Re: Dirty, Disrespectful Outsiders

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People are tribal and liberalism is not.

There's a certain breed of liberal that does try to legislate purity, usually with a public health justification.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 8:08 AM
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Mmm, I think that there's a strong case to be made that "respect for authority" characterizes educated folks, pretty much by definition, and that the real struggle is over which authority one has respect for (e.g., "liberal elites" vs. "god", etc.)


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 8:12 AM
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Here's my problem with this: "to create a more appealing message"

Where's the evidence that this is necessary? What are the large-scale social programs supported by liberals that don't enjoy at least majority support?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 8:16 AM
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i forget the name of the part of brain involved in making one's judgements fair and just
i'll write it if i find what segment it was, there should be an excerpt of that study


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 8:16 AM
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does try to legislate purity, usually with a public health justification

Sure, but they recognize the purity value as an illegitimate basis for legislation, and rely on a 'harm-reduction' figleaf; the emotional basis is purity, but not the expressed justification. Same for authority. Everyone respects authority within their own ingroup, but the public face of liberal respect for authority as a basis for political action is a claim (sometimes true, sometimes not) that respecting our 'liberal elite' authorities will result in preferable policies on the harm-reduction and fairness axes.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 8:16 AM
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One way I think liberals are trying to hit the "ingroup loyalty" axis is by talking about people's desire to protect and sustain their families. So the messages of "we're going to honor our promises to your grandparents" and "we're not going to saddle your children and their children with our debts" seems to appeal to that sense not of social solidarity but of family loyalty.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 8:22 AM
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My language of morality is refined, not impoverished. Purified, in fact.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 8:28 AM
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People are tribal and liberalism is not.

Liberalism claims not to be, in any case. Moreover, I wonder if Haidt just caught highly educated liberals at a bad time. For a bit, libs/Dems/what have you just weren't well positioned to make arguments about in-group loyalty, purity, and respect for authority, because their coalition was new enough and diverse enough to have trouble sustaining such claims.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 8:28 AM
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I am optimistic about the ability of talented politicians (W.J. Clinton and Barack Obama being among them) to strike those chords in ways that do not imply the abandonment of liberal principles.

In-group loyalty. Easy-peasy. You redefine the in-group as all Americans, heirs to a proud tradition of constitutional liberty, economic opportunity, and endless capacity to improve, renew, and pursue justice. See also, "There is not a Red America and a Blue America, there is the United States of America."

Purity. The less apocalyptic, more conservationist face of the environmental movement is acceptable to the overwhelming majority of the population. Phrased in terms of "wildlife habitat preservation", "preserving fields and streams for the next generation of hunters and fishermen", or even "stewardship" or "creation care", it's no huge challenge to frame environmental issues in moral terms. The challenge is to keep the hectorers and tree huggers safely in the background.

Respect for authority. Respect for authority is not anathema to liberal principles; unquestioning deference or unaccountable authority are. When Deval Patrick talks about his childhood experience of being disciplined by an (unrelated) elderly neighbor, or when John Edwards talks about the lessons he learned from his father, that's a deliberate invocation of age and wisdom as a source of legitimate authority (and respect for that authority as a source of morality). Expect to hear Barack Obama doing some Cosby-lite on the stump about how inner city kids must grow up learning respect for their elders. In addition to making concessions to respect for age and tradition, liberals can and should make appeals to legitimately constituted authority: the Bush administration's roughshod approach to the Article III courts and to legal precedent can be framed in moral terms: "Who gave them the right to overturn the wisdom of our founding fathers that has served this nation in war and peace for over 200 years?"


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 8:29 AM
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Liberal morality doesn't focus on harm reduction and fairness arbitrarily, it focuses on them because they are the only bases for morality that function reasonably when you are trying to consider the claims of people outside of your own ingroup.

I don't think that it's nutty and unworkable, because on the assumption I understand what he's saying, being workable doesn't mean developing a program such that no one could disagree, but developing a moral language for talking about these things.

So in the case of respect for authority, I don't think the liberal would be limited to saying 'we must find a sovereign and venerate it', but also 'Respect for authority needs to be earned by that authority, goddammit'.

Purity? A while back ogged said something to the effect of in the ideal world, our reason why we don't torture is 'because we're the fucking United States of America and we're better than that.'

In-group loyalty? Arguing that in-group loyalty based on accidents of birth is immoral could be a powerful argument; arguing that instead of tribal groups, we have a deep commitment to legal procedure, or the Constitution, or whatever.

I think it's more an issue of what language can be used - moral vs. emotional -- rather than what positions follow from it. It's the difference between saying 'same sex marriage should be legalized because it's fair' and saying 'same sex marriage should be legalized because not doing so is immoral.'


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 8:30 AM
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Or what KR said. It's about the language that's used, not the positions.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 8:32 AM
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I'll pimp The Authoritarians. again.

While figuring out how to get traction with the regular GOP supporters we really need to know about the authoritarian followers. Otherwise we are arguing out of ignorance.

Over time, a long time, the fact that their practices do not produce the ideals they hold does cause many authoritarians to leave the flock, at a tremendous emotional cost to themselves.

Arguing or debating with them is not very effective though. They will retreat quickly to their safe echo chambers. Instead they must be shown, first hand, how their beliefs do not reflect reality.

In many ways our society is like the parents who's child has joined a cult. Convincing someone to leave a cult is difficult.


Posted by: Tripp the Crazed! | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 8:33 AM
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LB, you seem to be taking a very narrow view of these axes. I think there's a lot liberals could do here without descending into xenophobia. Environmental protection can be sold in the morality of purity, not just harm reduction. The rule of law can be sold in the morality of respect for authority, not just fairness. Poverty reduction can be sold in the morality of in-group loyalty (in-group being American citizens), not just fairness. Of course there are already liberals making all these arguments, but they could and should be made more often and more forcefully.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 8:34 AM
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I tell you what, liberals could really bang the in-group loyalty drum if we had an alien invasion force that could only be destroyed with health care and fair housing laws.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 8:35 AM
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Goddam you, KR.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 8:35 AM
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9, 10: For the most part, those sorts of claims broaden the notions of purity, in-group, and respect for authority so much as to enervate the strength of the claims a great deal.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 8:38 AM
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10:

In light of what I know about our current authoritarian followers, I suspect this is how their leaders will tell them to respond to your arguments:

So in the case of respect for authority, I don't think the liberal would be limited to saying 'we must find a sovereign and venerate it', but also 'Respect for authority needs to be earned by that authority, goddammit'.

God is the ultimate authority. Respect for God should be absolute and all-consuming. Otherwise we are doomed.

Purity? A while back ogged said something to the effect of in the ideal world, our reason why we don't torture is 'because we're the fucking United States of America and we're better than that.'

Following God's word is the ultimate purity. To do otherwise is doom, which we are already dangerously near.

In-group loyalty? Arguing that in-group loyalty based on accidents of birth is immoral could be a powerful argument; arguing that instead of tribal groups, we have a deep commitment to legal procedure, or the Constitution, or whatever.

Our first commitment must always be to God. Anything else is dangerous and has brought the world to the terrible, frightening state it is currently in.

I think it's more an issue of what language can be used - moral vs. emotional -- rather than what positions follow from it. It's the difference between saying 'same sex marriage should be legalized because it's fair' and saying 'same sex marriage should be legalized because not doing so is immoral.'

God's word trumps all worldly concepts such as fairness. Same sex marriage is forbidden by God. We are already dangerously close to facing God's wrath. Any further steps away from God and we are doomed.


Posted by: Tripp the Crazed! | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 8:41 AM
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What seems to be missing in this is the idea of taboo. A lot of people build their tribal identities around taboos, obviously pseudo-Christians who emphasise homophobia as a group solidarity exercise and similar, but also groups which insist on abstinence rather than moderation in various activities, exclusionary dress codes, etc. Liberals (and leftists) have no time for such nonsense, but what would a liberal tribal taboo look like (and anybody who mentions SWPL is banned)?


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 8:41 AM
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Not really. It's a language that has a pretty well established history in the U.S.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 8:43 AM
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Authority: scientists know what they're talking about.

Purity: Torture and illegal war is unAmerican.

In-group loyalty: We're all children once, we all get old, we all get sick at some point.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 8:45 AM
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The other thing about the interaction of in-group loyalty and respect for authority is that only the only authority that it is laudable to accord respect to is the authority of the in group. So authorities that are seen as other -- public health workers, e.g., are outsiders and thus not authorities in this sense -- are shunned. This makes it a lot more difficult to make the claim that liberal authorities are a more valid type than e.g. the idiots who have been running things into the ground but are known, and know the signifiers.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 8:46 AM
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See, B doesn't get it. Shun! Shun!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 8:46 AM
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but what would a liberal tribal taboo look like

I think this, along with some notion of what "the enemy" looks like, is what's missing. At some level, the question is, "To what sort of people are you willing to do bad things?" This strikes me as connected to ogged's point about making use of abusive and inappropriate language to criticize some set of people. And people are--understandably--uncomfortable with that.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 8:46 AM
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but what would a liberal tribal taboo look like

Racism and violence, obvs.

Increasingly, "waste" and "environmental defilement" are approaching that status, while "conspicuous display of wealth" plays the same role in social democratic political culture.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 8:46 AM
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what would a liberal tribal taboo look like

"politically correct speech," aka, good manners.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 8:47 AM
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In-group loyalty: We're all children once, we all get old, we all get sick at some point.

In order for there to be an in-group there has to be at least one imaginable person who could be a considered a member of the out-group.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 8:48 AM
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I think this, along with some notion of what "the enemy" looks like, is what's missing.

Connecting 23 to 24, a big problem that liberals have is that you can't define the "out-group" in terms of our current taboos without creating a backlash greater than the group-cohesion dynamic. Pat Buchannon figured this shit out decades ago.


Posted by: KR | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 8:48 AM
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25: like, what? What on earth are you talking about?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 8:49 AM
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KRs idea of language is close to a solution in this respect - one of the ways authoritarian followers recognize members of their in-group is by the language they use.

BUT their leaders constantly fan the flames of paranoia and warn them about deceiving outsiders. Their leaders identify us as an outsider using insider language and we won't get very far. All the leaders need to do is use the codeword "liberal" and the followers know exactly what that means - demons trying to seduce them away from God.

Using insider language only gets us part way.


Posted by: Tripp the Crazed! | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 8:49 AM
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a big problem that liberals have is that you can't define the "out-group" in terms of our current taboos without creating a backlash greater than the group-cohesion dynamic.

Yup. But, again, I think that's changing. (Thanks be to Generation Awesome.)


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 8:50 AM
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e.g., here.

Bryan uses the language of morality and talks about respect for authority (authority must respect the farmers and working class); purity (what you are advocating is immoral, you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold); in-group (this is interesting. He hits 'humanity'; cities vs. rural, and a bit of U.S. cheerleading.)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 8:50 AM
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31: is he really the best model for what liberals should be doing?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 8:52 AM
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31: It's not clear to me that Bryan wouldn't be a Huckabee Republican today.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 8:53 AM
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26: Libertarians.

28: Like, it's taboo to make racist jokes. Or to act skeezy towards the laydeez. Which is why we joke about these things.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 8:54 AM
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Oo! Unions used to be a big in-group loyalty mesasure. Barack Obama spent some time this week following a registered nurse during her rounds. I also remember watching----oddly enough---Joe Biden making a really great speech to the Iowa carpenters' union (?) about how they were the first union to endorse him for Senator and about how he's tried to honor that endorsement.

Of course that sort of in-group loyalty has lately been demonised as "special interests".


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 8:54 AM
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32: Yeah, yeah. I thought about that, but I like the speech, and I think if we thought of health care that way we might have a better chance of getting a sane system passed.

More to the point, it's not hard to swap out the positions you don't like for ones that you do like and keep much of the same language.

I really think this is mostly about rhetoric, and the difference is between 'I do this because I'm tolerant and mustn't judge' and 'I do this because I'm right.'


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 8:56 AM
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Many religious folks define their ingroup in a way that includes all religious folks, despite enormous differences in doctrine. In extreme cases, you actually see Pat Robertson and Osama bin Laden agreeing that the U.S. had it coming on 9-11.

The challenge for liberals is to replicate this, and I don't think it's as easy as Knecht-Cala-Brock suggest. Sifu explains the challenge nicely in 14.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 8:57 AM
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"Special interests" is a phrase that the media thinks is a big hit with voters, but which voters correctly interpret as meaning nothing.

Similarly, "identity politics". Zomg, says the pundit, McCain will gain ground by accusing Obama of "identity politics"! But what does that mean? Nobody knows.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 8:58 AM
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the difference is between 'I do this because I'm tolerant and mustn't judge' and 'I do this because I'm right.'

Which BHO seems to understand.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 8:59 AM
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And I don't think it's easy, but I also think the post was too narrow. It's not going to be about purity over bottled water, ffs.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:00 AM
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34.2: ahh. Yeah, okay, I see where you're coming from.

35: right; Democrats used to have a really solid sense of in-group loyalty amongst working class white people, as aligned against the plutocrats, mostly. The problem with that kind of solidarity is that it only really works when a lot of people are feeling poor and quite hopeless, a state of affairs that with luck doesn't obtain for long. Creating in-group loyalty such that people support social welfare policies that don't affect them directly in any particularly obvious way is fantastically more difficult. Look at when social welfare systems really took off in this country (post Depression) or in Europe (post near-total destruction). When you have a society that sees itself as basically meritocratic and aspirational (which is generally good), in-group loyalty gets drawn on different lines, and is much more fraught to use politically (which is why it should be expressed in harmless realms like sports).


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:00 AM
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All that I've said, said, I do think Cala is correct that it's mostly a matter of being skilled with rhetoric, and we seem to have a candidate that can manage that just fine, thanks, and anyhow these policies are mostly pretty popular. I would say the bigger challenge to getting a liberal agenda enacted is illiberal power players with a shitload of money and access.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:03 AM
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"Special interests" is a phrase that the media thinks is a big hit with voters, but which voters correctly interpret as meaning nothing.

I'm not sure about that. "Special interests" means the organisations of those other guys. To the low-information liberal it means the gas and coal lobby, the corn ethanol pimps, or, I dunno, corrupt Nigerian businessmen; to the low-information conservative it means gay people, the NAACP, the secularist ACLU etc. It probably means "those assholes in those other states with their parochial needs" to everyone.

To my father, who is familiar with that area in Alaska, the "bridge to nowhere" actually made a fair amount of city-planning sense.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:03 AM
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At some level, the question is, "To what sort of people are you willing to do bad things?"

The bosses.

I've argued here before wrt Haidt that solidarity is a moral module that his schema wrongly excludes, but he doesn't seem to be getting the messge.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:04 AM
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because we're the fucking United States of America

This is Henley's line.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:04 AM
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Yeah, you quoted it approvingly.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:05 AM
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Would someone mind telling me how this is a problem that needs fixing? Liberal policies and ideas, particularly those harm-reduction and fairness-based ones, are hugely popular in America. The reason why some of them don't get as much traction as their popularity would warrant - i.e., the reason we don't have universal health care - isn't because tribalism is more popular than not being poor and sick. It's because we live under a monstrously undemocratic system that puts an incredible amount of power in the hands of a corporate ruling class that's perfectly happy with the status quo and stands to lose from any kind of fairness-based or harm-reduction-based reform. You don't have to look to "What's The Matter With Kansas" and decide that Americans just like hating foreigners and queers more than they like feeding their children, you just have to look at the fact that our elected officials are being paid millions of dollars in bribes every year by the most destructive industries on the planet.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:06 AM
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Stras agrees with me! Come with us, terrified pantywaists, and burn shit down!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:08 AM
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stras asks for an explanation of the problem as one that needs fixing in exactly the language that seems to be missing.

(And I think tribalism does do a lot of the work. You're not going to take *my* tax dollars to pay for *their* laziness.)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:13 AM
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A while back ogged said something to the effect of in the ideal world, our reason why we don't torture is 'because we're the fucking United States of America and we're better than that.'

It was Henley that said that, and I've got to say that was one of the few times I was actually really disappointed with him. First, Abu Ghraib wasn't the first time America's tortured people; this country has a long and storied history of torture, war crimes and atrocities behind it. The United States is so not better than that. Second, torture is wrong because it's fucking torture. It has nothing to do with imaginary standards the United States pretends to hold itself to; torture is obviously wrong in the same way that murder and rape are obviously wrong, and if you find yourself arguing with someone over whether torture's wrong that should probably tell you something about them. I hate this idea that the worst thing about the Bush-era atrocity regime is that it's sullied America in some abstract way. The worst thing about these atrocities is that we killed and tortured a whole lot of people.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:15 AM
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I think tribalism racism does do a lot of the work. You're not going to take *my* tax dollars to pay for *their* laziness.)


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:18 AM
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Sure, but, again, we're talking rhetoric. 'Torture is torture and torture is wrong', given that the guys are still in office and probably headed to a nice retirement, doesn't seem to be doing the trick.

And it's not like saying 'torturing people is not an ideal of ours' is inconsistent with also saying 'torturing people is wrong, full stop.'


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:21 AM
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Perhaps the problem is with liberalism. I have played with Marxism or Anarchism almost entirely to get a foundation that would support the last axes:Purity, Authority, In-group loyalty. The ways that works is obvious:"That is not what Bakunin says." There are plenty of illiberalisms available.

Liberalism is not a goal, it is a method or means. If tolerance and respect for process leave children starving and countries in rubble, perhaps the problem is not that we haven't yet done liberalism right, but that liberalism in principle retains the means for callous plutocrats and warmongers to obtain power. Looking at the five axes, the liberal goal of eliminating the last three seems futile & anti-human.

The move to a partial illiberalism is always risky and dangerous. But there is a lot at stake, and liberalism just hasn't fucking worked.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:21 AM
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51: how is racism not tribalism?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:21 AM
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51: I prefer 'tribalism' because it's not always just racism, or recognized as such.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:23 AM
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I have played with Marxism or Anarchism almost entirely to get a foundation that would support the last axes:Purity, Authority, In-group loyalty.

Well, right. Marxism is all about in-group loyalty. And, contra Bob, look how well that worked out. In-group loyalty is always exploitable. There's just no way to make it fair or just.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:23 AM
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That's why you need all the axes. It's like that Captain Planet shit.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:24 AM
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I hate this idea that the worst thing about the Bush-era atrocity regime is that it's sullied America in some abstract way. The worst thing about these atrocities is that we killed and tortured a whole lot of people.

This is right in the abstract, but the practical reality - as Bush has now proved to us - is that any group of humans will, given the opportunity, kill and torture other humans.

So you need to convince humans not to do that. The more reasons people have not to do it, the better. So yes, if it makes American soldiers less likely to torture because "Americans don't torture," then that's a useful concept. The fact that it may not be literally, historically true is irrelevant. When your dog craps outside, you tell him he's a good boy, even though he has also crapped on the rug.

As for the historical claim, the US does, in fact, have a genuine tradition of not torturing - the British really did torture Americans as a matter of policy in the Revolutionary War, whereas Americans did not torture Brits as a matter of policy. There have also been plenty of times that Americans did torture others as a matter of policy, but the principle established by Washington was always referred back to, and most of our wars have included Americans treating better than they are treated.*

It's good to have ideals, even if, by definition, you can't live up to them.

* I'm setting aside battlefield behavior here, because A. torture doesn't really happen on the battlefield, and B. battlefields are inherently atrocity-laden.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:25 AM
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"Americans are dogs" is not the kind of rhetoric we need here, JRoth.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:26 AM
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And I think tribalism does do a lot of the work. You're not going to take *my* tax dollars to pay for *their* laziness.

Right, but that tribalism is ultimately bankrolled by corporate interests. Random white racists didn't pass around a hat until they collected enough money to fund Willy Horton ads; racist strategies always need the moneymen to succeed, and the moneymen are operating under different incentives than tribalism.

To extend this history a bit, the moneymen aren't just on the right, either. After Reagan and Bush, the corporate-friendly wing had taken over the Democrats, too, and got the rest of the party to eventually concede the racist critique of welfare, along with a host of straight-up corporate concessions on regulation, health care, and trade.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:29 AM
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Knecht brings up Cosby and Cala brings up WJ Bryan as rhetorical models for liberals, and I think they're both right. But to the extent that liberals adopt the salient aspects of those frameworks, they are being illiberal.

B and LB shoehorn "liberal elites" into the "respect for authority" framework, but that's a poor fit. Gore's respect in liberal circles derives from his being right, or at least being liberal. To the extent that Gore advocates pre-emptive war or environmental degradation, the liberals will ditch him.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:31 AM
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But illiberalism really is almost impossible to discuss with the people who need to hear it most. Marginal illiberal acts that would keep a Mussolinmi, Hitler, Stalin, or Bush from obtaining destructive power can be winked at, but a structure or politics that would keep them out of power is not only inconceivable for liberals but considered wicked in principle.

And so we will kill & die.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:32 AM
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The JRoth-stras discussion above reminds me just how weird redemptive critique is. Our idea of how it works is that you keep calling the nation back to its imaginary Edenic past. You need that, because it's rousing, but without the injection of the imperial critique, it tends towards ever-worse ratios of truth to bullshit. Purely redemptive critiques eventually run out of criticism, which is why you need the howling at the gates; but that always gets strong enough to be deployed against you, commie.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:33 AM
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61 is correct. I was surprised at how fast people turned on Paul Krugman, whose presence in the corporate media been the only thing to save tens of thousands of liberals from self-face-punch-induced suicides in 2001-2004.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:33 AM
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a structure or politics that would keep them out of power is not only inconceivable for liberals but considered wicked in principle. basically doomed to failure.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:34 AM
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There's also a pretty big difference in kind across demographic groups within reciprocity itself, in that a lot of people think there's a place for reciprocal punishment (eg, the death penalty) whereas others see it as totally illegitimate.

Haight's more general point---that morality is a package of goods and doesn't reduce practically by a single overarching principle, like "utility"---makes a lot of sense.


Posted by: Michael Vanderwheel, B.A. | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:35 AM
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Purity, in-group loyalty, and respect for authority - the trouble with these ideas is that they are shit. If we wanted them we'd be conservatives.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:36 AM
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But to the extent that liberals adopt the salient aspects of those frameworks, they are being illiberal.

I've been taking 'liberal' here in the everyday political sense, the one that gets contrasted with 'conservative', not the 'liberal' one that's just about procedures and structures.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:37 AM
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As for the historical claim, the US does, in fact, have a genuine tradition of not torturing

Bullshit.

That article doesn't even cover what the US did to countries like the Philippines.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:37 AM
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"... most of the rest of the country will hate it and suffer."

As others have pointed out you can define the ingroup as the entire United States. Liberals don't like this but it is not obviously divisive.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:38 AM
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I was skeptical of Haidt at first, but now I'm a big fan. If you read "the emotional dog" you will see that he has an explicitly Humean view of morality and assigns reasoning mostly to a social function that can gradually influence the emotions of groups.

Basically, I buy all of his empirical description of moral thinking. I'm a moral realist, though, so that changes things on the normative level.

Basically, I don't think that the purity, authority and loyalty modules track real morality. They are like inaccurate but adaptive sensory systems. Thing is, saying this is completely consistent with accepting Haidt's empirical framework.

(I will actually read the thread later.)


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:39 AM
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I've been taking 'liberal' here in the everyday political sense, the one that gets contrasted with 'conservative', not the 'liberal' one that's just about procedures and structures.

And in that sense, I'm saying that lefty politicians can be served by conservative rhetoric, but it's still conservative rhetoric.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:40 AM
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Knecht brings up Cosby and Cala brings up WJ Bryan as rhetorical models for liberals, and I think they're both right. But to the extent that liberals adopt the salient aspects of those frameworks, they are being illiberal.

The "Cosby-lite" that I endorsed is *not* necessarily illiberal, but it is just close enough to illiberal to punch the right cognitive buttons with people who aren't comfortable with liberalism.

Take Deval Patrick: he campaigned on a vision of neighborhoods where residents call unruly children to account and young people respect their elders. To the illiberal authoritarian, that sounds pretty appealing. But guess what: it's entirely compatible with liberalism, only we call it "engaged communities" or "social capital" or something like that. It's not for nothing that "paternalism", "infantilization" and "nanny state" are terms of derision to describe liberal policies: extraparental constraints on juvenile autonomy is totally comfortable to us.

So we've got a sliver of common ground with the tribalists, we ought not sacrifice it out of some misguided concern that we don't really believe or want the same things in a broader sense. The Right certainly doesn't let that stand in the way.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:40 AM
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you can define the ingroup as the entire United States

And then nobody cares if immigrants die in detention.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:40 AM
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A little late, but I think that Cala is right in 49 - 47 does rhetorically exactly what mainstream liberals are afraid to do. Liberals look at the abstract popularity of their programs and can't figure out why they get creamed in elections by conservatives shrieking about out-groups and impurity. And they return to the same, hollow-sounding arguments about fairness and harm-reduction.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:41 AM
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Anarcho-pluralism? The problem is that liberalism is so aggressively hegemonic & universalistic, that it needs to keep a Mormon from marrying a 14-yr-old or Alabama from lynching.

But not aggressive enough to really keep the bad illiberalisms from doing great damage.

We have been fucking with this shit for 350 years, when the Europeans thought they had found the means to stop horrors like the thirty years war. Looking back at those 350 years, it is insane, as insane as a Jesuit torturer (Benedictines?), to hold these ideas sacred and inalienable.

I ain't got any answers. I just know that classical liberalism is madness.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:42 AM
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69: I was going to mention the School of the Americas, where our government taught fucking courses on how to torture effectively, but I see the Klein article already does. It's true, America has a long, long torture pedigree.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:43 AM
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the moneymen aren't just on the rightRepublicans, either

If those are the policies they're advocating, then they're on the right in whatever party.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:43 AM
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63: Right. And the thing is, when your constant cry is that "America doesn't [torture/rape/mass-slaughter/invade other countries/etc.]", it becomes really, really easy to forget that America does, in fact, have a very long history of torturing, raping, mass-slaughtering, invading other countries, etc. When every atrocity is presented as some terrible but curious anomaly, it becomes much easier for America to wind up committing one "anomalous" atrocity after another, because of course a return to our right and noble path is just around the corner, and no one wants to admit that maybe all this warmongering, killing and torture is a symptom of a much larger and largely-unacknowledged disease.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:44 AM
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50, 60:

strasmangelo,

You are absolutely correct of course. The problem is not really the authoritarian followers. The problem is the combination of the authoritarian followers and their social dominator/authoritarian leaders who will do anything to gain power, including sucking up to the real powers in our society.

There are layers and layers and that is too big for many people to grasp.

In a nutshell we've got the ultra-rich hiding and influencing our society to concentrate wealth to themselves. Working with them we've got the social dominator leaders using the gullible authoritarian followers as pawns.

In our democratic society we each get one vote and the authoritarian followers comprise about 25% of us. By keeping the total number of voters down and by equating money with free-speech and by backing both sides (although not equally) the ultra rich get their way.

Their other tactics are also very well known historically - exploit wedge issues, provide scapegoats, keep people alarmed, and convince people they must act individually and thus give away their collective power.

It is frustrating to me when smart people nibble away at the edges and miss the big picture.

But everyone knows I'm an idiot. I'm crazed.

It is refreshing to know at least one other person sees the big picture.


Posted by: Tripp the Crazed! | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:45 AM
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"... Two people who have a strong belief in ingroup loyalty aren't going to be able to sympathize with each other on that basis unless they're members of the same ingroup. ..."

This is just wrong. Two such people can and often will sympathize on that basis if their respective ingroups are not in conflict. You don't have to belong to the same family to believe people should be loyal to their family or to the same union to believe people should be loyal to their union etc.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:45 AM
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As others have pointed out you can define the ingroup as the entire United States. Liberals don't like this but it is not obviously divisive.

This is exactly why I can swallow Obama's post-partisan unity shtick even though I want him to destroy the GOP and sown the ground beneath it with salt. He is innoculating himself against wedge attacks, not by defending one group to the other, but by pre-emptively casting doubt on the very legitimacy of such attacks (which, for a normal politician, is about the weakest whiny defense possible).

If he is successful, the next phase will be to define his opponents as un-American deviants, the way FDR and Reagan did.


Posted by: KR | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:45 AM
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54, 55: Sure. I just don't like not calling a spade a spade, and the welfare/taxes/social spending thing is largely about race, I think.

61.2: Mmm, I don't agree that respect for authority needs to mean personal loyalty. (Although fwiw, personal loyalty is very important to me.)

If tolerance and respect for process leave children starving and countries in rubble, perhaps the problem is not that we haven't yet done liberalism right, but that liberalism in principle retains the means for callous plutocrats and warmongers to obtain power. people are imperfect, fighting is part of our nature, and death is inevitable.

None of which are meant to imply that one shouldn't care about those things; one should. But the idea that somehow imperfection proves that the solutions offered are useless, or that there's a perfect answer out there somewhere, is foolish and somewhat totalitarian.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:45 AM
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74: Actually, that's a good example. Try to rewrite the last paragraph so it has some punch.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:46 AM
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My screenshots of the McCain golf gear review page -- Some folks had asked for these in the other thread, so here you go:

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3138/2570814464_543fba57cc_o.jpg

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3170/2570814388_b9fe18beec_o.jpg

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3189/2569988267_c7e505547b_o.jpg

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3160/2569988143_9b23c06d3f_o.jpg

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3188/2570814064_0f36efa54a_o.jpg

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3129/2569987927_b33864212c_o.jpg

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3257/2569987827_c2b07042d1_o.jpg



Posted by: A. Chandler Moisen | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:48 AM
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In a nutshell we've got the ultra-rich hiding and influencing our society to concentrate wealth to themselves.

A proper political morality should be biased against the rich. There's your out group.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:49 AM
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ok, it looks like most of the thread is about the political application (duh.) How about this proposition:

The best thing a liberal can do over the long term is promote the idea in the general polity that harm reduction and fairness are the true moral intuitions and that loyalty, purity, and authority are false impulses.

You might think this will never work, because you are fighting biology, but there are in fact cultures where the conservative moral intuitions are downplayed (Scandinavia, e.g.). Winning the culture wars is a matter of gradually changing the way people use moral intuitions.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:49 AM
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78:

If those are the policies they're advocating, then they're on the right in whatever party.

Oh pish tush. Check out Obama's listed economic advisers. Compare that to the members of the trilateral commission, which still meets.

"Global development" which has morphed into "Globalization" and is understood by EVERYONE to be an unquestionable GOOD thing and it is a tool of the ultra-rich.


Posted by: Tripp the Crazed! | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:50 AM
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85: God, that's great.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:52 AM
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No one discusses Haidt until the 71st comment? Where are all the philosophers?

I have nothing to say about Haidt.


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:52 AM
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And then nobody cares if immigrants die in detention.

Continuing my tirade on rhetorical jujitsu, we can take advantage of the widely held (and mostly, though not entirely false) belief of Americans that the rest of the world would just love to be Americans if they only could.

Thus, immigrants belong to the in-group because they share the same American Dream. Even foreigners who haven't emigrated yet can receive some of the benefits of in-group membership, because they damn well would be Americans if they weren't stuck in Africa or wherever the fuck they live.

When you try to communicate outside the borders of the U.S.--or, God forbid, make actual policy--on this basis, it's a recipe for disaster (I'm looking at you, Karen Hughes). But it can be a powerful tool for galvanizing public opinion behind policies you already want to pursue, as GWB proved with his promises to bring the blessings of liberty to Iraq.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:52 AM
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74

"And then nobody cares if immigrants die in detention."

More accurately people care less than if American citizens die in custody. As I said liberals don't like this point of view but I believe most Americans disagree which is why liberals have trouble when patriotism becomes an issue.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:53 AM
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90: 71 only happened because I hadn't read the thread


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:55 AM
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63 is a good point, but what happens in practice is a kind of ratcheting effect - Lincoln hearkens back to the Foundation of the US, and calls for a new birth of freedom, and so now the starting point is (some conception of) racial equality. We slide back from that, but the next movement forward on that axis has not just The Founders, but also Lincoln, to point back to. Similarly, FDR never said, "We need to reconceive the US, b/c it's not working." He talked as if his radical reworking of the gov't-demos relationship was part of the American tradition, and it became a new baseline. By successfully tying innovation to origins, no one can gainsay your innovations by calling them untrue to the origins. Note that, in arguments where conservatives generally get the worst of things (like civil rights), they've ceded the high ground and argue around the edges (busing, affirmative action), but where they do better (the rollback of Roe), they're claiming the high ground of originalism. In our Founder-worshipping culture, it's a powerful place to be.

There's obviously not enough appreciation for/awareness of America's faults in the general public, but I don't actually think it's a fatal flaw. Indeed, I don't think that stras' most cynical/extreme argument - that the US has never been anything but an imperialist con run exclusively to benefit the rich* - helps at all, even if you got everyone to accept it intellectually. Far better to tell people that we've been off-track since 19XX (I would pick '47, and the NSA), and that we need to return to the better country that we were, before the imperialism. US interference in the banana republics is irrelevant to the argument, because we're trying to change things going forward, not make reparations for the past. If you can sell Joe Sixpack on the idea that True America doesn't invade other countries, then you've won, regardless of actual history (it's not like the imperialists will retort, "No, America is all about invading others! Look at Central America!" They want that history kept quiet).

* This may or may not be a caricature; my point is not to denigrate, but to follow the argument


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:56 AM
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There is too much liberal hand-wringing about how to appeal to other people's dumb-ass conservative values, and not enough focus on how to convince people to reject dumb-ass conservative values. Using jujitsu to get people to support liberal causes for conservative reasons will not prove sustainable in the long run.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:56 AM
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As others have pointed out you can define the ingroup as the entire United States.

Oh, right. What America needs is more mindless nationalism. An ingroup is defined by hatred and fear of those outside of the ingroup. Excuse me if I'm not in the mood for more foreigner-bashing.

Is there any particular reason why liberalism needs those other "axes," other than to provide an impetus for more Slate columns periodically telling Democrats to be meaner to fags? In a year when everything looks to be lining up for Democrats, my worry is that these people are going to sell us out - fuck, that they're already doing so. Why help them out by encouraging American liberalism to be more tribal than it already is?


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:57 AM
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87: Might some of the in-group and purity stuff just be in the background, in the same way that it is said fish have no word for water? Or consider the difference between local and regional politics; disagreements over the school board don't have to start with explaining why we should care, because they're our kids. If Scandinavia already has an identity, due to geography and history, then it makes sense that it wouldn't show up in political discourse. Everyone's already on the same page.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:58 AM
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53: "liberalism just hasn't fucking worked."

Europe tried that route in the 1920s and 1930s; didn't work out that well.

Illiberalism is like torture; you open the door for a little bit of it, and a whole lot always walks through.


Posted by: Doug | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:59 AM
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86:

A proper political morality should be biased against the rich. There's your out group.

Not the way I would put it, but close. A proper economic policy should provide a means of re-cycling money from the top back to the bottom or it is not sustainable. A proper political morality would recognize that the ultra-rich benefit the most from a stable society and thus should pay the most for it.

BUT there has been a constant drumbeat, especially since 1973, convincing people that their are no ultra-rich and that people must always act individually. Someone ultr-rich acting individually has immense power. The average person acting individually has very little power.

When this is pointed out the shills for the ultra-rich always provide examples like movie stars, sports stars, or Oprah Winfrey. They neglect to say these people have unique powers because of their unique skills and there is NO way most of us will ever have that unique individual power.

Go into your boss and say you want a unique, personal employment contract and if you are lucky you will be laughed out of the office instead of fired.

CEO's get unique contracts. Michael Jordan did. Brain surgeon's do. The rest of us are SOL.


Posted by: Tripp the Crazed! | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:59 AM
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69: Fucking A, stras, read what I goddamn wrote: " There have also been plenty of times that Americans did torture others as a matter of policy."

If you want to be taken seriously, you'd do well to extend the courtesy to others.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 9:59 AM
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Using jujitsu to get people to support liberal causes for conservative reasons will not prove sustainable in the long run.

Not values, the rhetoric.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:01 AM
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but there are in fact cultures where the conservative moral intuitions are downplayed (Scandinavia, e.g.). Winning the culture wars is a matter of gradually changing the way people use moral intuitions.

I would say that the conservative moral virtues are attenuated, but not abolished. Even Scandinavian social democrats appeal to national pride as well as class solidarity in contesting elections and promoting their program. True, their notion of national pride incorporates some elements of fairness and reciprocity (in the form of solidarity and tolerance), but the liberal virtues are mediated through the conservative virtues, both in-group loyalty ("We pay for programs like this because we are Swedes") and authority ("We must uphold the Swedish tradition of not permitting excessive inequality").


Posted by: KR | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:01 AM
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The left really did blow it in the late 60s and early 70s by siding with out-groups that the majority knew and disliked. Specifically, third world revolutionaries and inner city (mostly black, obvs) criminals. Those groups had been historically oppressed by the white majority, and were still being oppressed. So there were all kinds of sentimental justifications made for their violence. Basically, the left unified around criticizing white males and identifying with their victims.

Also, the left pulled liberals along with them -- liberalism is a centrist, reformist movement that is not really all that left-wing, but post-Vietnam establishment liberals had lost intellectual confidence and tended to get drawn toward the left. That's the kind of thing that happens during periods of revolutionary upheaval, which the 60s was. You can't expect the white majority to be happy about that.

The right took advantage of this and used it to alienate the white majority from liberalism, and forge a tribal identity bond with the right. That worked for a generation. But that era is coming to a close, as post-Bush the right-wing betrayal of the majority is pretty evident to just about everybody.

As the legacy of the 60s fades so will the identity division. Liberalism as a political movement has plenty of identity language to use. And the Republicans have burned through most of the credit they got from the divisions created in the 60s.

In other words, as a historical matter it really was about the DFHs.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:01 AM
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||

Anyone think this image looks disconcertingly romantic?

|>


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:02 AM
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Scandinavia is not exactly a model of inclusiveness. Until recently they were ethnically and religiously very homogeneous. Now they have an Immigration Problem that supposedly is endangering the welfare state.


Posted by: Michael Vanderwheel, B.A. | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:03 AM
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91: Or, instead of trying to do rhetorical loop-de-loops to come up with tortured arguments for how we can appeal to nationalism while simultaneously redefining everyone outside the U.S. as an American, we could dump the ingroup bullshit and let our "group" be "residents of earth." Even an out-of-his-depth warmonger managed to make that one sound sweet back in the day.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:03 AM
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somewhat totalitarian.

Duh

The last wave of rational illiberalism, say 1875-1925, arose because, for whatever reasons, the people from Nietzsche on could see what was coming. They could think along all five axes.

As seen and admitted from LB's post, present liberals really can't. I am psycho enough to have a clue, and when PO/GW really hits, the liberals fucking again are gonna say they woulda thought the apocalypse was impossible in our enlightenened world. And in any case, preventing it would mean compromising our principles.

We aren't gonna freeze/starve in the dark. Stras shouldn't worry. We will kill ourselves down to a huddling tribe first.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:04 AM
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More accurately people care less than if American citizens die in custody. As I said liberals don't like this point of view but I believe most Americans disagree which is why liberals have trouble when patriotism becomes an issue.

Agree with this. If you have to introduce your argument with "Properly understood," you've already failed.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:04 AM
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105 refers mostly to Sweden and Denmark.


Posted by: Michael Vanderwheel, B.A. | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:04 AM
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Is there any particular reason why liberalism needs those other "axes," other than to provide an impetus for more Slate columns periodically telling Democrats to be meaner to fags?


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:06 AM
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whoops - in 110 I meant to add my endorsment to stras's biting comment.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:07 AM
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101: Problem being that the rhetoric reinforces the values, instead of actually changing anyone's mind. Plus, its disingenuous, and the other side can see that. Don't think they won't adapt accordingly.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:09 AM
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102: I agree that you can never abolish the "conservative" moral intuitions. If Haidt is right, they are innate mental modules. But you can do a lot to temper them.

I also agree with Cala and Michael Vanderwheel that the Scandinavian countries aren't always good examples, because their responses to fear of outsiders hasn't been tested much historically, and now that it is, we are seeing trouble.

Still, some societies emphasize some moral emotions over others. I would like to change the way Americans process their moral emotions.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:10 AM
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100: JRoth, you pointed to one instance - the American military opting not to torture British prisoners during the revolution - and used it to argue for a "tradition" of non-torture, and then framed decades of actual torture as some kind of continual exception to this mythic policy of non-torture (which, incidentally, never applied to Native Americans. Oh look - more in-group/out-group dynamics!)


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:10 AM
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Is there any particular reason why liberalism needs those other "axes,"

To win elections. As you put it, " Liberal policies and ideas, particularly those harm-reduction and fairness-based ones, are hugely popular in America." Yet somehow, the only party that supports these hugely popular policies is not, itself, hugely popular (it took not 4, but 6 years of utterly disastrous rule by the other side to put us in a position to win anything).

Your position, as I read it in 47, is that it's not structurally possible for these hugely popular policies to win elections, because the corporate ruling class opposes them. So it's not clear to me what you think we should do (it's also not clear to me how you think these hugely popular policies ever came into being, since America has been utterly fucked since Day One, and the monstrously undemocratic ruling classes have always had the power to prevent positive change, but I suspect that's a side issue).


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:11 AM
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If Haidt is right, they are innate mental modules

He's not, though. Or at least, it's a hell of a lot more complicated than this "innate mental module" business.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:12 AM
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104.---Awesome. It's like a Watteau for old people.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:12 AM
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JRoth, you pointed to one instance - the American military opting not to torture British prisoners during the revolution

And, in my ignorance, this looks suspicious to me. The only historical backing I've ever seen for this is George Washington's say-so. George Bush also says the U.S. doesn't torture.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:15 AM
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JRoth,

Well, you asked.

So it's not clear to me what you think we should do (it's also not clear to me how you think these hugely popular policies ever came into being, since America has been utterly fucked since Day One, and the monstrously undemocratic ruling classes have always had the power to prevent positive change, but I suspect that's a side issue).

For the most part the "liberal policies" we all like came into being (over great opposition from the rich) after the depression. The ultra-rich reluctantly agreed to these policies because they were afraid of what they saw as a bigger threat, socialism.

Now you are really going to dislike what I say, but remember, you asked.

We need to do what we can, of course, but in my opinion there will not be any shift in the trends since WWII until we reach a crisis as big as the depression.

People are not yet desperate enough and the ultra-rich have not even started to be afraid.

Add this to peak oil and things will get worse before they get better. Try not to be poor while this happens.


Posted by: Tripp the Crazed! | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:18 AM
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you pointed to one instance

Holy fucking shit, I didn't know these comments were supposed to come with bibliographies.

WW2, we treated the Japanese worse than we treated the Germans, but far, far better than the Japanese treated American POWs (not to mention all non-Japanese in occupied territories).

Vietnam, for all the battlefield atrocities, we did not have the equivalent of the Hanoi Hilton.

Fuck, the FBI walked out of rooms in Guantanamo because they recognized that the torture that was going on was not OK.

My point is that there's a genuine, historically-grounded American tradition of non-torture, and it's useful to be able to point to it. It's not clear to me why you think it's a better argument to say to an American soldier who will have the choice of whether or not to torture, "Every American throughout history has tortured the fuck out of everyone he could get his hands on. But you shouldn't." Me, I'd say "Washington at Valley Forge knew that Americans shouldn't torture. Hitler loved the torture. Which one do you want to be?"


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:19 AM
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To win elections.

Wake up and smell McCain's rotting carcass, JRoth. Democrats are going to win this year, with or without foreigner-bashing. It's not clear to me what you and the rest of the "axes"-hugging people are quailing about. You're going to get President Obama and a healthy Democratic majority in both houses of Congress, and not because some candidate in a downticket race somewhere decides to start "using the whole U.S. as the ingroup," but because the economy's gone to complete shit and people are sick of the war and any incumbent party would get its ass handed to it in these conditions, even if it weren't running the Living Dead at the top of its ticket.

Your position, as I read it in 47, is that it's not structurally possible for these hugely popular policies to win elections

No. My position is that's it's not structurally possible for many of these popular policies to become law, regardless of how popular they are, because the politicians who are nominally committed to them - Democrat and Republican - have been bought by those committed to defeating them.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:19 AM
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115: "it took not 4, but 6 years of utterly disastrous rule by the other side to put us in a position to win anything"

Part of the reason for this is that the Democratic establishment at the time was so heavily invested in Group Loyalty and Respect for Authority. The leadership didn't even make the case for Harm Reduction as a response to the threat from terrorism, and, as a result, they looked like weenies.

Contrast that to today, when Obama is making the Harm Reduction argument concerning Iran, and its polling quite well.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:20 AM
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I think that it doesn't really matter, that conservatives have fucked themselves for years and years. But this thread shows the rhetorical bind that American liberals are in: the only two discourses available to them are a) bland technocratic speech about harm-reduction, or b) thundering Jeremiads about how we are a wicked people. "a" appeals to a narrow section of the population (otherwise Knecht would be our next President). And with "b", except in dire straits, people would rather be led by psychopaths that lead them to murder innocent strangers than be told to feel bad about themselves.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:20 AM
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104: 117: I was thinking it was like a still from the wholesome part of a David Lynch film, before Frank Booth shows up.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:20 AM
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121: I'm not sure invoking Obama, who has, from time to time, used morality-laden rhetoric to his advantage, makes your case for you.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:21 AM
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104 - Funny. I think it's because they look alike in that way that old couples do.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:22 AM
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And, in my ignorance, this looks suspicious to me. The only historical backing I've ever seen for this is George Washington's say-so.

Well, that and the absence of evidence that captured Brits were tortured. We know about British prison/death ships, we have letters from tortured American prisoners. Where were the American death camps? Where are the letters from tortured Brits? I'm pretty sure we'd be able to read them if we had them - it's not an exotic language.

Obviously, the odds are that some Brits were tortured by someone - we know that Tories were frequently burned out of their houses, tarred and feathered. But I'd be curious to see evidence, beyond all-holy cynicism, that Washington had his prisoners tortured.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:23 AM
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The only historical backing I've ever seen for this is George Washington's say-so.

OK, here's another data point. My German ex-girlfriend's grandfather was a Wehrmacht soldier in Thuringia in April 1945, and he swam the still-frigid Elbe in order to surrender to the Americans rather than the Russians.

This country had an at least somewhat well-deserved reputation for (comparative) decency at certain points in history.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:23 AM
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120: Jesus Christ. Are you really coming back with the "our atrocities aren't as bad as their atrocities" response? Do you just want to start cut-and-pasting old Redstate posts from now on? Your original comment asserted a tradition of not torturing people. Now you're down to "okay, we torture, but not as bad as some torture!" Fuck, we killed two million in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, but we're still not as bad as Hitler! God Bless America!


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:23 AM
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I mean, the classic right-wing insta-response to Abu Ghraib was, "Well, they chop off people's heads! And think of how bad Saddam was!"


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:26 AM
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Fuck, we killed two million in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, but we're still not as bad as Hitler! God Bless America!

This doesn't fit on a bumper sticker. The left must become pithier to win converts.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:28 AM
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Thank you, strasmangelo. Don't worry, e are definitely outraged. You can go now.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:28 AM
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The environmentalist within me is cheered by your willingness to recycle, Fatman.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:28 AM
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Don't go, stras! The great devil nation needs you!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:29 AM
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I can see the Stras for President bumper sticker: Vote for me and repent of your sins, you evil genocidal fucks!


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:30 AM
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Oh, I'm not going anywhere, Sifu. If I left it would just appease the Fatpeople.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:30 AM
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131: 'Not as bad as Hitler' fits. Make me bumper sticker? [/puppy eyes]


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:30 AM
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Wake up and smell McCain's rotting carcass, JRoth.

Holy fucking shit, you just fucking refuse to read what I write.

"it took not 4, but 6 years of utterly disastrous rule by the other side to put us in a position to win anything"

What do you think that means, stras? Will you fucking read it? Will you fucking comprehend it? I'm saying that we will win this year because the other side fucked up. That does not mean that we shouldn't change the way we do anything. You, somehow, seem to think that it does - McCain is pathetic, therefore Dem messaging is perfect (although Dems themselves suck, of course).

And, yeah, as Cala points out in 125 (and was pointed out a few times upthread), Obama pretty much does the rhetorical things Haidt talks about Dems not doing. So, if Dem ascendance outlasts people's memories of how bad Bush/DeLay was, we'll probably have Obama's rhetorical skills - and ability to appeal along these axes - to thank.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:30 AM
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Your position seems to be "All governments are inherently evil and only morons fail to see that or think they can do anything about it." I don't see why you continue to engage in arguments about these things without actually advocating anarchism or something similar. Bob mcmanus makes a lot more sense.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:31 AM
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Don't go, stras! The great devil nation needs you!

Screw that. I need you as backup.


Posted by: Tripp the Crazed! | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:31 AM
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129: Wow, stras, you really need to go fuck yourself.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:32 AM
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129, 130: Stras, JRoth isn't making the point that Americans have never tortured their enemies or are comparative saints to enemies. What he is saying is that there are certain traditions, certain points in time, and certain vows by widely revered figures in our history which disapprove of torture in general principle.

This is why, even though it goes on under two-faced administrations such as the current one, Americans such as Klein make efforts to expose and condemn it.

But more importantly, such historical precedent (even if it was hypocritical) is very very important to point to when we want to convince future generations that torture is wrong and should not be done. America is extremely reverential of its "great men" and founding myths, and that should be acknowledged when trying to lay a rhetorical and moral groundwork to prevent any future torture by agents of the American government, or at least to cause such conduct to be actively rooted out and punished.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:33 AM
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137: *USA* New And ---> IMPROVED


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:33 AM
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hmm. I'm not sure 143 was actually funny, but it was a lot longer before most of it got parsed as html.

sigh.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:34 AM
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JRoth is a lot more right than stras about there being two competing traditions as far as the U.S. & torture. It's not just the fucking Revolutionary War; it's also the negotiating & implementation history of the Hague & Geneva Conventions. See pp. 72-83 of Guantanamo and the Abuse of Presidential Power (which I actually think is a little more weighted to the "America does not torture" side than is purely accurate, but the examples of the "we do not torture" tradition are real enough; the counter-examples are just not discussed in depth because that wasn't the focus). Stras: During WW2, Korea, & Vietnam, the United States publicly took the position that it was going to obey the Geneva Conventions even though the enemy was very glaringly failing to do so. Troops were ordered to obey the conventions & ordered not to torture prisoners. Some of them did anyway, and a lot of times their commanders either participated or looked the other way, but yes there is a fucking difference between this & what Japan & Korea & N. Vietnam did (N. Vietnam's "illegal combatant" argument is amusingly similar to the Bush administration's). There is also a fucking difference between this & the Bush White House & Department of Justice officially telling every U.S. soldier in Afghanistan that they were not bound by the Geneva Conventions, half the cabinet choreographing waterboarding sessions in the White House, etc. etc. The combination of the level of authorization here & the failure to rely solely on proxies or at least restrict it to a black ops program is not par for the course, and it is useful to invoke history to oppose it, and it is possible to do so without sacrificing accuracy. But by all means continue to denounce people who try this as imperialist tools.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:34 AM
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144: I thought it had a nice graphic simplicity as is.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:36 AM
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Tarring and feathering sounds like torture to me, frankly.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:36 AM
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146: Yes, it reminds me of those cartoons with the P.T. Barnum-based bear whose speech bubbles contain all these lines and emphases and look like old-fashioned advertising signs. Was that Pogo?


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:37 AM
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Fuck, we killed two million in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, but we're still not as bad as Hitler! God Bless America!

As a practical matter, the jeremiad approach is an electoral loser under any imaginable set of circumstances. The German centre-right dominated West German politics for the first two decades of the Federal Republic not despite their willingness to sweep history under the rug, but because of it. The social democrats were completely untainted by Nazism (their post-war slogan: "only one party stood against every war, every dictator"), while the CDU was the Catholic Zentrum that (reluctantly) gave Hitler his first electoral majority. Many collaborators with the Hitler regime became prominent in the CDU/CSU. But the electorate never cared.

Similarly, Serbia didn't turn on Milosovic until he brought the country to the edge of ruin. Even then, no one wins any elections in Serbia by speaking openly of the atrocities committed in the name of the Serbian nation and people.

Most folks count themselves among the good ones, and most people dislike assuming the burden of guilt, especially inherited guilt.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:38 AM
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stras, if you don't understand why Henley's "Because we are the fucking United States of America" isn't a more convincing argument than (to paraphrase) "we've always tortured people, because we are a sick society", then you know nothing about how to win an argument.

Either you feel in-group loyalty towards the country, or you don't. Not everyone does, and it's not a requirement. (It's not even a virtue.) But I do, and I can tell you which argument is the more persuasive one. "America" means nothing, it's an empty bottle that's sitting on the shelf, waiting to be filled by whoever can pick it up. You won't pick it up, but your enemies will.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:39 AM
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119: I'm well aware that FDR was able to do a lot because of the fear of what could happen here - "saved us from fascism" and all that.

But how did we get all the Great Society stuff? I don't think that the corporate masters were afraid that, if they didn't give LBJ what he wanted, there would be revolution.

One argument is that the Great Flattening of the postwar years weakened the corporate masters enough that broadly beneficial legislation was possible.

Another is simply that, due to the flukey election of 1964, Dems had enough power to do these (fairly) radical things, for which they were later punished. But I don't see how that argument is consistent with the stras/Tripp position that nothing good can ever happen (until doom impends).


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:40 AM
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the only two discourses available to them are a) bland technocratic speech about harm-reduction, or b) thundering Jeremiads about how we are a wicked people.

In what way is this the case? Someone running on the Strasmangelo Jones platform doesn't have to talk like me, any more than someone running on an Ogged-pleasing platform has to periodically depart from advocating center-left politics to talk about swimming and Hillary Clinton tranny fetishes. I don't want politicians who just scold America for being an empire; that's fairly useless. I want politicians who want to actively shut down America's empire - by cutting the military down to a sane size (at least to 30-50% of its present size) and focusing our foreign policy efforts on disease prevention, poverty amelioration and development in poor countries, while undertaking a massive program to repair the damage to our environment (which I've gone on about elsewhere). The key thing with all of this is an abandonment on the narrow goal of nationalism and puffing up ideas of what is or isn't "American," and expanding our focus on the rest of the world and looking at it as a place where actual people live actual lives, instead of as a collection of spheres of influence and potential "trouble spots." Someone with Obama's political and rhetorical gifts could sell a program like that, but they never would in a million years, because there's no money to be made in it.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:41 AM
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Fuck, stras has lured me into arguing with him even when I (partially) agree. It's an eerie sort of talent.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:41 AM
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149 should read "the CDU was the heir to the Catholic Zentrum"


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:41 AM
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So, if Dem ascendance outlasts people's memories of how bad Bush/DeLay was, we'll probably have Obama's rhetorical skills - and ability to appeal along these axes - to thank.

Ummm, Obama learned a great deal from Clinton in the 90s. It was Clinton who really started the process of reforming Democratic rhetoric and pulled the party back to the mainstream in the 90s. He restored a great deal of public trust in the party and laid the groundwork for the win that we will have this year.

Of course, too many Democrats who were brought up in the era of tacking to the right to restore trust couldn't see in 2001-2005 that it was necessary to move left and resist the right-wing coup. But Clinton's achievements were still quite real.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:43 AM
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||

Historians and scholars are becoming unanimous: Much like the Belgians, the Scots do not exist.

|>


Posted by: Auto-banned | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:43 AM
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I want politicians who want to actively shut down America's empire - by cutting the military down to a sane size (at least to 30-50% of its present size)

RON PAUL FOR PRESIDENT.

He's really clearly making this argument.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:44 AM
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How is any part of 152 an appealing program to the electorate? If Obama were to try to sell a program like that, he would have to link it to a vision of America, our tradition of blah, blah, blah.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:46 AM
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142, 145: But neither of you are arguing that America has a tradition of actually not torturing people. What you're arguing is that America has a tradition of publicly asserting that it doesn't torture people while at the same time, torturing people. The Bush administration has carried America's tradition of torture a lot farther than previous modern administrations, but that doesn't make Bush an anomaly, that makes him the logical extension of a trend.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:46 AM
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159: Bush is, however, an anomaly in that the government now publicly asserts that it does torture people.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:47 AM
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How is any part of 152 an appealing program to the electorate? If Obama were to try to sell a program like that, he would have to link it to a vision of America, our tradition of blah, blah, blah.

And you know this because...?


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:47 AM
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"Respect for authority is not anathema to liberal principles; unquestioning deference or unaccountable authority are. "

That's how I see it as a highly educated Western liberal. Respect for authority is certainly a moral issue, in the sense that arbitrary respect for authority is immoral, while earned authority ought to be respected.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:48 AM
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Fatman 139:

Your position seems to be "All governments are inherently evil and only morons fail to see that or think they can do anything about it." I don't see why you continue to engage in arguments about these things without actually advocating anarchism or something similar. Bob mcmanus makes a lot more sense.

I know this was meant for Stras who might be easier to lampoon but I'm sticking my nose in anyway.

My position is that humans are imperfect and hence so are our governments but we must continue to fight against that imperfection. We must fight against that imperfection while we are on the way up but especially while we are on the way down.

I recently discovered that Bobby Kennedy agreed almost completely with this sentiment which I suppose should not surprise me because he became prominent during my formative years.

I pity people who came of age during Reagan or worse yet Bush III (shudder).


Posted by: Tripp the Crazed! | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:48 AM
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And you know this because...?

I propose that the burden of proof is on the person making the most outlandish claim.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:49 AM
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But that gets to the point. "America" is free-floating signifier. We can declare some things that America has indisputably done as "not really American". That's what Henley's quote does. I'm sure some conservative somewhere has claimed that rap music is not really American, even though it's a lot more American than apple pie is.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:49 AM
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160: Again, in that I would say he's the logical extension of a trend. Presidential excuse-making for atrocities of war has gotten increasingly flimsy over the past several decades; all Bush has done is dispense with it altogether.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:51 AM
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We can declare some things that America has indisputably done as "not really American". That's what Henley's quote does. I'm sure some conservative somewhere has claimed that rap music is not really American, even though it's a lot more American than apple pie is.

And then the South Park conservatives claim that Islamism will inevitably succumb to America, with our Communism-shattering innovations like rap music, so much more irresistable than the stuffy old white people culture associated with Europe.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:51 AM
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The US does not have a Dzerzhinsky figure with the ear of the leader and the authority to use deep budgets. This limits how much harm can be done. The CIA's willingness to use offshore prisons is pretty disturbing, partly because once a bureaucracy to abuse people is established, it takes positive action to dismantle it. The US's abuses to date, mostly in the past 50 years, have not been instititutionalized. This matters because, even if punishment for the perpetrators is spotty, the crime stops once the criminal loses power, which will happen with even a little publicity. The bureaucracy doesn't matter to the guy in the cell now, but it makes a big difference in how long the jail will keep running. It's the institutionalization of this stuff that should be most terrifying, but faith in American exceptionalism keeps people from being scared about gov't policy.

I didn't know about the Philippines hearings, that was interesting.

The rants are boring. Is there maybe a friend who can help stras with rhetorical style? Etienne Marcel and Wat Tyler found ways to get people to listen-- maybe a little time in the library, away from the keyboard would be good.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:52 AM
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156: The link doesn't make clear that the part of Trevor-Roper's account that demolished "Tartans" as anything other than a fabrication was published around 1980. I know because I was thrilled to read it. I was put in tartan as a child and hated it, and can't shake the conviction that everyone who affects it is an asshole.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:54 AM
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The thing I most like about Ron Paul is that he puts a radical anti-Empire argument in a rhetorical framwork that's very pro-American, draws on American tradition. It makes you see how many resources there are in our tradition and history to make this argument. There's a whole line of anti-imperialist rhetoric, Taft, Mark Twain, back to George Washington's farewell speech, etc.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:54 AM
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128: UNG's grandfather was a German POW and was kept at a camp in Utah until the war ended. He is said to have spoken glowingly of the Americans.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:55 AM
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148: That was intentional, it just ended up being lopsided etc. Pogo is correct.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:55 AM
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I propose that the burden of proof is on the person making the most outlandish claim.

My claim is that elections are decided more on style and money than on substance, and that American politicians could advocate a platform of substantially sane policies if they had the money to do so, but that their corporate backers have no desire to finance such policies (and thus, neither do American politicians). What part of this claim seems outlandish to you?


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:55 AM
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161: Pretty much every single second of human contact I've had in my life points in that direction, I would say. If I were trying to persuade you to do something, would it be an effective technique to bring things you've done wrong? That kind of argument barely works on alcoholics who just crashed their car into an elementary school.

166: And the people responsible for that trend are goddamn motherfucking traitors.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:56 AM
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151:

Another is simply that, due to the flukey election of 1964, Dems had enough power to do these (fairly) radical things, for which they were later punished. But I don't see how that argument is consistent with the stras/Tripp position that nothing good can ever happen (until doom impends).

Jroth,

I must say your insistence on putting words in my mouth is irritating. Just FYI.

Essentially you asked "what about the great society?"

After WWII America was supremely top dog. We were RICH compared to the world. Our ultra-rich were also developing the plan for global "development" to keep themselves (and secondarily) America on top but those plans were just starting.

Being RICH and also feeling guilty about racial injustice and Johnson feeling guilty about not ending VietNam when he knew it was bad we enacted the Great Society.

Johnson proposed many of the ideas (incuding staying in VietNam) based on his moral belief that the Strong should help the Weak, a principle I generally share.

As I said before your recent comment I think that humans are imperfect but we must still continue to fight against that imperfection no matter what. I also think that realistically America is going down is global power and that things will have to reach a crisis state before anything drastic happens.

Soon America will no longer have the means to "save the world" and hence will lose the responsibility for doing that as well. Even so, the fight must go on.


Posted by: Tripp | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:58 AM
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Compare, for example, Abu Ghraib & Haditha. Both atrocities. Haditha involved more deaths, & the prosecutions by and large fell apart, & I've read some of the documents & I think the military judge who was most responsible for throwing out the cases was incredibly biased & showed incredible disregard for Iraqi civilians. So that's official condonation of a sort. But the Haditha atrocities did not stem from official U.S. policy to nearly the same extent as Abu Ghraib, GTMO, Kandahar, the Bagram torture deaths, the black sites, etc. etc. etc. A lot of U.S. atrocities in past war are more like Haditha than Abu Ghraib: soldiers do horrible things, and their superiors cover it up or condone it for the sake of the war effort, for the sake of good PR, in disregard of foreign civilian life, etc.

Even more involved proxies--which isn't less horrible for the victims than committing them directly, but it does affect the number of victims (a lot more people have been detained by the U.S. army in the last eight years than put on a plane to Syria or Egypt), & whether you have an army & intelligence service full of torturers or not.

The main problem with "Al Qaeda is worse/we don't behead people/the VC was worse/the Bataan death march was worse" arguments isn't that they're historically inaccurate--often they aren't. It's that they're being used to defend U.S. atrocities.

As far as the general subject of the thread: a lot of the United States' specific in-group claims are justified in liberal univeralistic terms. We are the fount of democracy, the first country to recognize mankind's inalienable rights, "the last best hope of all mankind," a government of laws not of men, etc. etc. etc. That can be useful to smart liberals.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 10:59 AM
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173: When Coca-Cola hands a bunch of money to an advertising agency to peddle Coke, do you think that the advertising agency just slathers some style and money on top of the ad, and call it a day? Messages work because they are strategic appeals to our emotions. Loyalty to country is one of those emotions.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 11:00 AM
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174.1: How is that in any way a response to my comment in 152? What part of 152 advocates "to bring[ing] things you've done wrong"?


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 11:01 AM
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Messages work because they are strategic appeals to our emotions. Loyalty to country is one of those emotions.

So is hatred and fear of dark people, but that doesn't mean it needs to be the heart of every political message.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 11:03 AM
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159: are you actually this dense? I am arguing that there exists a tradition of ORDERING people not to torture enemy prisoners. The imperfect enforcement of these orders does not make them irrelevant.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 11:05 AM
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178: Sorry, maybe I'm starting to mix up the different arguments going around. How do you think a politician should sell this: "I want politicians who want to actively shut down America's empire - by cutting the military down to a sane size (at least to 30-50% of its present size) and focusing our foreign policy efforts on disease prevention, poverty amelioration and development in poor countries, while undertaking a massive program to repair the damage to our environment (which I've gone on about elsewhere)."

Why is empire bad? For the same reasons that alcoholism is bad: you get behind the wheel and the next thing you know you've killed 2 million people in Southeast Asia. That's a hard argument to make.

Why should we invest foreign policy efforts on disease prevention, poverty amelioration, and development? People will ask, "What's in it for me?" Saying it's just that it's the right thing to do is pretty weak tea.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 11:08 AM
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That's exactly it. Hatred and fear of dark people is not an intrinsic emotion that evolved on veldt. In-group loyalty must be channeled. If it can't be channeled to good ends, then it must be channeled to neutral ends (such as Sifu's sports suggestion way back when). If you leave it alone, it will be channeled by your enemies. And it has.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 11:10 AM
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I am arguing that there exists a tradition of ORDERING people not to torture enemy prisoners

In the Philippines? In the Indian Wars? In Latin America? In Vietnam? In any country where "enemy prisoners" generally had swarthier skin than the average American? If you believe that those orders were given with any greater sincerity than official requests to not torture the prisoners we ship off to get extraordinarily rendered, then you're simply being naive about America's past.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 11:12 AM
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Why is empire bad? For the same reasons that alcoholism is bad: you get behind the wheel and the next thing you know you've killed 2 million people in Southeast Asia. That's a hard argument to make.

How is that a hard argument to make? You just made it!


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 11:15 AM
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No, I'm not naive, I just understand what a difference in degree is & value actual history, & don't pretend that the application of Geneva has not practical relevance in order to boost my knee jerk anti-imperialist credibility.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 11:16 AM
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well, tripp the crazed is about the onlt here making sense, but apparently he won't listen to me either.

Look at the 5 axes the last three are about contingency, at least as most people would understand them. I know contemporary liberalism likes to play with contingency, but they really aren't gonna get it.

Most of the illiberalisms from the ones I hate to the ones I could accept, are in large part about contingency & determinism. From historical materialism to the classical elitism of Pareto & Mosca. Contingency & determinism are not only morally repugnant to liberals, this repugnance makes liberalism a wholly inadequate & hostile framework for understanding the first half of the 20th century, and for understanding human nature & the world.

So liberalism sees Auschwitz and the Ukraine, Hitler & Stalin, as pretty much morally identical.

Listen to the right. They are all crazed, but that craziness is true perception badly articulated. Were the Nazis and Communists wrong to panic? Well, the horrors came. A liberal interpretation would be that the horrors were not inevitable, but considering the contingency/determinism thing, that will always be the liberal interpretation of history. (continued shorter)


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 11:17 AM
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Why should we invest foreign policy efforts on disease prevention, poverty amelioration, and development? People will ask, "What's in it for me?"

First, never underestimate people's desire to feel good about themselves. If people were as averse to foreign aid as you seem to think, Bush wouldn't have set aside a few billion dollars on a high-profile initiative to fight AIDS in Africa. Second, there's quite obviously something in it for you. Helping the developing world is the best antiterrorism strategy out there, next to shutting down the empire. And given that the overwhelming majority of Americans don't actually benefit from having military bases all over the world, and that there'd be a sizable peace dividend from not trying to rule the planet any more, switching from militarism to disease-prevention and poverty-fighting is a change that wouldn't come at the cost of the taxpayer.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 11:21 AM
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The thing I most like about Ron Paul

PGD Troll 2.0


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 11:21 AM
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People would understand Haidt better if they put what he said in a broader historical and cultural context first, and only later moved to the comparisons between American liberals and American conservatives.

Usually when I read psychologists I'm appalled by their ethnocentric Americanism, but what Haidt says rings a bell when I think about other cultures and past centuries -- mostly China, in my case. Traditionally China placed a high value on authority and not much on fairness, for example. Many cultures put very high values on

Once you look at the US, with an understanding of what Haidt said you will understand better what you're seeing when you look at conservative Americans. Purity, for example, tends to mean "chastity", which most liberals don't think is a positive value at all, and also includes prohibitions of such intoxicants as coffee, heroin, etc.

Vegans do have a purity motive, ut they're pretty marginal within liberalism. But that does seem like a kind of return of the repressed, where liberals who aren't concerned for chastity find another kind of purity to attach themselves too.

The best thing a liberal can do over the long term is promote the idea in the general polity that harm reduction and fairness are the true moral intuitions and that loyalty, purity, and authority are false impulses.

If what Haidt says is true (I'm neutral about that) these intuitions won't just disappear. They can be minimized or repressed or redirected. Furthermore, any of the three might be a good thing in some dosage. However, I mostly agree. Liberal society is a good thing, even though it does violate some of our fundamental intuitions.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 11:22 AM
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So what's my plan, program, solution?

Well, in an ideal world it would social democracy or some other Marxism, or some kind of anarchism.

But we live in contingency; like oil running dry. So Schmitt and Arendt come to mind. Now the little withdrawn independent pluralistic communities are just gonna get smashed. So that leaves Schmitt.

Dictatorship is not a choice, it is an inevitability.

If Obama shows courage & insight enough to try to save the world, I will support him 100%. Although it is more likely that he would be better served by my remaining silent or being sent away.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 11:23 AM
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No, I'm not naive, I just understand what a difference in degree is & value actual history, & don't pretend that the application of Geneva has not practical relevance in order to boost my knee jerk anti-imperialist credibility.

Katherine, the U.S. spent nearly half a century training torturing and training torturers in Latin America well after it had signed the Geneva Convention. No one got up and called Geneva "quaint," and no one got up and made Bush-style or Cheney-style public flauntings of international law and the torture statutes. But given that the United States was actually torturing people at the time, how much does this matter? I don't think Bush's abandonment of Geneva is meaningless; what I'm saying is it very clearly didn't come out of the blue, and we're being willfully blind to pretend that America's history of war crimes and atrocities is somehow limited to this one man's administration and will all go away if we just elect someone else.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 11:28 AM
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PPS:That was another reason I found Clinton acceptable. She could handle the responsibilities of the State of Exception.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 11:31 AM
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Although it is more likely that he would be better served by my remaining silent or being sent away.

Bob, I can promise you that nothing either of us is saying is going to affect anything that happens in any future Anybody administration.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 11:34 AM
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184: I think it would be a hard argument for a politician to make. It can only be made in special circumstances. I think this was a big part of why Reagan's appeal, for example. The country was ready to stop feeling bad about Vietnam. I doubt it would work even now. Based on casual conversation, the argument that works best is "what a fucking waste of money."

187: My experience is that people hate foreign aid. Hate, hate, hate. I must have had about a billion arguments in my life where my interlocuter argued "if we just stopped wasting all that money on foreigners, we'd have plenty left over to help the poor people here."


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 11:40 AM
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148, 172: The bear in Pogo was PT Bridgeport. (The new thing I learned from confirming that was the name's origin coming from both Walt Kelly and PT Barnum being from Bridgeport CT.) A sample strip including him here.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 11:41 AM
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This isn't rocket science. It is simple & obvious.

We don't get a filibuster-proof majority, or unity in the Democratic Caucus, or liberation from neo-liberal corporatism? So energy and health care and redistribution and climate change just don't get past the Republicans, and we have to try again in 5 or 8 or 16 more years when it will be too late? So we just have to die?

Uh, no. We, the good guys, do not have to die for our principles. What did Patton say?


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 11:43 AM
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What did Patton say?

"Do your damnedest in an ostentatious manner all the time." Also, "Just drive down that road until you get blown up."


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 11:45 AM
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I'd just like to register my opinion that what Haidt said is intrinsically interesting and should be discussed somewhere sometime. And that just lumping loyalty, purity, and respect for authority together and rejecting them is ignorant.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 11:45 AM
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Don't worry. First I'm going to convince stras of the error of his ways, and then we'll get back to Haidt. Ten, fifteen more comments, tops. Check back in at comment 225, and it'll be all Haidt.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 11:47 AM
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Stras, it seems to me you're being pretty obtuse in terms of American history. "Tradition of not torturing" does not mean there was no torture. Nor is it inconsistent with a counter-tradition of under-the-radar torture. Do you deny that the avoidance of torture in theory and generally also in practice (example) in the World Wars was a significant moral achievement that deserves to be looked back to?


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 11:50 AM
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I will leave by just quoting Tripp the crazed from above:

Arguing or debating with them is not very effective though. They will retreat quickly to their safe echo chambers. Instead they must be shown, first hand, how their beliefs do not reflect reality.
Soon America will no longer have the means to "save the world" and hence will lose the responsibility for doing that as well. Even so, the fight must go on.
We need to do what we can, of course, but in my opinion there will not be any shift in the trends since WWII until we reach a crisis as big as the depression.

People are not yet desperate enough and the ultra-rich have not even started to be afraid.

Add this to peak oil and things will get worse before they get better. Try not to be poor while this happens.

my emphases

With all due respect & affection, fuck you Tripp. I'll give up liberalism before I give up the world.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 11:53 AM
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Oh, and this, by the way:

stras, if you don't understand why Henley's "Because we are the fucking United States of America" isn't a more convincing argument than (to paraphrase) "we've always tortured people, because we are a sick society", then you know nothing about how to win an argument.

This isn't about "winning an argument." It's about believing your own bullshit. So many liberals have spent the last seven years puffing up and down about the absolutely impossible, never-before-seen outrages of this administration that they seem to actually believe that, for example, the United States doesn't have a long history of torture (and war, and genocide, and so on). What I'm saying is: you have to remember what actually happened, and the actual atrocities this country committed before January of 2001, because they're going to happen again. For as long as this country's foreign policy is dictated by the desire to maintain power over the rest of the world, and by a conviction that the key to achieving that desire is military strength, America is going to be committing atrocities. I'm not concerned with acknowledging the past so much as I am about being prepared for the future, and liberals who believe that George Bush was fundamentally exceptional aren't going to be prepared for the pointless wars and atrocities committed by a President Obama or a President Clinton or, god help us, a President Webb. And it's not because we're a "sick society." It's because our politicians are owned by corporations, and a lot of those corporations make weapons and a lot of profit off war.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 11:57 AM
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"Tradition of not torturing" does not mean there was no torture. Nor is it inconsistent with a counter-tradition of under-the-radar torture.

I think I'll just let that stand by itself. And are you sure you want to pat America on the back for its humanitarian conduct in World War II, of all times?


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 11:59 AM
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I have somewhat conflicted views about Haidt. Purity and in-group loyalty I buy, but "respect for authority" seems like learned behavior to me.

It's also the kind of analysis that liberals are suckers for. It's a schema that we can use to coolly analyze others. Dispassionate analysis ranks just behind anal sex on the list of liberal passions. I know I have a weakness for this kind of argument, which makes it hard for me to judge.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 12:01 PM
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Jeebus. I think I'm broadly with Walt here. And I'll just note that you can, by argument, win either stras's vote or every other American's vote. Not both. So pick.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 12:03 PM
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So many liberals have spent the last seven years puffing up and down about the absolutely impossible, never-before-seen outrages of this administration that they seem to actually believe that, for example, the United States doesn't have a long history of torture (and war, and genocide, and so on).

However, nobody in this thread seems to actually believe that.

This is similar to the arguments in which bob mcmanus points out to people that Obama is not the Messiah and if they think he is the Messiah they should open their minds to other possibilities.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 12:06 PM
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We don't get a filibuster-proof majority, or unity in the Democratic Caucus, or liberation from neo-liberal corporatism? So energy and health care and redistribution and climate change just don't get past the Republicans, and we have to try again in 5 or 8 or 16 more years when it will be too late? So we just have to die?

Take climate change alone and this is more or less why I think we're fucked. Democratic pols really don't understand that global warming can't be handled the same way they treat budget appropriations - as a compromise hammered out between liberal incrementalists and GOP "moderates" looking for pork - and I've got little faith that any climate bill is going to be anything more than a watered-down showpiece, far short of the kind of drastic action James Hansen and Bill McKibben say we need. And no, I don't think anyone's about to declare martial law to save the planet, either.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 12:07 PM
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This may amaze you, but I know the history. And yet even within that history George Bush really is fundamentally exceptional. He came close to being a revolutionary, transformative figure on the order of Lincoln or FDR. Thank God he was really was an incompetent buffoon.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 12:09 PM
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However, nobody in this thread seems to actually believe that.

Excuse me? At least two people in this thread have asserted that America does indeed have a "tradition of not torturing people," which obtains even when America is torturing people.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 12:09 PM
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This may amaze you, but I know the history. And yet even within that history George Bush really is fundamentally exceptional.

How so? Even in terms of sheer body count he's nowhere near Nixon and LBJ.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 12:10 PM
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201:

bob,

With all due respect & affection, fuck you Tripp. I'll give up liberalism before I give up the world.

Geez bob, where is this coming from? I thought I was encouraging people to keep up the good fight even knowing that (in my opinion) the fight is about to get even harder. If I have somehow encouraged you to redouble your efforts then more power to you!

My "try not to be poor" statement meant that (sadly) it will be the poor that will suffer most. It also means that in order to stay strong to protect the poor we need power, meaning money.

Being rich (or strong) need not mean that one becomes selfish. In general the truly upward mobile rich are quite generous. The ultra-rich who inherited their wealth tend to raise isolated kids with no empathy. They are the truly selfish.

So keep fighting the good fight! I am.


Posted by: Tripp the Crazed! | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 12:10 PM
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It's possible, just possible, that you're not understanding the argument that they are making.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 12:11 PM
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It's possible, just possible, that you're not understanding the argument that they are making.

If you want to make it for them, go ahead. What I'm hearing is, "Back in the old days when we tortured people, we used to publicly claim that we didn't torture people. But now when we torture people we don't have the courtesy to even pretend!" That's different from having a "tradition of not torturing people."


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 12:13 PM
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In an important sense, of course, whether the ideal was ever attained is completely unimportant. The American utopia where every man went out, won the bread and came home to a nourishing meal, comfortable slippers, a golden retriever, a stunning wife (clad in a sensible yet flattering frock and wearing pearls), and two towheaded children (the boy just a few years older than the girl) never existed, either, but a whole conservative coalition has been built upon selling it. Indeed, arguing that it never existed has not proven to be a winning tactic.

In other words, that America hasn't lived up to its ideals generally doesn't matter if the name of the game is selling an attractive story.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 12:14 PM
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stras has a tendency to elide distinctions that others find important. Is there an important difference between de facto torture and de jure torture ? Stras says no, it's all of a piece. Quite naturally, the lawyers and other procedural liberals here disagree.

In 69, stras links this very useful Naomi Klein article, but stras isn't interested in these parts of it:

And the Bush Administration's open embrace of torture is indeed unprecedented--but let's be clear about what is unprecedented about it: not the torture but the openness. Past administrations tactfully kept their "black ops" secret; the crimes were sanctioned but they were practiced in the shadows, officially denied and condemned. The Bush Administration has broken this deal: Post-9/11, it demanded the right to torture without shame, legitimized by new definitions and new laws.

That, to my mind, is a pretty big deal. Klein thinks so, too:

For those nervously wondering if it is time to start using alarmist words like totalitarianism, this shift is of huge significance.

This is a common theme with stras, and a common theme with me, too. I continually find myself making distinctions here that seem very important to me, but are trivial to others. (For instance, Hillary is very different from McCain, as was Al from W, and Bill from HW).


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 12:14 PM
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What I'm hearing is, "Back in the old days when we tortured people, we used to publicly claim that we didn't torture people. But now when we torture people we don't have the courtesy to even pretend!" That's different from having a "tradition of not torturing people."

Yes, but, if torture is on offer in either case, pretending is actually better. I don't know why this is so hard.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 12:15 PM
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Does belief in the rule of law come under respect for authority?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 12:17 PM
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"Do your damnedest in an ostentatious manner all the time." Also, "Just drive down that road until you get blown up."

Also, "I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor, dumb bastard die for his country."

Or at least George C. Scott said it while portraying Patton.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 12:17 PM
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On the torture thing - maybe you guys are arguing semantics.

America has an ideal of not supporting torture. Like many of our ideals our practice just doesn't meet up to them.

In my opinion what surprised me recently was that many people were espousing that we abandon the ideal of not supporting torture. The people weren't simply saying "we don't torture" while looking the other way when it happened. Many people were saying "maybe we should torture." That was new in my lifetime. I had not seen that sentiment so openly displayed before.

We can argue all day about whether the US has "tortured," whether it was "supported," or whether that constitutes a "tradition."

I think the first step we need to take is to get us back to openly asserting our lost ideal. Then we can work on implementing it.


Posted by: Tripp the Crazed! | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 12:18 PM
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Almost exactly two years ago Michael Bérubé made a couple of posts where he built off of Greenwald's How Would a Patriot Act? to discuss what he called civic (in contrast to ethnic) nationalism. I would gloss it as "America: The Good Parts", but of course he says it much better than I. Quite relevant to much of the discussion on this thread and worth a read.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 12:18 PM
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Does belief in the rule of law come under respect for authority?

I say it's possible to (honestly) argue rhetorically that it does. A lot of liberals make the mistake of linking it (in Haidt's terminology) to fairness or reciprocity, which in fact we should be linking it to respect for (legitimately* constituted) authority.

*The legitimation, of course, goes back to democratic accountability and respect for individual rights, so in a way the qualification "legitimately constituted" is a way of sneaking liberal moral precepts (fairness and reciprocity) into the argument . After that it's turtles all the way down.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 12:21 PM
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I think the first step we need to take is to get us back to openly asserting our lost ideal. Then we can work on implementing it.

This seems to tidily summarize where most of us disagree with stras.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 12:22 PM
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Is there an important difference between de facto torture and de jure torture?

Probably not to the person being tortured.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 12:23 PM
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A lot of liberals make the mistake of linking it (in Haidt's terminology) to fairness or reciprocity

That's what I'd do - as you say, turtles all the way down. I wonder how Haidt deals with this question. (See Emerson, I'm trying to pick up on James' and Knecht's good example.)


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 12:25 PM
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Your cue, Walt.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 12:25 PM
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I say it's possible to (honestly) argue rhetorically that it does.

Again, if you have to make an argument for the point, you've lost. I've only listened to the first bit of the Haidt podcast, but I seem to recall him noting that the response--disgust, what have you--comes first, the rationale for the response later. As I understood it, this was pretty much central to his argument. So I think you can make that argument for the long-term good of the country, but not particularly for election gain in places the Dems need to move votes to their side.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 12:25 PM
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I'd say that respect for law, respect for the Constitution, and respect for property are all forms of respect for authority.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 12:26 PM
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but "respect for authority" seems like learned behavior to me.

Yes. Research into authoritarianism seems to show that it is not genetic. Authoritarians seem to actually have a difficult time recruiting from their own children. In general they recruit other young adults, who then are their most fervent proponents, and in general they tend to lose their membership when their membership ages. It seems after awhile the cognitive dissonance between the ideals and the practice just can no longer be sustained, even at great cost to the authoritarian giving up his/her beliefs.

They take advantage of the idealism of youth to recruit and then isolate, reinforce, and instigate fear in their members to keep the group intact. There are many similarities to cults, especially cults of personality.

I'm really getting tired of quoting from this book. It is free online. I wish more people would read it.


Posted by: Tripp the Crazed! | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 12:27 PM
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Bush is exceptional because he came close to permanently changing the contract between the government and the populace. If Bush had his way, we would have had a publically-elected dictatorship. Every 4 years we would get a say on who our First Consul would be, and that would be it.

On torture in particular, there is a difference between committing a crime and getting away with it because the authorities look the other way, and legalizing the crime. As Tripp just said, the big change is that Bush actually tempted us to abandon the ideal of not torturing. Before, you mentioned the School of Americas to the average person, and they'd go "huh"? Now, you mention abu Ghraib, and it's 50-50 whether they'll start spouting pro-torture talking points.

Since "America" is a free-floating signifier, there many competing traditions that can plausibly be labelled as "American". We can pick and choose which traditions are "the true America". The true America doesn't torture. Part of what makes a successful leader successful is their ability to pick and choose from existing narratives. The "we don't torture" narrative is out there, waiting to be picked up.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 12:27 PM
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I'll make one more comment and go, because this thread's been going in circles for a while.

The "we're America, dammit" argument is basically an appeal to American exceptionalism: we are America and we are special and so we shouldn't do X because X is unbecoming of America. This is powerful rhetoric, and for obvious reasons: American exceptionalism has been promoted in this country for decades, if not centuries, and has become strongly intertwined in the American psyche. But like any appeal to American exceptionalism, the more you use it the more you tend to believe it, and like any appeal to American exceptionalism it's full of shit. Atrocities like torture aren't new to America and haven't come out of nowhere; they stem from a militaristic and imperialist system that's deeply ingrained in America's ruling class and that's encouraged by the very exceptionalism being invoked here. The more liberals think of George Bush as an exception to an otherwise grand American tradition, the less they'll be willing to recognize atrocities committed by future administrations - especially future Democratic administrations - and the less willing they'll be to fight them.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 12:28 PM
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I think that Haidt was merely trying to say that liberals are tone deaf to people who have greater concerns for purity, authority, and loyalty than they do. The evidence here is that they are. I don't think that Haidt was suggesting a strategy or a quick fix. Or, if I was, I don't think that that was the interesting part.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 12:29 PM
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Can someone edit my comment in 199 so that it says "325" instead of "225"? kthxby.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 12:29 PM
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That's what I'd do - as you say, turtles all the way down. I wonder how Haidt deals with this question

I'm guessing, but as I understand it, he'd say that you're making a mistake if you think there's a "down." It's a free floating web of meaning that works for the community to address certain types of problems, but it's not particularly grounded in any universal moral principle.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 12:32 PM
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"Is there an important difference between de facto torture and de jure torture ? Stras says no, it's all of a piece. Quite naturally, the lawyers and other procedural liberals here disagree."

"Probably not to the person being tortured."

Wow, you're totally blowing mind.

As I think I've tried to explain, de jure torture leads to MORE de facto torture. Also, if only the CIA tortures people and not the military, fewer people get tortured. People can pretend this distinction is devotion to "procedural liberalism" if they like.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 12:32 PM
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Probably not to the person being tortured.

Torture is more pervasive in environments that condone it de jure, so to the actual people who would be tortured absent the law, it's maximally important.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 12:33 PM
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Haidt was making first a claim that people understand morality as including things like purity, group identity, and respect for authority, and then the further claim that classic Western morality tends only to treat fairness and reciprocity as morally relevant.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 12:35 PM
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As I think I've tried to explain, de jure torture leads to MORE de facto torture. Also, if only the CIA tortures people and not the military, fewer people get tortured. People can pretend this distinction is devotion to "procedural liberalism" if they like.

I think strasmangelo's point is that if two things contain non-zero levels of badness, they are equally bad.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 12:35 PM
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Many people were saying "maybe we should torture."

This is pretty much the gist of an argument I had recently with my honey during one of his more Iranian moments. "Who is America to criticise other countries for their treatment of civilians, when America invades and tortures and has a long history of training and abetting torturers etc etc and more cynicism and more it will never change blah blah." To which the only answer is, when we see torture and cruelty asserted, the American public needs to scream and throw a fit and make it taboo; even if horrible things then go back into the shadows, they will be leery of coming into the light and being caught at it because the American public will be baying for their heads on sticks as criminals against human decency. As citisens, being horrified and denying consent to that sort of shit is just about all we can do. (Ok, not all we can do, but you know what I mean.)


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 12:36 PM
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So keep fighting the good fight! I am.

It was meant well, Tripp.

Tyler Cowen did it to me. In a post about global warming, to paraphrase, he said:"We really do not have the political will to save Bangladesh [as we can't save Darfur or Myanmar], so do we really want to tell them that ahead of time? Is it really wise to talk about PO/GW?" There are several levels of horror there.

Ignorance is Bliss ...MY I don't think conservatives are ignorant about PO/GW at all. In fact, I think they understand it better than liberals, understand the political/social consequences better than liberals.

Do we really want to do whatever it takes to save Bangladesh?


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 12:36 PM
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234, 235: I don't disagree, guys.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 12:39 PM
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Do we really want to do whatever it takes to save Bangladesh?

Sure, I do. I would like to return to the standard of living of the 1940's, as long as the rest of the country does so as well.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 12:39 PM
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like any appeal to American exceptionalism, the more you use it the more you tend to believe it, and like any appeal to American exceptionalism it's full of shit....The more liberals think of George Bush as an exception to an otherwise grand American tradition, the less they'll be willing to recognize atrocities committed by future administrations - especially future Democratic administrations - and the less willing they'll be to fight them."

This is wrong in two distinct ways. An idealized conception of one's own identity is important--I would argue even indispensible--to motivating selfless behavior. If a person finds nothing to respect in himself, or in a group he identifies with, there is no cognitive dissonance in acting shamefully. Whether that group identification is a nation, a religion, a clan, or a role (e.g. doting mother, brave soldier, merciful nurse), the gravitational pull of the ideal expresses itself as the tugging on one's conscience.

On the second point, I think the opposite outcome is equally likely: that liberals will at deviations from the American ideal by future administrations even more skeptically, because they know that the slope really is that slippery, and that barbarism lies at the bottom.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 12:39 PM
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229: J'accuse. I been betrayed.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 12:45 PM
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I would like to return to the standard of living of the 1940's

Would that be the standard of living of an Alabama sharecropper or a Kentucky coal miner? 'Cuz if so, count me out.

FDR knew that an empty stomach is a poor political advisor. He was worried more about communism and racist populism than environmental degradation and global economic justice, but the same principles apply.


Posted by: KR | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 12:45 PM
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KR, for Jesus' sake. He wasn't talking about the standard of living of the poorest person in the 1940s. Way dirty pool.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 12:47 PM
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And while I hate to pull a Bob and make one last comment after my last comment, I've never said that (1) there's no difference between de jure and de facto torture, or that (2) there's no difference between torture under Bush and torture under Bush's predecessors. What I've said in this thread, several times, is that Bush is the culmination of a long line of torture-friendly administrations, which came to increasingly rely on and explicitly endorse torture over the decades leading up to the Bush administration. I see this as a difference of degree, not of kind; someone like Katherine may disagree and say that Bush represents a difference of kind as well. I don't think the exceptionalist argument holds up in either case. If your goal is to end the government's use of torture, it doesn't help to pretend that American torture started with George W. Bush, as if a new administration will be all it takes to end atrocities committed by the United States.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 12:47 PM
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So -- Haidt now?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 12:48 PM
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You know, it really is impossible to take a stance on this blog to the left of the consensus without being strawmanned repeatedly.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 12:50 PM
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If your goal is to end the government's use of torture, it doesn't help to pretend that American torture started with George W. Bush, as if a new administration will be all it takes to end atrocities committed by the United States.

Depends on your timeframe.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 12:50 PM
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If your goal is to end the government's use of torture, it doesn't help to pretend that American torture started with George W. Bush, as if a new administration will be all it takes to end atrocities committed by the United States.

If we're speaking of strawmen....


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 12:54 PM
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228:I am pretty sure I have encountered that book, second-hand but at length, via Sara Robinson at Orcinus.

Memory aint So Bad Yet


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 12:54 PM
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On the second point, I think the opposite outcome is equally likely: that liberals will at deviations from the American ideal by future administrations even more skeptically, because they know that the slope really is that slippery, and that barbarism lies at the bottom.

If I had any money, I'd put it on a bet. The first time a human rights/civil liberties/war-related scandal pops up in the Obama administration, some major liberal blogs are going to criticize the White House and some will adopt the party line. If the last year and a half are any guide, that second group will be much, much larger.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 12:55 PM
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I think that the other axes Haidt identifies are present in liberalism, but sublimated. You can see it on this thread. One reaction is "fuck people who value these other things," which is the direct expression of in-group loyalty to liberal values. The other reaction is that we should try to understand these people who are different from us, which requires us to sublimate the in-group reaction, because we're liberals, and we don't do things like that.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 12:55 PM
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Humanity won't be happy until the last bureaucrat is hung with the guts of the last capitalist. Strawman that, bitches!


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 12:58 PM
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When it comes to America and torture, at least in Korea and Vietnam, it should be noted that in both wars the vast majority of prisoners taken by the American military we're held in prisons run by the local goverments. Inside "those" prisons their certainly was a whole hell of a lot of torture and killing going on. I think statements along the lines of the American military is better than the NVA on torture issues because they had a American controlled puppet goverment to do most of thier torture for them don't bear a lot of weight. I'm sure if the NVA did they would of prefered to keep their own interrogators hands clean too.

Also I think some of you arguing against stras are dangerously close to falling into the trap of: "Our war-crimes are the abberations of an otherwise decent security institutions and political culture, while thier war-crimes are structural and innate to the same."


Posted by: Asteele | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 12:58 PM
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The etymology of "bet" is unknown? Weird!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 12:59 PM
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247: NO! NO! A THOUSAND TIMES NO!!


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 1:00 PM
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"strawmangelo jones" would be a kind of a neat pseudonym.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 1:02 PM
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250: Give me a break. I've been jumped on in this thread by numerous people for suggesting that America does, in fact, have a pre-Bush history of torture. Any of the many, many atrocities committed by various American governments, it was decided, didn't count, because the government of the time was claiming it did not commit atrocities. All of this is taking place within the context of discussing a particular political frame - "torture is bad because it's unAmerican" - whose subtext is the ahistorical claim that government-supported torture is anomalous in American history. So in what way is that a strawman?


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 1:02 PM
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Haidt?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 1:11 PM
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For the record, Darius Rejali, Torture and Democracy, p. 581, on Vietnam:

"Once one separates out torture from other atrocity allegations and dispenses with the fabricated accounts, a fairly coherent picture of American torture emerges. The different sources conform quite well to the official reports and court martial records. They describe repeatedly the same range of techniques. Moreover, the evidence they present suggests that torture was not official U.S. policy in Vietnam, as it was [for France] in Algeria. The evidence veterans provided suggests an underground subculture of military interrogators who shared techniques tolerated and shielded by midlevel commanders. These soldiers were careful to hide what they did from superiors and were quite awware of military rules prohibiting torture. Torture techniques appear to have migrated not from the top down, but from unit to unit as interrogators imitated their interpreters, ARVN interrogators, and each other."

(I am not sure whether he includes the Phoenix Program in this; he discusses that more in terms of
assassinations which may have been based on false confessions.)

This is what I was talking about re: the difference between Haditha-type atrocities and Abu Ghraib and Bagram type atrocities. A nation that fights wars, particularly one that starts aggressive wars, is overwhelmingly like to have soldiers commit atrocities & also quite likely to dehumanize foreigners enough that superior officers don't adequately investigate or punish atrocities. This just doesn't mean that the high-level prohibition on torture & massacreing civilians is fake & has no real effect on facts on the ground--Rejali notes that the U.S. tortured prisoners a hell of a lot less than the South Vietnamese did. The taboo has real practical value, & the Bush administration stomped all over it, in such a way I'm having a hard time coming up with a precise parallel. The consequences were predictable.

I don't think the taboo on torture has been steadily eroding over time, either; I'd sure as hell rather have been a brown person captured by the U.S. in Gulf War I than the Phillipines. I think it's waxed & waned based on circumstances & to a lesser extent ideology (whether we were involved in a war, what sort of war it was--conventional battlefield v. counterinsurgency--etc.).


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 1:11 PM
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"Tradition of not torturing" does not mean there was no torture. Nor is it inconsistent with a counter-tradition of under-the-radar torture.

I think I'll just let that stand by itself.

If you think my sentences undermine themselves you aren't reading them very well. Just because something is a tradition doesn't mean it's universal. In many cases in history, large numbers of Americans did hold to the no-torture ideal. In other cases, other contexts, there developed a tradition of flouting the ideal in secret. Successes and failures can coexist, each to be learned from; is that so hard to understand?

And are you sure you want to pat America on the back for its humanitarian conduct in World War II, of all times?

Hey, where'd those goalposts go? They were around here somewhere... around "avoiding torture of prisoners"... oh, here they are, right by "being wonderfully humanitarian".


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 1:11 PM
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"I think I'll just let that stand by itself" should be italicized above.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 1:13 PM
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257: Don't be a Haidter.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 1:14 PM
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259 is probably sincere, but at the same time totally dishonest.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 1:20 PM
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I think we can achieve closure once Haidt is shipped off to Guantanamo.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 1:23 PM
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254: Humanity won't be happy until the last bureaucrat is hung with the guts of the last capitalist.

Civilization is the accumulated cum stain from winners fucking losers through the ages.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 1:23 PM
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259: I think the strawman starts at the point after 'Give me a break.' That is not why you were jumped on, and people were not claiming that such atrocities didn't count, and several people have pointed out that a change in an ideal can lead to changes in fact.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 1:31 PM
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KR, for Jesus' sake. He wasn't talking about the standard of living of the poorest person in the 1940s. Way dirty pool.

Oh, so now upper middle class living standards are normative? I'll have to make a note of that.

But regardless, do you "roll-back the clock" advocates have any idea what "average" living standards were like in the 1940s?

Per capita personal income in 1949 (and this is generous, because the depression and war years are factored out, while the post-war boom is factored in) was $1,237, or around $10,000 in today's money. A single MRI (if it were available at all) would cost you a month's wages. Broadband internet access, even at the lowest prices presently available on the globe, would be unaffordable except to the richest families. The difference between choosing organic produce and conventional produce over the course of the year would be a couple weeks wages.

You really want to live in that world?


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 1:31 PM
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The difference between choosing organic produce and conventional produce over the course of the year would be a couple weeks wages.

This part is actually pretty good. The rest, not so much.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 1:32 PM
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Cala, reread my last couple comments. At this point people aren't even responding to the original point I made.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 1:32 PM
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269: I'm not sure an MRI is affordable now on its own, either, to be honest. I know that people without insurance don't get them.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 1:38 PM
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KR, that was dirty pool. Oh, so now upper middle class living standards are normative? is bullshit too. Your shift to the average, a compeltely reasonable demand on my part, was pretty damn grudging.

Plenty of people live on $40,000 for a family of four. I grossed about $20-25,000 when my kid was growing up.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 1:41 PM
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273: per capita personal income of $10,000 doesn't imply $40K for a family of four, because income is never evenly distributed. Current U.S. per capita income of $45,000 would imply average income for a family of four of $180,000, which is almost triple what it actually is.

There really is a weird problem that we as a society have more stuff than we need to be happy, but when you slow economic growth lots of people get hurt to a degree that legitimately makes them miserable.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 1:50 PM
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A single MRI (if it were available at all) would cost you a month's wages.

My brain processed this as "a single MRE" and thought, well now KR is making shit up.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 1:55 PM
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274.last is a key problem with the consumptive society.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 1:56 PM
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Circling back to the original point, and inspired by the discussion of schools in the adjacent thread, I offer three rhetorical avenues for arguing for better funded schools:

Liberal do-gooder: "We cannot fail in the challenge of educating the next generation. The commonwealth requires the education of the public as the safeguard of order and liberty.* A literate citizenry is the key to democratic participation and equal opportunity"

Liberal technocrat: "In an increasingly competitive global economy, a well-educated workforce is the only sustainable competitive advantage. Capital will flow to where workers are most productive, or it will flow to where it is cheapest. If we want to keep good jobs, we need to invest in the schools."

Liberal expropriating conservative moral precepts: What kind of world will we grow old in if we don't educate our children? Personally, I'd be scared of the boy or girl that never learns to read well enough to read holy scripture and be inspired by the Word of Jesus. The seduction of TV and video games are there. Parents and families can do what they want to teach children the values of hard work and respect, but they can't do it alone. Our schools need the resources to do their part. How else can we be sure our young people won't go following whatever fashionable pied piper that comes along? If we want teachers who will give those kids a proper education in the history and traditions of this country, we've got to be willing to pay the price. The Chinese and the Indians and the Japanese are producing scientists and engineers by the millions, while our kids never get the math and science training they need to keep up. America rose to greatness because our leaders had the common sense to know that every child needs an education. Our universities are the envy of the world. Our public schools ought to be second to none.

*Inscription on the Boston Public Library


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 2:00 PM
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bob,

Do we really want to do whatever it takes to save Bangladesh?

239: I'm with you on this observation, and it is the area where I feel most out of step with my fellow citizens.

I think we need a discussion about what the "right" thing to do is when we are facing a crisis.

Do we lie? Do we deny? Do we tell the truth and risk despair and panic? Do we create a cover story and let the experts handle it?

Seriously. Because of global communications including the internet people are now able to be much better informed than they ever were.

We now have the capability of essentially informing everyone of everything, but what is the morality of the situation?

How do we handle bad news?


Posted by: Tripp the Crazed! | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 2:03 PM
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How do we handle bad news?

Apparently by buying a shitload of SUVs and damming the torpedoes, as it were.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 2:05 PM
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Plenty of people live on $40,000 for a family of four.

Median family income in 1949 was a little above $20K in today's money, or about a third less than a family in 2008 with two full-time wage-earners making the minimum wage.

If you'd like the median family to go back to that, count me out. And, of course, 50% of families were worse off than that--some of them significantly so--which is why my allusion to the sharecropper and the coal miner were not irrelevant or "dirty pool".

On second thought, fuck y'all. This 1940s bullshit is patently ridiculous and deserves the marginalization it gets in polite company.


Posted by: KR | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 2:08 PM
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Apparently by buying a shitload of SUVs

Not so much any more.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 2:09 PM
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279: Apparently by [...] damming the torpedoes, as it were.

One has to get one's supply of potable tap torpedoes someplace.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 2:09 PM
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Capital will flow to where workers are most productive, or it will flow to where it is cheapest.

If we still built public institutions, this is probably what would be inscribed on them.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 2:12 PM
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At this point people aren't even responding to the original point I made.

Possibly because it was orthogonal to anything under discussion, and people were trying to sort out a way in which it wasn't.

I hate this idea that the worst thing about the Bush-era atrocity regime is that it's sullied America in some abstract way. The worst thing about these atrocities is that we killed and tortured a whole lot of people.
might be a good point, but precisely how it connects to notions of purity, in-group, or respect for authority--as those ideas are at least arguably understood by people who don't always vote for Democrats--isn't clear.

Median family income in 1949 was a little above $20K in today's money, or about a third less than a family in 2008 with two full-time wage-earners making the minimum wage.

I'm pretty committed to the idea that today is better than yesterday, but I think that sort of recalibration is more difficult than you're acknowledging. I agree with this, though: This 1940s bullshit is patently ridiculous and deserves the marginalization it gets in polite company.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 2:17 PM
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Fuck y'all too, KR. If you'd started off talking reasonably instead of being a jerk, there might have been something to talk about.

One of the hard parts about talking about environmental questions is finding out how much lower a standard of living people would be willing to accept for the sake of the environment. The median answer is probably"not a goddamn bit lower". Standard average environmentalists are willing to agree to an unspecified reduction as long as it's assumed to be fairly small. A tremendously high standard of living is regarded as the bottom line.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 2:20 PM
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If you'd started off talking reasonably instead of being a jerk, there might have been something to talk about

I'll point to my 244 and your 245 and accept the verdict of the history about which one of us started off talking reasonably and which one first resorted to being a jerk, John.


Posted by: KR | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 2:29 PM
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281: True, but a day late and a dollar short.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 2:31 PM
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Would that be the standard of living of an Alabama sharecropper or a Kentucky coal miner? 'Cuz if so, count me out.

Jerkish bullshit. You zeroed in on the poorest person you could find.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 2:31 PM
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I'm a little surprised nobody has pointed out that `median income' is a pretty bad proxy for any sensible measure of standard of living.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 2:32 PM
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but I think that sort of recalibration is more difficult than you're acknowledging

On this we agree. One could argue, with some justice, that a lot of what makes life better today (and this is not to deny that there are a lot of things that are worse, and that life in general is worse for a non-negligible number of people) is not the direct result of greater material surplus. My mother grew up terrified of polio, almost no one needs to have that fear today. Yet the cost of a dose of vaccine is trivial. One could cite many other, similar examples of low-cost, high-impact improvements in quality of life (antibiotics! contraception! microcomputing! fibre optic communications!), and to many very expensive accoutrements of contemporary life that don't bring us proportionate happiness (bigger houses, longer commutes, faster cars).

And yet...it's hard to disentangle the progress in technology from the prosperity that made it possible. The U.S.S.R. poured resources into science and technology, and produced a great deal of valuable knowledge (and some useful technologies, particularly those with military applications), but it never harnessed the power of consumer demand to drive the innovation engine, and thus contributed relatively little to the quality of life that we enjoy today. So I'm not sure we can get rid of the bathwater of crass materialism without throwing out the baby of technological improvements to quality of life.

OTOH, I would like to see a fairly large-scale diversion of GDP from private consumption to public goods (including environmental preservation and sustainability). It's just that I don't see rolling back present overall living standards (the sum of public and private consumption) as a necessary or even desirable condition of maintaining life on earth. And I think anyone who suggests doing so needs to acknowledge serious distributional consequences to their program, even if it were politically feasible, which it assuredly is not.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 2:39 PM
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The people I argue this with are normally people making two or three times as much as I've ever made, but who still think they're not rich, and they always talk immediately about the consequences for the poor.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 2:43 PM
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The people I argue this with are normally people making two or three times as much as I've ever made, but who still think they're not rich, and they always talk immediately about the consequences for the poor.

Yglesias has argued (correctly, in my view) that the bad-faith "think about the consequences for the poor" objection to progressive policy proposals is to be studiously ignored. But my objection was not made in bad faith: reverting to 1940 standards of living is not some tinkering around the edges proposal like increasing the gas tax. It's forfeiting the material gains of three generations of economic growth. I think it's preposterous on it's face, and you only have to look at the actual facts of economic life in the 1940s to see.

My father grew up in that period, and even though he was relatively prosperous by local standards, he never (by his account) owned a new garment until he got his army uniform, and he never tasted ham until he was in college, even though his family raised hogs, because the hams were too valuable to waste on feeding the children. The idea of asking Americans to revert to that lifestyle is the kind of thing that gives the Left a bad name, if you ask me.


Posted by: KR | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 2:56 PM
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Why are we always blaming the ultra-rich and corporations for everything? I've never seen topics on the Davos agenda like "10 New Ways to Screw the Poor out of Every Last Cent They've Got Left." The world is a plutocrasy not because the rich are such crafty bastards, but because most of us are such dumbfucks.


Posted by: adam ash | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 3:05 PM
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I agree with helpy-chalk, the emotional dog article is very good:

Selective Loss of Intuitions
The acquisition of phonology provides a useful
analogy for the acquisition of morality. Children are
born with the ability to distinguish among hundreds
of phonemes, but after a few years of exposure to a
specific language they lose the ability to make some
unexercised phoneme contrasts (Werker & Tees,
1984). Likewise, Ruth Benedict (1934/1959)
suggested, we can imagine a great "arc of culture"
on which are arrayed all the possible aspects of
human functioning. "A culture that capitalized even
a considerable proportion of these would be as
unintelligible as a language that used all the clicks,
all the glottal stops, all the labials...." (p. 24).
Similarly, a culture that emphasized all of the
moral intuitions that the human mind is prepared to
experience would risk paralysis, as every action
triggered multiple conflicting intuitions. Cultures
seem instead to specialize in a subset of human
moral potential. For example, Shweder's theory of
the "big three" moral ethics (Shweder, Much,
Mahapatra, & Park, 1997; see also Jensen, 1997)
proposes that moral "goods" (i.e., culturally shared
beliefs about what is morally good and valuable)
generally cluster into three complexes, or ethics,
which cultures embrace to varying degrees: the ethic
of autonomy (focusing on goods that protect the
autonomous individual, such as rights, freedom of
choice, and personal welfare); the ethic of
community (focusing on goods that protect families,
nations, and other collectivities, such as loyalty,
duty, honor, respectfulness, modesty, and self-
control); and the ethic of divinity (focusing on goods
that protect the spiritual self, such as piety, and
physical and mental purity). A child is born prepared
to develop moral intuitions in all three ethics, but her
local cultural environment generally stresses only
one or two of the ethics. Intuitions within culturally
supported ethics become sharper and more
chronically accessible (Higgins, 1996), while
intuitions within unsupported ethics become weaker
and less accessible. Such "maintenance-loss" models
have been documented in other areas of human
higher cognition. It seems to be a design feature of
mammalian brains that much of neural development
is "experience expectant" (Black, Jones, Nelson, &
Greenough, 1998). That is, there are
developmentally timed periods of high neural
plasticity, as though the brain "expected" certain
types of experience to be present at a certain time to
guide its final wiring.
Such sensitive periods are well documented in the
development of sensory systems (Hubel & Wiesel,
1970), and language (Johnson & Newport, 1989).
Huttenlocher (1994) reports that most synapse
selection and elimination in the human cerebral
cortex occurs in the first few years, but that in the
pre-frontal cortex the period of plasticity is greatly
delayed. Synapse selection in the pre-frontal cortex
starts later, accelerates in late childhood, and then
tails off in adolescence (see also Spear, 2000). Since
the pre-frontal cortex is the brain area most
frequently implicated in moral judgment and
behavior (Damasio, Tranel, & Damasio, 1990;
Raine, 1997), this suggests that if there is a sensitive
period for moral learning it is likely to be later in
childhood than psychoanalysts and most American
parents suppose.



Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 3:05 PM
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Jerkish bullshit. You zeroed in on the poorest person you could find.

Not that it matters, but this isn't really true, either. In that case I would have gone for the migrant farm labourer or the penniless widow with children. Thanks to John L. Lewis and the UMWA, the Kentucky coalminer was firmly established in the labor aristocracy by 1949.

The comparison was meant to suggest an extremely modest lifestyle: predictable employment, a roof over your head, enough food to keep you and your family from going hungry, and maybe a few simple homegrown (or home-distilled) pleasures from time to time, but no disposable income and a life of physical isolation.


Posted by: KR | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 3:10 PM
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I can't prove you're wrong, but Kentucky coal minors being well-off compared to anyone but Kentucky unemployed strikes me as counterintuitive. But that's before I was born.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 3:24 PM
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The world is a plutocrasy not because the rich are such crafty bastards, but because most of us are such dumbfucks.

Well in that case, fuck the poor, they deserve it. Reading the poem in 294 gave me a headache.


Posted by: Grumps | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 3:57 PM
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296: The golden age of UMWA miner actually came later, in the 1950s, when John L. Lewis traded the union's consent to mechanize the mines and make most of the miners redundant in exchange for increasing wages in line with productivity.

But even before that, coal miners won signficantly improved wages and benefits in the 1940s. There were major strikes in 1943 and 1946 (the former in the middle of a war, and in violation of a personal promise from Lewis to keep the mines open for the duration).

The bottom line is that being a coal miner in Kentucky in 1949 was a hard, dirty, dangerous job that would probably kill you in old age if it didn't kill you in a roof collapse first, but it paid comparatively well.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 4:12 PM
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Hi guys, I'm back. I depressed myself so much I passed out or something. Or just a Dallas siesta. 95-95-95-95-95-95... needs to be my tagline.

12 Big Picture Predictions Barry Rittholz asked his readers, mostly traders and brokers, to answer 12 questions.
"Is the US in a mild recession, or, will we successfully avoid one?" for example. A very long thread.

The good news is that no one expects Obama to lose, and most expect landslide with coattails. There is no other good news, and the bad news is very very bad.
...
I don't know exactly who Robert D Feinman but he has been working very hard for quite a while on the idea of the zero growth economy There is a wealth of ideas and analysis on his blog.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 4:23 PM
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Feinman actually calls it the steady-state economy. Not sure why I changed it. He's a bit of a troll at Thoma's, and I wouldn't be surprised if some of his work wasn't duplicated at the oildrum. But he's bright, and writes better than me.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 4:30 PM
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Probably he's pointing to Hermann Daly, "Steady-State Economics".


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 4:58 PM
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301:Did you click on any of Feinman's articles? He is serious and I don't think derivative.

Planning for a etc

This is from the third essay:

So, let's assume we can get to a stable level of population which is within the resource limits of the planet. The next thing we notice about steady-state societies, is that they don't have much of a concept of "progress". Things were, they are, and they are expected to remain pretty much the same in the future. This has a profound effect on how people view their own goals in life. There may be ambition, but it has to be restricted to climbing within an existing social structure. One can't build an empire. This also rules out the creation of many lasting material artifacts. The pyramids of Egypt and Latin America reflect periods where production exceeded consumption and so there was labor available to erect such structures. These were not steady-state periods for these societies. More typical would be the Polynesian societies and many areas in Africa.

Without the need to leave one's mark on the world, activities tend to focus more on well being in the here and now. This means enjoying oneself as well as one's family. The easier it is to obtain the necessities of life, the more time is available for other activities. Frequently these include participating in rituals, communal functions and creation of semi-permanent or impermanent art works. The need to amass "stuff" beyond what one needs is not a priority. Even in Europe prior to the industrial revolution, much of the excess "stuff" went into churches and homes of the aristocracy. It served no social or practical purpose. The peasants who lived in a steady-state economy left no marks.

The second thing to be noted is that what is needed now must be available now. Aside from storing a small amount of food stuffs as a hedge there is no "investment".



Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 5:17 PM
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Or maybe he did crib from Daly. Googling Daly, I found a good short pice by that looks very similar, although pointed at economists.

It is on this vast aggregation of too much to read before I kill myself

Die Off


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 5:24 PM
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You know, John, Feinman is just a bright photographer. I just picked a huge textbook Advanced Macroeconomics by David Romer, and in the index after 500 pages of Solow Ramsey Cass Koopmans Real Business Cycle Keynes blah blah there is no entry for Herman Daly or Steady State

But I have told Feinman to check oildrum. I think he is trying to attract a paying audience for his photographs.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 5:35 PM
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Daly hinted that he had been blackballed from the profession. Continued economic growth as fast as possible forever is a goal shared by all economists, left right and center.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 5:42 PM
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The quoted text at 302 is nice, interesting. Thanks.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 7:12 PM
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DLPFC


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 06-11-08 8:12 PM
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