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Delusions of the well-educated and intelligent on the Left and Right leave us nowhere to hide

30 November 2013

Summary: We’ve mined the comments on the FM website for evidence of delusionality on the Left, as evidence of a deeper ill affecting America. We’ve not done so recently for comments from the Right. Today we have a volunteer, one especially well qualified to show the nature of our problem.

“I should sooner live in a society governed by the first two thousand names in the Boston telephone directory than in a society governed by the two thousand faculty members of Harvard University.”
— attributed to William F. Buckley, Jr

Grand Delusions, iStockPhoto

Grand Delusions, iStockPhoto

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Contents

  1. Introduction to delusions
  2. A Right-wing libertarian sees the world
  3. Other posts with contributions from M. Simon
  4. For More Information
  5. How Left & Right see themselves

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(1)  Introduction to delusions

Scores of posts document the problem America has seeing reality. Both Left and Right are increasingly lost in delusions, each clearly seeing the others’ delusions. Worse, these are not the traditional “uneducated lower classes” gripped by superstition. These are well-educated people enmeshed by interlocking systems of exaggerated or outright false information.

In many posts I’ve posted comments that clearly show this problem: brief candid expressions by smart people. At the end are links to posts about comments from climate alarmists.

Today we look at comments from the Right displaying almost identical pathology, from M. Simon of the popular long-lived Classical Values website (“End the culture wars by restoring classical values”). See the posts at the end with material by M Simon. They show Simon to be both knowledgeable and brilliant. That’s what makes these comments so fascinating.

(2)  A Right-wing libertarian sees the world

Some of these are too good to believe. My favorites are marked in red. These are part of a series of 18 comments to these posts:

Wow!  (a)  “The reason management pays so well is that it is incredibly hard. If it wasn’t companies on the average would be paying less for it.”

There is a large body of research that shows that the massive increase in pay of senior managers (both profit and non-profits) since 1980 is unrelated to any measure of background or performance. Especially unrelated to performance. This is obvious to anyone who reads the newspapers without ideological blinders.

Ditto if one thinks about this. Have senior jobs become more difficult during the past few decades to justify a massive increase in compensation vs other workers in the organization?

Even better! (b)  “Women are socialists. … I have more to say on that here – with lots of links: Nature, Men, And Women.”

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Simon has a future career as a speaker at meetings of the Republican Women’s clubs, explaining that women are socialists: “Yes, I mean YOU” he will announce firmly. And at Tea Party movement meetings: “Yes, these socialists in skirts are among you even now. Beware their honeyed words.” Let’s hope he reports back to us on his experiences.

(c)  “What do {the rich} do with the rest of their money? Invest.”

This is wrong on multiple levels. To mention just one factor, private investment as a share of GDP has been falling as inequality rises.

(d)  “Overtaxing the rich is eating the seed corn of future advances.”

Taxes on the rich are near multi-generational lows. Neither historical data on changes of investment levels vs taxation over time nor cross-national data supports that theory.

(e)  “People invest MORE wisely than governments (Solyndra).”

Pointing to a single example as evidence is quite daft. More representative are the Hoover Dam, the Transcontinental railroad, the interstate highway system, and the many breakthroughs of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

(f)  “If government wanted to do something useful it could shrink”

There is no correlation among western nations — now or historical — between size of government and economic growth. Northern European nations, for example, are doing quite well.

(g)  “The freer the market system the better it works.”

Say bon voyage to M Simon as he moves to the libertarian paradise of Somalia! Perhaps he will report back to us. He will learn that blind ideology is a poor guide to life.

(h)  “Why are wages stagnating? Because we can replace people with machines.”

Wages grew during the rapid tech advances after WW2 (despite rapid advances in tech), and for most Americans have stagnated since aprox 1980 (even in fields little affected by new tech).  It  obviously has deeper causes than just technology.

(i)  “The only way you can turn people into slaves is at the point of a gun. A government gun.”

False. Slaves were taken in Africa and brought to America by merchants. Private sector guns. Government guns ended slavery.

(j)  “Eventually people will find work that machines can not do.”

Such over-confident statements about the future should end with “amen”. The future might not be like the past as tech advances. For a discussion of automation see these posts.

(k) “I don’t know if you remember the dot com bubble. For a couple of years the economy was growing at around 7% or 8% a year. Wages exploded. At all levels. If you want to get more for those at the bottom get the economy growing at high rates. “

The operative word is “bubble”. Few people consider blowing over-investment bubbles a sane method of achieving economic growth. Also, the economy did not grow that fast. Annual change in US real GDP, per the Bureau  of Economic Analysis:

  • 1996: 3.8%
  • 1997: 4.5%
  • 1998: 4.4%
  • 1999: 4.8%
  • 2000: 4.1%
  • 2001: 1.0%

Amazing!  (l)  “Democrats practice crony capitalism – what used to be called fascism in a different age.”

“Fascism” is a political ideology with specific characteristics {see Wikipedia}, not a generic slur to throw at foes.

(m) “This leaves out the fact that wealth diffuses. Takes about 3 generations.”

Things are not simple, as they depend on larger political factors. Look at Latin America. Wealthy in 1915, income concentrated resulting in massive social unrest after WW2.

(n) “Your error is in thinking the money is put in a mattress. It is not. It is invested.”

Private investment rates in the US have fallen while income has concentrated.

Remarkable!  (o)  “SEIU is just another criminal organization. They have figured out how to use government guns as a means of extraction.”

The Service Employees International Union (see Wikipedia) is a labor union representing about 1.9 million workers in over 100 occupations in the United States and Canada.

(p)  “The TEAs {Tea Party Movement} are trying to keep government from collapsing so they can get back some of the money government stole from them.”

Taxes are a legitimate excise of government power, and have been considered such for millennia. Under the Constitution, they are legitimate when approved by elected officials in the proper form.

Here Simon asserts that this process is illegitimate, and the these taxes are stolen from people. This is the clearest anti-democratic statement I have read in years. He doesn’t statement what system he would prefer to the Constitution.

(3)  Other posts with contributions from M. Simon

(4)  For More Information

(a)  The problem:

(b)  Solutions:

(c)  Tales from the comments about delusional beliefs of climate alarmists:

  1. Another pro-global warming comment, effective PR at work!, 1 December 2008
  2. Mystery solved, providing an important insight about the global warming debate., 2 December 2008
  3. High school science facts prove global warming! Skeptical scientists humiliated by this revelation!, 31 December 2008
  4. Is it possible to debate climate change with true believers? See the replies to Thursday’s post., 5 February 2012

(d)  Other posts about clear vision (neither Left or Right is “reality-based”):

  1. Does America have clear vision? Here’s an “eye chart” for our minds., 15 June 2009
  2. Successful propaganda as a characteristic of 21st century America, 1 February 2010
  3. A note about practical propaganda, 22 March 2010
  4. The easy way to rule: leading a weak people by feeding them disinformation, 13 April 2011
  5. Facts are an obstacle to the reform of America, 20 October 2011
  6. Examples of America’s broken vision. Here’s why we cannot clearly see our world., 21 October 2012
  7. What does a “broken OODA loop” look like?, 23 October 2012
  8. Who lies to us the most? Left or Right?, 25 February 2013
  9. Learning to see beyond the American Pravda, 24 May 2013
  10. The secret, simple tool that persuades Americans. That molds our opinions., 24 July 2013
  11. The Achilles heel of both political parties, waiting to be exploited by reformers, 7 November 2013

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(5) How Left & Right see themselves

Alice in Madness Returns

Alice in Madness Returns

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. DaShui permalink
    30 November 2013 1:00 pm

    Hey good,

    But my friend is a tax lawyer, where do people move to to avoid taxes? Caymans, Switzerland? He said the Uk is the best place, no tax on foreign income.

    Like

  2. Pluto permalink
    30 November 2013 2:54 pm

    Good post, FM. I suspect the problem you are facing is that reality is moving faster than nearly everybody’s OODA loop can handle.

    Briefly summarizing part of Boyd’s theory (and probably stating it poorly), people adapt to changing circumstances at a rate which differs among individuals. They become more confident when their adaptations to changing circumstances become more effective. Conversely they become less confident when their adaptations to changing circumstances become less effective.

    Thus we have the 1% seeing their wealth rising at remarkable rates just for existing. This is dramatically increasing their self-confidence. They feel great and like they are fit to rule the country. I imagine that being one of them would be something like being a superhero. Congresspeople come begging you for money and favors and offer to make whatever you want be the law of the land. It probably seems to them like the only limits on their power are their imagination and the other wealthy people who ask Congressmen to do things that will reduce their power.

    On the other extreme, the bottom half have adjusted repeatedly to reality, but too slowly and ineffectively, this causes them to lose faith in themselves. In their despair, they start putting their faith in external forces such as:
    – the wealthy (they will help us if we only cut their taxes enough)
    – crackpot social theories (the only reason people are poor is because they don’t want to be rich badly enough)
    – conspiracy theories (somebody else is secretly keeping us from succeeding, we have to find and stop them at all cost)
    – black swan events (somebody or something will come out of the blue and make things right, all I have to do is wait)

    In both cases, the increasing emotion is crowding out people’s ability to perceive what is actually happening and respond appropriately.

    I take much of my theory from the Gilded Age when people put their faith in such things as patent medicine, the honesty of Tammany Hall, and the charity of the wealthy (which occasionally worked) because they had no choice. We had a choice in the 1990’s and in 2008 but blew it by deregulating too much and not using enough government fiscal stimulation.

    Assuming that the course of current history follows in the same general vein (history may not repeat itself but it frequently rhymes), the overall situation will continue to get worse as the wealthy continue to amass more resources and distribute them with decreasing efficiency because of their increasingly clouded vision of what is really happening.

    Eventually we will hit a tipping point where too many people are guided by concepts of reality that are too badly outdated and everything starts going wrong, especially for the wealthy as they will have the most to lose and too many of them will be guided by out of date concepts of reality. What happens beyond that is well beyond my ability to predict.

    This is the economic version of the “Tactics of Mistake” by Gordon Dickson and the human race has done it many times before. This time is NOT different.

    Like

    • 30 November 2013 3:12 pm

      Pluto,

      I agree that the rapid rate of change has produced a degree of disorientation in the people’s of the world. But to believe that this is all “just happening” ignores the role of deliberate planning at work. This is shown by your ending two paragraphs, concluding with.

      “This is the economic version of the Tactics of Mistake by Gordon Dickson and the human race has done it many times before. This time is NOT different.”

      The “tactics” of Dickson’s 1981 novel were just that: a planned program to produce mistakes in an opponent. The protagonist explains:

      I need to get him involved with me so I can make use of him. Unless I can make him annoyed enough to thrust, I can’t parry. And only by successfully continuing to parry every attempt he makes can I finally get his whole attention.

      … The fencing tactic is to launch a series of attacks, each inviting ripostes, so that there’s a pattern of exchanges and disengages of your blade with your opponent’s. your purpose isn’t to strike home with any of these preliminary attacks, but to carry your opponent’s bade a little more out of line with each disengage so gradually he doesn’t notice you’re doing it. Then, when his blade has been drawn completely out of line, you thrust home against an essentially unguarded man.

      … {My goal is} to trap deCastries into a personal fencing match with me, so that I can gradually lead him into larger and larger conflicts — until he commits himself completely in a final encounter where I can use his cumulative errors of judgement to destroy him.

      This is not what the 1% are doing, but somewhat similar. The 1% have launched well-funded long programs of disinformation and political advocacy during the past several generations. Engines of misinformation, such as Heritage Foundation (1973). I list three of the foundational documents here — in 1971, 1976, 1978. The Reagan and Bush Jr revolutions are the result of generations of patient investment of capital — reaping their just reward.

      So long as we keep our heads in the sand, muttering that these things “just happen” the 1% will continue to win.

      The passivity shown here (waiting for the great day of doom, when the temple collapses) is a guarantee of their victory:

      Eventually we will hit a tipping point where too many people are guided by concepts of reality that are too badly outdated and everything starts going wrong, especially for the wealthy as they will have the most to lose and too many of them will be guided by out of date concepts of reality.

      This is delusional. I see little evidence that the 1% share the delusions of their pawns and sheep. In fact Our fears are unwarranted. America is in fact well-governed. It’s just not government in our interest.

      Like

    • 30 November 2013 3:47 pm

      Pluto,

      “On the other extreme, the bottom half have adjusted repeatedly to reality, but too slowly and ineffectively, this causes them to lose faith in themselves.”

      The point of this series of posts is that the problem is NOT in the lower half, but the top half. Or the top 1/3. Or top quintile.

      M Simon and his followers are largely in the top half. Ditto the climate alarmists.

      Like

    • Pluto permalink
      30 November 2013 3:47 pm

      FM, I agree with much of what you have said.

      We agree that the 1% has something resembling a plan for increasing their power and wealth although I would argue that not all of the 1% has bought into it and some even have contrary goals. My problem with the ideas presented in the Tactics of Mistake is that it requires three things in order to work:
      1. The right opponent who doesn’t see through your plans or do the unexpected at the wrong moment that wrecks your plans
      2. The right leader who clearly sees reality even as they distort reality for their opponent
      3. The right subordinates who are willing to follow the right leader despite the fact that the reality they see does not appear to support their leader’s plan and prediction of victory.

      It makes a fine theory and the basis of a good novel, but reality is more complex. For example, it is virtually impossible to avoid getting sucked into your own propaganda machine, especially as you throw huge resources into making the propaganda machine ever larger and more effective.

      As a result, while the 1% may have a plan, following the plan is likely to be considerably harder than they expect and the odds of success are a lot lower than they expect, and the eventual consequences of failure may well be higher than they expect.

      As for my “passivity” and “delusional” comments, I’m making generalizations based on theory and extremely glossed over history, compressing hundreds of concepts into a few sentences. This probably sounds familiar because you have to do the same in a lot of your posts.

      While I’m following history and theory to what I feel are their logical conclusions, people should NOT rely upon my predictions. Reality has shown itself to be far too tricky an opponent to rely on ANY single person’s predictions. We need, as you originally intended for this blog, to discuss and debate these theories based on the facts as they are, not as we wish they were.

      I have learned a remarkable amount from the facts presented by your blog but I do not completely agree with your predictions of the future just as you do not agree with my predictions. My expectation is that neither of us will be complete correct. My hope is that both of us will be more accurate than the 1%’s plan.

      Like

    • 30 November 2013 3:59 pm

      Pluto,

      My problem with the ideas presented in the Tactics of Mistake is that it requires three things in order to work:

      • The right opponent who doesn’t see through your plans or do the unexpected at the wrong moment that wrecks your plans
      • The right leader who clearly sees reality even as they distort reality for their opponent
      • The right subordinates who are willing to follow the right leader despite the fact that the reality they see does not appear to support their leader’s plan and prediction of victory.

      Those three things describe America during the past 40 years.

      (1) The 1% have planned and executed in plain sight. Yet there has been little recognition of their program (although I and many others have pointed this out). And only minimal resistance.

      (2) The 1% are a leadership class. It need not be “one leader”, that’s a feature of fiction. Many large movements have no single leader. From large social movements like the American. French, and Russian revolutions — to small-scale activities (e.g., most pirate ships were co-ops).

      (3) Money creates loyal and obedient subordinates. See the bios in the SHAME Project, showing how they recruit, train, and employ people.

      We two generations into this and you don’t see it as a program. Q.E.D.

      Like

    • Pluto permalink
      30 November 2013 3:51 pm

      FM: “The point of this series of posts is that the problem is NOT in the lower half, but the top half. Or the top 1/3. Or top quintile. M Simon and his followers are largely in the top half. Ditto the climate alarmists.”

      We are in agreement, I was merely expanding on what you have said and trying to explain why your freedom fighters also have to come from the top half, or even the top quentile.

      Like

    • 30 November 2013 8:58 pm

      Pluto,

      “I was merely expanding on what you have said and trying to explain why your freedom fighters also have to come from the top half, or even the top quentile.”

      That’s a powerful point, and one I have long wondered about.

      Perhaps, I fear, we’ve fallen into a social structure somewhat akin to that in 1984: inner party (the 1% and the senior leadership), the outer party (the upper middle class), the proles (the apolitical lower middle class and poor). This is quite unlike the high mobility social classes of 18th and 19th century America, or the post-WW2 era. It might be quite stable.

      Like

  3. 1 December 2013 12:11 pm

    Libertarians are working to bring federal democracy to Somalia at great peril, so deriding them is really shameful.

    For info on that and the world movement, see: http://www.libertarianinternational.org the non-partisan Libertarian International Organization.

    Like

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