April 9, 2012

Was Obama right to accuse the Republicans of "social Darwinism"?

A philosophy prof — Philip Kitcher — says yes.
The heart of social Darwinism is a pair of theses: first, people have intrinsic abilities and talents (and, correspondingly, intrinsic weaknesses), which will be expressed in their actions and achievements, independently of the social, economic and cultural environments in which they develop; second, intensifying competition enables the most talented to develop their potential to the full, and thereby to provide resources for a society that make life better for all....

So long as social Darwinism is disentangled from the ancillary eugenic and racist ideas, so long as it is viewed in its core form of the two theses... the label President Obama pinned on the Republican budget is completely deserved....
Great label, isn't it? It's completely deserved, and it drags along with it eugenics and racism. But just disentangle those nasty associations, why don't you?

Now, Professor Kitcher, let's move forward with your approach to political labeling. Let's derive a general principle. Let me posit that it is appropriate, in your view, to label a politician with the name of a distinctive and historical ideology that contains some nasty elements, if you can establish that there is a "core" to the ideology that in fact does apply.

Test your commitment to your style of philosophical argument by imagining someone using your approach against Obama (as opposed to defending him, as you did). What if an Obama opponent called Obama's approach to government "socialism" or "communism" or "fascism"? Would you swallow an argument that extracted a couple "core theses" from those ideologies and characterized the inapplicable elements as non-core and expected listeners to disentangle those things?

Or would you say that using language like that is manipulative, deceptive, and devious — a tainted product in the marketplace of ideas? Imagine a marketplace not of ideas but of food, and a butcher who's got luscious piles of ground beef up for sale. He knows it contains e. coli, but he figures it's not core and people can disentangle it. Imagine your friend bought and ate that beef and got sick and said to you: I'm never going back to that butcher! Would you say: Oh, that's silly. You got beef, which was what he was selling. You should simply cook ground beef well enough that any e. coli is destroyed. He's a perfectly good butcher.

What's the most misaligned aspect of my analogy? It's that the butcher would prefer to have untainted meat to sell. He's not using meat as a vehicle for delivering e. coli.

100 comments:

rhhardin said...

The philosophy prof doesn't know about comparative (not competitive) advantage, which takes account of the social environment.

The head of the economics department sends the secretary to deliver papers to the dean, even though the head walks faster than the secretary.

The secretary has a comparative advantage in walking.

Specialize and trade is the rule. Both sides of every trade come out ahead. Each total aheadness raises the standard of living of the nation by that much.

Handing stuff out free, on the other hand, is destructive to both sides and lowers the standard of living of the nation each time you do it.

Obama is both stupid and lying.

Henry said...

Strangely enough, "progressivism" was broadly associated with eugenics and racism and yet the only people who remember that are the people accused of being social darwinists.

Scott M said...

Per Kitcher,

American “robber barons,” found this vision profoundly congenial. Their contemporary successors like it for much the same reasons, just as some adolescents discover an inspiring reinforcement of their self-image in the writings of Ayn Rand.

...see what he did there? So clever.

After reading that screed, I simply don't know how he goes about his "disentanglement". If a group of people, whoever they are, are shown to be successful over and over again, while others, most likely geographically remote, are shown to have problems again and again, how do you get past biology and inherited genetics? In other words, how do you have a survival of the fittest without the fittest surviving?

William said...

I think pink slime is the closer analogy to the meat that Obama has been producing.

Fr Martin Fox said...

As Father John Zuhlsdorf observed, what is more socially darwinistic than promoting abortion?

rhhardin said...

Why nations fail, if anybody is interested, podcast.

Also why foreign aid doesn't work.

It's not intelligence but institutions.

YoungHegelian said...

I would also hope that a philosopher would have enough hermeneutic sensitivity to realize that NO ONE in the history of western thought ever called himself a "social Darwinist", and that we should all be wary of using labels that were imposed by opponents of a given thinker.

It's kind of like a Catholic theologian teaching a course on the Reformation entitled "Those Fucking Heretics & Schismatics".

Zach said...

The fascism parallel is apt, because there's actually a fair amount of overlap between the economic theories of fascism and the New Deal. See Three New Deals by Wolfgang Schivelbusch.

In the late 1800s / early 1900s there was a common belief that monopolies would be the inevitable winners of capitalism because they were more efficient. So a very natural response was to say that monopolistic power should be counterbalanced and directed toward social goals by big government and big labor. It made a lot of sense at the time, and it sprung up everywhere -- including the New Deal, and including Fascist economics. There was also a flavor of continuing wartime economic controls to achieve peacetime goals in both programs.

But despite the superficial similarities, the New Deal was not Fascist. The elements of militarism and (for want of a better term) counterrevolutionary class warfare were absent from the New Deal. The New Deal was politically popular, and was implemented in a democratic way, without any elements of violence toward the opposition. Many, many people fled Fascism by going to the US, and they had no illusions about which system they preferred. So things like Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism obscure the point more than they clarify it, because Fascist economics was not the same thing as Fascism.

Tim said...

So long as gay is disentangled from the ancillary promiscuous homosexuality ideas, so long as it is viewed in its core form, we can that it is completely deserved to say that Professor Kitcher is quite gay with his little word games.

wyo sis said...

I can't argue with Ann's analysis. It seems spot on to me.

chuck said...

Hey, I can play this game too. First up, notice how well some parts of the 1920 NAZI platform would fit into the Democratic platform.

Tim said...

"It's kind of like a Catholic theologian teaching a course on the Reformation entitled "Those Fucking Heretics & Schismatics".

Sandra Fluke is offended by the mere suggestion.

Rusty said...

Zach said...
The fascism parallel is apt, because there's actually a fair amount of overlap between the economic theories of fascism and the New Deal. See Three New Deals by Wolfgang Schivelbusch.


Guess which American president Hitler admired most? Guess which fascist/progressive dictator FDR admired most? Going so far as t praise his racist policies.

William said...

Marx thought that the capitalist class would continue to perfect their exploitation of the working class and that the working class would become further downtrodden. Other economists of the generation immediately behind Marx observed that the working class developed their skills and found ways to make their labor more productive and more lucrative......The cheetah does not run faster than all the impalas. The impala does not run faster than all cheetahs. Marx denied the Darwinian aspect of class warfare. In some ways, the proleteriat evolved faster than the bourgeoise.

Econophile said...

"Great label, isn't it? It's completely deserved"

This is why I love reading Althouse... immediately getting to the author's intent and even his soul through such key terms.

As others have just suggested, what's more shocking is modern Progressives willingly associating themselves with engineered--as opposed to emergent, I suppose--eugenics.

rhhardin: My heart is warmed seeing EconTalk links and comparative vs. competitive advantage distinctions à la Walter Williams all in one place!

crosspatch said...

The problem is that if you vilify "the rich" then you kill the "American Dream". The dream should be to take a risk on an idea and be wildly successful. "Microsoft DOS" for example.

The Republicans have a marketing problem that allows the Democrats to spin their game around on them by putting the rhetorical horse before the cart and I think it is a difference between an abstract message and a concrete message.

The Democrats say the Republicans want to cut off their benefits. Well, that's true but only AFTER they don't NEED them anymore.

The Democrats play the age old socialist game of creating a class of poor, giving them a bunch of benefits to lock in their vote, and demagoguing the Republicans as wanting to take away those benefits when the goal of the Republicans is to break the cycle of dependance so they no longer need the benefits.

The Democrats would "help" people into the poor house. It is often said that a politician would condemn you to hell and have you looking forward to the trip and that is what I believe the Democrats would do.

There is a second aspect of this in that the Democrats appeal to the rich liberal guilt than makes people want to "help" the poor by giving them free stuff. In most cases the benefits don't really help the poor as much as they make the people providing the benefit feel better about themselves. They can give away someone else's money and it reduces their guilt for having more than someone else. Note that they aren't all that keen on giving away their OWN money. It is basically a projection of their own self-loathing onto our society as a whole.

Republicans need a marketing campaign that shows the poor that the Democrats' policies simply entrap them into being poor forever and is nothing more than cynically buying their vote by making them afraid of having to get a job and provide for themselves. After the third generation of people who have never actually worked for a living, the notion of having to get a job CAN be very scary.

The Democrats actually destroy the social fabric of those groups they would wish to help.

Salamandyr said...

The thing is, social darwinism was a developed in opposition to the eugenics movement. The progressives of the day thought it was a good idea for those in power to pick winners and losers based on their supposed idea of "fitness", while the social darwinists embraced a hands off approach; if one groups was "fitter" then it would rise to the top on its own, with no need for outside help.

Our current misunderstandings arise from the Progressive tendency to ascribe to their opponents their own sins.

Zach said...

Regarding Social Darwinism, Young Hegelian's point about nobody actually calling themselves a Social Darwinist is a good one.

But even as a pejorative label, I think you need to have some element of approval to be a Social Darwinist. There needs to be some idea that the suffering of the poor is good in its own right -- that their suffering leads to the betterment of the "species."

The idea that "intensifying competition enables the most talented to develop their potential to the full, and thereby to provide resources for a society that make life better for all" is so banal as to be boilerplate. Does anybody actually oppose that statement? You could probably find examples of Obama making that point, or even Marx himself.

traditionalguy said...

The core of Social Darwinism is the brilliant idea that making extinctions happen faster is a way to help out in a great leap forward to an ideal earth ruled by a Master Race.

EnviroNazis also use that idea to promote the speeding up of the extinction of 90% (why stop there) of the human refuse living on the Pure Mother Nature's defiled Earth.

Every Darwinist is a murderer at heart. Their plans are that they will survive while the less fit are sent to Death Panel Camps like Auschwitz.

Think that through. No one will survive any longer than the Social Darwinist have a use for them.

Ergo, it is a ideology that glories in assisting death.That's all you get for throwing out a Creator God's pro life message.

ricpic said...

But an individual's abilities CANNOT BE developed independently of the social, cultural, economic milieu he finds himself in. Obama's and every other leftist's imposition of equality SUPPRESSES the superior, that's right, superior individual's capacity to achieve. The very words superior and inferior make the levelers go into a frothing hatboy rage.

roesch/voltaire said...

To quote Krugman: So the proposal is exactly as President Obama described it: a proposal to deny health care (and many other essentials) to millions of Americans, while lavishing tax cuts on corporations and the wealthy — all while failing to reduce the budget deficit, unless you believe in Mr. Ryan’s secret revenue sauce. So why are centrists rising to Mr. Ryan’s defense? And I think Social Darwinist would be happy with that

bagoh20 said...

I'm asking this sincerely, because I really don't know the answer.

Why is it so wrong to call Obama a socialist. Why is he not. I always hear his supporters object strongly to the charge but never hear why it doesn't fit, or what is wrong with being called a socialist if you like socialist policies, which they clearly do.

edutcher said...

When the Depression is over, and, presumably, it will be some day, some of the people who had to turn to government to put food on the table will go back to work and be successful, others will stay on the dole.

So, Dictator Zero's policies (we can't say budget because the Demos haven't put up one in 3 years) can also be said to promote Social Darwinism because they're further identifying who is a slug and who isn't.

BTW, I thought the Lefties just LOVED Darwin.

But I guess it's like everything else - only when it works for them.

Zach said...

\Guess which American president Hitler admired most? Guess which fascist/progressive dictator FDR admired most? Going so far as t praise his racist policies.

I have no idea, but I'm pretty sure that neither answer is "Roosevelt" or "Hitler."

Politicians say nice things about other national leaders all the time. It's pro forma when you want to negotiate something to talk about whatever you have in common. But there was no meeting of the minds, and Hitler and Roosevelt were much closer to consistent enemies than consistent friends.

edutcher said...

PS bag, he's probably better defined as one of William Ayers' small c communists, but Zero loves crony capitalism too much. In that, Cook is probably right.

The closest real definition for him is (Godwin alert) National Socialist of the Hitler, rather than Rohm, variety - although his Civilian National Defense Force sounds a lot like the SA.

SGT Ted said...

Calling for abandoning failed expensive leftwing social engineering is "Social Darwinism" in the sense that turning away from leftism is a logical survival response to something that does more harm than good and isn't healthy in the long run.

It's called changing your mind based on the reality that Socialism is bankrupting the nation and the problems the socialists promised us would be eliminated have either not improved or have gotten worse and are consuming more and more money that could be better used elsewhere.

To NOT respond to the negative stimulii of the failures of Socialist government by going in the opposite direction is to remain a dinosaur.

The leftwing dinosaur, incapable of evolving, remains trapped in the tar of their inability to learn from their mistakes or blind adherence to their ideology over the reality of its failure.

Its the right kind of Darwinism, where the failed ideas are left behind in the dustbin of history.

Quayle said...

OK, now, somebody here please help me get this straight.

If I'm listening to Richard Dawkins then I'm supposed not be an anti-rationalist conservative - I'm supposed to think Darwinism is truth and is good.

But if I'm listening to Obama and this philosophy professor I'm supposed to recoil at their label because Darwinism is not truth and is bad?

So lions killing slow zebras is glorious and marvelous.

But it is bad and horrible when one person figures out how to make $400,000 a year in the American economy while another only figures out how to make $40,000?

Is that what our elite superiors are telling us?

phx said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christopher in MA said...

I'd bet you SCOAMF's weight in uncut Peruvian marching powder that he couldn't define Social Darwinism if you put a gun to his head. It's one of those bullshit terms you learn in high school and parrot back when you want to sound intelligent.

I was watching a documentary the other night - Nazi Medicine - and the concepts of eugenics (which the narrator said were most popular in England and the US), lebensraum, Social Darwinism and blut und boden were tied up, with a special emphasis on the Nazis' forced sterilization programme and its rapturous support here by the left.

Jay said...

Er, Ryan’s budget: $19 billion in discretionary cuts and $53 billion in cuts to mandatory authority in the next FY.

Out of almost $3.9 trillion in spending.

Calling that "Social Darwinism" reveals that the left are incapable of realizing the magnitude of our fiscal problems.

Though those whole dialogue demonstrates the lack of seriousness by the political left.

They're perfectly fine with the borrow more, spend more approach. Which apparently can go on indefinitely.

SGT Ted said...

The heart of social Darwinism is a pair of theses: first, people have intrinsic abilities and talents (and, correspondingly, intrinsic weaknesses), which will be expressed in their actions and achievements, independently of the social, economic and cultural environments in which they develop; second, intensifying competition enables the most talented to develop their potential to the full, and thereby to provide resources for a society that make life better for all....

He is describing the American Dream and calling it "extremism".

Did he not become a full professor by his own talents and drive and desires, independant of where he grew up? Or does he think he got it unfairly?

What a fucking idiot.

bagoh20 said...

Does Social Darwinism mean that Lady Gaga should be our leader? She is very successful, and in the middle of a recession too.

Robert Cook said...

"I'm asking this sincerely, because I really don't know the answer.

"Why is it so wrong to call Obama a socialist."


Because he is not; it is inaccurate.

"Why is he not."

Why is he? How is he?

Synova said...

I would think that what Ryan would like to do is to confound Darwin, not encourage him. Instead of letting things proceed to their inevitable destruction the goal is to stave off disaster. No?

bagoh20 said...

I think the Philosophy professor realizes that under a Darwinian system professors would be the first to go, and Philosophy professors would be at the head of that line.

Robert Cook said...

"The closest real definition for (Obama) is (Godwin alert) National Socialist of the Hitler, rather than Rohm, variety...."

Um...no.

The closest real definition for Obama is "frontman for the same wealthy elites every President at least back to Reagan has fronted for."

Jay said...

Our theologist in chief:

I believe in God’s command to love thy neighbor as thyself. And when I talk about shared responsibility, it’s because I genuinely believe that in a time when many folks are struggling, at a time when we have enormous deficits, it’s hard for me to ask seniors on a fixed income or young people with student loans or middle-class families who can barely pay the bills, to shoulder the burden alone.



Um, "seniors on a fixed income" don't shoulder any federal income tax burden.

This clown has no substance and is so embarrassing on economics he should be laughed off the public stage.

Hagar said...

"Nature red in tooth and claw" is Tennyson, not Darwin.

Synova said...

What part of being a front-man for wealthy elites is incompatible with socialism? It certainly doesn't make him an advocate of the free market.

Seeing Red said...

Since the King owns the paper on my house, and The King put those regs into place, I'll just call him "King." Is that better?

LarsPorsena said...

If Republicans are social Darwinists are Democrats social Creationists?

Rusty said...

esch/voltaire said...
To quote Krugman: So the proposal is exactly as President Obama described it: a proposal to deny health care (and many other essentials) to millions of Americans, while lavishing tax cuts on corporations and the wealthy — all while failing to reduce the budget deficit, unless you believe in Mr. Ryan’s secret revenue sauce. So why are centrists rising to Mr. Ryan’s defense? And I think Social Darwinist would be happy with that


Do yourself a favor.
When talking economics, don't use Krugman as an example. he's so far past his sell-by-date he reeks. And it makes your argument weak. You'd be better off quoting Marx.
BTW a lot of stuff Ryan is proposing was bipartisan or democratic ideas back in the eighties or nineties.

bagoh20 said...

"Because he is not; it is inaccurate. Why is he? How is he?"

He clearly believes that the government can and should drive the economy through direct financial and authoritative control via money and regulation. He believes and promotes policies that pick winners and losers in the market. He believes government supplied (single payer) health care is best and intends to takes us there. He constantly talks of how the government is the way to help each other, and never offers suggestions of individual or private solutions to these problems. He attacks successful business for pursuing profit, not making the products he thinks they should and
not putting social concerns ahead of private self-interest. He often sites European socialist policies as preferred to free market ones.

Cook, what part is he missing that would definitely make him a socialist?

LoafingOaf said...

After a weekend where conservatives fanned out across the internet to praise the extraordinarily racist John Derbyshire, and seeing that a large percentage of those conservatives actually do subscribe to some sort of theory of eugenics, they deserve to be associated with these things.

As Mark Adomanis wrote in Forbes:

Indeed if you go and look through actual conservative blogs it is virtually impossible to miss the wave of righteous indignation, often bordering on blind rage, that has been stirred up by Derbyshire’s dismissal and the supposedly cowardly and obsequious way it was handled by National Review (heck, I’m not a conservative and even I got yelled at by a couple of random people on Twitter). If you have a strong stomach and a relatively well-developed immunity to illogic I would strongly advise that you examine, for example, the over 2500(!) comments that Derbyshire’s piece attracted, the comments that were left on National Review,* the comments on Steve Sailer’s blog, the comments on Robert Stacey McCain’s blog, and, to a lesser extent, the comments on this Dan Riehl piece and even a few of the comments left on the Village Voice post to which I linked earlier.

Just so that I am perfectly clear the content of these comments is not remotely interesting (they are sterling examples of people making the bog-standard mistake of mistaking “colorful anecdotes” with “persuasive data”) but their sheer number, and the extent to which they greatly outweigh the number of comments which expressed approval over Derbyshire’s dismissal, does seem to be worthy of note.

There are some bloggers who have made it their mission to protect the conservative movement when people notice there's a disturbing level of racism going on within it. But notice what a blogger like Instapundit does when the Derbyshire thing explodes: He pretends he could not access the article. Suddenly Instapundit, Mr. Internet Savvy himself, can't figure out how to work the internet. How convenient if you wanna brush back under the rug that the right has some serious issues.

Alex said...

What single action has Obama taken that screams out - "this man supports the free market".

bagoh20 said...

And I was serious about sincerely asking why Obama is not a socialist.

I don't know what I'm missing that makes people immediately jump on anyone who suggests he is. I'm no expert on socialism or Obama, but neither are many of the people who immediately leap to knock the charge down as if it's self-evidently wrong and slanderous. I just want to understand why.

edutcher said...

Jay, the people on Social Security may not pay income taxes, but they shoulder the burden of inflation more than anyone working.

Robert Cook said...

The closest real definition for (Obama) is (Godwin alert) National Socialist of the Hitler, rather than Rohm, variety....

Um...no.

The closest real definition for Obama is "frontman for the same wealthy elites every President at least back to Reagan has fronted for.


Wrong again. Granted, Zero is a fan of crony capitalism, but his cronies are limited.

And I'm willing to bet Cook really can't name a POTUS who wasn't, in his fevered imagination, "frontman for the same wealthy elites".

LoafingOaf said...

After a weekend where conservatives fanned out across the internet to praise the extraordinarily racist John Derbyshire,

People discuss an essay, which most Conservatives condemn or disagree with, but this becomes, to the Democrat Oaf, "praise".

Read the damned thread again.

Alex said...

There are some bloggers who have made it their mission to protect the conservative movement when people notice there's a disturbing level of racism going on within it.

There's a disturbing level of antisemitism on the left-wing blogs, but you conveniently ignore it.

Jay said...

But notice what a blogger like Instapundit does when the Derbyshire thing explodes: He pretends he could not access the article. Suddenly Instapundit, Mr. Internet Savvy himself, can't figure out how to work the internet.

Um, dum-dum, I still can't access the article.

Note: the number of criticisms you've made of leftists or elected Democrats who have engaged in racist statements remains at zero.

Christopher in MA said...

Robert - I don't see where calling Obama / Dubya / Clinton / Bush / Reagan frontmen for the same wealthy elites is incompatible with socialism. Hitler, after all, was bankrolled by a number of wealthy elites (such as the Wagners and many of the minor Hohenzollern aristocracy) as well as industrialists (I.G. Farben and Krupp amongst the most well known).

Now, if you want to say that Hitler, despite his heading a 'national socialist' party, had no political principles other than the extermination of Jewry and the expansion of Germany, you can. But Hitler certainly was a 'frontman' for those elites seeking to undermine the Weimar Republic.

Col Mustard said...

Percentage of the electorate who can define "Social Darwinism" - less than one percent.

Percentage of the electorate who will vote based on the measure of "Social Darwinism" perceived in opposing candidates - virtually zero percent.

Percentage of the electorate who may be "spinmeistered" into believing "Social Darwinism" is evil (or not) and voting accordingly - a frightening percentage.

I love this blog and the comments of many who reside here but, seriously, this thread seems to be the 'academic' equivalent of the late Michael Jackson enjoying a 'rub-off' with sleep-over guests.

LoafingOaf said...

Interesting:

I've already told you what Derbyshire did. He revealed himself as an unrepentant racist. Lowry, though, isn't willing to come out and say it… and you can certainly see why. Saying that Derb "has danced around these issues" sounds much better than saying, well, Derb has been writing borderline racist crap for years, but we're okay with borderline racist crap. It's only when it's really, really racist that we object.

In short, by avoiding actually discussing what Derb did, and why it's a problem, Lowry managed to avoid all of the really uncomfortable questions raised by the fact that a bigot with white supremacist views was writing for his magazine for many years. The fact that this bigot has other good qualities is no doubt true… but is also a little beside the point. Surely, when confronted with open, vicious racism by one of your contributors, it is incumbent upon you to say, clearly, in so many words, "racism is wrong, and our publication rejects it." I mean, why wouldn't you do that? Why this mealy-mouthed crap about how he's a good writer and this mincing about unnamed "issues." Why not call racism by its name?

Everybody knows why, of course. It's because the right, epitomized by NRO, is ideologically committed to anti-anti-racism. Anti-anti-racism is the belief that the real race problem in this country is not discrimination against black people, but rather the full-throated denunciation of racism. Anti-anti-racism holds that racism has been vanquished; black people are equal (look! a black President!) Therefore, any mention of systemic or ongoing inequities are at best a distraction and at worst a deliberate effort to marginalize and oppress white people.

Synova said...

It's not as if there is a comment thread available to talk about Derbyshire. Why hijack this one?

LoafingOaf said...

People discuss an essay, which most Conservatives condemn or disagree with, but this becomes, to the Democrat Oaf, "praise".

I saw Derbyshire's racist essay being praised all weekend long. The conservatives posting comments in defense of it far outnumbered those calling it what it was. This is why the National Review shut off their comments under Lowry's announcement that he was fired, though this didn't stop conservatives from posting in defense of the essay in other threads at the National Review.

I'm talking about the conservative base here, revealed by the comments sections beneath the articles about Derbyshire's racist rant. They're not "Mobys". Far too many.

This is why Instapundit made sure to pretend he didn't know how to access the article over the weekend.

All this started, really, just because President Obama said we had to make sure the George Zimmerman case was being properly handled. The right wing has been going nuts ever since, and exposing themselves.

Scott M said...

The right wing has been going nuts ever since, and exposing themselves.

Yes, because it's the Right that put a dead or alive bounty on someone in this case, right? It's the Right that was recorded saying that blond-haired, blue-eyed, and some brown-eyed Caucasians, need to pay? That they are ready to turn Florida red with violence?

LoafingOaf said...

Why hijack this one?

Oh, don't worry, I'm headed to lunch. I don't think it's hijacking to say that I think the Republican base deserves to be associated with racism. Yes, the social Darwinism label does come entangled with ancillary eugenic and racist ideas. Obama knows what he's doing and he's going to beat you guys again. Sorry.

AJ Lynch said...

I heard someone ask "if the Repub policies are social Darwinism, are the Dem policies evidence of intelligent design"?

Canuck said...

"I don't know what I'm missing that makes people immediately jump on anyone who suggests he is. I'm no expert on socialism or Obama, but neither are many of the people who immediately leap to knock the charge down as if it's self-evidently wrong and slanderous. I just want to understand why."

Governments are seen as socialist when they nationalize industries, banks, manufacturing -- example: countries who nationalize the oil and gas industries.

National ownership (Venezuela--oil and gas) operates in a substantially different way then government regulation of private enterprise (Obamacare- private insurance reg or U.S. medicare--which is a private/public--but all services are provided through private entities. Socialist would be a nationalization --national ownership--of the medical industry --hospitals/nursing & M.D. services/medical clinics.

Here's a definition from wikipedia.

"Socialism /ˈsoʊʃəlɪzəm/ is an economic system characterised by social ownership and control of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy,[1] and a political philosophy advocating such a system. "Social ownership" may refer to any one of, or a combination of, the following: cooperative enterprises, common ownership, direct public ownership or autonomous state enterprises."

edutcher said...

LoafingOaf said...

People discuss an essay, which most Conservatives condemn or disagree with, but this becomes, to the Democrat Oaf, "praise".

I saw Derbyshire's racist essay being praised all weekend long


Probably because he kept going back to the same few wacko sites, like Stacy McCain, but he didn't see it here or at many other places.

And Jay's correct, Taki's was inaccessible most of the weekend. I got in only through a couple of backdoors.

Finding the original piece was this side of impossible.

PS I had a brief but interesting discussion with a commenter named Harold here about whether Derbyshire's essay helped explain the problems with black troops in WWII, as noted in the Army's official histories (link is in the Rich Lowry thread).

I remarked that, as I had no idea how accurate Derbyshire's stats were, that my initial impression was that it was due to 80 years of Democrat-sponsored Jim Crow.

Scott M said...

I got in only through a couple of backdoors.

Not that there's anything wrong with that...

Andy Freeman said...

Obama sayeth "it’s hard for me to ask seniors on a fixed income ... to shoulder the burden alone.

> Um, "seniors on a fixed income" don't shoulder any federal income tax burden.

Some seniors get some of their "fixed income" from dividends. Obama wants to triple their tax rate.

Of course, they're not the only ones who will be hit by that increase so they're not his only targets.

I suspect that he'd defend that with "gotta break a few legs, I mean eggs", but since there's no omlet....

LoafingOaf said...

Yes, because it's the Right that put a dead or alive bounty on someone in this case, right?

No, but it's the right that chooses to make the New Black Panthers out as a Big Deal. They're a joke, just like some fringe neo-Nazi group is a joke. That you're living in fear about a few loons in a New Black Panther group shows that your right wing media has you living in fear as they want you to be.

I noticed that the right wing bloggers aren't being worked up into fear because there was a news article about some neo-Nazi group that says they're headed to Florida with guns to patrol the neighborhoods. So why do they treat the New Black Panthers differently?

Synova said...

Well, Kitcher hasn't led me to rethink my opinion of philosophers.

Really, he seems to be doing that silly all-or-nothing straw-man building we see so often. It's truly blog-worthy argument.

Canuck said...

"He clearly believes that the government can and should drive the economy through direct financial and authoritative control via money and regulation. He believes and promotes policies that pick winners and losers in the market."

This can be classified as mercantilism. Charters of private corporations --monopolies -- East India Tea Company -- were common during the early modern era, blah blah blah.

Socialism has been defined as public ownership, not regulation of private corporations.

Scott M said...

That you're living in fear about a few loons in a New Black Panther group shows that your right wing media has you living in fear as they want you to be.

Please provide proof that I'm living in fear. Merely mentioning an aspect of the media-driven side of this story shows that I'm living in fear? Hardly.

Further, we're basically swinging at smoke here. You have yet to categorize what you deem as racist among those posts, so it's pointless even to debate the issue until you do. Sure, the low-hanging fruit are obvious, but that's the case on both sides of this.

I see far more jumping to conclusions on the "victimhood" side of this story than the other.

Christopher in MA said...

I notice that the right-wing bloggers aren't being worked up into fear because there was a news article about some neo-Nazi group that says they're headed to Florida with guns to patrol the neighborhoods.

That's because we don't get "worked up" over lies, you drooling clown. Honestly, you were funnier when you were obsessing about Sarah Palin's icky girl parts.

dbp said...

"So the proposal is exactly as President Obama described it: a proposal to deny health care (and many other essentials) to millions of Americans, while lavishing tax cuts on corporations and the wealthy"

This is the typical inversion of reality in the very language of the left: Not providing free stuff to people = denying them their right to free stuff. Refraining from taking away honestly earned wealth = lavishing benefits on the unworthy.

LoafingOaf said...

but he didn't see it here or at many other places.

Actually, I first posted about Derbyshyire in one of the open threads here when the story first broke, and I was hit by some regular Althouse commenters who agreed with the racist article. I found that surprising...until I saw that going on all weekend across the internet, whereever conservatives were commenting about the article. And then I notice how carefully certain bloggers were handling the issue, I guess because they know how many of their readers support those views. And I even saw some bloggers defending the article themselves, on top of their comment sections (Jeff Goldstein, for example).

Anyway, I have to go to lunch. The conservative base has a racism problem. Everyone here knows it but some wanna play dumb. And of late I've realized it's a far deeper problem than I imagined.

Scott M said...

I noticed that the right wing bloggers aren't being worked up into fear because there was a news article about some neo-Nazi group that says they're headed to Florida with guns to patrol the neighborhoods. So why do they treat the New Black Panthers differently?

Wasn't this little canard debunked already?

ken in sc said...

I would say that the first and most important social environment is the home and family. Policies that negatively affect homes and families, which I think Progressive policies do, negatively affect the members so that they are at a great disadvantqage. This is even if they are genetically fit.

Just Lurking said...

There are some bloggers who have made it their mission to protect the conservative movement when people notice there's a disturbing level of racism going on within it.

You are such a bigot that it would be hysterically funny that you dare to criticize anyone for being a racist, if it weren't so pathetically inept.

Do you and the other race peddlers really think that branding half this country as racist will win people over? Do you not realize how frayed and tattered the race card has become, especially after being overplayed in the Trayvon Martin media scandal? And do you really think independents are not aware of the patronizing paternalistic racism that exists in the Democratic Party towards minorities?

Go and spread your propaganda among the idiots at sites like KOS. I will bet you that no one lurking here is buying it.

Saint Croix said...

Ah, but the eugenics movement was utterly a creation of the left. From H.G. Wells to George Bernard Shaw, from Oliver Wendell Holmes to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, from Margaret Sanger to Peter Singer.

Synova said...

If it's not socialism unless there is State ownership of production, what is the redistribution of privately owned production called?

Essentially it's just a shifting of what part the State owns, no?

In one they own the means of production. In the other they Skip that part and simply take ownership of what was produced.

How is that not also socialism?

Particularly as so very many people insist on the conceptual construct that when the government doesn't take something from you, that this is a gift given to you. Ownership by default is the state. Anything you produce, that you keep wasn't actually yours.

If that isn't socialism, what is it?

edutcher said...

LoafingOaf said...

No, but it's the right that chooses to make the New Black Panthers out as a Big Deal. They're a joke, just like some fringe neo-Nazi group is a joke.

Denying white people access to polling places is a joke?

Only if you're a Democrat.

PS Notice how people losing the fight suddenly have to go to lunch?

Strelnikov said...

Funny how no one on the Left remembers that "Progressivism" was itself tied to eugenics and racism in its beginnings. They proudly declare themselves progressives, a label which I am sure this professor would be happy to apply to Obama. No need to look as far a socialism or communism.

Canuck said...

"If it's not socialism unless there is State ownership of production, what is the redistribution of privately owned production called?"

Are you talking about taxes? There are taxes on the privately owned means production, or on the "means of production" (farmland for example) but the U.S. doesn't distribute production--cars or cameras or shirts after they are produced. And the state doesn't collect and distribute privately owned farmland. Although I wonder what the Homesteading Act would be called.

"How is that not also socialism?"

Because socialism is defined as the ownership of the means of privately owned production. Why? Don't know. But that's the definition.

SH said...

The irony of course is they are half right. They are using social Darwinism the same way progressives used it in the past... to describe people that didn't want to use social policy to change outcomes. The reason it is ironic is in the past progressives wanted the outcome to be fewer poor and minority people via policy (and they were not thinking in terms of redistribution… more like sterilization). The so called social Darwinists wanted to leave the poor people alone.

As they always do; they rewrote the history to make themselves the good guys...

SH said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Canuck said...

"Particularly as so very many people insist on the conceptual construct that when the government doesn't take something from you, that this is a gift given to you. Ownership by default is the state. Anything you produce, that you keep wasn't actually yours."

It doesn't matter what random people think. Under the U.S. constitution your property cannot be taken away without due process of law. (court hearing)

That's not socialism. But taxes have never been defined as socialism. This isn't my definition, this is the dictionary's definition. People can change the Oxford English Dictionary definition or argue with it. But until a new definition is a consensus you're going to confuse people unless you explain that you are changing the dictionary definition.

SH said...

Marxism says that socialism is when the state owns the forms of production. Marx was not the only socialist theorist… Heck, Marx was passé with many socialists in his own lifetime. Marx’s works took a long time to be translated into some languages (such as French) and there were still [nonmarxist] socialists in France.. the whole means of production thing is a crock.

Paul said...

Are Death panels "social Darwinism?"

Is health care rationing "social Darwinism?"

Is "each according to his needs, each according to his ability" social Darwinism or Communism (or both?)

'Social Darwinism' to me is just a cute term thought up by liberals to put on anyone they think bad (but note Darwinism, religion wise, is something the liberals like, not hate.)

Rusty said...

Strelnikov said...
Funny how no one on the Left remembers that "Progressivism" was itself tied to eugenics and racism in its beginnings. They proudly declare themselves progressives, a label which I am sure this professor would be happy to apply to Obama. No need to look as far a socialism or communism.


They still are.
Hitler greatly admired FDR's remaking of the American economy. FDR admired how Mussolini,remade Italy. It was thought by progressives, at the time that the future of America was fascist socialism because it made so much use of progressive ideas.

SGT Ted said...

Using the Government to take money from those that have it and give it to those who don't, is socialist. Quit pretending it isn't.

All the other ideas about picking winners and losers and cronyism between government and business are just different flavors of it, ranging from Fascism, to National Socialism, to the soft socialism of Europe to American Progressivism.

It all stems from the mistaken and failed idea that all of it can be controlled from the top, with either a government agency or a Business/Government/Intellectual consortium calling the shots and redirecting money and resources. Quit denying its authoritarian socialist nature.

rhhardin said...

Podcast on dysfunctional institutions and how the west outgrew them, until recently anyway
here

DocPenn said...

Leave it to a contemporary philosopher to fantasize about what's real. Is this memory loss? Denial? Or, simple inability to grasp subtle concepts like "guess (aka 'hypothesis')" and "evidence"?

Mark Lindholm said...

There is no doubt the government has taken a larger role in controlling health insurance, the automobile industry, the banking industry, and various energy industries under Obama. Huge swaths of the economy.

To call this "socialism" is to do Obama a favor. In reality, when the government leaves responsibility in the hands of private owners while dictating to them what to produce, how to produce it, and how much to charge for it, that system is called "Fascism". I call Obama a socialist because I don't believe he is a fascist at heart, he is constrained by law from nationalizing everything the way he would like, and is thus only forced by necessity to govern as a fascist.

Dan Bonevac said...

Hayek's definition of socialism: "the conscious direction of social forces to consciously chosen ends." That characterizes Obama very well. In fact, I suspect most "progressives" would be puzzled by the definition, because they so thoroughly subscribe to it that they can't imagine an alternative.

Canuck said...

"Using the Government to take money from those that have it and give it to those who don't, is socialist. Quit pretending it isn't."

Definitions are important for actually having a coherent discussion. In your definition Bush can be defined as a socialist. Medicare Prescription Expansion, TARP. That was a lot of money to banks that was taxpayer $$$. i

Look - this argument about the definition is not something I am invested in. I was answering the question of Baghoh20 as to why people are confused or WTF about calling Obama a socialist. They reject it out of hand because those people do not understand that you are not using the dictionary definition of socialism. Instead of defining socialism as a means of production you are talking about the power to tax.

If you want them to understand you, you will have to explain your definition. If you want to change the definition you can write a competing wikipedia entry.

pst314 said...

Many who were smeared as 'Social Darwinists' were simply people who valued liberty and opposed the Progressive program of universal social control: They believed the Progressive faith in the benevolence of government was at best naive and frequently a cover for the basest of motives (a lust for other people's property and for running other people's lives.)

They did not believe in some crude Darwinian struggle of all against all, nor did they wish to see "the stronger" dominate and exploit the weaker. Rather, they merely believed that the greatest hope of prosperity and happiness lay in leaving people alone to freely pursue their own interests rather than in having a "benevolent" super-state manage their lives for them.

pst314 said...

Frederick Douglass said something which, although uttered in another context, seems apt:

"The American people have always been anxious to know what they shall do with us. Gen. Banks was distressed with solicitude as to what he should do with the negro. Everybody has asked the question, and they learned to ask it early of the abolitionists, 'What shall we do with the negro?' I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us. Do nothing with us! If the apples will not remain on the tree of their own strength, if they are worm-eaten at the core, if they are early ripe and disposed to fall, let them fall! I am not for tying or fastening them on the tree in any way, except by nature's plan, and if they will not stay there, let them fall. And if the negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall also. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs! Let him alone! If you see him on his way to school, let him alone, -- don't disturb him! If you see him going to the dinner-table at a hotel, let him go! If you see him going to the ballot-box, let him alone, -- don't disturb him! (Applause.) If you see him going into a work-shop, just let him alone, -- your interference is doing him a positive injury. Gen. Banks's 'preparation' is of a piece with this attempt to prop up the negro. Let him fall if he cannot stand alone! If the negro cannot live by the line of eternal justice, so beautifully pictured to you in the illustration used by Mr. Phillips, the fault will not be yours, it will be his who made the negro, and established that line for his government. (Applause.) Let him live or die by that. If you will only untie his hands, and give him a chance, I think he will live...."

It's funny how often it is necessary to tell benevolent people "just leave me alone". It's almost enough to make you question their benevolence. :-)

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

When an article starts off with

Given the well-known Republican antipathy to evolution,

I know the author is not arguing in good faith. He is not presuming his intellectual opponents to be on a level with himself. He is taking up arms against a litter of newborn kittens, and proclaiming victory.

Yes, if you remove the eugenics and the racism from "social Darwinism," you might make something intelligible of it. It wouldn't be Paul Ryan's budget, but it wouldn't be absolutely nothing.

And if you removed the eugenics and the racism from the beginnings of Planned Parenthood, there might even be something left over there too. You never know.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Henry,

Strangely enough, "progressivism" was broadly associated with eugenics and racism and yet the only people who remember that are the people accused of being social Darwinists.

Of course. If you want to call yourself "progressive," you would rather not be reminded that the last bunch of people to use that label were kind of keen on eliminating the "unfit" and the like. And it's also awkward when people mention that Herbert Spencer's Social Statics was published eight years before The Origin of Species. But all these facts are so very dreary, yes?

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

LoafingOaf,

After a weekend where conservatives fanned out across the internet to praise the extraordinarily racist John Derbyshire,

I will praise John Derbyshire. The man writes as well about math as anyone I know.

How many "extraordinarily racist" people do you know who are married to a person of color, deeply immersed in that person's culture, fluent in that person's language? Can you say this of yourself?

There are certainly things in the Taki piece that I would rather not to have read, and I can see why NR ditched him. But please bear in mind that there are a lot of people every bit as prejudiced against Derbyshire, and even more against his wife, as he is against anyone, on racial grounds. We don't lack for bigots in this country, and they come in all shades.

Synova said...

"It doesn't matter what random people think. Under the U.S. constitution your property cannot be taken away without due process of law. (court hearing)"

Due process doesn't mean that what is taken from you wasn't taken. Majority rule doesn't prevent tyranny. Voting doesn't prevent theft.

And what people think does matter a whole lot.

When the foundation of government policy rests on the assumption that government rightly gets to decide what you have to give up and what you are allowed to keep, it matters that people accept this foundational assumption or if they don't.

It's not the same if policy is based on the idea that you ought to pay some portion of your own money in taxes as if the policy is based on the idea that it's not your money at all, but government will let you keep some of it.

It might look somewhat similar on the surface but it is a conceptually different creature.

"Hayek's definition of socialism: "the conscious direction of social forces to consciously chosen ends.""

I like this. It's very open-ended but it gets at the difference I feel instinctively. It applies to ownership of production and it applies to co-opting production. Someone picks the winners and the losers. I don't see that it matters much if that's done in pre-production, production, or post-production. Why would it?

What, after all, is the purpose of government controlling the means of production? It's to get to that "chosen end" of leveling out inequities so that more of the wealth reaches the workers instead of being concentrated at the top. It quickly becomes apparent that centralized control of production fails, so the point at which government does it's choosing *moves*... but it's still the same concept and purpose.

What people *think* isn't irrelevant, it's definitive.

Synova said...

And that's why Obama seems to me to be obviously "socialist" in his outlook. It doesn't matter that he's not doing all that much different than Bush did, and I don't think that "government motors" is the thing that pushes him over from one to the other.

I think it's a mind-set thing.

It seems pretty obvious that he truly believes that it is the purpose of government to level everyone out. At some point you've got enough money and there are other people who need it, right?, and the thing to do about that is that the government does its job shuffling all of the money around. The base assumption is that *all* money is subject to that overall purpose of government... to reach those social ends. People are poor and hurting, so the last *possible* thing that the government ought to do is let them keep their money. Letting people keep their money is seen as actively favoring those people, because the available pool of money is all part of what the government "spreads around".

bagoh20 said...

There are lots of socialists in the country who don't affect policy, because they can't.

Obama is limited by law, and the need to get reelected. He can therefore be a socialist without being able to fully act it out.

I think he's a socialist because I believe he would be more than happy to dramatically expand government control of production. Who owns it is irreverent if someone else can tell you what to do with your piece of paper. I don't think he feels that limits on a progressive government are very important.

Based on his background, what he has written, said, and supported, I believe he is a socialist. That does not mean he can govern like one outright.

Men often want more power than they should, and governments always do. That's why we have a constitution; partly to prevent socialists from acting like socialist. They still are what they are.

wildswan said...

There have been four selection criteria used by eugenicists - the latest criteria is health and will be implemented through Obamacare rationing. This criteria is used by biodemographic eugenics, a new version. In 2010 on its IRS form the American eugenics society listed its name as Society of Biodemography and Social Biology Inc. The most important difference between biodemography and other forms of eugenics is that biodemography uses longitudinal studies rather than cross-sectional snapshots of a point in time and hence biodemography pays attention to the birth-crash world wide. (The other three criteria were wealth (Social Darwinists), followed by race (Nazi eugenics), followed by IQ (post WWI eugenics 1945-2009.)

John Lynch said...

One party encourages abortion and euthanasia more than the other party.

That's Social Darwinism.

Alphonse said...

So if he didn't have a moustache, he couldn't have been a nazi? Got it.

Pat said...

Primogeniture traditions of England encouraged, if not mandated, social responsibility for vulnerable family members. Americans turned that premise upside down and reveled in their dominance by throwing off the vestiges of primogeniture, in law, if not in practice. Instead they practice social darwinism which has limited the degree of social responsibility Americans have to each other, especially in capitalism. This distinction may not have been fully explored in how Americans and the British approach government though one is a democracy and the other, a monarchy. Outcomes are distinctive due to these fundamental approaches in attitude, and are measurable distinctions.