Sunday, March 08, 2009

President Fabian

Barack Obama is a Fabian Socialist. To learn what this means, please read this article in Forbes.

13 comments:

Aaron Beitler said...

Thanks for posting. It's pleasing to see that as the honeymoon has wound down, the analysis of our president has improved to a respectable level. If only we could have seen incisive articles like this before the election. The media just couldn't go there...

Steve Schuler said...

Good article, especially for someone who does not share his perspective. Like most rhetoric his arguement appeals to emotion more than it relies upon reason. My own notion is that as mankind becomes more compassionate we will become more socialistic in our economic structures and institutions.

As of the year 2000 about 25% of the worlds population, about 1.5 billion people, were living on $1.00/day or less (International Extreme Poverty Level), 25% on $2.00/day (International Poverty Level). The wealthy upper 50%, the remaining 3 billion people, were enjoying an average per capita income of about $36.50/day, about $13,000/year. Kind of offers a different perspective on the fallen state of mankind than considering the extreme compensation our celebrities often receive. It would be arrogant for me to consider myself blessed to enjoy the standard of living that I do, humble though it is by Western standards. I do, however, count myself as being fortunate to be spared the poverty that so many of my brothers and sisters on Earth endure. What system/systems can best provide for the needs of our world? This I don't know.

Steve Schuler said...

I just want to add that I do not see the problem of poverty in the world as being caused by the West or capitalism or folks who hold conservative religious or political opinions. I may have said this before but I do not hold the view that most of the problems in the world today have been caused by White Christian Men who work for Corporations, especially those damned multi-nationals! On the other hand, I do not see the salvation of the world, or the alleviation of suffering in the world, as residing within the philosophies and strategies that that same group (WCMC's) has hitherto offered and promoted. What a Strange, Wonderful, and Mysterious Life we Share!?

Jeremy said...

Steve

As to which system would ameliorate the global situation. I've got to admit that I think it's capitalism. Everywhere it's been tried, you get growth. The problem is that capitalism hasn't been allowed to flourish on the global scene. I know there's going to be a lot of vitriol flung my way (I don't mean to suggest that you, Steve, will fling vitriol; I'm talking about others). But I'm committed to this position. Socialism has no empirical support.

Now, I have to take issue with your wealth distribution figures. I don't take issue with the numbers themselves. However, I wonder what point I'm supposed to get by your citing them. Is it that there are a lot of poor people in the world? Is it that celebrities get paid a lot of money? Is it that transferring the wealth of these celebrities to the really poor would help these poor people? I'm just wondering if you're making a descriptive claim or a normative claim.

If you're making the normative claim that there ought to be a more equitable distribution of wealth across the globe, consider this:

You mention that the top 50% had an average per capita income of about $13,000/year. That's not a lot at all. And that's the TOP 50%! What would a more equitable distribution look like? Well, I did my own little google search (a quick search no doubt, so I don't think I'll want to die on the numbers hill), but according to

http://www.success-and-culture.net/articles/percapitaincome.shtml

the average per capita income worldwide, that would be a fully equitable distribution of wealth across the globe, is actually $8,200/year if one uses the Purchasing Power Parity method (which adjusts for cost of living), or $5,500/year if the Atlas method is used (which adjusts for currency values and inflation). Both of these numbers are significantly less than $13,000. Even if my numbers are off, take yours and figure out what the global average would be. It will still be significantly less than $13,000.

The upshot is that we'd all be equal, but we'd all be equally poor. But this doesn't address why people who had wealth should be coerced into poverty simply to give already poor persons money that won't help them significantly raise their standard of living. Equitable distribution based on anything other than merit isn't really just for anyone--it harms the wealthy without really helping the poor.

Too, this kind of distribution would only come about by state-sponsored coercion. State-sponsored coercion would necessarily bring about something like communism, and there goes any potential for growth. We'll all be poor together without the ability to better our situation.

Why think this is just?

What is so inherently evil about wealth that it ought to confiscated? Surely there are people who are wealthy due to criminal activity, but let's forget about them; they ought to be punished and have their wealth taken. But what about all the people that have their wealth legitimately? What's wrong with this?

Steve Schuler said...

Jeremy,

I think it's highly unlikely that you will get much heat from the socialist crowd that probably doesn't frequent this blog. It appears to me that hardline socialist are extremely rare in America. Unfortunately it also appears that some folks who may be just left of center on the political scale, Obama for example, have been branded as "Socialist" by political rhetoriticians intent on advancing their political agendas. Of course this is just my perception and may not be in accord with someone having a better grip on objective reality than I might. I would like to clarify that I use the term "socialism" or "socialistic" not in a strict sense (hard line) wherein all the means of production are collectively held by the state, but in a looser sense that allows for a continuum that includes both governmental activities and economic considerations with Anarcho Capitalism and Totalitarian Communism as polar opposites along an imaginary line that includes any number of possible variations. While it is much easier to discuss socialism and capitalism as absolutes, the real world seems to embody variations of these concepts that tend to be not as easily defined or described as we might hope. For example, I think the USA is already a very socialized state. We enjoy free public education, collectively built and maintained highway systems, fire and police departments that are publicly financed and operated, etc... I sure I am not telling you anything you are not aware of, I just want to try to make sure we are on the same page, so to speak.

"Socialism has no empirical support."

Actually I think there are many examples of empirical support (real world evidence) of socialism. I understand that much of Europe have very socialized societies and economies. Currently Hugo Chavez continues to receive great popular support, although not without his critics, as President of Venezuela in what is described as a Democratic Socialist State. In Alaska the state receives suffficient revenues from oil production that no income taxes are levied on the citizenry in order to finance the operation of state government. In fact last year every man, woman, and child received about $3,000 from the State of Alaska as their share of the oil wealth. Pretty socialistic I think.

As pertains to the income data I included, it has no argumentative value or intent. I had actually just looked up that information for another discussion I was in. Like you, I kind of went with the first source that seemed reasonably accurate and reliable, although it was pretty dated.

http://www.iie.com/publications/chapters_preview/379/1iie3659.pdf

Truthfully it kind of blew me away, as I really didn't know that half the world's population is getting by on $2.00 a day or less. It still boggles my little mind to consider that so many people have so little income. So yeah, just a bit of what I thought was interesting information that really does not pertain to any argument or discussion of economic or social philosophy.

When I wrote, "Kind of offers a different perspective on the fallen state of mankind than considering the extreme compensation our celebrities often receive.", I was alluding to a recent post of Doug's in which he commented on the multi-million dollar annual paycheck that a college football coach received compared to the sub 100,000 dollar paycheck that a seminary professor receives as being evidence of a fallen world. I didn't include the economic data to make a point that Doug could look downhill, in a manner of speaking, as well as looking uphill, to see disparity in rates of compensation that might evidence a fallen world. I figured Doug would get what I was saying and didn't think anyone else would care. You asked, so I've explained myself.

The rest of your response to my comments do not really apply to me. I am not an advocate of any sort of a scheme to redistribute wealth evenly amongst the world's population. I do not think that wealth is inherently evil or that it should be confiscated. I do not advocate Communism or loathe Capitalism. I am not sure what led you to those conclusions. No offense intended, but sometimes it is better to ask someone what they think rather than presume to know what they think. No problem, I do that sometimes myself. More often than I would like to think that I do, I'm sure.

Thanks for your response to mine. You've made me think and try to communicate my thoughts intelligibly to you. I hope that I have.

PrinceOfFools said...

Hey Steve,

I have a couple of thoughts for you to consider:

You said, "Like most rhetoric his argument appeals to emotion more than it relies upon reason."

-This doesn't make sense as an argument that relies on reason can also appeal to emotion. It may be the author did not support his negative views of Fabian Socialism empirically within the article itself but that doesn't mean the data doesn't exist.

You also said, "My own notion is that as mankind becomes more compassionate we will become more socialistic in our economic structures and institutions."

-The notion that a socialist oriented economic structure is more compassionate is only true insofar as intentions are concerned. If the relative standard of living of the poorest is considered then it is the most oppressive as it encourages a welfare state and dependency. Statistically the poor in a free market oriented economies have had a higher standard of living than their counterparts in a socialist state. There is a myriad of data available to support this argument but I'm not going to do your homework for you. If you're open to discovering that to be the case begin searching the following sites:
http://www.cato.org/
http://fee.org/
http://www.aei.org/

I think it is much more compassionate to have a system that encourages a strong work ethic that ultimately improves upward mobility of the poor. Read chapter 4 of Milton Friedman's "Free to Choose" where he proposes a welfare system to do just that. Imagine a system, unlike ours, where it always pays more to work more.

I've found many politicians to talk a tough game in this regard but the reality of their policies contradicts their talk as they would never stand for something like what Friedman has proposed. According to the Wall Street Journal, Obama and the democratic congress want to increase the percentage of Americans that pay NO federal income tax from 38 percent to 50. This effectively amounts to a "compassionate" way to solidify a voting block of dependents who will have no apparent financial incentive to responsibly limit government spending on themselves. Imagine how politically incorrect it will be for the GOP to try to reverse this.

-Respectfully

Lisa said...

Steve and Jeremy,
Thank you both, you helped lighten a dismal day with your comments. But a couple of things: Question, is “rhetoriticians” even a word? Wow! Now I get “Anarcho Capitalism and Totalitarian Communism” so I’m with you there. I will just have to add more words to my spell checker dictionary.

As to the salary comments pointing to the state of the world (based on philosophy professors salaries)…we won’t even discuss silly assembly line workers, but I figure there is nowhere to go but up for me!

Steve Schuler said...

Prince,

I am not an opponent of market economies. I am not a proponent of hard line socialism. I do not identify myself with any political party, Republican, Democratic, or otherwise. I, like Milton Friedman, do not think that virtue is rewarded (or created) by any political or economic system.

I am aware that I, and I believe most people, have minds that function simultaneously in both cognitive and affective domains. That any communication that is verbal in nature necessarily depends upon knowledge and reason does not address to what degree that communication is intended to appeal to emotion.

When I read Jerry Bowyer's article I had the strong sense that he was "preaching to the choir". I do not think that the purpose or appeal of his verbiage was intended to extend beyond a group of people who were not already aligned with his perspective. This is typical of any number of political pundits, Rush Limbaugh et al. I doubt if Mr. Bowyers discussion would sway anyone to his perspective who was not already complicit with it.

Reading the article again I find it pretty humorous, more so even than I did when I first read it. The intent or purpose of the article is clearly not to educate or inform and only marginally to persuade. I think it's primary function or purpose is to entertain. To that end he was very sucessful. While I do not belong to the group to whom his message would resonate as "truth", I still got a good laugh from it. To that extent we could say a good time was had by all!

Jeremy said...

Steve

I just read your response. Thanks so much. I'll be honest with you; I'm in no position to write a lengthy response. I do intend to do just that when I get time to do it (probably later tonight or tomorrow afternoon). As for right now, I'll leave you with this little tidbit.

I surely didn't intend to "read your mind." Seriously, we both know lot's of people throw numbers around and then leave it to the audience to figure out what the conclusion is supposed to be. In this case, I honestly didn't know what to think the numbers meant. I remember reading Doug's post about the USC coach, but it didn't come to mind. Given that, I took the numbers to be pointing to what I thought was the most reasonable conclusion and then argued against it. Given all the rhetoric that's being thrown around, I've gotten a bit trigger happy. I'm sure you can understand.

Last, your response to the numbers was the right response. We all ought to be taken aback at the rampant global poverty. We ought to be generous. I just don't think it's should be the government's job to make sure we're all generous.

Steve Schuler said...

Jeremy,

This has been a good and interesting exchange with you. I am not a scholar, but I like to think I am a student of the world. I'm actually currently employed as a cowboy of sorts, I get to wear a cowboy hat, wear my pants inside my boots, and tend cows and calfs. Yee Hah!!! I just want to let you have a better idea of who or what you are dealing with here.

Yeah, my first post or comment under this heading was just kind of hanging in space begging for some explanation. I had actually written an addendum to it that I don't think had been posted prior to your questions to me. If you scroll back up to my original post you will see what I had added about 30 minutes after my initial post. Somehow it didn't appear until after you had asked your questions. I think if you had been able to read that prior to making your comments it would have helped reduce whatever miscommunication we have had. I very much understand how easy it would have been to misread, or read too much into, some figures on poverty and income just kind of hanging in space that were evidently in some unstated way connected to an article pertaining to socialism. I imagine that almost any other time that you might have encountered the same scenario you would have been dead-on in your understanding of the mentality that might have been behind it.

I'm looking forward to anything else you have to say.

PrinceOfFools said...

Steve,

Thank you for your response. In seeing your explanation of the article I agree, in part, as to its purpose. I do think there is some value in being a choir member that seeks to be preached to on occasion so I'm not sure I see it as entertaining as you.

The sites I listed offer plenty insight as to damage caused by the welfare state and socialistic leaning economic countries. They don't just address the liabilities of hard line socialist states but also illustrate the damage caused by well intentioned efforts and programs carried out in the name of compassion. Here is an example by economist Thomas Sowell as it pertains to the Housing market:
http://www.capmag.com/article.asp?ID=5429

-Kevin

Steve Schuler said...

Prince Kevin,

Just Kidding!!!


Kevin,

I'm happy to have a real name to call you by. When I first responded to you I had to think a little about how to address you and finally settled on "Prince", it actually seemed a little more respectful than "PrinceOfFools". It's best to have your real name, but I know how these cyberworld nick names happen. In some quarters of the cyberworld I am known as "Cimmaronmax", pretty dorky name, but I'm actually a pretty dorky guy, so go figure...

Thanks for the links in both of your comments. I have not looked at them yet, but I promise you that I will, so you can know that your efforts have not been in vain. I do try to "eat" a balanced diet of information and opinion. It is easier said than done, as there seems to be such a proliferation of "unbalanced" material available that a lot of the time I feel like I have to do some pretty wild mental juggling to try to triangulate in on some approximation of truth (note that is truth with a small 't').

I think that we have collectively over simplified the whole domain of political, economic, and social philosophy into a linear model with fairly clear endpoints. I think I referenced that elsewhere using Anarcho Capitalism and Totalitarian Communism as the endpoints. While this makes discussion a lot easier, I think that, in fact, this model falls pretty far short of being a very accurate and useful representation of the real world. It really just provides a one dimensional world in which every position should fit at some point along this continuum.

Speaking for myself, I have for a very long time, most of my life probably, had the sense that a more complete model is four dimensional. Without going into all of that, I often, or usually, have a notion that I am standing off to the side somewhere in some sort of amorphous sphere of ideologies and conceptions which is moving within, and moved by, the constant flux of time. I can, with varying degrees of clarity, see other people, or groups of people, engaged in ideological or intellectual tugs of war. Some of those brawls turn ugly, real ugly, that's when the bodies start to hit the floor, or worse. Not only am I standing off to the side, but I am kind of spinning around myself. It's all pretty cool in a way...

Now, before you start to get too worried about me and wondering if you should be calling 911, I'm just trying to give you some kind of image to help communicate to you the sense that I have of myself as not really falling onto the Left/Right divide at some specific point. I think most peoples ideas are much more complex than a unidimensional model of socio-eco-political positioning allows. On the other hand, it seems that for some small number of people two distinct points, one point in which they and their kin, another point where the "enemy" resides, with nothing connecting them but mutual animosity, is sufficiently complex to describe the world of ideas.

This is the first time I have really tried to articulate any of this and I am not at all sure that I have done a very good job of it. Right now I am really, really tired and need to go to bed.

I guess the idea that I'm really trying to get across is that I am not into playing ideological tug of war, but that I do love the world of ideas. Discussion is Good!

Goodnight Kevin,
SteveO

PrinceOfFools said...

Thanks again for your response Steve. I chuckled at the Prince Kevin comment. The name PrinceOfFools is a bit of a play off of some biblical references to the gospel being foolishness to those it says are parishing and also the name of a CD by a band called Delirious? (King of Fools). I'm not insulted by it.

I share much of your sentiment about how polarized and partial folks are with their political views. Many are what I refer to as political Homers. In sports terminology a homer is one who always sides with the home team on judgement calls by the referee because well, they're the home team. Over the years I've seen many of my fellow Christian's offer the GOP a free pass when it comes to breaking promises, showing a lack of integrity, or simply not providing sound judgement with their arguments for policies or actions.

Learning to look honestly at the inconsistencies within myself and those I share similar beliefs with is just as challenging as thoughtfully listening to and considering the views of those whom I disagree with. This is an acquired skill I believe God is helping me with.

Blessings!