Sunday, September 18, 2005

A Progressive Responds

I recieved the following reply in the comments to my essay posted below, by "Scarlett." Her comment (bolded) and my reply (unbolded) are below.

1.If order can rise spontaneously then why do capitalists have strict rules and structure? Go to a bank and get a loan by telling the lender you're just going to sponstaneously start a business and see what happens.

Of course capitalists have strict rules and structures; their actions aren’t entirely random. They have one motive that moves them to adopt structures: the profit motive. Any structure that helps them increase their profits will be adopted, and innovators will come up with new structures, or improvements on old structures to try to increase this profit. This directly parallels biological evolution, where mutations modify or create structures, which are then perpetuated or discarded through a process of survival of the fittest.

Banks have certain procedures which they have adopted because they most help create profits. The procedures that banks have are the result of an evolutionary process. These procedures have changed and developed over thousands of years weeding out inefficient procedures. That is spontaneous order. The institution of the “bank” wasn’t created wholesale one day; it arose, gradually, to fill a human need. That is the beauty of evolutionary theory.

2You're a student, have you never heard of entropy? How could an institution or tradition BEGIN in a state of disorder? Name a tradition that begin in disorder and evolved into order without guideance?

Entropy, in one sense, is a purely scientific concept, dealing with thermodynamics and heat. There is no reason why it should directly translate into the social realm, except maybe as an explanatory metaphor. If this is how you meant to use it, please elucidate.

But let me rephrase your question, to show where I’m coming from: “How could a human being BEGIN in a state of disorder? Name a species that began in disorder and evolved into order without guidance?” This is intelligent design theory, a theory that has rightly been castigated in the scientific realm, to assume that order requires an orderer.

But, to answer your question, language for one, and religion, have evolved. These were both beget by an evolutionary process of gradual change due to selection for fitness. I can see where your disbelief stems from, though. It IS hard to perceive how something as magnificently as our civilization could be ordered free from an ordering mind. But this is at the crux of evolutionary theory, and I accept it.

3I am a progressive and I don't distrust traditions. For instance I believe we should have presidential elections and not allow the Supreme Court to appoint the POTUS. I also believe that the person who sits in the White House should be qualified to be there and I don't mean having a rich family qualifies you. The POTUS should at least have a command of English. If we don't have intelligent guidance in this area things could deteriorate rapidly.

“Tradition” is a vague word, like “culture,” so I must plead guilty to lexical ambiguity. The tradition you mention, democracy, is important. I don’t want to mire this interesting discussion in a dispute about Florida ballots and whether the Supreme Court should’ve stepped in, and, of course, I’m not pleading for idiotic leadership.

As an Evolutionist, I would say that centralized power, like the presidency should be EXTREMELY circumscribed and VASTLY reduced. Order should very rarely be imposed from above, by a president or other governing authority. Why? Simply because one leader, or a small body of leaders, can only know a miniscule amount of the facts that are available to all the population (including relativized facts of each instant, such as whether you are tired now, or hungry, or need something).

Leaders must use the miniscule amount of knowledge available to them to reason for a whole society. Would you agree that if there was a way to harness all the knowledge of all society, that this would be a better way of creating order than by the imperfect ordering of but a few minds? Evolution is this process of harnessing all the facts of every mind in society, and the free market is how this process manifests itself in civilized society. If this doesn’t make sense, or seem convincing to you, read this essay, “The Use of Knowledge in Society” by Friedrich Hayek, a Nobel Prize winning economist.

4Could you please name one tradition that progressives are attempting to destroy and therefore "decreasing" our numbers???? I don't even know what you're talking about.

I don’t want to assign malicious motives to progressives. I’m very sure that they, and you, are not trying to “destroy” anything. Indeed, they act from the best of intentions, trying to create a better society, which necessitates modifying certain traditions. Nevertheless, it is my contention that this better society cannot be created—indeed, such thinking is dangerously Utopian—because of the limited amount of knowledge available to any one mind. So, when progressives begin to act as social engineers, through welfare, minimum wage laws, anti-discrimination laws, gay marriage advocacy, social security, proposing universal healthcare, they are trying to impose an order from above onto the evolutionary mechanism that is the free market. They are using the miniscule amount of knowledge available to their few minds to impose an order over and above the order created by free human interactions (which can take into account MUCH more knowledge than "Intelligent Design" by enlightened rulers, and incorporates ALL minds). I’m sure you disagree with this, as the above types of social engineering mentioned are very dear to progressives, but they represent only a slice of the “Intelligent Design” progressives would impose on society. I’ll leave it at that, for now, although much more could, and probably should, be said.

5In your fifth paragraph - how did progressives suddenly "evolve" into one single mind? Name which tradition Progressives are affecting by intellectually controling it.

You, Scarlett, are only one mind. Any leader can only be one mind. A group of leaders can represent a very small subsection of the available minds in society, and so can know only a small number of facts. When they try to modify society, through the types of social engineering mentioned above, they harness one, or only a small cadre, of minds, to impose an order on ALL MINDS (that is, the entire US population.)

Now, as I mentioned earlier, wouldn’t it be better if all minds could create order, rather than having it be imposed by one mind (such as President Bush)? This is the free market. And, to head off your critique, democracy does not represent the harnessing of all minds to create order. It represents the harnessing of all those that choose to vote (a very small subsection of the population) to SELECT one person, who will act, in their stead, as the ordering mind.

6The free market is a tradition? Really? Didn't the US government bail out the airlines after 9-11? Didn't the US government bail out the auto-industry during the 70s? Isn't the taxpayer making the current investment in the middle east and are the oil compaines and the military/industrial complex and others in the private sector not taking all the profits? Is that your idea of a free market? Didn't Haliburton get the contract in Iraq without having to bid for it and wasn't Haliburtion given the contract to rebuild New Orleans and MS and AL? Is that your idea of competition and allowing the market to work. What chance were entraprenures given and how could they compete with Haliburtion?

Your absolutely, 100% right. Our government DOES have a shitty record when it comes to the free market. I agree wholeheartedly. But this is no reason to INCREASE the control of the government over the free market, such as through universal healthcare or other Orders imposed from above by one mind, through a mistaken belief in Intelligent Design. I am all for radically reducing the size of government and its influence, and privatizing all that can be (basically, most everything but the courts, the police and the army).

Our forefathers didn't believe in corporations. google Jefferson's comments about them. As a progressive I would be more then happy to let the markets work and I would also be happy to get the damn corporations off the government teat. Republicans call it socialism if poor people get tax dollars but when businesses live off of the taxpayers while paying no taxes on their wealth its called a free market.

I’m glad you would be glad to let the markets work. Then we agree. End all minimum wage laws, labor laws, subsidies, etc. Poor people shouldn’t live off the taxpayers, and neither should businesses. Yeah, I should warn you, you don’t wan to confuse me with your proto-typical Republican.

And I’m putting forward a normative argument—I don’t care what our forefathers believed (well, that’s not entirely true), but I would think if they saw the size of government now, their essentially libertarian sensibilities would be offended.

We could have had universal health care for the American people but the pharmacuical companies bought and paid for our legislators so I wouldn't exactly call that a free market. The taxpayer pays for research to develop new drugs and then turns the results over to big corporate pharmacuicals who then goug the consumer - thats your idea of a free market?

No, no it isn’t. We don’t have a free market in existence right now—far from it. Much change needs to be made. Big companies will ALWAYS try to buy legislators (and they will always succeed). But does this mean we should hand our legislators MORE power, such as through the creation of universal healthcare? Or that we should RADICALLY RESTRICT the power of legislators? I say the latter—government IS the problem.

Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely, as Lord Acton put it. So, we can hand over the job of ordering society to these few, corrupt, governmental minds, or we can hand it over to ALL minds, via the free market. I choose the latter, and it sounds as if you are almost in agreement.

When the US and the CIA attempts to overthrow Chavez of Argentina because he won't privatize the oil resources that are currently owned by the people of Argentina does that not make you aware of the role the government and the taxpayer play in the so called "free markets"? Are you not aware that the CIA staged coups in South America and in the middle east and took out fairly elected leaders and installed dictators friendly to US business? Whats "free" about that? I'd say that is anything but allowing tradition to proceed without intelligent guidance.

Again, I don’t want to defend US actions in the past—your right, we haven’t always defended free markets. But that’s no argument against giving them a chance now. In fact, that’s an argument FOR giving them a chance. Or leaders are corrupt. We need to get rid of their power over us. We need to utilize the free market. (But, and this is quite aside from the evolutionary argument I’m making and so needn’t be accepted for you to accept the rest, let me just say that Chavez is a brutal despot, and, IMO, should be overthrown, and that our actions in the past, vis-à-vis dictators were necessitated by the struggle against communism—the ultimate enemy of the free market, and, indeed, all free peoples).

The USA enjoys a high standard of living because we subjugate workers in third world countries and we gain our wealth on the backs of these people. Do you know what "petro dollars" are?

We do not “force” people in other countries to work for us. Companies go over their, and the people choose to work for them, because they are quite better off working for US companies than working on some hovel of a farm. We simply do not go around with guns and round up workers. They choose it of their own volition. And, usually, they make insanely high wages relative to the country they live in, when they do. See here. People live BETTER when they work for US companies—and they choose to do so of their own free will.

You think there is traditional morality in all of this? Perhaps the progressives should have played a greater role in your education rather then allowing our public school system to descend into disorder.

The Public school system is a CREATION of the progressives. And your right, public schools suck. Progressives have failed us. I say, privatize the schools. Make them accountable to the people. Get. Government. Out.

your last paragraph - Morality is what it is - it can't change or it wouldn't be moral any more. I don't even know what you're talking about when you say it shouldn't be decided from the "top down".

When I say that it shouldn’t be decided from the top down, I’m merely saying that decisions should be made by the individual not imposed by the government, such as by the raft of social engineering policies mentioned earlier. Minimum wage laws are EXPLICIT legislations of morality. Progressives are all about imposing what they think is right upon other people.


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