Month: January 2014

Yes, it’s Class Warfare

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/super-rich-mad-hell-doing-172500488.html

We can probably just go ahead and ignore the layout of this article, how it started with a barely elaborated statement that rich people had compared their class to Jews in Nazi Germany, then noted the retraction of that statement, then spent the rest of its space noting the many anger-inducing examples of how the rich and powerful are – to the shock and horror of the reader – still rich and powerful. There seems to be an implied message that since the rich are still rich, then by definition, they are not under attack; the only way the rich would not be under attack is if they were no longer rich, which seems mighty class-warfare-like.┬áIn making fun of the rich and their perception of being under attack, the article provides a prime example of the rich indeed being under attack.

But we can only go so meta: you can call them out for being what they are, then they can call you out for calling them out, then you can call them out for calling you out for calling them out… what a mess.

What irritates me about the entire thing is the dishonesty. Those who have the opinion that rich people should be taxed more, and that those taxes should pay for public services, cannot logically say that they are not mixing it up in class warfare. No matter how banal their assertions that redistribution is just common sense or basic justice, making the assertion is still confrontational and an attempt to use legislative power to take away their economic power. This is not rocket science.

My adviser and professor – who, like me, specializes in the field of economic history – made the argument in two different classes that Keynesianism was conservative policy because it preserved capitalism at a time when capitalism was not as firmly entrenched as it is now. This is also a man so liberal that he thought he was a conservative, basically for the same reason: by not overthrowing the established economic order for some form of militant egalitarianism, I am to be considered a friend of the establishment.

In a more sensible world, someone might have slapped the bastard and said that accepting bourgeoisie materialism does not make one a conservative. Not without the bourgeoisie work ethic, it doesn’t, and making endless excuses for the unemployed (which he did) does not constitute supporting that work ethic. Just being willing to show up for a great-paying, enjoyable job does not constitute a work ethic. A work ethic still motivates, even when jobs aren’t ideal and pay is low. A work ethic is sturdy. A work ethic means you take responsibility, not that you expect others to figure out a way to make you useful while meeting your standards for how you think an employer should treat you.

Anyway, Keynesianism is absolutely, positively class warfare, and anyone who says differently is trying to whitewash the principle and should be considered full of shit. What happens is simple:

  • You take the money of those who have money. Use taxes or just debase the currency through the Fed, same difference. Keynes recommended that governments actually save money during booms for this purpose, which should make you laugh.
  • You give it away to the poor, the unemployed, through whatever subsidies or public works projects sound good.
  • The rich then respond to demand created by people having more money, meaning they gear up the machines, hire people, and produce more stuff. Virtuous cycle.

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Since the rich make money in this process, some people claim that they’ve created opportunity for them. This is a fun concept: we take your money, then since we give you the opportunity to work and make it back, you’re benefiting, too!

Please, God, shut the fuck up.

These issues, like most of America’s issues, are largely about where individualism begins and ends. The same people who say that, for example, gay people should be able to live in society with no coercion and no judgment on their behavior simply because they are individuals deserving respect just don’t hold the same standard about the wealthy. They are evil; the gays are not. Evidently, individualism ends when someone you like is having a rough time, and someone you don’t isn’t having it rough enough.

Why can we consider this moral? Because one side is weak in principle, and the other is strong. Because one side has power and the other side does not. I call this attitude underdogmatic. What the rich guys in the article were trying to do is portray themselves as underdogs, because they know how this works. They’re going to fail, because the majority of people are really jealous of the rich underneath the surface tolerance. But the rich know the moral system. The weaker you appear, the stronger you actually are. It’s a prejudice based on victim worship, and those who don’t want the incentives to victimhood have no business giving it any credence.

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Running Up the Score

Just to throw this out there, more as a curiosity than anything:

I love me some football. I even blog about it when I’m not dealing with political/cultural crap:

http://chiefschannel.blogspot.com/

There are a number of reasons that sport specifically does it for me, but probably because of the intensity and violent contact made during play, it draws a lot of controversy.

Case in point: there has been some talk about football teams running up the score in games, usually high school games where the competition is clearly doomed.

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/10/22/parent-accuses-texas-high-school-football-coach-bullying-after-1-0-blowout-game/

http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/highschool-prep-rally/state-championship-football-coach-claims-fired-running-score-180821805.html

Now, if we wanted to institute a mercy rule where, say, a lead by 50 points means the game gets called in favor of the leader, then that would be understandable. But the moral content of these kinds of complaints is the same as the moral content thrown out when people start talking about wealth redistribution. People talk like competition is the point, so we have to keep it close. Then they might drop a pro-competitive attitude and bring up hurt feelings, how such a beating can lower self-esteem for the losers. You never know.

But here’s a thing about keeping score. The reason we do it in sports is the same reason we do it with science, engineering, and money. Numbers are straightforward. Numbers give you honest feedback. Numbers don’t lie, don’t allow you to see what you want to see. Sometimes, the other team can kick your ass, and no matter what, the kids on the opposing teams knew it, through the score if nothing else.

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In the case of high school ball, a mercy rule would be okay because that message is made. But in real sports, us Chiefs fans found out something recently: even if your team is way the fuck ahead, the other team can come back and kick your ass if they hit a streak. 28 points was enough that, if you were talking to a concerned parent in the stands, they might say the winner should back off, but what if the other team remembers where they put their motivation and digs it back up? Somewhere in the meaning of sport, full effort is implied. Sport is truth of ability and resilience brought up in competitive simulation; why do it if you’re just going to dick up the truth of it?

In economics and politics, it’s easy to loathe billionaires, officials, and tastemakers for trying too hard to get ever more power or solidify what they have. It seems obsessive and irrational, for them not to share. But “running up the score” always holds some value because there is never a zero chance of failure. Others want what you have, and you never know when your luck will run out. Particularly with capitalism, the scale of operations is huge these days: you have to have billions to start a major business and billions annually to run it, and there’s never so much money that it can’t be invested somewhere. Opportunity costs are everywhere, and “too much” has no meaning in that arena. We enjoy the benefits of increasing returns to that scale far too much to pretend we don’t like it with any credibility.

I know how difficult it is to empathize with overdogs, but understand that most of what human culture is about came from refining behavioral trends and establishing thought and ideas which existed for the sake of stabilizing a hierarchical group. Assholes in charge trying to stay in charge gave us much of what we have, and almost all the rest was created by people trying to take their power on some level. Everyone is insecure. That’s where their active energy comes from.

Even if losing is discouraging, alienating, depressing, humiliating, harsh, or even makes you feel like subjecting certain people to involuntary electroshock therapy, it’s better to stomach a tough loss than to promote the irrational idea that mercy without victory makes people moral. Mercy works to the benefit of the overdog after domination has been established. Then it boosts the esteem of the winner by reinforcing the declaration of victory and pulling the vanquished over to their side to complete an assimilating fusion. Mercy without victory is simply bad tactics in a legitimate fight, and it’s insulting to real competitors.