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The strange appeal of socialism. Why?

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William Green Posted: Thu, Nov 12 2009 9:42 AM

If you have read Lew Rockwell's article today, you may be discouraged as I am.  It raises a question I have been wrestiling with.  I will try to put it into words:  If freedom is the path to greater human fulfillment (and I believe it is), and if people naturally seek higher satisfaction (fulfillment), then why does there seem to be a tendency for individuals to reject freedom?  The libertarian philosophy  asserts that freedom and self-determination are part of human nature--these are the ways to maximize human potential and fulfillment.  Yet the majority of human individuals reject freedom and self-determination.

This seems to prevent a problem for the freedom philosophy.  It seems to indicate that we may be wrong about human nature.  It seems as if human nature is against freedom.

If we say that there are two sides to human nature:  animal vs. rational, for example, then it seems that the animal side is the more powerful of the two.  Why should this be so?  If the rational enhances survival and fulfillment, then shouldn't it win out over time through selection processes, both among individuals and populations as awhole (on large time scales)?

Any ideas?

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Getting things for free is great, until you run out of other people's money.

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jmorris84 replied on Thu, Nov 12 2009 9:56 AM

Because when people become discouraged or do not know how to solve a problem on their own and become frustrated with it, they are usually quick to allow another individual or group of people to take care of the situation for them. It doesn't necessarily mean that the individual rejects freedom.

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AJ replied on Thu, Nov 12 2009 9:57 AM

Remember that most people don't question the idea of territorial monopoly (or even take notice of it) before they form their political views. Hence their whole worldview is predicated on the fact that State is beneficial and will always exist.

Since they believe the State is beneficial and necessary, it's somewhat natural to arrive at the conclusion that social problems can only be solved through the State. Moreover, every social issue the State gets its fingers into becomes another issue that will later seem unresolvable without the State (except to those who dig deeper). Not least because making laws and forcing compliance is a lot easier to understand than the organic and largely unpredictable nature of market processes.

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You see, every nation marked with relatively high national IQ is known to have free markets. Big Smile

Hong Kong has the highest average national IQ in the world, and is the free-est economy. South Korea also falls high on the IQ lists and economic freedom indices. Same for Taiwan and Japan. Among European nations of high IQ, Italy and Switzerland are on the top, and also marked by high economic freedom.

So with that said, note that heavily nationalised or bureaucratic nations include the low IQ nations like Congo or Egypt.

Nations with rational and thinking people simply grab on to liberty and freedom much quicker, even though vestiges of disillusionment and desire for collectivization still stay on them. Nations with, to put it bluntly, stupid people do not, and tend to ruin their countries more and more for much longer.

However, Egypt under circumstances is now forced by itself to have market-oriented reforms, and even a nation with an average IQ of 85 like India decided it had ruined itself enough and made minor concessions to economic freedom back in 1991. It still is one of the most heavily regulated nations in the world, but the weight of its own mistakes force some change, albeit after decades.

So, if you live in a smart country, you know that people will reject collectivist ideas quickly. If you live in a stupid country, you know that decades later after you have become old and frail, they will realize their mistakes and change, although their stupidity will prevent quick changes.

Living in a smart country is your best option. But accept that even they have a few stupid people who still influence policy. All the same:

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William Green:
If you have read Lew Rockwell's article today, you may be discouraged as I am

William Green:
Any ideas?

When you look at the task as changing the world in your lifetime, it can be discouraging.  You have to break it down into smaller goals and objectives.  I know that between now and my demise that if I can advance the ball just one yard, maybe swing one person away from socialism, then I have made progress.

I appreciate Lew's article, because within the libertarianet, it is easy to forget that much of the world thinks they wear chains of gold.  That is by subverting their own lives to socialism, they can receive a greater reward over the long run.

William Green:
It seems to indicate that we may be wrong about human nature.  It seems as if human nature is against freedom.

Only a flawed conception of human nature can lead you to believe your ideas are not human.

The issue with socialism is the same with any grand social issue, whether slavery, women's rights, religious freedom etc.  You have to expose the humanity of the victims and people will adjust their behaviour.  Humans are not inherently cruel or evil.  We would never have had made it this far if such anti-social tendencies were essential to our nature.

Right now, the state performs as a moral laundering operation, divorcing action from consequence, reward from responsibility.  When people see the costs of their actions, whether it is strip mining or deforestation, cruelty to some other group, generally they stop, and social pressures build up walls against such behaviour in the future.

Even the socialist state is presumed on the idea of justice.  The way to push back is to expose that this conception of justice is a fallacy.

"When you're young you worry about people stealing your ideas, when you're old you worry that they won't." - David Friedman
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Marko replied on Thu, Nov 12 2009 11:51 AM

There is nothing "strange" about the appeal of Socialism. Socialism is appealing because it seemingly adresses the problem of the parasite class. There are people who have wealth they do not deserve therefore redistribution is required. So far so good. Libertarianism agrees.

The difference is only that Socialism claims capitalism is the cause of this and the state is the solution, and libertarianism claims the reverse. Some say the Socialist narrative is more succesful because it hinges on emotion and can consist of soundbites, while ours explanation must be actually understood rather than just accepted.

Another possibility could be that Socialism has much more success because it can enlist on its side the might of the state. There have been few states trully opposed to Socialism, opposed to a certain brand of Socialism jes, but they are happy to approve of Socialism in principle (eg both Nationalist China and Russia after the February revolution proffesed a socialistic ideology.) And why not, when Socialism empowers the state and cedes to it the powers over commerce.

Socialism is as successful as it is because it has on its side the Satan, while we fight our battles on our own.


As for the article itself, I would say that people around the world are nostalgic for the USSR as a lost counterbalance to the USA, not for its economic system.

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AJ replied on Thu, Nov 12 2009 11:59 AM

Prateek Sanjay:

You see, every nation marked with relatively high national IQ is known to have free markets. Big Smile

Hong Kong has the highest average national IQ in the world, and is the free-est economy. South Korea also falls high on the IQ lists and economic freedom indices. Same for Taiwan and Japan. Among European nations of high IQ, Italy and Switzerland are on the top, and also marked by high economic freedom.

I'd wager it's that free markets result in smarter populations, more than the reverse.

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DD5 replied on Thu, Nov 12 2009 12:46 PM
I think the data in Rockwell’s article is only discouraging if you are fixated on the strategy of winning a majority support for your cause, or even worse; reforming the system. This strategy is obviously flawed. What is needed is to focus on the minority who do lean towards free markets and less government. According to Rockwell’s article, that minority is there, and its actually better then I thought. ############################################################################################################## A conservative figure of 15% amounts to about 45 million people in the United States. Rather then waste all our effort on the 85%, it is wiser to focus most of our efforts on that 15%. The system will not be reformed by its own set of rules, but society as a whole can be. We know that the mandate of any government is purely mystical. It can vanish in a second! All we need is a minority to successfully disengage (secede). It’s about numbers and timing; however, the numbers do not require a majority. Those numbers did not exist in the former Soviet Union when it collapsed, nor do I believe they exist here today. But I believe they can be in the not too distant future thanks to the Internet and if we embark on the strategy of focusing on the minority instead of the majority.
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Because its easy to look at the world and say that things aren't equal and then pledge yourself to an all powerful god that will fix all of your problems. It's also easy if you don't need to be rationally consistent with all of your points and views, just setting social goals you would like to see and then using force to enact them.... Very few lead an examined life and a really examined moral philosophy, many who do end up examining the world do so through the glasses of undeveloped emotion devoid of reason. They look at the poor and say that it must be the fault of the capitalist and that this is evil. They think not of why the poor family is poor or the plight of others, just the undeveloped toy morality of children which is then used to judge the world and detirmine how it should be whether this is possible or not.

"Lo! I am weary of my wisdom, like the bee that hath gathered too much honey; I need hands outstretched to take it." -Thus Spake Zarathustra
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jakex_iii replied on Thu, Nov 12 2009 2:00 PM

Maybe they are not rejecting Freedom, but they arerejecting Personal Responsibility.

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majevska replied on Thu, Nov 12 2009 2:15 PM

First off, we have a branding problem. The word "socialism," sounds very nice, as it's associated with "social." Not only that, but for quite some time the public has heard socialism mostly in conjunction with ideas relating to the concept "social," i.e. caring for others, making sure everyone is taken care of, etc. Bastiat's unseen is only rarely brought within the public's sphere of vision; and whether consciously or not, even most opponents of socialism are fully inundated with this view. The average conservative thinks socialists are nice but naive, "too nice," and we get stuck with the loving mother vs stern father image of socialists vs capitalists.

The thing is, there's plenty of truth to this. I think most socialists do have good intentions at heart. Most libertarians do too, but don't have the clout necessary to reverse this image in one fell swoop.

Talking about "socialist slavery," is an LOL for your average American, and average citizen of just about any country of the world.

The reason many Russians think capitalism is bad, is that the end of communism in their country meant the creation of an oligarchy with state protection, that while better than communism in many ways, brought about a whole new slew of problems. The fact that this oligarchy was created not by the free market but by the state, and that it is still supported by a controlled economy is foreign to them.

Secondly,

Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.

-Edmund Burke

This is the truth and most people know that it applies to them personally. I know quite a few smokers who rejoice when smoking tax increases or restaurant bans are passed because it will help them "from without," to smoke less or quit entirely. My own view is that society, not the government is best suited for this necessary pressure from without. I don't consider myself a "cultural-conservative," and don't want to turn this into the left vs right debate that's been trotted out ad nauseum, so let's not start talking about what specifically society should restrict (non-violently/no-coercively/non-governmentally) but rather whether or not the fact that people need, or at least believe they need someone else to keep them away from bad habits leads them to statism. This is what I think the innate "tendency to reject freedom," amounts to.

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I guess I am looking to the fundamental question about whether there is any tendency toward freedom and responsibility in human nature.

I personally feel a conflict within myself.  Part of me tends toward "animal" behavior--focus on physical appetites and short-term satisfaction.  Yet the other part considers long term fulfillment and values nontangible sources of fulfillment like compassion, love, and honor.  The former is governed by instinct, the latter, by reason. 

It is this conflict that, to me, is problematic.  It seems clear that most of humanity is typically governed by the "animal" side--irrational, focussed on physical satisfaction in the short term, disregard of the moral implications of socialism.

It would seem that this represents a kind of "fatal flaw" in humanity as a whole--as is taught in the JudeoChristian tradition.  But it is problematic from a materialistic and libertarian perspective.  It seems like the libertarian philosophy implies that human nature is congruent with the goals of liberty and responsibility, yet what we see is that there is a dominant tendency away from that.

Even if it is because people seek a restraint on their own animal nature, they are still rejecting freedom and responsibility.

But maybe it is as simple as that.  There are two side of human nature.  The rational part can overcome the animal, but it doesn't often do so.  The old animal nature does not change.  It is always there, saying to hell with the long term and intangible values.  The higher nature is there too.  It can overcome the lower.  It can think and control.  But it can also be deceived.  It can also decide to submit to the animal.

Maybe this is what is happening.  I understand that many socialists may believe they are acting in accord with the higher nature--justice and all that.  But they are wrong.  They are actually engaing in plunder and immorality.  In that case they are decieved.

Hwever, many may know full well what they are doing and don't care.  Plunder helps fill their belly today.  That's all that matters.

 

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William Green:
The rational part can overcome the animal, but it doesn't often do so.

All human action is rational.

William Green:
It seems clear that most of humanity is typically governed by the "animal" side--irrational, focussed on physical satisfaction in the short term, disregard of the moral implications of socialism.

It seems clear that you have derived the nature of "most of humanity"?

"When you're young you worry about people stealing your ideas, when you're old you worry that they won't." - David Friedman
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William Green:
Any ideas?

This is a very good question. What formulates our current political ideals is largely based on concepts of history. Look at the Industrial Revolution. The majority of the populace look at it as a horror inflicted upon the world where workers were crawling around in the mud, eating bugs while our 'capitalist' overlords put their boot on our head. This is what people construe as capitalism, brutal oppression of the working class through the Industrial Revolution. And that is it. People are told that concept then they believe it. Of course revisionism has destroyed this myth, people are already locked into their paradigm.

Industrial Revolution - Bad

Industrial Revolution - Capitalism

Capitalism - Bad

I would like to add, I think that historical revisionism has converted more people toward liberty then any other discipline. There are few people who actual receive a libertarian education. They get a state approved one, which is why you see the bolstering of the Industrial Revolution myth. Questioning the stories of the past is what leads many into conflict with their perceived present. They begin to notice that things do not add up. There is something funny to the story they have been told and it starts to scratch at them. Ultimately it leads to desiring an answer. My experience was with the Ron Paul movement which lead me away from neoconservatism into libertarianism which presented me with the ideas of the consequences of American imperialism and our long list of imperialist endeavors in the Middle East. I was then given Lysander Spooner's No Treason work which questioned and critiqued the Constitution. Thus such revisionism lead me to anarchism.

'Men do not change, they unmask themselves' - Germaine de Stael

 

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liberty student:

William Green:
The rational part can overcome the animal, but it doesn't often do so.

All human action is rational.

William Green:
It seems clear that most of humanity is typically governed by the "animal" side--irrational, focussed on physical satisfaction in the short term, disregard of the moral implications of socialism.

It seems clear that you have derived the nature of "most of humanity"?

Thanks for your comment.

I guess I used the term rational here differently than mises. 

I also should not have said that it was clear, since none of this is clear to me.  But I am inclined to think that most of humanity is not governed by reason.  At the very least, their opinions of socialism are not.  There may be some sort of "reasoning" process going on in their heads, but it does not deserve the name.  For this reason, I am not inclined to think that we could solve the problem by simply appealing to the reason of humanity.  I think the problem is deeper than argument and logic.  I think it may suggest a fundamental flaw in humanity.

We have the large majority of humanity opposed to freedom and inclined to socialism, even after they witnessed the USSR and the failure of the same system throughout the world.  Why?

Is it just misinformation?  Is it just that they haven't heard the libertarian arguments? 

Why do people believe lies?  Why do they conduct their lives in ways that are unwise?  Why do people agress against others?  Why do some become criminals?

Why do I do similar things?  Only out of ignorance and misinformation?  Or does it go deeper than that?

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William Green:
I think the problem is deeper than argument and logic.  I think it may suggest a fundamental flaw in humanity.

Well if such is a flaw of humanity then why are we not susceptible to it also? We are mortals like all others.

'Men do not change, they unmask themselves' - Germaine de Stael

 

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Stranger replied on Thu, Nov 12 2009 6:35 PM

According to Hoppe, primitive humans are socialistic by nature. It takes serious, willful effort to reason away socialism and establish a civilization.

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Stranger:

According to Hoppe, primitive humans are socialistic by nature. It takes serious, willful effort to reason away socialism and establish a civilization.

 

Can you refer me to the book/article you are referring to?

Thanks.

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Laughing Man:

William Green:
I think the problem is deeper than argument and logic.  I think it may suggest a fundamental flaw in humanity.

Well if such is a flaw of humanity then why are we not susceptible to it also? We are mortals like all others.

 

Absolutely.

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Laughing Man:

I would like to add, I think that historical revisionism has converted more people toward liberty then any other discipline. There are few people who actual receive a libertarian education. They get a state approved one, which is why you see the bolstering of the Industrial Revolution myth. Questioning the stories of the past is what leads many into conflict with their perceived present. They begin to notice that things do not add up. There is something funny to the story they have been told and it starts to scratch at them. Ultimately it leads to desiring an answer. My experience was with the Ron Paul movement which lead me away from neoconservatism into libertarianism which presented me with the ideas of the consequences of American imperialism and our long list of imperialist endeavors in the Middle East. I was then given Lysander Spooner's No Treason work which questioned and critiqued the Constitution. Thus such revisionism lead me to anarchism.

That is a good point, and it makes me think about how I was converted to liberty.  If I was converted, why not others?  But why aren't they?  Why so many socialists?  I think Carabini says that some are inclined to liberty and some to control.

But maybe all would turn to liberty if they only were exposed to the right information.  But somehow I doubt it. 

But what makes me better than the billions who reject liberty?  Why do I "see the light" while they don't?  Again, maybe they simply haven't heard what I have.  I don't know.

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Stranger replied on Thu, Nov 12 2009 6:44 PM

William Green:

Stranger:

According to Hoppe, primitive humans are socialistic by nature. It takes serious, willful effort to reason away socialism and establish a civilization.

 

Can you refer me to the book/article you are referring to?

Thanks.

 

On the origin of private property and the family - 2007

http://www.hanshoppe.com/publications/#recent-arts

 

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Laughing Man:

William Green:
I think the problem is deeper than argument and logic.  I think it may suggest a fundamental flaw in humanity.

Well if such is a flaw of humanity then why are we not susceptible to it also? We are mortals like all others.

Agreed, we're all human here. This all sounds like basic human action to me, socialism is supported because it's supporters believe that it will make their lives better.

I don't think it's simple good and evil (or, in the case of this thread, freedom v. socialism). For example, many people cannot afford health care, so they want the government to provide it to them. This, they believe will better thier lives. I don't think all the supporters of such measures want everyone to be put in chains or have the economy detoriate, they want their lives (usually this extends to the economy as a whole) to be as good as possible, just as we do.

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Envy?

"I cannot prove, but am prepared to affirm, that if you take care of clarity in reasoning, most good causes will take care of themselves, while some bad ones are taken care of as a matter of course." -Anthony de Jasay

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The fact that 90% of the people (if we can trust the statistic) or even any majority of people embrace socialism seems to suggest a flaw either in the libertarian message or in man himself.  I guess there is a third alternative--that the message has simply not gotten out.  But would that really change things?  If libertarianism is really the best path to success, and if people really do seek the more satisfactory circumstance, one would expect a movement toward liberty, unless there is another principle at work--some tendency away from liberty.

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William Green:
unless there is another principle at work--some tendency away from liberty.

its obvious.

anti-libertarians have 'the power'

Where there is no property there is no justice; a proposition as certain as any demonstration in Euclid

Fools! not to see that what they madly desire would be a calamity to them as no hands but their own could bring

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G8R HED replied on Fri, Nov 13 2009 6:53 AM

" people embrace socialism seems to suggest a flaw either in the libertarian message or in man himself"

 

What worldview is 'right"?

Is man capable of conceiving ultimate ends?

Does a worldview exist which does not entail faith? (......faith in reason, faith in science, faith in self, or faith in a higher power?)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Oh, I wish I could pray the way this dog looks at the meat" - Martin Luther

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fakename replied on Fri, Nov 13 2009 12:07 PM

Stranger:

According to Hoppe, primitive humans are socialistic by nature. It takes serious, willful effort to reason away socialism and establish a civilization.

 

I'm not sure if hoppe means that socialism= an instinct and I've heard similar biological explainations from bryan caplan.  The thing is, if socialism was biological it seems likely that it would be a reflex and not at all founded on thinking.  But because one can reason away from socialism quite easily without it causing any psychological/physical harm I think that you can't just say that socialism is inborn  -like hunger or lust. 

In my opinion people are drawn to socialism because people only have experience of particular events in the economy while AE explains things in universal categories that are not at all limited by the experiences of time or space or any particularity. AE is to the experiences of people in the economy, as theory is to data and so this is why all the most successful opponents of AE have always been (consciously or not) historicists or "practical men" who see nothing in economics as universal and prefer "facts" to "abstract logic". 

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DanielMuff replied on Fri, Nov 13 2009 12:22 PM

William Green:

If you have read Lew Rockwell's article today, you may be discouraged as I am.  It raises a question I have been wrestiling with.  I will try to put it into words:  If freedom is the path to greater human fulfillment (and I believe it is), and if people naturally seek higher satisfaction (fulfillment), then why does there seem to be a tendency for individuals to reject freedom?  The libertarian philosophy  asserts that freedom and self-determination are part of human nature--these are the ways to maximize human potential and fulfillment.  Yet the majority of human individuals reject freedom and self-determination.

This seems to prevent a problem for the freedom philosophy.  It seems to indicate that we may be wrong about human nature.  It seems as if human nature is against freedom.

If we say that there are two sides to human nature:  animal vs. rational, for example, then it seems that the animal side is the more powerful of the two.  Why should this be so?  If the rational enhances survival and fulfillment, then shouldn't it win out over time through selection processes, both among individuals and populations as awhole (on large time scales)?

Any ideas?

Two words: envy. Cool

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I reject the idea that socialism is appealing per se.  The people who advocate it either expect to be in charge when it happens or on the net receiving end of the loot.  Does anyone seriously believe that a person would advocate a system that would subtract from his own wealth and power?

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Sieben replied on Fri, Nov 13 2009 12:48 PM

Caley McKibbin:
I reject the idea that socialism is appealing per se.  The people who advocate it either expect to be in charge when it happens or on the net receiving end of the loot.  Does anyone seriously believe that a person would advocate a system that would subtract from his own wealth and power?
Well a lot of the people I know who are democrats and support socialist programs are rich. I mean, they're gunning for conformity in their social lives more than anything else. Some of them are going to be superlawyers and run for office someday.....

I remember when I was a democrat: it was because I didn't want to be with george bush in high school. This was explicitly because I didn't culturally identify with him. I actually had no idea what republicans and dems stood for, I just knew I wasn't like bush. So there's that reason too. People don't always, you know, do a lot of thinking :P

 

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fakename:

I'm not sure if hoppe means that socialism= an instinct and I've heard similar biological explainations from bryan caplan.  The thing is, if socialism was biological it seems likely that it would be a reflex and not at all founded on thinking.  But because one can reason away from socialism quite easily without it causing any psychological/physical harm I think that you can't just say that socialism is inborn  -like hunger or lust. 

Thanks for the comment.  This is exactly the issue I'm working through.  I am wondering why freedom is not inborn if it is to the advantage of man. 

One could argue as follows:  Sex and food are good for man, so evolution produced hunger and lust.  If freedom were good for man, there would be a corresponding desire.  There is no corresponding innate desire (this is debateable).  Therefore, freedom is not good for man.

In order ot answer this, I think we either have to say that evolution has not had time to act in the new environment created by modern humans, or else we need to attack the analogy between sex and freedom.  Maybe they are not similar categories.  We could say that something about the freedom/responsibility issue is fundamentally different from food or sex.  I guess it is possible that the choice between freedom and socialism must occur in the conscious mind.  It is not a simple physical response.  Maybe there is no way that evolution could tinker with the inclination of man one way or the other.

I think humans have a physical inclination toward freedom--resitance to being bound or tied, for example.  But maybe the complex response to soicalism must be through reason and the mind.

Can evolution tinker with reason?  Presumably it produced it.  One would think that reason would act in accord with reality.  And this raises the same issue.  If evolution can tinker with reason, why wouldn't it produce a reasoning process that would lead to freedom.  And yet I think it has.  At least that's where reason led me.

So why doesn't it lead others there?  Maybe because they either have the wrong facts, or maybe they are not reasoning properly or not using reason at all.  And this brongs me to what I suggested before.  Men can choose to be guided by reason or by their animal appetites and instincts (and I might add emotions).

What do you think?   

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William Green:
If I was converted, why not others?  But why aren't they?  Why so many socialists?  I think Carabini says that some are inclined to liberty and some to control.

Well I think there is some credence to Walter Block's ideas on humans being biologically determined to be against markets. In a way it explains why people act the way they do but I don't know if it explains free-market theorists.  I haven't delved far into the theory itself. 

William Green:
But what makes me better than the billions who reject liberty?  Why do I "see the light" while they don't?  Again, maybe they simply haven't heard what I have.  I don't know.

No doubt socialists are saying the same thing about us. Education is the most powerful force in the battle of ideas. Some people don't know what libertarianism really is, some have improper definitions, some believe in myths, some people just want to see the world burn. Don't give into defeatism though. You mentioned Lew Rockwell's article before, Rockwell is the lecturer who I think is perhaps the most optimistic.

Here is my favorite lecture by him:

How States Fall and Liberty Triumphs

 

'Socialism will fail. Central planning will fail. Protectionism will fail. Regulations, taxation, welfare, warfare – all these programs – will often produce the opposite of their stated aims. Economics says to the state: society does not need you.' - Lew Rockwell

'Men do not change, they unmask themselves' - Germaine de Stael

 

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Tigerjaw replied on Fri, Nov 13 2009 11:32 PM

Its quite remarkable what people have been able to accompish when given a small bit of freedom,  even if on a very limited basis. Look what happened in America over the short space of a couple hundred years. Look what has happened in the economic realm in China. People thrive under such an environment.  - - - Freedom isn't seen as being in the interest of the predator class which live off of others, however. Some of these blood suckers have used the very blunt instrument of a police state to squash freedom. Others have used much more sophisticated methods of social conditioning & 'education' & propaganda. Truly free men would see that these parasites aren't needed, and would ignore them. - - - Imagine a place where children were raised believing in themselves and hard work & effort. Imagine a place where children were taught about freedom, personal responsibility, self reliance, and personally taking care of others (the drive behind private charities). Now what kind of country would that be ?  

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tomozope replied on Fri, Nov 13 2009 11:41 PM

The reason people are willing to go along with all these social programs is because the banking system has ensured a shortage of money leaving the people at the mercy of the banking system with no way out.

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poppies replied on Sat, Nov 14 2009 12:18 AM

Roderick Long makes a great point in his famous "ten objections" talk about the flux of ideas:

There was a time when people said every civilized country (or just about every civilized country) is a monarchy. You find people in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries saying: look, all the civilized countries are monarchies; democracy would never work. And by saying democracy would never work, they meant not just that it would have these various bad results in the long run; they just thought it would completely fall apart into chaos in a matter of months. Whatever you may think of democracy, it was more viable than they predicted. It could last longer, at any rate, than they predicted. So, things are in flux. There was a time when it was all monarchies. Now it’s all semi-oligarchical democracies. The night is young.

It's easy for us who are inside our own zeitgeist to imagine the prevailing intellectual fashions are some fundamental manifestation of human nature.  This isn't necessarily so.

If we work very hard to educate people, and history happens to provide an adequate tipping point, amazing things can occur.  The current economic meltdown is probably one of the better opportunities we'll have in our lifetimes to show people where socialism leads, I hope we make good use of it.

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Tukaram replied on Sat, Nov 14 2009 1:08 AM

poppies:

If we work very hard to educate people, and history happens to provide an adequate tipping point, amazing things can occur.  The current economic meltdown is probably one of the better opportunities we'll have in our lifetimes to show people where socialism leads, I hope we make good use of it.

But see that is where you are wrong. Socialism would have prevented this. The current trouble was caused the greedy capitalist trying to take all the money for themselves so the little people don't have a chance to get any.  The only hope we have for social justice is for the government to control and regulate everything and then we will get a fair distribution of wealth. Power to the people!

Ok.  not really. But I hear that at work everyday.

I think socialism appeals on different levels.  The evil big business took all the opportunities, and deprives us. (We forget that folks like Bill Gates starting with nothing).  We all deserve the big house and nice car, but my job won't pay for it, but the government will (the government is my friend).  I trust me to do the right thing but I can't trust you.  So we need the government to protect us from each other.  We are raised and trained to know that civilization can not survive without a big government to take care of us and protect us.  So we let the government do what it does best (we just hope it for our best).

I was in London a few years ago visiting a friend and he lives in a nice house (better than mine), has a car (better than mine), a cell phone, and just got back from a trip to India. Not bad for 1998, and unemployed.  When I asked how he afforded all that he informed me that in England they don't attach a stigma to being poor like the Americans do.  He couldn't see himself working for another person and allowing someone else to schedule his time.  So he should not be expected to work... obviously the government had to pay for the house, car, health care etc because he deserved it.

That's is a big problem. We have been raised to feel entitled to everything.  Envy, greed, lazy?  Who knows.  But socialism will answer all of our problems and make us all equal.

We will have to retrain a whole generation of people. I usually just think it is hopeless... but we can't give up.

 

A cult is a religion with no political power. - Tom Wolfe

Life without music would be an error. - Nietzsche

We cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home. - Edward R. Morrow

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Kakugo replied on Sat, Nov 14 2009 2:23 AM

You are all over rating the problem. There's no need for high philosophy here. People have associated "free market" with modern banks (minority partner to central banks) and Monopoly-style, government backed speculators. They see their good chum the State arresting Madoff and throwing him into jail; they see it coming to the rescue of Parmalat and plugging the holes with plenty of other people's money. They do not care Madoff and Tanzi could never had done what they did without government intervention; Government was the knight in shiny armor which came riding to the rescue. It doesn't matter if the Fed in New York makes Madoff look like a small time crook. Remember the sheep in Animal Farm? Four legs good, two legs bad? The average person goes that far, Orwell was spot on. Add the free lunch mentality and, as Mises rightly pointed out, lots of envy and there you have it.

Together we go unsung... together we go down with our people
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As someone who considered himself a Scandinavian-style democratic socialist for a long time and only recently became a reader of libertarianism, I might be able to shed at least some light on that impulse.

Ultimately I think Bastiat nailed it when he spoke of that which is seen and that which is not seen.  It's so much easier to focus on the problems in front of your eyes, the immediate and concrete rather than the hidden and abstract.  Most of the activists I´ve met that are committed anticapitalists hold that stance out of a genuine concern for their fellow man and especially those who have less.  I know that I adopted the stance of socialism mainly by default - they were the only party in my country that seemed to be interested in helping people lead a better life, were thoroughly anti-war and criticized corruption and fraud in government.  The only alternative was the nationalistic and corrupt as all hell Independence Party(somewhat analogous to your Republican Party) that seemed to preach individual initiative while jumping into bed with every corporate concern that threw money at them, including the United States and their constant wars on other nations.  Where the hell is an idealistic youth that wants to make the world a better place to pitch his tent?  There weren't terribly many places to go.  I didn't like their authoritarian stance on moral issues in the name of feminism and such(Icelandic left-greens want to ban pornography and are committed drug warriors for instance), but I chalked that stuff up to the fact that people can't be expected to agree on all things.

Only when I found Ron Paul, Mises etc. did I realize that there was an alternative to the corporatist right and the collectivist left, a stance where I could square my inclinations to liberty with my impulse to help people. 

I still very much understand WHY people gravitate towards socialism.  It's the quick-fix solution, the path of least resistance, and it SEEMS very plausible as long as you think that what is seen is all there is to see. 

Once you realize that that is not the case however, there is no going back in my opinion.

 

 

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Laughing Man:

Well I think there is some credence to Walter Block's ideas on humans being biologically determined to be against markets. In a way it explains why people act the way they do but I don't know if it explains free-market theorists.  I haven't delved far into the theory itself.   

Can you give me the reference for Walter Block on the biological bent toward socialism?

 

Thanks.

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