Karl Marx has long been celebrated by the Left as a great intellectual, but the truth is that his legacy was destined to be of little significance until his writings were lauded, decades later, by the Bolsheviks during their savage October 1917 revolution in Russia. Vladimir Lenin and his murderous cadre promoted Marx and brought his ideas into prominence as political theory. That’s the conclusion of a fascinating article by Phil Magness and Michael Makovi (M&M) appearing in the Journal of Political Economy. The title: “The Mainstreaming of Marx: Measuring the Effect of the Russian Revolution on Karl Marx’s Influence“.
The idea that the early Soviet state and other brutal regimes in its mold were the main progenitors of Marxism is horrifying to its adherents today. That’s the embarrassing historical reality, however. It’s not really clear that Marx himself would have endorsed those regimes, though I hesitate to cut him too much slack.
A lengthy summary of the M&M paper is given by the authors in “Das Karl Marx Problem”.The “problem”, as M&M describe it, is in reconciling 1) the nearly complete and well-justified rejection of Marx’s economic theories during his life and in the 34 years after his death, with 2) the esteem in which he’s held today by so many so-called intellectuals. A key piece of the puzzle, noted by the authors, is that praise for Marx comes mainly from outside the economics profession. The vast majority of economists today recognize that Marx’s labor theory of value is incoherent as an explanation of the value created in production and exchange.
The theoretical rigors might be lost on many outside the profession, but a moments reflection should be adequate for almost anyone to realize that value is contributed by both labor and non-labor inputs to production. Of course, it might have dawned on communists over the years that mass graves can be dug more “efficiently” by combining labor with physical capital. On the other hand, you can bet they never paid market prices for any of the inputs to that grisly enterprise.
Marx never thought in terms of decisions made at the margin, the hallmark of the rational economic actor. That shortcoming in his framework led to mistaken conclusions. Second, and again, this should be obvious, prices of goods must incorporate (and reward) the value contributed by all inputs to production. That value ultimately depends on the judgement of buyers, but Marx’s theory left him unable to square the circle on all this. And not for lack of trying! It was a failed exercise, and M&M provide several pieces of testimony to that effect. Here’s one example:
“By the time Lenin came along in 1917, Marx’s economic theories were already considered outdated and impractical. No less a source than John Maynard Keynes would deem Marx’s Capital ‘an obsolete economic textbook . . . without interest or application for the modern world’ in a 1925 essay.”
Marxism, with its notion of a “workers’ paradise”, gets credit from intellectuals as a highly utopian form of socialism. In reality, it’s implementation usually takes the form of communism. The claim that Marxism is “scientific” socialism (despite the faulty science underlying Marx’s theories) is even more dangerous, because it offers a further rationale for authoritarian rule. A realistic transition to any sort of Marxist state necessarily involves massive expropriations of property and liberty. Violent resistance should be expected, but watch the carnage when the revolutionaries gain the upper hand.
What M&M demonstrate empirically is how lightly Marx was cited or mentioned in printed material up until 1917, both in English and German. Using Google’s Ngram tool, they follow a group of thinkers whose Ngram patterns were similar to Marx’s up to 1917. They use those records to construct an expected trajectory for Marx for 1917 forward and find an aberrant jump for Marx at that time, again both in English and in German material. But Ngram excludes newspaper mentions, so they also construct a database from Newspapers.com and their findings are the same: newspaper references to Marx spiked after 1917. There was nothing much different when the sample was confined to socialist writers, though M&M acknowledge that there were a couple of times prior to 1917 during which short-lived jumps in Marx citations occurred among socialists.
To be clear, however, Marx wasn’t unknown to economists during the 3+ decades following his death. His name was mentioned here and there in the writings of prominent economists of the day — just not in especially glowing terms.
“… absent the events of 1917, Marx would have continued to be an object of niche scholarly inquiry and radical labor activism. He likely would have continued to compete for attention in those same radical circles as the main thinker of one of its many factions. After the Soviet boost to Marx, he effectively crowded the other claimants out of [the] socialist-world.”
Magness has acknowledged that he and Makovi aren’t the first to have noticed the boost given to Marx by the Bolsheviks. Here, Magness quotes Eric Hobsbawm’s take on the subject:
“This situation changed after the October Revolution – at all events, in the Communist Parties. … Following Lenin, all leaders were now supposed to be important theorists, since all political decisions were justified on grounds of Marxist analysis – or, more probably, by reference to textual authority of the ‘classics’: Marx, Engels, Lenin, and, in due course, Stalin. The publication and popular distribution of Marx’s and Engels’s texts therefore become far more central to the movement than they had been in the days of the Second International [1889 – 1914].”
Much to the chagrin of our latter day Marxists and socialists, it was the advent of the monstrous Soviet regime that led to Marx’s “mainstream” ascendency. Other brutal regimes arising later reinforced Marx’s stature. The tyrants listed by M&M include Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, Fidel Castro, and Pol Pot, and they might have added several short-lived authoritarian regimes in Africa as well. Today’s Marxists continue to assure us that those cases are not representative of a Marxist state.
Perhaps it’s fair to say that Marx’s name was co-opted by thugs, but I posit something a little more consistent with the facts: it’s difficult to expropriate the “means of production” without a fight. Success requires massive takings of liberty and property. This is facilitated by means of a “class struggle” between social or economic strata, or it might reflect divisions based on other differences. Either way, groups are pitted against one another. As a consequence, we witness an “othering” of opponents on one basis or another. Marxists, no matter how “pure of heart”, find it impossible to take power without demanding ideological purity. Invariably, this requires “reeducation”, cleansing, and ultimately extermination of opponents.
Karl Marx had unsound ideas about how economic value manifests and where it should flow, and he used those ideas to describe what he thought was a more just form of social organization. The shortcomings of his theory were recognized within the economics profession of the day, and his writings might have lived on in relative obscurity were it not for the Bolshevik’s intellectual pretensions. Surely obscurity would have been better than a legacy shaped by butchers.
The growing influence of critical gender theory (CGT) in schools is unacceptable to many parents, especially at early grade levels. In fact, it’s been coming from certain areas of pediatric medicine for some time. Like critical race theory, CGT is another branch of critical theory, which was developed by a set of European social thinkers in the 1930s. CT is fundamentally a Marxist construct, and it lies at the heart of nearly all appeals to “social justice”. C. Bradley Thompson offers this concise perspective on critical theory:
“The principal aim of Critical Theory was and is, first, to deconstruct the forms of domination and hierarchy (i.e., the power relations) found in traditional or bourgeois societies, and, second, to reconstruct society toward what it calls ‘real’ or ‘true’ democracy, which is a neologism for socialism. Critical theory seeks to liberate any and all ‘victim’ groups based on their inferior and subjugated social status in capitalist societies (e.g., non-whites, women, and LGBTQ+ persons, etc.).”
It’s fair to ask whether exposure to CGT in schools has any influence on the sexual orientation and preferences of students as they mature. That can be true only to the extent that these preferences reflect socialization, rather than other environmental factors or heredity. Apparently, most LGBTQ+ individuals are disposed to claim that their sexual preference is genetic. However, the claim that sexual preference is heritable to the exclusion of social influences is dubious. And there are other non-genetic, environmental influences that play a strong role as well.
Bryan Caplan discusses some fascinating generational differences in sexual orientation / identification revealed by a recent Gallup survey. Here, I reproduce the table shown in Caplan’s post. The sum of these categories (not shown) is taken as the LGBTQ+ share of each generation.
Taken at face value, those are extremely large increases over five generations… or even over two generations from millennials to GenZs, the gay proportion being the only category in which millennials and GenZs are reasonably close in 2022.
Another important wrinkle is that the share of older generations identifying as LGBTQ+ has been stable since the last survey conducted by Gallup in 2017, as shown by the Gallup chart below:
Millennials have increased by more than a third, and the LGBTQ+ share among Gen Zs has roughly doubled to 20.8%. Gen Zs surveyed in 2017 ranged from roughly 18 – 20 years of age, but that range was roughly 18 – 24 years of age in the latest survey. Therefore, the 2022 survey might capture a greater share of GenZs having “matured” into acceptance of specific sexual identities. Nevertheless, the levels and changes in these two generations are striking.
Caplan wonders how these increases would be possible if sexual orientation was predominantly heritable, especially given that these groups are unlikely to produce offspring at the same rate as the general population. The shrinking genotype / expanding phenotype paradox leads him to conclude that heightened LGBTQ+ socialization is generally responsible for the dramatic increases.
A number of Caplan’s commenters questioned his conclusions for one or several of these categories. At the risk of missing some of the nuance in the comments, I’ll attempt to summarize a few common threads: First, as Caplan himself notes, closeting is much less common than in the past. Therefore, increases in the reported shares of these categories might be illusory. Less closeting has brought little change in the responses of the older generations, however, and perhaps that’s because they tend to associate primarily within their own age cohorts.
Second, there could be environmental influences that have led to a smaller share of cis-gender males and females, as well as more “mis-genders” at birth. For example, anything that changes the flow of testosterone to a fetus in the womb might change a child’s sexual orientation, but whether some force has induced systematic changes in those flows over time, and across the population, is another matter.
Finally, the bulk of those claiming status as LGBTQ+ among millennials and Gen Zs are bisexual. For those who are otherwise heterosexual, identification as bisexual might be fairly “costless”. That suggests a possibility that the bisexual share may be influenced by status-seeking among GenZs, especially females. One joke goes “How can you tell if a girl is bi-sexual? … Don’t worry, she’ll tell you!” Thus, some commenters viewed the large increase in reported bisexuality as inflated by status seeking among what amounts to a kind of “larper” set. There might be so much emphasis on being open-minded about sexual experimentation among younger cohorts that minor incidents from childhood or adolescence are subsequently exaggerated into claims of bisexuality.
Obviously the reduction in closeting leads to greater social exposure of non-traditional sexual preferences, including exposure to the nation’s youth. That’s a powerful social change, and it creates an atmosphere increasingly conducive to further socialization of these preferences, if not recruitment. Like many trends, this one feeds on itself: this 2021 study found a positive association between men “coming out” as gay and state legalization of same-sex marriage, the presence of gay communities, and positive attitudes toward gays. Moreover, there are definite signs of social contagion, as demonstrated by this clique of teenagers who, one and all, suddenly decided they were trans!
What forces led to the cascade in LGBTQ+ identification among more recent age cohorts? As a group, the full LGBTQ+ coalition has greater visibility, political power in asserting “victimhood”, and potential for socializing the general population to alternative lifestyles. However, there might not be any single trigger spanning LGBTQ+ identities that can explain the trend’s genesis. Perhaps the trends were set in motion by the sexual liberation of the 1960s and 70s which, as a libertarian, is not otherwise something I find objectionable.
The rise of radical feminism might have provided a basis for some females to reject males as a source of sexual gratification (and companionship), or as an exclusive source thereof, at any rate. There’s a likelihood that this contributed to the rise in lesbianism as well as female bisexuality. Feminism also served as a pretext for identity politics, which relies on claims of victimhood and is therefore fertile ground for critical theorists.
Critical theory first gained significant ground in the U.S. at universities along dimensions of race, but gender and sexual preference weren’t far behind. This “social justice” perspective filtered its way into departments of education, where academic standards are exceptionally forgiving. This, in turn, led to more fertile ground for critical theory in elementary and high school education.
CGT promotes the idea that gender is a social construct. If an individual feels that he or she is not well-suited to their biological sex, then CGT holds that they should identify as members of the opposite sex and pursue any medical paths to transition as might be available. This view has increasingly been applied to younger individuals.
Paul W. Hruz, Laurence S. Mayer, and Paul R. McHugh (HMM) discuss the 1980s development of certain pharmaceuticals prescribed today to many children suffering from gender dysphoria. One might suspect that these drugs helped to set some of these trends in motion, together with so-called “gender-affirming” therapies that are now widely practiced. The latter involve therapists who accept and support the gender identity with which a patient feels most comfortable. Needless to say, this approach is likely to encourage a gender dysphoric youth to continue their exploration of a change in gender.
Synthetic hormonal “puberty blockers” became available in the early 1990s as a treatment for early puberty (so-called “precocious puberty”). At about the same time, the treatment was tested to stop production of sex hormones in adult males identifying as females. In the 1990s, the treatment was first used to suppress puberty in children with gender dysphoria, but the effects are supposedly reversible. Advancing to a full “transition” protocol involves the subsequent use of cross-sex hormones and ultimately surgical reassignment. Today, puberty suppression techniques are widely used on children with gender dysphoria because it is viewed as a safe choice that might “buy time” while other forms of maturation proceed. Here are HMM on this point:
HMM also discuss the strong influence that activists have had on the medical establishment. This is summarized nicely by Emilie Kao:
“… the largest LGBT lobbying organization, the Human Rights Campaign and World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) influenced medical organizations like the Endocrine Society and the American Academy of Pediatrics to embrace gender affirmation over the last two decades. Jason Pierceson, author of Sexual Minorities and Politics, explains that ‘political activism and consciousness raising has also changed the way in which the medical community views transgender persons.’ He describes how this activism led the American Psychiatric Association to “abandon the mental illness paradigm of transgenderism” by changing the description in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) to treat only the stress associated with gender dysphoria as a mental disorder. No breakthroughs in science or medicine led to the change, which was accomplished just by political activism.”
HMM do not claim that puberty blockers and gender-affirming therapy are at the root of increasing transgenderism. However, they express strong reservations about widespread use of puberty blockers among gender dysphoric adolescents.
We know that gender dysphoric youths have high rates of anxiety, depression, and even suicide. Unfortunately, transition doesn’t seem to alleviate those problems as a general rule. Furthermore, it’s important to remember that unhappy adolescents are nothing new. It can be an unhappy time for many kids who are full of self-doubt. Most of them get over it, however, and many with dysphoria get over it as well. One has to ask: does helping dysphoric children along the path to transition so early have any real gains in the aggregate?
What role have the schools played in the gender confusion? The answer is just as horrifying as the role of the therapists and medical doctors encouraging and overseeing the early encouragement of transitions discussed above.
“As early as 2007, for instance, California’s education code stated that gender pertains not to anything biological but to ‘a person’s gender-related appearance and behavior.’ Gender is, in other words, a choice and has no relation to biology. This means that children have a smorgasbord of gender identities to choose from.”
So this is not new and could well have played a role in the Gallup survey results, especially for GenZs. Read at the last link about such things as “Gender Support Plans” in the schools, teacher training in dealing with gender issues, a “children’s garden” where five-year olds can learn the difference between biological sex and “gender”, a kindergarten book called My Princess Boy, the GayBCs for ages 4 – 8, the provision of a “transition closet” in which kids change their clothing once they arrive at school, school nurses who provide puberty blockers to kids they evaluate as dysphoric, pronoun lessons, of course, and many other examples. Also see this article for further information about CGT in schools, including the “Gender Unicorn” first introduced in 2016 and now used nationwide, starting as early as pre-K and kindergarten. And for a running catalog of the outrageous lessons taking place in our schools, check out Libs of Tik Tok.
Other Causal Forces
There are other vaguely plausible explanations for the trend toward more common identification as LGBTQ+ among millennials and GenZs. The internet and especially social media come to mind. Small and large social contagions are frequent on these platforms. Pre-social media, members of certain sub-cultures, and dare I say outcasts, had more difficulty finding, communicating and sharing information with one another. Today there is much less friction in that regard. Social media is also a hotbed of misery for many individuals, afflicted all too often with feelings of inadequacy or a feeling that they are outcasts. Among unhappy youths, the suggestion to try something different, to join a new “tribe”, may be very tempting. The internet serves as a guide.
A phenomenon that might be related to trends in gender identity is an increase in celibacy and decline of “partner sex”, especially among younger individuals and men. While so-called partner sex includes gay sex, the trend in sexual identity is not about any decline in sexual activity per se, but about representations of sexual identity. The uptrend in celibacy is consistent with the hypothesis that some cisgenders, frustrated by a lack of sexual partners (as distinct from the small, mostly male and angry “incel” community), might seek out a broader array of prospects. However, I know of no actual evidence to suggest such a connection.
The entertainment world is certainly no newcomer to controversies surrounding sexual identity. Gayness has long been celebrated in the theatre community, to a fault. I love theatre, but the near ubiquity of the theme in recent years has grown tiresome. There have always been gay stars of the screen, television, and musical entertainment, though it was often closeted in the past. Gay and gender identity themes have become much more common in film, but it was only recently that Disney began to emphasize gender issues explicitly with the children’s audience in mind. Some adults and even adolescents must grapple with gender dysphoria as they always have, with varying degrees of success and failure. However, to subject an audience of young children to themes that are beyond their ability to comprehend, and for whom the early exposure is completely unnecessary, is not acceptable.
Finally, the decline of religiosity might play a role in the trend toward LGBT+ identities. For one thing, church-goers have one more place to meet potential mates. More importantly, traditional religion has nearly always frowned on homosexuality, at least officially, and the LGBT+ coalition is largely areligious. Therefore, it seems likely that the negative trend in religiosity might be related to the positive trend in the LGBTQ+ population.
There is no question that identification as any of various forms of LGBTQ+ has increased dramatically among millennials and GenZs, with the largest increase in the bisexual category. Bryan Caplan hypothesizes that the trend is one of socialization, if not recruitment. It seems likely that this is the case, though much of the LGBTQ+ community’s internal, personal recruitment is probably of the passive variety. In addition, it seems likely that some of the gap relative to older generations is due to a reduction in closeting as well as “costless” status-seeking among individuals who wish to be perceived as enlightened or woke.
It’s also evident that the portion of the medical establishment concerned with issues of gender identity, as well as schools and certain entertainment institutions, have adopted the extreme views espoused by critical gender theory. They are actively encouraging children to learn about and explore various gender identities. This may encourage gender dysphoria, and when children show signs of dysphoria they are encouraged to move to the next stage, which involves affirmative therapy and puberty blockers, A bit later, teenagers might move on to other hormonal treatments and later-still, sex-change surgery. Our major medical, educational, and entertainment institutions appear to be real sources of non-passive recruitment, and indeed, the grooming of children for lives as LGBTQ+ adults.
Credit for the image at the top of this post goes to the Babylon Bee.
Michael Munger is a professor of economics at Duke University who has coined a term for the distaste we observe, in some quarters, for the success of others. He calls it Nutzenschmerz, a conjunction of the German words “nutzen” (benefit) and “schmerz” (pain).
According to Munger, nutzenschmertz is an impulse of “indignant outrage over someone getting” … “an undeserved benefit”. Of course, “undeserved” is a key word here. I suspect those inflicted with nutzenschmerz apply definitions as flexible and arbitrary as the envy from which they suffer. Nutzenschmerz is a special kind of envy, however, because it doesn’t necessarily imply a personal want of the benefit. It’s simply a condemnation of another’s good fortune. Munger applies an additional twist to the definition, which I discuss below. As a mnemonic device, it might be helpful to think of nutzenschmerz as a hatred for anyone who “gets their nut”!
People of good spirit believe success in others is something to admire, at least if it doesn’t come at someone else’s expense. Perhaps success is more admirable as the fruit of hard work and talent, as opposed to dumb luck. But good luck is nothing to be ashamed of, and it’s often said we make our own luck. Well, maybe only lucky people say that! “Luck” doesn’t necessarily come at the expense of others, however, and no one “loses” things they have no right to expect.
Furthermore, one’s success, lucky or otherwise, often inures to the benefit of others in the form of better products, new jobs, and higher income. For example, if I were to find a deposit of some rare earth mineral on my property while digging a well, I’d consider myself quite lucky. I would then hire people to mine it. The new supplies of the mineral would be used in industry, bringing more plentiful supplies of certain products to consumers. New jobs! Cheaper products!
Economists have a particular framework for discussing “successes” of this kind. If a change occurs from which everyone benefits and no one loses, economists say the change is a Pareto improvement. If only only a few benefit and no one is made worse off, it is a weak Pareto improvement. When all such opportunities have been exhausted, we have reached a state of Pareto optimality. Free markets generally move society toward that state, externalities aside. This is an aspect of what’s meant when we say markets promote economic efficiency. And when technology, tastes, or resource availability change, as they do constantly, new opportunities arise for Pareto improvements.
The Left is selectively intolerant of success and even Pareto improvements from luck or effort. The attitude is usually couched in terms of undeserved “privilege” or some form of “exploitation”. They exempt their own gains, of course, especially when they find themselves in a position to pick winners (and that enterprise almost always involves picking losers as well). In fact, they are probably inclined to celebrate success that owes to subsidies for politically favored activities, which clearly come at the expense of others and are not Paretian in any sense. Social justice warriors demand a free pass on coveting what belongs to others, and they are often just as contemptible of successful effort as they are of dumb luck. Whatever it is you have, or have achieved, don’t expect them to respect it … or your right to have it.
The word Nutzenschmerz amuses me partly because the original German form of my name begins with the letters “Nütz“. Also, like Munger, I’ve always been charmed by the German linguistic practice of stringing words together, like the more familiar Schadenfreude, which means to take pleasure in the misfortunes of others. Or Freundschaftsbeziehungen (friendship demonstrations). Mark Twain said some German words are so long they have perspective! David Sedalis once commented that he heard lots of long words in Germany, but one of the few that stuck was Lebensabschnittspartner:
“This doesn’t translate to ‘lover’ or ‘life partner’ but, rather, to ‘the person I am with today,’ the implication being that things change, and you are keeping yourself open.”
Then, of course, take Gleichschaltung (the standardization of political, economic, and social institutions in authoritarian states). Er … no, please, not that!
In addition to nutzenschmirz, Munger has coined the term Tradenfreude, meaning “joy … at observing the ‘well-contrived machine’ of commercial society, with everyone trading with everyone else for conveniences and necessities.” By extension, he adds Tradenschmerz, meaning the hatred reserved for free markets by many leftists.
Nutzenschmerz is an emotive force that shapes the Marxist psyche. It could be dismissed as incidental to a shallow grasp of the mutually beneficial nature of voluntary trade. However, it also demonstrates a fundamental disrespect for property rights. It’s a rejection of the very things that motivate human action, and which enable cooperation on a scale unprecedented over nearly all of human history preceding the Scottish Enlightenment.
I propose that we should all practice a philosophy of Nutzenfreude, by which I mean taking pleasure in the Paretian successes of others. It might be vicarious, or it might signal the genesis of new opportunities for the rest of us! The thing is, those successes all represent human progress to one degree or another, from which we all derive incremental benefits. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be watchful for harms or externalities, but neither should we regard every success with suspicion, or worse, nutzenschmerz!
Do as Munger says: fight nutzenschmerz! And revel in nutzenfreude!
Economists are rightfully astonished when people act as if they’ve come up losers in almost every transaction they make. It’s often when they’re on the buying end, but here’s the paradox: almost all transactions are voluntary, a major exception being the coerced payment of taxes. There are few private transactions in which free choice is absent. A truly voluntary choice is an absolute proof of gain. In those trades, buyers reveal that they assign less value to choices not made, and foregone choices almost always exist, including the possibility of doing nothing. By their very nature, voluntary transactions are mutually beneficial. So why do people feel cheated so often?
Free To Lose?
Yes, we are free to choose and free to lose! But this isn’t about cases in which a product proves defective or quickly becomes obsolete. Nor is it about making a purchase only to learn of a discount later. Those are ex post events that might have been impossible to foresee. Here, I refer only to the decision made on the day and hour of the purchase, including any assessment of risk.
A recent study confirmed a pervasive “loser’s” mentality in transactions: “Win–win denial: The psychological underpinnings of zero-sum thinking”, by Samuel B.G. Johnson, Jiewen Zhang, and Frank C. Keil. They also found that people judge the seller as the “winner” in most transactions. The authors considered a few explanations for these findings discussed in psychological literature, such as socially-ingrained mercantilist attitudes and a tendency to zero-sum thinking.
Roots of “Never-a-Buyer-Be” Phobia
Mercantilism was borne of zero-sum thinking — a belief in a hard limit to total wealth. Under those circumstances, accumulating gold or other hard assets was seen as preferable to spending on imports of goods from other nations. Imports meant gold had to be shipped out, but exports of goods brought it in.
That uncompromising view led to efforts by government on behalf of domestic industries to stanch imports, and it ultimately led to decline. One nation cannot buy another’s goods indefinitely without corresponding flows of goods in the other direction. Nations gain from trade only by producing things in which they have a comparative advantage and selling them to others. In turn, they must purchase goods from others in which they do NOT have a comparative advantage. It’s cheaper that way! And it’s a win-win prescription for building worldwide wealth.
If You Gotta Have It…
People do have a tendency to regret money spent on things they reluctantly feel they must have. They suffer a kind of advance buyer’s remorse, but it stems from having to part with money, which represents all those other nice things one might have had, covering an infinite range of possibilities. This is the same fallacy inherent in mercantilism. The fact is, we purchase things we must have because they represent greater value than doing without. The phantom satisfaction of opportunities foregone are simply not large enough to keep us from doing the “right” thing in these situations.
The Contest For Surplus
There’s a more basic reason why people feel swindled after having engaged in mutually beneficial trade. The seller collects more revenue than marginal cost, and the buyer pays less than the item’s full “use value”. The latter is the buyer’s reservation price: the most they’d be willing to pay under the circumstances. The seller’s gain (over cost) plus the buyer’s gain (under reservation price) is the total “surplus” earned in the exchange. It’s the surplus that’s up for grabs, and both buyer and seller might view the exchange as a contest over its division. Competitive instincts and thrift being what they are, both sides want a larger share of the spoils!
So there truly is a sort of zero-sum game in play. You can try to bargain to capture more of the surplus, but not every seller will do so, often as a matter of policy or reputation. Or you can spend more time and incur greater personal cost by shopping around. Ultimately, if the offer you face is less than your “reservation price”, you’ll extract an absolute benefit from the exchange. Both you and the seller are better off than without it. You both do it voluntarily, and it’s mutually beneficial. Whatever the division of the surplus, you haven’t really lost anything, even if you have the gnawing feeling you might have been able to find a better bargain and captured more surplus.
You might think the parties to a stock trade cannot both win. However, buyers and sellers have different reasons for making stock trades, which usually involve other needs and differing expectations. Ex ante, both sides of these trades earn a surplus, unless either the seller or buyer is at the losing end of a previous option trade now forcing them to buy or sell the stock.
There are other cases worthy of debate: buyers in monopolized or captive markets are unlikely to collect much of the surplus. Buyers at an informational disadvantage will gain less surplus as well, and they might incur greater risk to any gain whatsoever. Excise taxes allow government to capture some of the surplus, while government subsidies deliver “fake” surplus to the buyer and seller that comes at the expense of taxpayers. Now I feel cheated!
Beware Marxist Sympathies
Buyers and sellers both benefit by virtue of voluntary exchange. The gains might not be divided equally, but the false perception that buyers always get the “short end of the bargain” is a fundamental misunderstanding about how markets work. It also undermines support for basic freedoms allowing autonomous economic decisions and activity, and it strengthens the hand of statists who would fetter the operation of free markets. Like short-sighted mercantilists, those who would intervene in markets create obstacles to human cooperation and the creation of wealth. In fact, the idea that buyers are always cheated is a classist, Marxist notion. Policies acting upon that bias are rife with unintended consequences: small and large market interventions often strike at property rights, which ultimately inhibits the supply of goods and harms consumers.
The policies foisted upon the country by the Left always hurt those constituencies they think they’ll help, and they backfire in very predictable ways. There are too many instances of that truism to recount, but just a couple of examples follow.
Economic Perils of Precaution
We can start with the interminable non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) imposed in many states during the pandemic. These included shelter-at-home orders, limits on public gatherings, school closures, and the like. These lockdown measures were more severe in so-called blue states controlled by the Democrat Party. But NPIs were a policy failure and did little to stem the pandemic or excess deaths. Moreover, they resulted in the closure of many businesses and massive job losses. The economic burden fell especially hard on low wage earners, as the following chart shows:
For high earners (the red line), the employment decline at the start of the pandemic was small and relatively brief. Less fortunate were those earning under $27,000 annually (the blue line). They suffered a much larger initial decline in employment and had a continuing loss of almost 24% of jobs. While those who lost jobs ultimately received enhanced unemployment compensation and other benefits, the idleness and loss of work experience inflicted long-term damage to health, psyches, and future prospects. Thus, the party with pretensions of championing the cause of the downtrodden was pleased to intervene with policies that undercut the working poor.
But Some Precautions Are “Racist”
Another prominent case in which leftists have harmed those for whom they claim to advocate is the effort to “defund the police”. Low income and minority populations do not favor such a policy because they understand the value of protection against criminal elements who victimize their communities. The residents of these communities are most at risk from gangland violence and homicide. Furthermore, nearly all “victims” of police homicides are armed, and police homicides are closely associated with crime. And again, the sad fact is that crime is heavily concentrated in minority neighborhoods. The statistics do not support assertions of bias in policing. Obviously, these citizens have taken notice that the riots cheered on by the Left have been destructive to their communities.
Crime has spiked in Minneapolisand elsewhere since last summer, when George Floyd’s death sparked interest in the “defund the police” mantra promoted by the Left. And there followed a reduction in police budgets of about 5.2% in aggregate in the 50 largest cities in the country (though not all of these cities made cuts). Moreover, the effectiveness of policing has been undercut more broadly by the substantial legal risk now facing officers who earnestly attempt to enforce the law, as well as more restrictive use-of-force policies.
These changes are an unambiguous disaster for so many good people having the misfortune to live in high-crime areas. And the political disaster is starting to sink in among Democrats, who are already attempting to change the narrative (and seehere). It’s pretty transparent that the “black lives matter” dialectic appeals to Democrats primarily as a selling point of convenience, and not so much when there’s actual blood in the streets.
Only the Obvious Matters
Destructive lockdowns and efforts to “defund the police” are just two examples of a perverse phenomenon. It’s well known to keen observers of the history of Marxism in action that it usually victimizes its presumed beneficiaries. That dynamic is at play under school discipline policies that seek to avoid “disparate impacts” on minority students, leaving other minority school children in disruptive learning environments; gun control initiatives making it difficult for minority residents and businesses to protect themselves; rent controls leading to a deteriorating stock of low-cost housing; wage floors causing low-skilled workers to lose hours, benefits, and jobs; energy policies with regressive impacts on household budgets; tax policies destroying incentives for job creation; and a welfare state creating disincentives to work and promoting family instability. This list goes on and on.
The difficulty leftists have in coming to grips with these unintended consequences is that they can’t see past first-order effects. Like spoiled children, they grasp only the ostensible benefits of their demands. And like bad parents, they behave as if to seek approval of the most spoiled among their presumed charges.
Check out this Vox article on the impact of Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests on police homicides, other homicides, and property crime within the communities where protests occurred. It cites a study by Travis Campbell, a Ph.D. candidate in economics at UMass-Amherst with the following major findings for the period 2014-2019:
1) Police homicides in census areas where BLM protests took place were 10% – 15% less than if those deaths had followed the trend where BLM protests did not take place, after controlling for confounding factors like the local unemployment rate. That’s about 300 fewer uses of lethal force by police, or one less for every 4,000 BLM protestors. So far, so good, one might guess.
2) Other homicides increased by roughly 10% using the same basis of comparison, or somewhere between 1,000 and 6,000. This estimate is less precise for a number of reasons, and it was not the main focus of Campbell’s research. Still, using a value near the mid-point, say 3,000, yields one extra murder for every 400 BLM protestors! The effect seems to taper off after about four years.
3) Reported property crimes decreased by 8.4% in areas that had BLM protests, but the share of those crimes solved declined by 5.5%. Campbell interprets the latter as an indication of reduced policing intensity. Reports of crime might decline if confidence in the police declines post protest, but reduced effort by the police is also consistent with less reported property crime, less police engagement, and more homicide.
“The explanation is consistent with what happened in Baltimore after the Freddie Gray protests and riots, namely arrests went down and murders went up.”
The research did not include data on the 2020 protests and riots following the death of George Floyd due to lags in reporting homicides and crime.
One of BLM’s primary objectives is to end “systemic racism” in policing, a problem that has no real empirical basis. Nevertheless, a reduction in deadly confrontations between police and blacks would seem to be a win (though the study doesn’t address the racial makeup of police homicides). But if that means less police engagement and a substantial increase in homicides in the community, the cost is obviously too high. Areas suffering from high homicide rates need more policing, not less. But yes, it must be good policing in partnership with citizens, and there are real reforms that could help.
BLM’s continued calls to “defund the police” are more about signaling lofty intent than about solving real problems. After all, that’s the perverse charm of the Marxism espoused by BLM, Antifa, and gentry leftists having class immunity to unintended (but predictable) consequences. You don’t really have to solve problems. You can just make them for others and take credit for trying!
Joe Biden is a weak figurehead, a one-time moderate faltering over a coalition of leftists. If you wonder why Nancy Pelosi floated legislation to establish a committee on “presidential capacity,” don’t think so much about her loathing for Donald Trump; think about poor Joe Biden. He might be shunted aside just as soon as the power grab isn’t too obvious. They know well how Barack Obama famously said, “Don’t underestimate Joe’s ability to f*ck things up.” But whether Joe Biden is in control of anything, think about who he stands with:
The Violent Left: Marxist Antifa and Marxist BLM; opposed to law and order; burning cities; spewing eliminationist rhetoric; hissing n*g**r at black cops;
Police Defunders: won’t acknowledge good policing is needed more than ever, especially in minority communities;
Critical Race Theorists: a Marxist front whereby every word and action is viewed in the context of racial bias and victimization; they want reparations; on your knees.
The Scientistic: who labor under the delusion that “science” should guide all administrative and political decisions. Or someone’s version of science. The very idea is antithetical to the scientific domain, which deals only with falsifiable hypotheses. Few matters of value can be addressed using the tools of science exclusively, nor can they address matters of ethics.
Fear Mongers: would rule by precaution; risks are always worth exaggerating to existential proportions;
Lockdown Tyrants: refuse to acknowledge the steep public health costs of lockdowns; stripping individual liberties indefinitely, including the right to contract, free practice of religion, and assembly;
Insurrectionists: who fabricated a Russian collusion hoax to subvert the 2016 election, and later to overthrow a sitting president;
Gun Confiscators: they will if we let them;
Abortionists: would use federal tax dollars to fund the murder of millions of babies late into pregnancy, primarily black babies;
Taxers: won’t stop with punitive taxes on the wealthy and employers; it’s just not easy to milk high earners in a way that’s sufficient to pay for the fiscal debauchery demanded by the Biden-Harris constituency. Joe says he will raise taxes by $3.4 trillion.
Spenders: $2 trillion of new federal education outlays, including universal pre-K and free community college; the Green New Deal (see below). After all, the democrats are the party that can’t tell the difference between a cut in spending and a reduction in spending growth. If you think Trump is a big spender, their plans are astonishing;
Green New Dealers: would spend trillions to restrict energy choices, transfer U.S. wealth overseas in the name of international carbon reduction, and reduce our standard of living;
Redistributionists: would tax job creators not simply for the benefit of supporting the needy, but for anyone regardless of need (see UBI); this extends to plans to bail out blue states and cities with insolvent public employee pension funds;
Interventionists: would regulate all phases of life, including straws, sugary drinks, and your fireplace; they will burden private initiative; create artificial, politically-favored winners skilled at manipulating regulatory rules for competitive reasons; and create losers who are typically too small to handle the burden;
Medical Socialists: will strip your private health insurance, dictate the care you may receive, fix prices, and regulate physicians and other providers. You’ll love the care abroad, if you can afford to get out when your sick.
Public School Monopolists: poorly performing, beholden to teachers’ unions, unresponsive to taxpayers and often parents; they would happily revoke school choice;
Federal Suburb Rezoners: demanding low-income housing in every community;
Court Packers: to destroy the independent judiciary;
Iran Apologists: give them cash on the tarmac, let them develop their “peaceful” nuclear program; alienate the rest of the Middle East;
I could go on and on, but Harris-Biden voters should get a strong taste of their compatriots from the list above. It reflects the overriding prescriptive, bullying, and sometimes violent nature of the Left. They’d have you think all material goods can be free. Presto! They presume to have the knowledge and wisdom to plan the economy and your life better than you, Better than free markets and free people. What they’ll need is a lot of magic, or it won’t go well. You’ll get poverty and tears. I’m not sure Joe has the desire or the wherewithal to rein in his coalition of idiots.
How many white lives is a single black life worth? It seems so easy to pin that down, but if you think it’s okay to say “black lives matter”, but not to say “all lives matter”, the implication is that one black life is worth more than one white life. Anyone who insists on that should take the following litmus test.
A classic dilemma discussed by ethicists involves situations of mortal danger in which a life or lives might be sacrificed in order to save other lives. Variants of it come up again and again in the effort to tune software for autonomous vehicles. It’s also a simple tool for challenging assertions about the values of different lives, or whether different lives “matter”.
Suppose that two pedestrians step into the path of your vehicle. You can save them only by swerving, killing a single pedestrian standing at the curb. Most would agree the car should swerve, but the answer might change under certain circumstances. Forget about the argument that the two in your path weren’t careful, so they “deserve” die. We just don’t know what caused them to proceed, or what might have distracted them.
What if the two in your path are elderly, using walkers and dragging oxygen tanks, while the pedestrian at the curb is a healthy child. Does that matter? Do we weigh the sacrifice of many potential life-years as well as a higher quality of life? People might feel less certain about that choice.
Now let’s suppose that all three pedestrians are healthy, young adults. Does it matter that any of the pedestrians are black? The one on the the curb, or the two in your path? Of course not! The truly “colorblind” answer is to swerve regardless of race. You are an obvious racist if you think otherwise. The sacrifice of one white life is certainly worth saving two black lives; the sacrifice of one black life is certainly worth saving two white lives. Black lives and white lives matter equally.
Our Constitution and ethical standards dictate that lives are equal, that we are equal before the law, that we that we have equal rights to speak, worship, and enjoy the fruits of our labors, including the unchallenged right to property we might acquire. Under the law, and in all of our social interactions, we must be accorded equal consideration regardless of extraneous characteristics such as race. All of us have the same promise of life and opportunities to pursue happiness, and to make of our lives what we can or will. However, none of this entitles us to equal happiness, romance, and material well being.
Now, detractors will say all that misses the point. The value of black lives has been discounted for centuries, they say, as evidenced in disparate treatment by police, prosecutors, juries, employers, neighbors, social clubs, and places of business. Of course it’s true that racism has a long history throughout the world, and at one time or other it has been turned against virtually every race or religion in existence. If you think in this day and age that racism doesn’t exist elsewhere, think again.
Slavery was a tragic reality in the U.S. until 155 years ago, but it was certainly not unique to the U.S. Jim Crow laws that prevented blacks from participating equally in many aspects of life were finally ended more than 50 years ago through a series of legislative actions and Supreme Court decisions. Slavery and Jim Crowism were the acts of long-dead ancestors of almost anyone living today. The presumption that all whites should assume guilt for some kind original sin against blacks is sheer nonsense, and one many of us will simply never accept.
Nevertheless, the legacy of degraded personhood under those long-defunct laws created a heavy burden for blacks in terms of upward mobility, and certainly vestiges of racism survive even today. However, we have adopted many standards and programs intended to rectify this unfortunate legacy, including the civil rights legislation of the 1960s and beyond, the Great Society programs of Lyndon Johnson, and many other enlargements of the social safety net since then. These programs have represented a massive redistribution of resources to the impoverished via education, housing, and direct transfers. Oneestimate put cumulative federal spending on anti-poverty programs alone at $13 trillion between 1963 and 2010. In addition, a variety of programs have been a source of preferential treatment for various minorities in an effort to ensure equal opportunities across many aspects of life.
The success of these programs is subject to great doubt (more on that below), and in fact the motives of Johnson and other proponents of this expansion in the role of government were perhaps less than pure. Nevertheless, the entirety of the package of civil rights and welfare state programs over the years was supported by most of the black community. In fact, one could say that these measures were hardly the actions of a racist society, at least in ostensible intent.
And yet we are told today that we do not sufficiently appreciate that black lives matter! There is no question that racism lives in the hearts and minds of certain individuals, but those individuals aren’t all white. More importantly, the blanket condemnation of whites as racist lacks any basis in reality.
When Black Lives Matter activists talk of “systemic racism”, you can translate as follows: blacks have not met with the ex post economic and social success to which these activists believe blacks are entitled. As it pertains to law enforcement, they mean that blacks are met with more violent police actions than blacks should suffer.
As to law enforcement, it is an awful thing that crime perpetrated by blacks, and particularly crime by blacks against blacks, is disproportionally heavy. As I argued recently, it is difficult to accept the hypothesis of systemic racism in law enforcement in the presence of rampant “systemic crime” in the black community. But crime, in turn, is tied closely to economic success, or the lack thereof.
Median black income has grown relative to median white income since 1970 (also see here). Unfortunately, many blacks have not shared in that growth and remain mired in poverty and on public aid. Sadly, many aid programs have pernicious effects because they impose extremely high marginal tax rates on earned income. The solution lays the groundwork for continued dependency. That qualifies as systemic racism, or at least classism.
Ultimately, the uproar over racism alleged to be so widespread and “systemic” is divisive. It is an application of Marxist “conflict theory” lying at the very heart of identity politics. Such tribal philosophies creat huge obstacles to peaceful and productive coexistence among diverse peoples. Meanwhile, there’s a simple truth: a widespread consensus exists that all lives are of equal value, that all lives deserve respect and equal treatment under the law, that the goodwill of one’s fellows is a birthright, and that racism is fundamentally evil. If society is to provide fertile ground for the equal cultivation of all lives, it must reject the strictures and resentment bred by identity politics in favor of individual liberty, personal responsibility, and compassion for those unable to care for themselves.
It’s difficult to put oneself in the shoes of a cop, but it seems clear that many partisans lack an appreciation for the intensity and danger of police work, which is fundamentally about protecting the public from threats to life and property. Confrontation is an unavoidable part of the job, whether it involves a domestic disturbance, drunk and disorderly conduct, property crime, or a shooting. Situations are adversarial and officers often face significant mortal risk. These are very brave people.
It would be impossible to do a cop’s job without legal authorization and occasional use force, but it can be very hard to judge when that’s necessary. A cop’s beat can feel like a war zone. There’s not much time to think. Things happen fast. Bad things happen really fast. Calm is restored in the best of circumstances, but arrests may be necessary, and sometimes a situation escalates or is already so fraught that it ends in tragedy. Sound procedures help police do their jobs better, but outcomes are capricious, and it is all too easy to make harsh judgements about split-second decisions in hindsight. Like any other accused, when a police matter ends badly, the cop is entitled to due process. Depending on circumstances and evidence, that means cops deserve a fair margin of error in the conduct of their duties.
To take a recent example, the police shooting of Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta occurred after Brooks wrestled with officers when they attempted to put him in handcuffs. Brooks broke free and snatched one of their tasers. As he ran, an officer pursued him at fairly close range. Brooks turned and fired the taser at the officer, shooting too high as it turned out. But the officer returned fire within an instant, three shots, striking Brooks in the back twice. Was that justified or reckless? The videos shown on the networks are in slow motion, but decisions like that can’t be made in slow-mo. The taser might have struck and disabled the officer, or in rare circumstances even killed him. And some tasers fire more than once; if one or both officers were disabled, their guns were potentially up for grabs. Either way, the use of his firearm seems to have been within Georgia law and Atlanta Police Department guidelines. No one should pretend there was time for careful deliberation. However, none of that dissuaded the Fulton County DA from filing immediate murder charges in a politically charged atmosphere. That’s hardly due process.
Of course there are bad cops and racist cops, but they comprise a distinct minority. Certain reforms might help to keep them from abusing their power, get them off the force, or convict them, depending on the nature of the offense. Qualified immunity gives excessive cover to bad cops and has protected far too many from prosecution. It’s regrettable that Senate Republicans have refused to consider modifications to qualified immunity, but perhaps they are holding it back as a negotiating ploy. Monitoring the conduct of officers is obviously important, and anonymous peer review within departments would be an excellent mechanism for identifying problem officers. Some reform proposals would certainly reduce the likelihood that police actions will be unjust, regardless of individual attitudes: ending no-knock raids and decriminalizing drugs would be major steps forward on that front.
The brutal murder of George Floyd has brought much more radical calls for changes in policing — even defunding or dismantling entire departments. These are based on widespread assertions that police are biased against blacks and that unjust police violence is directed at blacks. There is conflicting evidence on that point, however. Harvard Professor Roland Fryer concludes that while there is no evidence of racial bias in the use of lethal force by police, there is some evidence of bias in the use of non-lethal force. Other facts make the latter conclusion seem dubious, however. Consider the patterns of criminal activity described at the last link by Barry Latzer, CUNY Professor of Criminal Justice:
“The latest police data collected by the FBI indicates that blacks comprised 58 percent of all murder arrests and 40 percent of those apprehended for all violent crimes. This disproportional involvement of African Americans in violent crime turns out to be the most significant factor of all in explaining the use of force against blacks by police.
It will be no surprise that violent criminals in the United States are commonly armed and dangerous. For assaults, for instance, 71 percent of arrested persons carried firearms. Among suspected murderers, 58 percent had guns, as did 42 percent of apprehended robbery suspects. This tally doesn’t include the knives or blunt instruments recovered from violent offenders, including over 48,000 cutting instruments possessed by those arrested for assault alone.”
Latzer cites a number of studies of lethal force by police. One of these studies found:
“… after controlling for numerous factors, that blacks were 27.4 percent less likely than non-Hispanic whites to be fatally shot by police.”
Other researchers have noted:
“… the absence of any correlation between the race of the officer and that of the victim. That is, after controlling for other factors, white police officers were no more likely than black officers to fatally shoot black civilians. In fact, the more black officers on a police force, the more African Americans were fatally shot.”
Another finding by the same study:
“[O]fficer race, sex, or experience did not predict the race of a person fatally shot beyond relationships explained by county demographics. On the other hand, race-specific violent crime strongly predicted the race of a civilian fatally shot by police, explaining over 40% of the variance in civilian race. These results bolster claims to take into account violent crime rates when examining fatal police shootings.”
The most tragic aspect of all this is that the vast majority of black crime victims are victimized by other blacks. Here are 2018 statistics for homicides. While blacks account for about 13.5% of the U.S. population, black offenders accounted for nearly 45% of homicides in 2018, and black-on-black homicide accounted for nearly 40% of all homicides.
Crime in the black community, and its economic costs, are inflicted almost exclusively on other blacks. If there was ever a need for good policing, this is it. The reasons for disproportionate crime and violence in the black community are complex. The notion that there is “systemic racism” at play here might be correct, but again, the evidence suggests it is not the fault of police. The welfare state plays a major role, asWalter Williams has long asserted. There are many more children living without fathers in the black community, a product of misdirected social policy that awards greater benefits to single-parents households. High rates of male incarceration obviously compound this problem. Blame can also be ascribed to a dysfunctional system of public education, and our nation’s continuing insistent on prosecuting the War on Drugs is highly destructive.
The campaign against police is promoted by a number of leftist organizations, the most prominent of which are Black Lives Matter and Antifa. Other well-meaning leftists do not question the rhetoric of police racism, and they also tend to fall for the illusion of collectivist virtue. Don’t accept this bullshit! It won’t help blacks as a class. We’ve known for some time that BLM is a Marxist organization, as is Antifa. Lawrence Person quotes BLM co-founder Patrice Cullors: “We are trained Marxists.”
“BLM happily self-identifies as a neo-Marxist movement with various far left objectives, including defunding the police (an evolution of the [Black] Panther position of public open-carry to control the police), to dismantling capitalism and the patriarchal system, disrupting the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure, seeking reparations from slavery to redistribute wealth and via various offshoot appeals, to raise money to bail black prisoners awaiting trial. The notion of seizing control of the apportionment of capital, dismantling the frameworks of society and neutralising and undermining law enforcement are not just Marxist, but anarchic.”
Identity politics provides a rich trove of grievance, guilt projection, and intimidation. But it won’t end there. They will use any and all means to subvert civil society in order to gain power, and there will be a high cost in terms of freedom, lives and human well being. These people are ruthless morons. One doesn’t have to look far to learn that the histories of Marxist revolution and attempts at governance are uniform in their failure and bloody mayhem.
Too many “nice people”, media, businesses, and other institutions are all too willing to accept BLM and Antifa propaganda unquestioningly, including their stupefying lies about disproportionate police violence against blacks. Yes, there are black victims of police brutality, and there are many white victims as well — criminal justice and police reform is not to be dismissed. Unfortunately, there is a large disproportion of violent crime committed by blacks against blacks. Many in the black community know all too well that good policing is desperately needed. Quite simply: no cops, no peace, no justice.
The socialist left and the Marxist hard left both deny their authoritarian progenitors. Leftists are collectivists, many of whom subscribe to an explicit form of corporatism with the state having supreme power, whether as a permanent or transitional arrangement on the path to full state ownership of the means of production. Collectivism necessarily requires force and the abrogation of individual rights. At this link, corporatism, with its powerful and interventionist state, is aptly described as “de facto nationalization without being de jure nationalization” of industry. To the extent that private ownership is maintained (for the right people), it is separated from private control and is thus a taking. But the word corporatism itself is confusing to some: it is not capitalism by any means. It essentially means “to group”, and it is a form of social control by the state. (And by the way, it has nothing to do with the legal business definition of a corporation.)
Of course, leftists distance themselves from the brutality of many statist regimes by asserting that authoritarianism is exclusively a right-wing phenomenon, conveniently ignoring Stalin, Castro, Mao, Pol Pot, and other hard lefties too numerous to mention. In fact, leftists assert that fascism must be right-wing because it is corporatist and relies on the force of authority. But again, both corporatism and fascism are collectivist philosophies and historically have been promoted as such by their practitioners. Furthermore, these leftist denials fly in the face of the systemic tendency of large governments to stanch dissent. I made several of these points four years ago in “Labels For the Authoritarian Left“.
I find this link from The Federalist fascinating because the author, Paul Jossey, provides quotes of Hitler and others offering pretty conclusive proof that the Nazi high command was collectivist in the same vein as the leftists of today. Here are a few of Jossey’s observations:
“Hitler’s first ‘National Workers’ Party’ meeting while he was still an Army corporal featured the speech ‘How and by What Means is Capitalism to be Eliminated?’
The Nazi charter published a year later and coauthored by Hitler is socialist in almost every aspect. It calls for ‘equality of rights for the German people’; the subjugation of the individual to the state; breaking of ‘rent slavery’; ‘confiscation of war profits’; the nationalization of industry; profit-sharing in heavy industry; large-scale social security; the ‘communalization of the great warehouses and their being leased at low costs to small firms’; the ‘free expropriation of land for the purpose of public utility’; the abolition of ‘materialistic’ Roman Law; nationalizing education; nationalizing the army; state regulation of the press; and strong central power in the Reich.”
Are you feeling the Bern? Does any of this remind you of the “Nasty Woman”, Liz Warren? Here is more from Jossey:
“Hitler repeatedly praised Marx privately, stating he had ‘learned a great deal from Marxism.’ The trouble with the Weimar Republic, he said, was that its politicians ‘had never even read Marx.’ He also stated his differences with communists were that they were intellectual types passing out pamphlets, whereas ‘I have put into practice what these peddlers and pen pushers have timidly begun.’
It wasn’t just privately that Hitler’s fealty for Marx surfaced. In ‘Mein Kampf,’ he states that without his racial insights National Socialism ‘would really do nothing more than compete with Marxism on its own ground.’ Nor did Hitler eschew this sentiment once reaching power. As late as 1941, with the war in bloom, he stated ‘basically National Socialism and Marxism are the same’ in a speech published by the Royal Institute of International Affairs.
Nazi propaganda minister and resident intellectual Joseph Goebbels wrote in his diary that the Nazis would install ‘real socialism’ after Russia’s defeat in the East. And Hitler favorite Albert Speer, the Nazi armaments minister whose memoir became an international bestseller, wrote that Hitler viewed Joseph Stalin as a kindred spirit, ensuring his prisoner of war son received good treatment, and even talked of keeping Stalin in power in a puppet government after Germany’s eventual triumph.”
Some contend that the Nazis used the term “socialist” in a purely cynical way, and that they hoped to undermine support for “real socialists” by promising a particular (and perverse) vision of social justice to those loyal to the Reich and the German nation. After all, the Bolsheviks were political rivals who lacked Hitler’s nationalistic fervor. Hitler must have thought that his brand of “socialism” was better suited to his political aspirations, not to mention his expansionist visions. Those not loyal to the Reich, including Jews and other scapegoats, would become free slave labor to the regime and its loyal corporate cronies. (It’s striking that much of today’s Left, obviously excepting Bernie Sanders, seems to share the Nazis’ antipathy for Jews.)
Socialism, corporatism and fascism are close cousins and are overlapping forms of statism, and they are all authoritarian by their practical nature. It’s incredible to behold leftists as they deny that the National Socialists Workers Party practiced a brand of socialism. Perhaps the identification of the Nazis as a fascist regime has led to confusion regarding their true place along the ideological spectrum, but that too is puzzling. In their case, a supreme corporatist state enabled its most privileged advocates to exploit government power for private gain, and that’s the essence of fascism and the archetypical outcome of socialism.
In advanced civilizations the period loosely called Alexandrian is usually associated with flexible morals, perfunctory religion, populist standards and cosmopolitan tastes, feminism, exotic cults, and the rapid turnover of high and low fads---in short, a falling away (which is all that decadence means) from the strictness of traditional rules, embodied in character and inforced from within. -- Jacques Barzun