Socialism

Why Is Socialism So Damned Attractive?

Because evolution wired our brains for it.

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EqualityNowHaidt
Jonathan Haidt/Reason

What is the attraction of socialism? The Cato Institute held a policy forum Wednesday to consider that question, featuring talks from the moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt and the evolutionary psychologists Leda Cosmides and John Tooby.

One problem they quickly encountered was how to define socialism in the first place. Is it pervasive, state-directed central planning? A Scandinavian-style safety net? Something else? Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who pursued the Democratic presidential nomination while describing himself as a socialist, attracted a big following among voters under age 30. But most of those voters actually rejected the idea of the government running businesses or owning the means of production; they tended to be safety-net redistributionists who want to tax the rich to pay for health care and college education. And this was, in fact, the platform Sanders was running on.

Cosmides suggested the contemporary left/right divide rests on the question of whether people are inherently good or bad. The liberal thinks people are good but are ruined by exploitation; the conservative thinks people are bad and their selfish impulses must be reined in by cultural norms and controls. In fact, she continued, evolutionary psychology shows that human nature is composed of an extensive set of neural programs that are triggered by different experiences. Human beings evolved to handle the social challenges encountered in small bands of 50 to 200 people. Globe-spanning market economies strain our brains.

Cosmides than critiqued the Marxist belief that early hunter-gatherers practiced primitive communism—that all labor was collective, and the products of that labor were distributed on the rule of from each according to his ability to each according to his need. Cosmides cited a classic study by the University of Utah anthropologists Hillard Kaplan and Kim Hill, who looked at how Ache foragers shared food. They reported that rarer, high-yield, hunted foods like game were more extensively shared than more common gathered plant foods. Finding game depends a lot on luck whereas finding plant foods depends more on effort.

Such behavior reemerged in a 2012 experiment conducted by the Nobel-winning economist Vernon Smith, Cosmides noted. The study, which was published in The Proceedings of the Royal Society B, had modern college students hunt and gather in a virtual environment. In one patch, resources were highly valuable but hard to find—in economic lingo, they were high-variance. In another patch, the resources were more common and less valuable: low-variance. Since acquiring high-variance resources depends a lot on luck, sharing emerged quickly among participants who foraged in that patch; they recognized that otherwise they could easily go home with nothing. In low-variance situations, by contrast, how much you earned depended chiefly on how hard you worked. Sharing was almost non-existent among the low-variance foragers.

Cosmides then turned to a fascinating 2014 study in The Journal of Politics by the Danish political scientists Lene Aarøe and Michael Bang Petersen. Aarøe and Petersen found that certain cues could turn supposedly individualistic Americans into purportedly welfare-state loving Danes, and vice versa.

In that experiment, researchers asked 2,000 Danes and Americans to react to three cases involving a person on welfare. In one, they had no background information on the welfare client. In the second, he lost his job due to an injury and was actively looking for new work. In the third, he has never looked for a job at all. The Danes turned out to be slightly more likely than the Americans to assume that the person they knew nothing about was on welfare because of bad luck. But both Americans and Danes were no different in opposing welfare for the lazy guy and strongly favoring it for the unlucky worker. "When we assess people on welfare, we use certain [evolved] psychological mechanisms to spot anyone who might be cheating," Michael Bang Petersen explained in press release about the study. "We ask ourselves whether they are motivated to give something back to me and society. And these mechanisms are more powerful than cultural differences."

Ultimately, Cosmides argued, those of us who want to preserve liberty and prosperity need to understand how human psychology has evolved and understand why evolved attitudes are often counterproductive.

The next panelist, John Tooby, turned to those counterproductive attitudes. Tooby has long been puzzled that so many of his colleagues are not struck by facts like Hong Kong's amazing economic success. (Its GDP increased 180-fold between 1961 and 1996 while per capita GDP increased 87-fold and inequality fell.) Instead, even a Nobel-winning economist like Joseph Stiglitz praised Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez's ultimately disastrous redistributionist economic policies.

The chief problem, he suggested, is that many people are beguiled by "romantic socialism"—that is, they imagine what their personal lives would be like if everyone shared and treated one another like family. We evolved in small bands that were an individual's only protection from starvation, victimization, and inter-group aggression. People feel vulnerable if their band does not exist. Such sentiments are more or less appropriate when people lived in small groups of hunter-gatherers composed mostly of kin, but they fail spectacularly when navigating a world of strangers cooperating in global markets.

Tooby also argued that markets make intellectuals irrelevant. Consequently, academics have a huge bias against spontaneous order and the basic goal of most social science is to critique the social institutions associated with market-based society.

More darkly, Tooby pointed out that political entrepreneurs know how to appeal to romantic socialist sentiments as a way to establish themselves in power. The evolved psychological propensity toward romantic socialism facilitates political coalitions that oppose free-market societies. Since such coalitions are organized around romantically appealing ideas, any heresy is treated as betrayal. If things are not going well (and they never are in full-blown socialist societies) and since the ideology cannot be wrong, evildoers are undermining progress and must be found and punished (think kulaks and the Gulag). Such coalitions tend to revert to primitive zero-sum thinking: If there is something you don't get that means that someone took it from you. The result is, according to Tooby, that there really are those who are willing to make poor people worse off in order to make rich people worse off.

The third speaker was Jonathan Haidt, whose research explores the intuitive ethics that undergird the psychological foundations of morality. His goal is to reconcile the universal human behavior identified by evolutionary psychology with the cultural variations highlighted by anthropology. He and his colleagues have identified six moral foundations, but he focused on just three during the session. Those three were care/harm, fairness/cheating, and liberty/oppression.

In contemporary politics, liberals are chiefly concerned about care and harm. They see fairness mostly as equality of outcomes. He illustrated this with photos taken during the Occupy Wall Street episode in Zuccotti Park. (One Occupy sign, for instance, read "Tax the Rich Fair and Square.") On the other hand, conservatives see fairness has proportionality; if you work hard, you get to keep the rewards. Haidt showed a Tea Party sign that read, "Stop Punishing Success—Stop Rewarding Failure."

Haidt and his colleagues recognize that the usual two-dimensional political spectrum is inadequate and have studied libertarian morality. Libertarians, they concluded, score lowest on measures of empathy, highest on measures of rationality and cognitive engagement, and off the charts on reactance: the anger you feel when someone tells you that you can't do something or tries to control you.

Haidt is working a book tentatively titled Three Stories About Capitalism. Left-leaning people, he said, endorse a story he calls "Capitalism is Exploitation"; "Capitalism is Liberation" is the story told by many conservatives and most libertarians. Haidt suggested that both stories have some truth to them. One group believes it is standing for decency at the cost of some dynamism; the others favor dynamism while sacrificing some decency. Haidt asked, "Do we need a third story about capitalism?"

Another Occupy Wall Street placard shown in Haidt's presentation said "Equality Now! Liberty Later." In response to that sentiment, Haidt quoted Milton Friedman: "A society that aims for equality before liberty will end up with neither equality nor liberty. And a society that aims first for liberty will not end up with equality, but it will end up with a closer approach to equality than any other kind of system that has ever been developed."

Our evolved psychological programs may more readily succumb to romantic socialism, but as Cosmides, Tooby, and Haidt remind us, there are other brain apps that can turn humanity toward liberty and prosperity. Let's figure out how to activate them more frequently and to use them better.

NEXT: With Mitch Daniels Republicanism on the Outs, Mitch Daniels Cozies up to Gary Johnson

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  1. It’s incorrect equating “socialism” with “voluntary sharing.”

    1. We are just voluntarily sharing your money.

      1. The gun pointed at you is only for if you’re a wrecker or hoarder who doesn’t share voluntarily.

        1. By the fact that 51% of the voters consented to me pointing my gun at you, to steal your money for all of us (especially us gun-pointing public servants), you consented, and have NO right to bitch! And “democracy” has near-magically removed ALL of the negatives involved in forceful, violence-back thievery and thuggery. I didn’t do nothin’ wrong… Just exercising my vote here… Now you cops go and beat up the Kulacks on my behalf, please…

          1. komik ngentot By the fact that 51% of the voters consented to me pointing my gun at you, to steal your money for all of us (especially us gun-pointing public servants), you consented, komik xxx

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    2. +1 Forgotten Man.

      It is a categorical order of the first degree. When A high schooler makes it I tend to blame ignorance or misinformation.

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  2. “…highest on measures of rationality and cognitive engagement, and off the charts on reactance: the anger you feel when someone tells you that you can’t do something or tries to control you.”

    This brought a smile (grin?) to my face.

    1. My take away is that libertarians are the smart, “real” ‘Mericans, and the rest are different flavors of pussy.

      1. Different flavors, you say? That makes the rest sound much more appealing than they probably are.

        1. No one said they were good flavors.

          1. You 3 made me laugh, thanks!

      2. I love pussy

      3. I approve if both cats and vagin??and as for ‘real ‘Mericans’, remember David Letterman’s ruffling his cards and saying ‘If these weren’t real letters, I couldn’t do _this_ with them’.

        More seriously, Milton Friedman, Eugene Debs, and Thomas Paine were truly Ametican, but would have had a very contentious discussion on the nature of property.

  3. Free shit?

    1. /thread

      1. Yeah that’s all that needs to said. Oh, and NOT FAIR!!!!

    2. *waves club*

      Your shit, give it to me

      No

      *hands club to biggest dude*

      Your shit, give it to him and he might share with me.

      *finds some friends* No

      *gets clubs for a bunch of likeminded tribe members*

      Your shit, give it to us.

      Well, since you put it that way.

      1. Ron White: I don’t know how many people it would take to kick my ass, but I knew how many they were going to use…”

  4. Libertarians, they concluded, score lowest on measures of empathy, highest on measures of rationality and cognitive engagement, and off the charts on reactance: the anger you feel when someone tells you that you can’t do something or tries to control you.

    You asshole! How DARE you tell me that I can’t empathize with people! I FEEL ANGER!

    1. Maybe I have the wrong definition of empathy. I can relate to how others must feel/think, but at the same time think they’re wrong.

      1. There are two things at play here I believe.

        First is the conflation of sympathy with empathy, which I believe to be soley restricted to the reader. I do not believe the authors are conflating the two.

        The second however, is that the authors attribute a lack of empathy to what is in actuality a non sequitur. What appears to the authors as lack of empathy is really the libertarian mind paying no attention to irrelevant facts. Your personal life circumstances have no bearing on whether theft is wrong. Sympathy nor empathy enter into a discussion of rights. That is not only a calculation libertarians don’t engage in but their calculators don’t even have that button. My ability to be an amazing running back for the Broncos has no bearing on whether Brad Pitt can achieve a degree in orbital mechanics. The two things are wholly unrelated.

        1. But… But algebra is low in vitamins and minerals, and so, it should ***NOT*** be taught in the pubic schools!

          (Stolen from Thomas Sowel).

        2. Haidt uses empathetic thinking to mean what someone’s first impulses are in viewing a situation. Someone who is an empathetic thinker is going to view an interaction between two people trying to clue out what’s at the emotive root of why they’re behaving that way. A systematizer is going to view it more as interactions of power dynamics, or incentives/needs.

          -Poorly summarized from memory.

  5. Socialism as an umbrella is the control of the economy for the common good. That could be through communal ownership, regulation or other methods. The key is the government gets to define what is the common good and determine how to attain it. You just need the right Top Men who are capable and uncorruptable.

    1. Actually, you need a currently non-existent information technology that would allow your central planning mechanism to gather and interpret economic data from within your economy (not just your nation). This is the essential ‘socialist problem’ that ‘legibility’ seeks to overcome by simplifying the intricacies of the market into an easily understandable format.

      *Then* having the right Top Men will be useful.

      Too bad neither exists.

      1. You also have to reduce everything to a value which can be globally maximized even if it results in catastrophic local minimization. Greater good and all that.

      2. Some kind of deus-ex machina like device (like a replicator in Star Trek) that makes a post scarcity society possible would be useful too. Although not necessarily requirement if you’ve got your hypothetical non-existent IT technology that allows the Top Men to get around the knowledge problem.

        1. Read this about paradise/post scarcity society…awesome and horrifying.

          Secret of NIHM

          /no not the movie but the inspiration for it

        2. Read this about paradise/post scarcity society…awesome and horrifying.

          Secret of NIHM

          /no not the movie but the inspiration for it

      3. Just keep trying. Someday the Top Men will be found. Until then we will keep giving power to Bottom Men.

        1. What if we had truly accurate brain scanning tech that would allow us to select “Top Men” who really ARE morally superior, better informed, wiser, etc., and who really COULD make our charity choices better than we can make them for ourselves? Instead of just being greedy, power-hungry assholes? What would happen then? Need some sci-fi written about that, here… You want my vote? I want to know about, what does the God-like brain-scanner say about the state of your soul? Won’t share the results with me? No vote from me!

          1. The problem is that the people designing the brain scan would not themselves necessarily be “morally superior, better informed, wiser, etc.,” so there’s no way we could be confident that their tests for those traits would be accurate or reliable.

            1. Ah, yes, the “calibration problem”… Well stated, and yes, it is a problem. One we could over-come eventually. I wish all the money spent on recent wars had been spent on brain scanners instead. Just keeping the evil assholes who want to maim and kill, on the other sides of our borders… A cheap and reliable brain scanner at the border would quickly pay off!

        2. Totally disagree. Socialism is not about folks at the bottom controlling anything. ALL social systems ultimately involve the most sociopathic individuals (call them Type-A’s) taking charge of everything and manipulating everyone else. Once you accept the high probability of that occurring whether you want it or not, the only remaining question for everyone else is how much can everyone else check/balance the power that the sociopath self-aggregates.

          Socialism actually is a social system that imposes an element of accountability on power via a combination of transfers to the bottom and rationales for regicide/revolution.

          Classical liberalism did the same by setting up overt competition and checks/balances among the sociopaths themselves to limit their harm – and declined when people forgot the Calvinist roots (original sin) of that idea and accepted a utilitarian rationale for consolidating that power in the name of ‘efficiency’.

          Anarcho-Libertarianism fails because it is deluded about both human nature and power.

          1. And the sociopaths aren’t restricted to the political arena of any social system. CEO’s are more likely to be sociopaths and the bigger the company the more sociopathic. ‘Idea leaders’ (academics/media/etc) are too. So any argument that one can ‘change things’ merely by eliminating the ‘political’ or the ‘economic’ is silly and self-defeating. Eliminate one career path for the sociopath and they will find the alternative

            1. CEO’s are more likely to be sociopaths and the bigger the company the more sociopathic.

              It’s almost as if unceasing drive fueled by naked self-gain at the expense of all other goals is what most people call “leadership”

            2. Interesting note that they might have more sociopathic tendencies actual sociopaths tend to not be very successful or productive, one of the primary emotions is giving a fuck, guess what Sociopaths don’t do.

      4. You also have to privilege utilitarianism over autonomy.

    2. You just need the right Top Men who are capable and incorruptible.

      And that’s the real problem with socialism. People who grow up under a system where the government runs their lives never learn to run their own lives. People who can’t run their own lives never become “Top Men who are capable and incorruptible.” About the third generation society runs out of people capable of running the society, and the wheels fall off.

    3. Socialism as an umbrella is the control of the economy for the common good.

      Bullshit. Socialism is the control of the economy for the benefit of the rulers. It has never been anything else.

      -jcr

  6. RE: Why Is Socialism So Damned Attractive?

    Someone once said socialism was made by the crazy for the lazy.
    Would someone here please help me out here?
    I’m having a hard time refuting this thesis.

    1. Mises covered this already in The Anti-Capitalist Mentality

      And Hoffer expounded on it.

      1. What makes many feel unhappy under capitalism is the fact that capitalism grants to each the opportunity to attain the most desirable positions which, of course, can only be attained by a few. Whatever a man may have gained for himself, it is mostly a mere fraction of what his ambition has impelled him to win. There are always before his eyes people who have succeeded where he failed. There are fellows who have outstripped him and against whom he nurtures, in his subconsciousness, inferiority complexes. Such is the attitude of the tramp against the man with a regular job, the factory hand against the foreman, the executive against the vice-president, the vice-president against the company’s president, the man who is worth three hundred thousand dollars against the millionaire and so on. E verybod y’ s selfreliance and moral equilibrium are undermined by the spectacle of those who have given proof of greater abilities and capacities. Everybody is aware of his own defeat and insufficiency.

        1. What makes many feel unhappy under capitalism is the fact that capitalism grants to each the opportunity to attain the most desirable positions which, of course, can only be attained by a few.

          I wonder how many become Party Leaders under Socialism?

          1. Socialism substitutes signaled intentions for actual worth and elevates sophistry over results.

        2. What makes many feel unhappy under capitalism is the fact that capitalism grants to each the opportunity to attain the most desirable positions which, of course, can only be attained by a few.

          I wonder how many become Party Leaders under Socialism?

        3. Poor man wanna be rich,
          rich man wanna be king,
          And a king ain’t satisfied,
          till he rules everything?

    2. You’re in the wrong place. Go try Huffington, or Salon.

  7. But both Americans and Danes were no different in opposing welfare for the lazy guy and strongly favoring it for the unlucky worker.

    Excellent argument against the welfare state. There is no way, objectively, to deny that bureaucratic systems are terrible at identifying people who are intent on gaming those systems.

    Meanwhile, people — Americans in particular — want to help the truly deserving. People are far more careful to see that their own money is spent well than other peoples’ money. The propensity for bureaucrats to care less about “other peoples money” than people care about their own money is also well-documented.

    Thus, people who care about the welfare of others are not going to sit by and let people starve in the streets. IN the absence of a welfare state, like-minded people will both individually and in groups act to help those they identify as the deserving poor. The government need not step in at all.

    1. Get a load of laissez-fair Larry over there.

      /Tony.

      1. faire

        1. Why yes, Goodman Rufus. I do desireth to go to yon Faire!

          1. If thou be chance, eh, upon dear Connie, do send proper regards.

          2. Mayhap I couldst gander beneath thine frock?

        2. Oh, I thought is was just the Canadian spelling.

    2. There is no way, objectively, to deny that bureaucratic systems are terrible at identifying people who are intent on gaming those systems.

      I think you might be wrong here.

      The problem is, IMO, that bureaucratic systems are incentivized to look the other way with those gaming the system. Whether you are getting your dole legitimately or fraudulently or somewhere in between, you get to be put on the program administrator’s metric as a reason to increase funding and headcount.

      1. Bingo. Bureaucratic empire building is a real phenomenon.

      2. Fair (faire?) enough. I can agree with that. Same (or worse) outcome in the end.

    3. This is why the statement that “the liberal [sic] thinks people are good” is so wrong.

      The phony liberal thinks other people are so bad that they will only help other people in need at gunpoint, and that they should be the one pointing the gun.

    4. Thus, people who care about the welfare of others are not going to sit by and let people starve in the streets. IN the absence of a welfare state, like-minded people will both individually and in groups act to help those they identify as the deserving poor. The government need not step in at all.

      And before the advent of the modern welfare state there were all kinds of mutual aid societies that would help people who were needy. Of course, very few people realize that. It isn’t taught in history books because all that’s taught is “Great Man” horseshit and the various wars that have been fought.

    5. Meanwhile, people — Americans in particular — want to help the truly deserving

      Well, they want to believe they’re the sort of person who helps the truly deserving, anyways.

  8. People are far more careful to see that their own money is spent well than other peoples’ money.
    I will paraphrase Milton Friedman:
    When you spend your money on yourself you try to get the most for your money. When you spend your money on someone else you watch your budget. When you spend someone else’s money on yourself you get the best. When you spend someone else’s money on someone else you don’t care about the cost or quality.

    1. Dr Friedman might have been speaking for himself, as I find myself less free-spending when with others’money (as with an expence account), and more careful when spending on someone else. Others’ money asks great care both as a matter of honour, and that I might be so trusted again; others’ needs are less palpably evident to me than mine own, and so ask greater consideration in their meeting.

      Co-workers with whom I discussed the issue, right-wingers almost to a man, thought me a fool; if so be their morals, high praise.

      1. I sincerely doubt a man with your viewpoint is a wastrel with his own money.

  9. Globe-spanning market economies strain our brains.

    Ah, an explanation for Tony and amsoc!

    1. Hey, check your messages on FB.

  10. Why Is Socialism So Damned Attractive?

    Envy.

    That’s it.

    1. Why Is Socialism So Damned Attractive?

      It’s not.

  11. I have a few left friends who would gladly embrace socialism. Yet these same people bitch about their manager, the CEO of their company, or the dean, or the petty paperwork, the pointless meetings… and when I try to compare this to a large government, I get blank stares. I never understood the disconnect. Will these government officials be perfect angels?

    Or to put it the Milton Friedman way… Video

    1. Donahue criticizing capitalism and greed is a tad bit hypocritical.

      1. He’s selfless. He let that erstwhile poor black woman usurp his market share.

  12. Globe-spanning market economies strain our brains.

    Speak for yourself, buster.

  13. Why Is Socialism So Damned Attractive?

    Free Shit.

    1. Say it again sir…

      Its as simple as that. Most people fall for it because of the free shit.

  14. Hey socialism *winks across bar* you looking sexy!

    1. Theocracy: You look enticing as well. Let’s get married. Our children will be the best.

  15. Another issue regarding “romantic socialism”: I wonder what role is played by changing family structure. Do people in big, traditional families want to replicate that on the national scale, or are they more likely to want to avoid it? Do kids from single or divorced parents grow up believing in self-reliance, or longing for a nice big socialist “family”?

    1. You unsubstantiated pop-psychology theory is indeed seductive. But not as seductive as sweet sexy socialism.

    2. Well the left and socialism in particular is always seeking, implicitly or explicitly, to denigrate the family unit as it competes with the state for social utility.

  16. I’ve said before socialism in hunter gather tribes makes a certain amount of sense. If you tribe mate/family member dies because you didn’t share it was more likely you would die soon after due the the lack of help. The problem is that socialism doesn’t scale up among strangers no matter how much the socialist would like it to. Ironically the best way to have socialism is to localize welfare through fraternal organizations and the like. The very things that are crowded out by big government.

    1. “I’ve said before socialism in hunter gather tribes makes a certain amount of sense.”

      I agree. But the thing that modern socialists fail to grasp is that socialism can only work if two conditions are met:

      1. The group is small, and the members feel at least some allegiance to each other and are unwilling to screw each other over. If everyone knows each other, they are likely to feel some modicum of guilt if they are mooching off everyone else. On the other hand, in a country the size of the US, it’s too easy to just point the finger at some “rich people” you’ve never met and scream about how they should pay for your college and high-speed Internet.

      2. The group has some means of expelling those who don’t pull their weight. You’re not likely to find a hunter-gatherer society that tolerates an able-bodied person who just loafs around and demands contributions from others. They are brutal in proportion to their environment. The Eskimos are an extreme example with their practice of abandoning the old and infirm to die in the tundra while everyone else packs up the village and moves a few miles away.

      If the society does not meet both of these requirements, socialism is suicide – plain and simple. It’s the height of idiocy for modern-day socialists to think that they can implement such a system on a country as diverse and diffuse as the United States. Hell, it doesn’t even work in much smaller countries like Cuba or Venezuela.

      1. I’m gonna go ahead and refute point #1 with Jamestown, VA. Once you start getting into double digits you start to move away from socialism and toward traditional family interrelations.

        1. double digits *number of people* in the experiment. EDIT BUTTON PLZ

  17. Another issue: What accounts for the seemingly rising belief in socialism? The fall of the USSR removing the most prominent counter-argument? Brainwashing in the public schools?

    I wish Reason spent as much time tackling that issue as they do attacking Trump.

    1. The fall of the USSR removing the most prominent counter-argument?

      Yes

      1. What’s Venezuela, chopped liver?

        1. Yes.

          No. They don’t even have liver to eat down there anymore.

          1. They haven’t gotten to human livers yet?

          2. The Top Men in Venezuela have liver to eat.

        2. Who is talking about Venezuela? The Soviets were a threat and we were spending a shitload to box them in (or out) so the newsmen had to report on the USSR. But NBC Nightly News or CNN isn’t telling Johnny Voter anything about breadlines in South America.

          1. They sure talked about it when Chavez was riding high on the hog. They even had this huge propaganda piece of how great he was because he sent oil up for poor people in Boston or some such nonsense. That the amount was meager or that his country was heading for an implosion never factored in, and anyone that mentioned that was lambasted.

            Now that Venezuela is falling apart they want you to forget about it, just like they want you to forget about Baltimore, Detroit, Chicago, The People’s Republic of Connecticut, or California. All grand experiments in socialism gone horribly wrong.

            1. “they want you to forget about Baltimore, Detroit, Chicago, The People’s Republic of Connecticut, or California. All grand experiments in socialism gone horribly wrong.”

              Those are more experiments in a kind of fascism/welfare state fusion than actual socialism.

      2. It was harder for kids to choke down the merits of socialism when the existence of the human species was under constant threat of nuclear war at the hands of the Workers Paradise. Throw in the Berlin Wall, pics and footage of living conditions in Eastern Europe, and stories from those that left or escaped and it was pretty easy to rebut the Red Menace.

        Nowadays socialism is equated with countries being visited in Rick Steves videos, where people live “simple” lives, eating great food and wine, surrounded by cultural landmarks, riding around on pristine trains.

        1. …and nerdy walking shoes.

    2. How exactly do you prove that? It’d be difficult to do so with a full-blown academic study, let alone investigative journalism. But I would probably agree that the USSR falling had a lot to do with, combined with public schools and the perceived failure of capitalism and right-wing economics during the financial crisis and recession (I’m not saying I agree with that narrative, just that many people interpreted those events that way).

      Also, polls tend to show that most people don’t understand what socialism is. A lot of people who have a positive opinion of socialism think that of socialism as “doing stuff together” or “the government helping people in society” which is an inaccurate caricature either way. Few people can correctly define it as an economic system based on collective (either via the government or direct ownership by workers) ownership of the means of production. I think that misunderstanding has come from propaganda on all sides. Both people on the left trying to portray it as just the government doing good things rather than a complete and fundamental transformation of society, and the right accusing anyone left of center of being a socialist has also helped.

      1. It’s certainly anecdotally true. There are younger Germans who pine for East Germany simply because it must have been better and they didn’t experience it directly.

    3. I think “seemingly” is the key word. Has any recent administration been as socialistic as FDR’s?

      1. Yes. All of them.

    4. “What accounts for the seemingly rising belief in socialism?”

      Increasing concentrations of physical capital into fewer hands, along with capital increasingly outstripping labor in contribution to productivity.

      Once you get good, general purpose robotic labor, a lot of people of mediocre talent will survive solely at the pleasure of they who control the capital. Despite all the historical evidence to the contrary, they think a socialist government (moreso than a capitalist plutocracy) will see protecting them as a duty to be embraced rather than a burden to be shed.

      Of course, the truth is they’re screwed either way. As capital becomes more and more productive, and more and more directly corresponds to power without the need for an intermediary like a state, wide distribution of physical and legal control of capital is the only safeguard for the vast majority of humanity.

      The only way to stabilize our current trajectory is the establishment of a broad (>40% of populace at minimum, >66% ideally) capital-owning class. 3d printing other small-scale manufacturing techniques, along with middlemen like Uber and Airbnb, will be critical for kicking this off. Government can easily squash it, and has an incentive to do so, so libertarian politics are also essential.

  18. The people it attracts don’t think they’ll be the labor.

  19. Libertarians . . . score lowest on measures of empathy . . .

    I think I’d like to see their definition of ’empathy’. There’s a difference between ’empathy’ and ‘sympathy’. I feel you pain and fully understand what you’re going through – I just don’t give enough of a fuck to lift a finger to help you because its painfully clear that you brought the current situation upon yourself and I know that helping you will just make you more reliant on my help in the future (that’s the rationality part).

    I’ve learned over the years the people who need you to help them tend to *always* need you to help them, build it into their planning even, and so am very leery whenever someone asks for my help.

    1. Or that while I may feel empathy for you that’s so profound it’s leaking out of my ears, I do not believe that the proper channel for expressing my empathy is to rob other people at gun point in order to help you.

      1. Why do you have empathy for tax payers?

        1. I generally have empathy for victims of theft.

    2. At least libertarians are honest about it. If progressives scored highest it means they’re lying or *think* they’re more empathetic than they actually are. They’re empathy ends where NIMBY begins.

      1. their.

        Jesus today.

  20. Listen: setting aside 50% of your income for social insurance is the only rational allocation of resources.

    Europe’s doing it, and they are marginally somewhat better across some metrics I personally care about.

    What else needs to be said?

    1. I notice and chuckle at your sarcasm.

      But seriously: it’s funny how these lefties idolize Scandinavia and chalk up those countries’ successes to high taxes and a welfare state… But they never mention the other policies, most of which would be called right-wing lunacy when they are proposed here.

      For example, none of the Scandinavian countries have a national minimum wage. Granted, most employees are under a mandatory wage agreement through their unions, but that’s very different than a wage decided and imposed by the national government.

      Also, they all have lower corporate tax rates than the US (which, as it happens, actually has the highest corporate tax rate in the world).

      Finally, some of these countries score higher than the US in rankings of economic freedom, and the others are only slightly below.

  21. Nobody feels empathy for someone they don’t know anything about. It’s not how any species on this planet is wired, humans included. If we were able to, we’d have to feel the effects of what our rationality and intelligence tells us is true: there is a vast ocean of suffering in life and we are completely helpless to alleviate more than an inconsequential bit of it.

    It seems to me that they’re treating some of their measurements as a form of zero sum game too, an economics of the motivations of thought, as it were. I don’t think that empathy is at odds with other such motivations, but we treat it like it is. An increase in rationality does not imply a decrease in empathy any more than an increase in rationality implies a decrease in humor.

    I contend that the empathy is roughly equal in nearly all people. For libertarians, we feel no compulsion to virtue-signal empathy falsely to others in order to make ourselves seem better and more enlightened people. Despite not being religious, I’ll draw comparison with the notion of faith-based and works-based religious belief. Libertarians don’t want to see that you had good intentions and that internally you wanted to do the right thing but were somehow led astray. We want to see that you actually do the good things you claim. The liberal is a faith-based creature, the faith being in the good intentions of the collective and the government it elects. When the outcomes are not good, at least the faith was right.

    1. there is a vast ocean of suffering in life and we are completely helpless to alleviate more than an inconsequential bit of it.

      If there’s a more succinct refutation of Buddhism, I haven’t seen it.

      1. I don’t know if that’s much of a refutation of it. I think Buddhists accept true suffering as an integral part of living, but I can’t argue too much on their behalf since I’m not a Buddhist.

        I didn’t even specifically mean humans or what we do to one another. We do harden ourselves to what we’ve seen from a young age. We don’t often see the cats toying with the mice, torturing them to death slowly, but they’re there all the same. We see the result, when the cat brings home the body and leaves it on the porch and have learned to ignore it. We didn’t know that mouse. If we had (perhaps a pet) then the effects of its death would be more pronounced and we could feel grief for it.

        How could we get out of bed in the morning if we could feel empathy for all that suffering? We know it happens. Things get sick, maimed, tortured, swallowed whole. Some hobble on. Some get the benefit of rapid death, but not all. If we imagined every human as our deepest personal friend or family member and every animal as our most beloved pet, we’d be in perpetual mourning. It would be worse if grief could be felt in proportion to suffering.

  22. Dallas had a good sized socialist community in the 1850’s. It fell apart when the farm workers got tired of slaving for the artists.

    1. I wonder how many people in Dallas know that Reunion Square and Reunion Tower are named after La R?union, a group of 400 or so socialists who believed in the batshit-crazy, utopian, democratic socialism of Fourier.

      It was so batshit-crazy that even Marx criticized projects like this.

    2. When will those uppity Morlocks learn to obey their Eloi betters?

      -jcr

  23. Cosmides cited a classic study by the University of Utah anthropologists Hillard Kaplan and Kim Hill, who looked at how Ache foragers shared food. They reported that rarer, high-yield, hunted foods like game were more extensively shared than more common gathered plant foods. Finding game depends a lot on luck whereas finding plant foods depends more on effort.

    I suppose that could explain why so many proggies want to force the “evil corporations” to share: they’ve bought into the notion that anyone successful in business got there through pure luck.

    OTOH, if you still believe in the old “American Dream” – that anyone can make it if they work hard – then you’re naturally not going to be very keen on having to share.

    Of course, the government has made it harder and harder to achieve that “American Dream” which could be what’s fueled a lot of people’s perception that the building of wealth has more to do with luck. This should end well if the government keeps making it harder for anyone to succeed..

    1. Finding game depends a lot on luck whereas finding plant foods depends more on effort.

      I wonder if Kaplan and Hill ever actually went hunting and gathering.

  24. Why Is Socialism So Damned Attractive?

    Envy and self-pity are a hell of a drug.

    Of course the great irony is that proponents of socialism are constantly belittling the vulgar masses for “voting against their own self-interest” while in the same breath castigating capitalists as selfish, inhuman monsters. It all comes down to a scream of “GIMME! GIMME!” with some half-baked moral sophistry as justification.

  25. People want socialism for one simple reason. They want things they haven’t earned. Sorry, but it really is that simple. Even if it isn’t actual physical things, you find it comes down to wanting what they haven’t earned. They want to fancy themselves as generous, while giving away someone else’s stuff. They want to count themselves enlightened when they’re mouthing bromides supported by brutish thuggery. They want to consider themselves moral, when their morality amounts to nothing more than obeying the will of the group.

  26. Haidt is working a book tentatively titled Three Stories About Capitalism. Left-leaning people, he said, endorse a story he calls “Capitalism is Exploitation”; “Capitalism is Liberation” is the story told by many conservatives and most libertarians. Haidt suggested that both stories have some truth to them. One group believes it is standing for decency at the cost of some dynamism; the others favor dynamism while sacrificing some decency. Haidt asked, “Do we need a third story about capitalism?”

    First of all we should throw over the socialist term Capitalism. Capitalism is not the answer. Technically, significant sectors of the US still operate under capitalism, even though they are massively inefficient due to regulatory capture and other government interference that stops short of a command economy. A free market of exchange with low barriers to entry and simple but forceful mechanisms for rejecting force and fraud falls under the broad umbrella of Capitalism, but is not the same thing. But it should be the goal.

    1. Well, Capitalism is simply a form of organizing resources for production. In a free-market like you describe there would be multiple forms of organization that people can experiment with.

      And even today in the US in most sectors they can. Capitalism is simply the form *known* today to be the most efficient way to organize most groups. There are still other forms that work better for certain industries – and those forms are, amazingly enough, most prevalent in the industries that they are most suited for.

      Its why Walmart is a publicly-held corporation while the guy working on your car is an LLC and your lawyer’s firm is a partnership.

      1. Law firms tend to be LLPs or LLCs these days. Nobody likes the idea that they might lose their house because their partner, who had a secret alcohol problem, blew a case.

  27. More darkly, Tooby pointed out that political entrepreneurs know how to appeal to romantic socialist sentiments as a way to establish themselves in power. The evolved psychological propensity toward romantic socialism facilitates political coalitions that oppose free-market societies. Since such coalitions are organized around romantically appealing ideas, any heresy is treated as betrayal. If things are not going well (and they never are in full-blown socialist societies) and since the ideology cannot be wrong, evildoers are undermining progress and must be found and punished (think kulaks and the Gulag). Such coalitions tend to revert to primitive zero-sum thinking: If there is something you don’t get that means that someone took it from you.

    That would seem to explain a lot about how progressives got as fucked up as they are.

  28. Finding game depends a lot on luck whereas finding plant foods depends more on effort.

    Actually . . . it doesn’t.

    Sure there’s an element of luck in the hunt – same as there is for finding the right roots a tubers.

    But there’s also a shit-ton of training and preparation, along with the cost of equipment – you think a good spear or bow and arrow are cheap for a H-G? And it can only be done most effectively by a small subset of your tribal population.

    The increase in sharing of the profits from a hunt can just as easily be explained through a smaller version of potlach, a desire to increase social standing in your local community through philanthropy, or simply empathy for the people you’ve grown up with – you’ve brought a massive haul of calories and nutrients (in addition to useful crafting materials).

    While the hunter probably already has a decent stockpile of gathered foods and materials because that’s what he’s doing in between hunting expeditions.

    1. The hunter also realizes that he’s going to have to rely on the gatherers to eat when game is scarce or nonexistent. Self-interest suggests that playing nice with others is a winning strategy.

    2. I always assumed the common sharing of large game was due to having anywhere from 90 to 1200 pounds of bleeding red meat that had to be dealt with. Meat has a very definite deadline. One person can’t eat that fast and preservation’s a bitch to do solo.

    3. The cards you’re dealt is a matter of luck, knowing how to play them is skill. Whether or not there’s a deer in the woods is a matter of luck, being able to find the woods where the deer are most likely to be and being able to find it and kill it if it is there is a matter of skill.

      Which always kind of irritated me when people say everything they had they worked for. There is some element of luck there – it really doesn’t matter how hard you worked to develop your software-writing skills if you were born a poor crippled Indian girl in the ninth century. Your options are pretty damn limited in that situation whereas being born a white man in 21st-century America has certain advantages – and you had absolutely nothing to do with that. You had nothing to do with anybody else being born in the condition they were born in either, so you’ve got nothing to apologize for and no particular responsibilty to address inequities in the relative situations. Michael Jordan didn’t ask to be born with a natural talent for playing basketball any more than I asked to be born without it – why should he owe me anything or me him for that? He worked hard and developed his talent enough to make a lot of money, I wasn’t smart enough to figure out how to make money off of not playing basketball. Not his fault.

      1. Which always kind of irritated me when people say everything they had they worked for. There is some element of luck there

        I think you overstate the luck with the silly outlier example of Jordan.

        I think of one of McDonald’s former CEO’s. He started at the most unskilled position at a McDonald’s restaurant and worked his way up. McDonald’s provided the opportunity to go to engineering school on their dime and did the work himself. 99.9% of the employees don’t even make the effort to inquire about the opportunities, they just stay in the same job forever and then bitch that they’ve been there 25 years and aren’t pulling down 200K.

        The low-skilled worker who has been doing the same job for 20 years is the same person who kept getting passed over for promotion because they were late to work 3 times a month. And they are the same person who showed up late to school 3 times a month, I’m sure they all have sob stories, and a few of them may actually be valid. But most ain’t.

  29. Is it a foregone conclusion that the US economy will be greatly more socialistic in the next 25 years than it will even the slightest bit more free?

    What libertarian economic polices will ever be implemented in our lifetimes?

    Actually do young libertarians (under 30) even care about the economy? Will they become solely focused on civil libertarian issues over the course of their political maturity?

    1. Is it a foregone conclusion that the US economy will be greatly more socialistic in the next 25 years than it will even the slightest bit more free?

      Cato thinks the US has become less-economically-free since 2000

      the bullet points they hit are =

      – Increased spending,
      – a weakening rule of law,
      – worse monetary policy,
      – greater trade barriers, and
      – more regulation

      given the stances of both presidential candidates, i’d think the trend on all those points is “more-negative”

      1. Probably the *2040 version of Reason (if it exists) will be not that much different from some Green publication.

        If “Greenery” isn’t already the dominant political persuasion.

        1. I was only addressing the first point in your comment. The rest of your questions don’t necessarily logically follow.

          This is sort of why i think Hillary will be “better” for the status quo than Trump. Because she’ll at least help speed the conflagration.

      2. IIRC, the “socialist” states of Scandinavia score higher on economic freedom than the US.

        1. All that really means is the US is actually more socialist than Scandinavia. The US just makes a concerted effort to prevent calling their current economy “socialism” but it has all the licensure, welfare, and regulatory restrictions of socialism.

        2. They eventually figured out that they had to be, since a free (well, freer, freeish) market is the only system that can produce enough wealth to fund their massive welfare state.

      3. Actually do young libertarians (under 30) even care about the economy?

        We tend to be a bit apocalyptic about it. The pleasure cruise is coming to an end. We can see rapids ahead, but we can’t quite tell when we’re going to get there, whether there’s a giant waterfall downstream, and whether the other people on the boat are gonna tip it over when they get scared.

        Will they become solely focused on civil libertarian issues over the course of their political maturity?

        I think there’s a lot of truth there. Us young libertarians can’t really do anything about the economy. We’re so far outside the Overton window that we sound like lunatic homeless people screaming “the end is near!” Why waste effort yelling at walls when we can play Kulturkampf and actually have our voices heard?

    2. Actually do young libertarians (under 30) even care about the economy? Will they become solely focused on civil libertarian issues over the course of their political maturity?

      I used to be like this when I was in college, got my news from the Daily Show, and thought the only reason people opposed the minimum wage was because they were greedy rich people who don’t want to share. I was simply never exposed to the actual counter arguments, only straw men, until I discovered a neat YouTube channel called Learn Liberty and devoured it.

      It’s not just that public schools fail to educate. They actively miseducate. For example, I had it drilled into my head that WW2 was the stimulus that ended the Great Depression – a big fat lie.

      1. I couldn’t help but notice that every year from about 3rd grade all the way to graduation, we did a month-long unit studying the Holocaust and read and report on several books on the subject. But the only mention of the USSR’s horrors was a brief paragraph in our “world history” book.

  30. I think what all this analysis fails to consider is that government wants to grow. It’s inherent to its nature.

    Therefore, the majority of those associated with government will always seek to expand its power and are motivated to convince their voting “masters” that it is in their best interest to accede more and more to them. At some point, which I think the USA has passed, the impetus becomes unstoppable until it collapses.

    I see no rational argument that the government will scale back its operations nor that the majority of the electorate will even require them to do so in the future.

  31. I’ve always thought socialism sprang from a lack of empathy – “I can clearly see what all the problems in the world are and how to solve them and therefore anybody who doesn’t see things the same way I do must be stupid or crazy or evil”. They can’t understand that everybody’s just trying to get along as best they can by doing what’s best for them and you aren’t somehow superior because you can see clearer than everybody else – everybody else can clearly but they realize that’s just their opinion, everybody else has their own opinions, and they don’t feel entitled to force their opinions on everybody else.

    And that’s really what it comes down to – force. Everybody’s out there doing what’s in their own self-interest and those interests conflict with others. If everybody agreed to work together things would go much smoother. But if you try to persuade people to adopt your position and they don’t agree with that, using force to make them adopt your position is nothing less than telling them that you know better than they do what’s good for them. Empathy is knowing that even if you don’t understand why other people have the opinions they have that doesn’t mean that they don’t have good reasons of their own for having them.

    1. It’s not the lack of empathy. It’s the projection.

    2. I would say libertarians are extremely empathetic – I have no idea why you’re doing what you’re doing and I think it’s a really stupid thing to do but I’m assuming you’re doing it because you think it’s in your best interests to do it and I’m sure you’re a better judge of what’s in your best interests than I am so I’m not going to try to stop you from doing it. (I might ask you if you’re sure you know how physics works before you cut that particular rope you’re intending to cut, but if you assure me you know what you’re doing, well, I’m not going to question it. I’ll just stand over here and film it with my phone so I can post an hilarious youtube video when what I think’s gonna happen does in fact happen.)

      1. Usually, when you read the “libertiarian empathy” studies, I find they define empathy as emotional, feeling-based thinking, as opposed to rational, logic-based thinking, such that libertarians are too rational and logical, so they are less empathetic.

        Or, in other words, skip that part of the reading and assume libertarians are psychopathic monsters instead. That’s the Salon-level reading comprehension take away, anyway.

        1. So …. in this context, “empathy” just means FEELZ.

          1. Well, I’m one of those weirdos that doesn’t believe in altruism so I’m not big on “feelings” qua feelings. I believe people do what they do because that’s what they want to do and that’s what profits them the most. You’re not altruistic or even some kind of nice guy because you gave some homeless bum a dollar – you just bought a dollar’s worth of feeling good about yourself and you wouldn’t have given him the dollar if you didn’t value the dollar’s worth of good feeling more than the dollar. So you were really being selfish giving the guy the dollar – you got more out of the exchange than he did. Mother Teresa wasn’t a saint for doing what she did – she did what she did because it’s what she wanted to do and it made her feel good to do it. Mother Teresa valued helping the poor and the good feelings it gave her more than she valued whatever other options she could have chosen for her life. She was just as selfish as everybody else in pursuing her own self-interest.

          2. Yep.

            And it doesn’t mean “having the feelz.”

            It means “dominating your thinking with the feelz.”

            Pure BS.

      2. You are one of those awful people who blames the victim!

    3. I can clearly see what all the problems in the world are and how to solve them…

      And the those who think this, Occupy Wall Street, are people who can’t manage a decent campsite telling us how to run the world.

  32. Socialism is attractive because political bull$hi! is more attractive than Econ 101.

  33. Why is socialism so attractive?

    Because so many people are lazy, stupid, and greedy, that’s why. Its not a big fargin’ mystery.

  34. “We ask ourselves whether they are motivated to give something back to me and society. And these mechanisms are more powerful than cultural differences.”

    Why do so many people completely miss the point? What matters is where the money came from. Did it come through voluntary action or force and threats? When it comes from your voluntary action then you can care about whether the person “gives back” or not.

  35. “I have never understood why it is “greed” to want to keep the money you have earned but not greed to want to take somebody else’s money.”

    ? Thomas Sowell, Barbarians inside the Gates and Other Controversial Essays

  36. “Capitalism is Liberation” is the story told by many conservatives

    And they’re wrong too. Because it implies capitalism begets liberation.

    But in fact capitalism is the by-product of liberty. Free people would not choose socialism, they choose socialism precisely because they intuitively know they are not really free.

  37. Liked the article and agree with some of its points. I very much agree with the social ideas behind Libertarianism, but as this article concerns the Economic, I thought I’d weigh in. My critique of the article and of Libertarianism in general is that your views do nothing to address the crony-capitalist/mutlinational-corporatist influence (or really control) of the government. If businesses could be trusted to mostly self-regulate, I’d be all on board, but they’re not. When the government goes hands off on the economy, businesses pretty much do whatever they want to do – dump toxic waste in the water supply, outsource jobs overseas, abuse employees, etc. Now I know that most businesses are run by responsible people, but some aren’t. So I have to say I cringe at the idea of “cool and reasoned” business elite playing god with all our lives. I’d much rather endure the “romantically” flawed governance of liberals who at least attempt to care about the population (though I agree they’re attempts at control are most often flawed and counter-productive).

    1. Government control of the economy begets cronyism. The more control the political class has over the economy the more corrupt the system is and the more dependent success is on knowing the right people than on talent and effort.

    2. We don’t need the government to regulate the toxic dumping of chemicals. If enough people don’t want it, it won’t happen in a free society. The largest lie of the 20th century is that Rockefeller et al, somehow exploited the populace and that conditions were terrible, people were dying left and right, etc. Compared to previous generations, those Titans of industry generated more wealth than probably all other generations combined. We should be thanking them for all our modern comforts and our modern way of life. Without them, we would all probably still all be farmers . You can only breed innovation in a free society. To suggest that a government can achieve any of these things is folly. You’ve been brainwashed my friend.

  38. Good Christ, man is a SOCIAL creature, not a HIVE creature. If socialism was the on-balance of evolution, it wouldn’t require so much Force to be executed. if man were a hive creature, there’d be no Force necessary to create a centrally planned, individual is meaningless, culture. But we’re NOT, and that’s why it takes vast amounts of Force to maintain centralized cultures.

  39. I just hope the government issues us cool uniforms

    1. Hugo Boss could design them.

  40. Re: Cosmides suggested…The liberal thinks people are good but are ruined by exploitation; the conservative thinks people are bad and their selfish impulses must be reined in by cultural norms and controls.

    They are both right if you consider the Stanford prison experiment’s findings: that in certain situations, ordinary “good” people can become evil. Thus, yes, liberals are correct that people are good, but they don’t understand that good people can turn into exploitative assholes easily. Conservatives are correct that people are bad (in certain situations), but don’t understand that the means of reining them in is one of the situations in which good people turn bad.

    I’ll give two examples:

    The liberal thinks that we can organize good people into gov’t to fight exploitation, but gov’t turns good people evil.

    The conservative thinks that Bible thumping churches can correct bad people, but church turns good people evil.

    1. While trade (‘the market’) tends to encourage cooperation, since that’s the way you get what you want today AND tomorrow.

    2. Gee, if what you’re saying is true, then power tends to corrupt and absolutely power corrupts absolutely. Gosh, you’d think that somebody would have noticed this before .

      Seriously, it’s amazing how often people rediscover the evil effects of power and then promptly forget it when their pet cause is taken up by the establishment.

    3. So Jesus is why I’m an asshole?

  41. Why Is Socialism So Damned Attractive?

    Crab bucket mentality.

  42. Evolution has nothing to do with the two branches of global humanity, in which socialist parasites prosper by destructively consuming the profits of their human hosts. Their success in maintaining their effortless, work free lifestyles is authorized by their hosts, self immobilized into the inaction of endless arguments by the chicanery of politicized thieves hiding their intent to steal behind the facade of ignorance. Socialism is not ignorance that cares about universal prosperity and has made a correctable mistake in using enforced profit redistribution as means. Socialism is sloth and greed, caring about nothing but themselves and relying upon their opposition’s charitable error in character assessment, to maintain the profits of politicized theft, rather than prohibit them.

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  44. “Libertarians, they concluded, score lowest on measures of empathy” by that do they mean we don’t have empathy or compassion because we don’t want it done at the end of a barrel of a gun? In fact, I’d go as far to say that libertarians are the most empathetic people, its just we believe that empathy and compassion starts from the individual, home and the community not at the point of a gun, government style. Just because I oppose government welfare doesn’t make me have less empathy, sorry, that is what the control freak left always does and I am not playing their game.

  45. Nah, liberals think other people are terrible. The fact is most people aren’t sociopaths. In Tila Tequila’s words “we all want the same thing”.

  46. Didn’t read every post, but didn’t see this:
    Liberty is truly frightening to many people; they have not grown up and the thought of taking responsibility for their actions, both positive and negative is enough to scare them out of their boots.
    Naturally, they favor a system which provides them with the ‘comfort’ mommy and daddy did; not for nothing is it called the “nanny state”.

  47. Despite the hand-wringing, the appeal of socialism is no more mysterious than pirates finding it best to share the booty as equally as possible. You don’t want the captain jumping ship, but you don’t want a mutiny either. Or how about making sure all your kids get fairly equal presents on Christmas?

    Sometimes I’m sure only the most worthless sorts would reject such egalitarian notions. And don’t try selling your economic snake oil, economists have about as much credibility as Trump.

    1. Sorry, but for libertarians, using the force of the government to impose your “egalitarianism” is a non-starter. I do want my kids to get fairly equal presents on Christmas, but I’m the one buying them. I don’t want to pay to get your kids’ equal Christmas presents. Sharing booty equally amongst your band of pirates is vastly different than the government taking 50% of everyone’s booty and giving it away to buy votes to keep them in control of the guns. If you can’t see this difference, then you’re a lost cause and should probably read huffpo or salon and feel good about spending other people’s money to feel better about yourself. Don’t you dare call us worthless when you’re the one endorsing violence to impose your will you piece of scum. Goddamn I learned that in kindergarten that using violence to get your way is morally wrong.

  48. It’s allure? IT’S ALLURE? IT’S?

    *has grammar seizure*

    Don’t you people write for a living?

  49. I believe Hayek’s take on the matter (which seems sensible to me) is that the market has allowed human society to grow faster than our instincts, therefore our inherited morality is that of the small group. We have trouble comprehending the extended order of society and how it benefits humanity. By pursuing our individual interests we serve people we cannot see or know, and they serve us. We can’t see all of the people involved in market transactions because they are so complex (like that “I, Pencil” essay) therefore we can’t judge if it is fair. We long for the small band and its easy to comprehend morality. This is the appeal of socialism. We have an instinctual need to plan society in order to move toward a common goal, like a tribe would. A market system is not consistent with the tribal idea of solidarity. A market system seems irrational. That is also why very smart, rational people often oppose it.

    Or something like that. My apologies to Hayek if I got it wrong.

  50. It’s as if socialists and social conservatives have colluded to completely subvert liberalism. The former by linking socialism and social liberalism, while demonizing economic liberalism. Conservatives have claimed the mantle of economic liberalism, but social conservatives have taken the opportunity to make “Liberal” a pejorative, leading conservatives to attempt to re-write the Founding as a “Judeo-Christian” revolution. Between the two Liberalism, the ideology of the American Revolutionaries, has become something other than what the word actually means. Conservatives have come to believe that some individual freedoms are “liberal” and, therefore, Marxist. The silliness of it is breathtaking.

    This is not insignificant. The meaning of words matters. Liberalism means individual liberty, both social and economic. The worst case scenario will be when social conservatives discover the level of control that can be implemented by socialism and they join forces.

  51. Small bands of people are more likely to be related to each other. Evolution makes us want to protect genes we share with relatives not any phony bit about equality. The larger the group the less likely you are to be related to any other individual, F em they can get the meat themselves I’ve got my family (and my genes) to protect.

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  53. “One problem they quickly encountered was how to define socialism in the first place…” Which wasn’t really defined in this article, neither was capitalism

  54. One of the truisms about socialism:

    Socialism (and its siblings communism, progressive-ism, American liberalism, Marxism) is for the people, not the socialist.

  55. When you start from flawed premises, you can’t help but get flawed results. This–

    The liberal thinks people are good but are ruined by exploitation; the conservative thinks people are bad and their selfish impulses must be reined in by cultural norms and controls.

    Accepts the leftist definition as truth. In fact, the liberal thinks all people are inherently evil and require force, in the guise of the state, to keep them resembling anything human. They want everything from murder to charitable giving regulated at the point of a gun.

    The second part, concerning conservatives confuses religious moralists–who are extremely collectivist(and thereby leftist) in nature–with conservatives and leaves an actual conservative view out entirely.

    It highlights opinions from a study that the authors clearly cannot comprehend, so immersed in leftism are they–

    Cosmides cited a classic study by the University of Utah anthropologists Hillard Kaplan and Kim Hill, who looked at how Ache foragers shared food. They reported that rarer, high-yield, hunted foods like game were more extensively shared than more common gathered plant foods

    The hunters weren’t sharing–they were buying. They were buying the attention of women, and the favors of those more powerful by sharing. They were buying themselves higher status and consideration by the tribe. To see this as ‘sharing’ suggests a level of blindness that MUST be deliberate.

    1. What’s the evidence for buying? What’s the evidence for sharing? I’m not asking just to be troublesome. Four minutes searching and I didn’t find the evidence for buying. Is the evidence easy to find?

      Chip I. Alhazred

  56. Socialism is attractive because it focuses on the most base of human emotions, greed. Everyone loves the idea of getting something for nothing. Problem is that is not possible. Those who have swallowed the lie of socialism so realized what they have given up is far more precious and impossible to regain, individual liberty. We have an more than three generations in the US who have been indoctrinated into the socialist mindset in all of the blue states and many of the large urban centers in red states. The reason the Federal government has fought so hard to control education is so it can expand this into every school district. Fortunately, as the Fed pushed harder, the states like mine, Texas, have pushed back. We are getting closer to a Constitution crisis but I hope the remedy created by the Founding Fathers will be the key to saving the US, A Constitutional Convention. This is the only way to reign in the Federal government, restrict the power of the SCOTUS and other Federal courts which have become super legislators and stop the expansion of Executive power. If these things do not happen, I have little doubt, within 50 yrs, there will be at least 4 -6 independent countries between the Mexican and Canadian borders.

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