t know about Southern history – look, the reason for the War Between the State was largely economic, like most wars. The issue was both tariffs on foreign imports, which the Yankees were for, but would have had a bad impact on the plantations (which exported LOTS of cotton), and whether the new states in the Union would be slave or non-slave states (this would determine how they would vote on, you guessed it, TARIFFS).

    What kind of equipment was the South buying? Not farming equipment, as they had slaves, unfortunately for them. The South had no problem buying textiles from the New England mills, as they were made of, you guessed it, COTTON.

    The war was only about slavery when Lincoln made it so in 1862 or 63 when the going for the north was very bad, and a lot of men had already died for nothing.

    Don’t you get the history channel over there. There are also some books that preceeded the history channel ;-}

  40. Jualian,

    Hmm, I do argue that. As my statement clearly, well, states.

  41. wow – slavery is contentious and stuff

  42. Joe Miller likes to lay claim to all the good guys, regardless of party affiliation. I guess he means to imply that the abolitionists would have morphed into today’s liberals. However, the parties have not changed sides on issues of freedom in the intervening 100+ years. Republicans are still foursquare for human liberty and against the coercion of the state.

  43. Sorry, but you’re wrong on this one — these changes didn’t happen because of an inevitable historical path, they happened because people organized and fought for all of the changes mentioned. Whether they were “liberals” in the sense of Al Gore or Lyndon Johnson is another story entirely.

    Universal schooling, the ending of slavery, the 40 hour work week — all of those were vehemently opposed by people who wanted things to stay the same “as they’d always been.” Were these people conservatives? Well, they were certainly people who were sure the changes would lead to oblivion, and as a result, organizers had to work like hell, and in a lot of cases, die, before these things came about. (See, for instance, union members vs. Pinkerton.)

    It’d be nice if technology just solved our problems without any input from us but I think you’re probably smart enough to know that nothing happens in this world without someone sweating bullets to make it happen. You’re also smart enough to know that every technological advance creates a problem for every problem it solves. Granted, many times we are trading up for a better set of problems, but you certainly do get new ones.

  44. Well, my comment didn’t speak to the issue of the Civil War, but fine. As to the issue of tarriffs, it was only with the South’s seccession that the Norther was able to get its way regarding the tarriff issue. In other words, what you are arguing here is “moonlight and magnolia” propaganda from the now discredited “lost cause” school.

    As to issue of expansion, the South had its way on this issue right up to 1860 (in fact Dred Scott made the issue null and void on its face, because it declared the various compromises which excluded slavery from the nothern states unconstituional), and would likely have continued to have its way.

    “What kind of equipment was the South buying? Not farming equipment, as they had slaves, unfortunately for them. The South had no problem buying textiles from the New England mills, as they were made of, you guessed it, COTTON.”

    Plows and the other metal implements that were common on farms at the time; and these were largely imported from the northern states. Cotton agriculture is not like the cultivation of sugarcane (the latter dominated agriculture in the British slave colonies like Barbados and Jamaica for example); it requires plowing, and this plows and the horses (or other animals) to plow with. As to the rice agriculture that predominated low-country South Carolina and Georgia, this required all the sorts of equipment one would naturally find in regions where dikes are prominent.

    “The war was only about slavery when Lincoln made it so in 1862 or 63 when the going for the north was very bad, and a lot of men had already died for nothing.”

    You’ll have to please qoute me where I stated that the war was exclusively about slavery. Until that time, quit this practice of fabricating out of whole cloth statements I have never made.

    As to the “History Channel,” I am a former historian by trade, and Reconstruction was my field of speciality. I went to graduate school and everything.

  45. It goes without saying that Democrats still believe in the power to enslave (oh, gee, did I say something mean like bad ole’ Ms. Coulter?)

  46. Mr. Antley,

    BTW, I am a Franco-American; my American side is from the American South. Which is why I have the interest I do in Southern history. I do think that its rather hilarious the assumptions people make about me here.

  47. >>Too many of us have forgotten, or never learned, what kind of country America was under the conservative rule that preceded the century of liberal reform

    Think of the century before! Conservative slaveholding white guys who didn’t want to pay their fair share of taxes! Terrible!

  48. Mr. Crow Jean Bart went to graduate school. Stop the Debate right now, as he is automatically correct on Everything.

    (class, which fallacy is this?)

  49. My God this is a lot of posts prompted by a piece by a guy (Conason) who, if his brains were gunpowder, couldn’t blow his nose.

    The whole issue of liberal vs. conservative, with their current meanings, has almost zero applicability before the New Deal realignment, which post-dates things like universal suffrage, emancipation, etc.

  50. I for one am glad for liberals. If it wasn’t for their devine wisdom, stupid hicks like me would still be eating each other, beating our wives, shooten our guns and voting for Bushitler. Now we pay FICA and get our Earned Income Credits and pretend to like black people (www.blackpeopleloveus.com), like all good civilized liberals. We so hip!

  51. Anon @ 4:27,

    Hmm, clearly there was a English “working class.” They self-indentified as such after all, and viewed their interests as a class. Its hard for us to imagine such a cohesive class ideology (I’ll eschew Marx’s term consciousness), but its rather apparent from the evidence that is available.

    As to my statement regarding my background, I notice that you ignore the insult which prompted it. What else should I expect from an anonymous coward?

  52. ohhh, I’m a coward. Thanks Crow. Or should I say, Dr. Crow, expert of History.

  53. Really the fallacy here is Conason’s thinking that the reasoning for government intervention is always equivalent, as if there is no such thing as going to far. He just identifies with the pro-government side. I’m both for child labor laws, and against social security as implemented, go figure.

    “America was under the conservative rule that preceded the century of liberal reform.”

    Think “classical liberal” Mr. Conason.

  54. Books on slavery and related issues people might wish to read.

    Edmund Morgan, “American Slavery American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia”

    David Brion Davis, “The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture”

    David Brion Davis, “The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution 1770-1823”

    Peter Kolkhin, “American Slavery: 1619-1877”

    John Thornton, “Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400-1800”

    Orlando Patterson, “Slavery and Social Death: A Comparative Study”

    Richard S. Dunn, “Sugar and Slaves”

    Matthew Lewis, “Journal of a West India Proprietor: Kept During a Residence in the Island of Jamaica”

    Philip D. Morgan, “Slave Counterpoint: Black Culture in the Eighteenth-Century Chesapeake and Lowcountry”

    Eugene D. Genovese, “Roll, Jordan, Roll”

    David Eltis, “The Rise of African Slavery in the Americas”

    Philip Curtin, “Two Jamaicas”

    Robert Fogel & Stanley Engerman, “Time on the Cross: The Economics of American Negro Slavery”
    & “Time on the Cross: Evidence and Methods”

    Cyril Lionel Robert James, “The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution”

    James Oakes, “The Ruling Race: A History of American Slaveholders” & “Slavery and Freedom : An Interpretation of the Old South”

  55. Anon. @ 4:34,

    I know its impossible for you to directly address what I’ve argued, so you are going to attempt to bait me into some sort of flame war. I’m not biting.

  56. Abe Lincoln and Jeff Davis are recognizable types even today, but in the conservative movement. They differed on what they believed most needed conserving in the American experiment. I don’t think either man considered himself liberal. Women got the vote as the result of many social conservatives believing the vote would make society more conservative, and for a while it did. Prohibition was hugely pushed along by the “votes for women” campaign. Child labor laws were pushed by, among others, Catholic conservatives who would have no part in Conason’s liberal coalition today. Finally, all the eugenics laws in the states passed in the early part of the last century were pushed through with liberal, “progressive” votes. Social Darwinism was nothing if not a “progressive” idea, resisted by the social conservative, and economic liberal Williams Jenning Bryan. Woodrow Wilson was identifiably liberal and identifiably racist. I’m pretty sure he chastized the solid conservative Taft for allowing blacks jobs in government. And since LBJ liberals have unfailingly failed the national security test.

  57. Jean,

    “Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men” by Hummel is another one.

  58. WLC,

    I could have pasted my reading list for my defense; but I didn’t. 🙂

  59. Jean,

    Whoa, it was just an addition not a defense. I just see American history differently with a classical background thrown in.

    And Augustus did not restore the Republic either 😉

  60. I wish people on both sides of the debate would use less name calling, and more citations. Jean Bart, are you relying on any research more recent than _Time on the Cross: The Economics of American Negro Slavery_ by Robert William Fogel? (I ask because I am curious if there is something popularized enough that an amateur like me can follow, and new enough to add significantly to the debate since _Time on the Cross_.)

    Indeed, on both sides, people are making allusions to arguments they are not spelling out. For example, I think the “primarily made possible by technological development and economic growth” argument has two parts. First, that the technological progress and economic growth (TP&EG) was *necessary* for the attributed gains (40 hour work week, no child labor, etc). This is a debatable proposition (meaning arguments can be adduced on both sides). Second, I think it is being implied that the TP&EG, in concert with a generally free market (which necessarily adjusts actions and the corresponding allocation of benefits) was *sufficient* for the attributed gains. This is a second debatable proposition.

    Contra posing that is an apparent argument that some sort of social campaign, potentially requiring government coercion, was necessary to get the attributed benefits. That is a third debatable proposition, which necessarily conflicts with the second. Proponents of this argument seem to imply in addition that the first proposition (TP&EG was necessary for the benefits) is not true. I doubt those supporting the “social campaign is nessary” argument really think the TP&EG was unnecessary (althought I would love to see their argument that it was not necessary, if that is their position).

    I think everyone’s arguments would be clearer if they were more fully spelled-out, and separated. Remember, the people you most need to convince are the people who still have an open mind (even if they don’t post), and it will be easier to convince them if they can understand your argument.

  61. Props to Jean for putting his reading list up, even as I was composing me message asking for such a thing.

  62. I think the issue here was (long, long ago) the tendency of fucktards like Conason to assert that opposing the excersice of government power to achieve a certain end is the same as opposing said noble end. So if you’re not for big-gummint “liberalism,” you hate children, the environment, etc. You know, like how Dubya wants to put arsenic in the water.

  63. Jimmy Antley,

    It was indeed about economics; but to say a war is “about economics” simply means it serves the economic interests of a country’s ruling class. In the case of the Confederacy, this means the slaveocracy. The southern economic system was based largely on cash-crop agriculture using slave labor, and governed by an elite of large planters. The tariff, like restrictions on slavery, threatened the interests of this class.

    I’m neither fish nor fowl on the “war between the states” issue, because I don’t share the shibboleths of southern apologists, but I do believe in the right of secession and reject neo-abolitionist reading of the Constitution. I think the best course for the U.S. would have been to let the slave states leave at will and remove their social system as a contaminant to the rest of us. One of my chief objections to the Constitution of 1787 is it made the rest of the country party to upholding slavery in the South.

    Secession, from the point of view of the slaveocracy, was incredibly stupid. One of the things that prompted secession was the GOP’s moves to prohibit slavery in the territories, which would lead to its strangulation. But how much of the territories did the south have access to AFTER secession? And had there been no secession, Lincoln would have been a one-term, lame-duck president with a legislative majority against him.

    Jean Bart,

    If somebody was trying to “bait” you into a “flame war,” he’d probably do something really swinish, like open his filthy hole to say “You are a liar.”

  64. I’m confused that this thread has gone off onto the topic of slavery. Are we trying to assign culpability for slavery to the contemporary left or right?

    What’s the point? Do we really want to paint half of CONTEMPORARY America with the “pro-slavery” brush? I don’t. I figure we have enough controversies in our present time to keep us busy slinging mud at each other. There’s no need to try and figure out who would have supported slavery if he or she had lived 140 years ago. There are plenty of contemporary issues to blast each other over.

    Look at me, for instance. Although I espouse smaller government, people here frequently call me a big government liberal for my statements on CURRENT issues. Nobody tries to do a Vulcan mind-meld and say “Hmm, if he’d been around 140 years ago he’d be pro-slavery. Let’s blast him for that!” No, they just subject me to an extreme purity test that focuses on contemporary controversies, and then find me wanting.

    So let’s sling mud at each other, not fossils. Slavery is over, and it’s been over for almost 140 years now. It was very, very, very, EVIL. There’s practically unanimous agreement on that point nowadays. Surely there must be more contemporary issues that we can use to demonize the left, right, center, or others.

  65. Tom,

    Well, for one, my speciality is Reconstruction, not labor history, etc., so when I write about the period in question (the populist and progressive eras essentially) I do it through a specific vantage point. Second, I’m a bit cranky due to low-blood sugar. 🙂 Third, having heard these erroneous arguments about the Civil War, etc., on many occassions, I have lost patience with them.

    As to Fogel & Engerman’s work, it has yet to be upset in any major way; their basic argument in “Time on the Cross” is this: it was economic decline that ended slavery but the moral repugnance of the institution. While I don’t neccessarily agree with the latter part of this equation, I do agree with the former. I can only justify this by stating that my own research has led me to this position, and that in this forum presenting said research would be difficult at best.

    Regarding the various propositions you’ve ferreted out, my basic argument with Julian is that he appears to argue that technology and markets were neccessary and sufficient to bring about these measures. I contend that is essentially wishful thinking, and with regard to the issue of technology, a deterministic outlook. I eschew technological determinism partly because I do not find it to be a good tool at describing or otherwise explaining hitorical events, periods, etc., and partly because it tends, as an ideology, to limit human freedom (much to the delight of the powers that be). The reason I view his statement as deterministic is two-fold: first, it smells like determinism (subjective I realize) and second because his statement flatly states that technology and markets were the primary actors, making technology a nearly equal and disembodied force along with markets. At least with markets humans are the actors in the play.

    Finally, I don’t argue that the state did or could do it alone.

  66. thoreau,

    I’ll bring it back with some anecdotal rambling:

    I’m a stock broker in a decent sized office here in Phoenix. If you watch the sidelines of the news, you may have noticed a little something about a broken gas line from El Paso to Phoenix and the subsequent dry pumps and consumer panic.

    Now if anyone should understand the vagaries of the day to day economy, you would think it would be a broker.

    I’ll save you any recitations of the actual conversations though I can sum it up thus; suddenly making a profit is evil.

    Forget inelastic demand curves and squelching a consumer panic with accurate information that can only be found in the appropriate price. These guys want their gas and they’re not going to pay what it’s worth!

    Point being that everyone wants everyone else’s program to go away but don’t touch my bag of goodies.

    My misanthropy is yet again justified.

  67. Kevin Carson,

    Hmm, I saw that comment, and I didn’t make it. I do think that you are wrong, but I don’t think you are a liar.

  68. Tom, I don’t think you can debate the question of whether technological progress and economic growth was necessary for the forty hour workweek, and the end of child labor; you need only go to a country where subsistence farming is still practiced by the 85% of the nation that lived on the farm in pre-industrial America, and see whether it is possible to support a family of eight on a forty-hour workweek with children in school. The answer, if you are wondering, is no, and you can readily ascertain that America took a similar path by reading socio-economic history of the US and finding out how perilously close to the edge of starvation most citizens were at the turn of the twentieth century. Or you can try to imagine being a married man in an era when condoms cost a substantial fraction of a day’s pay, and were the only reliable form of birth control available short of sterilization (diaphragms and other vaginal barriers, prior to the invention of spermicides, were better than nothing, but not all that much better, and they were very expensive). Could you support the resulting family easily on a per-capita of $5,000 a year? How about $2,500 a year, which was the approximate per-capita at the time of the American Revolution? Today’s dollars, of course, meaning that you buy your food and everything else at today’s prices on that per-capita, not 1900 prices.

    Whether industrialization was a sufficient cause is a different question, but it was certainly a necessary prerequisite. Everything I’ve seen has indicated that the public schooling movement was, first, sponsored by religious conservatives, and second, widely lauded, not fiercely resisted. I also recall that the universal schooling movement (which is different, the father of today’s “Everything under sixteen with a pulse must be in school” laws), along with the child-labor laws, only gained force when the practice of sending your toddler out to work was extinct among all but the poorest Americans. But I’ve hardly done exhaustive research on the topic.

  69. Quote: “Slavery is over.”

    Be sure to tell the IRS.

  70. WOW! INTERESTING CLASS THIS WAS TODAY!

    Summary (Here’s what I learned)

    1) For every problem it solves, technological advance creates another problem.

    2) The War Between the States became the War About Slavery when Lincoln made it so in 1863 (when the going got rough and things became very bad for the north.)

    3) Sesquipedalian Bibliographies are allowed on H & R.

    4) Someone whose brains were comprised of gunpowder could easily blow his nose off.

  71. Damn, this thread is so long no one will probably read this, but I figure I’d mention it anyway:

    Much of this is not a Condocit circle, but rather “Cognitive non-invariance”; the idea of “invariance” is that no matter how a question is posed or framed, you’ll get the same answer. The thing is, this is absolutely proven to not be so – humans do not automatically, nor easily (if even possibly) behave according to invariance.

    One example given in “Against The Gods: The Amazing History of Risk” (from Prospect Theory – a theory that studies, records, and deals with behavioral violations of classical concepts of rationality, right along with Behavioral Finance) is the following questions:

    1) What would you prefer: A) 5% unemployment and higher inflation, or B) 10% unemployment and lower inflation?

    Most people seem to answer “A” to this question. However, they similarly ask this question as well, or instead, of the above:

    2) What would you prefer; A) 95% employment and higher inflation, or 90% employment and lower inflation?

    Here even the same people will answer with “B”, and the majority seems to prefer “B”. However, there is one major problem with this: 1-A and 2-B, and 1-B and 2-A are THE SAME QUESTION!

    Similar questions posit a circumstance where you can deal with a disease in 600 people that kills 400 out of 600 people for sure, or you can take a gamble where there is a 33% chance of everyone being cured and a 66% chance of everyone dying, and most people will take the gamble. However, if the question is reposed as one option certainly saving just 200 out of 600 people, with the other option remaining the same, most people tend to take the certain saving of 200 people rather than risking everyone dying. But here, again, this is precisely the same question – 400 out of 600 killed is the same as 200 out of 600 saved, but it just “sounds” different to us automatically, as humans. And if you don’t know about invariance, you might not even notice it.

    This would seem to be the same thing. People say they are for having, say, less people in the world, or smaller government, but everytime they are asked about something individually they behave differently. The key here may be simply whether or not they see something as decreasing service, or as having smaller government – one is viewed as bad, and the other as good. The thing is, they are the same damn thing – if you want a smaller government, that means decreasing services. But people just don’t do that, because humans do not behave according to the principle of psychological invariance.

  72. Employment ain’t tied to the printing of money.
    Employment is generated by filling needs in the marketplace, Plutarch.

    (Time to get a divorce from misguided old British economists.)

  73. Society moves like an inchworm. The front part harbors one philosophy; another philosophy reigns at the rear. The front moves forward by pushing against the back. The rear advances by pulling on the front. Seperately, the two parts would die. Together, they inch forward — even though each one bitterly resents the other for hampering its motives.

    DOESN’T MAKE SENSE.

    According to that kind of physics, society should move forever backwards.

    TO WIT: If the front moves forward by pushing against the back, and the rear advances by pulling on the front, then the rear should win! (Because the force of motion, in both cases, is in a backward direction.)

    Don’t believe it? Have 3 strong men stand at the front of a car and push it backwards; and have 3 other strong men stand at the back of a car and pull the car backwards, too.

    So into which direction do you suppose the car will move?

  74. Since the inestimable Jane Galt points out that my first proposition appears fully demonstrated, let me respond: 1) I agree; 2) however, one can build a theoretical model [which I don’t consider very strong] wherein other means (e.g., Spartan sex segregation, aggressive culling of non-productive adults) is used to hold a society a 40 hours/week without child labor. Note that this disallows a lot of more primitive forms of agriculture, and such a society may not be able to defend itself against feudal neighbors (serfs *and* knights), which is just one of many reasons to think this idea is bonkers. Nonetheless, a true “reality is socially constructed” extremist might try to argue that it would *just* take social action to get a 40 hour work week and eliminate child labor. If that is the argument someone is making, its easier to dispose of the argument once you know what it is.

    Plutarck, the fact of cognitive variance is a truism that is useful to be aware of. There undoubtedly are people who want “less government” when they think “less taxes” and “more government” when they think “more services for me.” Many people reading here, however, would be in favor of smaller government, realize [and in for some services rejoice] that this means decreasing [government] services, and would then argue that a decrease in government services can opens up space for those same services, when worth to cost, to be provided privately.

  75. After reading Ray’s post, I’m going to say a heresy in libertarian circles: Something pro-union

    (insert caveat that I’m talking about voluntary union membership, not closed-shop laws, which are a different matter altogether)

    In most economic matters libertarians have an abiding (and often, but not always, warranted) skepticism of protection for consumers of products. However, when the product is labor, libertarians suddenly have more sympathy for the consumer and less interest in the seller (the laborer).

    What is wrong with people voluntarily (notice I say voluntarily, I’m not talking about closed shops or NLRB or any of that) forming unions and bargaining together for a better contract? No libertarian would express disdain for physicians who form a partnership together, or any other professionals who form partnerships and work as a team. Nobody ever says that it would be better if those two professionals competed with each other instead of cooperating for their mutual benefit.

    However, when blue collar workers band together, form a partnership, and contract with employers as one unit, it’s seen as undesirable. Why? If a bunch of doctors or lawyers or accountants can form partnerships, why shouldn’t carpenters or auto workers or whatever? And why shouldn’t the carpenters use the market power associated with large numbers and negotiate exclusive contracts with better benefits?

    Sure, union labor drives up the cost of products. But the union labor comes from (in principle, all disclaimers about NLRB and whatnot applying) people with something economically valuable (i.e. labor) forming an association together and selling their product.

    So I’m always stumped when I hear anti-union comments from libertarian circles. I would think that the notion of individual workers forming a business partnership to earn more money is the essence of market economics.

    (and all disclaimers about NLRB, closed shops, the mafia, etc. apply obviously.)

  76. Jean,

    I apologize for blaming you for it, then.

    And to whatever chickenshit is posting insults under other people’s names: go pound sand up your ass.

  77. Golly, thanks liberals! I’d been under the misguided impression that these things were primarily made possible by technological development and economic growth, but it’s good to be set straight. Why no mention of Al Gore’s wonderful Internet, though?

    I’m going to remember this statement when the economy really tanks out and people have to depend on one another again. When that happens I hope your stillup and running so I can cock a virtual eyebrow at someone who has so little regard for community (what elese can you call it when all the credit is given to technology and none at all to people themselves?).

    Another thing. I have to worry when you can actually feel the spit coming out of the monitor at the utterence “liberal.”

  78. Thoreau, let’s overlook your annoying NLRB repetitiveness, and see if we can answer your question logically.

    You ask, “If a bunch of doctors or lawyers or accountants can form partnerships, why shouldn’t carpenters or auto workers or whatever?

    Answer: Because most doctors, lawyers, and accountants are SELF-EMPLOYED. (Duh!)

    Union workers use mob tactics to force an employer into certain concessions. The decent thing to do, if you didn’t like the arrangement, would be to just quit and go work for someone who does provide such concessions — willingly. Putting the knife of the mob against an employer’s throat is coercive and extortive.

    Self-employed doctors, lawyers, and accountants, on the other hand, coerce no one. If the benefits they seek cannot be found within their particular market niche, they either do whatever it takes to become more competitive, or they close up shop and go elsewhere.

  79. thoreau,

    Even mandatory union shops exist as a matter of free contract between employers and the bargaining unit (I’m leaving out, of course, state-enforced mandatory unionization of skilled trades). Right to work laws are a statutory interference on the freedom of contract of management and labor, doubly harmful because they require unions to represent scabs without getting paid for it.

  80. Thoreau-
    I wholeheartedly agree. And maybe I’m being too charitable to to employers, but I think that most of them would agree too. I’m pretty sure that if you went to most factory owners and said “would you mind if your workers wanted to negotiate for salary and benefits as a group instead of individually, understanding that you’re under no obligation to keep any of them employed if you can’t agree on terms?” they’d agree. So many people who are anti-union are really just anti-forced collective bargaining. I’m sure a lot of them haven’t thought about it enough to know that that’s what they believe, but I’d bet that most people would back your view.
    Then again, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m assuming that people are smarter than they really are. But I sure hope not.

  81. “I’m assuming that people are smarter than they really are. But I sure hope [they are] not.”

    Nice going, Amy!

    I sure hope that most people are the STUPID FOOLS that they are, too.

    (Barf.)

  82. Hey Sanchez!
    You’re half right. Many of the advantages we enjoy today were, as you say,”made possible by technological development and economic growth,” but there’s a big difference between something that is possible and something that is real.
    Every social benefit Conason mentions was in fact fought for by liberals and fought against by conservatives, and the struggle goes on. Just last month Congress passed a law that will deny half a million working Americans overtime pay. True to form, conservatives supported it; liberals opposed it.
    Why is it so hard for you and your ideological comrades to admit that Conason has a valid point? Why do you so strenuously deny the obvious?
    This September 1 is Labor Day, a time to remember those who fought, and sometimes died, to win the right of workers to organize, to establish a 40-hour work week with time-and-a half overtime, and to abolish child labor and unsafe working conditions.
    As a liberal, I will proudly raise my beer to salute them at our family cook-out.
    Glad I could set you straight, Sanchez.

  83. thoreau,

    ?Nobody ever says that it would be better if those two professionals competed with each other instead of cooperating for their mutual benefit?

    I?ll say it, it would be better if those two professionals did not form a guild or union. The AMA is for all intents and purposes a guild. We would all have aneurisms if the Teamsters exercised the same level of control over their industries that the AMA wields over, not just their direct practices of medicine but over the research, development, insurance, pharma industry and so on.

    ?people with something economically valuable (i.e. labor) forming an association together and selling their product.?

    In other circles, this is prosecutable as collusion. Collusion is bad because it holds the consumer hostage and forces them to buy at above the natural market price.

  84. Amy,

    Go to bls.gov and you can find stats on individual industries on wages etc. It?s been a year or so since I?ve researched it but:
    Avg pay for a non-union production worker is something like $13.50
    Avg pay for a Union production workers is $15 and some change.
    Avg pay for a non-union worker who works ?piece work? is a little over $19.

    Now for more anecdotes:
    A acquaintance of mine works as a field tech for Qwest. He gets paid $27 an hour, he and his crew perform 3 to 5 jobs a day. He admits that they could do between 10 and 15 but will tell you with a straight face that they can?t do more jobs per day without endangering the employment of his fellow workers. Now this is rough math here but this means that Qwest is paying 67% more than actually needed for their field work. How does this translate out on our bill? You do the math.

    It also bears pointing out that this acquaintance doesn?t even possess the necessary IQ to pass the ASVAB (military entrance exam). There is no way that he is performing at such a high level of skill to warrant $27 an hour. Then you multiply that by their voluntary reduction of work performed, now spread that across our economy (because what home or business doesn?t have a phone).

  85. excita-boy

    I know there is an awful lot of posting going on but you really should read back over the last few because your post has already been thoroughly debunked.

    Essentially, the Left doesn?t get involved until the thing is already in the works. Or in more accurate language, they?re parasites. But I don?t want to repeat myself so just back up a few posts.

  86. Wow, JS. What a cute failure to deal substantively with anything at all.

    Reading Conason has been reassuring. Reading the right still partying like it’s 1998 is even more encouraging.

    Keep up the absolute lack of any work whatsoever! Just remember that, as long as you keep believing that technology and markets will just magically take care of everything, there’ll be a big government liberal covering your ass so that you’ll never have to rethink your mythology!

    “An ‘um prahd tuh bee un Umerikuhn!”

    Smoochies!

  87. This is one long post… I managed to read it all and I am not going to quote history, namely because I think history is biased (based on what book you read or who taught it to you). Also because I only wish to comment on the article by Carson I believe his name is? Kind of got lost in all this stuff… I digress.
    I don’t have any problems with liberals, and I don’t have problems with any other political or personal affiliations. I think all parts are neccessary because the fact that we as a people question the things we question, allow for discovery and hopefully, for some sort of plan of correction. ( Maybe I am too hopeful) 🙂
    However when I read this article it seemed a bit slanted… I am sure taht several groups have taken part in much of our growth as a country, but I don’t think that it is all from a liberal stand point. I do think that some of it is, and am willing to give credit where credit is due. I just don’t like the idea that one person is speaking for a group of people that may or may not agree with his version of history, or his ideas. I don’t like people using sweeping statments and generalizations to encapsulate people and their beliefs. I think we are much too unique for that. My two cents.

  88. Moonbatty,

    Try a little thought experiment – did people do better under the caring government of the USSR or under the insensitive and heedless goveernment of the US of A?

    After all the USSR had moreand better labor laws than the US of A. They should have done much better since thte creators of wealth – labor – were getting their just rewards.

    Wha hoppened?

  89. “All parts are neccessary because the fact that we as a people question the things we question, allows for discovery and, hopefully, for some sort of plan of correction.”

    That is so well said, Erin! (Honestly.)

    It’s now among my collection of “Wise Quotes.” (if you don’t mind.)

    Thank you.

    PS. Only wish I had a last name to attribute it to. (Can I make it Erin Madkay?)

  90. Dr. Killum-

    I have the annoying habit of repeating my disclaimers over and over because my posts so often get misunderstood, and people start accusing me of being a Big Government Liberal. So I put in the disclaimers to make it as clear as possible that I’m not defending any Big Government practices. It’s just a defensive habit.

    As for unions using mob tactics: I’m not defending a union that sends mafia thugs to “persuade” an employer to only hire union. I’m not defending laws that force employers to recognize unions. I’m saying that if a bunch of people want to get together and offer their services as a group, and IF they do so without coercion (be it via the law or the mafia) then I don’t see a problem with it. They have the right to say “we will only negotiate with you as a group, and we will only sign a contract if it’s an exclusive contract.” The employer has the right to turn them down. They have the right to walk around on public sidewalks with signs saying “We think Company X is bad”. They have the right to say they don’t like Company X and try to persuade sympathetic consumers and suppliers to stop doing business with Company X. It’s how a free world should work.

    Ray and the good doctor both criticized the notion of people getting more money for their labor simply by bringing size to bear. Ray says it’s a form of collusion, and Dr. Killum said that using size to enhance bargaining power is coercion.

    Would you gentlemen suggest that a business owner should have no right to purchase his rivals so he can gain more market power for himself? Certainly it’s not always desirable (monopolies are problems) but would you advocate coercive measures to stop him? If so, you must love the Sherman Act. (Point of trivia: I was told in my Econ 101 class that some of the earliest attempts to apply the Sherman Act were against unions. I don’t have any details, so I am of course willing to stand corrected.)

    Also, Ray criticized collusion because “it holds the consumer hostage and forces them to buy at above the natural market price.”

    Market price is a function of supply as well as demand. The notion of a “natural market price” is meaningless without reference to the supply, who owns the supply, and what contracts the suppliers have.

    If you’re going to say that, would you suggest that there is a “natural market price” for products other than labor? Do you think consumers should be able to demand prosecution of people who collude with and/or buy-out their competitors and charge above the “natural market price”?

  91. “Union workers use mob tactics to force an
    employer into certain concessions.”

    So, working for someone else means you give up your rights to free speech and assembly? I think not.

    “The decent thing to do, if you didn’t like the
    arrangement, would be to just quit and go work
    for someone who does provide such concessions”

    True, when such options exist. But often, in the 1800s, there were no such options.

    “Putting the knife of the mob against an
    employer’s throat is coercive and extortive.”

    And telling someone they must work 80 hours a week in unsafe conditions for pennies a day, and if they don’t like it they can starve to death, isn’t coercive?

  92. If you couldn’t drink beer in the 1920’s, THANK A LIBERAL!

  93. Anita,
    Thank you! The site is madkayprrrs.com, but you can quote it with what suits ya.

  94. “telling someone they must work 80 hours a week in unsafe conditions for pennies a day,

    The only organization that tells anyone they MUST do anything — at the peril of fines, jail, and sometimes death — is GOVERNMENT.

    Private business don’t “must” anything.

    Private business says that you can take it or leave it. (Smart folk would choose the latter if 80/hrs @ pennies/day were the choice, and go elsewhere where conditions were more reasonable.)

  95. “Who supported the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s? They had 4 MILLION members. Gee, Memebuster, you think those people were liberals?”

    Perhaps one should ask the sole former Klan member in the Senate if he considers himself a liberal…

  96. Julian Sanchez, my boy! What have you wrought!

    H & R is Hot & Ravin’ tonight!

  97. Collusion is bad thoreau, period. It only seems worse for the petroleum companies to do it because it has a more direct affect on you personally.

    Collective bargaining has no real power unless the company can simply say no to the collection of workers and fire the whole bunch of them on the spot. Even where this is marginally allowable by law, it is still an unlikely because of the litigious gates it would open in civil court.

    So yes, effective collective bargaining amounts to collusion, something, as I mentioned before, you and yours won’t stand for when it affect you directly.

    If you want someone to mow your lawn and you think it is worth $10 to pay someone to do it, you have just determined the “natural market price.” Unions get invovled and suddenly you have to pay $15.

  98. Actually the KKK’s most vocal and numerous supporters in the 1920s were the Republicans in Indiana, Ohio, and Illinois. The Klan had the majority of the members in Indiana’s legislature in 1923-24 — all of them Republicans if I recall correctly.

    I just thought I’d set you straight on that one my friend.

    Sorry to disappoint. The facts of history are awfully annoying — especially if you don’t know them.

  99. Amy

    ?So many people who are anti-union are really just anti-forced collective bargaining.?

    No kidding Sherlock. We?re against a group of people forcing us to do what they want us to do with our own business i.e. private property.

    The premise that collective bargaining be ?forced? upon the employer immediately takes away his ability to negotiate. The union just stalls long enough to drive the company into a tailspin because the only way to apply ?force? in this instance is to eventually make the employer meet someone?s terms besides his own.

  100. Tom S.

    I don’t keep up on my Klan history but I do know that the Democrats have historically been the ones against the minorities, including today.

  101. …laws mandating collective bargaining or the use of the mafia to “persuade” employers to hire union. It’s merely a suggestion that voluntary unions are compaible with a free market.)

    Sorry, got distracted and accidentally posted before finishing.

  102. Jimmy Antley-

    You’re using threats of violence as a red herring. I have consistently said that I am not defending the use of violence to obtain exclusive contracts.

    As for the idea that Microsoft is the company while the employees just work there, that ignores the fundamental nature of a transaction: The company has something (money, and the ability to sign an exclusive contract) that the laborers want, and the laborers have something (labor) that the company wants. They exchange labor for money and an exclusive contract. That’s basic Econ 101. It’s irrelevant who is a “company” and who “just works there.” They exchange, and both parties are better off than they would be had the transaction not taken place.

    Likewise, computer makers have something (money, and a distribution channel for software) that Microsoft wants, and Microsoft has something (software) that computer makers want so they can enhance the sale price of their computers. So Microsoft and the computer maker exchange: Operating systems in exchange for money and exclusive rights to a distribution channel. Both parties are better off than they would be had the transaction not taken place.

    The confusion here comes from the assumption that “If one of the parties organized itself differently (i.e. if the workers weren’t unionized) then the other party (i.e. the company) would be even better off.” There’s an assumption that one of the parties somehow has a “right” to be better off than it is, and the other party (the workers) have a duty to organize themselves to maximize the well-being of the company. The workers only have a duty to organize themselves in accordance with whatever contracts they voluntarily enter into. Nothing more, nothing less.

    (And once again, apply the disclaimer that I’m only defending voluntarily negotiated exclusive contracts, not exclusive contracts mandated by law or obtained under threat of mafia violence.)

  103. Kevin,

    Keep in mind, anyone who wants can go to night school and learn to be a CNC programmer, provided of course that they haven’t already screwed their life up too badly.

  104. There’s something (a little bit) to the meritocracy argument. But there’s still a big difference between a decentralized society where most people control the major decisions affecting their lives, and a centralized technocracy. Mobility into and out of the elite makes it more palatable, but no less elitist.

    You can also, arguably, go to school to become a social engineer in the welfare state/publick skool bureaucracy, or an FDA bureaucrat, etc. That doesn’t make the destruction of the old organic, autonomous and self-regulating social order any less heinous. I still don’t like living under the class rule of technocratic “experts” and “professionals” with clipboards and white coats.

    One of my favorite writers, Christopher Lasch, viewed all these phenomena through the same lens. Whether it was Taylorism in industry, the rise of the Welfare State, or the “professionalization” of local government and school administration, the process was the same: the alienation of the average person from his own common sense. The control of most aspects of his life was placed under the supervision of qualified “professionals,” except for “home” (the place where he sleeps and keeps his stuff when he’s not serving the corporate state) and consumption.

  105. Hi, Ray!
    Since you told me that my position had been “thoroughly debunked” before I even wrote it, I went back up a few posts to see for myself. Here’s what I found:
    1. A whole bunch of posts about slavery, abolition, and the Civil War that have nothing much to do with what I wrote.
    2. A lot of posts from people who just can’t grasp the distinction between “liberal vs. conservative” and “Democrat vs. Republican.” A political party and a political philosophy are two different things.
    3. A few fascinating but obscure posts about Condorcet circles and cognitive non-invariance that seem tangential to the main thread.
    4. A whole mess of posts from people who use the word “liberal” as an all-purpose slur and conversation-stopper (BTW, Ray, calling leftists “parasites” is not a debunking).
    5. Finally, some intelligent posts from folks who make the point that positive social changes are made possible by new inventions and economic growth, which I agree with. They and I part ways, however, when they go on to claim that these things by themselves cause social change. I say they are a necessary pre-condition for change, but not the whole enchilada. That is what I meant when I wrote, “there’s a big difference between something that is possible and something that is real.” The credit for improving society goes to the people who support making the changes that will improve society. In the examples Conason cites, the people who supported change were liberals, and the people who opposed it were conservatives. My point stands.

  106. Private business says that you can take it or leave it. (Smart folk would choose the latter if 80/hrs @ pennies/day were the choice, and go elsewhere where conditions were more reasonable.)

    This assumes there is such an “elsewhere” where conditions are more reasonable. During the industrial revolution, this was not always the case. And it also assumes people can afford to move. Again, in years past, this was not as easy as it is now.

    Free markets cut both ways. If a company abuses its employees, the company shouldn’t be surprised when those employees get together, excercise their *own* economic power and take a collective piss on their employer.

  107. I think the differing attitudes toward Microsoft on the one hand and unions on the other stem from a basic misunderstanding of Econ 101: Microsoft and the steel workers union are BOTH producers of value. Both improve their own value via aggressive but non-coercive tactics that gain them more market share.

    Exactly. That’s the point I was trying to make earlier. Thank you.

  108. “You can also, arguably, go to school to become a social engineer in the welfare state/publick skool bureaucracy, or an FDA bureaucrat, etc.”

    The difference is that you can choose not to work for a corporation if you don’t want to. The nanny-state is hard to escape.

    I would think that the alientation of a person from his common sense precedes his taking a dead end job in factory somewhere. There is plenty of opportunity for anyone willing to put a little thought into it, whether his goal is independent employment, early retirement, or whatever.

    I don’t think that it’s so hard for someone to find a job he enjoys, working in conditions he likes, even if the vast majority of people tend to drift through life without ever putting any thought or effort into it.

  109. anonymous-

    How do you do the italics? I’ve never figured it out.

  110. The You do!? was directed at Thoreau, when he said ” I agree with Anonymous.”

    (We’re stepping all over each other’s comments trying to take the floor, aren’t we?)

  111. Dr. Killum,

    Well the argument would run like this: “These evils will return, therefore we must guard against them.” Allied with this argument is the notion that businesses, etc., w/o significant checks on their behavior, will commit a whole host of evils which will in turn have costs that said businesses will not required to pay (e.g., they will become “free riders”).

  112. Oh, for Pete’s sake, Jean!

    Apples & Oranges!

    We’re talking about EMPLOYMENT MOBILITY here! — An ancient and irrelevant factor in the equation. Something that is no longer applicable where job-seeking is concerned.

    (Help! I’m surrounded by statists tonight! I’m outa here!)

  113. Killum,

    Well, I never stated that I agreed with said argument. And just how mobile is the average American employee?

  114. Killum,

    BTW, I suspect anyone who advocates a government with more than the ability to enforce contracts and to make war is a statist to you, so I don’t take such a comment seriously.

  115. “Universal schooling, the ending of slavery, the 40 hour work week — all of those were vehemently opposed by people who wanted things to stay the same “as they’d always been.” Were these people conservatives? Well, they were certainly people who were sure the changes would lead to oblivion, and as a result, organizers had to work like hell, and in a lot of cases, die, before these things came about.”

    You miss out on one other fact that makes each of these movements fair game for the liberal-left to claim as our own: each represents not just progress for humanity, and not just progress that had to be fought for against fierce opposition, but progress that changed established power relations and promoted equality by enhancing the status of the less powerful within society.(universal schooling made classes more fluid, abolition forced the recognition of black people’s civil and human rights, the 40 hour work week gave workers time for leisure and political activities, which had been the preserve of the upper classes).

    What makes the groups that opposed these movements conservative isn’t that they didn’t support this or that cause; it’s that they opposed causes based on a philosophical opposition to equality, or because the don’t trust the lower orders to take proper advantage of their new priviliges.

    Which is why it’s so easy to tell the libertarians from the right wingers, even when they end up arguing the same side. Libertarians don’t have that reflexive disdain for poor people, mouthy women, and people who live in cities that oozes from Rush Limbaugh or the Mayberry Machiavillians.

  116. Joe,

    It’s quite a stretch to say it’s the OPPONENTS of universal schooling that don’t trust the “lower orders,” as witnessed by the NEA’s standing position against home-schooling. And although you didn’t bring the issue up, the same goes for gun rights.

    But in all fairness, elitism/populism and liberalism/conservatism are not by any means coextensive with left/right labels. In the areas of life dominated by their ideological culture–the “helping professions” and educracy–liberals are a very conservative ruling class, and quite distrustful of the “lower orders.”

    JDM,

    Again, you’re right, up to a point. But there are fewer such jobs in the present system of state intervention and privlege than there would be in a genuine free market. To the extent that technocracy and Taylorism come about as spontaneous results of increased efficiencies or the imperatives of production, I am willing to accept them as necessary evils. But the giant corporations that adopted such production methods were not the product of a free market, nor were their internal methods of organization.

  117. “There’s an assumption that one of the parties somehow has a “right” to be better off than it is,”

    I don’t think that the company has a “right to be better off” per say. It does have a right to make contracts that it feels are in its interest, etc. But no “right” to wealth, or other success . . . that’s for the market to decide.

    “…and the other party (the workers) have a duty to organize themselves to maximize the well-being of the company.”

    I don’t believe this, however, I believe that it is within the rights of individual workers to sign individual contracts with the company, without facing pressure from any unions . . .

    “The workers only have a duty to organize themselves in accordance with whatever contracts they voluntarily enter into. Nothing more, nothing less.”

    I agree, including not joining unions.

    Unions are fine, as long as no pressure is used to force workers to join. Frankly, I think that unions are the same as companies joining together to increase prices by creating in effect a monoply. These efforts tend to fail (absent government support) since there is a strong incentive to be the first to break the deal and reap a big profit. Unions w/o some form of force suffer the same fate.

  118. “But there are fewer such jobs in the present system of state intervention and privlege than there would be in a genuine free market.”

    I don’t doubt that the market would work better if it were more free. I agree that a less regulated world would have smaller better corporations with shorter lifespans, and more opportunity for self-employment. I just don’t think that it’s possible to know from theoretical foundations that a society that has never existed would be better in practice than the one we find ourselves in. I think that there is a lot to be said for the government regulating IP and solving the tragedy of the commons if it “grows the whole pie,” even if the majority of the benefit goes to those who already have money. It’s hard to argue that the quality of life and standards of living have done anything but accelerate under the corporate system. Historically speaking, I don’t see a time or place I would rather have lived.

    It’d be really nice if we had a more federalist system, and we wouldn’t have to argue by trying to figure out who’s calculations left out the least important details.

    When I’m appointed dictator for life, the government I set up will make you happier on rational grounds than any government we will actually get to see in our lifetimes. I get the feeling though that you’d hate it even more given how it came about….

  119. “And just how mobile is the average American employee?”

    do you live in the states, jb? the answer is “extraordinarily”. most of us move a minimum of five times in a career, regardless of our stereotype (blue-collar or white-collar). many of my friends with families change jobs unrepentantly as conditions warrant. unless they reside in academia, of course, which runs on an archconservative model.

    a point made above, i think, says it best — “private business dictates nothing”. there is no forced labor anywhere in a democracy, by definition — only government is capable of the institution on a broad scale, and business can only achieve it through government, i.e. a government owned by industry. this is far from anything that exists here or anywhere in teh west (notwithstanding the paranoid propaganda of the left). anyone is free to leave their job. whether they choose to or not is up to them, based on their own evaluation of risks and rewards.

    that some feel we all need and must be made (forced) to have protection from this freedom baffles me — especially when one considers that such protections are the heart of the high-cost model of western economies. it pays to note, imo, that no high-cost model survives long under competition — and i would posit china and india are that competition.

    seems to this observer that, regardless of the moral consideration of establishing “comfort” and “ease” in society as it is made possible (thanks to innovation) or mandated (through government), ultimately the costs of providing these comforts will be the albatross that sinks the economy — and, shortly thereafter, the society.

  120. You can’t take historical conditions and apply them to present-day experiences.

    Translation: “Yesterday, I touched the stove when it was hot. I burned my hand. But today, I’m going to touch it again because that was yesterday and what happened then no longer applies.”

  121. How do you make the italics?

    HTML tags. Here is a cheat sheet if you need one.

  122. mak_nas,

    Anecdotal evidence is not really the sort of evidence I require.

    “there is no forced labor anywhere in a democracy, by definition”

    Well, (a) the US is not a democracy, and (b) historically republics have had no problem tolerating slavery and other forms of labor coercion.

    “anyone is free to leave their job.”

    What you refer to is known as the “freedom to starve.” In other words, such “freedom” is limited by certain practicalities.

    “it pays to note, imo, that no high-cost model survives long under competition — and i would posit china and india are that competition.”

    Yes, in China and India the mass of population lives in hovels; in other words, wealth is distributed in a vastly disproportionate fashion. That’s exactly where we need to go in the West! 🙂

    BTW, can you give me some historical examples of your theory. Thanks.

    “ultimately the costs of providing these comforts will be the albatross that sinks the economy — and, shortly thereafter, the society.”

    In other words we should all live like medieval peasants if our nation is to survive?

  123. “You can’t take historical conditions and apply them to present-day experiences.”

    This sounds fairly similar to the mantra of the “new economy” morons. South Sea Bubble please meet the Tech Bubble. 🙂

  124. “In other words, such “freedom” is limited by certain practicalities.”

    i get the impression that you believe there is another kind… could you be that idealistic?

    “In other words we should all live like medieval peasants if our nation is to survive?”

    do you believe any reduction of the high-cost welfare state sends us back to the middle ages?

    no — surely, the chinese and indians will grow wealthier in both absolute and relative terms as they take more and more share of the global economic flow and growth. but i think, in the near term, it does mean that europeans and americans will have to come to grips with the realities of a world where their economic importance is diminishing and their welfare states become increasingly unviable. isn’t that the realization that is being come to in much of europe at the moment?

  125. Jean Bart wrote:
    “…. wasn’t economic growth spurred by universal education and the like?… ”

    “Actually I’ve never IGNORED “liberty”;”

    But then, just two sentences hence, he admits:

    “In fact, my statement regarding Julian’s technological determinism said nothing about the issue of liberty.”

    Sounds like ignoring liberty to me. No small omission since it is the most important factor in economic growth, technological progress and human betterment. Liberty has been aptly called “main spring of human progress”. So, Jean Bart is not to persuasive when he characterizes Julian’s accurate statement as “technological determinism”.

  126. Jean Bart wrote:
    “…. wasn’t economic growth spurred by universal education and the like?… ”

    “Actually I’ve never IGNORED “liberty”;”

    But then, just two sentences hence, he admits:

    “In fact, my statement regarding Julian’s technological determinism said nothing about the issue of liberty.”

    Sounds like ignoring liberty to me. No small omission since it is the most important factor in economic growth, technological progress and human betterment. Liberty has been aptly called “main spring of human progress”. So, Jean Bart is not to persuasive when he characterizes Julian’s accurate statement as “technological determinism”.

  127. Thoreau and Amy Phillips,

    The Wobblies are also opposed to some of the defining features of traditional, bureaucratic AFL-CIO unionism: like mandatory representation by a single bargaining agent, and to automatic dues checkoff. The Wobs view dues checkoffs and the closed shop as a way for union bureaucrats to get a guaranteed income without having to perform or be accountable to the rank and file.

    Alexis Buss has a column on “minority unionism” in the *Industrial Worker*, advocating organization of any minority of a workforce that wants to act as a bargaining unit, without going through all the bureaucratic BS of NLRB certification or federally-enforced collective bargaining.

    One thing I find interesting is that the AFL-CIO national organization gets hundreds of millions from the National Endowment for Democracy to educate Third World workers in non-radical American-style unionism. So even if the lords of labor sit on their well-fed posteriors and let every damn local in the country get busted and decertified, they’ll still have enough money coming to them from the feds to live in the style to which they are accustomed.

  128. as for historical examples, i think you can find and convince yourseld with many — it wasn’t long ago, of course, that the united states was the low-cost, high-growth model that took advantage of circumstances (which inevitably arise)
    to overtake the british empire in the 20th century. and, indeed, the british had largely overtaken that role from the french, who economically dominated europe under colbert’s reforms in the 17th c but whose monarchy became extraordinarily expensive and unsustainable under louis xiv. and the french took it from the spanish, whose system of nobility also grew bloated and unresponsive in the face of massive inflation and periodic financial collapse from philip ii on.

    notably, much of the massive expenses that catalyzed the declines of these powers were rooted in war — perhaps a familiar condition today, no — but the underlying cost structure was inherently expensive for much deeper economic reasons.

    all this is highly simplified, of course — but must be, as i’m not writing a thesis here. we’re on a website, after all. 🙂

  129. Benjamin Tucker on labor violence:

    “Let Carnegie, Dana & Co. first see to it that every law in violation of equal liberty is removed from the statute-books [laws against free banking, and other forms of legal privilege that restrict labor access to capital and force workers to sell their labor in a buyer’s market]. If, after that, any laborers shall interfere with the rights of their employers, or shall use force upon inoffensive “scabs,” or shall attack their employers’ watchmen, whether these be Pinkerton detectives, sheriff’s deputies, or the State militia, I pledge myself that, as an Anarchist and in consequence of my Anarchistic faith, I will be among the first to volunteer as a member of a force to repress these disturbers of order and, if necessary, seeep them from the earth. But while these invasive laws remain, I must view every forcible conflict that arises as the consequence of an original violation of liberty on the part of the employing classes, and, if any sweeping is done, may the laborers hold the broom!”

  130. Jean Bart,

    Just to make sure you know, the “pound sand” remark was directed not at you, but at whoever is misappropriating your name.

  131. Rick Barton wrote:

    “Sounds like ignoring liberty to me.”

    I am neither ignoring or acknowledging it. In fact, its beside the point. Of course if you want to read paens to liberty, go ahead, but every conversation about economics doesn’t have to start out with some caveat about liberty.

    “Liberty has been aptly called ‘main spring of human progress.’ So, Jean Bart is not to persuasive when he characterizes Julian’s accurate statement as “technological determinism.'”

    Actually, I am quite persuasive. Because even if we agree that liberty is the mainspring of human progress, it should also be stated that its _human actors_ (not some “deus ex machina”) which are important when it comes to the issue of human progress. Technology doesn’t create progress, however you want to define the term, humans do. Julian’s statement was very lazy because it implied that technology was sort of force outside of the control of human beings; some disembodied entity taking on the role of a God in other words.

  132. Rick Barton,

    Someday I’m going to teach the folks here at Hit & Run how wrongheaded technological determinism is, and how much such thinking entangles and ensares people in all sorts of strange and awfulo ways.

  133. “Keep up the absolute lack of any work whatsoever! Just remember that, as long as you keep believing that technology and markets will just magically take care of everything, there’ll be a big government liberal covering your ass so that you’ll never have to rethink your mythology! ”

    No one here believes that technology falls out of the sky. Technology comes from people figuring out better ways to do things, or dreaming up better products. In a capitalist system, such people are lavishly rewarded when they fully develop their bright ideas and share them with the world. That’s where technology comes from.

  134. Amy, we’re coming over to your place tomorrow . . . to clean your carpet . . . you know.

    But if you don’t pay us the price we ask, er, (excuse me) “collectively bargain for,” we’re gonna FORCE you to pay us that price anyway.

    And if you still gives us grief, we’re gonna sic the government on you.

    OK?

  135. Julian, the Vast Right-Wing Propaganda Machine rocks!

  136. “Microsoft and the steel workers union are BOTH producers of value. . . . The steel workers union members decide to improve their wages by agreeing to stick together, and by negotiating exclusive contracts.”

    Now, how does this improve value? This doesn’t improve value to “steel consumers” or to the steel industry . . . nor to non-union steels workers, or even union steel workers who are only members because they have to be to work at a given steel plant. Granted, the union leadership gets something out of this (kinda like the mob boss gets value from the mob & its activities).

    It seems to me that if unions REALLY provided value, they wouldn’t have to REQUIRE membership in the union. Really, unions are more like OPEC and other attempts at monoply via buisness alignment.

  137. “as for historical examples, i think you can find and convince yourseld with many — it wasn’t long ago, of course, that the united states was the low-cost, high-growth model that took advantage of circumstances (which inevitably arise)
    to overtake the british empire in the 20th century.”

    The problem with this analogy is that Britain’s social reforms occurred long after America started to catch-up and surpass Britain. In fact, this is more of example of the fruits of what economists call “early achievers” than anything. That and the fact that America had distinct natural advantages Britain lacked. Of course it should be kept in mind that Britain remained the world’s greatest capital market up to 1914, when it had to borrow heavily to fight the First World War.

    “and, indeed, the british had largely overtaken that role from the french, who economically dominated europe under colbert’s reforms in the 17th c but whose monarchy became extraordinarily expensive and unsustainable under louis xiv.”

    France never dominated European economic affairs in the 17th century. As to the crown’s economic problems, well, they were constant before and after Louis XIV (Louis XIII nearly broke France with his murderous taxes to finance his wars against the Huguenots and his efforts in the Thirty Years’ War). From 1611 to the death of Loius XIV in 1715, military expenditures as part of the ordinary revenue were never below 50% (under Richelieu they often topped 80%). In fact all of these taxes incited a wave of peasant rebellions under Richelieau and Mazarin that did not subside until 1675.

    BTW, if any nation during this period dominated the economic landscape of Europe it was the Dutch!

    “and the french took it from the spanish, whose system of nobility also grew bloated and unresponsive in the face of massive inflation and periodic financial collapse from philip ii on.”

    The Spanish also never dominated the economic landscape of Europe; in fact, they couldn’t because their own home industries were so anemic. What they did do is import a great deal of material goods from their ill-gotten gains in the New World.

    “notably, much of the massive expenses that catalyzed the declines of these powers were rooted in war — perhaps a familiar condition today, no — but the underlying cost structure was inherently expensive for much deeper economic reasons.”

    Yes, the costs of war have often been deterimental to the economic fortunes of nations. BTW, France never “declined.” It remained a power in Europe to be reckoned with throughout the entire expanse of history that you cover.

  138. On the “technological determinism” issue, I strongly recommend the Stephen Marglin article “What Do Bosses Do?” (It’s in the Review of Radical Political Economics, around 1970, give or take a year) He argued that the principle of division of labor did not by any means mandate the factory system. He took the Adam Smith example of pin making, in which the division of labor enabled each laborer to make hundreds of times more pins than a single laborer performing the entire job himself. But, Marglin pointed out, the chief advance of division of labor was the separation and sequencing of tasks. This could have been accomplished almost as well by a single cottage worker, first drawing out and cutting the wire for his entire production run, then sharpening it, etc. The main advantage of the factory system was not productive efficiency, but in making sure that labor’s control of the production process was fragmented and that the control of the overall process was in the hands of the person who made money disposing of their product.

    More generally, at any given time there have typically been several alternative forms of production technology, all equally feasible technically. The one adopted has been that which was most promising for deskilling labor and removing control of the production process from those doing the work. David Noble, David Montgomery, and William Lazonick have written several excellent histories of the phenomenon. That was the whole point of Taylorism–to deskill labor.

    A more recent example is after World War II, when industry had to choose between alternative forms of automation for machine tools. One, the record-playback system, would have depended mainly on master machinists for the programming work, and left control of production in the hands of blue collar people on the shop floor. The other, the digital system, shifted decision-making power upward into the white collar hierarchy of managers and engineers. Guess which one was chosen?

    At any given time, technology has the potential to be adapted to any number of forms of production. Which one is adopted depends on whether the society adopting it is authoritarian or libertarian.

  139. More on the union discussion:

    Way back, someone wrote:

    “Microsoft and the steel workers union are BOTH producers of value. . . . The steel workers union members decide to improve their wages by agreeing to stick together, and by negotiating exclusive contracts.”

    The difference is, as another poster was trying to point out, Microsoft IS the company, the steel workers aren’t. They don’t own USX or whomever, the just work there.

    The union workers don’t have the right to keep non-union workers (who have made their own minds up) out of the plants by threatening them with personal violence and sugar in their gas tanks (at the very least).

    Meanwhile, the President, VP’s, board members and other Big Cheeses at Microsoft can make whatever kind of exclusive contracts they want with PC makers.

    I don’t see the MS/Steel Workers analogy working at all – must be a required lunch break.

  140. Does Amy have an inalienable right to negotiate with the carpet cleaners one-on-one? Can a carpet cleaner, of his own free will, say to Amy “sorry, but I’m working with the other carpet cleaners, so I negotiate alongside them”?

    Remember, I’m not saying there should be a law that bars any carpet cleaner from negotiating outside the union. I’m saying that if the union members voluntarily stick together, and there are no other carpet cleaners, well, that’s life. Maybe other carpet cleaners will set up shop in town. They’ll be able to negotiate a lower price with anybody who hasn’t already signed an exclusive contract with the carpet union.

    Let’s put this another way: Say Microsoft negotiates an exclusive contract with a hardware manufacturer. The terms of the contract are that if the manufacturer bundles Windows with any of its machines it must bundle Windows with ALL of its machines, and not bundle any other operating system in the same machine (say, machine with 2 operating systems installed, and a user choice when it boots).

    It sucks. You can’t buy a Linux-equipped PC from that company. But libertarians are more likely to say “that’s life” than “Microsoft is evil.” They’ll say “Microsoft makes something valuable, and deserves whatever it can make off of it in the market.”

    And I agree 100%. But a steel worker also offers something valuable (a service is valuable if people are willing to pay for it, basic Econ 101). Yet when a group of steel workers get together so that they have more market power and can negotiate exclusive contracts, you hear free marketeers saying “unions are bad. They distort the market. They get paid more than they are worth.”

    I think the differing attitudes toward Microsoft on the one hand and unions on the other stem from a basic misunderstanding of Econ 101: Microsoft and the steel workers union are BOTH producers of value. Both improve their own value via aggressive but non-coercive tactics that gain them more market share. Microsoft has been known to buy smaller companies and negotiate exclusive contracts. The steel workers union members decide to improve their wages by agreeing to stick together, and by negotiating exclusive contracts.

    In other words, groups with substantial market power acquired by non-coercive means are inevitable facts of life in the free market, and there’s no moral distinction between the various people with substantial power acquired non-coercively.

    (And of course, none of this should be interpreted as endorsing

  141. Kevin,

    The way history works is that things that were once on the leftish fringe, like universal suffrage, universal schooling, and universal health care, eventually become mainstream and centrist, until even conservatives have internalized the ideal and begin to call it “natural.” In modern society, there is virtually no one who disagrees with the belief that every child has the right to be educated at public expense. Home schoolers, voucher proponents, the NEA, the PTA, hippie “free schooler” – they are all fighting about what one way, or combination of ways, is best in achieving the goal that they all share.

    But as for public schools and indoctrination: yes, conservatives often discover that something is in line with their long-standing principles once liberals have rammed it down their throats, and demonstrated its worth.

  142. Joe,

    No, the POINT of public education was indoctrination. Right from the beginning, when the so-called Progressives pushed the idea.

  143. I have had this intense dislike for Joe Conason from the first time I laid eyes on this uppity and snooty liberal five years ago. He thought nothing Clinton did was wrong and called a vast right wing conspiracy then and I see he hasn’t changed his stripes at all. I just wonder if this snob sends his kids to exclusive private schools and lives in a high rise above all the howling mobs he professes to champion. He has phony written all over him.

  144. JDM,

    That’s OK. I’d be miserable without a government to hate. Just like Ren Hoek when he got that “helmet of happiness” stuck on his head.

  145. Joe,

    Consider this argument why you should buy stocks in the Dow. Look at the 30 Dow Jones stocks (Disney, Wal-Mart, Boeing, etc). Imagine 25 years ago someone bought a portfolio of these 30 stocks. Look at how money they would have made!

    Ok, maybe you really should buy stocks. But the particular argument I gave is bogus, because of “selection bias.” Lots of liberal solutions were proposed in history, many were tried, some worked, and the property of “working” made them more likely to survive. Conason is ignoring the many liberal ideas from the past that were stinkers. (_Looking Backward_ is a good example of many such stinkers, and since this is a Reason site, let me suggest https://reason.com/opeds/vp010200.shtml to explain some). Your model of liberals had good ideas, conservatives fought them, they were implemented, and eventually the goodness of these ideas became apparent, and they are mainstream successes, is correct. It is just incomplete, and without considering what failed and why, is useless for saying whether or not *current* liberal ideas should be implemented. Note also that conservatives had good ideas, liberals fought them, they were implemented, and eventually the goodness of these ideas became apparent, and they are now mainstream successes.

  146. Don,

    The public school movement preceded the Progressive movement by some decades. But it’s true that it came to the fore under progressives. It is also true that socialization into a national identity, particularly for immigrants’ children, was a primary goal for these reformers. I would guess that you’d consider any degree of socialization in a public school to be indoctination. I would take less of a hard line.

    But the point it, the nativists and industrial elite who wanted to put public education to their own uses were piggybacking on a movement that had been begun decades earlier by egalitarian leftists. It fits my model of centrists and conservatives eventually coming to see the light. And then screwing it up 😉

  147. David Duke is a malignant narcissist.

    He invents and then projects a false, fictitious, self for the world to fear, or to admire. He maintains a tenuous grasp on reality to start with and the trappings of power further exacerbate this. Real life authority and David Duke’s predilection to surround him with obsequious sycophants support David Duke’s grandiose self-delusions and fantasies of omnipotence and omniscience.
    David Duke’s personality is so precariously balanced that he cannot tolerate even a hint of criticism and disagreement. Most narcissists are paranoid and suffer from ideas of reference (the delusion that they are being mocked or discussed when they are not). Thus, narcissists often regard themselves as “victims of persecution”.
    Duke fosters and encourages a personality cult with all the hallmarks of an institutional religion: priesthood, rites, rituals, temples, worship, catechism, and mythology. The leader is this religion’s ascetic saint. He monastically denies himself earthly pleasures (or so he claims) in order to be able to dedicate himself fully to his calling.
    Duke is a monstrously inverted Jesus, sacrificing his life and denying himself so that his people – or humanity at large – should benefit. By surpassing and suppressing his humanity, Duke became a distorted version of Nietzsche’s “superman”.
    But being a-human or super-human also means being a-sexual and a-moral.
    In this restricted sense, narcissistic leaders are post-modernist and moral relativists. They project to the masses an androgynous figure and enhance it by engendering the adoration of nudity and all things “natural” – or by strongly repressing these feelings. But what they refer to, as “nature” is not natural at all.
    Duke invariably proffers an aesthetic of decadence and evil carefully orchestrated and artificial – though it is not perceived this way by him or by his followers. Narcissistic leadership is about reproduced copies, not about originals. It is about the manipulation of symbols – not about veritable atavism or true conservatism.
    In short: narcissistic leadership is about theatre, not about life. To enjoy the spectacle (and be subsumed by it), the leader demands the suspension of judgment, depersonalization, and de-realization. Catharsis is tantamount, in this narcissistic dramaturgy, to self-annulment.
    Narcissism is nihilistic not only operationally, or ideologically. Its very language and narratives are nihilistic. Narcissism is conspicuous nihilism – and the cult’s leader serves as a role model, annihilating the Man, only to re-appear as a pre-ordained and irresistible force of nature.
    Narcissistic leadership often poses as a rebellion against the “old ways” – against the hegemonic culture, the upper classes, the established religions, the superpowers, the corrupt order. Narcissistic movements are puerile, a reaction to narcissistic injuries inflicted upon David Duke like (and rather psychopathic) toddler nation-state, or group, or upon the leader.
    Minorities or “others” – often arbitrarily selected – constitute a perfect, easily identifiable, embodiment of all that is “wrong”. They are accused of being old, they are eerily disembodied, they are cosmopolitan, they are part of the establishment, they are “decadent”, they are hated on religious and socio-economic grounds, or because of their race, sexual orientation, origin … They are different, they are narcissistic (feel and act as morally superior), they are everywhere, they are defenseless, they are credulous, they are adaptable (and thus can be co-opted to collaborate in their own destruction). They are the perfect hate figure. Narcissists thrive on hatred and pathological envy.
    This is precisely the source of the fascination with Hitler, diagnosed by Erich Fromm – together with Stalin – as a malignant narcissist. He was an inverted human. His unconscious was his conscious. He acted out our most repressed drives, fantasies, and wishes. He provides us with a glimpse of the horrors that lie beneath the veneer, the barbarians at our personal gates, and what it was like before we invented civilization. Hitler forced us all through a time warp and many did not emerge. He was not the devil. He was one of us. He was what Arendt aptly called the banality of evil. Just an ordinary, mentally disturbed, failure, a member of a mentally disturbed and failing nation, who lived through disturbed and failing times. He was the perfect mirror, a channel, a voice, and the very depth of our souls.
    Duke prefers the sparkle and glamour of well-orchestrated illusions to the tedium and method of real accomplishments. His reign is all smoke and mirrors, devoid of substances, consisting of mere appearances and mass delusions. In the aftermath of his regime – Duke having died, been deposed, or voted out of office – it all unravels. The tireless and constant prestidigitation ceases and the entire edifice crumbles. What looked like an economic miracle turns out to have been a fraud-laced bubble. Loosely held empires disintegrate. Laboriously assembled business conglomerates go to pieces. “Earth shattering” and “revolutionary” scientific discoveries and theories are discredited. Social experiments end in mayhem.
    It is important to understand that the use of violence must be ego-syntonic. It must accord with the self-image of David Duke. It must abet and sustain his grandiose fantasies and feed his sense of entitlement. It must conform David Duke like narrative. Thus, David Duke who regards himself as the benefactor of the poor, a member of the common folk, the representative of the disenfranchised, the champion of the dispossessed against the corrupt elite – is highly unlikely to use violence at first. The pacific mask crumbles when David Duke has become convinced that the very people he purported to speak for, his constituency, his grassroots fans, and the prime sources of his narcissistic supply – have turned against him. At first, in a desperate effort to maintain the fiction underlying his chaotic personality, David Duke strives to explain away the sudden reversal of sentiment. “The people are being duped by (the media, big industry, the military, the elite, etc.)”, “they don’t really know what they are doing”, “following a rude awakening, they will revert to form”, etc. When these flimsy attempts to patch a tattered personal mythology fail, David Duke becomes injured. Narcissistic injury inevitably leads to narcissistic rage and to a terrifying display of unbridled aggression. The pent-up frustration and hurt translate into devaluation. That which was previously idealized – is now discarded with contempt and hatred. This primitive defense mechanism is called “splitting”. To David Duke, things and people are either entirely bad (evil) or entirely good. He projects onto others his own shortcomings and negative emotions, thus becoming a totally good object. Duke is likely to justify the butchering of his own people by claiming that they intended to kill him, undo the revolution, devastate the economy, or the country, etc. The “small people”, the “rank and file”, and the “loyal soldiers” of David Duke – his flock, his nation, and his employees – they pay the price. The disillusionment and disenchantment are agonizing. The process of reconstruction, of rising from the ashes, of overcoming the trauma of having been deceived, exploited and manipulated – is drawn-out. It is difficult to trust again, to have faith, to love, to be led, to collaborate. Feelings of shame and guilt engulf the erstwhile followers of David Duke. This is his sole legacy: a massive post-traumatic stress disorder.

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