Archive for the ‘coercion’ Tag

A Dangerous Temptation   Leave a comment

Image result for image of rape of the mindBeing a high civil servant subjects man to a dangerous temptation, simply because he is a part of the ruling apparatus. He finds himself caught in the strategy complex. The magic of becoming an executive and a strategist provokes long-repressed feelings of omnipotence. A strategist feels like a chess player. He wants to manipulate the world by remote control. Now he can keep others waiting, as he was forced to wait himself in his salad days, and thus he can feel himself superior. –The Rape of the Mind

Posted October 26, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Anarchy

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Language Manipulation = Coercion   Leave a comment

Do you ever think about how we misuse language today? Probably not. Most people don’t. But we should … really … think about it because it affects all of us.

The Nazis and the Communists both changed the meaning of words in order to manipulate their populations. Consider how the leaders of Soviet Union used to pontificate against the “Imperialist West” when it in fact had one of the largest Empires in the world at the time. The Nazis included “Democratic” in their name for their country.

Image result for image of coercionThe same manipulation of words and ideas appears in the language of the progressive and radical “left” in America today. Just how successful this has been can be seen in getting people both to forget the past and accept the title “progressive” for all those who look forward to a collectivization of contemporary society.

Today’s “progressives” were the socialists of a century ago. Back then, they were confident that Marx’s “laws of history” made a socialist planned society inevitable and inescapable. But “socialist” soon came to possess too many negative connotations such as central direction and command of everyone in society under what was likely to be a dictatorial political regime. People rejected that, so the socialists performed a linguistic trick to prevent anyone from taking such a critic seriously. They used some language sleight-of-hand sleight-of-hand to transform themselves into the new and “true” or “progressive” liberals. Their goal, they insisted was entirely in line with the unfinished political program of the old, 19th-century “individualist” liberals who only spoke of “negative” freedoms from coercion and interference by other private individuals or governments.

They explained that the old-style liberals had left the program unfinished and this required a new “progressive liberal” agenda to the fulfill “positive” freedoms through governmental guarantees to a wide variety of redistributed benefits for the “needy,” the “exploited,” and the toilers of the earth who were the “real producers” of all things, but who were unjustly treated and abused by “the rich” — those capitalist owners who cared nothing about the little guy on whose back these capitalist exploiters rode to their unethically acquired wealth.

And, it didn’t matter how ethically or morally you’d acquired your wealth, how well you treated your workers, or paid them. If you were wealthy, you’d obviously become so through exploitation of people who couldn’t defend themselves from your rapacity.

Eventually, liberal” became a swear words due to negative attacks by political conservatives and, well, just about anyone with observation skills, so “liberal” was jettisoned and replaced with simply “progressive,” meaning a person looking forward for the achievement of more “social progress,” connoting what used to be considered a “socialist” program of a century ago – welfare redistribution, along with extensive government control and regulation of economic and social life.

These days, if you accuse a “progressive” of being a socialist or interested in advancing portions of a traditionally socialist agenda, you will be labeled a “right-wing extremist,” a “hater of the poor,” and an opponent of “social justice,” … if they just don’t call you insane, stupid or evil. It’s a linguistic trick to prevent anyone from taking your critique seriously. Clearly, you  have no logical and historical basis of your argument so to take it seriously shows that such a person has fallen victim to “reactionary” ideas outside of legitimate and acceptable political debate. No need to talk further. Discussion closed.

From “Class Warfare” to the New Race Collectivism

Traditional Marxist political economy was based on “class struggle.” Society is divided into two main “social classes” defined as and identified by whether an individual is or is not an owner of the means of production. If he is an owner, then he is a member of the capitalist “exploiting class.” If he is not an owner, then he is a member of the exploited, oppressed and victimized workers’ class.

Property ownership determined the social status and place of any and every individual person in society. What the individual believed, how he personally acted in his social and economic interactions with others were essentially meaningless. You were praised or condemned based upon your “class status” in the society.

Today, we’ve modified the the Marxian conception to transform it into the new notion of irreconcilable social conflict. We cast it in racial terms – you’re benefited by “white privilege” or a sufferer of “white oppression.” Instead of your status relative to the ownership of productive property determining your classification of social “saint” or social “sinner,” there is racial collectivism to tell you who you are.

Being “white” condemns a person as an implicit and explicit beneficiary of a social and economic system (“capitalism”) that has been placed at the service of a limited segment of the human community to gain power, position and wealth for itself at the expense of all those other “persons of color” everywhere else around the world.

The race advocates will insist that “white people” either fail to understand this or oppose admitting it in demonstration of just how embedded “white racism” really is in modern American society. Failure to accept this new race collectivist argument is taken to be proof of the racist mindset that the “progressive” opposes and is determined to overthrow by virtually any means.

Nobody cares what the individual’s own background is. It doesn’t matter if his ancestors owned slaves or conducted a waystation on the Underground Railroad. Did those ancestors come to the United States after slavery had ended in America? Were they, themselves, immigrants escaping oppression and discrimination in the “old country” and advocates of equality of rights for all in their new land of America? It doesn’t matter. You are unable to transcend your own accident of birth to be a thinking, willing, acting individual.

How has the individual standing accused of “white privilege” merely due to the pigmentation color of his skin acted in his own personal life toward others? It doesn’t matter because the color of his skin is all that’s important. How has he earned his own place in society … through fair dealing in what remains of a free market in the United States or through “crony capitalist” favors and benefits from the government? The question is never asked, and any attempt to offer answers to the the false assumptions of the progressives is rejected as smoke screens and rationalizations for maintaining “white privilege.”

Individuals are submerged within and reduced to social categories defined and imposed by ideologists reflecting their notion of a new racial- and ethnicity-conscious society. Yes, it dehumanizes the individuals who happen to be the descendants of Caucasian parents, and it does seem eerily reminiscent of racial stereotyping against blacks and Hispanics in earlier generations, but whites are not considered to be “victims” because they are not “persons of color.” You are an inescapable captive of your race, with only a “progressive” government able to guarantee you a “just” place in society.

Yes, this sounds a lot like the Nazi assertions that everything undesirable thing in German life was due to the machinations and intrigue of “international Jewry.” The failure of so many others in the world to see the insidiousness of Jewish manipulation and exploitation demonstrated the extent to which “the Jew” had succeeded in his control of the social and economic affairs of the world, and how many others were either their unwitting victims or the degenerate accomplices of their attack on “civilization” and race purity.

And, yes, there is a creepy similarity to the Soviet method of debate and argument-stopping. If you disagree with the politically correct statement, you are a dupe of the capitalist exploiters, and therefore should be ignored or condemned. Your refusal to admit the justness of the socialist cause shows that you must be in the pay of the capitalist bosses, and thus your arguments should be rejected as special pleading. Your arguments against communist and socialist planning should be discounted and ridiculed because you are simply a “red baiter” trying to demagogically arouse emotional resistance against those interested in “social justice” and “world peace.”

That’s really how it feels on some American campuses now. The techniques used are very similar to those used by the “Red Guards” during the Cultural Revolution under Chairman Mao in China during the 1960s and 1970s. Mobs of shouting, bullying and physically attacking young thugs spouting meaningless and ideologically vacuous phrases from the “little red book” of quotations from Chairman Mao, to mentally and physically crush any and all who failed to parrot the Party Line or who were the objects of Chairman Mao’s political purges and personal vendettas against real and imaginary opponents.

 

A distinct difference between the proponents of this new race collectivism compared to the 20th-century episodes of German Nazism or Soviet socialism is that this linguistic totalitarianism and word indoctrination is being advanced and imposed without any direct coercive and monopoly apparatus of governmental power. Academia, who were the opposition in Germany and the Soviet Union, is the headquarters of the new indoctrination. Schools with heavy taxpayer funding that allows comfortable salaries, programs, curricula and lifetime tenure are freed from the system of market-based work and reward to become islands of educational socialism with “safe spaces” within which there can be cultivated, to use George Orwell’s phrase, “some ideas so absurd that only an intellectual can believe them.”

An increasingly successful Orwellian-like thought police of politically correct “newspeak” is imposed on people in almost every circumstance of social life.

The assertion and repetition of “white privilege,” “the one percent,” “social justice,” “racist,” “gay-basher,” “LGBT-hater,” “gender insensitivity” have had numbing effects on private and public discourse, which produces self-censorship out of fear that the wrong word, the misplaced phrase, the wrongly understood witticism, or an unintentionally offending double entendre will bring down an avalanche of criticisms and threats to one’s job, social status, or acceptance among professional and informal circles in society.

The politically correct world of American progressivism and race collectivism threatens to drain human interaction of spontaneity and the real and relevant diversity of views, voices, and modes of expression and argumentation. Increasingly, people feel that they have to be “walking on eggshells,” never knowing who might take anything said or done as an offense against some ethnic or racial group or person.

Another technique of race collectivism and progressivism is to take what is normally accepted as reasonable and appropriate modes of polite and courteous behavior and turn them into a weapon to serve their own agendas. We all know and usually attempt not to intentionally say or do something that will offend or be embarrassing to someone we are associating with in some social setting. We just know it’s not the “right thing” to do. And if we see someone going out of their way to act in this improper manner, we find it inappropriate and “not right,” even if we remain silent and don’t do anything in response to it. Race collectivists and progressives have learned to use this notion of proper etiquette and good manners that acts as a break on most of us in the social arena as a weapon to silence and beat down anyone or anything not consistent with their worldview and political agenda. Anything said or done inconsistent with their ideas and ideology is “hurtful” to some oppressed minority or subgroup in society. We show insensitivity and misunderstanding of that group’s experiences, history, culture or degree of suffering caused by – “white privilege,” or “the capitalist system,” or . . .

Made to feel guilty in thinking some thought, saying some word, or expressing some idea, and fearful about the consequences of doing so, an increasingly successful Orwellian-like thought police of politically correct “newspeak” is imposed on people in almost every circumstance of social life.

In George Orwell’s novel, 1984, the anti-hero, Winston, works in the Ministry of Truth. His task is to go through the pages of old newspapers and rewrite the articles in them to make events and statements made in the past consistent with and supportive of the government’s current Party line. The words and events of the past are made to conform to the ideological “truths” of the present.

And that happens today. In another tricky technique, race collectivists and progressives insist that historical events and the people who lived in the past must be remade to fit the “truth” of these new totalitarians. When Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence that all human beings are created equal and have certain unalienable rights among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, this was all “really” code words and rationales for a society of white racism.

If James Madison helped to author a constitution for the United States that had as a leading purpose restraints on the passions of potential individual rights-violating majorities that would threaten a free and prosperous society, this is “really” the institutionalization of the power of an oligarchy of the “the rich” to thwart the progressive will of the majority of “the people” for “social justice” against the exploiting “one percent.”

Stalin rewrote the actual history of the Russian Revolution to make himself, a relatively minor player in those events, into the right-hand comrade of Vladimir Lenin. Making the past conform to the politics of the present is often followed by a purge of those who might remember otherwise.

Everyone who believes in freedom of thought, freedom of speech, freedom of association, in freedom of exchange of ideas, must oppose and prevent this new racial collectivism and its accompanying “progressive” linguistic manipulation from imposing a new dark age of diminished human discourse.

The wit, charm, creativity, and humanity of words and the ideas expressed through them, must not be stunted and then petrified by those who wish to reduce individual human beings to collectivist categories of ideological control and command. Liberty of thought, deed, action, and association is too precious to be lost to these coercing thugs bent on intimidating the human mind.

Come, Let Us Talk and Listen   Leave a comment

I really strongly believe in the right of every human being to state their opinions without fear of retaliation by government or individuals. There are lines that shouldn’t be crossed in that belief. Shouting “fire” in a theater is not an opinion. It’s an incitement to panic. Calling people names has more nuance. If you call someone a derogatory term from 30 feet away, they are responsible to control themselves. If your face is in there and you have a club, they might seek to defend themselves.

Related imageSo neo-Nazi thugs in Charlottsville, Virginia decided to protest the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue by marching in the streets calling “Jews will not replace us.”

I actually mildly oppose the statue removal because I feel like it’s an attempt to scrub history and that doesn’t set well with me, but I have a better idea for our alt-right folks … buy the statue, buy a plot of land, put the statue on the land and stop screaming about it. Really, you could probably do a Kickstarter program and find folks who would fund it for you, but you could also just pass a hood around at the next KKK gathering.

 

These young people clashing in a town with a university founded by Thomas Jefferson imagine that they can change others by marching, waving flags and shouting slogans. It’s not just the alt-right who believe that, but the counter-protesters who are clashing with them also believe it. Please note, folks, that people rarely change their minds about people they oppose when the opposition is driving a boot into their ribs. And, both sides have done that this weekend. There is no good side on this. There’s just violence and aggression.

Many of the young men and women in the alt-right movement come from good homes and, under normal circumstances, would never hurt anyone, but they are a marginalized group that hangs around with others who are similarly marginalized and pretty soon the rhetoric they use to sooth their social pain starts to make sense and it seems reasonable to do the things they do, especially since they see groups like Black Lives Matter get away with smashing shop windows, burning cars and beating Trump supporters. History teaches that no idea is too insane to be off-limits to a group that perceives itself to be powerless through ordinary means of ruling. The means justify the ends

 

But know that the forces arrayed against them also have an intolerant ideology that would seek to subjugate these young men and women and silence anyone who expresses any opinion they deem “incorrect”. They also justify their violence and coercion in the name of “tolerance”, which is pretty ironic because they’re not at all tolerant of diversity of opinion. This burgeoning leftist movement seeks to counter the emerging alt-Right movement by demanding the government crack down further on human rights and freedoms. It’s really a perfect storm for totalitarianism and sort of reminds me of when Hilter stood before the burned-out hulk of the Reichstad and insisted he needed total power to protect Germany from their enemies.

 

What do we who are not caught up in the rhetoric and violence do now? The answer lies in the source of the problem. The huge mess began with bad ideas — bad thinking created by marginalization by a societal elite who doesn’t want to hear any opinions it didn’t approve. The answer to bad ideas is better ideas. We all need to throw ourselves into the intellectual battle as never before.

What are those good ideas?

You’ll find it in the historical progress of the last 500 years. You’ll find there a lot of books and speeches about social harmony, human rights, the aspiration of universal dignity, the conviction that we can work together in mutual advantage, the market economy as a means of peace and prosperity, and, above all else, the beauty and magnificence of the idea of liberty itself.

It’s time to rededicate ourselves to the mission of educating people to understand the left/right cycle is a violent trap that we can escape from if we will embrace liberty and the right of everyone to hold an opinion, even when it is wrong, without fear of physical assault and coercion.

Authoritarianism Grows While We Fight Over Nothing   1 comment

I’m sure you’ve noticed that Twitter and Facebook and your local newspaper’s comment section is awash with the fear of Donald Trump. You’d think he was a “walker” for the terror he inspires. According to some sources, George Orwell’s 1984 is back on the best-sellers list because apparently some people believe that Trump’s becoming president is a harbinger of a Orwellian dystopia.

I’m reading a book right now called If You Can Keep It, that concerns why Americans have let the principles of liberty, which were the foundation of this nation, erode and how we might assert them again. The introduction references Orwell’s novel extensively so I read it again. I last read it at the start of the Obama administration.

Guess why? I had a sneaky suspicion that we were entering an authoritarian era. I wasn’t wrong about that, though I’ve come to the conclusion that authoritarianism in American politics has been growing for a long time. We’ve seen hints of it in the past, but it’s now becoming obvious to anyone with any sense.

Image result for image of right and left authoritarianismWhat people need to understand is that the election of 2016 gave us a choice between two authoritarian candidates, so there really was no good way to vote. I voted against Hillary because I don’t like to be told how to live my life by someone who has evidenced a strong inability to live her own. I chose also to vote against Donald because his populace message was laced with authoritarian overtones. Neither was a good choice, so I opted for the non-authoritarian candidate who didn’t have a prayer of winning.

I feel good about that choice because I couldn’t see a dime’s worth of difference between Hillary and Donald. They’re the same martinet dressed up in different uniforms.

But what exactly is authoritarianism? I’ve discovered that most people on social media have no idea and it seems to be that if you fight hard against one politician for being an authoritarian, you’d best be sure that your alternative isn’t also an authoritarian.

Authoritarianism is the desire to impose one’s own worldview on others in one’s society through institutionalized coercion.

Authoritarians see punishment as an appropriate response when members of “the group” with which they identify (the United States for the purpose of this discussion, but you could apply this to any number of groups) diverge too far from values that the authoritarian believes are best for society. It doesn’t matter to the authoritarian that the person to be punished has not caused direct harm to another or infringed another’s rights. They have crossed some red-line that must not be crossed.

Now, we all have moral underpinnings that trigger responses in a dictatorial direction. There are things we personally consider unacceptable in society. And we’re free to hold that opinion, which might be quite valid, and to try to influence those around us to adopt that opinion. It is acceptable for churches, for example, to tell a member who is caught up in ongoing immorality that is addressed in the Bible that they may not attend the church until they repent. Social organizations also can impose ethical standards on their members. There’s nothing wrong with imposing ethical and moral standards within a subgroup of society. Authoritarians, however, don’t want to use moral persuasion, education and freedom of non-association. They seek to use the power of the state to coerce those around them to live the way the authoritarian wants. And because they seek to use the power of the state, they would impose that coercion on the entirety of society.

They mean well, usually. They often have good intentions regarding the ends they wish to achieve, but their intentions and the ends don’t make their political methods any less coercive. Think about the non-smoker who wants to ban smoking on the streets. She has good reason for that desire. Smoking isn’t healthy, it makes your clothes stink, and the cloud of noxious gasses around you scents the clothes of passersby, some of whom might be adversely affected by the PM 2.5 particles. She believes her fellow travelers would be better off if cigarettes were simply not available. She puts up posters and stands on a soapbox shouting her message and some people quit smoking, while others at least move their filthy habit away from people who are offended. Yeah, up to this point, she’s on moral and ethical high ground. She crosses the Rubicon, though, when she starts garnering support for an ordinance that punishes smokers for choosing to engage in an unhealthy and stinky habit.

The risk here is that the smokers might perceive this coercion as a threat and construct ways to combat it, including using coercion against those who treat them like lepers. They’re not wrong for defending themselves and their chosen way of life, but of course this leads to competing subgroups trying to control one another through the power of the state.

Many progressives responded to Trump’s election with real shock. They can’t believe it. This isn’t Wisconsin anymore and they never realized their neighbors were so “hate-filled”. This isn’t their America and Trump isn’t their president. They aver on social media that the millions of people who supported Trump’s election are subhuman troglodytes with evil intent who should really be regarded as morally backward aliens by the enlightened, defined as those who voted for Hillary.

If you voted for Gary Johnson, you’re considered delusional, which is another discussion altogether. Some of us prefer to think of ourselves as woke up and aware.

Recognize that the other side — those “troglodytes” — feel exactly the same way about the Hillary supporters who are currently freaking out on social media. From the trog’s perspective, the social warriors on the progressive side are destroying America, spending like there’s no tomorrow, indoctrinating their children in sexually harmful behaviors, and interfering with the troglodytes’ right to make a living and speak his or her mind.

Authoritarianism is latent in almost every human being. We all have a view of how the world “should” work. It is also latent in almost every society. Societies are built on shared values and those values form a framework for how the majority of people in a society believe the world “should” work. But that desire to force others around us to do it our way is usually latent. If the world works as it “should” the majority of the time, we don’t feel like we need to coerce our neighbors into conforming … except on the freeway, but that’s a giant rabbit I think we shouldn’t chase today.

Authoritarianism becomes a significant force in the politics of a society when a psychological disposition to authoritarianism is activated among enough of the people who possess it. Generally, small countries with homogeneous populations don’t have a lot of people who are activated toward authoritarianism simply because they generally agree on stuff and when they don’t, they can fairly easily discuss the matter among themselves. Any large country has a significant minority that score highly for the authoritarian psychological disposition because they hold values that are different from those of the larger society. Again, it’s latent when we’re generally happy with our society and the politics surrounding us and so long as we don’t perceive the majority or another sizeable plurality as trying to coerce us into violating our values. At that point, resistance to authoritarianism blossoms and can grow in authoritarianism itself because one good coercion deserves a counter-coercion.

Political authoritarianism is a preference for infringing on people’s rights to enforce political and social norms. This can come from either the progressive or conservative side.

This preference arises when people begin to perceive that the range of behaviors and views that are tolerated in society is too wide for the society to continue to exist in a form that individuals can identify with. Sociologists call it a “normative threat trigger.”

A normative threat is experienced as moral or cultural alienation from the group with which one identifies. 46.1 percent of American voters voted for Trump while 48.2 percent voted for Hillary. The country is fairly evenly divided along geographic, urban versus rural, and cultural lines.

We all experience ourselves somewhat in terms of the groups with which we identify. Some of us experience this more or less than others. The Amish, known for their anti-authoritarian and inward looking views, are comfortable with their alienation from society. People raised in public schools steeped in a culture that “all men are created equal, endowed … with certain inalienable rights” are generally not comfortable being aliens in the nation they were born in. Authoritarians experience a feeling of alienation from the society with which they identify as a threat to their personal identities, which they seek to protect by supporting authoritarian methods to keep society in their cultural, moral or political comfort zone by using society’s institutions to reduce the influence of members of their society whose views diverge too widely from what they deem to be acceptable norms.

So if Trump voters represent a sort of right-wing authoritarianism that the Left wishes to put an end to, it might behoove the Left to know what normative threat those Trump voters are reacting to.

Of course, we all know what the ignition point was. Hillary Clinton assured enthusiasm by Trump voters when she infamously labeled a broad swath of them as “deplorables”. It was a soundbite to end all soundbites, a one-word put-down that “otherized” regular people. It didn’t just divide us into “deplorable” and presumably “laudable” camps. It represented a denial of our shared identity as Americans. It labeled “Us” (Hillary supporters) as morally superior to “them” (Trump supporters). We now see the results on social media where Hillary supporters advocate for political action that doesn’t take into account the concerns of Trump voters.  They presume that because they won 48.2 percent of the vote, that they should be in charge and everyone who disagrees should just sit down and be quiet, echoing a theme of the Obama administration. What Hillary supporters advocate for threatens Trump supporters even more because Hillary’s comment didn’t create the conditions of normative threat that allowed that comment to trigger self-protection. Those conditions already existed, well fertilized by the Obama administration’s “elections have consequences” … especially for those who “cling to their guns and religion.”

Don’t make the mistake of thinking this is a solely regional issue. As the election map showed, it’s more of a city versus rural/exurban issue. This shows a deep divide in our culture. Who are the Americans who felt so alienated by what Clinton represents that Donald Trump looked better by comparison?

They’re the Americans the media calls “racists” because they want to know who is coming into the country. They’re the ones who nettle when called a “transphobe” for thinking that a man in a dress is not exactly a woman and we shouldn’t pretend not to notice. They’re the ones called “sexists” because they question the interpretation of data on the wage gap because they know employers wouldn’t voluntarily reduce their profits to hire more expensive male employees when they could get the same work done with less expensive female workers. They’re the ones whose forehead veins pop when they’re called “fascists” because they believe that free speech, even when unkind or a minority view, shouldn’t be met with government force or opposition bullying.

Those “otherizing” labels have been used as weapons for a long time, both by the media and the progressives, and those multiple terms were chrystalized by Clinton’s “deplorable” put down. The otherizaton created the normative threat, which is experienced by those on the receiving end as “My own society is rejecting me, but I represent half the population.” Add to that the examples of oppression and persecution of what used to be ordinary American values and authoritarianism starts to look really attractive.

Authoritarianism in America is a two-way street. Those right-wing authoritarians are reacting to left-wing authoritarianism and they feed off each other.

The loudest part of the Left today like to call themselves “social justice warriors”. These folks overwhelmingly dominate some of the most influential segments of our culture — especially education, but also media and Hollywood – and are every bit as authoritarian as those they oppose.

What a minute! Hit the brakes! How can a group with such different political goals from its opponents use very similar political methods?

The answer is that authoritarianism, like its opposite libertarianism, is less concerned about which political choices a society makes than about how it makes and implements those choices. It’s not a political philosophy so much as it is a political method. Libertarians care less how society chooses to conduct itself as that the choices are made freely by individuals and not by the exercise of force by some against others — in other words, the opposite of authoritarianism.

Similarly, authoritarianism has little moral concern over the ends of the choices made by the community. It is collectivist in nature. It is concerned that no one strays too far from, and so represents too much of a threat to, the norms and mores that are identified with the society.

This is not to say that particular libertarians and authoritarians can’t also have very strong opinions about how people should behave and the society they wish to see. I’m a libertarian and I do indeed have strong opinions on those topics. Libertarianism and authoritarianism can both be held consistently with conservative or progressive views.

Fearing the ascendancy of a strident, socially conservative political grouping that it doesn’t understand and will not tolerate, the cultural Left feels threatened. The threat meets the threshold for an authoritarian response for several reasons:

  • Trump as figurehead fails to share many of the progressive cultural concerns that are of particular importance to the left today. He doesn’t even pretend to respect them.
  • The degree and nature of support he received shocked millions of people who were caught off-guard, heightening the sense of threat and uncertainty.
  • Trump is extremely personally distasteful and unlikeable to many of his opponents, making it nearly impossible for them to relate to the people who voted for him.

With their own authoritarian elements triggered, many progressives follow the same basic political playbook as “the enemy” – but they step it up. Because they’re no longer in power, they feel they’re under threat, and that perceived threat justifies wielding the force of the state and legal institutions to coerce behaviors.

Examples? The claim that someone’s views can make someone else feel “unsafe,” that expressing that opinion or even just holding some opinions is the same as physical violence to a listener who identifies with a designated victimized (and therefore morally privileged) group. This equation between speech and physical action “justifies” an actual violent response, which we see on campuses to prevent speakers with diverse political views from being heard.

If I assert that your speech that I disagree with is actually violence perpetrated on me by you, then I am claiming that I have no control over its effect on me. But, hold up! Self-control is the basis of our humanity. It’s false to assume that rational human beings lack control over how they experience and react to ideas, claims, opinions, and assertions.

I can be mean to you with my words, but I can’t be violent against you with words. This is not like a punch you can’t block. You choose how you react. That’s an individual choice a person makes to mediate between the sensory information that comes in and the feeling you have about it.

Authoritarianism is dangerous, but this form is more extreme and dangerous, because if I can’t control my emotional responses, I am at your mercy. The reason why authoritarianism is attractive as a political method is it plays on our fear of what may happen to us if people aren’t prevented from believing and doing certain things.

I’m personally certain that regardless of what happens in American society, I will choose to be a Christian who is happy in my salvation and in control of myself even as society goes to hell in a hand basket. There are things I would choose not to do that might be required by society and I have resolved to accept the consequences for my choices.  My happiness is entirely within my own hands, even if my outside circumstances are not. Therefore, I don’t find authoritarianism to be particularly attractive.

On the other hand, if I don’t even believe in my ability to control my own experience when someone, maybe even a stranger, holds or expresses a different opinion from me, or sees me differently from how I see myself, then I can’t be anything but an authoritarian. If my happiness and even control over my own emotions is dependent upon others, then the only option I have is to control other people’s behavior.

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. (C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock)

 

Case For Not Voting   Leave a comment

My research theme of the moment is anarchism – hence the posts on that subject. I am not myself an anarchist. I find reason within some of what anarchists have to say, but not being a koolaid drinker means I can’t wholly embrace any philosophy. That’s why I didn’t become a liberal in college. Andrew Breitbart blamed it on going to class drunk. My excuse is I see the holes in many philosophies and follow those to their logical conclusion and then think – well, that sounds like a good idea, but maybe it won’t work out so good.

Anarchism provides a lot to think about because a lot mascharades under the term “anarchy”. There’s a huge difference between the “anarchy” of the Weather Underground and the anarchy of Patriot’s Lament. Both are against the state, but that’s about the end of the similarities.

At its most basic, anarchism means a system of society that does not have a government, but really the word itself means a system of governance that is not based upon a hierarchy – an’archy.

I’m fascinated and perplexed with why anarchists don’t vote. I’m not exactly buying the “you give your own power away when you vote” and “you elect your own tyrant” arguments. In my opinion, if you don’t vote, you are choosing not to participate in the political process, so you shouldn’t be surprised when those who do decide to participate vote in ways that reduce your liberty. You didn’t take advantage of one of the tools our society provides and have disabled yourself in that way. I’m not saying it is right that the majority of those who show up can restrict the liberties of those who do not. I’m just acknowledging it as a reality that we allow by our complacency – or anarchists embrace for philosophical reasons I’d like to understand.

I also don’t think the results of an election mean the subjects surrounding the election are closed to further debate. Email is a wonderful thing and if you are not engaging your Congressional delegation in this way, you’re not doing all you could to participate in this system of self-governance. I email Mark Begich regularly because I think he is beholding to listen to his constituents even if they didn’t or wouldn’t vote for him. He’s supposed to represent all of us. That he doesn’t is a really good reason to fire him. On the other hand, I recognize that if you voted for Mark Begich, you brought the Affordable Care Act into being. He was the deciding vote even though Alaskan voters were polling 80% against the ACA. Apparently Mark doesn’t believe he needs to listen to his constituents. Lisa Murkowski, who helped draft portions of the bill while on the Senate health subcommittee, did listen to Alaskans and vote against the bill. I won’t vote for her, but I give her that applause because she earned it.

So, I see the point anarchists are trying to make – that elected officials do what they want rather than what we the people want. Representative government is clearly broken and we need to do something about that. I don’t necessarily accept the anarchist idea that not voting is somehow better than voting.

Posted October 11, 2013 by aurorawatcherak in Common sense, politics

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What Flavor of Coercion Do You Prefer?   2 comments

I live in a state of extremes … and I am not referring to the weather. Alaska was founded by people who embodied a pioneer spirit. Yeah, so was Oregon, but while Oregon was founded by those pioneers 140 years ago, Alaska was founded by those pioneers within my life time. In many ways, it is still being founded, mostly by people who left the Lower 48 to … get away from the Lower 48. You know, cities, nanny states, nosey neighbors. They came here to be free to pursue their own interests. As my husband says “To be somewhere where trees stretched to the horizon and the only person there was me.”

So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that many Alaskans are anarchists of one variety or another. Most of us fled the Lower 48 “sustainable development” policies requiring unlimited government intervention and have embraced anarcho capitalism. I like parts of it, but I see the flaws in it as well. “If men were angels, no government would be necessary,” James Madison wrote. “If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.”

It’s pretty obvious that political-economic theory in America is going off the rails. Although I find resonance with conservative political and economy theories, I also like the idea of being left alone to do as I like. Which way to go?

First, anarchism is a political philosophy that speaks to the proper relationship between the individual and government. Well, actually it says there is no proper relationship between the individual and government because there should be no government. Forget the administrative state; anarchists believe there should be no state. To those of us who do not have an automatic knee-jerk reaction against that idea, it appears to be a simplification of libertarian philosophy. It is the principle of liberty taken to a logical and ill-advised extreme.

Anarchists speak a lot about force and how force by government is evil, and yet this is why people form governments in the first place – to use collective force to prevent the initiation of force against individuals by other individuals or groups of individuals. For a free market to work, the actions of one person do not restrict the proper liberty of another, including his liberty to act morally. The production of economic goods may not violate anyone’s rightful freedom. Your enjoyment of your rights may not be endangered by my misuse of mine. If that standard fails, then the market must be regulated by some institution outside of the market, for the market is unjustifiable if it allows the violation of individual rights. For most of American history, our market required no outside regulation beyond the exception of coercion.

Coercion is the action of government against criminals and foreign aggressors for the protection of the market and society. It’s the “If men were angels” argument. Clearly, not all men are angels (indeed, most fall far short of that mark), therefore, group coercion must sometimes be exercised to protect individual liberty.  Criminals prefer dishonest ways over honest, so the existence of a power to prevent and punish this by force has value, provided it is restricted by moral principle that forbids its use against people who have not themselves used force against others. Exercised improperly, then coercion violates rights of innocent people (or the right of the guilty to have their guilt objectively demonstrated before suffering punishment).

Coercion is necessary, but it must be kept in its place in social discourse. The market, because it operates to benefit individuals or groups of individuals, is not best suited for this. For coercion to be both effective and controlled, it must exist outside of the market and the sway of subjective values. It must operate solely from appropriate predetermined moral principles and without taking into consideration any individual or group desires.  Universally, this institution is called government.

The market is not best suited for all of the services offered by government because the market is both inhabited by men (who are not angels) and free. All exchanges are meant to be voluntary. A person trades his time, effort, money or goods for those of another only if the other is willing. The market doesn’t work under other conditions. Consider, for example, the law of supply and demand. What would happen to prices if one did not have to pay for a good at a price acceptable to the seller, but could take the good by force, giving nothing in exchange? The law of supply and demand does not apply to thieves. The economic analysis of the market assumes that the use of force does not occur, that all exchanges are mutually acceptable to the parties involved.

The assumption is legitimate, for in free market theory there exists an institution outside the market which protects the rights of individuals, and therefore ensures that the principle of voluntary exchange will be observed. This institution may work well or badly, but its functions are not a subject of economic law; it is the concern, rather, of political and legal theory. The government codifies and enforces the rules of the market; it protects the existing framework of rights and liberties that men must respect in action. Economic theory then tells us what happens as individuals act within that framework to acquire the things that they value. Economic laws are to political laws as principles of strategy are to the rules of the game.

Anarchists hold that force would not be used and coercion would not be a feasible alternative to voluntary exchanges. But they cannot assume this in describing the market as they would have it. The anarchists would place governmental services in the market, to be offered by entrepreneurs on the basis of their expectations about the preferences of others. At best, they can attempt to predict what is likely to come about from the interplay of human interests. If we ask how our rights are to be secured to us in the anarchist system, the anarchist can only answer “it’ll work out.”

The anarchists, then, have their work cut out for them. They must show how, by the mechanism of the market, things work out in such a way that force is not used and all will proceed on the basis of economic laws; but economic laws are true only when all exchange is voluntary and the cost of using force is prohibitive. That’s circular reasoning because there is no reason why anyone should follow the rules in the first place.

Anarchists insist that if we needed protection from criminals, we could form protection agencies from the free market. What is to prevent protection agencies from banding together to destroy the competition and form a monopoly over protective services? Oh, but monopolies don’t form in a free society!. That’s only because anyone is free to compete with large firms and, by underselling them, cut into their market share and persuade consumers of the value of his goods. Why would the large protection agencies restrain themselves from driving out the competition by force? Look at the criminal underworld of the United States as an example of how that might happen, and has already happened. The assumption that competition would necessarily exist is not looking so good, is it?

Coercion is not, of course, the only means by which men deal with each other. Wherever men find themselves without government, so as to prevent a slide into chaos or to recover from that slide, they have formed new governments. Or, in the anarchist terminology, they have formed monopolistic “protection agencies.” Anarchism lives on its opposition to government, but every government that exists is a refutation of anarchism; for it belies the anarchists’ prediction that if only we can send government away it will not come back.

Again, anarchists complain that governments are immoral because they initiate, or would initiate, the use of force against anyone forming a rival “protection agency.” Yes, they would. And how is this any more immoral than two “private” protection agencies duking it out for supremacy? The anarchist provides no means for how society or the market place would prevent this. By rejecting the social institution through which men attempt, by positive action, to insure themselves of certain conditions necessary for social existence, he can only argue that these conditions will come about by natural law, so that we need do nothing ourselves. This argument ignores the difference between coercion and economic goods on the market. It relies on circular reasoning, that coercion would not occur because free people would not seek to coerce others, which is historical unsupportable. The anarchist advocates for a society free of violence among men, while rejecting the only means of achieving that end.

Posted October 7, 2013 by aurorawatcherak in Political Philosophy

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