Hayek was a John Stuart Mill classical liberal

This is an exceptionally interesting article, that needs to be considered among us on the right side of the political ledger: F.A. Hayek & Social Justice: A Missed Opportunity and a Challenge. They argue that Hayek’s views were left incomplete, but what’s worth, because they do not conform to some commonly accepted modern version of conservative thought, Hayek is being abandoned by those who ought to turn to him for sound advice. Start here which is where the authors start with a critique of Hayek by Professor Edward Feser:

Dr. Feser argues, of “economism”:

This subjectivism about value has great utility when our focus is merely on satisfying the material needs and wants people actually happen to have. Hayek’s purely procedural conception of just action, however, effectively treats value subjectivism as a completely general principle of social organization. The rules that govern capitalist societies must not treat any of the diverse ends people happen to have as objectively better or worse than any other. To acknowledge that there is some objective fact of the matter about what people ought to want, or some standard of value independent of the market, would open the door to justifying interference with the choices of economic actors, and thereby destroy the price mechanism.

This is the point that Professor Feser makes which I happen to agree with:

This subjectivism, Dr. Feser contends, is an acid that will eat away at capitalism itself: “If there is no standard of good apart from what people happen to want, how can Hayek complain if what they happen to want is an egalitarian redistribution of wealth, or freedom from religion and traditional family arrangements?”

But this was no more Hayek’s position than it was John Stuart Mill’s. It is the modern libertarian position as best I understand it, but it is not the view of we classical liberals. I think this is an absolutely valid criticism.

This is what they conclude from the book they are discussing:

Hayek does not have an “objective notion of the good as such” when it comes to the substance of a society (or at least a large and complex society). But it is not clear he was entirely subjective about justice or even that he would necessarily limit it to the personal sphere. Even with regard to the distribution of goods, he is not averse to the idea that there are “smaller scale orders in which it is possible to distribute goods on the basis of various interpretations of justice, taking into account effort and need.” They argue that Hayek did have a conception of an objective nature to justice in the personal and even business realm, explaining, for instance, how “an employer should determine employees’ wages according to known and intelligible rules and that it should be seen that all employees receive what is due to them.

That could just as easily have been said by Mill. There are no absolute criteria available from any source that will lay down what the answers to these issues is, but must emerge through a process of trial and error as events are examined over time and in different circumstances. Freedom sits at one pole and justice at the other, but these are only words until attempts are made to transform such ideas into practice. What the authors see as “the Great Forgetting” which they blame on Hayek’s “incompleteness” is their own failing because they see the answers in some libertarian set of principles which Hayek did not accept.

The future will be nothing like we can imagine it today

Image result for percival marshall flying machines

I have just picked up a second-hand copy of a third edition of Percival Marshall’s Flying-Machines – Past, Present & Future, as pictured above. Near as I can tell it was published around 1909-1910 and found it utterly fascinating, since every book is written in the present and tells us quite a bit about the time when it was just a newly published text and hardly anything else. What intrigued me most of all was the emphasis given to conjectures about the future. Here are the last three lines of the book:

The experience of the present development of the art of flying, and opinions expressed by aviators, seem to predict that aerial navigation will be the safest of all forms of mechanical transit. Many flights have been made after sunset, practically in the dark. Mr Cody has flown in moonlight, showing that flying machines can be used at night.

In 1909 even flying at night was only a conjecture, a possibility, an aspiration. The author was confident but could hardly be certain. It seems now, just as it was then, that as we try to look ahead, we cannot actually see very far at all. All one can say with certainty is that the future will be nothing like we can imagine it today.

Donald Trump jokes

I’ve just finished a quite interesting book on jokes from behind the Iron Curtain: Hammer And Tickle: A History Of Communism Told Through Communist Jokes. It looks at the jokes themselves; the evolution of these jokes as communism aged and new leaders took over; it looks at the different kinds of jokes told in different communist countries; it examines the fate of those who told such jokes and the difference in the fate of those who made such jokes depending on who was the leader of the Party; it asks whether such jokes helped the communists consolidate power or whether they helped bring communism down; it looks into the difference between telling anti-Nazi jokes in Nazi Germany versus telling anti-communist jokes in communist countries; it asks about the psychology of those who told such jokes and whether they helped relieve tensions; and much else. But I will say this, some of I found really funny. This is my favourite.

Khrushchev is walking through the Kremlin, getting worked up about the Soviet Union’s problems, and spits on the carpet in a gesture of disgust.

“Behave yourself, Nikita Sergeyevich,” admonishes the aide. “Remember that the great Lenin walked through these halls!”

“Shut up,” responds Khrushchev. “I can spit all I like here; the Queen of England gave me permission!’

“The Queen of England?”

“Yes! I spat on her carpet in Buckingham Palace too, and she said, ‘Mr Khrushchev, you can do that all you like in the Kremlin if you wish, but you can’t behave like this here …'”

Easy to see this one added to the Donald Trump canon and now that I have pointed it out, I expect it to be.

I therefore thought I might have a look at what passes for Donald Trump jokes. And google all you like, there really is not much although there was this: Donald Trump Jokes. None were funny but I did like this:

Where’s Donald Trump’s favorite place to shop?

Wall-mart!

Mere pun though it is, it seems appropriate. At least it’s policy-related and almost entirely a joke that could only be told about Trump. The rest are re-treads, never specifically about anything related to Trump himself and his policies, but are almost entirely forms of insult than anything with any associated wit or insight. The most interesting part to me about the communist jokes was that the ones that became acceptable were those directed at the failures of communism relative to the promises that had originally been made. Lots like that. The way to end up in the gulag was to tell jokes about actual party leaders, especially Lenin and Stalin. Very few like that.

As for Trump jokes, there was also this from Quora: What’s the best Donald Trump joke you ever heard? I don’t know if you can link from here but I read through as many as I could bear – there are at the present 2566 of them. For myself, I found them unbelievably tedious, almost entirely retreads from other contexts and other politicians. Not witty and not fun. Might help Democrats and other socialists relieve their tension but not funny. See for yourself if you can bear it. And because it’s Quora, there was not a single pro-Trump joke I came across.

It would be mind-numbing to go through the lot but this one had 12.1k upvotes. It is an old joke which I actually quite like which I heard long before and about someone else, not sure it wasn’t an Irish joke to begin with. I won’t put it down in full. It’s a shaggy dog story in which the President secludes himself from everyone and as the Secretary of this or the Secretary of that comes to see him to deal with some emergency he sends them packing because he is so busy. Finally:

Sanders open the door slowly and finds a disheveled unshaven Trump sitting at his desk with a big grin on his face. On top of his desk is a completed 30-piece puzzle of the New York skyline.

Sanders doesn’t know what to make of it.

Trump leans back triumphantly in his chair and says. “I’ve got something for your next press conference…” Sarah takes out her notebook.

“You see that puzzle?” Trump asks pointing at his desk. “Well, the box says ‘3 to 7 years’ and me, I finished it in JUST 6 DAYS!”

I would be interested if anyone has a really good Donald Trump joke, either for him or against him. Meanwhile there are lots of jokes about the Democrats I do find funny. E.g.

Maybe I’m just not looking in the right place.

Geoff Mann in a Marxist critique of Keynesian economics

The video is found at the book launch of Geoff Mann’s In the Long Run We are All Dead.

Geoff Mann lives in Vancouver, where he teaches political economy and economic geography at Simon Fraser University, and he directs the Centre for Global Political Economy.

In the ruins of the 2007–2008 financial crisis, self-proclaimed progressives the world over clamoured to resurrect the economic theory of John Maynard Keynes. The crisis seemed to expose the disaster of small-state, free-market liberalization and deregulation. Keynesian political economy, in contrast, could put the state back at the heart of the economy and arm it with the knowledge needed to rescue us. But what it was supposed to rescue us from was not so clear. Was it the end of capitalism or the end of the world? For Keynesianism, the answer is both. Keynesians are not and never have been out to save capitalism, but rather to save civilization from itself. It is political economy, they promise, for the world in which we actually live: a world in which prices are sticky, information is asymmetrical, and uncertainty inescapable. In this world, things will definitely not take care of themselves in the long run. Poverty is ineradicable, markets fail, and revolutions lead to tyranny. Keynesianism is thus modern liberalism’s most persuasive internal critique, meeting two centuries of crisis with a proposal for capital without capitalism and revolution without revolutionaries.

If our current crises have renewed Keynesianism for so many, it is less because the present is worth saving, than because the future seems out of control. In that situation, Keynesianism is a perfect fit: a faith for the faithless.

Far-left, all about Hegel and Marx, but not an ounce of economic understanding from what he has to say. But the book is coming and will see what we find then. His conclusion is that “poverty is produced by the system itself”. This is the kind of drongo idiocy only a self-satisfied utterly pampered member of the academic bourgeoise would believe.

How to get high marks at University

Amongst my friends from economics classes these decades ago, the one who always got the highest marks – and not just because he understood this stuff better than the rest of us – was the one who took the fewest notes. He would write down only what the lecturer said more than once, got the wording exactly right, and would then be sure to write these words back on the exams. A superior strategy which I am reminded of by reading this: How to Cope With Your Prof’s Left-wing Bias. It wasn’t at the same level as today, although possibly no one really noticed since we were all Keynesians then (and therefore all socialists). But here’s the advice:

To get the best possible grade, students may need to pander to their professors’ left-wing ideology.

Professors are much more likely to be progressives than they are to be moderate or conservative. Law professors are no exception. Progressive professors view progressive views as a sign of intelligence, and conservatism as a sign of stupidity. For example, Prof. Robert Brandon, head of Duke University’s philosophy department, argued that conservatives are rare in academia because they are stupid.

He is talking about law, but it applies in all the humanities and social sciences, and absolutely in economics. Just ask yourself, how bizarre is it that virtually all academic economists (along with their idiot graduates) are socialists of one kind or another. Same everywhere, but among economists it is the greatest disgrace since they are supposed to know how an economy works, and if you are a socialist who never discusses the role of an entrepreneur you clearly do not.

Helping to define the current wave of insanity

This is gender.

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And then there’s David Solway’s The Transrealism of the Left which begins:

In the ongoing and infinitely tedious sex wars of our time, pitting women against men, women against women, men against women, men against men, and whatever seventy or so gender claimants lurk in between, it looks like the transgender brigade is winning the day. It represents, so to speak, the cutting edge of the intersectional fray.

Indeed, the trans phenomenon is perhaps the most interesting of the erotic variables that define the current wave of insanity, of which the transition from male to female, whether surgical, hormonal or cosmetic, appears to be the paramount factor in the venereal mix. Bathrooms in many establishments are no longer gender-specific. Women’s sporting events are increasingly dominated by biological males identifying as women. Corporations have climbed aboard the intersex, gender non-conforming and transgender bandwagon. Over fifty large companies, including Amazon, Coca Cola, ebay, Google, Microsoft and counting, have issued a statement affirming  “the rights and identities of transgender people,” ludicrously claiming that “gender definition determined by birth anatomy fails[s] to reflect the complex realities of gender identity and human biology” and implying the virtue of biomorphic mutation. Many religious institutions have welcomed such gender anomalies into the fold. Even preschoolers are being subjected to the LGBT+ blitz and are taught the blessings of transitioning.

To be read through for those few who remain able to read a sustained argument on a non-fashionable subject that goes absolutely against the grain of the times in which we live.

In Lectures on Ideology and Utopia, French philosopher Paul Ricoeur defined the positive form of utopian thinking as the “exploration of the possible,” but understood that it is always vulnerable to fantasy, a gloss on Karl Mannheim’s Ideology and Utopia where Mannheim claims that utopian thinking is “not at all concerned with what really exists.” And utopian thinking is the definitive property of the political left — that is, not only as the “exploration of the possible” but the attempted realization of the impossible. Human beings can thoroughly shed their private personalities, wealth can be equally distributed without damaging the social consensus, property can be seized by an all-encompassing state for the undeniable benefit of all its citizens, society can be happily and productively collectivized, class divisions can be eradicated, endemic corruption can be rooted out, and human beings and human societies can be manipulated to ensure peaceful coexistence, economic parity, pastoral tranquillity and a sense of universal kinship.

In other words, everything becomes possible in the socialist world-view. That is why a woman can become a man but, more importantly in the current milieu, why a man can become a woman. Biological sex can be transformed into voluntary gender. All that is needed is a bit of invasive tinkering and the right attitude. The transgender phenomenon is merely the latest manifestation of leftist postconceptions, the basic assumption that the impossible is possible, that everything can be transformed according to an ideologically inspired blueprint.

Much, much more. And to go with David Solway, there is this from Mark Steyn: The Men Who Walked Away. I would say this must be a Canadian thing, with me quoting two fellow citizens of the frozen Dominion, except that it is most definitely anything but. Will just quote this, but worth your time.

“There is no law that says women and children first,” Roger Kohen of the International Maritime Organization told Time magazine. “That is something from the age of chivalry.”

If, by “the age of chivalry”, you mean the early 20th century.

You know, like when the Titanic sank.

And then there is this, which even comes with a picture: POLICE SUBJECTED TO PRONOUN POLICE.

You would think this is parody but it’s not. It’s the future.

 And to show this is an idea that’s in the air, this also just came my way: Is Gender a Social Construct?. Read it as well. The short answer is No, but that’s my answer. At the link there is some hedging of bets. Final para:

Ultimately, the mantra that “gender is a social construct” is misleading and may cause significant confusion and unnecessary acrimony. It is more reasonable to suggest that gender is an internalized sense of masculinity/femininity that is shaped by a complex interaction of genetic, hormonal and social forces. Granted, that’s probably harder to fit on a coffee mug. But I remain optimistic that if we are realistic about the complex interplay of biology and environment, we can work toward an egalitarian and open society that allows individuals to express their individuality whether or not they conform to traditional (or progressive) gender role norms.

I guess he [?] wants to keep his [?] job. It does say at the end that “you can follow him on Twitter” so I will just presume.

Personal beliefs are the new status markers

For a long time I have noticed that among my friends and associates, those with seriously more money don’t seem to have a seriously better or more interesting life. We holiday and travel to the same destinations, watch the same movies, go to the same kinds of theatre, eat out just as nicely, live in comfortable homes, and more or less enjoy the same kind of lives. They spend much more and they live better, but not in such a way that I envy all of the things I miss that they can do. I therefore think this article is dead on: Thorstein Veblen’s Theory of the Leisure Class—A Status Update. This is the point:

In the past, people displayed their membership of the upper class with their material accoutrements. But today, luxury goods are more affordable than before. And people are less likely to receive validation for the material items they display. This is a problem for the affluent, who still want to broadcast their high social position. But they have come up with a clever solution. The affluent have decoupled social status from goods, and re-attached it to beliefs.

They can show their affluence by holding idiotic beliefs that because of the cushion of wealth that surrounds them never wreck their lives. Anyone else on lower incomes without that cushion would court personal disaster if they tried to follow in their own lives what the rich say they personally believe about life. An example:

Top universities are also crucial for induction into the luxury belief class. Take vocabulary. Your typical middle-class American could not tell you what “heteronormative” or “cisgender” means. But if you visit Harvard, you’ll find plenty of rich 19-year-olds who will eagerly explain them to you. When someone uses the phrase “cultural appropriation,” what they are really saying is “I was educated at a top college.” Consider the Veblen quote, “Refined tastes, manners, habits of life are a useful evidence of gentility, because good breeding requires time, application and expense, and can therefore not be compassed by those whose time and energy are taken up with work.” Only the affluent can afford to learn strange vocabulary because ordinary people have real problems to worry about.

Or this:

The chief purpose of luxury beliefs is to indicate evidence of the believer’s social class and education. Only academics educated at elite institutions could have conjured up a coherent and reasonable-sounding argument for why parents should not be allowed to raise their kids, and should hold baby lotteries instead. When an affluent person advocates for drug legalization, or anti-vaccination policies, or open borders, or loose sexual norms, or uses the term “white privilege,” they are engaging in a status display. They are trying to tell you, “I am a member of the upper class.”

None of this idiocy will ever affect them which helps to separate themselves from the plebs.