Rebirth of Reason

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Saturday, April 22, 2017 - 10:12amSanction this postReply

There is a truly fine blog post by Dan Greenfield where he manages to capture the essential differences between the political, economic, sociological and psychological principles of the left versus those supporting free individuals... and he expresses those differences eloquently - in a style reminiscent of Jane Jacobs.


Here is a quote: "When you listen to the larger message of the left, it is one of finity. We have a finite amount of planetary resources and domestic wealth. This finity represents a global and national crisis that has to be tackled with rationing mechanisms. We are all on a lifeboat and some of us are gobbling up more than their fair share of rations. Unless the rationers step forward, seize everyone's rations and pass out limited rations, then we are all doomed."


This fine post can be found here: http://sultanknish.blogspot.com/2017/04/the-rationing-society.html

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Sunday, April 23, 2017 - 4:14amSanction this postReply

Sorry. I get the point that Steve is making and I agree with it.  However, the blog post from Sultan Knish strays into errors of its own.  

He writes:

"The production society is concerned with taking more territory, exploiting that territory to the best of its ability and then discovering new techniques for producing even more."


"In a production society, the role of government is to expand the territories of exploitation and to protect those territories. "

and then

"The sort of society we have is fit for passengers adrift at sea on a lifeboat parceling out their last crackers."


One of the comments he got right away pointed out that error, that capitalism requires conquest.  I look to Hong Kong, Singapore, Switzerland, the Cayman Islands, and many other places that succeeded well without conquest.  Even Holland as an imperialist power held few colonies and very little European territory.  Seizing territory is just another kind of rationing worldview: only so much to go around; we grab ours from them.


On a more subtle point,  as a writer, I make my own mistakes.  This would be one of them.  

"In a production society, people compete for production. In a rationing society, people compete for entitlements."

Sultan Knish closed his article with this:

"A production society defines achievement in terms of production. A rationing society defines it in terms of control."

He used the same word to express two aspects of a topic.  He needed another way to hallmark production, just as he used "control" to reinforce the concept of "rationing."  It seems a minor point, but I submit that it reveals a lack of depth.  Sultan Knish had the right idea at the core, but wandered off down a trail that went nowhere (conquest).  I believe it is because that while Sultan Knish can perceive the errors in the rationing society, he has not been so cogent in his conceptualization of production, creation, innovation, invention, enterprise, entrepreneurship, risk, uncertainty, and much more...


I much preferred this:

"Scientific management, rather than predicting human variables, has done its best to make everything predictable, and a perfectly predictable thing is static."

That is a good expression of fact. Even though it repeats the word "predictable" it does so with a literary intent.  (Put "repetition tropes" in your search engine.)


I will have more to say about the Lifeboat Problem.  I believe that are, indeed, on a lifeboat.  Look at a picture of Earth from outer space. Ain't no doubt...  But that does not mean that resources are so limited that our survival is uncertain.


(Edited by Michael E. Marotta on 4/23, 4:18am)

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Sunday, April 23, 2017 - 9:38amSanction this postReply

I had some of the same misgivings as Marotta when I read, "The production society is concerned with taking more territory, exploiting that territory to the best of its ability and then discovering new techniques for producing even more."  And, "In a production society, the role of government is to expand the territories of exploitation and to protect those territories."


But, I set my misgivings aside because I've never read anything by Greenfield that advocates taking territory by force.  I did have thoughts of the Lousianna Purchase and the acquisition of the Western states, Alaska and Hawaii came to mind.  There was some force, and some trade in all of that.


And in the clash of two civilizations, one of which is based upon property rights and the other on the violation of those and other rights, I have no problems with taking the territory of the barbaric society. 


And, I thought about how Greenfield's area of expertise and interest is in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.  Maybe he is hawkish and favors the Israelian people taking Palestinian lands by force.  (I haven't read enough of his posts on Middle-East issues, so I don't know). 


And I even imagined him meaning "markets" as the concept behind a productive society's 'territory.'  As an individual, working in a productive society, I expand my 'territory' with marketing and sales. 


But all of these were just idle musings.  All of them were a stretch and couldn't be nailed down.  So, I just let it all go.  Sometimes that is the rational move needed to get the best of a post.


And all of this strays from the post itself.  The real problem is with imagining what Greenfield meant... imagining that he believes taking land from others is the proper use of force. We don't know that.  Everything I've read by him indicates that he favors a limited government that defends individual rights and is not some crazed advocate of conquest.  After all, doesn't Marotta see that the entire theme of this post is an eloquent cry in favor of individual freedom and production and against the loss of freedom by government control?


Second, there is an issue anytime one ascribes actions of an individual to a society.  Greenfield is almost always writing in favor of individualism, and a "society" of individuals doesn't exploit territory or discover new tecniques for producing.  The individuals do... and that is the context that has to be held in mind when discussing a productive society - a context that this post shows Greenfield understands - and he is explicit in stating that control of others is the context of a rationing society.

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Monday, April 24, 2017 - 3:49amSanction this postReply

Yes, I saw "the other side of the coin" and I considered that his view might have been the Israel/Palestine conflict.  I had not thought of the Lousiana Purchase. I liked Steve's suggestion of  "territory" as an abstraction for "markets."  And we are reading into all of that intentions which the author may not have been offering.  All in all, as I said, it is easy to agree with the general thesis.  And I agree with Steve that it is echoic of Jane Jacobs.  (See also the essays on the same theme by Robert Malcom here on RoR.  Two Worldviews.  The Trading Syndrome. The Taking Syndrome. )  The old saw is that under socialism, everyone gets a their fair share of the pie; under capitalism, we bake more pies.  


One common error that I run into often is the claim that we enjoy scientific advances that lead to material benefits because of government funding or government research or even war.  My experience that the belief is so deeply rooted that it takes some finesse in discussions to identify and explain the errors.  Because it is a fallacy, several approaches exist; and they can be brought together. (The truth is self-supporting.) But at some level, without a standard of agreement, you risk just contradicting each other with counter-claims about computers and the space program, or cancer research, or some other example or counter-example.


As much as I dislike Dr. Murray N. Rothbard, his insights on power versus market were cogent.  That discussion also rests on accepted standards of evidence. The easy claim is that every time you choose to decide based on politics rather than on commercial profit, you bear a deadweight loss: everyone is in worse condition than they were before.  


(Edited by Michael E. Marotta on 4/24, 3:50am)

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