Not the Monthly Post

The Alt-Right, the Ctrl-Left, and the Esc-Center

When I predicted back in January of 2016 that Donald Trump would be the next president of the United States, I suggested that his candidacy would mark a sea change in American politics and public life. That’s turned out to be even more true than I’d expected. It’s not just that Trump’s presidency challenges the bipartisan consensus that’s ruled this country since the 1980s—neoliberal economics, neoconservative foreign policy, and the rest of it. It’s also turned out that his presidency has pushed one of our country’s most influential political movements into the kind of self-defeating tailspin that usually ends in a one-way trip down history’s disposal chute.

The reaction of Trump’s foes to the resignation of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy is a case in point. The right to nominate Supreme Court justices is one of the perks the Constitution gives to the president; the right to confirm or reject any such nomination is one of the perks the Constitution gives to the Senate. Since Trump’s the president and the Republican Party has a majority in the Senate, they get to pick Kennedy’s replacement, full stop, end of sentence.

This, however, a vocal minority among Democrats refuses to accept. The media and the leftward end of the blogosphere have accordingly filled up with loud demands that Trump be somehow stopped from carrying out his Constitutional duty, so that the party that lost the 2014 and 2016 national elections nonetheless gets to pick the next Supreme Court justice. The people making these demands apparently think that we live in a tantrumocracy, where whoever shrieks the loudest about their hurt feelings gets to tell the rest of us what to do. Fortunately, they’re wrong.

It’s only fair to point out that this sort of grandstanding isn’t universal among liberals. Quite the contrary, I’ve heard in recent weeks from quite a few liberals who are at their wits’ end at this point, having tried for the last year and a half to get their fellow liberals to do the things that might win them elections in the future—that is to say, first, figure out what they did that lost them the 2016 election and stop doing it, and thereafter, get out there and do some old-fashioned grassroots organizing to win back the voters that the Democratic Party establishment ignored once too often. These are the thing political parties and political movements do when they want to win, and the furious denunciations fielded by my liberal correspondents when they point this out do not bode well for the future of the vocal minority in question.

That minority deserves a name of its own, and for reasons we’ll discuss in a bit, I’m going to reuse the same habit of computer-keyboard slang that gave us the term “Alt-Right.” With a tip of the hat to regular reader LeGrand Cinq-Mars, who introduced me to the phrase, we’ll call the people I’m discussing the Ctrl-Left.

The Crtl-Left, as the name suggests, is the authoritarian wing of liberalism. Plenty of hardline conservatives like to claim that all liberals fall into this category, but they’re quite wrong; there are plenty of liberals out there who value individual liberty even when it means that some people do things they don’t like, which is of course the touchstone of real commitment to liberty. The Ctrl-Left doesn’t share that commitment. At the heart of the Ctrl-Left is the insistence that everybody ought to be forced to do what’s right—and “right,” of course, means what the Ctrl-Left says it does. No others need apply.

The recent Supreme Court decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission makes a good demonstration of this. The majority opinion pointed out correctly that the conflict between the gay couple who wanted a wedding cake and the baker whose religious convictions oppose gay marriage was a classic collision of individual liberties in which the rights of both sides need to be safeguarded.  The Ctrl-Left, by contrast, insisted at the top of its lungs that the gay couple were right and the baker was wrong, pure and simple, and the baker should be forced by government edict to ignore his own conscience and conform to theirs.

We live in a world in which it’s possible, and in fact quite common, for good people to wrestle with complicated moral issues and come to diametrically opposed conclusions. Over the last two and a quarter centuries here in the United States, we’ve stumbled our way slowly to the recognition that individual liberty is the best solution to these conundrums, so long as the exercise of liberty by one person doesn’t cause significant harm to another—and being offended by someone else’s choices, by the way, does not amount to significant harm; there are no Purple Hearts issued for being butthurt. Nor, it probably has to be spelled out, does it cause significant harm to anyone if they have to get their wedding cake from a different baker.

In exactly the same way, and for exactly the same reason, the only people who have any business deciding whether a same-sex couple should marry are the two people who are considering marrying each other. Since no one suffers significant harm because two men or two women fall in love with each other and decide to get married—here again, being horribly offended by someone else’s decision emphatically does not count—the Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage was in the best traditions of American democracy.

So, equally, was the decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which prohibited government from forcing people to participate in celebrating such marriages if that goes against their conscience. Liberty means that people get to do things you disapprove of. It means that same-sex couples get to tie the knot, and it also means that bakers get to choose what kind of cakes they will and won’t bake. Doesn’t that mean that people exercising their liberty will come into conflict? Of course, and that’s why courts and legislatures have been tasked with trying cases and passing laws to deal with those conflicts. It’s a slow, messy, fallible way of doing things, and the only thing that can be said in its favor is that it really does seem to work better than any other way of handling the irreducible cussedness of human beings.

This, in turn, is what the Ctrl-Left refuses to accept. Those of my readers who frequent liberal forums online, as I do occasionally, will already be familiar with the savage bullying that people on the Ctrl-Left unleash on anyone who dares to challenge their exclusive right to define what virtue is and force everyone else to conform to it. It’s classic authoritarian behavior, indistinguishable from the sort you see from hardcore religious fundamentalists on the other end of the political spectrum. It would be a serious cause for worry to anybody who values liberty, except for the factor I referred to earlier—the one that’s got the Ctrl-Left sliding down the chute toward the compost bin of American history.

You know that a political movement is on its way out when it loses track of the fact that it has to convince people who don’t already agree with it. That’s what has happened to the Ctrl-Left since Trump’s inauguration. An embarrassingly large sector of the Democratic party since then has taken to insisting that it’s totally unreasonable for anyone to suggest that they reach out to the people who’d voted for Trump and try to convince them to vote Democratic next time. Why? Because everyone who voted for Trump must by definition be a card-carrying Nazi. That’s why. With that in mind, they’ve gone on to act as though wearing pink hats, shrieking insults on the internet, and behaving in other ways reminiscent of a spoiled two-year-old’s tantrums would force the election results to be overturned. Of course that hasn’t happened; what’s more, it won’t happen—and yet they’re still at it, as Trump’s approval ratings mount upwards and the prospects of Democratic candidates in the 2018 elections slide just as steadily down.

There’s a complex and sordid history behind that stunningly counterproductive strategy, but that’s a theme for a different post. What I want to discuss here is the contrast between the cascading failures of the Ctrl-Left and the rather different results garnered by that movement’s opposite number, the Alt-Right.

Though the term “Ctrl-Left” is modeled on “Alt-Right,” the historical relationship between these two movements runs the other direction. The Alt-Right emerged after the Ctrl-Left, and modeled itself on the Ctrl-Left in a way very familiar to the student of the history of ideas. Just as old-fashioned Satanists accept all the presuppositions of Christianity but reverse the value signs, and Ayn Rand’s Objectivism enthusiastically embraces as good all the qualities that Marxism attributes to evil capitalists, the Alt-Right is what you get when you take the social-justice ideology of the Ctrl-Left and say with Milton’s Satan, “Evil, be thou my good.”

Thus, for example, the Ctrl-Left hates racism, having carefully defined that word so that it only includes those ethnic bigotries they don’t embrace. In response, the Alt-Right accepts the Ctrl-Left definition of racism, and then enthusiastically embraces racism as so defined. That the entire concept of race is nothing more than a scrap of obsolete 19th-century ethnology with no basis in biology or genetics; that claiming that all people with light-colored skin and no epicanthic fold belong to a “white race” is just as absurd as claiming that all white-haired dogs from St. Pyrenees to teacup poodles belong to a “white breed;” that the Crtl-Left uses talk about race to avoid facing up to its own pervasive problems with class bigotry and its own complicity in the exploitation of working class Americans—ideas such as these get little traction in Alt-Right circles, even though they’re far more dangerous to the Ctrl-Left’s project than the kind of simplistic opposition that just affirms everything the other side rejects.

There’s one crucial way in which the Alt-Right has failed to mimic the Ctrl-Left, though. Where the Ctrl-Left has lost track of the fact that it has to convince people who don’t already agree with it, the Alt-Right suffers from no such handicap. What’s more, the Alt-Right has learned the same lesson that Donald Trump figured out very early on in the election campaign, which is that the Ctrl-Left can very easily be goaded into self-defeating overreactions.

One example out of many is the exquisitely clever Alt-Right strategy of posting signs saying IT’S OKAY TO BE WHITE all over college campuses. The standard Ctrl-Left reaction to this is a fine spluttering meltdown, insisting that this inoffensive utterance counts as hate speech and must be punished. From within the Ctrl-Left, no doubt such meltdowns look like a proper display of moral virtue. From any other perspective, they look like an admission that the social justice movement central to Ctrl-Left ideology is motivated by nothing better than bigotry against white people, and that the Ctrl-Left is therefore no better than the people it denounces.

Clever strategy, to be sure, does not make up for the many other problems with Alt-Right ideology. For that matter, movements like the Alt-Right never get far. Just as Satanism and Objectivism never became more than fringe movements attracting those disaffected by Christianity and Communism respectively, the Alt-Right will never be much more than a place where people offended by Ctrl-Left ideology can nurse their grievances. The opposite of one bad idea, as I’ve had occasion to point out here more than once, is usually another bad idea.

And the alternative? We do actually have a political tradition here in America that avoids the twinned follies of the Alt-Right and the Ctrl-Left, and arguably offers the best way out of the bitter and brittle polarization that has turned so much of American society into one vast ongoing shouting match. It’s been around for a good long time, and it has tolerably widespread support from ordinary Americans, though it’s suffered neglect in recent years. To continue the computer-keyboard metaphor, we can call it the Esc-Center.

(Those readers who would like a soundtrack for the following discussion, with a nod to the date and also to the spirit of what I’d like to communicate, may want to click here.)

What constitutes the core of the Esc-Center? I’d suggest these as starting points for discussion:

Individual Liberty. A country as vast and diverse as the United States will never be able to find a consensus on most social issues. It’s a waste of time to try to make one, and a source of useless conflict to try to impose one by government edict. That’s why the American tradition has, however clumsily and incompletely, embraced the principle of individual liberty in any situation where one person’s actions do not cause significant harm to another. Would-be social reformers, whether their motivation be religious or secular, are free to advance their agendas by trying to persuade others, but when they try to make their ideologies mandatory via the machinery of government, that act is an intolerable usurpation and should be stopped in its tracks.

Representative Democracy. We have a system to allow citizens to seek redress of grievances. It’s called politics, and it’s open to anyone who wants to get involved in it. The election of Donald Trump in the teeth of the united opposition of the political establishment shows that the political system in this country is far less broken than radicals on either side like to claim it is. (The way that so many of Trump’s opponents denounce him and his followers as “populists” shows that they know perfectly well what the score is. What’s the opposite of populism? Why, elitism, of course.)  If you want to change the way things are done, there are plenty of ways to find an audience for your ideas, build a constituency, and make things happen. If you’d rather just show up once every two or four years to vote for prechewed candidates, on the other hand, you can expect to get the government you deserve.

Political Federalism. Our Constitution, as revised by the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, assigns the federal government certain duties and responsibilities, and leaves everything else to the states and the people. That’s been ignored time and again over the last two thirds of a century, but it remains very nearly the only way that a country this diverse can manage its internal affairs. There isn’t a single item of social policy that will be equally acceptable to the people of Massachusetts and Oklahoma, and rather than trying to ram Massachusetts law down Oklahoman throats, or Oklahoma law down Massachusetts throats, it really does work better to allow the people of each state to manage their own affairs through their elected officials. Does that mean that people in Massachusetts and Oklahoma will be horribly offended by the laws passed in each other’s states? Of course it does. Deal.

Equality of Opportunity. The word equality can mean two things—equality of opportunity or equality of outcome—and you can have one or the other but you can’t have both.  Equality of opportunity means that every person has the same chance in life as every other, irrespective of gender, ethnicity, social class, and so on. Equality of outcome means that every subgroup of society gets assigned an equal share in life, irrespective of talent or effort. The former is as essential as the latter is unjust. If gender, ethnicity, social class, or membership in other categories are used to exclude American citizens unfairly from education, housing, jobs, political representation, and the like, that’s a wrong that should be redressed—but people vary in their talents, their interests, and their willingness to work, and it’s not the business of government to override those differences in pursuit of an ideological goal.

Individual Responsibility. You are not responsible for who your great-grandparents were or what they did. You are responsible only for your own words and deeds—and no, you don’t get a free pass because of who your great-grandparents were, either.  The doctrine of collective guilt, by which all the members of a given group are blamed forever for the actions of some members of that group in the past, was invented by theologians in the Middle Ages to justify pogroms against the Jews, and every time the same notion has been deployed since then, the results have been comparable. If historical causes result in injustices in the present, those injustices need to be addressed, but the past can’t be changed retroactively, and once government has guaranteed equality of opportunity to every citizen and made such redress as may be voted into law, its responsibility toward the past is over.

Civil Society. Government action isn’t the best solution to every problem; in many cases, voluntary private organizations do a much better job. When Alexis de Tocqueville toured the young United States in the very early 19th century, one of the things he found that set the new republic apart from other nations was the enthusiasm with which Americans founded voluntary organizations to address social problems. That habit faded with the metastatic expansion of the federal government after the Second World War, but the framework remains in place and deserves much more use than it received during America’s misguided age of empire.

An End to Empire. The United States has no business being the world’s policeman, much less the world’s jailer. We’re currently wasting billions of dollars every year maintaining military bases in more than a hundred countries around the world while our domestic infrastructure collapses from decades of malign neglect. Most countries with empires—and yes, let’s be honest with ourselves, that’s what we have—end up collapsing economically once the cost of maintaining the empire outstrips the benefits. We’re perilously close to that, and need to follow the example of Britain and stand down from our global empire before it drags us down with it. Yes, that means that our allies overseas are going to have to pay the cost of their own defense or go under, and they’re free to choose which of those they want to do.

A Politics of Realism. The world will never be without suffering and injustice, nor can all social problems be solved. It’s incumbent on political leaders and citizens alike to redress grievances and correct injustices as best they can, but insisting that a political system is intolerably evil because it isn’t perfect is the logic of a spoiled child. Nor does it count as injustice when some subset of the citizenry can’t convince the rest of the population to give it everything it wants. We live in a world of limits, where tradeoffs are necessary and individual liberties inevitably come into conflict; the job of government is to broker compromises that share as many of the burdens and benefits of life in community as fairly as possible.

That’s a very rough first approximation of the Esc-Center as I see it: a set of approaches to social and political questions that’s worked tolerably well in the past—better, certainly, than the grand schemes that have replaced it in the political mainstream—and still has a great deal of support among Americans generally. It seems to me that getting these ideas back out in circulation now, as an alternative to the paired vagaries of the Ctrl-Left and the Alt-Right, is one way to help further the values some of us here in the US are celebrating this Fourth of July.

And if, dear reader, your response to the above is to accuse me of being a fascist—the standard response of the Ctrl-Left these days to even the mildest disagreement—let me ask you this. We both know what the word “fascist” means, and it doesn’t mean individual liberty, representative democracy, and a lack of enthusiasm for invading other countries. That being the case, do you really think that flinging an obviously false accusation at me is going to encourage me to vote for the candidates you support in the next election? And if you don’t care about winning votes for the candidates you support in the next election, then just what exactly do you care about?


  1. Bingo! I’d been using ‘The DNC’ … but I like ‘Ctrl-Left’ better. Thanks a bunch… now to finish this wonderful exposition. (BTW, I have thought that, in the face of total plutocratic control, esp. media, etc, secession will be our only answer…. BUT maybe, with the conservative SCOTUS, states’ rights will be elevated, and we won’t have to split.)

  2. This essay is an awesome Independence-Day gift. Thank you!

    I have always called myself, for want of a better term, a radical moderate–which has the advantage of confusing everyone who hears me use it. But I am going to play with Esc-Center for a while and see how it works.

  3. Thank you for articulating here what the “Esc-Center” actually represents, JMG. I see too many people online claiming that a center or moderate position means “being complicit with Nazis” or some similar claptrap, and it’s beyond frustrating to those of us who thoroughly dislike the Alt-Right but also have strong reservations about much of the ideology of the Ctrl-Left.

  4. I agree with every point of the Esc-Center, as you define it here. Two issues that definitely need to be dealt with though – 1. I’d add the right to bear arms for lawful citizens as inviolate, and 2. The Alt-Right has succeeded in proving to me beyond any reasonable doubt that there are elements of unknown size and power in the Ctrl-Left who really, truly do hate me just because of the colour of my skin and really, truly do want me and everyone like me dead because of a circumstance of my birth over which I have no control. I don’t see how it would be possible to peacefully coexist with such people.

  5. After Trump’s victory, I honestly thought the furor and whining and hand wringing would die down after a few months, and the world not ending. But it seems I was very wrong. I’ll be interested in reading your future post on the “complex and sordid history behind that stunningly counterproductive strategy”, because it surely escapes my understanding at the moment.

    It’s easier for me to come to the conclusion that sinister forces behind the scenes are at work – how else do Antifa protesters get bused into Portland to confront a demonstration by the Patriot Prayer group? Or why is the ctrl-left all up in arms over 2,000 illegal immigrant children being separated from their parents, when there are 10s of thousand of children who have parents in prison or who are trapped in our foster care system? It makes no sense….

  6. Hi John,

    You raise many valid points and I personally cannot stand political correctness but you did not mention the GOP Senate’s dereliction of duty in refusing to vote on Obama’s Supreme Court appointee or the sham that is the Electoral College. Democrats would fare better if the top vote getter won and if an end was put to GOP gerrymandering of House districts.

    To be honest I very much dislike both parties and don’t know what a viable alternative going forward could be except perhaps for the country to split up into new political entities.

  7. I find it mildly amusing that “fascist” is usually a better descriptor of the person shrieking than what they’re calling “fascist”. I wonder if this is yet another case of projecting the shadow….

  8. When I was in my early 20’s, I hung hung out with radical and authoritarian leftists. I lived on communes, squats, with train-hoppers etc etc. I heard a lot of the sort of rhetoric that gets a lot of air today. Then, around 2014, it seemed that what had been fringe opinions were on the tips of everyone tongues. I admit to being utterly flabbergasted and baffled by this course of events. It was incongruous enough when it was just a few black clad radicals crouching in a squat drinking PBR and talking about the rev, seeing mainstream news echo the exact same talking points still is hard for me to actually believe, but it does happen quite a bit, at least in Massachusetts. I noticed that around 2014, even liberals who disagreed with the implications seemed to be mentally engaging seriously with straight up authoritarian ideology, at face value, using the same buzzwords and catchphrases. People would straight up admit that sure, leftist authoritarianism is just the inverse of right wing fascism, but there is no moral equivalence between the two. What? I heard a lot of that, before I stopped engaging people in this sort of conversation. How absurd; how can there be anything but moral equivalence between ideologies that, when put into practice, end in millions dead and millions more oppressed?

  9. I have three thoughts (‘like a tree in which there are three blackbirds…’)

    1. I’ve read your blog for 10 years and I know you aren’t like this, but the “Equality of Opportunity” passage will be interpreted as “Middle-aged White Guy Grumbles About Social Programs.” I did also notice the slip into passive voice: “be redressed” with no mention of who is to do that redressing.

    2. Under “Civil Society”, the enthusiasm with which Americans in the early 19c. founded voluntary organizations mirrored their tendency to start fractious, fiercely polemical political parties of which the Know-Nothings and Native Americans are examples — both virulently white-nationalist: Emerson lamented their influence in the 1830s. I fear that the fertility of both the collective-help organizations and the political factions reflected the energy and youth of a country rapidly expanding into rich, untapped farming, timber and mining lands that individuals could exploit with accessible technology for high profit, a situation which is no longer true and never will be again.

    3. You’ve often characterized the American shibboleths of bigger-is-better, onward-and-upward and so on as infantile and increasingly non-functional, and I agree. But I don’t think you’ve ever addressed the historical reality that the country has actually spent +300 years in an age of expansion, cashing out the discovery of North America which for various geographic reasons was the richest territorial lottery win humanity is ever likely to experience. Hence the difficulty of re-orienting ourselves, and hence the dubious assertions of “new frontiers” in outer space — which even if colonized would never bring the lottery win of escalating expansion that North America did. Even the conceptual language of those who acknowledge limitations — including the alternative communities of the 1970s which you lament as a road not taken — has been heavily inflected by the vocabulary of the age of expansion, making it impossible for such communities to perpetuate themselves. The change has to be much more radical and much more reminiscent of that awkward word “religion.”

  10. Nailed it!
    Our family loosely uses the Golden Rule, 10 commandments, and the Bill of Rights as our centrist celebration of independence and civility.

  11. Dear John Michael Greer,

    Amen. My favorite part: “the irreducible cussedness of human beings.”


  12. Regarding the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, it is my personal opinion that a public business shouldn’t be able to refuse service to a paying customer (unless that customer is disruptive, abusive, or inciting violence). “We don’t serve your kind here” shouldn’t be a reason to deny service. I feel the same way about the incident at the Red Hen, by the way, where Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked to leave.

  13. I think the most interesting aspect of Trumpism is the way in which it has evolved a means of countering activists of any stripe.

    Hitherto, anyone attempting to defend a set of social norms against a highly motivated activist group has suffered from what I call “the energy gap” – they are not capable of mustering the same kind of moral fervour as those activists who are determined to bring about change, and so are doomed to lose over the long run.

    Trump has shown that the counter is not to engage activists in debate, or attempt to nullify their arguments, but to keep their moral righteousness permanently at fever pitch i.e. to use the activists’ own energy against them, and let mental and psychological exhaustion gradually do its thing.

  14. On the subject of grassroots organising and voluntary and community groups, these may be helpful – and Responsibility and Public Services by Richard Davis. They are primarily about the best way to run people-centred public services but they both discuss the best ways to approach, relate to and work with people, including the most desperate and downtrodden. They also include very interesting discussions of the relationship between communities, activists and local authorities.

  15. Well, I have to say that you hit the nail on the head with regards to the realities of American politics nowadays. Whenever I look at the latest news articles from the Ctrl-Left or Alt-Right crying out that the other side is an evil Nazi commie fascist socialist, I can’t help but be saddened; how, exactly, did such a horrible political machine arise out of what was once a lively, energetic discourse?

    For what it’s worth, my personal theory is that American politics became so lively due to the intricate game of distributing limited resources. When resources became functionally unlimited for Americans in the interval between 1945 and 2008, the reason to have a good political system disappeared, because even the most boneheaded governmental moves would cause no real consequences. Now, with empire fading and the American oceans of oil drying up, the current American political establishment is cruising for a bruising.

    Anyway, all of your suggestions for a centrist government seem very reasonable, especially the paragraphs on equality of opportunity and individual responsibility; the notion that an individual person will succeed perfectly by themselves if given the right tools and education, which seems obvious enough, deserves far more attention than it gets in the American political sphere. The hard part now is finding a politician willing to put those into effect, with the charisma necessary to beat the stuffing out of the establishment and the courage to resist compromising his principles when bribed. Still, as you had said in your second paragraph, there are countless avenues of change open should you wish to ring in a new era of political thought.

  16. That is a very clear exposition of your political philosophy, and since I don’t live in the USA, it’s none of my business to criticize or amend it. The only point I would like to comment on is that “equality of opportunity” is a very elusive goal anywhere. On top of that, it seems to me that the modern US-American combination of local school districts financed by property tax, commuters who work in a different town and county than where they live, and continuous expansion of housing supply (none of which by itself is bad), is tailor-made to induce segregation by wealth and therefore to restrict equality of opportunity already during school age.

  17. JMG, I am curious about your thoughts on wealth, inheritance, and taxation as they relate to equality of opportunity. On the one hand, it seems to me that I am noticing increasingly disparate opportunities and advantages given to children whose parents differ in wealth and location (to oversimplify, salaried professionals in the city versus rural working class). In my view, many of these children seem virtually predestined economically speaking at this point (with occasional exceptions, of course). On the other hand, I admit to a certain amount of cold pricklies regarding aggressive wealth redistribution, large inheritance taxes, etc. Do you view this as a disparity that must simply be lived with, or a problem that will solve itself either by a recalibration of our national wealth distribution or, over a few generations, by the deleterious effects of inherited wealth on one’s general character and industriousness? More generally, what are your feelings about “soft” inequalities of opportunity that are not necessarily legally enforced but nonetheless often quite powerful?

  18. Well, John, it’s been… informative. However, all things must come to an end, and my subscription to your blog appears to be – to use one of your preferred metaphors – past its pull date. The Long Descent changed my life in ways too numerous to mention, and I have found a great deal of your writing in the past years to be essential reading to be shared with anyone who will allow me to pester them with it. But enough’s enough. Your political views, while not fascist (um, congratulations?), are becoming downright tedious and annoying. The Senate refused to grant Obama’s pick for a Supreme Court vacancy a hearing of any kind for over nine months, on the grounds that it was inappropriate to do so in an election year. It seems pretty reasonable that they can wait four months or so, during an election year, to do so now. McConnell set the policy; he can stick to it.
    Far more importantly, your continued harping on the left for its failures in strategy and tactics, combined with your passing, vague references to reasonable objections to the Republican and/or Trump agenda, speak volumes. You didn’t just predict that Trump would win and shake things up, John. You argued that he was the better option of the two likely candidates: “less terrible” were the words you used, if memory serves. Well, now that the most corrupt administration in American history is showing one foreign policy failure after another (North Korea really really promises to stop making nukes! They swear, you guys!), throws a few dollars of tax relief at working class Americans and does everything it can to negate it with tariffs and other disasters, and, oh yeah, cages toddlers, you want to talk about how to win over voters. No mention of compassion, kindness, basic human decency, or that tens of millions of Americans like the President more than they like democracy, the Constitution, or even the truth.
    Something I have noticed for a while that is lacking in your writing, but seems to have become more obvious and pronounced since the last presidential campaign, is humility. I have no memory of you ever admitting you made a mistake or a bad call in all the years I have been reading you. And, with Trump, you screwed up big time. You can talk about him being successful in accomplishing his agenda (like Mao, and Stalin, and so many others!), but you refuse to express your opinion about the value of this agenda to average Americans. I would be fine with this, if you didn’t devote so much attention to pink hats, hashtags you don’t like, and many other issues you take with American liberalism. Is the American Left a broken mess? You bet. Does it deserve more scorn and derision than Sessions, DeVos, Pruitt, and their boss? Not even close. If winning is your measure of a person’s or institution’s worth, or if it is the only thing that interests you, then it is time for me to read other thinkers that see the current attacks on American institutions as the profound threat they are. Just because some of those institutions deserve to be put out to pasture does not make the Trump administration any less dangerous. Either you see your belief that he would mess things up less as an error, and are refusing to admit it, or you somehow still think Clinton would be worse. Either way, I have better things to do with my time. I will no doubt continue to quote you regarding resource depletion, necessary sacrifices, and various philosophical digressions about reading, thinking, and the nature of self, the will, and so forth. But I can’t watch you address the various crises confronting this country and the world, while dancing around a huge black hole in the center of so much of it, any longer. Goodbye.

  19. Personally, I think a serious commitment to the values you enumerate would be more radical than anything that has happened politically in my lifetime.

    For example, I think “equality of opportunity” – I thought about this one a lot, as I find affirmative action policies to be questionable, but know that our current system prevents there being equal opportunity in the first place. To create truly equal opportunity requires changes much deeper than what has happened up to now. If I were leading a party, one major goal would be to make affirmative action obsolete and unnecessary.

    My own politics are odd in the end. I actually believe we need a modern distributism where there is national service but a right to housing. Working in real estate made me realize that ownership of land and housing is the most basic capital. Marxists often talk of the evils of capitalism but rarely focus on how various types of enclosure have created the dependence that makes modern capitalism work.

    But that is also anti-industrial and development of industry is a central goal of communism (in the USSR and China, for instance).

    In any case, I don’t agree with everything you wrote but I think the general point is solid. I find in particular that the “ally” relationship is toxic – it is not friendship or solidarity, but more of a weird accessory thing. It hard to put my finger on exactly what it is, but I know it’s not right.

    That said, the toxic stew on the right is so bad I can’t handle it. I’m not conviced the Republican party actually has that many “centrists” left anymore, at least under what you propose as values.

  20. Archdruid,

    What you have here are some very dangerous ideas that I can wholly support! Now the difficulty of actually implementing them.



  21. As a long-time hidden reader of your blogs, I’ll chime in for the first time and respond with an “Amen”. I’ve always preferred to avoid labels that might describe my natural orientation towards things political and otherwise, as I find most of the usual ones to be a bit rigid and restrictive, but your description of the Esc-center seems to fit my sensibilities to a “T”. I also see this centrist approach as the being the most grounded of all the orientations locatable on a left-right continuum (not at all Esc-ist, in other words), as well as the most likely to Fn.

    I’m also curious as to what the more Buddhistically-inclined readers here— I’ve noticed a few in the recent past— might have to say about the similarities between the Esc-center and the middle way encouraged by the Buddha. Not that this ideal is unique to Buddhism– the golden mean in its various expressions seems to be universally recognized within all cultures that have an ear for proper tuning. Does Druidry also espouse this ideal in its own way?

  22. I don’t post here much, but I’ve been a lurker since at least 2016. I mainly follow left-leaning blogs and like reading your work (and SSC, among others) as you do a good job of being reasonable and rational while disagreeing with the orthodoxy of the American left. I say this to claim some familiarity with the left-leaning political blogosphere, albeit not as good familiarity as I’d like with the right-leaning part of it.

    I think your stated positions of the “Esc-Center” would be perfectly acceptable to the leftist social justice bloggers I follow with a couple exceptions:

    1. “Equality of opportunity” is a phrase that tends to get interpreted very differently by different people. My feeling is that the leftist bloggers I follow are tired of writing “equality of opportunity” where they mean “tearing down structural inequalities so people can have equality of opportunity” and people instead understand it to mean essentially the status quo. Meaning they end up talking more explicitly about the structural inequalities they see and about aggressive measures to fix them like affirmative action. And then everyone’s offended about being called a racist/sexist when the leftists point out that the status quo includes *structural* racism/sexism, and no actual progress is made toward the goal that everyone supposedly agrees on of “equality of opportunity” (this also segues into your section on “Individual Responsibility”). I would like to believe this is merely a difficulty of talking past each other that could be solved by better language and better attempts to understand each other, but the left definitely has a tendency to believe the calls for “equality of opportunity” by the right are not made in good faith.

    2. The “Political Federalism” part about having different social policies in OK and MA is unacceptable to the left when it comes out to meaning that OK can essentially say gay people aren’t welcome and they should all move to MA. This is an exaggeration, of course, but the left sees a lot of value in the federal government and supreme court cases like the one legalizing gay marriage protecting the rights of marginalized people everywhere, and they aren’t willing to cede some states as unsafe for the $foo population.

    Lastly, I’ve seen a lot of talk here and elsewhere on the internet about the group you call the “Ctrl-Left” but that description doesn’t seem to match any left-leaning sources I’ve actually encountered on the internet (outside of low-effort comments on various message boards). The bloggers I follow constantly talk about policy proposals and organizing in addition to discussing what they don’t like about the policies enacted by the current administration.

  23. I love the idea of an “Esc-Center.” I’ve been thinking a lot lately of how the Law of Balance applies to politics, with regular adjustments towards the Center, and I suppose that an “Esc-Center” could likewise apply to a myriad of things, not just politics. Anytime you need more balance, just use the “Esc-Center” command!

  24. Bravo. A very good exposition of our national ideals.America is not a motherland or fatherland.Even the word homeland has some credibility problems. It is an idea or set of ideals which youve expressed admirably.But if you think that Trump sympathizes or even understands any of that I wish you luck.If his right wing court tries to outlaw abortion he will have the majority on women on his case. this is something Ive learned to avoid in 50 years of marriage.

  25. I am not going to call you a fascist.

    Quite the contrary. I think that your post is quite reasonable.

    I used to vote Democratic. But when the Democratic Party Elites decided to install Hillary Clinton as their candidate (and there is no other way to put it) that, to me, was not the last straw – but the next to last straw.

    The last straw was when I went onto the Huffington Post Bulletin Board and proposed such heresies as:

    1) Hillary Clinton was not really the “champion of the middle class” as she claimed. Rather, she was an archetypical out-of-touch elitist – with the “Rodham” middle added as an exclamation point.

    2) Ms. Clinton’s performance as Secretary of State was not a virtuoso performance qualifying her for the presidency. She had, in fact, destabilized a large part of the planet for no beneficial purpose at all – realpolitik or otherwise.

    3) Her promise to establish a “no fly” zone over Syria – in the face of the Russian Military – might end up reducing us all to radioactive dust.

    4) (And this one was the heresy of heresies) She was completely unqualified to be president but women were supporting her just because she was a woman and they wanted to elect the first woman President. I had no problem with electing a woman to be President – just not this woman.

    At that point, Ctrl-Left – brandishing pitchforks and torches – ran me off the HuffPo bulletin board.

    I barely escaped with my life.

    The Democratic Party – suffering from metastatic myopia – might not be so lucky.

  26. John—

    Much to digest here. For the time being, a few thoughts and comments.

    First. Yesterday, I took advantage of the WI early voting window, as I usually do, and voted in the partisan primary slated for August. As WI has open primaries (a practice I heartily endorse), I had my choice of primary: Republican, Democrat, Green, or Constitution. I was allowed to voted in any one primary. I decided to vote in the Republican primary in this case, as the offices for my state senator and state assembly-person were both contested and I wished to influence those offices. (In doing so, I did relinquish my ability to choice from among the eight or so candidates vying for the Democratic nomination for WI governor. I’ll manage.) My purpose in doing so was to nudge the nomination towards the candidates which I felt were reasonable but stood a good chance of winning. The contest for the Republican nom for the state senate seat, for example, was between a candidate supported by the state party and a rather independently-minded Republican (who happens to be our current Assembly rep) very much *not* supported by the state party leadership. I voted for the latter, as I not only appreciate his independence but have also had occasion to speak with the man and, while he is an adamant pro-lifer, I can appreciate what he has done in representing our locality and I’m willing to support that.

    Second. As one of the folks to which you referred, I am somewhat fatigued by the Ctrl-Left. As crazy as the thought is, and depending on whom the Democrats proffer in Nov of 2020, I cannot say for certain at this point that I will not under any circumstances vote for one Donald J. Trump. If he actually pulls off some troop withdrawals (from South Korea, the ME, and/or Europe), for example, I may have to give considerable weight to the fact that, by whatever method — stutter-step, backwards, random stumbling — the man might actually be moving us in the direction we need to be going. (Understand, this is truly scrambling my brain right now, writing this.) Tariffs, imperial withdrawal: who’d have thunk?

    Finally. I appreciate your candor and the calling-it-as-you see-it. Reasonable people can disagree reasoanably, and such is the basis for civil society. When we can no longer speak to one another, we are truly in peril as a nation. Unfortunately, I fear that is the direction in which we are headed, despite the best efforts of folks like yourself and many of this community.

  27. @JMG

    If there were a viable political party which embraced the principles you have laid out, I would be tempted to move back to the U.S. to support it.

    However, I must (regrettably) resist such a temptation, for a fundamental reason, which you touched upon, but did not fully address, in your post. That reason has to do with the level of practical wisdom (as opposed to raw “intelligence”) and psychological maturity of the average American.

    I was born in the 1950’s. Even then, many prominent psychologists stated that the average, middle-aged adult in America had the psychological and emotional maturity of an 8 to 12 year old (pre-pubescent) child. Things have only gone downhill since then. The Baby Boomers (my generation) regressed significantly, and it seems the Millennials are basically thumb-sucking toddlers.

    Brazilian-born journalist Pepe Escobar, in a recent wide-ranging interview, stated that the 70-year-old Trump had the psychological maturity of a 7 year old child (a view with which I completely concur). He said (41:50 mark) that “not even Freud and Lacan together could analyze him on a couch.”

    Back when de Tocqueville visited the young United States, the average American had far more education and emotional maturity than is the case today. If you read Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” or the Lincoln-Douglas debates, keep in mind that farmers and day laborers were the audiences of these tracts and speeches.

    As John Adams famously said:

    “But should the People of America, once become capable of that deep simulation towards one another and towards foreign nations, which assumes the Language of Justice and moderation while it is practicing Iniquity and Extravagance; and displays in the most captivating manner the charming Pictures of Candour frankness & sincerity while it is rioting in rapine and Insolence: this Country will be the most miserable Habitation in the World. Because We have no Government armed with Power capable of contending with human Passions unbridled by morality and Religion. Avarice, Ambition, Revenge or Galantry, would break the strongest Cords of our Constitution as a Whale goes through a Net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

    Leaving religion (or even morality!) aside for a moment, what would Adams have said about a nation, comprised of toddlers and infants in adult-sized bodies? Such a people is incapable of so much as self-control, let alone self-government. Such a population constitutes a profound liability to itself and to everyone else around it.

    For this reason, I must unfortunately conclude that your political program will remain impossible until tens of millions (and perhaps upwards of 100 million or more) “Darwin Awards” have been bestowed upon an insouciant, immature and feckless people. I don’t like saying this, but that is how I see it.


  28. It seems to me that for a significant portion of the electorate the terms Equality and Liberty have become “lost words.” For years I have struggled with the Mommy vs. Daddy Party tension created within my own household by the rhetoric of the CTRL-LFT, while residing suspiciously in the ESC-CNTR. The rise of “Trump Divorces” is a phenomenon that deserves some attention. Interestingly, it has only been within the past 18 months that my consistent remarks about the failings of the Symbionese Liberation Army style rhetoric of the CTRL-LFT has been heard at all. The CTRL-LFT and ALT-RGHT are both the children of partisanship.

  29. Dear Mr. Greer, I think you for this clear and sensible explication of our current political scene. I hope you will pursue the theme further. I would like to learn more about the complex and sordid history of the authoritarian left. I know some of it, such as the Democratic Party’s refusal to get behind Moynihan and Nixon’s plan for a Basic Income for all to replace the proliferating forest of Great Society Programs. Very much complicit were activists and their clients hoping for employment in “The Programs”. Also one might mention the substitution of “Affirmative Action” for straight out reparations for slavery, which, if we had done it when there was a window of opportunity, the mid-late 70s, would have been limited to descendants of persons enslaved here in the USA and would be over with now.

    I would also be interested in why you think the alt-right won’t achieve political hegemony. What astonishes me is that the alt right has become anti war. Right up through the time of Bush the Younger, flag waving conservatives were behind every misbegotten, ill-judged military adventure, from Grenada to Iraq. What has changed? Were the revelations of Abu Graihb the tipping point? Was the cost in lives and treasure of the ME wars finally the last straw?

  30. I’ve spent enough time in social justice spaces to recognize the Ctrl-Left depiction – though I would say I didn’t see it until the Alt-Right began rising. It was over a decade ago we started warning about the incels and the new groups that have become Proud Boys etc., and no one, especially on the centre left would believe us (“oh, it’s just a fringe”). Once they started using social justice language against us, that’s when people started to get hysterical and go batty – because we become detached from praxis – actually doing the hard on the ground outreach and relationship building and correction of course that is the core of social justice, we were very vulnerable to rhetorical attack.

    In my personal experience, which is by no means exhaustive, about 1 in 6 of the feminist and anti-racist groups I’ve encountered implodes due to call outs, infighting of the oppression Olympics variety, and straight up inability to hold space for difference. One feminist group, for example, destroyed itself over taking one’s husband’s name. Some said they had no problem didn’t care, or wrote thoughtfully as to why it was liberating for them (e.g for some black women, being able to take a husband’s name, after centuries of having to take a slave owners, and in the face of high incarceration and absenteeism of black men, was very liberating. As a white woman, this was a beautiful eye opening example of the different lenses people bring to even the smallest things), others argued it was maybe not the best option, but couldn’t think of better, others felt it was abject persecution of everyone else for any woman to do it – even in another country. You can guess what happened with that one last little handful of women driving every other position out. One anti racist space implodes with doxxing and actual destruction of single work at home mother’s businesses, of all races, over the failure to universally instantaneously adopt an updated name for a style of baby carrier wrap, for Pete’s sake.

    But what the 1 in 6 still around does differently is the key to actually bringing progressive, inclusive values back to public discourse:

    1) call in, not call out – aka come get your cousins. This means when it’s your people – your white lady friends, your bros in the locker room, your racist Grandma, you say something, with the intention of keeping the relationship. That means slow, careful, empathic communication, not the ” I’m not a fascist like them” distancing tactic. Which leads naturally to

    2) no one is disposable. You can’t throw out a whole person because they disagree on one axis during a finite period of time. People change, they have to be given the chance, that used to be an axiom of Justice. They also might not change, and you can still just tolerate their existence until they actually do harm. Most people hold racist ideas, yet almost none will actively form a lynch mob, and we have ways to get around implicit biases (e.g blind auditions, nameless resumes, even just pointing them out so people are aware when they are at risk of profiling). This also requires/aloows people to be personally responsible for messing up. You will have to make it up to your community, but once you do, you are still sorted in your community – you have *a reason* to want to reform instead of hightail it to the nearest skinhead group because you are irredeemable, might as well go for broke.

    These ideas came from the black women, who knew a thing or two about hard community organizing. They were aghast at the way they saw white people in the groups treating each other. They would agree with JMG here, I think, in that we forgot how to do community. It became clear that while America has the race problem it always has, the problem at boil is all the other ways the American identity has fractured. Whichever part of your neighbors politics bother you most, you can just leave and set up with some people who have a more agreeable configuration, and the froth about how much you hate those other guys.

    We’re entering a time when they kind of disposability has passed – you either won’t be able to leave, or the disagreeable people are coming to you because their place up and dried up and blew away. Everyone needs to be able to tolerate feeling uncomfortable long enough to be able to talk about gritty reality – perhaps can we find a better working adaptation, or dozen, to what will be an insoluble, wicked problem in between ‘torture children until they definitely do become sociopaths’ and ‘let in everyone, food and housing for all!’ as if those these are the only two self evident possibilities adults can think of.

  31. When I first read of SCJ Anthony Kennedy’s resigning (on Twitter), all of the leftwing accounts I know of were pushing articles saying how Supreme Court justices “need” term limits, and some vulgar tweets proclaiming a desire to ‘get as many abortions as possible before Roe v. Wade is overturned.” I could care less about another person’s position on abortion, but I’m kind of numb to this outrageous rhetoric today. If you told me back in 2012-14 that people I knew would be acting like this in a few years, I would have told you you were nuts. Now? It just seems to be getting more and more vitriolic, and in a short time period.

    Regarding what you have said re: whiteness and the alt-right and ctrl-left… I have heard alt-right claim that Slavs (of which I am one) are non-white, as are some Mediterranean peoples. I have also heard from the left that whiteness is based solely on a pan-European origin, etc. All this just makes me shake my head; it’s all made up and doesn’t matter in the end.

    Daniel (Najib) Sobieraj

  32. I was under the impression the Alt-Right stood for the “alternative right” (as opposed to the Republican elite party line) originally, and the keyboard associations got tacked on to it afterwards. But I suppose that doesn’t particularly matter; it still stuck, as did the Ctrl-Left to a lesser extent (I remember seeing it over a year ago).

    There is also a fair amount of ambiguity as to what the Alt-Right is. The current consensus appears to be that it only denotes white nationalists, which strikes me as rather a pity, given the variety of alternative strains of right-wing thought that emerged to the surface in your country around 2016. What is one to call the whole lot of anti-globalist right-wingers, from actual white supremacists or assorted separatists to American civic nationalists, then? I suppose that they fit your definition of the Alt-Right, though, as the Ex-Progressive Satanists (many of whom really do seem to have started out in the Ctrl-Left, rather like people who were raised as Christian fundamentalists becoming militant atheists as they matured and rebelled).

    Incidentally it also reminds me of how the views of many Russian “liberals”, particularly in the older generation, seem wholly defined by their opposition to the Soviet state ideology. Thus they are still prone to idealising capitalism and individualism and loathing the very idea of equality or state regulation. A smaller minority has even made a virtue of embracing what progressive Americans would call blatant classism and racism, simply because they were taught to hate those things as children. Going farther back in time there is the gloriously pointless debate between Westernisers and Slavophiles, both defined largely by their opposition to each other and to each other’s idealised, unreal images of “the West” and “true Russia” respectively and thus doomed to being irrelevant outside of intellectual circles. But there are all too many examples of ideological dead ends like that in history.

    What I struggle to recall is examples of such harmful ideologies being cast off in one fell swoop. What seems to happen instead is that they wither away over time, sometimes more quickly (especially if accompanied by external shocks), sometimes more slowly. Common sense or something nearer to it may triumph eventually, but I fear it will likely not be for too long, as new bad ideas will emerge to take the place of the current bad ideas. Those bad ideas are successful for a reason; they are simply much more appealing emotionally than a reasoned and moderate approach, and in the modern world in particular it can be very hard for people to notice the mistakes in their social thinking due to the sheer complexity of it all, as well as self-referrential bubbles that seem bigger and thicker than ever. I’d dearly like to know how better or more critical thinking can be promoted, except by simply exercising it publicly over and over again.

  33. Hello, Thanks for this. I have often called myself a “middle-ist” (a word that isn’t in such common usage as “centrist” and so, capable of provoking thinking in those who actually pay attention to what is said). But my sense of the “middle” is large. To me it is the place where people live, when the living of their own lives has significance and interest to them. When their minds are filled with the doings and happenings of those they live with, work with, have fun with, share pursuits with, share reverence with, for the simple reason that those people and those things are perennially engaging to them. Such people are living in *the middle* of their own lives, and also in *the middle* of a network of others which may be called in common parlance “community”. They have a full life they find worth living, therefore worth keeping. It is a life they will not easily sacrifice.

    Meanwhile, those who find themselves at any of the “extremes” – ie ANY place that is “outside” the middle – are people who (and I find Eric Hoffer’s insightful “The True Believer” book useful here) perceive their lives as being in some sense ruined. The living of their life does not engage them, their own lives appear to be too small, or too empty, or too devoid of meaning, or in some other way, too impoverished. They then seek a “cause” bigger than themselves, capable of catching them up, of giving their lives some of the meaning it seems to them to lack. As their life already holds so little meaning to them for its own sake, they will easily sacrifice it for the cause they have decided is worthy. But, having found a cause worthy enough to sacrifice themselves for, what will prevent them, just as easily, sacrificing another for this beautiful cause? Nothing. Those are the dangerous people.

    To me, the middle is where we all live when we have enough meaning in the life we are living, to seek nothing greater than to continue living it. And there is, I think, the place that we might call, the “commonplace” (or the “common place”) wherein the seeking of common ground – shared concerns, shared pursuits, shared endeavours – becomes fruitful and productive.

    That is what, as a “middle-ist,” I personally seek.

    esc-center… appealing!

    I just want to say that the “equality of opportunity” vs “equality of outcome” appears to me to be too binary a distinction. There is, for example, equality of seating at the table, equality of autonomy, and innumerable other forms of equality that powerfully arise in my own mind, in a way that neither of the options you mention, do.

  34. I’m not the guy who writes the blog, but the ‘del-center’ (forming ctrl-alt-delete, which mirrors the rise of the three phenomena and implies thesis, antitheses, synthesis) could work too – for instance, deleting lots of federal law and letting the states sort it out. After all, there’s a lot of aspects of the current order which are going to get deleted, either by us willingly, or by physics regardless of what we say.

  35. There are two places I thoroughly disagree with your analysis. One of them I’m not going to be addressing here, but I think the other deserves a good, solid look.

    That’s the assumption that the Democrats don’t know what they’re doing, and that’s going to lead to big-time losses.

    A bit of background is in order. Most election analysts rate electoral districts by how much they lean one way or the other. 538, as usual, uses a concept they call the “partisan lean.” That is the degree to which an electoral district deviates from the weighted average of the last two presidential elections. So, all other things being equal, you might expect a district with an R+10 lean to go Republican in the next election.

    Well, there have been 10 special elections for congressional seats since the 2016 presidential election. In all of them, let me repeat that, ALL of them, the Democratic candidate did better than expected. That doesn’t mean the Democrat won – but it does mean that someone who thought they had a sure thing found they had a fight on their hands.

    How much better? Using 538’s metrics, the average swing toward Democrats is only 16 points. Of those 10 special elections, three had the Democrats overperforming by 6 points or less. The other 7? Somewhere between 16 and 31 points. Granted, the 31 pointer was the Roy Moore debacle in Alabama, but the point still stands: the Democratic candidates, measured where it counts – at the polls – are punching way above their weight.

    Granted, they only won three, but eight of them were in ruby red districts with Republican leans of between 19 and 35, plus one in a light red district with a lean of only 9.

    Somebody is doing something right.

  36. Dear John Roth, the difference this year for Democratic candidates is the lack of a toxic candidate at the top of the ticket. Plain and simple. I know a lot folks don’t want to hear it. None are so blind as those who refuse to see what is right under their noses.

  37. thessle:

    “Regarding the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, it is my personal opinion that a public business shouldn’t be able to refuse service to a paying customer”

    Note that the case revolved around the baker having to express ideas he did not hold. He did not stop the buyers from buying any cake in the shop; he refused to engage in speech, that is cake decoration, he did not want to make. Just as he would be within his rights to refuse to add a swatiska decoration to a cake.

    Happy Independence Day!

  38. Synthase, I’ve been wanting to ask somebody pro-gun this. If you were walking down a crowded street and every person had a gun, what sort of training would you want them to have had?

  39. As someone who has tilted liberal my whole life, I must say that I too have been rolling my eyes at the tactics of my fellow lefties. In many ways I find President Trump to be an indecent person, but I don’t think the answer is to be indecent in response. If I was managing a restaurant, I probably would go up to Sarah Huckabee Sanders and poke a little fun at her boss, and then give her the same level of service I would give everyone else. Trump is dragging everyone down to his level and beating them with experience.

    If the Democrats would actually get a clue, they would listen to why people voted for Trump in the first place and then tailor an agenda that addresses their interests — that wouldn’t be hard to do, especially with health care and economic policy. I am just galled by the fact that they are cozying up more and more to the professional classes who are already doing extremely well and are showing contempt for some of the people who are really struggling AND used to make up the backbone of their party.

  40. Patricia, thank you.

    Nancy, I certainly hope the US can figure out how to keep it together. We’ve shaken off overbearing plutocracies more than once already.

    Robert, you’re welcome and thank you.

    James, exactly. It’s one of the standard tactics of extremists to insist that if you’re not all the way out on one lunatic fringe you must be all the way out on the other.

    Synthase, of course. You’re in exactly the same position as people of color in the US, who have long had to coexist with people who hate them because of the color of their skin. It’s precisely because extremists exist on all sides that it’s crucial to maintain such principles as the rule of law, in order to keep them leashed.

    Drhooves, oh, there are certainly people pouring very substantial amounts of money into what’s known as “astroturfing” — that is to say, manufacturing bogus grassroots movements to advance a political agenda. I’ve seen Craigslist advertisements hiring protesters for $12 an hour to be bused to a demonstration — that’s not happening all by itself! But that’s one of the things you get when a privileged caste has its hold on power threatened. More on this as we proceed…

    Peter, no question, both parties engage in grubby political chicanery all the time, and vote fraud is as American as apple pie. The difference in the case of Obama’s supreme court nominee, though, is that the Democrats didn’t hold the Senate in 2016. If the Democrats had a majority in the Senate right now, they’d be perfectly within their constitutional rights to do what the GOP did, and stonewall a Supreme Court nomination in the hope of getting someone more to their liking. Look at the astonishing number of elected offices that have changes hands from Democrat to Republican over the last decade; some of that’s vote fraud or gerrymandering, to be sure, but all of it? I doubt that. Rather, the Democrats have become too narrowly based, and are losing as a result.

    Will, got it in one!

    Violet, excellent. The denial of moral equivalence only makes sense if you believe that the ends justify the means — and of course that’s what authoritarian political movements that end up killing and imprisoning millions of people always do believe.

    Shark, three solid points worth discussion. First, unlike many grumpy middle-aged white guys, I’m well aware that there are still serious inequalities of opportunity in the US — just for starters, when urban school districts by and large provide the worst education in the industrial world, while well-off suburban school districts provide something considerably better, equality of opportunity does not yet exist. Second, sure, but I’m thinking of the role of civil society in the first half of the twentieth century, when the frontier no longer existed and the brawling frontier spirit you’ve characterized was getting pretty thin on the ground, too. Were you aware, for instance, that of the 3500 fraternal mutual support organizations that existed in America in 1920, 1500 of them were founded and run entirely by African-Americans, on the relatively modest economic basis available to Black Americans at that time? So it’s not just a matter of early boomtimes, Third, more generally, we have a lot of reworking to do to adapt the US to its age of maturity, but to my mind it’s less of a challenge than it looks, because the benefits of the age of expansion were never that evenly distributed, while the institutions of self-help and mutual aid tended to spring up even more extensively among those left out of the bounty than among those who participated in it. More on this as we proceed!

    Doug, those’ll definitely do — though of course not all of us share your religion, and thus your ten commandments.

    Millicently, thank you.

    Kevin, hah!

    Thesseli, and you have the right to advocate for that opinion and to get it enacted into law, if you can get enough other people to agree with you. May I ask a favor of you, though? If you want to do that, please work up a set of arguments for your viewpoint that make an effort to convince those who don’t already agree with it. Don’t just take your viewpoint as self-evident, because it’s not — people of good will can come to different conclusions. Your job, if you want to pursue this, is to persuade them otherwise.

    Phil K., that’s brilliant. Thank you.

    Yorkshire, thank you for this! There’s a huge literature out there on how to organize and run an effective political movement for a candidate or a cause, and I’d encourage those who want to see things done differently in their countries to go read up on that, and then roll up their sleeves and get to work.

    Ethan, I think you’re probably right about the causes of our political dysfunction; we were good at politics when dividing up the cake was an issue of critical importance, and lost our political skills when the cake got so big that almost everyone could have as much as they wanted. Now those days are over, and it’s time to get smart again. As for your last point, I’m not that interested in candidates at this stage. From my perspective, the key is to get certain ideas into wide circulation and build public support for them; once there’s a constituency in place, the candidates will show up.

    Matthias, and that’s the kind of inequality of opportunity that, from my perspective, needs to be addressed. Current approaches have done nothing to fix it, so it’s arguably time to try to do something new; I may discuss some ideas along those lines in a later post.

    Jen, we have a very rigid caste system in the United States that disguises itself as a meritocracy. That’s one of the things that has to be challenged in order to make equality of opportunity a reality. The question is how best to increase social mobility; the methods that have been used for the last fifty years not only haven’t worked, they’ve made things very much worse. I don’t have an instant answer, though policies that improve the economic realities of working class Americans and their communities would do a huge amount of good; I’ll think about this and see what I can suggest.

    Robert, I’ve said ever since I started blogging that I write what I want to write, for those who want to read it, and those who don’t want to read what I have to say are welcome to go looking elsewhere on the internet. Happy trails, and I hope you find something more congenial.

    That said, I think I probably need to correct two misstatements you’ve made. First of all, you’re quite wrong to claim that I never admit that I’m wrong; if you’ve actually been reading this blog for any length of time, you’ll have read posts where I discussed my failed predictions at length. I’ve noticed consistently, though, that when people insist I never admit I’m wrong, it’s always just after I’ve discussed one of the times when I was right — as in this case, where a reference to my successful prediction of Trump’s victory headed off this week’s post. When I successfully predicted the 2008-2009 real estate crash, I fielded a whole series of angry denunciations from people who’d failed to predict it, and who insisted that I always think I’m right. Pretty clearly the problem was (and is) not that I won’t admit my errors, but that I forced them to confront theirs — and you know, that’s not a habit I see any reason to change.

    As for the black hole at the center of American public life, of course there’s one, but it’s not Donald Trump. It’s the ascendancy of a privileged caste that loves to cover its naked self-interest with a fig leaf of moral posturing. I’ll be talking about that more as we proceed — though of course I know you won’t be reading.

    Adamx, agreed. The right is just as much of a mess as the left, which is why I’m proposing the center as a more suitable place for those who are disgusted with the extremes on both sides. As for affirmative action, I think it was worth trying, but it’s pretty definitely failed at this point and it’s way past time to try some other ways to move toward actual equality of opportunity.

    Mac, thank you.

    Varun, first let’s get ’em in circulation, so people know there’s an alternative to the paired follies of the Alt-Right and the Ctrl-Left.

    PHRR, yes, in fact, it’s a core element of Druid teaching that everything tends to express itself in a threefold pattern defined by two opposed forces and a central force that reconciles them. The symbol of the Three Rays of Light, /|\ , which is to Druidry what the Cross is to Christianity and the wheel of the Dharma is to Buddhism, is in one of its many senses an expression of that take on things.

  41. “Yes, that means that our allies overseas are going to have to pay the cost of their own defense or go under, and they’re free to choose which of those they want to do.”

    I hope you will excuse my stunning ignorance of international politics, but who exactly are the allies you are referring to? South Korea? Israel? Australia?

  42. @ Robert Sher

    Re the Senate and SCOTUS

    FWIW I’d say say that the Senate (and those who control the Senate) were within their rights to refuse a vote on Obama’s nominee. Was that a good idea? I’d say not, as breaking with the general tradition that the President’s nominee at least gets an up-or down vote is not a good decision in the long run and opens the door for all kinds of chicanery down the road. But a valid use of senatorial power? Yes. Just not a wise one. But don’t think there won’t be repercussions from that act.

    @ All

    I may have mentioned previously that the Political Compass questionnaire pegged me as a moderate (~4.5 out of 9 on both axes) libertarian leftist, which puts me at odds with both party establishments, but somewhat aligned with a Trump or. Sanders economically, while being more liberal socially. I thought the wedding cake SCOTUS decision was not invalid (there ought to be a way for bakers to live according to their religious beliefs while permitting people to purchase bakery as a general rule—my thought is to allow bakers to contract with certain religious institutions and only prepare wedding cakes for couples being married at those churches), nor did I find it unreasonable that the state of OH remove someone from from the voter registration list who 1) hadn’t voted in six years and 2) had failed to return a written notice via postcard. (I personally have little sympathy for people who treat our democratic process with such disregard that they cannot get off their hind ends to vote at least once every four years. Voting is not only a right, it is a fundamental duty of citizenship.) These positions, among others, make me rather unwelcome on the likes of PoliticalWire and other more liberal fora, where I’d otherwise hang out and converse. While I may support an individual Democrat here or there, it is with a heavy heart indeed that I look forward to the demise of the modern Democratic Party and its replacement with another institution actually worth supporting.

  43. Re Political Compass

    Technically, *negative* 4.5 out of 9 on each axis, but I was emphasizing the moderate part 😉

  44. Reading this made me think of the Emperor in Star Wars “Good, Good! Let the hate flow!”

    Sorry folks. All of these labels are meaningless. The time, effort and endless volume of blog space and air time devoted to this topic is several stages beyond ridiculous. F#%k making up special names, attaching colours or keyboard key’s in this endless farce. The institutions, political parties, and the myriad of other players that gave rise to this train-wreck cannot and will not be any part of the solutions need to the problems. Turn the TV/cellphone off, and go outside and interact with real people.

    We need to take back to basics and learn to talk with, not at, each other. In person. It’s so simple, yet fiendishly difficult. Left, right, centre? What about up, down? 360 degrees in three dimensions? These terms do us a disservice to the myriad of opinons out there. I want variance and variables. Henka, spice,and flavours not choosing a team. But first we need to learn to talk and listen before we have a hope of making headway. GL All. 🙂

  45. Daniel, fair enough. I know that equality of opportunity is understood in various senses these days; I’d argue that there are in fact massive inequalities of opportunity in our society, and finding ways to address those that actually work ought to be a high priority for activists. I also know that on some hot-button issues such as the rights of sexual minorities, federalism is going to lead to problems — but then the current situation also has some pretty hefty problems of its own. Finding a way to balance the rights guaranteed to all citizens by the Constitution with the federal system set out by the constitution will be a complex process, but I think it needs to happen. Finally, I’m delighted to hear that the liberal forums you frequent have so constructive an attitude!

    Sam, I like that. Thank you!

    Keith, no, I have no reason to think that Trump would support the Esc-Center. My hope is that in the window of opportunity thrown open by his presidency and the Crtl-Left’s lurch into meltdown, enough people will find the ideas of the Esc-Center appealing that it can become a recognized option, and then a political force.

    Mike, yes, I watched various forms of that whole fandango from the sidelines. I’m glad you escaped unpitchforked!

    David, many thanks for this. I know it may or may not be a lost cause, but I think it’s worth giving a shot at finding some common ground in the middle and seeing if conversations can be had there.

    Michael, so noted. I’m far from sure that there are as many overgrown infants in this country as you think — my experience has been that they’re just the ones who shriek the loudest, and thus make a noise disproportionate to their number — and I’m going to proceed as though there are enough adults here to make a difference.

    Hew, no argument there.

    Nastarana, those are all huge issues, and will want detailed discussion as we proceed. I can tell you, though, why the Alt-Right has become antiwar; it’s because Hillary Clinton is pro-war. 😉

    SaraDee, thanks for this! I think your points are very well made, and if that kind of thinking becomes more widespread on the left, American liberalism may yet shake off the Ctrl-Left and get back to actually accomplishing things. (And it’s accomplished a really impressive number of good things down through the years.)

    Daniel, I didn’t know that some Alt-Righters were claiming that Slavs aren’t white. Good gods, they do want to imitate the mistakes of the Ctrl-Left right down to the fine print, don’t they? As for “it’s all made up and doesn’t matter in the end” — thank you. Exactly; the whole misbegotten discourse around “the white race,” “whiteness,” et fracking al. makes debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin look meaningful.

    Daniil, I wish I had a quicker way, too. Lacking that, all I can do is try to build a constituency for moderate, sensible, workable ideas, using the tools available to me.

    Scotlyn, excellent. How would you apply the other kinds of equality you’ve named to the question of a fair distribution of the good things in life — and also to the costs?

    Justin, I considered that, but it would be too easy for the hotheads on both sides to insist that I meant to delete them…

    John, the fact remains that they only won three out of the eight elections. The fact that they beat the point spread may simply reflect problems with the predictive method being used by the website. Still, we’ll see in November…

  46. Stephen, thank you. You’ve put your finger on the core issue that’s driving the Democratic debacle — they’ve become a party of the privileged classes, having thrown their old support base among the working classes under the bus. (The same move was made by New Labour in Britain, with similar results.) I’ll be talking in an upcoming post about the things that make it difficult for so many of them to reverse that really dubious decision.

    Rationalist, primarily the EU and Japan, which are explicitly under US military protection and pay a much smaller fraction of their GDP for defense than we do. (The US spends about 4%, most European countries not much more than 1%, and Japan right around 1%.)

    Tenchu13, if you don’t want to take part in a discussion about politics, why, see you next week. Please don’t try to tell me what kind of conversation to have on my blog, though!

  47. Thank you for the common sense post. I hadn’t heard the ctrl-left reference before but it makes sense. I viewed the alt-right as crazies that cause trouble. I’m not sure how the esc-center is going to work out it has to cover a huge portion of the bell curve of normal.

  48. Regarding the alt-right insisting that Slavs or Italians or what have you aren’t white, there’s a heavy dose of irony in the alt-right that the ctrl-left totally lacks. One of the leading alt-right podcasters, Mike Peinovich, is mostly Slavic and nobody cares. When the alt-right says “Are Slavs even white though?”, they are often mocking the purity spiralers within the movement who advocate for definitions of “white” that are far more rigorous than those the Nazis used. Of course, alt-righters mostly name drop Evola without actually reading him, but given that Evola’s concept of race was not so different than Spengler’s, although I think Evola thought that ethnicity tipped the scales more than Spengler did. (For those who don’t know, Spengler’s conception of race was entirely detached from biology and implied a group of people with a shared identity, root language and outlook).

    Actually, there’s a theory popular in parts of the alt-right and related internet politics (which may have a degree of validity) that white people from insiide the Hajnal line (France, the UK (minus the Scots), Northern Italy, Germany and Scandinavia and the various small countries near them) have reduced levels of ethnocentrism compared to most humans as a result of the particular pattern of marriage in that part of the world breeding out clannishness. The implication is that Slavs, Italians, Scots, Greeks, etc are more clannish and more likely to institute ethnocentric policies. These people make a lot of hay out of the fact that the primarily Scots/Irish American South produces quite a lot more soldiers than the mostly English/NW European regions of the country. The theory implies that Middle Easterners are still more clannish than the most clannish Europeans. I don’t know that the claimed reason for the theory (religious and economic factors changed breeding patterns which changed genes which changed behavior) is right, but the theory does match up to some extent with observed reality. I will remind the offended that an ‘is’ is not an ‘ought’ and just because there may be genetic differences in behavioral tendencies between different populations of humans doesn’t justify discrimination and is an argument for small government and liberty in a heterogeneous population living under one government.

    For what it’s worth, I like neoreactionary politics and find them a useful lens to think about issues through, but I often use a pure libertarian or a postmodern lens to think about things as well. Like the Voyager probe, which produced colour images of the outer planets by taking a series of black and white photos under different filters, which were later combined to produce a useful and appealing image, I like looking at things through a variety of lenses and I find the toolkit of the far-ish right just as useful as postmodern or libertarian approaches.

  49. “Equality of Opportunity. The word equality can mean two things—equality of opportunity or equality of outcome—and you can have one or the other but you can’t have both.”

    True, but to have equality of opportunity you have to ensure that there is an acceptable quality of life for the lowest outcome otherwise you are not giving the next generation equality of opportunity. This is something we have always failed at. We came closest to it in the new deal and great society era but minorities were left out. Since then we have been letting more and more people get left behind as we retrench into feudalism.

    I’d say that every person has a right to a job at a living wage and free health care. Any government that isn’t providing that is utterly worthless.

  50. Hiya Boss. So… Maybe reworking The Celtic Golden Dawn into the Patriotic American Golden Dawn might help promote the ideals of the Esc-Center? We have a great symbol set and pantheon ready-to-wear…

  51. As I read your essay, it came to me that you are being very centred on the U.S., and thus on the “liberalism” that has informed your country for several generations. No problem with that.
    However, many of the persons and peoples of a great many nations and ‘sub-nations’ (if that is not too awkward) have more of an orientation that is culturally and socially collectivist, and no apology from them is necessary. For example, even (or maybe especially!) the First Nations peoples of the U.S. have such cultural leanings that we dismiss at our peril because their collectivist orientations will probably outlive liberalism.

    Conservativism Now? Market Economies and the Liberal Anti-Culture, by Erik Lindberg,, June 19, 2018.
    As I read and re-read Eric’s paper, I thought of the people in my life who are kind, generous, magnanimous, and thoroughly pleasant to be with. On the other hand they were among those who when asked if they wanted things to change, would raise their hands; but when they were asked what things they would commit to changing (in their personal lives), the best and most frequent answer was something about the ‘problems’ being much larger than personal change.

  52. Hi, John, a couple of things occurred to me while I was reading this post. Violence never builds a better future but hard work might and we all spend too much time trying to make the past right instead of learning from it.
    Scotlyn, I especially liked your comment. Perhaps there are now 2 middle-ists in the world. We can start a movement.

  53. @JMG

    The way I read the tea leaves, the “generic ballot” polling suggests that the 2018 elections will be fairly ordinary: the party out of power will make modest gains. The special election data suggests a Democratic blowout.

    If that adds up to a debacle for the Democrats, well, we only have four months.

  54. Darkest Yorkshire, you weren’t addressing me, but re: gun training:

    I am pro-gun, and I think the best training is to grow up in a responsible household of people who use guns regularly and take them seriously, as I did. I also live in rural Texas, so pretty much everyone walking down our streets really does have a gun. I knew of one household growing up that didn’t.

    Most of the dangerous handling of guns that I have witnessed comes from (in the case of children) unfamiliarity, and (in the case of men) macho posturing.

    I was taught about guns as early as possible (don’t touch one if you find it, come get Mommy or Daddy); I started learning to shoot at five, and was given my first .22 hunting rifle at six when I was adjudged sufficiently responsible to be trusted alone with it (lest anyone be horrified, there was a rigorous process of education, testing, and secret observation involved before both my parents agreed that I was trustworthy).

    Guns were treated very seriously but not mysteriously, the same as any other potentially dangerous piece of equipment at home or on the ranch.

    I view long-term familiarity with constant safety reinforcement starting young as superior to any formal training with which I am familiar.

  55. JMG,

    Alfred McCoy has written quite extensively about how the American era has been both a popular and a stately project, with emphasis on the good of the popular side of it :

    “Unlike the genteel elite exchanges and government programs that marked Europe’s old empires, America has influenced billions of people worldwide pervasively through mass communications and directly through citizen initiatives. While in Britain’s imperial heyday, elite circles communicated with each other via telegraph, newspaper, and radio, America has freed the flow of information for uncounted billions through television, the Internet, and cell phones — making grassroots activism a global reality and citizen diplomacy a major force in a changing world.

    Although much less visible than those cellular towers lining rural roads and the computer screens dotting desktops in every city, the global impact of U.S. citizen initiatives has been no less profound. Despite a foreign policy that frequently retreated into isolationism or hyper-nationalism or brutal wars, since the end of World War II a surprising number of Americans have immersed themselves in the wider world, arguably far more deeply than any other people on the planet. The old European colonial empires were state enterprises, but the U.S. imperium has been, in significant ways, a people’s project (as well, of course, in Washington’s coups and wars, as an anti-people’s project).

    […] Although overshadowed in recent years by its endless counterterror operations and its devastatingly destructive wars across the Greater Middle East and Africa, the United States has nonetheless had a profound and often positive impact upon the world, in terms both of its high politics and its mass culture. Long after the damaging excesses of Washington’s hegemonic power — the CIA coups, the torture, the drone killings, and those never-ending wars — fade from memory, the world will still need the more benign dimension of its dominion, particularly the very idea of global governance through international organizations and the rule of law, especially as we face a planet similarly in decline. The loss of all of that would be a loss indeed.

    If the world experiences a slow, relatively peaceful transition away from U.S. hegemony, then the subsequent global order just might maintain some of the liberal international institutions that still represent the best of American values.”

    Perhaps there will also be a similar need for a similar international outlook even in a Esc-Center?

  56. Thanks to you, JMG,I belatedly discovered the lyrics of Saturday In The Park actually talk about something hopeful. I always liked the musical part of that tune, especially those iconic horns and jazzy chord & time signature changes, but I never paid attention to the lyrics — I just assumed they were totally random in that annoying Stairway to Heaven sort of way.

  57. Well, well, that’s an awful lot of common sense squeezed into one essay. One could almost overdose…I’ll have to eat a lot of vegetables today.

    CTRL-Left and tantrumocracy are both wonderful.

  58. Question: if the Democrats regain the Presidency and Congress in 2020, would you be fine with them increasing the size of the Supreme Court to artificially recreate a left-leaning majority? Seeing as the size of the Court is a matter of statute, and one of the perks of controlling the Presidency and Congress is passing statutes?

  59. This was quite an enjoyable post to read. I had wondered what you thought an American was and I think in an indirect way this helps me to understand.

    It has been interesting to note that while I felt you were throwing the ctrl-left a bone since many had raised objections in the past, there are already a fair amount of tantrums being thrown. I did expect though as I read that last paragraph that it was time to pop the popcorn, but I also suspect you’ve reached your threshold for the tantrum throwing you’ve received, and probably not made the rest of us deal with. I do appreciate the civility you promote here even when that does require removal of incredibly rude, offensive and disrespectful comments.

    On a personal note, I spent the Eve of July 4th at a local street dance and watched the fireworks displaying over the star spangled banner, meditating on the song inspired by watching the displays of ammunition over the flag. The opportunities we are afforded under this government while not perfect are certainly better than most and we were provided a fine example of the fight required to get these freedoms. Hopefully we can likewise be inspired to keep them while fighting through the battles of political polarization and identity politics.

  60. You´re not fascist enough, in my opinion. 😉

    Seriously, though, I think the Alt Right as presently constituted – a rather broad web-based subculture of young racialist libertarians with a penchant for memes and science fiction – won´t be around much longer than the free web itself, which may not be that long. The trend is towards more corporate-government control of the web, and then the Alt Right will be squeezed out. They will also become older…

    However, the Alt Right as in right-wing populism (with or without a racialist strain) will grow more and more, I think. Ironically, the web-based Alt Right will probably shrink in proportion to the success of populism IRL.

    One out of many reasons why the Alt Right (in the cyber version) is growing right now is that they have a sense of humor, including irony and self-irony, which the Ctrl-Left does not. Opponents of the Alt Right has remarked on this as one of the more disturbing aspects of “the new right-wing extremism”, contrasting sharply with the un-ironic humorless neo-Nazi LARPers of 30 years ago, but what the pundits miss is that the left are the humorless people these days, so the humor of the AR works also as a contrast to a left which sees everything as “problematic”…

    The humorlessness is a good indicator that the SJW left is a kind of cult, since cults of course ban humor (especially self-irony!). You said that the Ctrl-Left want to impose ideological purity on everyone, but note that what´s “pure” changes every week or so, making it impossible to be a good follower – unless you become a mindless drone who simply repeats whatever the leaders are saying (compare Communists under Stalin). This too is reminescent of an obediance cult, not a serious political movement.

    It just struck me that just as right-wing populism will grow IRL, left-wing populism or even traditional leftism might grow, including in an authoritarian form, even though the lunatic fringe on the web disappears. I think the SJWs are a kind of fake imitation left. They are really Clintonista Democrats allied with corporate interests. Maybe the future left in the US will be a Mexican-derived form of revolutionary socialism? The recent election results in Mexico might be interesting in this regard…

  61. FACIST!
    There, I said it first.
    JMG, whatever happens in the US over the following decades is of crucial importance to everybody. Foreign elites often suffer from a very dangerous habit of imitating the American elite, and that currently includes the project of the crtl left. If it goes under there, it will undoubted go under abroad, too. Trump’s election seems to have ignited a spark in many places…

  62. Regarding 4% of GDP for national defense: Consider that you are a hunk of meat kept at 37 degrees for around 70 years. How long would you let a steak sit out on a hot day before you would toss it rather than cooking it and eating it? How much of your caloric intake do you think your immune system is worth?

  63. JMG,

    I might be the odd one out here for bringing this up, but I believe the concept of race, although imperfect, is meaningful, and that genetic heredity on both a population and individual basis matters a lot more than people on the left or the center like to admit.

    I don’t deny that there were a lot of pseudoscientific ideas attached to the concept of race, but to deny the existnece of race outright in light of modern scientific evidence seems rash and dogmatic. There is “something” there, and it seems to correlate fairly well (although imperfectly) to what we call race. Twin studies, population IQ differences, and a mountain of other evidence supports it.

  64. This is a very perceptive essay. The current confusion and blurring of political labels may be related to new ecological realities that are inducing cultural changes faster than ever before. Overpopulation, excessive consumption, global inequities, massive migration, climate change, etc, etc, etc. The human subsystem is saturating the planetary system. Various kinds of “populism” may be symptoms of people seeking ways to cope with so many changes and the lack of new spaces to conquer.

  65. I think this is relevant to this discussion: Many people who advance the theory of ‘white genocide’ (note that I am not saying that hateful, even genocidal anti-white bigotry doesn’t exist on the ctrl-left) point to the frequency of advertisements which feature a black man and a white woman who are presented as romantic partners and claim that this represents a Jewish plot to encourage “miscegenation” among whites.

    The reality is rooted in affirmative action and the diversity industry and is far more banal. Because a racial discrimination lawsuit is massively expensive, because if a suit is successful, the lawyers who prosecuted it can expect millions of dollars in legal fees, most corporations invest substantial resources into preventing racial discrimination lawsuits. One defense of accusations about corporate racism is diversity in advertising. One assumption of progressives is that the heterosexual white male is the ‘default’ human, and therefore everyone who deviates from the white heterosexual male is ‘diverse’. Therefore, an advertisement featuring a white woman (who is diverse because she is the same sex as 51% of humans) and a black man (who is diverse because he has a lot of melanin and some of his ancestors might have been slaves) is almost maximally diverse. They don’t do homosexual couples because most people aren’t homosexual.

  66. Doesn’t “Ctrl-Left” presuppose that ‘the left’ (an amorphous term actually) is ‘controlling’ and ‘authoritarian” (your words) when it is clearly not necessarily the case?

  67. Hmm. Individual liberty with individual responsibility, representative democracy, federalism, equality of opportunity (rather than of outcome), civil society, an end to empire, and a politics of realism. Where have I heard that before? Oh, yeah. It’s more or less what crunchy conservatives and paleoconservatives agree on when you can get them off the topics of sex/family, religion, and guns. They tend to go past federalism to localism, and some of them have a hobbyhorse about urban planning, but if you lurk on The American Conservative, you’ll find much to agree with. It was in the comment sections of TAC blog posts that I first heard the term “Ctrl-Left”, at least a year ago, maybe two, although I believe your “Esc-Center” coinage is unique.

    Speaking of the Ctrl-Left, my analysis of it is that it is not acting like a political party or movement that wants to win because it isn’t really a political party or movement. It’s a moral reform movement that happens to be using the political arena. It is the same type of phenomenon as the temperance movement a hundred years ago, certain idealistic strains of leftism during the Vietnam War years, and the now nearly forgotten phenomenon known as anti-porn feminism. There’s the same tendency to infighting, splinter groups, and endless nitpicking discourse that SaraDee so helpful described.

  68. Stephen, consider the example of Rome. Even though Rome threw Christians to the lions, who ended up in charge of Rome? Did the new rulers need to rename it “JesusTown?”

  69. I have long called myself an anarchist, by way of saying nature organizes without anyone or anything ruling over it. That, and I find both liberal and conservative attitudes within me, I believe in leadership, but do not care to be ruled by ideological or dogmatic petty tyrants.

    I have also been heard to complain that the left in America too much behaves like neo-fascists, and the right too much like neo-nazis, both more or less ok with the eco-cidal and mass extinction by way of increasing creature comforts (for themselves and not working people necessarily), empire generally, eternal warmongering and eliteist neoliberal economics. All the pathologies of eternal growth and progress representative on either side, equally sick and dragging this Republic into failed state status.

    At the same time, I love my conservative and liberal friends and family, and do not trouble them much with accusations of pathology…though I am sure to call them out when their ideological or dogmatic gets to be a bit too absolute and demanding. Always read to talk local responsibility, empowerment, skills, knowledge, community, etc taking care and concern with people, the land and waters.


  70. Darkest Yorkshire,
    Please allow me to answer your question to Synthase. Perhaps relevant, I am a one time self identified liberal who now fits perfectly JMG’s description of the esc-center, and I am very pro- gun.
    My feeling about training for gun owners parallels my opinion about motor vehicle owners. It would be great if everyone were well trained and practiced regularly. But that is not possible.
    The reality is that most people do not choose to learn to use either tool well, and the consequence is that some people are injured or killed unnecessarily.
    And really, if anything, it’s actually worse with cars. Incompetant drivers go out on the road every day and kill scores of people. Incompetant gun owners almost always keeps their firearm safely holstered.

  71. re the esc-center
    Anyone else think it’s time for some t-shirts? I’ll post link to mine in the next few weeks.

  72. off topic, i missed the open post this month. Are there any books you’d recommend specific for tarot work and study? Specifically ones that would synergize with your paths of wisdom/learning ritual magic books and the golden dawn/kabalah field?

    Also, I was drawn to the toth deck from the ones you listed in learning ritual magic. Anything different or noteworthy in using the Thoth that the layman should be aware of?


  73. Thesseli,

    My personal opinion about your comment is that you don’t quite get that if you think you are really, really right, that it is OK to use force upon other people. I think what JMG tried to show is that we aren’t going to all agree even things which can be quite emotional, and that we as a nation have processes in place to allow the maximum freedom without harm, including freedom of conscience. Try to think of a corollary situation in which your own conscience was really troubled, and the law forced you to violate it.
    And why do I suspect that this baker was set up deliberately? Isn’t that rather mean?

  74. Robert Sher,

    Wow. You are so sure that you are right that you just complain that if only JMG had a bit more humility he would apologize! Here I am and I still think Trump was the better choice, and I take issue with Hillary voters on moral and ethical grounds. If you voted for her you’re either unbelievably uninformed or you have no moral compass.
    I agree about the obfuscation by the GOP on the Obama pick.
    Most of the rest of your points, to me, indicate that you are quite vulnerable to the volumes of propaganda that are extant these days, and have little suspicion.
    Yes, I somehow still think Clinton would be worse.

  75. Daniel,

    I’d like to know what you mean about structural and institutional racism. So far as I can see, no such thing exists.
    I think (Jen) that equality of opportunity might mean a bit more to you lefties than it can as a practical matter. Certainly it is good that there are programs in place to help the disadvantaged, but there can’t be guarantees for every person. I think a gifted person should be able to still go to university if they are poor, that sort of thing. Unfortunately it didn’t happen for me, but I found out in my 30s that it could have. No one told me. I cried for days.
    Of course some kids will be born into emotionally sound and secure families that will help them get through youth. I don’t how what legislation outside of total tyranny, such as removing all children from all parents, could possibly mitigate that.
    If more black families than white families aren’t doing a good job of preparing them for entrance to the middle class, then this is something the black community needs to think about. It isn’t someone else’s responsibility.
    Equality of opportunity means that you are not barred entry because you’re a female or black or what have you. It means you are not discriminated against in hiring.
    It does not mean that the left (have they nothing better to do?) should be consumed with worry that a few people still exist who harbor racist thoughts. We don’t deal in thought crimes in a free society. Nor is it necessary.
    I find a kind of underlying racism in the left for constantly berating white society for shortfalls in outcomes. No one is stopping any particular group from doing anything they want in any sphere. At what point will the left believe that blacks (for example) are regular human beings who can take care of themselves?
    The only item to add, is that if you are a person of certain color or female, you have a big leg up. The rightness of affirmative action is worthy of debate, but how long should it go on? We are at around 60 years now, are we not? I don’t disagree that American society owed its black people an effort to right prior wrongs. But keep in mind that every time a minority person, including women, are taken for a job or college admission when they have lower scores or to fill quotas, that another person who could have gotten that job was not hired. And the reason they were not hired was their race or gender. And this person who was discriminated against most likely has not engaged in any behaviors that deserved them being excluded.
    Why all of a sudden are we hearing such outcries about institutional racism when things have never been better? In my world, and I have lived in the north, the south and the west, I have never once seen a black person in any public venue treated impolitely or unfairly. I see white and black people in the public sphere relaxed in their interactions. I see great camaraderie and enjoyment in the workplace.

  76. Do you have any good theories as to what might happen to the EU and Japan if the US chooses to withdraw its military support? If the Esc-Center as presented here gains any significant traction, I can imagine that letting the EU and Japan “go under” might become quite a controversial issue!

  77. not a lot here to disagree with, but i’m still troubled by the implications of the bakery case. based on the reasoning, that the baker’s right to freely practice the tenets of her religion must be respected, i see the potential for a variety of mischief. will the next case involve a refusal to bake a cake for a jewish wedding or a druidical one? (i’m assuming druids eat cake–i know jews do). can a wedding venue deny access to blacks if the owner legitimately and fervently believes in religious principles that require segregation? is the civil rights act unconstitutional as an infringement upon the first amendment? i know such beliefs exist and i’m reasonably sure that they are headed to the supreme court already.

    what irks me the most about the baker is that they did business for years with gays and lesbians without complaint, happily taking their money and selling cookies, pies, bread and cake. it was only when a wedding cake was requested that religious objections were interposed. i suppose i can live with the result but only if the bakery and others inclined to follow its example make clear up front that they do not do cakes for lesbian/gay weddings. that way potential gay and lesbian customers, and their supporters, can avoid doing business with an enterprise that rejects their rights and values. as to businesses demanding the right to refuse service to blacks, jews etc. on religious grounds, there is no way such a result can be squared with a unified national existence. if we go down that road it’s time to call the experiment a failure and allow the states to reorganize themselves into two or more countries .

  78. I take it back about your position mirroring that of the paleocons and crunchy cons, particularly as regards individualism. The core of the social conservative position is that we are more than just individuals, that we are social and, especially, familial animals and what we do has repercussions for our families and communities. If we, for instance, choose a way of life that does not involve biological reproduction, such as same sex marriage, the social conservative sees that choice harming our biological extended family as we refuse to do our part to carry it forward into the future. More than that: we set an example that makes deliberate childlessness more acceptable throughout our culture. The society they want to see is one that presses all of us to choose traditional fecund marriage, not just in the current generation, but down through all the centuries to come, so that their DNA will never die out. Orson Scott Card phrased it in terms of wanting to live in a society that gives its members reproductive success.

    In the more immediate and personal realm, they simply desire legitimate, biological grandchildren who will live close enough, in travel time, to be the light of their grandparents’ old age instead of just holiday visitors. They teach their children that providing said grandchildren is not only the most virtuous of all possible ways of life, but also the sole path to true satisfaction, and they don’t want anyone to have the freedom to even suggest anything to the contrary. I don’t share their vision of the good. I think what Card wants amounts to a society that shoves reproductive success down everyone’s throat whether they like it or not. Nevertheless, I hope I have made it clear that I see more than just offendedness and butthurt in their reaction to having their familial longings denied.

  79. JMG, I’ve been reading your blog for around ten years but I very rarely comment. There have only been a handful of posts that I was unimpressed with. This one ranks among at least the top twenty good ones! As a (mostly) rational progressive, lately I feel like Alice fallen down a rabbit hole. My friends seem to become more unhinged by the day.

    I think I may be the only gay man in America that supported the baker. Perhaps that is because I’m an artist and clothier, myself. I’ve sewn several wedding dresses over the years. There is nothing like the honor of being chosen to make the most important dress a woman will own for the most special day in her life. I tried to sew love in every stitch. I imagine that the baker feels the same way. I can not imagine the disgust I would feel being forced to sew an SS uniform or a clan robe. I’m also a deeply spiritual person (Druid), and I respect that man’s sincere beliefs even if I despise them. To give the LGBT community a small defense, though, most of them think giving this man even a little lee way is a very short, steep, one way decline into Jim Crow laws for “queers” and concentration camps. I don’t think they give the American people enough credit.

    Anyone would take their life in their hands to point out that the same people who took this man to the Supreme Court for not serving them would gleefully boycott his bakery in a heartbeat if he actually wanted their business. Really, though, this wasn’t about cake. It was about Respectability. We could have spent 30 years fighting for inclusion in the Civil Rights Act but we went after marriage because otherwise comfortable middle class LGBT people wanted their relationships legitimized. The Masterpiece Bakery case was the ultimate slap in the face reminding them that a marriage license may make your relationship legal but it doesn’t force people to respect it.

    Donald Trump is a similar symbol. Of course he’s a rather vile human being and utterly unqualified and unsuited for office but a large part of the outrage is the fact that the absolute archetype of a privileged chauvinistic white male edged out the First Woman President. *None* of her supporters want to acknowledge that she “won” the popular vote by barely two percent (a statistical tie) against possibly the worst presidential candidate in US history. Any decent candidate should have trounced him in double digits. But there are people who actually want her to run again! The thing that scares me most is not what Trump may do in the next two years but the lesson that Democrats refuse to learn. Even Trump’s slowly rising approval ratings wont make them wonder if it’s possible that there are issues more important to other people than their own politically correct social agenda. So the Oligarchy is saying “let them shop at Walmart,” the Ctrl Left is saying “but we gave them abortions and same sex marriage, what do they want?,” while the Deplorables with little money and no future are ready to set up a guillotine in the town square and who knows what’s left when the revolution ends. I might say “An Dagda help us” but I think even he has his hands thrown up in dismay over our stupidity.

  80. John,

    Esc-Center, good choice of keys. Wouldn’t it be great if simply pressing those two keys could transport you to a time and place where those organizing themes governed society. Seems a bit escapist. An escape that I and a fair number of people would not mind.

  81. Darkest Yorkshire: I would want every person on that street to understand firearm safety, be able to shoot to a basic standard of accuracy, and have a full and complete understanding of the lawful use of force. CCW licensing meets the balance there quite well in my opinion.

  82. JMG, the only thing I disagree with you is this: “whoever shrieks the loudest about their hurt feelings gets to tell the rest of us what to do. … wrong”?

    Wrong, no! Shrieking loudest and pressurizing others morally is a well working strategy. And a simple as that. Learning from loudmouth Trump means to become victorious.

    Even I guess it won’t function here in particular. But in other cases it often does. So watch out for the cuckoo who cries out lout. Someone is likely going to push trough.

  83. @Robert Mathiesen

    That’s crazy, man, because I’ve also been calling myself a “radical moderate” for a few years now, and I thought I had coined the term, but apparently not, haha. I love the fact that it sounds paradoxical, but makes perfect sense if you think about it.

  84. Melvin, on the other hand, you can say that it potentially appeals to a very wide section of the middle of the bell curve!

    Userfriendlyyyy, if you want that to become public policy, the tools of politics are waiting for you. I’d encourage you, though, to work out arguments for your case that will be convincing to those who aren’t already convinced. For example, if you want my vote on free health care, you’d better be prepared to show that your program won’t simply turn into another government subsidy for an already gaudily corrupt medical industry that very often does more harm than good. How would you address that criticism?

    Rusty, nah, it’s a bad idea to mix magic and politics. People get burned at the stake that way.

    Bruce, I’m an American who’s never lived outside the United States, and so I talk about what I know. That’s why this post was specifically aimed at US politics and culture. The last thing the rest of the world needs is one more clueless American telling everyone else what to do!

    Jill, two good maxims!

    John, I don’t expect it to be a debacle. My working guess is that it’ll break more or less even, with maybe a slight gain for the GOP. Since a lot of Dems have invested heart and soul in the notion that 2018 will see their party take back Congress so they can get rid of Trump, though, even a tie will have the same emotional effect as a debacle…

    Herman, yes, but it’s got to be balanced against the fact that the US is broke and needs to spend a lot of time and hard work fixing things here at home.

    Kimberly, glad to hear it. Chicago was usually good about making lyrics make sense.

    Onething, thank you. Enjoy the vegetables!

    Strda, I’d consider it a profoundly stupid move on their part, since the next GOP administration would do the same thing, leading eventually to a 538-member Supreme Court! Still, under the Constitution they would indeed have the legal right to do that.

    Kfish, okay, I’m going to go look out the window and see if the moon is blue.

    Prizm, I’m quite startled to say that I’ve fielded very few tantrums so far — though of course it’s early in the cycle yet. I’ve only had to delete one comment, and that was for profanity. We’ll see what comes in the mail slot tomorrow!

    Tidlösa, oh, agreed — both the Alt-Right and the Ctrl-Left are transitory phenomena mostly empowered by the internet. I expect to see US politics realign over the next two decades or so along an elitist-populist orientation, with both sides mixing together “left” and “right” in ways we can hardly imagine at present.

    Bruno, one of the things I hope we’ll get with the end of American empire is a lot fewer people abroad imitating us. We have some good ideas worth borrowing, sure, but also some really, really bad ones…

    Justin, perhaps you’d care to explain that cascade of non sequiturs.

    Biodiversity, ethnicity exists; races do not. If you want to point out that a mix of cultural and genetic factors has a significant influence on how people from specific ethnic groups (say, Han Chinese, or Byelorussians, or Kurds, or Scots) deal with different aspects of life, I won’t argue at all — but that can’t be stretched to justify the claim that there’s something called “the white race,” or “the black race,” or any of those other clumsy 19th century generalizations.

    Luis, yes, that’s probably an important part of the mix as well.

    Justin, thanks for this!

    Gerard, not at all. Does the phrase “blueberry ice cream” imply that all ice cream contains blueberries? Not at all — and in exactly the same way, to speak of the Ctrl-Left rather than just the Left is to imply that there are also non-authoritarian leftists, as indeed I mentioned explicitly in the post.

    Joan, and since I’m a moderate Burkean conservative, and have said so repeatedly, why are you surprised to find different kinds of conservatives partly echoing what I have to say? You’re right on target, though, to see the Ctrl-Left as a moral reform movement. That’s a useful insight and one I’ll be mulling over.

    William, I’m not an anarchist, as humans are social primates and so always have some kind of hierarchy, thus I think we ought to make it explicit so it’s easier to tinker with. Other than that, no argument.

    Yves, I’ll look forward to that!

    Leo, ask me that next Monday on my Dreamwidth journal; every Monday is an ask-me-anything day on occult topics there.

    Michael, thank you.

    Rationalist, they’ll have to decide whether to pay for their own defense or to become client states of another major power. Which they choose is up to them.

    Jaymoses, my understanding is that the baker makes it very clear up front that he won’t do custom cakes with any decoration that violates his religious convictions — no sexual content, nothing from violent video games, and so on — and that he was perfectly willing to sell the gay couple anything they wanted to buy, as long as they didn’t expect him to do a custom cake for them explicitly celebrating a gay marriage. That was part of the logic behind the Supreme Court decision.

    Joan, good. I disagree sharply with that kind of conservative, precisely because it imposes one set of moral beliefs on everyone in complete disregard of the principle of individual liberty. I hold that if people want to make biological reproduction central to their lives, they should be free to do so, but those who don’t should have the same freedom. As William Blake put it, “One law for the lion and the ox is oppression.”

    Btidwell, oh, I think the gods are used to our stupidity by now! Thanks for this — some very solid points.

    Michael, regrettably, all we have are the clumsy instruments of persuasive communication and political action to try to get to the same place!

  85. I am sort of curious: I volunteered with a socialist group in a campaign to persuade tech companies to voluntarily cancel their contracts with ICE. Would you consider this “civil society”? It seems to fit the definition you gave.

    In any case, I agree with your logic about the baker, and that social change should come from public consensus and not from legislation.

  86. Hubertus, point taken! But the Constitution here doesn’t specifically allow for government by tantrum…

    Avery, that’s one of many examples, yes. Rather than trying to make the government do something, you’re trying to get private citizens and businesses to do it themselves.

  87. When I read Robert’s post, I thought it was a joke – a person would have to think long and hard to validate JMG’s post so eloquently, so completely, in such fine language. But then I saw JMG’s response, which put Robert’s post in a different light. To paraphrase from the movie “War Games”:

    “Sir, we have hurt feelings incoming. Emotions have been triggered. Cognitive Dissonance is high. Repeat, Cognitive Dissonance is high!”

    But on a more serious note, if someone leaning liberal or left reads today’s post and takes the attitude of, “Well, I’ll just take my ball and go home,” what chance to we have for any political solutions in the future?

    @John Roth – I think we all found out the accuracy of polling data in the last election was, err, not so accurate. Special Elections and primaries are not necessarily how the generals will go – if I live in a red district and plan to vote Republican, I’m happy as a clam for now. The Dems are getting a bit of boost now, as they consider complacency and not getting the voters out on why Hillary lost. It’s anyone’s guess as to how re-energized they may become, though the miraculous “victory” by Alexandria Ocasio-Ortez, posing as a Socialist (from Westchester County, no less), is not convincing me there’s a serious movement afoot…..

  88. Gerard Guiton – the left as it exists in the USA is, in fact, very controlling and authoritarian. Just one example is the current climate on college campuses where free speech is no longer valued and you are practically required to fill out paperwork to engage in sexual activity. If two students in college get drunk and have sex and one of them regrets it later, that person can have the other one kicked out of school with no due process. Can you get any more controlling than interfering in the sex lives of adults? (I’m not talking about actual rape, which the left has trivialized by mistakenly conflating bad sex with forced sex).

    Onething – structural and institutional racism are very real, they are just not as overt these days. The “stop and frisk” policy of NYC police did not specifically mention race, but that is how it was used. I can think of countless examples, but perhaps you might try reading “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander.

    I really like the list of Esc-Center tenets. The devil is in the details, of course, but it is a very reasonable set of ideas.

    One thing that bugs me though. Without an expanding economy (and all the degradation of nature that implies) and with an expanding population (most of which is due to immigration), what hope is there that we could increase the living standards of all those currently left behind? It’s only going to get worse for everyone and that will put tremendous pressure on the politics of the nation. It seems to me that reasonable ideas will have no chance when people really become desperate.

  89. @PHRR,
    Well noted! The Middle Way is one of the most important concepts I learned in Jodo Shinshu Buddhism, the most numerous sect in Japan, with modest “churches” in the US established by immigrants.This sect, more than many others, puts that principle into practice, allowing the priests to marry and not demanding strict observance from people without the leeway to achieve it–which is how they became the most numerous sect. The principle of the Middle Way was also adopted by the so-called “Fuji Cult,” which flourished among the urbanites of Edo-era Japan as a sort of “shugendo” (Buddhist/Shinto mountain asceticism) for the average dude. The principal “austerity” the cult recommended was to climb Mt. Fuji for the values and lessons one would learn in the process. There were seven routes, the seventh and most difficult of which was the Ochuudou (literally “middle way”) which encircled the mountain half way up. The lesson of that route was that practicing the Middle Way could be more difficult than going to extremes. For pilgrimages on it, one had to have climbed to the top on three occasions first.
    It fell into disuse after the war when modern comforts demanded attention to the austerities of company life instead, and the Fuji Cult dwindled to near extinction. A fatality on one particularly perilous crossing put it off limits to all but the most determined hikers, usually solo. (I’ve done it twice–I know that’s extreme.) At the Ohsawa gully you have to descend to the base and climb up again, but it is worth the effort.

  90. I think what might be missing is related to old studies done on rats, back when I was in graduate school. Chris Martenson spoke about this recently.

    A single rat receiving a random shock from the floor of his cage develops a kind of learned helplessness. However, add a second rat to the cage, and the rats tear each other apart.

    We’re tearing each other apart. Maybe it doesn’t have so much to do with virtue signaling or political beliefs or which party you belong to – maybe it has way more to do with the fact that, in my town, not even two adults working minimum wage jobs can afford an apartment, or that the line to the food bank goes around two blocks on Wednesday mornings.

    In the field I work you cannot reliably diagnose learning disabilities when the child is suffering attachment trauma. We can hook them up with special tutoring for dyslexia or put them in a special class for remedial math, but what is really needed is that the child lives in a safe, predictable, loving environment with consistent parenting.

    This article describes what is happening – but without acknowledging the cause, empathy is missing, and solutions are paper-thin.

  91. “Equality of outcomes” means something rather different to me: the concept that whether one wins or loses the opportunity game/lottery, that person will be able to have basic needs met and live in relative comfort. I might also call it “recognition of human dignity.”

    Personally, though I value equality of opportunity, I find equality of outcomes more important. I would actually rather live in a society where I had no chance of ever getting rich but a guarantee of having my needs met no matter what, versus our society where I stand a significant chance of ending up on the street should bad choices, mental illness, medical expenses, or some other personal black swan lead me down that road.

    We don’t have anything like true equality of opportunity in our class-stratified society, but let’s imagine that we did. In that case, given current income percentiles, I could select 10 middle-school students at random and forty years later:
    –One would be either living on the street or fully dependent on friends and family for housing and basic needs.
    –Three would be living paycheck to paycheck with no retirement savings, renting substandard housing and hoping that Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid last long enough to keep them alive when they can no longer work.
    –Three would have the median experience, owning a house with equity and a modest retirement savings, enough for a few medical emergencies and trips to visit family.
    –Two would have an upscale house fully paid for and be looking forward to a comfortable retirement of RV trips and vacations.
    –One would have a mansion and a second vacation home, with enough investments to retire early, travel overseas, and leave enough of an inheritance to their children to give them a leg up.

    This level of discrepancy is very much not OK with me, though it seems to be embraced by both parties, the alt-right, and the ctrl-left. I wonder if reaction against wealth inequality can be a part of the next movement to gain traction…

  92. “How would you apply the other kinds of equality you’ve named to the question of a fair distribution of the good things in life — and also to the costs?”

    With trust, I think.

    Having no aspirations to rule – I rather lack a large “plan” or programme to apply here. 🙂

    The ideas I have, I am working out, in the middle, as it were, of my own life – where else? In my home relationships, in my work relationships, and in my clinic, I find myself safeguarding the autonomy of the other person, despite the fact that there are times when I am the more powerful, the more capable of taking advantage. This arises from my sense that my own autonomy is incredibly precious to me. This means taking deliberate care, often. Listening, often. But mostly it means relinquishing the need to control, willingness to let myself be surprised, and to go with a new flow, being delighted that doing so always, without fail, brings me into a closer and more balanced interaction that, for both of us, engages and makes us *want* to be there, in the middle of our lives together. This makes my life good, and the distribution of benefits and costs within my relationships balanced in their flow.

  93. Hi Sara Dee. I put ideas in conversations to share them and to spread them, so please use in any way that seems good to you. Best wishes!

  94. JMG – I live in Oklahoma (born and raised). I have lived on the east coast, then moved back to OK in 2014. I think that my observations on the state of the mess that is my home state need mention here. When initiative petitions get set before Oklahoma voters, we have voted to do the following things:
    1- relax outdated beer and wine laws
    2 – reject attempts to remove the separation of church and state from the state constitution
    3 – reject attempts to codify corporate power over agriculture
    4 – relax drug possession and larceny from felony to misdemeanor status
    5 – reaffirm the constitutionality of the death penalty
    All the above were on the ballot in 2016
    6 – legalize medical marijuana (and very liberally, in the literal sense of the word)
    That last we voted on in June,

    so,, when put before the population, Oklahoma is a relatively moderate state. But our state legislature and governor as land to the right of the rightest right winger in the country. We gave the Trump administration Scott Pruitt. Full stop.
    These votes not only don’t jive with our own state legislature, they arguably (other than the death penalty) land to the left of Trump. Yet we (as a state) vote for Trump and consistently vote for right wing politicians at the state and national level. Politicians that push policies at odds with votes taken by our own citizens.
    The point I’m trying to make is that the problem nationally is that our political class has drifted far away from what the citizens want. And that includes the current President. I have never heard the current President voice support for any of the above policies (other than the death penalty). This suggests to me that he is not only not in touch with any kind of esc-center, but not even really with his own voters (given that OK voted overwhelmingly for Trump).
    Furthermore, our state politicians stand diametrically opposed to the state ballot measures, they tried desperately to overturn both 2 and 4 (and will probably try to overturn 6). Thankfully our state supreme court has acted as the adults in the room, and told the legislature they have to obey the will of the people.
    How do you explain such a vast distance between voters and their elected officials?

  95. Hi, Human Diversity. Re “the usefulness of race”. May I ask if you have ever encountered research or evidence of a kind that (in your view, persuasively) qualifies any race to be in charge of another?

  96. One statement of fact that you made looked odd to me. You claimed that the sitting President’s approval ratings have been “steadily” increasing. According to 538’s analysis of polls looking for approval ratings, his have been pretty much standing still since the beginning of May, hovering around 40-42%.

    Comparing his arc of approval to other recent Presidents, his most closely matches that of Gerald Ford, and is well below every other President since the end of WWII at the same point in their term of office (exceptions: he’s currently around the same approval rating as Jimmy Carter for the last 70 days – that is, days 460-530 – and there are a couple of Presidents whose approval at the same point in their terms his has gone above for a couple of days, such as a slight bit above Clinton during days 131-133 or slightly higher than Truman after Truman’s precipitate drop on day 525).

  97. I like the point you made regarding the American empire stepping back from oversea hegemony. Seems like it already happens under president Trump.
    Peter Zeihan delivered an impressive talk detailing how the U.S. is in a great position right now and can basically watch as the rest of the world stumbles into the next crisis:

  98. On how to prevent free healthcare becoming a subsidy to the medical industry, I’ve thought for a while the NHS should have its own pharmaceutical research and manufacturing capacity. They’re so big and have such high demand it would probably be worth it for them to make most of their own stuff – bandages, wheelchairs, artificial limbs, medical equipment, medical gases – and cut private industry out of the deal. Like how London Underground used to design and build their own trains.

  99. JMG: “Finding a way to balance the rights guaranteed to all citizens by the Constitution with the federal system set out by the constitution will be a complex process, but I think it needs to happen.”.

    “A complex process”? You have a gift for understatement…

    This, I think, is pretty much the crux of the problem, and also the major difficulty in reconciling the principle of “equality of opportunity” with federalism and the principle of “States’ rights”. The question poses substantial difficulties even in theory, which are only exacerbated by the unfortunate fact that it is on precisely those matters where federal intervention has proved necessary to attempt (very imperfectly) to correct for – ahem – lets say “certain notable inequalities of opportunity”, where there seems to be the most disagreement between the various States.

    Whilst I don’t think there are too many people who would disagree with your general principles as laid out here, the devil, as always, resides in the details. Practically everybody is happy to to endorse “equality of opportunity” as a general principle, but there are enormous (and probably insurmountable) disagreements as to exactly what that means in practice. There’s an entire sub-field of philosophy dedicated to the question. You could furnish a small library solely with books dedicated to it. Sure, it sounds great when you toss it out as a sound bite, but what does it actually mean? You might as well crib from Sam Harris and Stephen Pinker and claim that you’ve solved moral philosophy by realising that we should “maximise human flourishing”…

    Still, as a matter of general principle, I too am perfectly happy to announce that I am in favour of good things and opposed to bad things, even if determining which things are good and which are bad is inevitably going to be “a complex process”…

  100. Darkest Yorkshire wrote “Synthase, I’ve been wanting to ask somebody pro-gun this. If you were walking down a crowded street and every person had a gun, what sort of training would you want them to have had?”

    As someone who has been around, and owned guns for over 50 years, let me give you my opinions. It relates to a recent decision by the Missouri government to allow anyone who is an adult and doesn’t have a criminal or mental issue which would affect them, to carry a handgun concealed. Before then, you had to take a short course on how to properly use a gun in self defense, the legal rules as well as pass a basic marksmanship test with a licensed instructor.

    Most of the people who I knew, who were long time gun owners, current instructors and myself felt that the change was wrong. We all supported the right to carry BUT that anyone who did should pass some sort of competency test. Much like you pass to drive a car.

    Its worth pointing out, that while I have the right to care, I don’t very often do. My sister though, a single woman who does occasionally work late evenings and early mornings, in an industrial part of St Louis, does care a small handgun in her purse on a regular basis. I bought that gun for her, and trained her in how to use it (requiring she shoot about 500 rounds on the range first), before I gave her my approval. Note, she could have just gone out and bought a gun, and carried it, without that training but she recognized that to be safe, she needed such.

    On a personal note, I support sensible laws on guns but also support my right to have one. I think if those who try and get such laws passed, were first to come out supporting the right to own a gun, and not the seemingly paranoid attitude that somehow that gun will jump up on its own and kill you, people on the other side would find common ground with them.

  101. I would argue that it is the fact that the Esc-Center position is indefensible that has led to the parallel insanities of the Alt-Right and the Crl-Left. Let’s look carefully at “embracing the principle of individual liberty in any situation where one person’s actions do not cause significant harm to another”. Modern industrial society cannot exist without causing significant harm to another: just look, for example, at the way CO2 levels in the atmosphere continue to rise as a result of the collective expression of individual liberties. And yes – your CO2 emissions are indeed causing me significant harm, and my CO2 emissions are causing you significant harm. The fact that the damage is commensurate doesn’t make it defensible: as our host has pointed out on at least one occasion, mother earth does not negotiate.

    I think that solutions to our present predicament are fundamentally incompatible with individual liberty. These solutions – for example, the implementation of a planned economy, the dismantling of the industrial system of production, the adoption of a one-child policy – are essentially illiberal, and all of them are incompatible with capitalism. The collective insanity of the age arises from our unwillingness to look these solutions to this terrible predicament squarely in the face.

    The Esc-Center horse has, I fear, already bolted. We need new, radical ideas based on principles of ecolacy – principles that hardly find their way into the current realm of human discourse. Currently, only solutions that are compatible with capitalism are within the “overton window” – the alternatives seem to be not only unthought, but even unthinkable. If you had to look up the word “ecolacy” – I rest my case.

  102. Dear JMG,

    Thanks for a most thought-provoking post. I have only a few comments.

    1. I’m re-reading Orwell’s 1984 for the first time since high school (I’m 60-plus now). At the time it was of course thought to be an allegory of the USSR, now it looks more like the USA. The main character says
    “And the people under the sky were also very much the same – everywhere, all over the world, hundreds of thousands of millions of people just like this, people ignorant of one another’s existence, held apart by walls of hatred and lies, and yet almost exactly the same – people who had never learned to think but who were storing up in their hearts and bellies and muscles the power that would one day overturn the world. If there was hope, it lay in the proles!”

    It was the proles who elected Trump.

    2. I work in Europe, in IT. One of the first things you notice here is the relative scarcity of Chinese and Indians in IT shops (and indeed in university computer-science programs) relative to what I saw in the USA. It’s striking how many racial minorities come to the USA and do very well, yet one would not know of their existence listening to the debates on equality, discrimination, etc. Today’s propaganda (it’s the same in Europe, BTW) lies not so much in outright lies, but in charry-picking the facts.

    3, On the wedding-cake thing, how many on the Ctrl-Left would think it their right to demand such a cake from a moslem baker, or to order ham hocks from a kosher/halal butcher?

  103. There’s not as much difference between the states as one might think, just the time period in which changes are adopted. Remember, Okla., the example used here, DID eventually repeal prohibition in 1959, even though it was 20 years after the rest of the country…

  104. Thank you for these efforts to try to Shift political currents so that they Return to a place where the center has a Home and to put an End to some of the contemporary nonsense.

    (Hat tip to @PHRR for the “Fn” quip that got the mental ball rolling.)

  105. A wonderfully written piece. Thank you. I understand that far too many people look for a Ctrl-Alt-Delete solution, but that really benefits no one.

  106. Thanks to those who replied about firearms training. I’m going to let that run a while longer and see if anyone else has something to contribute before I weigh in with my thoughts.

    I think a big part of why people of good will can disagree so totally and why it can turn nasty so quickly is to do with differing belief about what means will lead to what ends. When the left talks about what they want to do the right are thinking that won’t lead to a workers parasise, that’ll lead to labour camps. They’re right up to a point – if we make even a small mistake it can lead to either being crushed by counterrevolution, possibly opening the door to fascism, rotting from the inside and descending into Stalinism, or getting stuck in an unending civil war (thank you Syria for showing us one more way this revolution thing can end badly). At the same time a lot of centrists and right wingers talk about small government like it would result in them living in Norman Rockwell’s America, while the left are thinking it would more likely end in a cross between Blade Runner and Planet of Slums.

    Onething, when you said you could have gone to university, how would that have worked? With institutional racism the best example I’ve heard is when black police officers kill as many black people as white police officers. They’re not personally racist but the organisation is set up to ensure they do racist things.

  107. Do you think the Esc-Center will happen because enough people find it sensible or are there institutional and societal conditions that are required? To use the keyboard analogy, Alt-Right and Ctrl-Left are pretty easy on my QWERTY keyboard, but I don’t see the Esc-Center combination. There is a SysRq key, but I an a little afraid to try it since I don’t know what will happen.

  108. @JMG
    I’d say absolutely every other industrialized country covers all their citizens for roughly half of what we pay and gets universally better results. Even if we implemented the most horrible corrupt and inefficient single payer method (quite likely since both parties are corrupt to the core) it would still be a net savings. You pay slightly more in taxes and nothing for health insurance. The US and UK governments spend roughly the same amount on health care as a fraction of GDP (~10%), the us then pays another 10% on top of that not from the government. If you want to stop the big pharma and health insurance companies from bleeding the economy dry you need to be able to negotiate prices, something no individual is in a place to do because there is no credible threat to walk away… and just die. Nor do they have the knowledge to say that this $9k cancer treatment is only 0.01% more effective than this $10 one. I won’t even get started about the administrative overhead of hospital billing, which is done by one person per location in every other country versus dozens here, and it takes up physician time and burns them out too. You couldn’t design a less efficient more sadistic model if you tried.

  109. JMG, I think an important aspect of the way we act as citizens is the important practice of meditation, internal attention and contemplation. I know it is an important aspect of your day, which starts with you meditating in your bathrobe. It seems that it does quite a bit to alleviate the acculturation and programming that leads to the formation of alt-righters and control-lefters. Meditation helps one become aware of the way things are, not how they should be or how one wishes they would be. The more I look inside, the more personally responsible, less controlling, and independent I become. I suggest turning off the TV and social networks and spending some time in contemplation and meditation.

    I only mention this because it would seem that an internal practice would help alleviate resistance to your 8 very practical and useful esc-center core points.

    Thank you,


  110. A small thing, but I finally reached my limit and deleted my Disqus account so that I can no longer post on PoliticalWire. I’m just done. Perhaps I’m being petty. I definitely feel like I’m abandoning the field and letting the other guys win the day by driving me off. One tries to have reasoned discussions, admit when one’s wording could be more precise, acknowledge when one’s counterpart makes a valid point, and argue a consistent theme. But the oneupsmanship, the snarky word-play, the ad hominem tactics; it is just too much. It’s a good thing that the election is still months away, as I’m in no fit state to rationally vote — I’d be tempted to vote straight Republican simply out of spite. I’ll be ok in a day or two.

    This needed doing, I suppose. I just wish there were other places (like here) where one could respectfully discuss issues and perhaps do some good in making needed changes, rather than simply watching everything fall apart (as, admittedly, it must to some extent) while people mindlessly posture and cling to the status quo. Even working on the local level as I have been, it is hard at times to not come away with the impression that no one really cares. Apologies — I’m just glum at the moment. It’ll pass.

  111. Phil K-
    Interesting that you point out the fatigue of sustained moral outrage. One of the most vocal SJW types I engage with recently posted a singing analogy, where each singer pauses at different times to take a breath but overall the chorus remains strong and not breaks are detected by the audience. The take home point was that each person should rest and recoup as needed so they could stay strong for the Resistance. Perhaps a subconscious recognition of the opposition’s strategy?

    JMG –
    I have found myself wondering increasingly about simply creating a new political party lacking the baggage of the existing ones, whether the assumed failure inherent to existing “third” parties or the calcified power structures of the GOP and DNC. Trump aside I don’t think the GOP as a whole has learned in its marrow yet that the reason he won wasn’t primarily that it was so much fun to poke sticks at the frothing SJWs and clueless DNC elites while merrily having their elites go on with a tariff-washed business as usual. The Whigs spring to mind, generally in favor of Congress, locally-directed actions and compromise over imperial presidencies and top-down governmental dictates. The esc-center seems a particularly coherent and reasonable central platform. If more widely discussed outside of elite circles this seems like it could be a way to widely disseminate these ideas even if they are simply rolled into revived versions of one or both existing parties. An example –

    As a final aside, do you think the existing party mascots are important enough to function as egregores in any significant regard as to existing behavior of party members? The Whigs were represented by a owl – smaller than the existing party mascots, possessed of keen hearing and sight, taking comparatively limited and directed actions, able to see farther than either existing option by virtue of both flight and night vision – which seems like a particularly helpful set of psychic impressions to introduce into the national discourse.

  112. @btidwell
    Re: statistical ties

    You described Clinton’s margin of victory as a “statistical tie.” I think you’re unclear on the concept.

    The concept is actually very simple: the smaller the sample, the fuzzier the results.

    A polling company that is evaluating Donald Trump’s approval rating may ask 1,000 people (that’s a common number, by the way – I’m not guessing). Using a thousand people to represent many millions is going to have a large margin of error. It’s why I ignore individual polls and go to a service that takes all the polls and averages them.

    A general election, though, is a significant part of the entire eligible population. The statistical margin of error is indistinguishable from zero.

  113. Brilliant. We need some esc-center rallies to build the movement. Those are the values I celebrate on July 4. They seemed to be shared fairly widely, but are rarely the focus of academic or media discourse.

    Since we are naming movements, there might be a problem with esc-center and its verbal link to escapism. I guess one can emphasize escape from the political impasse of our era. But ctrl-left is brilliant in immediately revealing both its relationship to the alt-right and the key feature of its approach.

  114. Did you forget about Merrick Garland? It was just two short years ago when Republicans did exactly what the Democrats are doing when it came to the Supreme Court.

    Are our memories that short that we can’t remember something that happened in 2016 and apply it to what’s happening now?

    Whatever your intention, you are coming across as partisan. To scold liberals without even mentioning what Republicans did to Obama is not very objective.

    For the record, I always vote 3rd party or Independent. The exception was Bernie Sanders who was an independent Democrat.

  115. All you have to do is substitute “black couple” for “gay couple” in this essay to see where it is wrong. Your basic argument enables legal discrimination against a minority population, and it could have been used (and was used) to justify “separate but equal” discrimination against blacks in our recent history. After all, if a hotel wouldn’t accept blacks, there were other hotels, if a restaurant wouldn’t serve blacks, there were other restaurants, and so on. This Supreme Court ruling is wrong and is at odds with precedent. The government should outlaw this type of discrimination, even when it is done by private businesses.

  116. JMG, I disagree with you on two points. The first is subjecting your readership to the music of Chicago.

    The second is “equality of opportunity.” I think equality of opportunity versus equality of outcome is a bad dichotomy. I agree that you can’t have both only because I don’t think you can have either. Equality of opportunity won’t allow for equal outcomes. However, starting points matter, you can’t really have an equal opportunity if others are starting out with more than your (or less than you for that matter). So unless you level everyone out at the start (i.e equal outcomes) the players won’t really have an equal opportunity.

    I think the better discussion would be accepting that opportunity and outcomes will never be possible. Rather, we should talk about an outcome floor for everyone (like food, water, air, shelter, and some walking around money). Where should this floor be set? And close attention has to be paid to available resources in setting this floor. With respect to opportunities, we should just drop equality talk (never going to happen outside of a theoretical construct). Lets honestly address the barriers that exist and decide which barrier have to go, which can stay, and which have to be nerfed.

  117. Thanks for articulating the values of the Esc-Center for Indendence Day. It’s a great list and I hope these values do circulate.

    The Num Lock-Conspiracy Theorists / trolls were out circulating Q Anon flyers at my neighborhoods annual 4th parade. Reading it at home later was rather amusing. I had no idea that Albert Pike was a grand wizard of the illuminati, or that Aleister Crowley had a connection to the Federal Reserve. 🙂

  118. Hi JMG,

    Have not commented in a while but wanted to chime in on a great post and that I especially enjoyed the music with the read.


  119. Amen. Can we start an Esc-Center party? I’m not a joiner, normally, but this? Sign me up!

    @Thessali: “Regarding the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, it is my personal opinion that a public business shouldn’t be able to refuse service to a paying customer (unless that customer is disruptive, abusive, or inciting violence). “We don’t serve your kind here” shouldn’t be a reason to deny service. I feel the same way about the incident at the Red Hen, by the way, where Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked to leave.”

    I’m curious how far your ideology goes, here. Prostitution is legal in NV. Should a prostitute be allowed to turn down a paying customer? What about a masseuse? What about Polyface Farm, which refuses to ship things produced on-farm, and will only sell to people in-person, because of their commitment localism? What about if they were even more ecologically-minded, and only wished to sell to people living in the same county? Would that be OK? How about print shops? If I want a thousand orange T-shirts printed up with “I hate Jews”, should the shop have to print them, as long as I’m paying? Would your opinion be different if the message were “F*ck Jesus”? Why or why not? Would it matter if the shop owners were religious folks?

  120. I got a lot out of this article. Callout culture is bad, and sclerotic persuasive appeals in favor of unsuccessful neoliberal policies don’t work. Those are true things.

    That said, I have a lot to say about the assumptions underlying this article, but I wanted to stick with one point that always needs to be further examined whenever it is brought up.

    If we’re serious about “equality of opportunity,” or even “vague and rough equality of something vaguely resembling opportunity,” we need massive social reengineering on a level that only the most radical lefties have taken seriously in their writing and thinking.

    To borrow from a better writer than I:

    “Even if we (arbitrarily) confine our concern to inequalities of opportunity rooted in the historic, de jure oppression of African-Americans, the degree of government intervention necessary to level the playing field is massive. Thanks to state-sponsored residential segregation, black children are far more likely than white ones to grow up in neighborhoods and buildings that expose them to hazardous concentrations of lead. And this exposure can do durable damage to a child’s cognitive faculties, including her memory, attention, reasoning, and motor skills. Which is to say: By the time they arrive at kindergarten, many black children will already find themselves at a (potentially permanent) cognitive disadvantage, as a consequence of the inequitable housing conditions that they were born into.”

    And this is one straightforwardly defined failure. There are hundreds or thousands. The science of epigenetics tells me my grandparents’ traumas are passed on to me; how will the grandchildren of the current generation be different, based on how their parents were treated over the past few decades?

    “Equality of Opportunity” is not an anti-liberal slogan. It is a desperate cry that only the modern left is even beginning to apprehend and take seriously. If “opportunity” includes “an environment which fundamentally allows a child to grow up not unreasonably damaged by the process of growing up compared to their peers in other strata or races,” which of course it must, then those calling for Equality of Opportunity have a deep choice to make in terms of whether they are seriously about their ideals or just making noises which are contradictory to the Rawlsian veil of ignorance to make themselves feel better.

  121. One thing I’ve found works pretty well in discussions with liberals who have the potential to be reasonable but have been swept up in ctrl-left ideology is to show them county-by-county electoral maps of the Midwest in 2012 vs 2016. There was a whole swath of overwhelmingly white and rural counties in northeast Iowa, southwest Wisconsin, southeast Minnesota, and northwest Illinois that nevertheless voted for Obama in 2012 (to say nothing of 2008 when he pained the whole region blue). This blue patch disappeared entirely in 2016, as did almost all the other white rural Democratic enclaves – Vermont being pretty much the last one standing.

    The map of Iowa is particularly striking. In 2012, Obama won the vast majority of counties north and east of Des Moines, and all 10 counties on the Mississippi River. In 2016, Clinton won only six counties statewide – the ones centered on cities and college towns.

    Then, move over to maps of the margin shift between 2012 and 2016. Here the whole region shows the same pattern. Namely: there was a swing towards Trump in all but the richest counties, which swung towards Clinton.

    This a good way of showing that something destroyed Democratic support in key areas, and it wasn’t just racism. Sometimes – it’s not super-common, but it happens – a conversation starts about what exactly cost them so much support.

    This is the best site to use for the maps:

    The maps on that site have red and blue flipped, which is a way to inform/remind people that the whole “red/blue” thing didn’t become set in stone until 2000. It also kind of starts the process of breaking up the unthinking, rigid patterns about politics people have in their mind. Then you can click on states and county maps shaded by winning party and margin show up. There’s a mouse-over that shows 2012 and another labeled “swing” that shows the margin shifts.

    The biggest problem, I think, is that this sort of thing is time-intensive and requires minds open enough to receive the information. I have no idea how to get people to see this on a large scale. I’ve seen analyses like this before; there are a few people who are saying the same thing, who occasionally get published in significant media, but they get drowned out in the flood of tribalism. Maybe they’ll just have to keep losing to understand.

  122. John–

    I may have deleted my Disqus account, but I can still read PW for popcorn entertainment 😉 Your prognostication re an elitist/populist re-organization of our political landscape keeps getting closer:

    Choice quote: “That is why I join Will and other principled conservatives, both current and former Republicans, in rooting for a Democratic takeover of both houses in November. Like postwar Germany and Japan, the Republican Party must be destroyed before it can be rebuilt.”

    It isn’t that large a step to go from tactically supporting the defeat of a coalition which has taken over one’s own party to moving wholesale into the camp of the opposition, particularly if the first maneuver fails to bring about the desired result. I’m just curious as to what the mascot of a Dem-Rep party might be. An elephant-donkey hybrid? Or better yet, an ostrich?

  123. I was wrong last week when I suggested it would take 60 Senate votes to approve a Supreme Court Justice, something that forces moderation and consensus. Unfortunately, it seems the Democrats removed the Senate filibuster rules in 2013 that were in place forever.

    They were advised against it at the time, often by Progressives, citing this exact eventuality: if you behave despotically and take a short cut without trying to build consensus, don’t be surprised if one day the tables turn. You can hear the same thing in “Hamilton” “They’re being intransigent…we let Congress get held hostage?” Well, “You don’t have the votes…you need to convince more folks” which was not easy, then or now.

    Fast forward, now it’s 50 votes, which is still not a blank check, but a lot less accommodating than 60 would have been, and it’s completely within their rights, in fact their legal duty to appoint and approve.

    Can Congress do this? Can they refuse approvals, change rules, minds and principles as convenient? You bet they can, that’s the problem with Parliaments. They stopped it in 2016 because they could, and push forward in 2018 because they can, and both times is legal. If it weren’t legal, they’d just pass a law and approve themselves like they do for insider trading or the budget ceiling–law means nothing to a parliament.

    But they have other problems: like the filibuster rule, the other party can take power and play ball too. So if you run over the opposition by passing laws — or 100 member Supreme Court — you’re going to face the same thing later on. That’s what we normal people don’t get: although Congress ignores all laws, writing and unwriting them, stopping enforcement, they are still bound by tradition like a 9-member court, that they dare not touch. Those traditions are their “laws” even though they are codified by no one.

    …The labels “Alt-Right” (or Left) have no agreed meaning so far as I can tell, which is one problem in speaking to each other. There are all kinds of fringes and all kinds of layers, and we seem to wish to grab for the label that will most conveniently tar the other guy.

    Whatever they may be called, the “Right” surely has a very wide layer of people who believe passionately about the Esc-Center points of Liberty listed here word-for-word. How? Because that’s exactly what was written in the Declaration, the Constitution, and State’s Rights that they blather on about ad nauseum while wearing tri-cornered hats. Luckily, this is and remains the letter of the law in the U.S. even if not at all enforced that way. So there are certainly allies of Right and Left, making the Esc-Center far wider than it might seem. The Left should ally with this reality and push toward it, but I fear like most movements, they reached the end of their pendulum and become their own opposite: radical authoritarians, believing passionately in concentrated government power to MAKE people obey by oppression and raw force, and I’m afraid not only won’t that work in the U.S., but may harm their cause for decades. It’s being brought up both by the Right and by party Progressives, but it hasn’t gotten through, much to our surprise: no one wants the one-party system we would inherit if the Democrats collapse. These are the times that try men’s souls, and we should each do what we can to hold civility and order. It’s not too late.

  124. JMG, thanks as always for your insights. As someone who identifies primarily as anti-authoritarian (conceding your points about the human thirst for hierarchy), I’ve watched with sadness and increasing isolation as old friends have fallen into a with-us or against-us pattern. I’ve spent the last year crossing the US playing almost anywhere they would take me, while keeping up my internet social media – and more and more I can’t help but feel that the world of people with full-time good-paying jobs that don’t actually fill the day with tasks = the world of the internet. It’s a Potemkin Village for the most part, and I wonder if it suits my goals to continue using any social media at all. The best people I met were on the backroads and in the hostels.

    Oh! And thanks for posting Saturday in the Park. Isn’t that a great song? I was at Fort Tilden Beach yesterday – a little enclave on the farthest side of Brooklyn – and it felt exactly like that. NYC beaches are so great – every body, every size, every skin tone, just joyously doing their thing and enjoying the sea. Is the beach like an ashtray? Yes it is! LOLOLOL You get used to it.

  125. On another note, in the last primary election I voted for a Green Party candidate for the Governor of Ohio. I don’t think she’ll get the position, but I have to vote my conscience. When I voted for Ralph Nader back in 2000, anyone on the left whom I talked about this with gave me blame for “helping George W. Bush win”. Sometimes on local elections I’ll vote for third parties just to give them a chance. I suppose that has been a way of expressing my dissatisfaction with the two party system, and voting for someone I’m more inclined towards. I’m not sure when I might see a viable third party in my life time, and I have other things I’d rather do than get into that part of politics myself.

    The Esc-Center is a good third way. But if I was a Gurdjieffian, which I’m not, I might look for a fourth way.

    Living in Cincinnati I do have a thing for Three-Way Chili, and the Awen / Three-Rays symbol is very potent! I guess in that respect you could call me non-binary!

  126. Aron Blue, I think the entire country is a Potemkin village. I hope we can turn things around.

  127. @JMG – I’ve been cycling to and from work mulling over your question some more. To start, I’ve always thought of “Equality of Outcome” as a caricature. That is to say, I never met anyone who was actually involved in a campaign to promote “equality of outcome” but have met a lot of people who have caricatured the thing they do NOT promote as “equality of outcome”.

    Now, considering what I said earlier, if you relinquish the need to control, that entails relinquishing control of outcomes, which is easy when you decide you will trust the myriad of autonomous selves (by no means all human) at work all around you, to create a world that is endlessly surprising, and always worth living in. The need to exercise enough control to achieve a desired outcome appears (to me) to be based on a basic mistrust of everyone else, and a dislike of taking the risk of others doing the unexpected, the unpredicted, and thereby creating surprise. Whether intentional, or not, this stance has the effect of turning “thous” into “its” – treating instrumentally persons who one might otherwise view as sharing the same autonomous self as one feels in oneself.

    So my second thought is that I myself could not seek “equality of outcomes” because the word “outcomes” would require that the word “control” be operational somewhere along the line. This leads me to the other term you used, “equality of opportunity” which strikes me as essentially meaningless. To be born is to have equality of opportunity, such as it is. And people often use this term as a “warm fuzzy” to distract from the fact that they have a strong commitment to exercising enough control to achieve a desired outcome which is INequality (or at least “more for me, whatever the cost to you”).

    So, for these reasons, I find that neither “equality of outcome” nor “equality of opportunity” are meaningful to me.

    Like I said previously, I do not spend time thinking up plans or programmes or policies, because these pertain to the realm of rule, which I have no interest in. I will give other people’s plans and programmes a hearing, and what I would like to hear is a sense that the policy or programme is rooted in equal respect for autonomous selves and their inherent unpredictability.

    I realise these thoughts are still only half-formed. Thank you for the question, because I do know that equality is a word I find immensely significant, and the fact that it is so hard to put into words, means that more than half of its content is likely rooted in my unconscious.

  128. “Doesn’t “Ctrl-Left” presuppose that ‘the left’ (an amorphous term actually) is ‘controlling’ and ‘authoritarian” (your words) when it is clearly not necessarily the case?”

    Well, I just call them bullies, but JMG may be more subtle.

  129. @chris smith et al
    I’d like to emphatically agree that talking about equality is a mistake, whether it is either outcomes or opportunities that are being equalized. The reason is that there are an infinite number of things that might be equalized, and there is no reason to believe that the things that matter most to one person matter much to another.
    In most cases discussions of either kind of equality jump right over this problem, tacitly assuming that it is economic equality that is important, thus reinforcing the dangerous idea that it is only material wealth that really matters.
    My take is that the only equality that our political system should work on achieving is equality under the law. Since I also believe that laws should be as few and clear as possible, this pretty much means laws regarding concepts like abstract equality are out.
    JMG, I would really like your take on this.

  130. Hi, Gerald Smith. You said “I think that solutions to our present predicament are fundamentally incompatible with individual liberty.” I wonder if there isn’t a deep contradiction at the heart of this statement, which purports to be an “ecolate” statement. I would note that in a functioning ecosystem, individual liberty (or at least individual autonomy) is not abridged. Rather, the system as a whole works precisely because every individual within it is autonomous, acting in accordance with its own will. If “ecolacy” means intimate acquaintance with how ecology works, which is also an understanding of how systems work, then, in my humble view, your statement attests more to “ILecolacy”.

  131. Drhooves, yeah, I thought of that. The one piece of good news is that the dedicated Ctrl-Left is actually not that large a group of people — just very loud — and if they all take their ball and go home, the rest of us might be able to have a conversation…

    Skylight, this is an essay and not a 600-page book. If you’d read any of my other political and economic essays, you’d know that I’ve discussed at quite some length the destruction of the US working class via government policies that drove down wages and shipped jobs overseas, so yes, I’ve also discussed the specific set of deeper causes you mention.

    Mark, um, “preventing people from starving to death” is not the same thing as “equality of outcome,” and it’s also pretty clearly not what I was talking about. I suppose you can redefine terms to mean whatever you want them to mean, along the line of Lewis Carrolls’ Humpty Dumpty, but that does get in the way of communication…

    Scotlyn, fair enough, but when I’m trying to launch a conversation about politics — which necessarily involves large-scale plans — I’m not sure how to make sense of your suggestions.

    Ben, that happens in pretty much every democratic society in a period of rapid change, because politicians are always a generation behind the times. If the people of Oklahoma want change they need to get involved in the political process — not just showing up to vote, but getting active at the precinct and community level and building from there — because that’s how change happens.

  132. Rationalist,

    What do you refer to when you speak of Japan or the EU ‘going under’? Under what? Are you supposing China plans to attack Japan? As to the EU, are you supposing Russia would attack them? That seems ridiculous as well as unfair, since Russia has never attacked Europe, but been attacked many times, including within living memory.

  133. I too, wasn’t surprised by Trump’s electoral success. The ‘left’s’ reaction to it was predictable, sad and very, very, dangerous. The demonization of his supporters is incredibly short-sighted.

    Imagine that two of the most popular candidates last time were; a ‘fascist’ and a ‘socialist’! Both of them supposedly rejected the moribund old politics of ‘liberal consensus.’ Add Trump’s people to Sander’s people and one sees the outline of a massive majority for ‘radical change.’

    Why didn’t and doesn’t the ‘left’ reach out to Trump’s supporters, when they have so much in common, rather than insulting them and pushing them further and further towards the social national right? It’s a mystery and a miserable one if one cares to examine it.

    I think it’s linked to the ‘lefts’ obsession with ‘identity politics’ ‘race’ and ‘gender’ and their almost total abandonment of economics and class, social justice; which is ironic as the gap between the rich and the poor has never been wider, the creation of something that resembles a new form of feudalism with an aristocracy living in splendid and luxurious isolation from the growing army of peasants.

    Politics seems to be increasingly replaced by a ‘cultural war’ where the opposite side is demonized and despised. This is very, very, dangerous and can lead to a civil war and reminds me of the ghastly trends that led to the Civil War.

  134. Gerald Smith wrote:

    “I think that solutions to our present predicament are fundamentally incompatible with individual liberty.”

    Our host makes a useful distinction between problems and predicaments: problems can be solved, whereas predicaments cannot in principle ever be solved.

    I think Gerald is right to speak of “our present predicament,” not “our present set of problems.”

    If so, then any attempt to come up with solutions to it would be foredoomed to fail, and there is no point in considering whether such solutions might be worth suspending individual liberty. One might find a way to mitigate this or that aspect of the predicament for one or another group of people, but it would always make some other aspect of the predicament worse for some other group of people.

    Fritz Leiber once articulated what he called the Principle of the Conservation of Reality. He was considering a certain philosophical problem when he did so. Suppose, he said, that a means of time travel should be discovered. Suppose, too, that some person discovered by time travel that at some specific time and place in his future he would die from a bullet shot through his head by a specific individual. Suppose, further, that that person attempted to prevent his death by going back in time and, say, killing that individual as a child. Would he thereby change his future? Assuredly he would, but Leiber suggested that reality would always resist any such change as strongly as possible. In this particular example, Leiber’s Principle of the Conservation of Reality would ensure that some other cause of death, as close in time, place and means to the original bullet, would end the person’s life. In Leiber’s example, the person nonetheless died from a similar wound to his head, which was caused by a meteorite of roughly the same mass and speed as the thwarted bullet, striking at approximately the same time and place.

    If Leiber is right–we’ll never find out unless some means of time-travel is found– then perhaps there is a corollary to his Principle which should be applied whenever someone attempts to solve a predicament (as opposed to solving problems). It might be called the Corollary of the Teeter-Totter. As one end of a child’s teeter-totter goes up, the other necessarily goes down, and the sum of the distances of each end from the ground remains constant. This seems to me to be the case, too, with efforts we make to resolve any predicament of human existence. If we change something towards whatever we consider “good,” we also necessarily change some other thing in the opposite direction, toward whatever we consider “bad.” (Of course, this is a crude way to illustrate an application of the Principle of the Teeter-Totter. Better expressions or examples of the principle will easily occur to the readers of this blog.)

    And this is why I categorically reject any utopian vision in politics, and especially what Joan from Michigan called “moral reform movements” (an excellent term and a very useful one). Both the alt-right and the ctrl-left are far too likely to become moral reform movements.

  135. JMG,

    Thank you for your reply. I look forward to hearing your suggestions after further thought.

    Regarding failed policies to promote social mobility, would you mind enumerating a few that you think have not worked (and indeed have been harmful)?

  136. Based on personal experience, your observations are spot-on. However, I disagree with the application of your labels. What you label “left” hasn’t been in that position for at least thirty years, and would be more properly labeled “Alt-Center.” The true left, the ones who are fighting to elect the likes of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, would the “Esc-Left” because it stands for all of those positions you’ve outlined.

    People need to stop pretending the current Democrat Party is “leftist.” It’s not even “leftish,” although there’s a movement to shove it in that direction that’s clearly having some success. That party began shifting center-ward in 1944 when it replaced Henry Wallace with Harry Truman, and took major sidesteps under Reagan and, most especially, Bill Clinton.

  137. Speed reading the comments and fascinated that a few people have had a negative reaction. What you propose here is completely in line with what you’ve been writing for a decade. I think of it as “get the government boot off people’s necks and stop pretending we have unlimited money and resources”.

    Have you noticed Trump commenting about the money spent on military overseas the past few months? He said the Korean war games were too expensive and now made a comment we protect OPEC nations and should get cheaper oil prices in return. The Trump Twitter archive is here

    You’ve commented that Americans fear looking poor and will do anything to not look that way. I agree with that and want to add on that people fear looking stupid. Too many years of sitting in rows of desks fearing being called on by the teacher and not knowing the answer. People who didn’t see Trump’s victory looked awfully foolish and I think all the labeling of people who voted Trump as Nazi’s and racists, and saying the electoral college should be abolished is so they don’t look stupid. Its like a fight in a relationship where no one will just say “I was wrong” so the past can be put in the past and everyone can move on.

    Its a strange world where Kim Kardashian comes out and says that “she wants Trump to succeed, because its our country. It’s so crazy that everyone doesn’t want that.”, and I am agreeing with Kim Kardashian and think she is a role model of how people could be responding! Kim Kardashian has a more reasonable response to Trump than most of the media. What a world!

  138. Without having read all of the comments yet, I have been surprised at the low quantity of furious spluttering “I’m never reading you again if you don’t do a post about how the Drumph is literally Beelzebub” entries so far. Those types of comments seem to be very common now in the collapso-sphere, There has been at least one in the first 20 comments at JHK’s blog for about 8 weeks running it feels like.

    I agree with the rest of the commentariat that the Esc-Center platform seems very reasonable for the most part, and that the most problematic part is the “equality of opportunity” section, although my disagreement there is for a much different reason. I’m going to qualify the rest of what I’m going to write by saying that for the rest of this comment I will be using the word “race” in the biological sense(surely shocking coming from a biologist), where it is roughly synonymous with “sub-species”, rather than the sense it is more commonly used in modern America where is seems to be roughly synonymous with “species”.

    Equality of opportunity will probably always be politically unpalatable for the simple reason that biological racial differences are both real and can have extreme variance depending on the trait being measured. Lewontin’s fallacy was published in the early aught’s and virtually every bit of large scale human genomics research in the 21st century since would have to be thrown out in order to support the idea that race is merely a social construct. Additionally the fact that such an idea is an incredibly patronizing Americanism where if one takes a Bantu or Inuit or Afghani and scrubs them hard enough a middle class Euro-descended American mentality will pop out, will hopefully render the notion of “race is a social construct” unpalatable sooner rather than later. Depending on how fine a genomic resolution is set, race/ethnicity can be determined from DNA alone with close to 100% certainty(if the filter is set to the level of broad geographic regions with population movement limiting barriers such as oceans/mountains/deserts it has greater than 99% predictive value usually). These differences in biology have very important implications for the outcomes of political programs, and ignoring them dooms any sort of equality program of either the first or second variety to flailing around.

    For a recent example, in biomedical research, it is being discovered that a lot of the research being done in this field is heavily skewed due to a subject base that is largely comprised of white(such a horribly inaccurate descriptor of what is usually a mixed Euro-ancestry) males, and this is leading to negative health outcomes for minority groups being treated on the basis of said research( ). This should have been obvious decades ago simply from our knowledge of differential congenital disease incidence, but at least differences in biochemistry are being recognized now. With healthcare being such a huge part of national spending, and also with a non-infinite pool of healthcare resources, ignoring these data is hugely irresponsible and immoral, but race is such a hot topic that it is career suicide for any politician and that is unlikely to change any time soon.

    I wish that Americans could just be adults about the subject of race since there are huge pools of data from a number of fields now that support its use in the distribution of the commons, but our history and common culture make that highly unlikely in my opinion.

  139. Can someone explain what Trump did that is fascist? Not SAID, but DID since fascism is all in deeds not words. And I’m assuming there is a list of several things that he did that show a trend toward fascism. I’m asking because I don’t see fascism.

    And why are the Antifa (assuming that means Anti Fascists) the ones wearing all black and covering their faces and saying they are going to punch people for their words and that is supported by the media?

  140. > Yes, that means that our allies overseas are going to have to pay the cost of their own defense or go under, and they’re free to choose which of those they want to do.

    I read this thing occasionally (only from Americans of course), and I’m not sure why they believe this crazy stuff.

    Your “allies overseas” have their own perfectly capable armies, and have had since forever.

    The enemies du jour don’t have a chance against even isolated European countries, for example, much less against all of them.

    What’s more, the enemies du jour (actual states, like Iraq, N. Korea, Iran, etc) don’t have any intention, and wouldn’t even dream, of attacking Europe or anybody else.

    Any tensions are not because those countries wanted to attack us, but because *we* constantly pester, attack, want to control, and plunder, them. We, as in the colonial powers and their neo-colonial involvement, the NATO, etc.

    Heck, even the terrorists like Laden were sponsored and pampered by the US before, just like the jihadis fighting against Assad in Syria.

    Neither does Russia or China seriously want to do anything that requires “defending”.

    Except for cases where they do 1/20th of what the US has done (which in the last 2 decades has bombed and invaded several countries) — and all that in their own borders, and in disputes with their own neighbours (e.g. China and those islands, Russia and Ukraine), not meddling 10000 miles from their country.

    US involvement is not “pays for our defense”, it mostly burdens us with rogue enemies and force-involve us into their fights for control of trade routes, oil, and stuff. At least the lesser countries in NATO. The larger ones like France, Germany, and UK go with their own volition to take part in the plundering and enjoy a bone or two.

  141. The CTRL-Left seems to me to be primarily religious in nature, and fundamentalist at that. (I grew up in a fundamentalist Christian home, and have spent my entire adult life studying the religions of the world as a way to make sense of my upbringing.) I know many people who’ve jettisoned the religions of their upbringing for being patriarchal, homophobic, etc., and I know many others whose only experience of religion is that it is a stupid attempt by primitive folks to understand what science sees clearly now, for the first time. Too many of them have embraced a new faith, so called “social justice,” that denounces all the sins of the past while providing a roadmap for correct faith and practice.

    This is why I hear so much talk about “truly horrible people” when my coworkers talk about Trump supporters. (That’s not a political description, but an ethical or even religious one.) This is why a coworker was disturbed the day after Trump’s election, when a “person of color” proudly said he voted for Trump. (She asked me why that person voted for Trump. Oddly, she never asked the person himself.) Fundamentalist religions hold that their central teachings are infallible; you don’t learn from someone who disagrees with those teachings, you convert them (at best) or annihilate them (at worst). Similarly, the CTRL-left sees anyone with whom they disagree as heretics, in need of chastising, condemnation, or conversion.

    As someone who grew up in a fundamentalist home and who left it for the liberal wilds of higher ed, the liberal left was a safe harbor where I could grow, explore, learn, challenge and be challenged. In the last two decades, those roles have fully reversed, and I now find myself having the most challenging, meaningful conversations with the religious folks I left behind. I look forward to the day when many disillusioned CTRL-left survivors can join in those conversations.

  142. Faoladh, fair enough; I’ll take another look at my sources. I don’t tend to use 538, but have been reading articles at a variety of aggregator sites.

    Michael, Trump does seem to have gotten the memo about getting the US out of the empire business, though he’s sharply constrained in how fast he can move. Still, I”m hopeful that maybe we might be able to do it without imploding.

    Yorkshire, have you looked into how that’s worked in socialist countries? That’s not a rhetorical question; I simply don’t happen to know — and it seems to me that the best way to check how something works is to find some places where it’s been tried. As I see it, there are some things that a government monopoly really can do better than private industry (for example, utilities) and some things that private industry does better; the question is which side of the line health care falls on.

    Dunc, the thing is, that’s the nature of political reality. Equality is an impossible ideal because human beings differ so wildly not only in their talents and capacities and willingness to work, but in what they want out of life — I would be totally miserable living the kind of busy, high-budget lifestyle that’s highly desired by many people in the class I grew up in, for example. Positing equality of opportunity, not as a rigidly enforced policy but as an ideal against which policies can be measured, strikes me as a good way to nudge the political and economic systems in a less blatantly dysfunctional direction…and ultimately that’s the best that can be hoped for.

    Gerald, not only did I not have to look up the word “ecolacy,” I own the book by Garret Hardin from which you borrowed it. Since the 1950s, there have been earnest people just like you insisting that we need a dictatorship of experts to spare us this or that global catastrophe, and they’ve gotten nowhere, because the vast majority of people recognize that they’re at least as likely to suffer miserably as a result of any such dictatorship as they are to suffer from the catastrophe du jour.

    Mind you, the catastrophe this time is real; we’re heading into the twilight years of industrial civilization, and when we hit bottom one to three hundred years from now global population will be maybe five per cent of what it is today and our present industrial technology will be a distant memory and a very large collection of ruins. (I’ve written about this in detail in my book Dark Age America.) But if we’re speaking of horses that have left the barn, the hope of averting that future is best described in those terms. Climate change activism has failed; the various environmental movements haven’t even been able to motivate their own members to do such necessary things as giving up their cars; and the collapse of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets is already well under way. We’re in for it, and your proposed illiberal policies would at most be too little and too late.

    This is one of the core reasons why I no longer write much about the end of the industrial age; the window of opportunity in which that might have been prevented is long past, and none of the movements that tried to do anything about it mustered even a minute fraction of the political influence that would have been needed to do anything. Thus I’m focusing my attention on something I can actually affect — in this case, encouraging a revival of the ideals and practical skills of democratic self-government, so that as we head down into the deindustrial dark ages to come, at least some communities can remember that there’s a way to run their affairs other than handing over power to some charismatic jerk with a gang of well-armed toughs.

    Expat, three very solid points. Of course you’re right about the halal baker!

    Shane, funny. Aren’t there still dry counties in Kentucky?

    Bipeninsular, also funny!

    Iratenate, you’re welcome and thank you.

    Kev4321, getting the ideas out is only the first step — but it’s an indispensable first step.

    Userfriendlyyy, now you’re talking straightforward politics. Build that case and get it into circulation, and you have a very good chance of seeing some motion in the direction you want.

    Mac, granted, but I try not to mix magic and politics too blatantly!

    David, may I make a suggestion? My blogs, and the community that’s grown up around them, didn’t happen by themselves. They happened because I decided to try breaking all the rules of the internet, posting long content-rich essays and strictly moderating comments. Have you considered setting up a forum for the kind of conversations you want, with a posted moderation policy and zero tolerance for the kind of fracking shale you had to put up with on PoliticalWire? You might be favorably surprised by the response.

  143. John–

    Re establishing a forum

    Thank you for that suggestion; I’ll certainly consider that. The discipline needed for posting a coherent essay on a regular basis wouldn’t be a bad thing to cultivate…

    Reflecting on my (re)action this morning, I find it interesting that it wasn’t so much being called a “fascist troll” that sent me over the edge — it was rather the comment (by the same individual, with whom I’ve been engaged in an on-gong conversation/debate for nearly the entirety of the 2+ years I was posting on PW) that I “needed to think before [posting]” *and* that bit o’ snark getting up-voted by several observers of our discussion. Given the thought I’ve put into developing a coherent position addressing a fairly comprehensive set of issues, that really did it for me. Silly, perhaps. Certainly an emotional reaction as opposed to a considered, rational one. But it is for the best, I suppose. At the very least, I’ll not be spitting into the wind any longer.

  144. Hi, Onething. In your reflection on “equality of opportunity” you said: “If more black families than white families aren’t doing a good job of preparing them for entrance to the middle class, then this is something the black community needs to think about.” I’m not picking on you, but I found it interesting that your post put directly into the foreground, something that normally lives invisibly as a sub-text in much of the discussion of “equality” – which is to say that “equality of opportunity” is equated in many people’s minds to “entrance to the middle class”.

    To my mind, middle class (or for that matter ANY class) means a constellation of interests that unites a group of people, and that has acquired an accompanying worldview and values. To seek “entrance” into a different worldview, values and interests than those of the family and community into which you were born – exactly how does this equate to “equality of opportunity”? Why should one have to be a traitor to one’s own class, worldview, values (& occasionally even to one’s native community and family) to be “equal” in opportunity?

    If equality (and I won’t say “of opportunity” because I see no meaning in these qualifying words) means anything at all, should it not mean *something* that can be meaningfully available to people whereever they find themselves? And, whoever they find themselves to be?

    Although, perhaps equality is simply not the right word for the granting of respect for the will and autonomy of others. (Which is what I *personally* most strongly associate with that word, myself).

    In any case, I do not think “entrance to the middle class” is any kind of universal standard for human sensibility. Not by a long shot. (Nor, to be fair, do I suspect it is for you!)

  145. As you have brought up in many many other posts, the political left has gone a little wacky in their response to All That is Trump. And in previous posts, you have shown how the disconnect of actual reality as opposed to the reality that the priests and priestesses tell us exists via the religions of Progress, Manifest Destiny, Americanism, just seem to be growing wider and wider apart, leading for many to lash out and many others to search for meaning, some of whom fall down rabbit holes.

    That said, I think Robert Scher brings up a valid point. It is one thing to talk about how the corporate centrist Democrats and the Ctrl-left (who I call the “anti-authoritarian” authoritarian left) have gone mad in reaction to All that is Trump. It is another thing to openly admire the marketing and genius chess moves of the president to cause this reaction, without ONE SINGLE TIME actually mentioning the policies being enacted by the current president NOR his own personal public comments (at this blog, it is only the reaction to Trump that seems to get attention). If the left’s reaction to Trump was more effective, or if some Leftist’s obsession over classless identity politics were more effective, would they also be called marketing geniuses, and not called out on how this ploy actually hurts this country? Do Donald Trump’s words and policies deserve mention at some point? Do they not hurt the country? Do they not set a tone, just like the lack of civility espoused by some on the Left?

    Maybe it would also be important to mention, that when we talk about the Alt-right, it is not just those on Breibart screaming about the “globalists” and the “Mexican invasion to takeover America” and the growing “Sharia Law across small town and urban America”, it is also the growing influence of the “Alex Jones right” who have been duped into the Republican Party via the Q-Anon psyop, who not only believes what is stated previously (Sharia Law, Mexican invasion), but also believes the following: a giant Deep State “white hat” good guy team aligned with Trump is battling the globalist pedophile satanists; that a super space program with aliens and alien technology is attempting a takeover of government and Donald Trump is going to stop this; that up to 40,000 sealed indictments are awaiting the Hillary-wing and the entertainment-wing of the Democratic Party because of their pedophilia and satanic practices; that Antifa and the Dems are aligning for a civil War to take down freedom, etc. These are NOT jokes and my wager is that a good 20% of the “Right” now takes this stuff seriously, as the left created a very blanket “anti-conspiracy” policy after 9-11 (which I think was a mistake by the Left), causing conspiracy culture to drift further to the Right as they were more open to its content, and then even more into Donald Trump’s arms as he openly even spoke about various right-wing conspiracies. THIS, is never discussed in the mainstream media, most alternative media, nor polite blogs like this one. But I thought the context was needed, as we can point at some of the aggressive anti-speech and classless identity politics, but often ignore the most charged of the Trump base who are openly saying things as bad or worse than the naughty left.

    And I like your approach to involvement, but think that some Jungian and Toynee-esque shadow work is also going to be needed as we look at the unconfronted legacies of indigenous genocide, slavery, Jim Crow, mass incarceration, war on the poor and wage class, etc. The thought that we are not responsible for our ancestors is a little silly since the legacies remain and no creative ways of redress have been done, leaving us collectively responsible, and thus individually so here in the present, not matter what our ancestral involvement was. Or would you disagree with that?

  146. I really dont think you can justify supporting Trump regardless of your highflown reasons .this is shaping up to being the most corrupt administration in our history I am sickened and embarrassed by it .supporting this thoughtless authoritarian monster will not help the cause of a reasonable center since his real interest is to only divide us further. i hope you are not as guilty of republican tribalism as the dems are in their own way.I agree with Joan above that political correctness is more a moral movement rather than a political one.

  147. JMG,

    I’m sorry I tried to redefine your phrase “equality of outcomes” – which I think caused you to view my comment as confrontational.

    My main point still stands though; I can only get behind a political movement that holds as a central tenet the idea that all members of society deserve a basic standard of living. We can argue about what that standard is, but if one doesn’t agree that it includes a right to food, shelter, and life-saving medical care (without incurring lifelong debt), I can’t very easily find common cause with them.

    My biggest problem with the philosophy of the rightward end of the spectrum is the idea that humans in dire straits can be conveniently ignored because – so the narrative goes – they are simply living the consequences of their choices and actions. Never mind that these same proponents of individual responsibility are all too willing to accept Medicaid when presented with an unaffordable diagnosis.

    The establishment left is really no better; at some point their focus transitioned from guaranteeing a minimum standard of living to improving the lot of historically disadvantaged/underrepresented groups. In so doing – as you and others have pointed out quite clearly – they alienated a huge group of people who were financially struggling but not members of any such group while also shooting themselves in the foot. What could have been an effective movement for equitable wealth distribution got lost in identity politics and the elites maintained a comfortable hold on both parties.

    Of course, if there are truly not enough resources for all members of a society to have an acceptable standard of living, then we have a predicament and not a problem. My perception is that – at least in the USA – we have a ways to go before that happens.

    Getting to the point, my question is: Does the Esc-Center as you envision it support a basic standard of living for all?

  148. “tantrumocracY” Coffee came out my nose all over the Alt-Right and the Ctrl-Left

    “I’ve heard in recent weeks from quite a few liberals who are at their wits’ end at this point, having tried for the last year and a half to get their fellow liberals to do the things that might win them elections in the future—”

    Sounds like me talking to my “liberal” freinds and family.

    Part of the problem, I think, is that the Ctrl-Left habitually think of themselves as the smartest people in the room. This is not only off-putting but blinds the Ctrl-Left to the possibility that one could both diasgree with them and also possess enough intelligence to walk and chew gum at the same time. Why reach out to Trump voters since it’s impossible that anyone could legitimately disagree ? It follows that disagreement stems from ignorance or deep character flaws. There can be no other explanation.

    This is more than sarcasim directed at the know-it-all Cntl-Left. Many, (most?) live in a bubble. Not just their CNN info bubble, but in real, physical isolation form any one who makes a living with their hands or is having financial difficulties, or doesn’t have a job. They simply can’t fathom that vast swaths of the nation are having a hard time and are fed up with it. As someone above mentioned in their comment, we have things set up to self segregate by income, and by extension, interests. Part of developig the Esc-Center might require being aware of the intrests of people unlike one’s self and making reasonable compromises to accomodate those interests. I’ve found that people in the Ctrl-Left have difficulty recognizing the collapse around them because it’s not happening (Yet) where they live and work.

  149. Anna M.,

    I do not know what “going under” would mean. I put it in quotes because that’s the exact wording that JMG used, and that’s also why I asked the question in the first place – to find out what “going under” would mean.

  150. I neglected to mention this in my prior post. Something I see happpening in the Ctrl-Left is the formulation of opinions In knee jerk response to Trump. A clear example is tariffs. Instead of a nuanced discussion of what tariffs can/can’t accomplish and where they would be advantageous, or not, the Ctrl-Left seems to be moving towards a knee-jerk wholesale rejection of tariffs. Trump likes tariffs, therefore tarriffs are bad. Thinking on that subject is now complete.

  151. Regarding halal bakers and butchers, um, there’s an even more obvious example: None of these ‘gay wedding cake’ fiascoes have involved a baker who belongs to any of the other religions which have rules against homosexuality. I would dearly like to see such a case – where a Muslim baker refuses to make a gay wedding cake on religious grounds. Of course, this will never actually happen because nobody who wants to harness the Ctrl-Left outrage machine for a shot at 15 minutes of fame and hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal settlements would do such a thing with a Muslim baker – after all, the ctrl-left might decide that the Muslim was the real victim here.

    There was a similar case in Canada where a landlord – who was Indian – was allowed into an apartment that he was leasing to a Muslim couple, but did not remove his shoes (he wasn’t asked to, and the only reason why he might have thought the couple were Muslims is their ethnicity). The couple took him to the human rights tribunal, saying he had violated their religious civil liberties because Allah wisely tells people to take off their shoes when entering a dwelling.

    Getting the ctrl-left out of the Canadian government is going to be a long and messy affair, especially because all three of our major parties have some degree of ctrl-left infiltration (or simply are the party of the ctrl-left).

  152. @JMG – I have routinely suggested to my fellows Okies at if they are tired of a corrupt, mis-managed legislature, they vote for literally anyone else. Most people look at me like i’ve suggested we bring back human sacrifice. I have a sneaking suspicion most Oklahoma voters have fallen into a state of learned helplessness.
    And yes, I am involved in local campaigns and try to be as engaged as I can. For better or worse, I think I’m in a very small minority of engaged citizens (regardless of political affiliation).

    @ MichaelK – There are left leaning politicians and commentators who do differentiate between the Trump voting base, and the President. Please don’t confuse the Democratic Party leadership or the option pages of the New York Times with the views of those of us on the non-corporate sponsored left.

    @ Elizabeth Burton – I couldn’t agree more.

    @ Denys – I will take a stab and answering your question as best i can, but first things first; I don’t view Trump as a fascist, but as a right wing authoritarian. I think this is an accurate description because his economic policies have been right wing, look at his tax bill, look at his systematic gutting of regulatory bodies, look at the people in his cabinet carrying out those policies. I think he is authoritarian because of his tripling of drone strikes, the expansion of the military, his insistence that anyone critical of him is peddling fake news or liars, sporting families and putting children in cages at the southern border, and his constant fear mongering about how MS-13 (or whichever set of brown people are his terrorists du jour) are on their way to rape and murder law abiding Americans.
    I think when people call him a fascist, the more thoughtful ones at least, are concerned that his government is drifting in the direction of fascism, but that we aren’t there yet.

  153. Thor,

    I heard a little bit about the stop and frisk policy, and I don’t know a lot about it but it sounds unconstitutional to me. But just suppose it is the case that in certain parts of various cities, black males are actually quite a bit more likely to commit crimes. And if that is so they would also likely be visibly engaging in suspicious behavior more often. What then, should the police do – stop people by quota? Make sure they stop and frisk grandmothers at the same rate? This is a good example of the difference between quality of opportunity and equality of outcome. The police in this case either have to start harassing citizens for no reason so as to be equal in their frisk quotas, or they have to turn a blind eye and let certain people get away with more criminal behavior.

    Again, if the stop and frisk was about harmless things like marijuana, the whole thing is absurd.

    It seems to me there is a lot of pointless handwringing and guilt loading on the left, and not a lot of common sense. White people used to take public transportation into Harlem late at night because the entertainment scene was so good! And black kids growing up in Harlem usually had a father in the home.

    All that has changed very drastically. This is the problem and the solution is to heal the black family and culture.
    And Skylight, that is the solution. You can’t possibly make sure that all people are equally sane and sensible in life. But the black crime rate and the black family are in tandem. The stats are incredible. Kids who do not have a father in the home are about an order of magnitude more likely to drop out of high school, get arrested, get pregnant, go to jail, etc.

  154. It’s true that we don’t have equality of opportunity when it comes to class, but not letting people live in the street and so forth is a far cry from equality of outcome. E of O is quite tyrannical and it meas no one can excel. Having a safety net is hardly the same thing. Equality of outcome means the fire department might have to have 50% females on its force, whether they want to work there or not, and whether they can carry the load or not.

  155. Being from the “Old South” one of the things that concerns me is knowing that there is a portion of the population that is prepared to turn governance of this country over to a “white” dictator, no matter how awful, rather than calmly accept changing demographics. Make no mistake – there is a significant percentage of the electorate that is willing to blindly accept the erosion of basic rights in this country to keep someone who looks like them in charge. As the Empire retracts they will become more and more brazen, which would not matter, but gerrymandering allows these extremists a seat at the table in many parts of the country.

  156. JMG: Of course that’s the nature of political reality. People disagree about things. I guess what I’m trying to say is that you’ve presented a series of banalaties as if they’re profundities, whilst seemingly attempting to claim your apparent refusal to actually take a position on any of the significant controversies of the day as some sort of moral stand. But sometimes, there’s nothing the middle of the road but yellow stripes and dead armadillos…

    Here’s a question: how would you tell if you had equality of opportunity, assuming you knew what that meant in the first place? What would the distribution of outcomes look like, and how would you distinguish between natural variation and systemic inequality?

    (I should perhaps mention that I’m on the leftward end of the European social-democratic spectrum, and thus entirely out of sight from an American perspective. Your middle-of-the-road looks pretty far right from here.)

  157. @ Doug Teakell:

    Sounds good. The next time you have your Bible open, take a gander at Exodus 20:25. Score one point for nature-based spirituality.

  158. Darkest Yorkshire,

    “Onething, when you said you could have gone to university, how would that have worked? With institutional racism the best example I’ve heard is when black police officers kill as many black people as white police officers. They’re not personally racist but the organisation is set up to ensure they do racist things.”

    My family fell apart when I was 12 and I was homeless. I went to live with my mother, although she was mentally ill, she had an apartment. I got into the gifted class based on an IQ test and made top grades in the gifted class, while ditching 1/3 of the time. It was an inner city school. When I couldn’t stand living with my mother any more I went to stay with my dad and siblings and went to a thing called a continuation high school for kids who were pregnant or gay or whatever. One teacher told me I shouldn’t do it. But I had ditched about 2 months of school at that point and feared being made to redo a year. Probably not. I was so sick of being bored in school and this was a country high school. But if someone had told me that if I graduated at the top of my class I could get a scholarship to, say, Berkeley, I would have loved the challenge and the hope of being in an academic situation with real peers.

    There are a lot of stats on the police thing, and it isn’t true that blacks are shot more often than whites. I don’t think it is true either that white officers shoot blacks more often than black officers. Blacks in absolute numbers are, because of the crime rate but when committing similar crimes, whites are shot slightly more often. It’s fairly close, but will not be much longer. White cops will be really hesitant to pull the trigger on black people, so we’ll see how it goes.

    There is a lot of outright skewing of the news and people are believing it. But the truth is out there if you get outside your bubble and look for it. I usually can’t get past the facts, such as the actual statistics, but the real issue to me is what the frack is going on with the hidden actors (deep state, ruling elites, media owners) pulling this kind of stunt? It’s terribly sad and so obviously wicked. Can’t we be just a little less gullible?

    Whatever happened to “Believe nothing you hear and half what you see”? And that was before photo shop!
    I truly hope that whites and blacks ca get together in this country. Despite all the incredible problems right now there really is a tremendous amount of love and good will, and white people are sick of the whole racism thing. Most of them put it down a while ago, and blacks actually are catching up.
    I’m really impressed with a lot of black people who are speaking up about this on youtube. But we have to realize that progress will not come until the adults take over the dialog. The nonsense pouring out of the left is toxic.

  159. Yorkshire,

    On the gun issue: I’m a rural person so a gun is a necessity around here. Just imagine putting down a fatally wounded animal with a hammer or a knife and you’ll get the picture.

    Beyond that, I know that many gun safety courses stress walking away from conflict. I have not heard that mentioned here yet. It sounds difficult, but when lethal arms are present it can be a lot easier. I’ve long subscribed to the idea that if something is not worth dying for it’s not worth fighting about. That doesn’t mean I avoid all confrontation, but I do pick my battles carefully. Sure, there will still be a few nuts who will press on and escalate a conflict but they are the minority and they are out there right now so that wouldn’t change if everybody was carrying a gun. (Well then again, it might.)

    What I’m getting at here is that the gun issue is often approached from a legal standpoint but it also is about culture, attitudes, customs and so on.

    Aged Spirit

  160. Buzzy, go for it! The owl would be a fine mascot, and reviving the Whig party — perhaps you can turn that into an acronym — is just the kind of counterintuitive move that could work.

    Ganv, I’m certainly up for a new name. I simply thought the label would be useful in contrast to Alt-Right and Ctrl-Left.

    Rippergr, you’re certainly right that I didn’t deploy any of the standard virtue signals of the Democratic faithful. I didn’t deploy any of those of the GOP faithful either, but I know both parties are very much into the “if you’re not with us you’re against us” mentality these days.

    RandyU, you’re comparing apples and oranges, to the extent that I wonder if you actually know the details of the case,. The proprietor of Masterpiece Cakeshop did not deny accommodation to his gay customers; he offered to sell them any cake in the shop, including pre-made wedding cakes. The only thing he would not do was make a custom cake to celebrate their gay wedding. Let’s imagine that you went into a deli, discovered once you were there that it was a kosher deli, demanded a ham sandwich anyway, and sued them when they refused to provide you one. That’s a comparable case.

    Chris, of course you can’t have absolute equality of opportunity. Nor can you have a representative democracy that accurately represents the people, or a politics that really does embrace realism from top to bottom, or any of the other things I’ve outlined. They’re ideals that can be used to guide decisions on a case by case basis, not things that can be established permanently and forever.

    Justin, if Crowley had a connection to the Federal Reserve, that might explain why their management of monetary policy has been so half-witted!

    Bill, thank you.

    Methylethyl, I’m not a politician, or a particularly good organizer. If someone wants to found a political party to push these ideas, I’d sign up and write some tl:dr position papers, but that’s probably the extent of what I can do!

    Kimmitt2017, good. Those are among the issues that would have to be faced, and grappled with, in order to make that part of my proposed platform a guide to policy. The same is true, by the way, of every other part of the platform as well — and that’s exactly the point. As I said, these things are there to start a conversation, and the points you’ve made are among the things that need to be brought up in that conversation.

    Grebulocities, excellent. No doubt it will take some more losses to hammer the point home, but if you’re succeeding here and there, that’s a huge step in the right direction.

    David, too funny. The Dem-Rep party I imagined in Retrotopia is getting closer by the hour…

    Jasper, thank you for a prolonged piece of common sense. Yes, exactly.

    Aron, “the internet as a Potemkin village” — oh my. That’s worth brooding over, and quoting (with credit, of course).

    Justin, funny. No doubt Cleveland Druids eat Three-Ray Chili…

    Scotlyn, fair enough. Here in the US we have a lot of people who treat equality of outcome as the only valid measure of equality — if the fraction of people from X demographic category in Y employment category isn’t equal to the fraction of X demographic in the general population, then that’s got to be fixed, even if this isn’t happening because of somebody oppressing someone else. That’s the thing I’m trying to challenge. Here’s a nuanced discussion of one example — the way that the very large influx of women into science, tech, and medical professions hasn’t resulted in an equivalent influx of women into computer professions. (His proposed reason? Women on average have better verbal skills than men do, and computer professions tend to attract people with high math skills but poorer verbal skills.)

  161. RandyU,

    No, there really is a difference. The main one is that to take part in preparing a gay wedding really is against the scriptures that some people believe in. Not serving blacks in public was institutionalized racism that had nothing to do with anyone’s conscience.

    Some friends of mine had a wedding last weekend. They are 7th Day Adventists, believing strongly in observing the Sabbath. At much sacrifice to themselves, they refrain from business on Saturdays. I asked the mom if she needed help and she said I might go pick up some food – on the day of the wedding which was Sunday. I asked about going to get it on Saturday…well, she said, if I had to but she didn’t really want to encourage people to engage in commerce on the Sabbath.
    But there’s nothing sexy about this story. No race or gender issue. It’s just that it really is a thing with their conscience not to engage in commerce on Saturday, and they should not be forced to. Note that the bakery served gay people. Unlike your example with hotels and black people.
    There’s no sense denying people their freedom of conscience because you have made up a what-if scenario. That scenario isn’t likely. Been there, done that.

  162. Onething, I think we need to develop some new terminology (aside from equality of opportunity and outcome) to discuss this well. I agree with you that equality of outcome as you describe it is tyrannical and silly.

    For “pursuit of happiness” as discussed in the constitution to be possible for most members of a society, the range of available opportunities needs to have substantial overlap with the range of talents, interests, and ambitions in the society, and workers in all occupations must have cause to take pride in their work. When this overlap is lost, equality of opportunity devolves into a competition for a limited number of good opportunities. Shortly thereafter, equality of opportunity is effectively lost as the current winners of the competition find ways to secure most of the good opportunities for themselves and their children, while the rest of the population is stuck in long hours of meaningless work – or no work at all – and compensation that might barely support life and liberty but not pursuit of happiness.

    So, what shall we name this concept – the vision of a society that meets its material needs while also providing adequate compensation and appreciation for all of its workers? Whatever we call it, that’s what I want to fight for.

  163. The kosher deli scenario is not equivalent because they don’t sell ham to anyone. The baker did make custom cakes for straight customers. Therefore, he did deny a product that he regularly delivers for straight customers to the gay customers. That is discrimination.

  164. Things appear to be going off the rails with the equality of opportunity idea. Obviously, you can’t make any two people totally equal! Not until we are robots. Even two kids in the same family don’t have the same experiences. That isn’t the intended meaning.

    It wasn’t that long ago that most colleges and universities did not admit women. Did not admit blacks. Blacks looking for work were told, We don’t hire colored here. This is what it means. The playing field in the larger sense is roughly equal now.

    It doesn’t mean that a government, no matter how tyrannical, could ever have the power to insure actual equality of opportunity in every possible way.

  165. JMG,

    I guess I was a little loose with how I was viewing tantrums! There have been quite a few objections raised, in a mostly civil way. Non-the-less, it doesn’t surprise me that some raised objection but as has been pointed out many times here in various ways about various issues, it can be difficult for us to face the truth of something which we aren’t ready yet to believe and have bought into.

    The way you’ve helped teach me that history has many good lessons to teach us what to expect in moving forward has really made politics, and history in general a lot more interesting to me. One of which being that despite having a system in which two parties dominate, those parties do come and go. It may have seemed that the Republican party was ready for a split some years ago when the Tea Party reared it’s head but they were embraced within the Republican party quickly. The Democrats have seemed strong for a long time but one great example right now of how they’ve weakened is the number of Democrats vying for positions. That is definitely an example of how the members of that party are all over the board, and why they are ripe for implosion and replacement. The jury is still out on whether or not that will happen but having so many candidates vying for the same position this late in the election season doesn’t bode well for the candidates to get much exposure before election time. If things do indeed go against the Democrats way this election season as it appears, I think we will see some serious development of another party to replace them. The current pool of alternate parties I think are lacking in strength, but I may be wrong! Do you have any insights into what groups you think will replace the Democrats? Some with more socialist leanings?

  166. Reasonable and and rational as usual. I agree that the structure of a workable system is still there, and should still be effective even with all the energy and resource limits, and all the rest that go with the cycles of nation/empires. But there seems to be something else afoot.

    It seems people are all too happy to use their newly found ability to hate openly (as you’ve noted hate is the new sex). They don’t seem to be looking for practical solutions that might work, rather the powerless are looking for opportunities to wield power over others, and ways to extract retribution for…whatever. For years all of our society’s examples of human interactions have been about power and control. Social media tends to accentuate that from the safely and anonymity behind the keyboard. It’s a society of angry people with poor interactive skills and zero spiritual sensibility, treating each other as objects and getting off on power and hate.

    Sadly there’s no end of actual reasons to be angry either, from the loss of prosperity and comfort, to the concentration of wealth, to the corruption of all of society’s institutions to become the opposite of their intended purpose. Sorry to be pessimistic today, but it seems to me that no one wants a way out of the shouting match, rather that the shouting match has been the main attraction – but that shouting isn’t enough of a thrill any more.

  167. Anna (if I may), the term “going under” was mine, not Rationalist’s. One of the lessons of history is that nations that won’t defend themselves will end up being exploited by nations that will. That exploitation doesn’t have to take the form of invasion and conquest; consider the way that the US maintains its own global empire right now and you can fairly easily see how the next generation of rising powers will pursue their own interests at the expense of countries that think they can ignore their own defense.

    MichaelK, I ain’t arguing. I think, though, that the bizarre reaction of so much of the Left to Trump has other roots; I’ll be talking about that in an upcoming post.

    Jen, one good example is the kind of affirmative action that involves lowering standards of achievement based on belonging to a given category. If (as is presently the case) the public schools in many big US cities turn out graduating classes in which more than half the members are functionally illiterate, it does nobody any good to put those kids into college anyway — and yet that’s what happens. (I see this as a corporate welfare program for the academic industry; you’ll notice that consistently, projects that supposedly help the poor actually provide lots of jobs for the middle and upper middle classes.)

    Elizabeth, people on the far left always quibble about that. Me, I’m a moderate Burkean conservative, and from where I stand the quarrels between the Democrats and the Socialists look like the quarrels between different subsets of the Baptist Church or something — very important for the people involved, but the issues are all but invislble outside that specific community…

    Grandmother, okay, my head is spinning. I probably shouldn’t be surprised that Kim Kardashian is smarter than the entire mainstream political system, but it still rattles me…

    Sub, to my mind you’re confounding the concepts of race and ethnicity. Do different ethnic groups exist? Of course. Do they perform differently according to a variety of measures? Of course. Does that mean that antiquated 19th-century ethnological concepts such as “the white race” and “the black race” have any biological meaning. Of course not. To begin with, “the black race” (that is, the set of human ethnic groups found in sub-Saharan Africa and the African diaspora) contains more genetic diversity than all the rest of humanity put together. Even within other “races” (such as “the white race”) there’s far too much diversity to make the concept of race mean anything at all. If you want to talk about ethnicity, by all means — to use the dog metaphor, just as it makes ample sense to talk about the differences between Great Pyrenees and teacup poodles, while acknowledging that they’re all dogs, it makes sense to talk about the differences between human ethnic groups, while acknowledging that they’re all human. But treating “the white race” as a thing is as absurd as talking about a “white breed” of dogs that includes Great Pyrenees and white teacup poodles, and insisting that a white teacup poodle thus has more in common with a Great Pyr than it does with a brown teacup poodle…

    Denys, good. The answer, of course, is that to the Ctrl-Left, the word “fascist” means “I hate you,” and nothing else.

    Fkarian, delighted to hear it. In that case European governments should be totally fine with the US bringing its troops back home and no longer financing NATO to the tune of billions of dollars a year. Do you recall how they reacted when Trump raised that possibility?

    Jason, wow. Thank you for this; I didn’t grow up in a fundamentalist household, so have a less precise sense of the culture than you do. It’s good to know that my vague sense of what’s going on with the Ctrl-Left isn’t off base.

    Grandmother, thanks for this.

    David, please do consider it. I think you’d do a fine job.

    BigBySuvins, if you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you’ll recall that I didn’t discuss Obama’s policies, either. I don’t blog about politics in the narrow sense; what interests me is the interface between collective psychology, history, and myth. Furthermore, since I don’t blog in a vacuum, I assume my readers can find out about what the current administration is doing easily enough. My take on the Alex Jones brigade is that it’s far smaller and less influential than you suggest; certainly my prolonged residence in the poorer part of flyover country, in a town that voted 70% for Trump in 2016, brought me into contact with a lot of people on the right but next to nobody who took Jones et al. seriously. (My take is that it’s about on a par with the fraction of the left that takes David Icke seriously.) As for the consequences of history, there’s a difference between recognizing consequences and fixing blame, and as we’ve seen over and over again in history, the use of collective guilt as a political weapon does nothing to bring resolution to the legacies of a difficult past.

    Keith, did I say I support Trump? It’s a fine example of the kind of nonthinking I’m challenging here to insist that anybody who doesn’t join the chorus of shrieks every time Trump takes a breath must support him…

    Mark, the Esc-Center as I envision it is a conversation, not a dogma. If you want to join the conversation and advocate for some basic standard of living for all, you’re free to do so, but you’re going to encounter people who disagree with you. Are you prepared to engage them and their ideas, and try to persuade them rather than insisting that you won’t talk to anyone who doesn’t already agree with you? Then you’re part of the conversation, and whether you get your agenda established as public policy depends on how well you can persuade others and whether the majority agrees that that’s the best use for part of our limited resource base.

    Christopher, oh dear gods, yes. Not only do they think of themselves as the smartest people in the room, they think of themselves as the good people, the compassionate people, the people who care. That’s why they get so hysterical when you point out that the policies they’ve enthusiastically supported have plunged tens of millions of Americans into destitution and misery; you’re not just challenging their politics, you’re challenging their moral virtue.

    As for kneejerk reactions — that too. I hope Trump does go ahead and push for the legalization of cannabis; watching the Ctrl-Left spin on a dime and insist that pot is awful and should be banned forever will be entertaining.

    Justin, true enough.

    Ben, I think a lot of people have fallen into learned helplessness. They’ll unlearn it — or their kids will — when the stakes get high enough.

    Hew, I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the South, and that’s not something I’ve heard from my conservative friends there at all. Are you sure you’re not simply projecting your own fears onto them?

    Dunc, what you call platitudes, I call principles. Neither you nor I nor anyone else knows what perfect equality of opportunity would look like; the point of the political process — and here my Burkean conservative ideas are showing, I know — is to provide a means by which people can try to move the system closer, on a case-by-case basis, to an ideal that everyone knows, or ought to know, it can never actually reach.

    To my mind, it’s precisely the focus on issues rather than processes that has driven the political dysfunction that’s become so widespread these days. And, yes, our middle of the road is fairly far to the right by your standards; the US is not Europe and never will be, no matter how fervently a privileged Europhile minority wishes it was.

  168. Hi JMG & all–
    Another brilliant essay, and marvelous comments!

    Reading between the lines, I believe I saw ideas that include ‘Live and let live.’ A co-worker I know from India (whose Oxford English accent was much better than mine will ever be) told me that “India is a Socialist Country” and “What did I think of that?”
    I told him that “If the residents of India want to live as Socialists, it is up to them.”
    I think he was disappointed that I was not more upset.

    On the Bakery case–
    I think that, especially in business, the owners/operators should be allowed to refuse to serve anyone they want if it is a matter of religious convictions. But better if they don’t surprise someone with refusal.

    If a deli advertises that it is Kosher or Halal, everyone knows this means that bacon will not be available there. If you ask for bacon, you will be refused. If you want to make a special order of bacon, they will not do it. Because “Kosher” and “Halal” include the concept of “no bacon,” no one is surprised.
    The Kosher/Halal deli has a competitive disadvantage in the Deli Business, since the Piggly Wiggly Deli carries the same stuff they do PLUS oodles of delicious bacon. So the kosher/halal guys have to work harder in some other area to stay in business.

    Applying that to the Bakery case, if the Bakery in question had included something like “Family Friendly” in its signage, the gay couple might have had notice to shop elsewhere for their preferred wedding cake. The Baker loses their business. Perhaps he needs to work harder in other areas to stay afloat. Perhaps he will go out of business, but that’s his choice and he will have to live with it. Hopefully we can all live and let live with Family Friendly bakeries, just like we do with Kosher/Halal deli’s.

    One caveat– Nicholas Taleb, in his book “Skin in the Game,” says that an intolerant minority often imposes its standards on the majority, if the majority are indifferent to the conditions. He says that caterers who are not Jewish will often nevertheless provide kosher catered food as the default option for catered events. Non-Jewish people don’t care if it is kosher or not, and observant Jewish people, finding that the food is kosher, will not complain. So if you want bacon at a catered event, its likely you may have to ask for it.

    @SaraDee– Thanks so much for the insider’s view of the activist community, especially for the Black Womans’ perspective that said, “No one is disposable.” I am adding that one to my Archdruid T-shirt list of wise sayings, next to “None of us can be replaced. We can only be succeeded.”

    @DarkestYorkshire re: all-gun society:
    If you are ever in Atlanta, Georgia, take a side trip to Cobb County, Georgia. I have heard that, at one time, legislation was passed that required everyone of voting age to own a gun. One of my relatives who lives in Atlanta tells me that people are extremely polite in Cobb County, and the burglary rate is very low. You might want to see for yourself how it works for them (or wait until Top Gear films a car show there). I think their preferred gun safety course is the one offered by the NRA. I hear it is excellent.

  169. Hi Scotlyn,

    I think you are reading too much into my phrase. I was addressing that I think a lot of the leftish talk is fairly impractical moral posturing and laying endless blame on white people every time it is found that blacks have not achieved certain things. Of course they do not need to betray their culture – I’m talking about having a decent living and not going to jail. Culture is a separate thing. In order to have a decent living, certain things though, are a human norm. Fathers and families are part of culture. Current ghetto inner city culture is a failing culture. Lets have respect where respect is due. What I mean by that, is we can’t always paper over a bad situation because those in it are black and just keep saying that everything they do is fine, fine, fine. No, they are making some mistakes, and white people are too, but not in such catastrophic numbers. Black culture got derailed sometime after the 60s.

    If we can’t criticize or call a spade a spade, that isn’t respect or love.
    It seems to me there is a tremendous amount of discomfort and lack of ease on the part of white people these days, and it comes out with a lot of patronizing ideas that when you think about it, are pretty disrespectful. I also believe that projection is alive and well. I don’t think it is the working class or southerners who have unconscious bias, but middle class whites.

    It’s been my opinion for many years that the biggest emotional issue with American blacks and which other blacks don’t seem to share is a wound-trauma from being despised for their very being. Leveling the playing field is very important and has been done, and white people do feel guilty. But they never say so. All this crap and talk is dancing around a simple need. They need to be valued and appreciated.

    The level playing field is crucial and it is all other groups need, like the Americans of oriental extraction.

    So things are spinning in all sorts of crazy directions and white people now are pretending that there is daily discrimination. Now people of color are starting to think in terms of revenge. This is not where things had been going! The black race is a spiritually great race and they have the ability to forgive. But we should ask.

    Shortly before my son got killed I somehow was talking to a couple of black activists who apparently go to congress and petition, perhaps for a Juneteenth recognition. I recall that I agreed to go with them and petition congress for a national day of reconciliation and forgiveness. So far as I can recall that was my idea.

    There’s another weird contradiction with the left pretending that there are no differences between people and then talking up diversity. This is why I have not a lot of patience with all this posturing, because what humans need is love, and black people in America have not been loved. I don’t pretend to love them because they are just like me. I love black people because they are not like me.
    I love black people because they have something powerful and sweet that we do not have.
    I am glad they are here.
    We stole them because they are valuable.
    They have enriched our culture.

  170. David,

    I would be happy to support a similar political community, you might also consider looking at r/neturalpolitics on reddit. There are some very intense evidence and logic filled discussion taking place in the heavily moderated corners of the internet.



  171. Hew, if I may, I am also of (very) old Southern stock and to say that a white dictator is preferable to demographic changes for many Southers I think misdiagnoses the affliction. Outside Atlanta and a very few other places deferring to your betters in the ironclad dictum. Racism is sadly integral to traditional Southern culture, but it has been fostered for centuries by the near-feudal elites – if your yeoman hate your serfs it keeps them from making common cause with each other and keeps your head of a (proverbial) pike. This is especially true where the Deep South abuts Appalachia, as active fostering of racial caste allowed Deep Southern elites superficial common cause with and thus control over hillbillies they could not otherwise enjoy.

    The Deep Southern elites, like all elites, want to maintain power, and divide and conquer works very well. I think an orchestrated soft pivot to defining the essential faultline as (Protestant) Anglo vs non-Anglo is more likely, even if there is a very long racial caste hangover involved. Change is possible where self interest is in play; even Mormons no longer claim black converts’ souls turn white in heaven.

  172. Regarding ‘the white race’ or ‘the black race’ – the five or so races that 19th century human zoology conceived of have a limited basis in reality, in the sense that the five major races (popularly considered to be Europeans, Africans, Asians, Southeast Asians and Native Americans) roughly correspond with centers of genetic relatedness in real life. Modern population genetics has tools which can be used, for instance, to sample the salmon who swim through a bay and determine if the salmon who swim up stream A to reproduce are different than the salmon who swim up up stream B. The same tools, applied to humans, produce results consistent with 19th century racial theory. Like salmon, there are many groups of humans who generally do not reproduce with each other but are interfertile nonetheless. I agree with JMG that the races are too big and too diverse to say anything about the races other than banal things like “white people have little melanin” and “african people have lots of melanin”, but the idea that race is a scientifically invalid concept is wrong, it’s just that there is almost nothing we can actually conclude from the comparison of say, Africans and Europeans. It would be one thing (although morally dubious) to compare Italians to Ethiopians, but even the African ethnic groups, diverse as they are, are too big. Most people know that distance running events in the Olympics are mostly won by Kenyans – but the average Kenyan is not much more fit to run a marathon than a European or an Asian. Small minorities in Kenya, who live in the mountains, however, have significant genetic adaptations which make them exceptional marathon runners.

    There are numerous sports where one race or another produces most of the really great athletes – but in reality those athletes come from a subgroup of that race. Just like elite black endurance athletes come from certain parts of Kenya, elite white powerlifters come from Eastern Europe and Scandinavia. Something that isn’t understood in Western society is that small differences in the mean and standard deviation produce LARGE differences at the tail ends of the distribution. For instance, the average man is more predisposed to violence than 60% of women. Not a big difference. But most serial killers are men, because at the 5-10 standard deviation level of violent natures, it’s a sausage fest – it’s the same phenomenon that means that the average black man and average white man can run a marathon just about as fast – but the elite black men wipe the floor with the elite white men.

  173. Hew, I will point out that there is a significant minority in the United States and Canada that would happily turn over power to a ‘brown’ dictator who would presumably carry out racist policies in favor of his or her constituents.

  174. JMG–a few comments of the affirmative action situation. I entirely agree that pushing under-qualified people into schools or jobs based on past discrimination does not help. It sets some up for failure, it creates resentment on the part of those who are left out, and creates an atmosphere of mistrust about the real abilities of those who have been admitted or hired. Back in the 70s I had black co-workers who were vocally against affirmative action because they knew that they would always be followed by the question of “can he really do the job or did they just hire him because he is black?.” I also knew someone who told me he had a hard time getting a position because, as half-Japanese, half-Hispanic, he didn’t help a company fill any quota. My mother had a co-worker who got a promotion in a state government department that prided itself on promoting Hispanics. The problem was that the position required answering detailed questions on the phone and the man had a very strong Spanish accent. He eventually resigned the position because he realized that his accent was affecting his performance..

    Lest I be dismissed as a crabby white person I will note that I benefited from affirmative action as a woman looking for a job in a technical field. I had studied business machine repair and Xerox fell all over themselves to hire me and another woman who applied a few months later. As it turned out, I have little talent for mechanics or electronics and eventually quit. Ironically, when I applied to the community college program in business machine repair the instructor tried to talk me out of it. The job was too strenuous for a woman, according to him; yet two of my classmates were men training with vocational rehabilitation funds after becoming disabled.

    Another commentor objected to the idea that black families need to become middle class and give up their culture. Well, like it or not, certain habits of punctuality, hard work, deferred gratification, etc. were a large part of what created the wealth the Western nations. Yes, stealing land and labor from others had it’s part , but the managerial class had to sober up, study hard, etc. Jews in Europe and the Chinese in Asia and Africa had similar patterns of work and sacrifice, family solidarity and respect for learning leading to success within alien cultures. It is a sad fact of existence that you can’t have it all. I also wonder just what the commentor believes is the essence of black culture that they are being required to give up?


  175. JMG

    Unfortunately, I do not believe that my fears regarding tribalism are a projection. Our culture no longer esteems knowledge, truth, or morality – necessary to keep human passions in due bounds. There are many causes, but rhetoric declaring the “other” are now being used in the open by all sides. The higher vision and aspirations of our way of living with each other is being narrowed and contracted. When divisive rhetoric supercedes all principle only survival values remain, and that means: Us vs. Them.

  176. Dear Ben, do you think Oklahoma voters would approve an initiative which outlawed campaign contributions from out of district and out of state? What about requiring TV and radio to give all (non-joke) candidates for state office a specified amount of free airtime?

  177. Dear David by the Lake, the new mascot would be…a Jackalope of course! You can see them all over the West, stuffed and on display in the same kinds of joints which have, ahem, Mountain Oysters on their menus

  178. @JMG – before I forget, thank you very much for taking the time to post your essays and moderate the comments. To say the least, your post this week touched a nerve, and it’s a privilege to be able to extract out the different views without being engulfed by trolls.

    As for being in the park with Chicago, when I followed the link, another song on the Youtube page seemed more appropriate – REO Speedwagon’s “Roll With The Changes”. Great guitar solo, RIP Gary Richrath.

    The ideas you’ve presented about the ESC-Center are a great start to applying the theoretical “politics” to our future. Hopefully the future will allow common ground to be built, though I cringe at how the propaganda in the news flow as so many polarized. I would second Hew’s observation in that the talk around violence and by proxy extreme measures for solutions, on both ends of the spectrum, is getting cranked up. Re – guns – a number of the pro-gun posts are now indicating the “true” purpose of the Second Amendment, in which repelling government tyranny is the goal. Turn that on its head, and there is no room for “sensible” gun control, and assault rifles should be “more” legal in that sense versus the two-shot derringer in your pocket (which obviously has no military application). So for the gun-control crowd out there, the sane path is to repeal the Second Amendment, though I’d suggest grandfathering in the current owners – otherwise there could be lots of blood in the streets. This ain’t Australia.

    @Mark L – your views around wealth and caring for the minimum living standard is shared by many, and presents some common ground to build on. The problem as I see it is to come up with a system that can do that without it ending in tyranny, destroying incentive for the “producers”, and displacing the elites without it turning violent. A tall order. The U.S. is not demographically like the northern European “success” stories of socialism, but the recent victory by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in NYC indicate the voters like the idea of “free stuff”, and forced wealth redistribution is recipe for disaster.

  179. Re: Masterpiece Cakeshop

    The Supremes actually punted in this case.

    Before issuing a decision against him, at least one member of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission made really nasty comments about Jack Phillips’ religious beliefs, comparing them to defense of slavery and the Holocaust. The Commission is supposed to make decisions fairly and with neutrality, but clearly did not. Thus, SCOTUS issued a very narrow ruling that the Commission violated Phillips’ right to due process; it did not address the issues of anti-discrimination, religious freedom, or freedom of speech, so technically this decision did not prohibit ‘government from forcing people to participate in celebrating such marriages if that goes against their conscience’. However, Clarence Thomas did address those issues in his written opinion in support of the baker.

    Clarification of the line between conscience and public accommodation will have to wait for another case to make it before the court.

  180. Dear Anna Mulqueen, ( I will apologize in advance if this post is a tad intemperate, but I see red every time I hear yet again this single Moms (or women in general) have a DUTY to be married or partnered theme.)

    It started back in the late 70s I think it was with a guy named George Gissing who wrote a book arguing that the rate of violent crimes–Gissing didn’t care about white collar crime–would decline if single men had someone at home they could mistreat.

    Have you ever lived in an underclass area? I ask because I have. Let me try to explain in simple terms. If I have to choose between, say, winter coats for my kids or boyfriend’s entertainment expenses, such as cable TV, hunting trips, bar tab or even running up the utility bills, boyfriend is leaving, and his rifles, widescreen TV, liquor cabinet or whatever are going with him if they have not already been tossed out the window. The first thing I do after he leaves is cancel the cable. And turn DOWN the heat. The second thing is take the kids to the library and maybe a park after that.

    One of the most empowering, that fine feminist word, moments of my adult life was when I realized that not only did I not HAVE to be partnered, I did not have to be sexually active at all if I did not want to be. What harms kids within the home is instability which includes things like not being able to pay the bills, and a constant parade of new “Dads”, not to mention brand new “relatives” to which your kids are expected to be accepting and respectful. The alt right has fits about voluntarily celibate women, but the alt right ain’t paying our bills.

  181. RandyU, by your logic, a neo-Nazi skinhead would have the right to walk into a Jewish bakery and demand that the baker make him a cake with swastikas all over it, and if the baker refuses, the skinhead could sue him for discrimination. Is that what you want? Remember, whatever game your side plays can be played just as well by the other side…

    Onething, good. I’ve noticed that very often people in discussions like these will fixate on one of a whole list of themes and then ignore the others. Equality of opportunity, as an ideal toward which to aim, doesn’t exist in a vacuum; it must be balanced against the other principles I’ve suggested, including that of individual liberty and a politics of realism — and doing this would get past most of the confusions brought up here.

    Prizm, my guess is that what’s going to happen is that the old-guard Republicans are going to be chased out of the GOP by populists, and end up allying with the Democrats, while the radical young Democrats are going to be chased out of the Democratic Party, with some going to form a Socialist Party and the rest ending up in the new populist GOP. Over the next generation or so, the Democratic Party will shrivel up and die as the old guard ages out, and we’ll end up with a two-party system in which populists who call themselves Republicans and social democrats who call themselves Socialists become the two main flavors. That’s just a guess, of course, but things do seem to be heading that way.

    Twilight, of course. My guess is that we’ll see a lot of the hating game from all sides until a really big crisis intervenes — that’s usually what settles such things.

    E. Goldstein, that strikes me as a good idea. If bakeries and other nonessential services that want to follow a set of religious rules will simply post that fact in some clearly visible fashion, then people who want services they don’t provide can avoid them, people who disagree with their beliefs can boycott them, and people who support their beliefs can support them. That’s liberty in action.

    Justin, if all that can be said on the basis of race is a matter of self-referential comments like “white people have less melanin” (when “white” in human terms is defined by “having less melanin”), I think you’ve just proved my case that the entire concept of human races should be discarded. You can address “centers of relatedness” just as effectively, and with less confusion, by talking about “African ethnic groups,” “European ethnic groups,” and so on.

    Rita, oddly enough, as a male American of (mostly) European ancestry, I’ve also benefited from affirmative action! I had a much easier time finishing my college degree because the state of Washington had a program to benefit male heads of household over the age of 25 returning to college after time in the work force — it was mostly there for the benefit of unemployed loggers — and it enabled me to squeak through two years of college without taking on a dollar of debt. In retrospect, I’m far from sure that my erratic course through college was really the best use of taxpayer money…

    Hew, er, I’d encourage you to read some Jung one of these days. It’s precisely the nature of projection that the people who are caught up in it can’t see that that’s what they’re doing. Your comments seem to me to be phrased in extreme absolute terms, and again, they don’t match my experience at all.

    Drhooves, I forget who pointed out that the differences between the US and Australia come out of the fact that we were founded by religious fanatics and they were founded by convicted criminals.

    Beekeeper, I wouldn’t describe the decision as “punting it.” The decision clarified a crucial point — the fact that the liberties of both parties have to be considered, and that governmental bodies that ignore the civil rights of one party in favor of the other are acting outside the law. That’s important guidance for lower courts, and in complex issues like this one I tend to be happier if the sorting out happens bit by bit, one case at a time, as there’s less likelihood for grand abstractions to override common sense.

  182. Kind Sir

    One sign of a balanced worldview is, that one is called fascist by the ctrl left and a socialist by the alt right.
    Your list of core features of the esc Centre does a splendid job triggering the former, but is a bit weak on the latter.

    To achieve this I’d include
    – universal health care
    – significant redistribution of wealth, as democracy and billionaires are incompatible.
    – protection of society from powerful people and corporations.
    – protection of society from the outright nutjobs. Gun laws anybody?

    I’m aware there is much more, but this should be enough to offend

  183. JMG – I’d like to leave the troubled word “equality” to one side, and make a different proposal, which could lead to political policy if people were willing to think about it. What I would like to see under consideration is something akin to the vision outlined by Mark L under a different heading – that of “pursuit of happiness”. I do think our economic system has converted this beautiful phrase into the “mere” pursuit of wealth and advantage over others which the “Rational Economic Man” is considered to be made “happy” by. In reality, the things that make people happy are not at all mutually contradictory in quite the same way as the things that make people wealthy [while necessarily making others poor]. That people should be free to pursue happiness might take on a different, and fuller, meaning in a different context.

    That said, one of the things that I have observed to make people happy is sharing projects in common. Our recent past has involved the breaking up of certain types of personal loyalties and commonalities with a view to transferring these to the new “nation state”. And perhaps it is these nation states that are failing to keep us provided with a sufficient sense of shared vision to hold our loyalty. I certainly do not want to fall into the traditional answer to this deficiency of loyalty to one another, which is to go to war and unify people around a shared enmity.

    So, I’d like to ask if anyone has ever considered why a nation’s balance sheet only shows liabilities and never assets. We think of ourselves as citizens or we think of ourselves as taxpayers, but we don’t think of ourselves as shareholders in a valuable store of Public Good. l wonder if we might push to have citizens made aware of themselves as shareholders, and to receive annual statements of the previous year’s additions to the store of public good (both in financial and in non-financial terms), which might open a path to conversations about what we have in common, what we need to work with each other in common in order to safeguard, and what actually composes the Public Good.

    This is not a policy, but a conversation from which policies could come.

  184. For the latest word on human population genetics, I’d recommend “Who We Are and How We Got Here – Ancient DNA and the new science of the human past”, by David Reich.

  185. JMG
    You commented to Userfriendlyyy: ” now you’re talking straightforward politics. Build that case and get it into circulation, and you have a very good chance of seeing some motion in the direction you want.”

    On the matter of affording health care and as a Brit I agree with ufyy analysis of the way US citizens are fleeced compared with citizenry in other well-off countries. And the US adopting a more user-friendly program would do us a favor at the same time. Our NHS is under siege from commercial health care providers based in the USA. Our present government, or at least the Brexit lot, would like nothing better than to take down our ‘socialist’ paying system. They are using the ‘Brexit crisis’, as you say more generally about political crisis, to ‘settle matters’.

    ufyy’s previous comment on New Deal also rings every bell for me.

    Phil H

  186. Let me offer a further contribution to this debate between Nastarana and Anna Mulqueen on the subject of family structures.

    There is a second common and highly functional model of family life that exists here in the US along side of the “standard model” of a stable marriage between husband and wife.

    In this other form of high-functioning family, the men who feel themselves responsible for helping a woman raise her children, for providing these children with good male role models as well as material means of support, are the woman’s brothers and her other adult male relatives, not the fathers of her children. In this model, biological fathers matter little, and are not really part of a family at all, but brothers, cousins and other close male relatives are enormously important. Biological fathers do not always even live with the mothers of their children, but eat and sleep in their own extended families, alongside of their sisters. You can still find traces of this model here in Rhode Island, chiefly among certain fairly recent immigrant sectors of the population; by their own accounts, the model used to be far more common than it is now.

    Three forces have made this second model hard to maintain in the United States down through the generations. (1) It is not recognized by our laws, our norms for handing down the property of the deceased, and our systems for keeping vital records. (2) It only works if families are, on the average, large ones, averaging about four or more children each. And (3) it only works well if the population can be relatively immobile and people are not impelled by economic necessity to move from one city to another, following the availability of work. That it persists at all in the United States, where economic and legal conditions are so adverse to its survival, is a testament to its strength and intrinsic merits.

    When economic conditions work strongly against this model, as they do here in the United States, it commonly devolves into something that might be termed a “matriarchal family,” where the brothers and male cousins move away in pursuit of work, but the women of two or three generations form close alliances to keep their common extended family afloat economically. This is a much harder row to hoe, simply because of the greater burdens the women are left to bear in the absence of male kin nearby who can help. But it can be made to work by determined women, and even tweaked in individual ways by perceptive women to provide good male role models for their children.

    Such matriarchal families can and do also arise out of “standard model” families (mother + father + children) whenever the fathers fail in their roles for several generations, of course. But the fact that this sort of failure can and does happen cannot rightly be used as an argument against the strength and viability of the other common model of family structure (mother + brothers + children).

    There are, elsewhere in the world, regions and populations where this second model has been (and still is) the normal one, supported by the traditional laws, norms and institutions of local society. To the members of these societies, our “standard model” of a family makes no sense, and can even seem like a perversion. Anthropology, with its interest in structures of “kinship,” has documented numerous cases.

    All this supports Nastarana’s point of view in this debate, of course.

  187. You mention the US as the world’s Jailer in the End of Empire section. Here here! But, would you object to an ammendment to the platform such that we agree to stop being the Jailer of ourselves. I don’t mean anything so extreme as throwing open the doors, but we are way out of balance in how many folks stay locked up. I think that decreasing the number of prisoners, most obviously by decreasing the number of laws, would be an appealing platform. Many voters have kin or kith behind bars unfortunately, often for petty reasons, and might be attracted to a platform that reforms that system. As a balance to the “law and order” voter, I would offer much more through focus on enforcing the comparatively smaller set of laws.

    In fact I would go so far as to put this as a sub section of a point “Equality before the Law”; which I would offer as a refinement on ‘Equality of Opportunity”.

  188. @Ben You provided CNN and/or MSNBC talking points. An authoritarian would be centralizing power at the federal level and punishing enemies, limiting their freedoms provided under the constitution.

    Bush the Second was much more an authoritarian forming Homeland Security, and passing the Patriot Act making surveillance standard practice. Obama followed up as Bush the Third (as JMG has pointed out many times) mandating everyone must buy healthcare and using the IRS to punish conservative groups.

    (Linking article from the Amazon Washington Post for proof of that last one

    Obama – its suspected, not proven yet – interfered in the 2016 election using the FBI to do it.

    Trump is proposing eliminating and combining federal agencies, and has instituted a hiring freeze in many departments (State, Ed, and HHS I’ve read about. I think Energy and EPA too.). He eliminated overlapping regulations for businesses and farmers. He gave a federal tax cut to salaried workers and upped tax credits for those who barely pay federal taxes. Protests and tantrums have gone on every day since he was elected and he does nothing about it.

    Trump is the worst fascist ever.

    If Trump’s opposition was smart, they would use his personality against him to get what they want. But no, they hold up signs, shout at him, wear pussy hats, and threaten to have his child raped. And then they complain that Trump is the embarrassment internationally. No wonder he used to refer to his shrieking critics as haters and losers.

  189. Hi John Michael,

    I’m an outsider to your politics and so can’t really add anything, other than I’m just surprised at how so much emotional energy expressed by all sides in the shouting match, achieves so little. Maybe that is the desired outcome? Neither am I involved in politics down here. Except years and years ago, I became interested in the vote counting process – and you will recall that voting is compulsory down here – and I worked in the process and have done so ever since. It is good stuff and impeccably honest, paper based, and scrutinised by the political parties.

    Now the rats, well I’m interested in rats. Would you believe the rats have managed to tunnel into the impenetrable chicken fortress? I’m in awe of those creatures – and they will get a massive response from me and the dogs, over the next few days when it stops raining long enough.

    I once read a nice quote about the law which suggested something along the lines that it is ‘a system which seeks to administer the law’. It is a bit circular isn’t it? And it may be more or less accurate too. You’ll note that justice was not mentioned in that suggestion. I’ve often wondered whether the laws which are used to beat some people over the head, do the legal system any damage and possibly bring entire process into ill repute, despite the fact that it is a good system and better than some alternatives – like anarchy. I’ve been thinking about that this week, because a government body sent me a bill that had been significantly increased over the previous bill, with no extra benefit – and I have absolutely no choice about not paying it. They actually had the cheek to suggest that the previous bill was too cheap (concessional was the term they used in legalise speak!)

    Far out, and well done them. They make rats look like a simple problem, but my long term money is on the rats!

    Class issues are a real problem for the privileged class because in order for others to get a leg up, those folks need to back it off a little bit and that means giving up and loss – and who wants to suffer those outrages? I’ve heard stupid rhetoric about a rising tide lifting all boats, but what about the folks who don’t have a boat? What happens to them? And what about the folks who don’t have a boat, and don’t know how to swim? Now, rats, well the rats probably know how to swim from what I’ve seen of their activities… I haven’t had a single egg in the past two weeks… The battle is long, there will be casualties, and I fully expect to lose! 😉



  190. @ All

    Re the discussion on equality

    I’m a bit late to the party on this one, but as one with something of a libertarian bent, I have some issues with the constraining of individual liberties and actions in the name of an abstraction. “Equality” among human being of vastly different capabilities, inclinations, talents, persuasions, tastes, backgrounds, and the like is almost a nonsensical concept. Equality of outcome, as has been discussed already, is a Procrustean bed. Equality of opportunity is nebulous. (Opportunity to do what? How is opportunity defined? What is sufficient “opportunity” in the light of one still failing to achieve the desired goal?)

    My thought is that we focus on the one equality that is actually discussed in the Constitution: equality under the law. So long as equal redress under the law is maintained, the rest can sort itself out through free individuals acting freely. Jim Crow was as much about inequality of law enforcement as anything else (e.g., the tacit, or explicit, support of law enforcement in the terrorizing of those who pushed against segregationist life.) A baker who refuses to provide wedding cakes for gay couples won’t be patronized by those couples or those others who support them. So long as the baker who springs up next door, who *is* willing to provide wedding cakes to gay couples, isn’t run out of town or otherwise terrorized into submission, then the problem solves itself through individual action. Respecting one another’s boundaries even while still disagreeing is possible, and I’d argue it is the preferred path in a free society.

    @ Nastarana

    An excellent candidate for mascot, I agree! I worked in Denver for ~3 years nearly two decades ago. Never got around to sampling Rocky Mountain oysters. I suspect that I’d prefer the oceanic kind 😉

    @ Varun

    Thank you. And thank you, too, for the reddit suggestion.

  191. I’m reminded of two sayings of my grandmother (born 1920).

    “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” and “Life isn’t fair.”

    If my brother took something of mine, then I went and punched him for it, I was punished. The punishment was for being a dummy (her words) and not coming up with a clever way out of it. That was because life wasn’t fair and people were always going to intrude on what is yours and you better have a way to deal with it.

    Now people use 911 as a customer service line expecting the police to come and stop what they don’t like. They have to break up family fights more than anything else. Things have really changed,

  192. Hi Chris Smith,

    I thought Chicago was pretty good – and if you ever seen their music used in the film: Three Kings, well you’d know what I mean. And if you haven’t seen it, then why the heck not?

    That is the real question! 🙂



  193. Dr. Hooves,

    I didn’t see comments here on the true reason for the second amendment as being able to resist government turned tyrannical, but I am kinda surprised that you then say, why the sane thing to do is get rid of the 2nd amendment.
    Of course that would take care of the little problem and is what the gun control lobby would love! It’s one reason they keep pretending that it doesn’t say what it says.
    The founders and framers were intelligent men and had a lot of actual recent history that went into their decisions. They tried really, really hard to make corrections that would hold.
    What do you know that is different and better?

  194. Nastarana,

    Of course stability is very important, and I personally am often aghast at the “men” that some women permit into their lives and living quarters. Again, poor choices. If the addition of a man, or of another adult, into a living arrangement does not make life easier, then it’s a poor choice in general. Celibacy certainly is preferable, and preferable to bringing in a string of boyfriends.

    In making my statements, it does not help to turn it around saying particular women are obligated to be partnered and such. I’m saying that having large numbers of women think little about stability for their child, and a stable father for their child and for themselves leads to the current disaster and cultural decay.

    Bringing children into the world without having stability in place? Are you in favor of that? Without a plan to be able to support them?

  195. In the tradition of socialism I’m from there are very few socialist countries – Russia for a few years, parts of Spain during the civil war, and quite a few places that got close but didn’t quite make it. The rest that people may think of as socialist are to me social democracy (European welfare state at its best) or state capitalist (Russia after about 1927, China, Cuba). Rather than specific industries, what I can get into is the psychology and political theory of how things are ideally supposed to work in a revolutionary society.

    As a point of contrast, most revolutionaries think if you go the parliamentary reformist route, the system in Finland at the time of the Russian Revolution is about the best you could get. A good balance of direct and representative democracy with power pushed as far down to local level as possible. But that only lasted a few months before the counterrevolutionaries killed about 30,000 people. If you’ve ever wondered why revolutionaries are often so dismissive of reform, it’s because of places like Finland, Iran, Guatemala and Chile. The ruling class will only tolerate so much reform, then there’s tanks in the streets and fighter planes bombing the presidential palace. You’re last seen beeing bundled into a Ford Falcon with blacked-out windows and no number plates, you die screaming and your body is never found. That makes revolution the much more attractive alternative.

    The fundamental unit of socialist organisation is the workers council. They often grow out of the strike committees that helped bring down the old order, but the same structure can be used by workplaces, the people from a certain district, or other groups. It’s a mass meeting where everyone can have their say, everything can be discussed, voted on and decisions taken. It’s a direct democracy that only becomes representative when delegates have to be chosen to go to city or national level councils. If these delegates don’t do what is expected of them they can be recalled at any time by vote at a mass meeting. These councils seem to be the natural structure for workers power and appear spontaneously in different places under different names – soviets in Russia, cordones in Chile, shoras in Iran, and in the revolutions against communism in Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland.

    The main benefit of this kind of organisation is mass democracy. The greatest number of people get to experience having political power and having control over their lives and society, and to get good at it. This is part of the massive psychological change that happens to people in revolutions. To a great extent revolutions run on enthusiasm and adrenaline. Things that seemed impossible become possible and how people see themselves totally changes. This is the best thing I’ve read about the psychology of revolution – The high doesn’t last forever but it opens a window of opportunity for the kinds of change that can’t happen any other way.

    In terms of political science workers councils combine legislative and executive power in one organisation. There are several reasons to do this. Checks and balances and the seperation of powers basically are built-in stagnation, to ensure change doesn’t happen. But in revolutions everything changes and there is no value in putting your foot on the brake and the accelerator at the same time. There is also the speed of change. Revolutions aren’t quite politics at air traffic controller decision making speed, but they’re not far off. Often the councils were as much like NASA mission control or a military command centre as a parliament. Frequently proceedings were interrupted by a bedraggled figure bursting in and announcing this factory or that battleship had gone over to the revolution. Another reason for combining powers is the question of responsibility. One group shouldn’t make the laws then throw them over the wall to some other poor saps who have to enforce them. In the councils, once a decision has been made, the delegates report back to their home factory, region or regiment what has been decided and what is required of them. It’s like the ancient Greek democracies where if you voted for war, the next thing you did was go home and get your armour.

    That leaves the judicial branch which is a different thing with a different decision making speed, so isn’t absorbed by workers councils in the same way. But early in a revolution there’s not much for them to do anyway. Most disputes are either solved through shootouts in the street or friendly persuasion. The latter of these in Russia were known as ‘comradely courts’ and dealt with things like laziness, drunkeness and pilfering in the workplace. By all accounts they were extremely popular and successful. Former Tsarist lawyers and judges observed the proceedings and one commented “There was a lot of justice but not a lot of law going on” which seems appropriate for the middle of a revolution.

    This is getting fairly long so I’ll think about it some more and then get into what this system is good for, what didn’t work so well, what failed spectacularly and what could be done better next time.

  196. I was going to be quiet on this post since it is specifically about USA politics, but I want to add three points, being as brief as possible (happy to give more explanations if asked to).

    1. Equality of opportunities is an incredibly radical proposition if honestly thought through. Before anybody imputes standard right-wing positions to our host, let’s not forget that his idea of an ideal society forces any business owner to gradually turn over their ownership to their employees (a form of expropriation). What an aspiration towards equality of opportunity would look like in real American politics, I leave to you Americans to decide, since most of you seem to have different predispositions than Europeans or South Americans.

    2. On quotas: This is a hot topic at Brazilian universities, too, with the difference that the disadvantaged group, in Brazil, is the majority of the population. I taught first-year medical students at one the best universities in the country (which is federal), before and after quotas were imposed. There were certainly gaps in knowledge, but nothing that could not be made up for during university. A study showed that AT THE END of undergraduate studies, the quota students (one third of the class) did as well as the lowest third of students had done before quotas, in other words those students they had replaced. This means the university continues to fulfil its mission to supply the best professionals it can. Justice is a thorny question here, as is the apportionment of people in “races” in a strongly mixed country, and certainly it would be much better to improve the rock-bottom bad public schools (which aren’t federal). But at this point in time, I support the quotas because the new graduates are already making (local) politics more representative and responsive.

    3. Race: All humans are so genetically homogeneous that a random pick of two humans from anywhere on earth will show them to be, on average, more similar than two chimpanzees from a single troupe. A famous genomics researcher proposed drawing random DNA samples from people every 100 km across the globe in order to avoid preconceived notions of grouping. Variation in all genetic traits is continuous today, and ancient DNA data suggest it has been so in the past, too (contrary to what many ethnic essentialists imply). Moreover, only a few traits strongly vary (lactose tolerance, oxygen consumption, melanin, immunity). Identification of the geographic origin of somebody by DNA relies on a puzzle-work of many thousands of mostly non-functional genetic variants, none of which would be sufficient to identify geographical origin on its own. With regards to intelligence, the most advanced studies yet published manage to pinpoint the genetic bases of less than 1% of the variation in school or IQ test performance. Tons of studies show that upbringing explains much more than 1%, so why focus on genetics?

  197. JMG, the neo-Nazi skinhead scenario is really the same as the kosher deli scenario. In both cases, the person is asking for a product/service that the business does not normally supply. The Jewish baker would not make a swastika cake for anyone, whether the person was a neo-Nazi or not. If the neo-Nazi did sue, I assume the case would be thrown out very quickly as frivolous, because that’s what it is. I’ll give you an equivalent scenario, a neo-Nazi couple (assuming such a thing exists) goes into a bakery owned by a Christian and asks for a custom wedding cake — the same product the bakery makes for everyone else. The baker refuses because they are neo-Nazis. The key point is that the gay couple was discriminated against because of who they are, not what they wanted. All of your arguments could be used to justify discrimination based on race. I assume you think discrimination based on race should be illegal (but I’m starting to wonder). If you do, why should discrimination based on sexual orientation be legal? As I’m sure you know, the business owner bigots who would not serve minorities in our recent past had strongly held beliefs, and they often used religion to justify them. What you are saying here is that people should have accepted the racist world as it was because those bigots had those strong beliefs. People can come up with countless (bad) reasons to discriminate against minorities. The reasons aren’t really important. Nobody should be denied the same products/services available to everyone else (assuming he/she can pay) based on who they are.

  198. Dear JMG,
    about your “Ctrl Left” and their social justice, spreading like a straw fire through out the western world, I am starting to fill worried by the consequences that their irrational hysteria may have as soon as the economy turns south again.
    In Europe the left was traditionally concerned with the interests of the working class, whereas now they only commit themselves with hypothetical discrimination’s against small minorities. Do they think that there is no working class anymore, or that the working classes are only sensible to the oppression of minorities which was never so light, or what do they have in mind?
    Working people do tolerate incredible levels of material discomfort, as long as order, hope, a sense of community and justice are maintained. Do they realize that by positively discriminating minorities they are separating those minorities from the larger community that will have deal with another and more serious round of economic collapse in the years ahead?
    I don’t know how is it in the US, but around here I am starting to ear anecdotes and comments about woman in power, feminists and non heterosexual people that point in a very very wrong and maybe dangerous direction.
    I sincerely hope I am wrong!

  199. @RandyU, I just wanted to say that you’re good people and you’re not the only person who sees this incongruity. Hope you have a great day.

  200. @drhooves:
    ” The problem as I see it is to come up with a system that can do that without it ending in tyranny, destroying incentive for the “producers”, and displacing the elites without it turning violent.”

    In areas with abundant wealth, there is a de-commodification movement afoot, allowing young craftsfolk to offer fruits and vegetables, fermented beverages, contractor services, etc. at well above the big-box market rate and to be sufficiently compensated for their labors of love. Most of the small farms in New England are viable because buyers in coastal cities are willing to pay extra for their goods – and we have a similar phenomenon here in the Pacific Northwest.

    In regions where the majority of people shop at Wal-Mart out of financial necessity, this approach doesn’t work very well – though informal exchanges of barter and trade can still allow folks to step outside of the capitalist race to the bottom while rebuilding communities.

    I wonder what an effective yet non-tyrannical change to the system would look like? Raising minimum wage to an actual region-specific cost of living seems like a good place to start – along with sufficient tariffs to prevent retailers from simply switching to lower-cost imports.

  201. @ Randy

    Fundamentally, using the power of the state to compel someone to violate sincerely-held religious convictions is at odds with our fundamental principles of religious freedom, particularly when the harm to the other party consists of simply finding another baker, and I’d argue a bad idea generally. When one is acting in a private capacity (unlike a certain Kentucky county clerk, who was acting in her capacity as a public official and therefore as an agent of the state), I think we need to be very cautious about compulsion of this or that view of the world or this or that set of values. (Compelling Amish students to attend public schools versus being home-schooled, for example, or requiring that they learn computer programming or other modern technology in violation of their religious beliefs — I’ve seen arguments to that effect.) Is it messy? Absolutely. But I think there are ways which the needle can be threaded. One possible solution, to which I alluded up-thread, would be to allow a baker to enter into an exclusive arrangement with select religious institutions and state clearly that he/she only provides wedding cakes for couples being married through those institutions…and no one else. The quid pro quo is that the baker foregoes income from those other patrons who’d otherwise have purchased a cake. People should be allowed to segregate themselves from broader society, entirely or selectively, if they so choose.

  202. Okay, good. I’ve finally started getting the profanity-laced diatribes, and the mournful comments about “what happened to the JMG we knew?” If I didn’t get those I’d worry that I wasn’t doing a good job.

    Dropbear, you’re talking about content, I’m talking about process. My list centers on the processes by which collective decisions get made, and only two items — equality of opportunity and the retreat from empire — are a matter of the content of policies. That’s quite deliberate, because my read is that it’s the process that’s broken, and the content will be fairly easy to fix (comparatively!) once the process is moving again. As for your specific suggestions, those are certainly ideas that would go over well in Australia, I’m sure — but the US is not Australia and you won’t get a majority backing most of those ideas here.

    Jill, it’s Alt-Right slang for “social justice warrior,” i.e., member of the Ctrl-Left.

    Scotlyn, interesting.

    Synthase, thanks for this.

    Phil H., no question, the US has the worst health care system in the industrial world, and the most expensive health care system anywhere, ever in history. (You may recall my astonishment when the Obamacare fiasco managed, however briefly, to make it even worse; I didn’t think that was possible.) There are many different ways it could be fixed, but most of them — not all, to be sure, but most — would be a huge improvement on what we’ve got here.

    Ray, a valid point. The US has a larger percentage of its population in prison than any other country on the planet, and that’s not helping anyone — well, other than investors in for-profit prisons.

    Chris, my money’s on the rats, too. I bet they’d come up with a better legal system, for that matter.

    David, that’s a very good point. In fact, I could see putting in “equality under the law” in place of “equality of opportunity.”

    Grandmother, I think half the problem is that so many people have been taught that life should be fair. The other half of the problem is that most of them think that “fair” means “I get whatever I want.”

    Yorkshire, constructing ideal castles in the air is very popular, no question. That’s why I tried to shift the discussion back to what actually happens when a given policy is put into practice. I’ve noticed that socialists very often don’t like to talk about this…

    Matthias, thanks for this.

    RandyU, no, that dodge won’t work. The Christian baker wouldn’t make a wedding cake with two male (or two female) names on it, either, whether or not the person ordering it happened to be gay. In both cases, the customer is asking for a service the baker provides — custom cake decoration — and the baker is refusing to comply for reasons of conscience. Furthermore, and crucially, the baker in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case offered to accommodate the customers by selling them any cake they wanted, including a wedding cake — the only thing he would not do was make them a custom cake celebrating a same-sex wedding. Thus you’re being quite misleading when you claim that the issue was who they were and not what they wanted.

    Elodie, understood. This is why it’s so crucial to get a centrist alternative into circulation sooner rather than later, so that people who are disgusted with the excesses of the Ctrl-Left don’t fall into the trap of thinking that the only alternative is the Alt-Right.

  203. David (if I may), to my mind that’s a crucial point. Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who refused to process applications for same-sex marriage licenses, was a public official who was responsible for a basic government service. Her oath of office obligated her to uphold the law, not to push her personal moral choices on others, and therefore the only honorable course of action for her to take once same-sex marriages became the law of the land would have been to resign in protest. The case of a private individual offering a nonessential service is legally very different.

    Whispers, thank you! That’s a hopeful sign.

  204. You’re LOOKING for profane diatribes? Well, OK..,

    &@$;5@#^!!! %^€£^>?€>>!!!! And even &)&@!<€*€¥€!!!!!!!!! 🤯

    Anything else we can do for you, graciius host?

  205. This is an interesting and amusing set of observations:

    It also alludes to what could well be the one of the deeper reasons for the emergence of the Ctrl-Left:

    The need to forcibly mandate “progress” and “progressive” values only becomes necessary when they are obviously, visibly failing.

  206. JMG, Imagine it was a mixed-race couple, and the baker would not make the cake because he has a deeply held belief (maybe religious) that different races should not be allowed to marry each other. Would that be okay in your book?

  207. Re: alleged differences between racial/ethnic groups, however defined.

    Most human traits and abilities can be graphed on a bell curve. Height, weight, IQ, ability to sink baskets, ability to run sprints, ability to solve quadratic equations, ability to play Bach. Whichever set of groups you are comparing, there is likely to be some overlap of the bell curves. For instance a graph of human heights divided by sex will show that the tallest humans are all male and that the average man is taller than the average woman. (surprisingly, the shortest humans are also male–but in this case we are dealing with abnormality, not normal distribution)

    The bell curves won’t always overlap, of course. If you compared a bell curve of ability to solve quadratic equations and your two groups were 9th grade German students, and indigenous Australians who have never been to a Western school there would probably be no overlap.

    But if I am choosing a basketball team it does me no good to know in general that men are taller than women–I need to measure each applicant–because some women are taller than some men, duh. I am also likely to fail if I assume that blacks are better basketball players.Given a list of names with only the skin color listed I blithely make my choices and end up picking a team of African Pygmies.

    So, racism or sexism or other ism consists of judging individuals by their group membership rather than by their individual qualities. All arguments about whether race is a valid concept are simply irrelevant, even in regard to gene linked characteristics. Africans may be more likely to carry the sickle-cell trait, _but_ you still have to test to know for certain.

  208. JMG,

    I am curious about your response to Gerald above:

    “Thus I’m focusing my attention on something I can actually affect — in this case, encouraging a revival of the ideals and practical skills of democratic self-government, so that as we head down into the deindustrial dark ages to come, at least some communities can remember that there’s a way to run their affairs other than handing over power to some charismatic jerk with a gang of well-armed toughs.”

    Why is it that you believe democratic self-government is particularly at risk of extinction in the early stages of industrial collapse?

    My view is that certain ideas and skills, including organic agriculture, DIY-retrofitting of buildings & tools, and low-energy communications technologies such as ham radio, are of such self-evident value that they will almost certainly make it through a dark age bottleneck. It seems to me that things with less immediate practical value such as the arts, literature, and music would be at greater risk of loss in the difficult period ahead.

    I would have put democratic governance somewhere in the middle, but closer to the obviously valuable group, and thus likely to survive in some form. It would be interesting to know what historical examples have to say about the resilience of democracy through civilizational collapse scenarios. I’m thinking in particular about the ancient Greeks, but what complicates the analysis is the overlay of anacyclosis, which might limit the lifespan of a democratic framework regardless of other outside influences.

  209. Also, if it was all about the names on the cake, it is too bad the couple involved weren’t named Pat and Jean. We could have avoided this whole mess:)

  210. JMG:

    Any recommendation on where to start with Jung would be appreciated. (I seem to recall just borrowing notes for that exam)

  211. While we’re discussing equality under the law and religious freedom, I’ll just kick the hornet’s nest good and proper 😉 by offering my observation that I’m waiting for the notion of marriage equality to embrace plural marriage (which I do think is the next round in this development). Again, from my somewhat libertarian perspective, marriage (in the view of the state) is a contract entered into by consenting adults which conveys a specific bundle of legal rights and obligations — the race, religion, gender, or number of those consenting adults is no one else’s business. (Yes, I took quite a bit of flak on PW when I proffered that opinion, because polygamy is of course inherently oppressive and must be banned by all right-thinking people.) Personally, I have no interest in such an arrangement any more than I would in a homosexual relationship, but I do believe that those individuals (again, consenting adults) who wish to enter into such marriages — whether for religious reasons or for other reasons — should be able to do so. I find it interesting that many of those on the left would support one kind of non-traditional marriage (arguing for individual freedom and non-discrimination by the state) but not another.

  212. Hi JMG,
    Are you familiar with Leopold Kohr’s ‘The Breakdown of Nations’? Your ruminations about Federalism reminded me of it, and how IMO issues of excessive unity (and corresponding gigantism) are behind many of the problems the world is currently facing.

  213. Good, There is nothing we loyal readers won’t do for our favorite Druid, unless of course it costs money.

  214. @ JMG,

    Serious question, what is your source for your assertion that: “…the baker in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case offered to accommodate the customers by selling them any cake they wanted, including a wedding cake — the only thing he would not do was make them a custom cake celebrating a same-sex wedding. ”

    Last night I was reading of the case in the SCOTUS ( In it Justice Kennedy, who wrote the Majority Opinion, states:

    “Phillips informed the couple that he does not “create” wedding cakes for same-sex weddings. Ibid. He explained, “I’ll make your birthday cakes, shower cakes, sell you cookies and brownies, I just don’t make cakes for same sex weddings.”

    Later, Justice Kennedy adds:

    “The investigation found that Phillips had declined to sell custom wedding cakes to about six other
    same-sex couples on this basis. Id., at 72. The investigator also recounted that, according to affidavits submitted by Craig and Mullins, Phillips’ shop had refused to sell cupcakes to a lesbian couple for their commitment celebration because the shop “had a policy of not selling baked goods to same-sex couples for this type of event.”

    My personal stance is that I heartily agree with the SCOTUS ruling, and applaud their protections of religious liberty. That being said, I have been able to find no evidence that the baker would have sold the couple a wedding cake — or any other baked good specifically for their wedding. His policy, as quoted above, was of not selling baked goods to same sex couples for events, rather than not baking artistic custom cakes. This is a bit different in terms of its implications. It appears to me, as the information is presented in the SCOTUS opinion at least, that he was saying that he would only sell baked goods as they pertained to other aspects of the lives of sexual minorities.

    My sense from what I’ve read is that Phillips wouldn’t have baked or sold them a birthday or shower cake for their wedding, he’d bake it or sell it only for their birthday or shower. If a gay couple wanted one of his goods to celebrate their relationship, they likely would have had to lie to him in order to get it, or else they’d have to purchase it elsewhere, or make it themselves. I actually support his right to make that call based on his religious convictions, but nonetheless it does meaningfully change the potential implications of the case law going forward.

    If you have other sources for the course of events, I would happily read them and correct my understanding of this aspect of the case.

  215. JMG, “the point of the political process… is to provide a means by which people can try to move the system closer, on a case-by-case basis, to an ideal that everyone knows, or ought to know, it can never actually reach.”

    What I like about this statement is the fact that it makes reference to “movement” and to a “system.” A dynamic, rather than a static sense of justice could be developed from this.

    In terms of economics, it might help the conversation enormously to talk in terms of “system movement” (or flow, in the ecological sense), rather than either outcome or opportunity. That is to say, if we understand wealth as flow – into which we must regularly tap to meet our needs – then what is in the best interest of the individual elements is to ensure that the flow continues to circulate.

    The analogy I’d use is that the cells of the body are all different, have different needs and capacities. Yet all can be what it in them to be, so long as the blood stream continues to flow past them, continually providing nutrients they can tap into, and providing a means for clearing rubbish away. The “equality” in the system does not arise from anything static, like an outcome. The equality comes from the fact that the flow continues flowing and reaching every part.

    In the same way, the wealth that each of us needs to tap into regularly includes air, food, water, shelter, warmth, conversation, companionship, opportunities for learning, for expression, for developing skills, for laughing and being entertained. We can store a year’s worth of food, all right, but we cannot, in fact, consume a year’s worth of food in a day. Our body can only use it as it needs it.

    In our society, we use money to represent and lubricate the flow of wealth (the actual resources that satisfy our needs), it is what we call our “economic” circulatory system, and yet, we permit it to follow its gradient to the point of coagulation into clots and clumps, and have insufficient reverse flow pumps (like our hearts in the analogy above) built into the system to help the money clumping together at the end of the gradient be returned to the other end and start its way around the cycle once more.

    Taxation is capable (to an extent) of performing this reverse flow function, but a certain Puritanism stops us appreciating that the flow has to flow. People think of it as the “undeserving” “getting” more than they deserve (as if a person were the end point of a flow), rather than the system itself flowing properly to all its parts, as non-judgmentally as the rain – which falls upon the just and unjust fella.

    We may need to be creative and address more thinking to flow, in order to address the issues that trouble us under the heading of “equality”.

  216. Hi Onething – Fair enough! 🙂 Like I said, I wasn’t picking on you, it was just that way you happened to word your post permitted me to put a name on something that I had pondered about. (And then put my own spin on it). I thank you for it!

  217. Hi Rita. When you said: “Another commentor objected to the idea that black families need to become middle class and give up their culture.” I *think* you meant me, but I’d like to point out that my point did not make reference to black families at all, only to class. What interested me in Onething’s comment that I replied to, was the implication that “equality of opportunity” means the same thing as “entrance to the middle class”. And I wondered why anyone, of any race, would consider that “entrance to the middle class” is the measure of anything important at all, least of all “equality”. Working class families come in all colours, and one of the things I notice in my own family is how “respectability” is almost a moral and cultural imperative that divides my mother’s working class relatives from my father’s middle class ones (all of whom self-identify as “white”). And it is very obvious to me that, in my own family, class is the main reason, for example, that they fell into completely different camps during the last election, and continue to do so. And that for me, the idea that “equality” between all my relatives should be pursued by some process that involves turning my working class relatives into something more culturally resembling my middle class relatives would be essentially the same as seeing them as inherently defective. Which is absurd.

    Anyway, I just wanted to put the record straight, in the event that you were paraphrasing what you thought I had said.

  218. D@#n! Curse you, JMG! I spent 10 minutes writing a reply to RandyU, then found you had already posted the same analogy. “Alles Gute zum Geburtstag, Adolf!“ I’m sure someone with a proper sense of irony in the Alt-Rt. was ready to make the request next April 20th.

    The domination of the Ctrl-Left into our local Famous Institution for Training the Ruling Class was brought home when I read an Email from a friend employed there. Under her name the address included the line: “(she, her, hers)” . It is NOT a reference to the song “I, Me, Mine” by the Beatles on “Let it Be”, nor is it an exposition of grammar. This is the same institution who cannot see the possible irony in having a ball and cut chain as the symbol of the debt owed to the slaves who were trafficked to pay for the Institution. 250 years later, the spiritual descendants of the slavers are wearing Pussy Hats and complaining about deplorables.

  219. David, JMG,

    Just to be contrary (and keep the conversation going)…”Equality under the law” made me think of Anatole France’s quote, “The law in its magnanimity prohibits the rich as well as the poor from sleeping under bridges.” I.e. the laws enacted should have at least rough equality of impact.

    (BTW, I really miss Bill Pulliam and his contributions to these debates – RIP.)

  220. I wouldn’t want to dismiss equality of outcome so readily. After decades of financialisation, accelerated by the digital economy, the inequalities in our world are obscene. I don’t see how that all would be OK as long as there was an equal chance to gain the privilege of extreme wealth and power. Why would we want to perpetuate a state of affairs where so many of te spoils go to the winners, even if the race wasn’t fixed?

  221. How can we reach the members of the Ctrl-Left and get them to consider Esc-Center ideas? Is the process roughly like deprogramming a cult member?

  222. @David
    “My thought is that we focus on the one equality that is actually discussed in the Constitution: equality under the law. So long as equal redress under the law is maintained, the rest can sort itself out through free individuals acting freely.”

    JMG said he wanted to focus on process over content, so in that context I’m willing to accept equality under the law as an ideal. That said, there’s a long and complex conversation to be had to determine what the law ought to be in the context of ensuring that all have access to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.

    Free individuals acting freely – in the context of a power/resource differential that is either pre-existing or evolves over time – almost inevitably end up acting in ways to benefit themselves at the expense of others, ranging from predatory lending and wage stagnation right up through outright slavery. There is a compromise that must be struck between constraining freedom through laws while also ensuring that those people at a disadvantage are still able to live fulfilling lives.

    Being on the left/socialist side of the spectrum myself, I have tended to favor legal mechanisms to improve human equality, e.g. minimum wage laws, universal health care. At the same time I have observed that an ever-increasing number of laws and regulations has so far failed to improve equality but has instead created a large demographic of well-compensated workers whose jobs consist solely of managing documents and forms while ballooning the cost and annoyance of every process from construction to seeing a doctor to buying/selling property. Obamacare is a classic example. As long as corporate money effectively controls Congress, I suppose I can expect that any attempt to enact change will be subverted into a way to channel more money into wealthy hands while preserving a veneer of hope and change.

  223. I haven’t read all the comments, but I’d like to throw my two cents in on the question of the baker case: the Supreme Court ruled that the Colorado Comission didn’t do their job right, and violated the baker’s civil rights. This is not the same as saying he had a right to refuse to bake the cake. While I’m not sure how I feel about the question of can he legally refuse service, I’m strongly in favor of the ruling.

    I find the way the court’s rulings are covered mildly disturbing in general, since people seem to take a maximal interpretation of the rulings.

  224. > Fkarian, delighted to hear it. In that case European governments should be totally fine with the US bringing its troops back home and no longer financing NATO to the tune of billions of dollars a year. Do you recall how they reacted when Trump raised that possibility?

    How the governments (and established media) reacted is not representative of the people.

    The political elites in Europe are in bed with the US and with NATO, just the way the political elites on both major US parties unite in their support for hawkism.

    That’s not the same as the people supporting NATO. In fact Western Europe (the people, not the governments) has a long history of protesting it. Not just leftists either. There have been such protests for 5+ decades. In the last year alone there were major ones in France, Italy, Sweden, Germany, etc.

    Now, some countries in Eastern Europe (of the ex-socialist block) is another case. A lot of those governments get there with direct help from the US, and the people’s also like NATO, because of their troubled history with USSR (which they transfer to their concerns towards Russia). It also makes them feel like they’re in some “big boys club”.

    The same goes for the huge anti-EU sentiment in Europe. It’s constantly downplayed from the media here and (one assumes) in the US.

    And there’s tons of such sentiment not just Spain, Italy, Greece, and so on. Brexit of course was a huge deal, France had long since had that, and for 2+ decades people have voted down tons of EU proposals whenever they had the chance (like in a referendum, e.g. for the Euro-Constitution).,_2005

    In other words, don’t believe everything there’s on the US media about what “Europe wants” or confuse it with what its politicians say. They represent the average European as much as Hillary would have represented the average American.

    This is how things go here when people get a chance to directly express their wishes:

  225. @ Nastrana – If you asked me that five years ago, I’d have said ‘no way’. But now, I think that might pass. It would be tough to get on the ballot, but I think it would gain pretty wide popular support with the right kind of spokesperson.

    @ Denys – Please re-read my comment. You asked for policies he has instituted. I gave you a list. I never said he was/is a fascist, but I explained why some people are afraid he is. I actually agree with you about George W and Obama. But that doesn’t excuse Trump continuing a lot of their authoritarian policies.

  226. I recommended your article to both sides of the ongoing altercation among my relatives, warning that the lefties might not like it, but it was important information if they wanted to salvage liberal ideals. But both sides loved it! They said it was expressing thoughts they themselves had had and were trying to say.

    And then they went right back to bickering over who was supposed to do the compromising..

  227. HI JeffSC,

    That’s a good analogy. The cult worships the goddess Hillary. It’s one thing to be a yellow-dog Democrat, or even to say “Well, she was a lousy candidate but not as bad as Trump.” You don’t see that with the cultists. They were unhinged when Trump, or his handlers, studied the electoral college and allocated their efforts accordingly, defeating The Anointed One fair and square. And they’re not getting over it. If anything, they’re getting crazier as his term wears on.

  228. I would like to hereby second David’s formulation of Equality Under the Law for the platform! I can easily get my head around it with few rabbit holes for confusion like I (and others its worth mentioning) was falling into trying to vibe out equality of opportunity.

    I put my confusion to you like this, I am a very opportunistic person, and always looking for opportunities. Looking for them like that, I find that they are fickle and fey in every way,some fine and fit for friend or foe, but no good to me; and others are flung far to the fringes but a find fit for me. That being said, I have styled myself as a picker of the fringes, and confess to being a bit green at making sense of opportunities that wind up the hierarchies very far. For those on the fringe, consider, the notion of the government equalizing opportunities sounds like a likely source of bother; besides how could any government policy know a rats rear from a rump roast once outside of its domain high on its hierarchy. That being said, for the climbers of Babylon, equality of opportunity is fine enough. Instead I want to live in an ecosystem with a diversity of opportunities. that way I can do my thing, and build my empire of dirt, with out having to hurt my friends’ hoard of iron or virtual kingdom.

    That being said, equality under the law I really like, because if the law gets involved in a situation I should like it best if they got to treat me fairly like a person though I be on the fringe, just as much as some fancy fellow with well founded support. Let folks figure out their own opportunities, but do not allow folk inclined to hoard opportunities to have an edge in the law against the others. That is a lofty ideal, but one I can think clearly enough, which is a vital feature for an ideal.

    That being said, this change might weaken some of the social egalitarianism of the platform, relative to the previous formulation. So we might do well to spruce up the Civil Society section to stress the space left open to programs of support for the insecure in society. My logic on it is that gubmint is most defined by its role of enforcing law, and that that is an intrinsically risky role, easy to corrupt, and not good at mixing with other duties. Therefore charity, which is an essential role in a humane society, is ideally handled with gusto by other spheres. Civil Society reflects that in my view; and there are any number of ways where gubmint can avoid making a pest of itself in that domain, and even to be supportive with in its more limited roles. Particularly there is a lot of good that can be done by going light on taxes and other official costs inflicted on programs interested in presuming social goods; and by making up those revenue shortfalls by taxing various private enterprises that left unchecked would be sipping out of the commons.

    Together, equality under the law, civil society, and individual liberty imply something I most cherish: Diversity of Opportunity; the defining feature of a robust system.

  229. Phil K., oh dear gods. That’s as hilarious as it is dead on target…

    RandyU, if the situation was exactly the same — if the baker was willing to sell the couple any cake in the store, but not to make a custom cake; if the baker had a religious objection to making such a cake, and could document this; if the baker had an established policy of not making custom cakes that violate his religious beliefs, which extended to other issues besides that one — he would be within his rights to send such a couple to another baker. Mind you, I’d boycott such a store — and indeed, I’d boycott Masterpiece Bakeshop if I lived in Colorado and if my wife didn’t have celiac disease (meaning we don’t patronize bakeries anyway) — but I wouldn’t contest the baker’s right to decide what custom cakes he would make, any more than I’d force a Jewish baker to make a custom cake covered with swastikas, or force a Muslim baker to make a cake shaped like a pig.

    The reason I specify a religious objection, btw, is that we have an established body of case law and custom here in the US that holds that religious minorities are to be given as much accommodation as possible without causing significant harm to others. That’s why Amish families are allowed to homeschool their children, for example, regardless of whether their idea of an education matches that of the state. As fundamentalist Christianity is rapidly becoming a minority religion, and fifty years from now will likely have no more influence on society as a whole as, say, Orthodox Judaism, it seems appropriate to make the same kind of allowances for them.

    Rita, nicely set out. Thank you.

    Samurai_47, oh, I agree that a lot of things are vulnerable to loss just now, and I’ve done what I can to inspire people to get working on some of them. Right now I’m focusing on politics, because here in the US democracy is flat on its back gasping for air, and many of the people who talk about it the loudest are doing the most to get rid of what’s left of it.

    RandyU, then it would have been a different couple. The mess needs to be sorted out. Now that same-sex marriage is the law of the land — and as I indicated in my post, I consider this to be a good thing — a lot of careful adjustments are going to have to be made so that the rights of the majority are upheld without trampling the rights of the minority underfoot. That’s why I was pleased by the ruling: a very limited one meant quite clearly to start a process of developing case law rather than laying down absolutes.

    Hew, his introductory volume Man And His Symbols is a good place to start. (Yeah, I know, but when that was published “man” still had the sense of “human being” in English.)

    David, I’d agree with you. As long as everyone involved is a consenting adult and there’s no coercion or deceit involved, if people want to practice polygamy, why on Earth should it be anybody else’s business?

    IguanaBowtie, no, I’m not. Clearly I’ll want to remedy that at some point.

    Pogonip, I’m overwhelmed with your generosity. 😉

    Violet, I’ll have to do digging through the media sources I’ve read on the subject to find a specific quote; to the best of my recollection, that was referred to by several media stories. If it turns out not to be true, of course, I stand corrected — but it’s still the case that the baker was willing to sell other products to gay and lesbian people.

    Scotlyn, good. My take on the political process is that it’s a form of evolution, in which each political unit deals with changing conditions and the changing needs and wants of its people. That’s why there can never be one set of laws for all time; new laws always need to be made and old ones amended or repealed, because life is a moving target.

    Peter, that last sentence of yours — “250 years later, the spiritual descendants of the slavers are wearing Pussy Hats and complaining about deplorables” — has just earned you this evening’s gold star for uttering utterly unpalatable truths. Thank you.

    RPC, France was of course right, but equality under the law sure beats legally established inequality…

    Matt, and that’s certainly one point of view that can be pushed using the tools of representative democracy. It’s one I agree with, for that matter, for reason of simple economics — an economy thrives to the extent that the average person has enough money to buy the things he or she wants and needs, and when that isn’t the case, you get one economic crisis after another.

    JeffSc, I think you’re probably going to have to wait until they’ve lost a few more elections.

    Will, fair enough. You’re right that it’s also possible to take the ruling in a narrow sense, and it will be interesting to see how the courts do in fact take it.

    Fkarian, to my mind, how the people of Europe decide to manage their affairs is none of my business. That’s why I’m in favor of bringing US troops home from Europe and letting the nations of Europe sort things out for themselves.

    Patricia, could you tell them from me that the basic concept of compromise requires both sides to do an equal amount of it? Sheesh…

  230. RandyU – It is my understanding (which means, no footnotes) that in the segregated South, segregation was NOT a matter of individual choice, but mandated by law. If a cafe owner wanted to seat blacks, browns, and whites together, they faced forceful retribution, either from law enforcement, or the KKK (which may have been law enforcement under the robes). So, there could be no “Segregated Sweets” on one block, and “Integrated Treats” on the next, competing for market share. There was no “equality under the law”, and it was crucial for the oppressed to KNOW that their position was hopeless.

  231. JMG and David,

    This may well be off topic, but the polygamy comments warmed my heart. I’m a descendant of four 19th century Mormon polygamous families, and the shame my grandparents carried about this family history was so very sad. And, I am certain, deeply damaging. They would deny it ever happened, in spite of family albums packed with photos and stories. The family accounts I’ve read about how the sister wives supported each other indicate the practice had its own upsides. Two of them are buried together, deaths decades apart, while great grandad sleeps alone several counties away. It wouldn’t be my choice but yes indeed, there are many ways to make a life in this world. One size most certainly does not fit all.

  232. Wow, I’m offline for a few hours and there’s a tidal wave of comments.

    Re: polling data

    In the 2016 election, post-election analysis showed that the polls were about as accurate as they usually are. What happened was a spate of collective wishful thinking on the part of the left.

    How do I know this? I follow 538, which aggregates polls. They were giving Clinton approximately 2 to 1 odds. If you think that’s a sure thing, I seriously advise you to stay away from any form of gambling. (For people who aren’t quite sure about what this means, 2 to 1 odds means the underdog is going to win one time out of three). In other words, anyone who was paying attention to anything besides their own wishes wasn’t horribly surprised.

    To go back another election, in the 2012 election the Republicans were claiming the polls were skewed against them. In fact, there was one guy who got his 15 minutes of fame by de-skewing the polls. In the event, the polls were right, and the Republicans were the ones guilty of wishful thinking. The noises coming out of the Republican camp on election night were hilarious.

    As far as the rest is concerned: it’s about four months to the election. We shall see who has the collective wishful thinking this time around.

    Re: Health system

    Hear, hear!


    I can’t compare 538 with other aggregators since I don’t look at any other ones. I can say, however, that they’re pretty low maintenance. They post one article a day on politics, the rest is sports. The payoff is the actual polling aggregation, and I consider the effort I spent learning what they did, and more important, why they did it that way, time well spent. (I don’t listen to the weekly podcast unless there’s a written transcript.)

    I use their articles as background. What’s important is the polling trend line, and they are completely transparent about what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. They list every poll they use as well.

    @Mark L
    Re: “Pursuit of Happiness”

    Minor nit: the phrase “pursuit of happiness” is in the Declaration of Independence, not in the Constitution.

    Not so minor point: the original draft said “ownership of property.” The Southern states made sure that was changed because they made property ownership one of the conditions for voting, and they didn’t want all the ways they kept the hoi-poli from voting to get torn down.

    Put another way: they considered “pursuit of happiness” to be innocuous.

  233. jaymoses – I am troubled by the lack of capitalization in your post. Is this a concession to the limitations of your text input device, or is there some subtle signal being sent (a’ la e.e.cummings)?

  234. Back to the theme of the Supreme Court vacancy… As far as I can tell, even the best-case scenario for the Democrats is to pick up enough seats in the Senate to have some influence over President Trump’s selection of the replacement. Could they block confirmation for two years, in the desperate hope that they’d win the Presidency in 2020 and then get a chance to choose one of their own? This is the fundamental asymmetry between 2016 and 2018. Obama had less than a year left. Trump has more than two. The voters cannot elect someone to choose a new SCOTUS justice this year. Do they KNOW this?

    (And, by the way, “Saturday, In the Park” was a blast of joy from my youth. What a classic act!)

  235. @ JMG,

    Thank you for your response! The research I put into reading new sources, watching a video of the baker speak on the incident, and reading the SCOTUS ruling sadly shifted my feelings towards the baker’s actions from a warm fuzzy of, “he’s doing a great job of being basically decent while balancing the many directives a fundamentalist interpretation of biblical scripture would entail,” to the cold prickly of “he wouldn’t even sell a lesbian couple a cupcake!” This is an enormous difference in emotional response. I frankly prefer the warm-fuzzy, hence my asking for a source so I could maintain it on good faith. If it’s a bother to dig through news sources, please don’t worry about it on my account! Of course, as you point out, the baker is willing to do business with homosexuals, at least in certain contexts, which I imagine is important from the standpoint of how this ruling will be interpreted as caselaw.

  236. David-by -the Lake–I agree about polygamy–why does everyone assume it will take the form of patriarch and sister wives? We might see one woman and two husbands, various combinations of straight and bi or both genders, and, so long as property rights and children are taken care of, whose business is it anyway? One step along the road would be to stop the government from writing everybody’s marriage contract. If every couple had to think about what they want their marriage to be and set up a custom contract to reflect those plans we might have less acrimony at the divorce end. As it is, no one realized that the state has defined their marriage until they file for divorce. Years ago I researched a position paper on laws affecting women, and it was a real eye opener. Courts have ruled that a husband _cannot_ agree to pay his wife to care for him–because that is already her duty! On the other hand, courts have ruled that there is no minimum standard of support that a husband can be compelled to provide during marriage. And, of course, every state is different. A lot of this may have changed since the 80s, but who even knew such laws existed? Crazy.

    Scotlyn — that’s what I get for responding from memory rather than rereading the post. Somehow I _did_ read race into your post. Probably because there is so much advice out there directing black people to pull up their pants, marry their co-parent, etc. that what I recalled of your post rang that bell in my head. Of course the media has spent years erasing the lines between working class and middle class by defining class by income rather than social habits. I remember the Boeing layoffs that our host refers to in his home area. I remarked at the time that all those laid-off people thought they were middle class because their high pay had given them nice houses, nice cars, maybe a boat or a ski vacation every year. But when the lay offs come they were standing in the same unemployment line as the janitor. They were just highly paid working class when the paychecks ended.

    Of course some of the habits that help the middle class maintain their economic status are unavailable to the poor. Save? right! Invest? sure, does a lottery ticket count? extra lessons or tutoring for the kids? computer camp? You are joking. Even if there is a free city camp for the 12 year old she can’t go because she has to watch the 8 year old while parents work. On the other hand co-signing on a car loan for your brother-in-law, letting your unemployed uncle live in the garage, even if it violates zoning, taking in a relative’s children while they look for work in another town are all things that lower class, working class, poor, whatever the label, people do routinely. Many government programs disrupt those patterns. Co-sign on the car and it might be counted against you when you apply for aid. Let a relative move in and use your kitchen, you might lose your food stamps, etc. And this social network makes it more difficult for people to uproot and “go where the jobs are” as middle class people so frequently advise. What, and leave Mama, who isn’t sick enough for a nursing home but still shouldn’t be on her own? And so forth.

    One more blow to the tattered corpse of the wedding cake horse. I will be more impressed by the sincerely held religious beliefs arguments when they decline to bake cakes for second weddings of divorced people. Funny how no one seems to have a conscientious objection to the sins of heterosexuals. Yeah, remarriage is a sin–Matthew 19.

    Another sign of the times. In fairly middle class suburb of Sacramento (Fair Oaks) the local library branch is offering free lunches for kids during the summer. And year around the local churches take turns on free dinners: Tues at one, Thurs at another. I don’t know if the entire week is covered,but I wouldn’t be surprised. Those are just the churches I pass. The community center also has low cost lunches for seniors.


  237. Jeff,

    “How can we reach the members of the Ctrl-Left and get them to consider Esc-Center ideas? Is the process roughly like deprogramming a cult member?”

    I was just pondering this myself today. I had been reading a book by Tolle, the enlightened guy, and he speaks of something called the pain body. I had tremendous insights about how this thing works in the lives of myself and many people I know, when my thoughts drifted over to the 20% or so of the electorate who have lost their minds to Trump Derangement Syndrome. Generally, when a person’s pain body gets activated, something has subconsciously triggered them, and so this group of people have been triggered. This means they are less conscious than before, (as is true when anyone’s pain body is acting up), they are unreachable (as is true most of the time when someone’s pain body is acting up) and they are so fully identified with their emotions and reactions (just as happens to individuals when their pain bodies act up) that they cannot see it.

    Generally, when an individual is losing it, you can’t do much more than wait it out. But yes, this is really an important question and I’m going to think about it. Is there any way to help? To speed up the process? Can if be defused so it doesn’t lead to a blowout?

  238. @ Mark L

    I don’t disagree that power relationships must be born in mind. In the social sphere and with respect to civil liberties, though, I do think significant deference must be given to personal freedoms. Economically, I too am left-of-center (my liberarianism is strongest on the social axis), though I tend to favor local and regional programs over national ones generally (tariffs, automation taxes, and resource depletion charges being examples of exceptions). Collective action and organizing can go a long way, however, permitted by free association under the law. Credit unions, instead of banks. Food co-ops. Community land trusts. Community gardens. These are also economic solutions, in the end. I work at a good, socialist municipal utility for a reason 😉

  239. @Robert Sher
    I think the Democratic party is closer to achieving the esc-center laid out by JMG. I criticize the left more heavily than the right for this reason. If the left could jettison the authoritarian thinking, focus on finding common ground and making allies, and give up on pandering to the very rich, it could really do a lot of good. So criticising the mistakes of the Democratic party has more value, I think, than trying to reform the Republican party.

    Politics is a continuum, and your frustration with labels is understandable, but in a democracy we have gather together under some banner in order to achieve our goals. We use labels to help us identify to others in broad strokes where we stant on issues. Labels have their value, but we do need to keep in mind that they do not define anyone completely. Still, using these labels that are widely understood is generally easier than trying to include the entire diversity of human thought and value in a political discussion, so we use them, recognizing their inadequacies.

    How close is the druidic “three-fold-way” to “thesis-antithesis-synthesis”. Are they similar? Do they spring from similar roots?

  240. @onething – sorry, my post wasn’t very clear, especially since I’m a owner of numerous firearms, and a believer in what the 2nd Amendment clearly states as its intent.

    What I meant by “sane” is that the gun grabbers should pursue repeal of the 2nd Amendment, if their goal is to take them away from the general population. At least then the issue would be out in the open, and could be debated on history and merits. After all, the Constitution provides for repealing the amendments, so it would be a path approved by the founders. A mistake, IMHO, but at least the right path.

    Instead we have a situation where the rights provided by the 2nd Amendment are eroded and chipped away at by thousands of unconstitutional laws, which the courts over time have seen fit to leave in place. The end result of this is turning many law-abiding Americans in every other aspect of their lives into criminals as they violate conceal carry, magazine limits, and other laws like legacy weapons being banned and then falsely declared lost of stolen. This frustration by gun owners is growing, causing many to dig in their heels, resent government and anti-gunners, and increasing the polarization of the issue. The conspiracy theories rage now, with the UN and Illuminati behind every bush, and Civil War ready to break out any day now.

    I can’t think of anything off the top of my head that leads me to believe I know different or better than the founder’s thoughts put into the great documents of our nation. But it sure seems the tide of general opinion is turning against many of those concepts, more people are supporting government backed solutions versus individual responsibilities, and we’re all going to have to learn the lessons of history, again, the hard way.

    @Mark L – I’ve seen the success of some “buy local” trends here in the Portland area, but that’s a small piece of the puzzle. The disparity in wealth distribution in the blue cities of the West Coast has many factors in the mix, with the Federal Reserve’s print button and support of the housing “market” as well as pressures from foreign investors driving up housing costs out of sight. Just in the four years I’ve rented the house I live in, it’s value has risen by about 35%. One of the reasons I’m moving back east soon to the Midwest.

    I’m not sure about raising the minimum wage as a solution – we saw many low end jobs disappear in the recent hike in minimum wage in Seattle. It seems to me the better solution is to pop the bubble, and let housing costs more accurately reflect what people can really afford. But I’m certainly not one to solve that problem with easy armchair arithmetic – thousands are moving into the area for work, and the pace of construction hasn’t been keeping or, or isn’t allowed by local zoning. Overshoot.

    Relying on government solutions introduces more inefficiency, control and eventually tyranny. Removing the wealth and influence from the elites with respect to the rigged game in place won’t be done easily, but for longer term success I believe the system “reset” required which will lower the standard of living for all, not just the bottom 90 or 95 percent, is going to come at a cost many don’t want to pay. There is still the vast majority of people who don’t grasp the basics of our predicament, as the end of cheap energy and the American Empire’s decline continues. But as each economic shock ripples through the system, hopefully some of the world’s governments can rally around realistic reactions, as JMG suggests.

  241. Regarding the elitism on the left, two things…

    1. There are some news articles that talk about the precincts that Clinton won comprise 64 percent of GDP, and of course the unspoken implication is that these voters are somehow “better” than the rural Trump voter.

    2. Hillary has made some public appearances since the election, and when she talks about why she lost, she blames Obama, Russian interference (Wikileaks), and even says the Electoral College system should be abolished…

    I don’t think the popular vote is an accurate count anyway. I live in Texas, a state which has consistently gone Republican for as long as I can remember, so I’ve never bothered to actually cast my vote. If the electoral college were gone, I’d be motivated to finally get off my keyster. I suspect a lot of people that don’t live in the swing states do the same.

    Personally it still baffles me that the Democrats are so surprised they lost. They pitted someone who’s MORE CROOKED than Trump against him (Yes, that’s saying a lot!) and were/still are shocked when people saw through the bull. Of course nowadays they’re turning up the volume on identity politics: 3rd wave feminism, critical race theory, and everyone matters but the “white” (I’m really starting to hate that term!) male.


    I agree with JMG; I’m probably in between Alt-Right and Esc-Center and I don’t find 96% of the Q-Anon/Alex Jones stuff to be remotely credible (I’m more in the Ben Shapiro/Jordan Peterson camp). That said, I think the leftists’ obsession with rooting out “fake news” on the internet has given rise to this, because the mainstream (leftist) media doesn’t exactly have a spotless record.

    I do agree with you that it is quite entertaining how well Trump is playing the left against themselves. How that plays out in the long term remains to be seen, though I suspect we have five and a half years left to watch. I’ve been hearing there’s some rumbling that Oprah might actually run in ’20, but

  242. Ottergirl, my favorite great-aunt was a member of a de facto polygynous marriage — she lived with a man and his legal wife, and every scrap of evidence that’s come my way supports the idea that the three of them lived as husband and wives. It’s not my cup of tea, but I find it absurd that a society that claims to value individual freedom would impose a one-size-fits-all straitjacket on so obviously personal a choice.

    John, fair enough; thanks for this.

    Lathechuck, glad you liked the music! As for your question about Trump’s Supreme Court pick, remember that the Democrats have been using the question of who gets to nominate SCOTUS justices as one of their main talking points in recent elections, in a revealing way. When anybody points out that the Dems have done squat for any of the causes they claim to uphold, and so why should we vote for them, the answer has nearly always been “But if the GOP wins they’ll get to appoint Supreme Court justices!!!” They’ve made it into such a bugaboo that it’s not surprising that now that it’s happening, they’re reacting in a frankly irrational manner.

    Violet, fair enough. I wonder if it would work to try to extract the entire subject from the warm fuzzy/cold prickly dichotomy…

    Jeff, there’s some similarity but also some serious differences. I posted a discussion of Hegel’s system (and the distinctly goofy but far more accurate Discordian reworking of it) on the old blog here.

  243. It seems to me that the pink pussycat hats must have struck a raw nerve in the opposition camp. It must have been very effective at raising prickles and getting under the skin (Fore!) since so many people cannot seem to forget about it and keep on and on raising it back to awareness as an example of a mere fluffy girly nonsensical phenomenon, nothing worthy to be remembered nor thought about. What it is exactly that bothers people about a symbolic protest that required a great deal of organization and volunteer handiwork to achieve, I cannot imagine–unless it was the unnerving spectacle of a great many women unified in public mockery of men’s private habits of gratuitous groping and contemptuous attitudes towards women in general. Perhaps those perky little ears on the hats did indeed make a sharp and uncomfortably felt point. Maybe that is why people are so eager to dismiss it–over and over again.

  244. @John Roth – are you saying that the 538 poll results in having their results “about as accurate as they usually are”, prior to the 2016 election, were indicating a toss-up? Hmmm.

    I don’t follow 538, but if using an “aggregate of polls” relies on an assumption that there is an even distribution of slant across the specific polls used as input. I’m skeptical. It also jogs the back of my brain from college stats class that using “averages” across data sources doesn’t reduce, but can actually amplify noise. I freely admit I could be wrong about that though – I hated that class.

    The election was closely followed on the horse racing forum I frequent, and the odds of HRC slowly “drifted” (went up) as the election got closer. She was, however, still odds on at the eve of the election, 1-4 (about 80 percent chance to win, considering the bookie’s juice) by offshore sportsbooks, while Trump was 7/2 to win (about 20 percent chance to win). So the folks putting a $400 bet on Hillary were hoping to get $500 back for a $100 profit, while the folks betting $100 on Trump were hoping to get $450 back, for a tidy $350 profit.

    I’m not exactly sure what you mean by “wishful thinking” when it comes to analyzing election results, but cause and effect IMHO are far more elusive than the talking heads in media would have you believe. For example, the recent crushing “victory” by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez came under a different light after a little analysis discovered that only 9 or 10 percent of registered voters turned out….

    We do have some common ground – in four months we’ll discover more about which way the political winds are blowing. If the markets and economy are still intact, I expect the Red party to do well.

  245. Interesting post and dialogue! As a one-time Constitutional lawyer, I think that attempts to change the Bill of Rights must go through the process of amending the Constitution, and anything else is lawless…But since the Ctrl-Left has now made it clear that “whites”, however that is defined, will be persecuted under its rule, don’t expect such a process to go anywhere, especially if it involves tampering with the 2d Amendment.
    Additionally, the part of the alt-right that I follow has no interest in race, per se, but points out, correctly that multi-cultural, multi-language countries don’t last long, with Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union as the latest examples. Perhaps that is why Martin Armstrong’s AI predicts that the US will start breaking up after the 2032 elections.

  246. Hi Rita… Thanks for re-reading. 🙂

    “Of course some of the habits that help the middle class maintain their economic status are unavailable to the poor. Save? right! Invest? sure, does a lottery ticket count? extra lessons or tutoring for the kids? computer camp? You are joking. Even if there is a free city camp for the 12 year old she can’t go because she has to watch the 8 year old while parents work. On the other hand co-signing on a car loan for your brother-in-law, letting your unemployed uncle live in the garage, even if it violates zoning, taking in a relative’s children while they look for work in another town are all things that lower class, working class, poor, whatever the label, people do routinely.”

    Exactly! People tested in different ways discover different strengths.

    Here’s a little secret that I’ve just discovered about the word “equality”. Everyone talks about how to achieve it, whereas, I realised this morning – I already think that everyone IS equal in the here and now, whatever they are living and facing and however they are living it. Everyone is equal in their command upon my respect for their personal autonomy, self-directedness, their self-willedness. I’m realising that to me, equality is not a thing to aspire to achieve, but a thing to aspire to recognise. (Not sure how this translates into politics, but there it is.

  247. JMG. Your general principles are well written and very consistent with American history, unique personality and the Constitution. Good old American pragmatism and compromise resonates well with me. Thank you for sharing. It would be an excellent guide going forward, as America transitions from global hegemon it once was to whatever it is to become. I agree that there is a portion of the population that meets your definition of ctrl left. Not sure the numbers, but quite possibly comparable to those of the alt-right. I do disagree with some of your interpretations though. For example, Democrats consistently get well over 50% in national elections, yet Republicans usually hold majorities due to less populated rural states receiving greater representation and scorched Earth gerrymandering. Democrats are upset, because the GOP flatly stole a Supreme court justice by refusing a vote on an Obama appointed justice, who by most accounts could have passed for a moderate Republican…at least in more sane times. From my perspective, I saw Obama reach out to the GOP on issue after issue for dialogue and compromise for 8 years. The GOP told him, and by proxy, the people he represented to go suck it. In fact, that was the GOP stated political strategy. And they can get away with it because they have Fox news and Right wing radio essentially gaslighting the American right since the early 1990s. I lived in a rural area and experienced this gaslighting effect first hand in the lead up to the Iraq war and it has gotten much worse. Without dialogue and compromise, there cannot be a functioning Democracy. That is why most Democrats are upset.

  248. Okay on to the second part – how workers councils actually performed.

    The first point is that for actually pulling off revolutions, workers councils work. In fact they may be the only way that does. But in addition to the councils, the other key feature is a revolutionary organisation. This is an extremely controversial topic on the far left, but history doesn’t leaver much doubt about the conclusion. Spain didn’t have a cohesive revolutionary group so it was never pushed over the edge into a clear victory. Russia had the Bolsheviks who could take it to its conclusion. But from October onwards they made a bloody grab for absolute power and once they got it their rule could be described as ‘vigorous incompetence’. They also proved another controversial theory – that revolutionary leadership the working class wouldn’t move beyond trade union demands. The Bolsheviks led the workers to revolution but once they turned bad, resistance against them only extended to peasant revolts and economic strikes. The ‘third revolution’ the anarchists hoped for never even came close. A further example of the necessity of both workers councils and revolutionary organisation is the Arab Spring, which apparently had neither, and look how easy that was to subvert. The Egyptian military played them like a violin.

    It’s when it comes to running things after the revolution that the most serious problems appear. The spectacular psychological changes that revolutions rely on don’t affect everybody equally. Some embraced the new possibilites. There are the inspiring stories of workers reorganising all the bakeries in Barcelona and making them safer and more efficient and the wine industry having logistics improved and potatoes being grown in the shadow of the vines to ease the food shortage. Or the story from the documentary People’s Century where they interviewed a Russian woman who said “I always wanted to build a power station. So I did.” But there was also a significant ‘proletarian identity crisis’ who didn’t know what it meant to be working class in this new world. Some thought it meant they didn’t have to work in the factory anymore and should have an office job. Others stuck with pre-revolutionary attitudes, sulking in the factories and striking over every little thing. Workers Against Work by Michael Seidman is all about this attitude –

    Suprisingly it was one of the most utopian policies that turned out to have the most potential. The subbotnik was a volunteer day of work on Saturdays where people would work outside their usual industries. It was actually expected to fail – people were hungry and it was freezing. But the results were beyond any expectation. The volunteers worked with incredible enthusiasm; it was like a festival; they were singing. And it wasn’t just a good day out, they performed spectacularly well. On the first day they got a locomotive back into service that the railway engineers had given up on. The experience was amazing to all involved – this was the beginning of the Republic of Labour they had been promised. Lenin killed the potential movement quickly with bureacracy and coercion.

    There was also the problem that being in the soviet was addictive – hearing inspiring speeches, passing radical decrees, the excitement as news of successes and victories arrived. It was called Smolny Fever. This wasn’t too bad for the command centre-type functions, but it caused problems for the sort of things that needed to be run either from a quiet room or out where the work was actually being done. Running things like the education system and civil service couldn’t be done from a rowdy hall. Part of this was also due to a lack of people with relevent knowledge. A socialist returned from Europe in time for the revolution and was walking through the Smolny. He saw a sign saying ‘Minister of Finance’ and under it was a man sleeping on a sofa. It turned out he knew him and another guy in the room and they got talking. He made the mistake of admitting that while in Europe he had once worked in a bank. Then he was on the sofa. 🙂

    The system didn’t do well with the more steady responsibilities of running a society that weren’t that affected by the revolution. One theory is that the Bolsheviks made a huge mistake in disbanding the Constituent Assembly and should have left it, mainly as a Ministry of Peasant Affairs, but also let it take over all the steady, boring, unglamorous work the Bolsheviks wanted nothing to do with. That is the sort of thing more parliamentary-style representative democracy is good at. Some capable administrators did appear, like the Commisar for Fuel Supply. He was very good and despite the dire situation very nearly had things under control. The bureaucracy couldn’t tolerate that level of competence and he was soon disposed of.

    So not really a pretty picture. But if you believe as I do that revolution is the only way out of the hole we’re in, we have to find a way to make this work. Fortunately there are a few key things that will cover most of the ground necessary.

    First the nature of revolutionary organisations. There needs to be one but it needs to understand that its claim to being right ends the day after the revolution. Just because you thought there needed to be a revoultion and pulled it off doesn’t mean you’ll be right about anything that needs to happen afterwards. There were Bolsheviks at the time who knew the level of repression they set off was ridiculous. The first Bolshevik Minister of Justice basically said “It’s better to defeat our enemies on the battlefield than in the torture chamber. We’ll take higher casualties that way but we’ll get to keep our souls.”

    Second I’m definitely infavour of getting as much improvement as we can before the revolution, both in terms of reforms and encouraging things like education, home ownership, starting businesses, and developing all kinds of community resources. This develops a wide range of skills in the population and means these resources are already there and can be used as an improved home base to conduct revolution from. I want to be working with a capable bunch of people, not a starving and bedraggled hoard. In some circles this is considered a petty bourgeois deviation. 🙂

    Third and probably most important, the revolutionary organisation has to use, and pass on at all opportunities, methods of organisation that allow people to understand what needs to be done and do it, whilst being resilient to authoritarianism and bureaucracy. That’s why I’m so fond of the Vanguard Method as it solves the problems of the proletarian identity crisis and reveals what needs to be done and how to do it, whatever the specific circumstances. It relieves you of having to find something that worked in the past by focusing on the situation in front of you as it is and what your purpose is. The works about public services I mentioned near the top of this thread take care of a lot of the communication skills part, but I would also add crew resource management as that specifically deals with the performance of teams that have to make fast decisions in high stress situation. A lot could also be learned from the study of human factors – things like the effects of stress and fatigue. I suspect Lenin and Trotsky did such insanely irrational things just after the revolution was because they’d hardly slept for the week before it. It doesn’t have to make them Perfect New Humans, just capable of meeting the demands that will be put on them, and resistant to the most serious known threats.

    Fourth, as the revolution runs on enthusiasm, all the best innovations of the revolutionary era will somehow ultimately have to be taken over by stable institutions that can continue the good work with far fewer people involved so everyone else can go home and get some sleep. This is a very vulnerable point where things can go wrong, but hopefully the previous steps will have set ther groundwork for this to go well.

    Revolution has a weird double existence. On one hand it is a magnificent vision of a new world, and the success of the early days of the subbotnik suggests that is what a lot of people want. On the other hand it is a fairly basic and somewhat grim way of getting rid of one of the most fundamental motivations for wrongdoing in the world. But of course there is no guarantee that people will be good just because they’ve lost their main reasons to be bad. They may even come up with totally new ways of being bad. However if the choice is between the possibility of a new way of life or a definite new dark age I’m reminded of a poster I saw once that just said ‘Socialism: it’s worth another try’.

    Alright people, since we’re discussing how to make political argument and convince people who don’t agree with you, how well am I selling this? Is there anything more you’d like to know or anything you’d like to add?

  249. As for Alt-Right, Ctrl-Left here is a slightly different take on discussing the current divide

    “An autopsy of the American dream”

    Brill’s calls it the “Protect” versus the “Unprotected”.

    “The unprotected are all the people in this country who rely on the government in some way to provide for the common good. They actually need public education to be good because that provides opportunity to their children. They need mass transit. They need a fair tax code. They need someone to answer the phone at the Social Security Administration when they get their Social Security check.

    And what’s happened over the last three or four years is that big swaths of the unprotected people in this country have gotten very frustrated and angry that basically nothing is working for them — whether it’s the economy, or the highways, or the power grid, or the tax code, or job training programs, or public education, or health care. They basically have the sense that the government’s responsibility to provide for the common good is gone. It’s evaporated.

    This is why they reacted, or at least 46 percent of them reacted, the way they did in the 2016 election, which was really an effect of severe frustration — “Let’s just elect this guy who’s promising all this stuff. He seems really unconventional, but at least he says exactly what’s on his mind. Let’s try this.”


    “And the protected Class?”

    Well, they’re the “winners” in our system who don’t need a good system of public education because their kids go to private school, who don’t care about mass transit because they can afford to drive anywhere, and they don’t need public health care because they can pay for private coverage.

    In short, they’re not invested in the common good because they’re protected, and the system is rigged to keep them that way.

  250. @ JMG, everyone

    Well, ideally, yes of course. In practice I am very doubtful. At least, if I’m honest with myself, my inner world contains a constellation of fairly arbitrary warm-fuzzies/cold-pricklies based on inherited prejudices and personal experiences.

    This sort of arbitrary mapping is present in reactions to all things that have emotional charge in my inner world. Of course, I can, to a limited extent, reason my way out of my emotional reactions. I support religious liberty, even for religions that give me the worst feelings, as an example. I support freedom of speech even when people say things that disgust and appall me. So I’m not only blindly ruled by emotions, still the emotions produce my thoughts, just as Hod is emanated by Netzach. For me to heartily support something that disgusts me is certainly possible, but it requires a certain kind of intellectual ballast, which is indeed heavy, and very often quite unpleasantly so.

    My feeling on this is that when people are constantly giving post-hoc rationalizations to their arbitrary emotional hang-ups. Of course there is the possibility of principled thought, but even then I suspect because of a an attachment, perhaps fairly defined as a warm-fuzzy, towards cool and clear thinking. Otherwise, people seem to became polarized into hostile camps of mutually indigestible symbolic structures. I imagine one of the gifts of Saturn is to provide the ballast needed to remain stable in the face of the blind force of hang-ups, by providing the tools, and heft, of abstract philosophy. The extent to which the hang-ups can be dispensed with, and how easily, is not something I am able to comment on with any degree of precision.

    This is actually a very big conversation! I’m honestly not sure how on topic it is to this week’s post. That being said, I am curious to read your thoughts, and the thoughts of others, concerning this.

  251. Kind of off topic but very relavent.

    Dear JMG, as I write this now I am on my 2004 Powerbook G4 – I have decided to take your advice and toss the television and it’s devicive kin back into the fire’s of Mt. Doom. I just dismantled my much newer Macbook, and thank you so much that this website runs, barely, on this piece of “obsolete technology.” I tried to give my macbook a dignified send-off as opposed to just tossing out the window into a dumpster. The difference I find between the Macbook and the Powerbook, is the Macbook wields too much power. I dismantled the Macbook piece by piece, so theoretically it can be reasembled and as a computer repair man, I could do it.

    So I need a more permanent solution I need to destroy one of the vital components. I keep thinking about how hard it was for characters in LOTR to throw the ring into Mt. Doom. All I need do is drill one hole through the logic board and it’s done. I thought of cutting the charger cable so I have no way to charge it even if I put it back together.

    Hold Up – It is done.

    I don’t know how I feel now. This computer I’m on should be more than adequette for life. It just doesn’t do the interent so well. Walk the walk the talk. – Wheeewww RIP Macbook.

  252. @ Ottergirl

    Thank you. When I read your comment this morning, it made me feel as though a light shone a bit brighter in the world. I honestly believe that we can make room for most everyone if we can honor our differences even while disagreeing.

    @ All

    Re race, religion, and choice

    For what it’s worth, i’d like to share a personal (if slightly second-hand) experience on these topics. Some of the specifics of the situation have changed, but I think the point is still relevant.

    Back in the dark age of the 1990s, I attended Clemson University in upstate SC. For those who are familiar with the Old South, I need say no more; for everyone else, “Bible Belt” is not a term used lightly. Nearby, in Greenville, there is a private college called Bob Jones University which is *extremely* conservative Southern Baptist. “Conservative” as in no PDA (hand-holding, for example); as in female students could not wear pants (you could always spot the Bob Jones coeds at the mall — they were the group of young women all in long skirts). Most significantly (prior to the year 2000, when the rule was dropped), students were not allowed to date outside of the race. That is correct: when you applied and checked a certain racial category, that is the pool from which you were allowed to date, and no other.

    My point here is this. People attended this school. Women attended this school. Minorities attended this school. They chose to attend this college. In fact, they went out of their way to do so. Among other things, in part because of the racial dating issue and the resulting conflict with the federal government, the college was not accredited at the time. People attended anyway. (And the lack of accreditation had nothing to do with the quality of the education. Many of my colleagues in the graduate math program were Bob Jones grads, and all of them — male and female — were incredibly sharp.) Students chose to attend this school because they valued what it offered, even if others around them (and in other parts of the country) were affronted and offended by the institution’s policies. So what I guess I’m suggesting here is that we can allow others to choose a different way of life without necessarily agreeing with the nature of their choice, and in fact even while vehemently disagreeing with that choice. It is in trying to make everyone do and be what we think one should do or be that gets us all into trouble, whether from the right or from the left.

  253. Hello JMG-

    One topic that cuts across all political lines in America is the support for small businesses. It is a topic that leads to policy decisions that would bring many people together. However, both Republicans and Democrats continue to undermine this support due to continued preference for large, multinational corporations.

    I would expect this is necessary when considering competition with other Nations, as scale of enterprise is necessary for survival. However, the survival of the corporation comes at the cost of those expendable persons and multitudes supporting its operation- along with direct government subsidy. Monies and effort that could be more widely distributed are concentrated in a few entities instead of the larger community. Trickle down economics. Good for the connected elite, bad for the citizenry.

    When having these conversations though, I think what clearly separates people is their preference for using violence to solve the inevitable conflicts that arise. Talking and compromise leads to most reasonable outcomes but, if a person can resort to violence to get their way, they have an advantage. They engage in political negotiations in bad faith.

    This is the toxicity that plagues our current politics in America- Acting in bad faith. While violence in American politics is nothing new and in many ways the essence of our politics, it is unique this time in history because there really is not an opposition party to the current power and policy makers, and I would argue, a direct result of the growing militarism taking over the country.

    I understand your latests posts as a means of trying to point this out. The citizens of this country need to find common ground in order to address their economic and political needs. Extremists and extremist thinking make this impossible. Examples of this are displayed by the emotional rants thrown at someone expressing support for Trump as an anti-establishment vote or antiwar sentiment met with wave of traitorous accusations.

    All this brings me back to small businesses. Most people want to live their lives in peace. This stance is difficult when your national government is responsible for reigning down death and destruction around the globe on a daily basis. Policy cannot honestly be implemented when these contradictory and hypocritical views are held. There is no larger truth or principle at stake, only force and the use of violence. This in turn pollutes local politics and citizens views and confuses the discussion.

    My fellow citizens understand this, but this war with our own government cannot continue. It is the stealth operation by corporations in order to cement their economic gains far into the future.

    The anger most people express is the frustration at being played the fool. The reality is not that people are foolish, it is that they have limited choices and options. Opening up these options should be the litmus test for political parties and action groups.

    When you get out into the actual community, this is happening all over- by necessity.

    The work then becomes how to integrate these separate movements into a cohesive whole that can defend against destruction by larger corporate interests. The problem is, that most people I talk with don’t see large corporations as a problem. They will complain about them, but still use their products and defend their existence.

    The existence of multinational corporations removed from government control- any government- is a radical form of extremism that people around the world are finally starting to question. It seems the nations or federations that can tame this beast will be a force to be reckoned with and strengthen their own nations and citizens.

    Your latest posts are touching a nerve, but that is a good thing. Dealing with violence will become a major issue in the coming years. I myself would fall into the isolationist camp- both out of temperament and belief. The idea that a nations military should be centered on defense only. That makes taking an active role in American politics problematic. The tides of history have turned exactly against that view. Empire. That leaves working quietly, and effectively in the background, building the knowledge and relationships that will be useful when it all comes crashing down.

    Looking forward to your future writing. Thanks

  254. Hey JMG, I find myself using one of those social media sites again after a long abscence. I’m mainly using it of late in order to test people’s reactions to the hard facts of the policy realm I find of greatest personal interest (transportation), and I just collected some data last night you may find interesting.

    I posted a link to an article about how pedestrian deaths are on the rise in the US since 2009, with currently about 6,000/year, largely due to regulatory/design failures surrounding SUVs (failures Europe has avoided, where pedestrian safety is a vehicle safety rating factor). The reaction to this article split into four distinct camps:

    1. Technocrat, young, on the inside, saying that it is a very complicated issue, exacerbated by older technocrats, and we are working very hard to fix the problem and care a lot about it. I believe this person voted for Bernie.

    2. Liberal “Ctrl-Left,” young, wanting to ban SUVs from the market entirely. I believe this person voted for Bernie. They repost memes a lot from various radical pages.

    3. Conservative reaction to that idea, older, taking the affront to liberty to the extreme and suggesting we just ban everything but walking. Followed by a PM apology for getting entangled. This person may or may not have voted Trump, or voted at all.

    4. Liberal female reaction to an SUV ban, middle aged, talking down to #2 about how many people who really need SUVs would be hurt by such a policy and that your privileged single shouldn’t judge until you have walked in the SUV owners’ shoes. I’m pretty sure this person voted for Hillary.

    Anytime I post anything about the statistical facts of our transportation predicament these are reliably the four reactions that I get, usually discussing emotional reaction to the headline rather than the content of the study. Unfortunately #1 is the only group that can ever see through to the larger systemic problems (agree with me on our automobile dependency being a bad thing, for example), but they still talk down to me because I’m an architect and not a planner. The rest #2-4 don’t seem to process it on that level, and while #3 may have a firm grasp on liberty as defined in your article, the virtues of the Esc-Center don’t ever seem to present themselves in any group except amongst my closest friends.

    I do find that when it comes to environmental/transportation/urban planning policy, issues of liberty get sticky and almost always drive the conversation. I struggle with it myself and have to resist the urge to become Ctrl-Left because there doesn’t seem to be many ways left beyond heavy handed policy, in a bankrupt, failing democracy, to influence people to change their minds about an environmentally destructive pattern of settlement that is supported by public subsidies and inseparable from the culture of The American Dream.

    Oh well, I suppose eventually the hard hand of mathematics or thermodynamics will limit their liberty without recourse.

    Apologies for the long post, but it has been troubling me to be confronted with the political morass of creating the sort of world I want to live in, on the heels of reading of the additional restrictions of liberty that you so eloquently explain.

  255. @jmg Thanks! I’m glad you like my analogy 🙂 I have a question a little off topic, but something that I’d like the nascent esc-center to consider. I was talking to a friend of mine about tariffs, and I said I don’t knee-jerk “hate” tariffs because I’m not a globalist, although certainly I was not in favor of how Trump was going about it. He asked what industries I thought specifically should be protected by tariffs and my response was … food? We should be able to self sustain agriculturally. But as for other industries, I don’t know enough about manufacturing to know what would be the best ones to protect and how.

    If we were doing tariffs “right” what would they look like and why?

    PS I ditched all my social media. Now online I only have my website, youtube, and email.

  256. Well, gkb,

    I’ll tell you what bothered me. I found it to be crass and vulgar, especially the woman who went around dressed as a giant vulva. It was a national embarrassment.
    Then, there’s the hypocrisy. It seems to me that the left just never gets involved with anything real. So it took a lot of organization to pull off? How come they don’t care about something a little more stark, like drones tearing through apartment buildings and ripping people up? Like our endless wars? Oh, maybe because their candidate loves war and likes laughing when a rather benevolent dictator in his 80’s gets a sword rammed up his rectum. And maybe it was because (so I read) the main organizer is a Muslim woman who supports Sharia law. How come, in fact, these protesters are never triggered or offended by the restrictions Muslim women live with, like not being able to go outside without permission? And maybe it has something to do with looking the other way at Bill’s doing a little more than groping women who don’t really mind (as was his statement) rather than all but raping them as Bill did, plus Hillary getting a man off for raping a 12-year-old when she knew he was guilty?
    The whole thing was nothing more than ego stroking. All the money and energy wasted on a feel good groupie thing that accomplished nothing at all, nor was it intended to. People I know who are so convinced of global warming that you can’t talk about it flew in airplanes to be there.

  257. @ Pyrrhus

    As a student of history 😉 I’d be very interested in a one-time Constitutional lawyer’s thoughts on the possibility of (and possible outcomes of) an actual Constitutional convention called by the legislatures of the several states. How would you see such a convention functioning, assuming it were successfully called? How do you think the organs of the federal government would react to being cut out of the process?

    @ Violet

    I’m embroiled in a whole bunch of Yesod-Hod-Netzach work myself. Unravelling those threads is a challenge, to be sure!

  258. Gkb, er, this is an example of what I was talking about in the post — you’re thinking about what those hats meant to the women who made and wore them, not what the rest of the world thought when they watched a bunch of people parading down the street with fake genitals on their heads. Think of it this way: if hundreds of thousands of right-wing men had made hats that looked like the heads of penises and marched in support of Trump’s election wearing them, would you still be giggling over jokes about conservative dickheads a year and a half later? Of course you would.

    Pyrrhus, the Alt-Right unfortunately borrowed the habit of cherrypicking data from the Ctrl-Left, and it shows here. The Chinese Empire was multilingual and multicultural, too, and lasted for well over two thousand years. The Roman, Ottoman, and Austro-Hungarian empires (including in this last the Habsburg monarchy and the Austrian empire, its earlier forms) were equally multilingual and multicultural, if not more so, and thrived for centuries — the latter two would probably still exist today if they hadn’t been dismembered by the winning side after the First World War. A multilingual and multicultural state can be entirely workable over the long term if it has one feature — an effective division of power in which a strong national government manages essential features such as national defense and foreign policy, while quasi-independent local and regional governments manage the affairs of the different ethnic, linguistic, and religious minorities in response to local needs. Federalism is our version of that arrangement, which is why it’s so important to reestablish that here and now in the US.

    Phil K., thanks for this! A very solid article.

    Michael, yep. That’s why I coined the term “senile elite” as a useful moniker for the same drearily familiar phenomenon.

    Ace the Cat, of course the GOP is intransigent. So are the Democrats — Obama’s “reaching out” to the GOP pretty consistently involved him trying to talk them into policies antithetical to their interests — and of course once the Dems started losing ground in state and national elections, they had no reason to compromise and every reason to go for the throat. One positive feature in the massive reorganization of US political alignments now under way is that once the dust settles and a new generation of politics fills the place of the failed Pelosi-McConnell generation, compromise may again become possible.

    Yorkshire, okay, but that still doesn’t tell me how your idea about health care will work out in practice. Have you lost track of that?

    David, that strikes me as a very useful dichotomy — and of course there’s a very close match between the unprotected/protected dichotomy and my wage class vs. salary class distinction.

    Violet, granted, it’s always hard to move from emotional assessments to intellectual assessments — to take your Cabalistic metaphor, to move from the Pillar of Force to the Pillar of Form. It’s especially hard at a time when collective emotions are as overheated as they are today! Nor am I trying to suggest that emotions = bad and reason = good. Rather, there’s a point (or a Pillar) of balance between the two, where a judgment is informed by both, and in a highly emotional situation it’s often useful to go all the way to the other extreme and look at the situation in the pure cold light of thought, rigorously excluding emotional assessments for a time, so as to be able to assess those assessments and see what confounding factors might be feeding into them.

    Austin, congratulations! Welcome to the world outside the electronic asylum.

    David, many thanks for this. Yes, exactly; if you don’t support freedom to choose things you yourself would never want to choose, you don’t support freedom.

    Scott, I think you’re quite mistaken to think that the tides of history have turned against your hopes. The US got into the empire business in 1898, when it went to war with Spain to conquer Puerto Rico and the Philippines, and has been the global hegemon since 1945; now its empire is on the wane, and the multinational corporations that are the economic arm of that empire — don’t believe for a minute, by the way, that those aren’t wholly integrated with the US government at home and the US military, political, and intelligence presence abroad — will lose ground as our empire does. In the decades ahead, as the global economy comes to be dominated by China, expect the US to raise trade barriers to keep its domestic economy intact (Trump’s firing the opening rounds here), and in that context support for small local businesses will almost certainly be a politically winning move. Thus I’d encourage you to learn the ways of grassroots politics and get out there and help build the groundwork for the policies you want.

    Architrains, yes, and with a few changes, those are the viewpoints I’ve had to deal with while talking about a vast number of issues in my blogging. May I whisper a secret? You aren’t as alone as you feel. The mainstream viewpoints are not the only one out there. I’ve found that when I advocate for a point of view that pursues common sense in flat defiance of the conventional wisdom, which is most of what I try to do, it turns out that hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands of people have had similar thoughts but haven’t known there was anyone else out there thinking those things. Stick to your guns, and respond to your critics with calm reasoned answers; explain to #2 why that’s not the best option (thus winning the respect of #3), suggest to #3 that he sit down and stop hyperventilating, and point out to #4 that there are plenty of safer vehicles that can also get your kids to a soccer match — what on earth ever happened to station wagons, for Pete’s sake? — and over time, your viewpoint will find its supporters.

  259. gkb re: pussycat hats. Bravissima! Pat.

    p.s. loved the poetry you sent me. Have not written due to temporary lack of writing hand. X-rays look good – One more month to go and no more cast of any kind.

  260. Darkest Yorkshire,

    I did not understand where you were going with your posts. You seem to be an old fashioned revolutionary? What exactly are you proposing?

  261. Violet,

    My 2 cents. I admire your honesty in recognizing that you are motivated by warm-fuzzies and cold-pricklies. We all are, though we’ve been encouraged to deny it and pretend that our post–hoc rationalizations are what led us to our conclusions, as opposed to justifying them. (I’m painting with a broad brush here so don’t take this as a wholesale attack on logical thinking.) We are motivated by our emotions but we also reocognize that your warm-fuzzies are sometimes my cold-pricklies, and vice versa. Since we’re both humans and, I think, from the same broad culture it’s more likely that a cold-pricklie is just a bit colder and pricklier to you than to me, or vice versa.

    So, what to do when we can’t agree on the warmness and fuzziness? What to do when your warm-fuzzy is my cold-prickly ? To me it’s not so much a matter of removing the dichotemy but rather learning to live with the tension between your view and mine.

    My first inclination with regard to the cakeshop case was to disagree with the court’s decision. (I’m free to disagree, but not to disregard. The SCOTUS is the final arbiter of the law, not me) The more I think about it the more I’m inclined to agree that at some point religious objection gets to trump even a protected class of people. I’m not fully comfortable with that, and that is probably a good thing. If there were no tension between the two PsOV the decision would have been easy. In fact if there were no tension the case never would have come to trial. The SCOTUS is one way of dealing with the tension.

    All those foundational elements of the Esc-Center that JMG spelled out are one option for dealing with the inevitable tensions in a democracy. Another option is to put on a pink hat, march around wiith a snarky sign and shriek as if we were living in a tantrumocracy.

  262. Oh right I thought you were adressing my more generic ‘what the left wants’ comment. The NHS having its own research and manufacturing capacity isn’t part of the big win, but a way to reduce one problem that the NHS is always facing. Conceptually it’s simple, like the decision in the business world whether to make or buy, in this case going over to make. But the implementation would come up against all the political enthusiasm for big business. So you would have to find a way around that and break the back of the entranched bureacracy that is commited to how things are now. The pharmaceutical industry always complains how much drug research costs and we’d need some money on hand on the offchance that turns out to be true. 🙂 But it would almost certainly work out cheaper in the end than what private companies charge. You would however probably get overwhelming support from the workforce and the unions as this would make their jobs eisier and be a substantial expansion of NHS operations. In one sense it’s not that complicated and is the sort of thing that once you get to that point, governments do fairly often (although what they’ve made of HS2 and Hinkley Point C doesn’t really inspire confidence…). It would be a phenomenally popular public policy with the level of pride there is in the NHS and the possibility of it breaking free from big business would go down very well. However the whole thing was just a plan I pulled out of the air after hearing NHS staff make the same complaints on the news over and over again. If I’m going to stay true to the Vanguard Method you can’t do that. You have tyo go into the system, study demand and what actually matters to patients, and build your new system from there. That may include the NHS moving more of its supply chain in-house or it might mean something else entirely. It’s the same course of action whether the revolution has happened or not.

    I was also thinking about these opposing concepts like equality of opportunity and equality of outcome, freedom to and freedom from, and individualism and collectivism. I’ve come to the conclusion they are primarily ways to get people all het up about weird abstractions that don’t really exist (a conclusion I doubt I would have come to if I weren’t a regular here). In the majority of cases any solution would have to satisfy each side of those pairs in some form. Or go the ternary route and find alternative to both.

  263. Scott,

    When you say violence is part of our politics, do you mean foreign policy and actions?

  264. A move by the authoritarian left that continues to bother me has been the massive over-reaction to Roseanne Barr’s offensive remarks on twitter. I don’t think I would still be so displeased if it had been remotely proportional. Instead, the immediate and complete removal of all her work from television is obvious class-based revenge on a epic scale.

    I eventually did a bit of concern trolling at Kos, pointing out that removing nine seasons of the old award-winning show from the airwaves was a slap in the face to twenty million or so women who loved that show. If you think the response I got to that comment was a loud silence, you would be right.

    I think you described the situation perfectly – “that the Crtl-Left uses talk about race to avoid facing up to its own pervasive problems with class bigotry and its own complicity in the exploitation of working class Americans”

  265. Equality of opportunity has come up a lot in the discussion here. Efforts to address social inequality through schooling don’t seem to have worked very well. Though I’m not familiar with specific policies in the US, I’m thinking of efforts to bus kids to better schools outside their local district, after-school programs in poor neighbourhoods, affirmative action, etc.

    May I forward one heretical idea for the druidical fringe of the Esc-Centre to consider? Compulsory schooling itself may be the problem. In ancient societies schooling was usually understood as a way to concentrate privilege among certain classes and professions. The modern West is unique in believing that schooling increases equality.

    If you take the young of any group, herd them into a pen for six hours a day, assign them public rankings, and then systematically deny economic opportunity to the lower ranks, you’re going to end up with a rigid caste system. That was the desired outcome in ancient China, republican Rome, medieval Europe- our system is only different in that it pretends to strive for universal equality through universal competition and ranking.

    In 1971 Ivan Illich argued in Deschooling Society that the only solution was to disestablish schooling in the same way that modern republics disestablished the Church. In other words, stop giving schools public funding altogether. Recognize that most effective learning happens through informal mentorships, apprenticeships, or just plain old living, and stop pretending that certification is the same thing as competence. Finally, make it illegal for employers to discriminate based on level of education, just as it’s illegal to discriminate based on race, gender, and sexual orientation.

    Schools should still exist, as should churches. They just shouldn’t be compulsory, and they shouldn’t have a claim on public funds. The teacher- and doctor-apprenticeship programs you describe in Retrotopia are a good sketch of what education could look like in a deschooled society.

  266. Has anyone else noticed the CTRL-left looks like a revitalization movement? They have the critique of society and argue all of our problems are because people are racist/sexist bigots in bed with the 1%. They have the utopian future of perfect tolerance and economic prosperity for all once everyone embraces them, and the straightforward plan of action: remove all “bigots” from the political and public sphere, by whatever means necessary.

    They also have the obsession with purity that occurs fairly often with these movements. In this case it takes the form of anyone who disagrees with them in any way shape or form is obviously entirely evil.

  267. @ Aron Blue (if I may)

    To my mind, “doing tariffs right” would 1) produce a largely self-reliant national economy wherein we produced our own goods and services with our own labor for our own consumption using our own resources, with international trade being fairly marginal, and 2) provide sufficient shelter to tax automation (to induce the employment of humans rather than robots), to support livable wages for that human labor, and to deploy resource-depletion taxes and carbon taxes and other inducements to keep us within the sustainable bounds of our own resource base. This would, of course, entail a wholesale reconfiguration of our economy and would (properly, I’d suggest) result in a reduction in scale of commercial operations, providing for more localized and regionalized production.

    Just my thinking, of course 😉

  268. Talking about wearing fake genitals on one’s head! (I missed the demonstration in question entirely.) I don’t know how conversant you are with military slang, but one of the service caps, the one that could be folded flat and in some stretch of the imagination could be said to resemble labia minora was commonly known as the “c_nt cap.” As a Vietnam-era veteran I know this to be true.

  269. That Dirtbag Convergence article was pretty good, a little more heady than it really needed to be.

    I will add, that many different subcultures over the last decade have predicted the end of the then status quo. Something all too many had in common is the belief that the end of that status was the beginning of their world view taking its ‘rightful place’ holding the reigns of power. From eco-anarchist to ethnic-nationalists, from old-guard communists to Christian Stateists, from radical faeries to techno-Utopians; from green fascists to neo tribalists; a cacophony of distant voices preached that their day would come when the world which was ended. Now, as there is blood in the water of the old political center ideas beyond the keening of our imaginations rush to the gates of power only to be stuck jammed together like a three stooges skit.

    This article follows two of the most important, anti-humanism and nationalist populism as they vie to be the next American Ideology. Neither would be in my top five of ideologies I would want replacing the moribund Neo-Liberalism which reigned from Reagan through Obama.

    A quote from the article:
    “And so, welcome to the new carnival of American life, in which a class of degenerate moralists on the alt-right claims the counterculture mantle to launch screeds against sexual immorality while clashing with a class of radical bureaucrats, supposedly representing the powerless, who enforce edicts about sexual behavior using the force of the state, brought to you by a new class of oligarchs who own the monopolistic digital platforms on which all of this excitement is processed and monetized.”

  270. @ David, thank you so much for the kind words and understanding! For what it’s worth all the personal work I’ve ever done has been a big struggle, but equally, it has all been more than worth it.

    @ JMG, many thanks for this — it is really helpful and applicable in regards to where I’m at. Furthermore, what you wrote helps me understand how the symbols of the Cabala apply more directly to my own life. Just so you know, I’m on my fourth, or so, reread of Paths of Wisdom and I’ve been astounded by how many vitally important bits I didn’t notice until after meditating on the themes for several months.

    @ Christopher, thank you for responding! I totally get that; to be fair I’m not only motivated by my emotions, they are just highly salient and somewhat painful for me to disregard so that I may engage in serious thinking. As for the pink hats and screaming, ugh; agreed. Not my scene.

  271. Second attempt to post–discard if the other went through.

    @Onething & JMG: Thank you for explaining more fully the points of view you articulated. Yes, I am seeing the protest from the point of view of the women I know who participated. Though I was invited to join them, I did not. I thought at the time that it was a waste of effort, more in the nature of a gay gesture of defiance directed not only at the coarse egotism of the candidate(s) but at everyone over the years whom that generation of women was ill-treated by: every man who derided them as a slut or a whore for doing as men did in enjoying sexual liberty; every man on the streets who jeered and kissyfaced at them; every slight and injury of that sort from the sneers of the football team at their high schools long ago, to the religious right so successful in male-dominated politics at continuing to limit their pay, access to abortion, and everything else inherent in sexism that politics cannot set right. I thought it would be a day’s wonder and no more.

    But I am so often out of step with popular opinion, that I now feel I must have been wrong in my assessment. Apparently, what those women did by simply asserting their femaleness en masse must have more deeply disturbed the psyche of the nation than I realized. Why else do people keep harking back to a throwaway flag of the veterans of the sexual revolution? If it was just a joke, it would be forgotten by now. That is the usual tactic for burying and hiding from public awareness the justice concerns that women have. I never saw any of the visual media news covering the event. Maybe the image of that march had more staying power in the nation’s mind than any amount of rational argument will ever attain. Men do not need to put penis hats on as long as they have the Washington monument, vast fleets of missiles, towering space rockets, complete control of Hollywood and Congress. The powerful do not need to employ the symbolism of the weak. They can simply make sure that 95% of female faces seen on television, commercials, or movies are those of crying, terrified, brutalized, seductive, happily scrubbing, or dead women. Portrayals of real women with real power need not apply.

  272. JMG- Its very late on a Sat., so if you don’t respond, I understand. As to the Left and there inability to win, well there may be a glimmer of hope. And that lies in the messaging and tactics if Alexandria Occasio Cortez. Outspent 10:1, she knocked doors, had a small army of volunteers, and a simple message. Crowley is not representing the interests of his district. Medicare for all, tuition free college or trade school, a $15.00 min hour wage, and so on. The self avowed democratic socialist took down the number four leader in the minority, the old fashioned way, she worked for it.

    Yes, it was one district in a very diverse city, but it is significant. Will mainstream Dems learn from her example? IDK, but we will find out.

    As to the cntl-left, that is what my daughter refers to as purity culture. The alt-right, well that’s a whole different animal. What started and as butthurt white men (mostly) trolling to provoke a reaction has morphed and now has a symbiotic relationship with Trump. Case in point: Stephen Miller the architect or zero tolerance and family separation. Have they gone too far this time? Maybe, but only maybe.

    drhooves asks “Or why is the ctrl-left all up in arms over 2,000 illegal immigrant children being separated from their parents, when there are 10s of thousand of children who have parents in prison or who are trapped in our foster care system?”

    It is not just the cntl-left that was bent outta shape on this. The ENTIRE left, what is left of moderate Republicans (some of whom publicly quit the party over it) and a large number of independents are bent out of shape over it. It is this third category that has the RCCC quivering in its boots as a large number of the independents are working and salary class mothers who lean Republican normally and are in swing districts.

    As to criminal justice reform (overincarceration and the foster care crisis) well, there was good progress on that until the alt-right and Trump blew up the negotiations.

  273. @Onething, I too, think that there are many far better objectives for other people to organize around; yet, alas! I am often forced to let people organize for or against whatever they consider more important than my opinions. I believe that in Europe and most other parts of the world, the sexual prudery of U.S. Americans is very generally laughed at. I suspect the rest of the world was more amused than anyone inside the country. I do not agree that a protest or a gesture of defiance that exercises freedom of expression is an embarrassment for the nation. I think it probably did embarrass a lot of people who do not want to think about how very prevalent and pervasive sexual harrassment is in this country and really, everywhere else.

    There are many things far more embarrassing to the nation in my opinon, starting with the salaries of teachers in public schools and nursing staff compared with the salaries of football coaches, doctors and heads of insurance companies and CFOs of banks too big to fail who get handed down billions of taxpayer dollars with which to pay bonuses to themselves. But the list of things my country does that embarrasses and distresses me is too long to detail. Just take one very phallic example: the history of the Banana Republics and the United Fruit Companies of America is a good place to start.

    The sexual hankypanky that goes on between our Legislators and their pages is not much reported by the press. If you want to consider how many US presidents kept sexual service workers at their disposal, including FDRoosevelt who moved his sex worker into the White House itself, JFK, George Bush the first, and a host of others, you might begin to come around to my point of view that male leadership of countries, legislatures, and companies tends to be very bad for the planet because being at the top increases men’s testosterone levels to a degree that adversely affects their ability to make rational decisions.

    Or at least that if it is okay for men who make and enforce the nation’s law to keep sex workers employed illegally, that it should be legal for all women to make money selling sexual services. The very strong and persistent reaction of people to the sight of what is after all just a bunch of pink wool, seems suggestive to me that a whole lot more is going on inside than the reactors want to admit.

    As for the enviromental cost of gathering to march in symbolic protests that are more or less an expression of exuberance and self-celebration, there I agree. I think all such marches are cake decoration on a wheel of cheese. I make an exception for the demonstrations that were carried on by certain Hispanic groups who all wore the same color shirt on the same day and filled the streets in many cities. That one was organized by Spanish-speakers via radio who took the domestic surveillance services by surprise, I think. I bet there are plenty of monitors on those channels now.

    When couched in terms of personal autonomy, financial independence, liberty of person, religious authority, social influence, and civic respect, in what way are women ‘permitted’ by governments and societies to be the equals in POWER of their male relatives? Or free from male strangers who also wish to victimize, control or exploit them? Are women endowed by their Creator with the inalienable rights to Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness? Maybe in the eyes of Heaven, but they certainly do not secure the full benefits package here on Earth. To at least 1 in 4 adult women, freedom from Domestic Violence may sound less like rioting warlords than time off from one’s nearest and dearest. That ringing in her ears is not from the Liberty Bell but the latest punch in her eye. The women of Saudia Arabia now allowed to drive on their own after a mere 150 years? Where was the real power for them all the while American oil-dipsomanic diplomacy was theoretically there to ‘spread Democracy’? Once their sands are siphoned dry, democracy will spread no farther than the nearest deposit of camel dung.

    Equality of any kind between women and men, adults and children, people and other species of life is not a binary operation to be resolved with simple equations nor the most complex calculus. Equality is a function of Quality, notoriously hard to define and easy to recognize. But I opine thus: where want persists, there Liberty goes to die. Poverty alone cannot kill Liberty nor cripple Equality. But poverty plus contempt plus brutality plus neglect is a breeding ground for futures of tyranny and injustice. Deny women all quality of life and all equality shall ultimately be denied.

    Once, when I pointed out the fact that single, educated Afghani women were starving to death in their own apartments because the sharia police would beat them to death if they went outside to go to their jobs, one conservative man fired back “Other countries have the right to rule as they like! We should not be interfering in other people’s cultures!” Of course, the fact that we were there to secure our access to oil and all never figured in his mind. I often think that the southern fundamentalist Christian milieu in which I grew up would get along just fine with the Sharia crowd. They have a common goal of suppressing women’s liberty and controlling women’s bodies for the benefit of men’s ease. Principles of true liberty and true Christian practice need not be at odds. But where men are exclusively allowed to lead, hold office, control money, and deny women education, it often happens so.

    That, and the disgusted or giggly reactions of people in power to public displays of merely symbolic expressions of female or gay male sexuality explain to me that there is a definite connection in their minds between any demand for a share of political power and having sex. Trading sex for power and power for sex is routine in the upper echelons of power. Most there consider lower class morals to be a joke in any case—a mere superstition.

    Many men in many professions from doctors to musicians have openly admitted that they chose their field of endeavour primarily ‘to get girls’. Politics is no exception. And if women are still to be denied equality of pay, freedom of movement, control of their own bodies, positions of power and influence the same as men have, then it should come as no surprise that many will use sexual activity as a leverage to gain power. The links between sex and power run deep and almost as crooked as the links between money and power. I think the oil and money shenanigans are much more shameful than the sexual hijinks. I think Mammon kills more souls than mammary glands can.

  274. On putting an “End to Empire”:

    As I’ve mentioned several times before now, on one or another of our host’s blogs, my father was a mechanical engineer who in the years around WW2 played a key role in the design and development one of our country’s most advanced top-secret weapons systems, and who later was part of the team designing our system of geostationary satellites. He held one of the highest possible levels of security clearance.

    He and I had a very good relationship of warm mutual respect, and we could discuss absolutely anything in a wholly frank and impartial way. At one point during my early college years (roughly 1960-1962, during “cold war”) I happened to ask him why we had to have such a far-flung network of military bases and missions all over the planet, and whether we could afford to cut them way back.

    His answer was wholly unexpected by me, but very informative. I am sure it was true to the best of his own technical knowledge.

    He said that he wished we could pull back our overseas military presence safely, but that our advanced weapons systems required ongoing and substantial supplies of certain fairly rare metallic elements–he named a few of them as examples, but I have long forgotten which elements they were–that were not found in sufficient quantity anywhere within the boundaries of the United States and its territories; they could only be obtained from other countries. If, he said, some other nation such as the Soviet Union or China ever did manage to get enough control over the overseas ore fields for these strategic elements to choke off our supplies of them, that nation would fairly soon be able to cripple most of our advanced weapons systems, and eventually to render them wholly inoperational. And–remember, all this was in the context of the cold war–that, he thought, would likely spell the end of the United States as an independent sovereign nation.

    This was stunning new factual information for me, data that I would never have thought to take into account as I was forming my own views on the burning political questions of those years. In those days (as now) most of my age-mates approached all political questions as if they were simply questions of right vs. wrong, of justice vs. injustice, of equality vs. oppression. Wow, were we ever naive!!!

    I suppose the geological facts are still roughly the same now as they were then. If they are, then they matter hugely as we face the inevitable end of our own overseas empire. How shall we best get through this perilous transition? And can we manage to get through it even half as safely as Great Britain did after WW2?

  275. @Sansleep

    Interesting conversation… lots of guilt by association followed by a fairly good spirited game of circular firing squad. Still, a good reminder of the idea eco-system around us.

    @ JMG et all

    The relationship of the Alt-Right to the Ctrl-Left reminds me of the old line from Marx “history repeats, first as tragedy, then as farce.”

    The Ctrl-Left reminds is a tragic imitation by contemplation of the authoritarian and prejudiced systems which earlier eras of liberalism triumphed over. Remember the Confederacy, Jim Crow, Nazis, Missionaries, Robber Barrons, and Colonizers; contemplate and obsess over them. Why did this happen? Simple, as modern lines of liberal thought lost the will to actually provide the goods, they had to look to their past triumphs for justification, to view themselves as torch bearers of a noble tradition; then their fore-bearers became unbearable to contemplate because of the comparison, so the focus turned toward the rogues past, looking for an uglier vista than the hypocrisy of today’s society. Worse and worse rogues and then even parodies of rogues were needed to yield a reliably complementary comparison. Today folks even want images of the old villians tore down; folks whose live revolve around devices made by abject slave labor demand that the symbols of the old south be hidden from their eyes, lest they see their reflections. This is tragic, and the root is the felt hypocrisy between the promises that modern politics is obliged to offer to compete, and the felt realities of the consequences of our policies.

    The Alt-Right is not a tragic thing. It is a farce. The tragic element of the first cycle Marx spoke of was the sorrow of something ‘too great’ for this world failing. Consider the ideals of the far left, their Utopic nature, they are ideals such that if they could work as imagined, in their form before being distorted by the haunted mirrors in the modern soul, there is much beauty that could be real. Imagine if you were John Lennon, and could take seriously the ideals of ‘Imagine’; the dream of true equality based on the celebration of each individual in their own right; a society structured is such a way that injustice could find no hold… it is tragic, as each of those ideals are too great for this world, and they fall before hubris when pushed beyond attainable compromise. The Alt-Right keks at these ideals and dances in farce and spoof of even thinking they were of any merit. Sets up opposite ideals, detached from reality to an equal distance, but an opposite direction, and call it ‘realism’, and laugh at the bad taste of their own joke. It doesn’t even try to be great or heroic, or pretend, it mocks those who would try to.

    Generalizing, to your point about Communism and Randianism, Christianity and Satanism, and so on, it is the issue of dealing with a failed map. The map lead you to where you didn’t want to go. “The map didn’t say anything about gulags; the map didn’t say anything about burning heretics; the map didn’t say anything about extralegal tribunals” so the most simple responce is to try to do the opposite of what the map says. This can work if the only problem with the map is the destination; and might be a learned move, from commonly encountered situations where a map is so simple that a reversal of value may work. “Maybe this nut has left-hand threading?” “No, turn the valve to your other left!” But, ideologies are maps of fantastically complex aspects of the world, and in most cases when they don’t work, it is because there are complex, and unexpectedly important, parts of reality that they fail to properly represent at all! If you back track a Chicago map to navigate New York you gain little.

    I am still chewing on the ideas that you put forward, a map if you please. It is really remarkably moderate! I was trying to draft a counter proposal, but my version didn’t vary enough to be worth posting. I did try to formulate a section for Equality Under the Law in place of Equality of opportunity.

    Equality Under the Law. Equality Under the Law means that every citizen receives equal application of the law irrespective of gender, ethnicity, religion, social class, and so on. The Law must not be used to exclude American citizens unfairly from education, housing, jobs, political representation, and the like on the basis of such categories being applied to them. While people vary in their talents, their interests, and their willingness to work, and it’s not the business of government to override those differences in pursuit of an ideological goal; the Government is also not to be a tool and accomplice of those who seek benefits that do not follow as a fair outcome of their own life. So while the government is not a tool to address every inequality of outcome, it is important to avoid policies that enable abuses.

    The thinking is that policies that force folks to be equal don’t seem to work well, but there are tons of policies that actively allow banksters and such to fleece folks under protection of their lawyers. Basically a rich criminal does not get equal treatment under the law as a poor one. That sort of injustice is a key topic to be addressed by any escenter.

    *Less prisoners for things that do not CLEARLY violate individual liberty. Drugs, kinky stuff, petty crime.
    *If a person gets busted doing major fraud… they get the same treatment as a young hood gets if they commited a robbery of similar scale. I bet the fraudulent banker would be considered quite the interesting character by their fellows in super max.
    *Laws that prevent or reverce inequality need not apply. But, legal structures that enable inequality -how much of America’s current wealth disparity would persist in a less ‘finessed’ set of economic laws and policies?- are very much fair game.

    In my personal book, it seems that large unregulated economic structures, monopolies and consortium in particular, are the natural ecosystem of massive inequality. The larger a hierarchy, the more room it creates for inequality; for similar reasons as that a heaver tree (redwood) can have a greater potential distance from top leaf to bottom root than a lighter tree (hazel). I ain’t saying that the Government needs to be putting too much laws against such things; but most those giant systems depend on the Government to stabilize their environment, and that those systems which aren’t providing the goods to justify their antics shouldn’t be too comfortable counting on a just government to carry on with that work.

  276. JMG, cities and even counties in KY are rapidly voting wet such that less than 20 out of 120 counties are still bone dry now. Most often, they start by voting for liquor by the glass at restaurants in the city (easier than full-on wet for the whole county), then follow that up with full-on wet for the city. Then, later, maybe the whole county votes wet, but if the county seat is wet, it really doesn’t matter that much if the surrounding county is dry.

  277. The strong and continuing reaction to the pussycat hats reminds me of the startling impact that gay marriage had when it was first taken up by the media as a good joke. I could not fathom why LGTB and all other blocs would actually want to be married. I grasp the implications for tax, insurance and end-of-life issues, but pursuing marriage rights has not removed the morass of marriage law, a festering pit of pus, mostly harmful to women, from the nation’s books.

    Nor did it do anything to enforce women’s rights to equality of pay nor institute into the law of the land proportional home-equity percentages for women’s currently unpaid household labor. If I had charge of reforming marriage laws, I would sweep them all away and make marriage an immediate and irrevocable transfer of the richer party’s total assets to the party who agrees to bear and/or be the primary caretaker of any children born or adopted to the couple/gamous-unity. The man (richer) would lose his initial assets permanently just as the woman (poorer) loses her marketable virginity permanently. A percentage of the assets would be placed in trust for the benefit of children, recoverable by the woman when she reaches menopause, and at her discretion, returnable in whole or in part if no children were born/cared for.

    Divorce would be a simple matter of signing papers to the effect of being so. Any other arrangement people wanted to dispose of money or property accrued during the marriage would have to be arranged by prenuptial agreements at their own expense. Marriages and legalized sex work would be taxed at the same rate and for the same reason: protection of public health and provision of state-supported pre-natal and post-natal care for children and caregivers

    These are planks in a platform that no politician I ever heard tell of wants to stand on.

    But my radical politics is most unlikely to affect the hourly grinding away of all rights of all people of all sexes that big money accomplishes with ease every single day. I do not try to convince anyone because I no longer think it is possible to do so. When Money shakes, everybody quakes. There is no solidarity ground on which to stand. If people are not locked into their present stances by money, sexual prejudice, or religion, then they are caged by their own cultural habits—the only stability they have left. The best I can hope for is a fragile coalition of quarreling ‘frenemies’ whose mutually agreed policies approximate enough liberty for women and safety for children to make it worthwhile to keep on living.

    Perhaps the cycles of history may bring around again eras in which Honor trumps money instead of money Trumping all. But the propensity of men to sacrifice women and children to their own benefit instead of sacrificing themselves for the benefit of the young and weak makes our species less noble than any given herd of musk oxen.

    Women and children are, and have been for centuries, the very rock bottom on which men build their castles and armories of war. Nothing but a population implosion will undermine the Tower of the patriarchs. Whether it comes by plague, famine, oil depletion, the regular course of nature, or all four Horsemen riding at once hardly matters. Whether there is any commonality of values that women can agree on, I doubt. But if there are any, I guess that the well-being of their own children would be listed first. Why men do not find this value more compelling than money and dominy is, I think, rooted in simian biology and heavily reinforced by culture. But for older men, less governed by their bodily hungers and moving towards death, nothing in the world is so likely to force them into giving due respect to women as a scarcity of sons.

  278. On the discussion of Japan “going under,” my impression from living there is that they are preparing to put up a real fight.
    In return for Japan’s renouncing war, America agreed to provide for its defense, occupying it as part of the bargain. Japan was required/allowed to have a Self Defense Force, but were limited in the training they could undertake. A ruggedly athletic friend who joined the reserves told me that for rifle practice, they were given a gun with no ammunition and went through all the motions, shouting “Bang! Bang!” where appropriate. Really. (Like several other commenters here, I first shot a rifle in my early grade school years.) Quite a few of them will not miss America that much when we finally leave them alone.
    Japan’s pacifist left is numerous, but they have never held any real power in Japan. What has become known as the “nuclear mafia” since Fukushima holds enormous sway. Japan has a scandalously huge stockpile of plutonium, and a certain faction has never been secretive about wanting a bomb for Japan, so I reckon that’s the first thing they’ll do. This is what restarting the reactors is really about–ensuring a fresh supply, because it deteriorates. (There is still also some belief in human ingenuity being able to solve whatever problems stand in the way of it becoming a viable future net source of energy.)
    Throughout its history, Japan did lots of invading, but was never itself invaded (the Mongols under Kublai Khan made an abortive attempt), aside from their defeat in WWII and occupation. With that within living memory, they don’t want a repeat. Thus they will strive for peace with China, but I do not see the latter invading. Too costly and no resources. On the contrary, It’s probably a good thing for Japan’s neighbors that China has the bomb.

  279. Darkest Yorkshire – You’ve asked for feedback, so here’s my response: I really appreciate your command of history and your style of story-telling. Unfortunately, what I don’t see is a reason to think that a future revolution is a desirable way to achieve social benefits, even if we study history to learn from past failures. We might look at the American Revolution as the only non-catastrophic version (if we (continue to) ignore its impact on native americans), but the 18th century Americans had a continent rich in resources to exploit. Consider this hypothesis: Any event (revolution, natural disaster, plague, etc.) which substantially reduces the population in an over-stressed environment will be looked up on as a blessing by the descendents of the survivors. The first-generation survivors will probably remain too traumatized to agree. A generation prior, and three or four generations post, the Revolutionary struggle may take on a patina of noble intent. But, when you’re in it, I don’t see how it can be anything but terror and exhaustion.

    I read a memoir of an old Czech Communist apparatchik (“My Mind On Trial”, Eugen Leoebl), which contained this gem “There are times when the Revolution needs patriots (to make things happen), and times when it needs traitors (to take the blame for failure). So, be a good traitor for us, please?” (Not an exact quote.)

  280. Hello John, good to see another thought-provoking analysis from you. Here’s a few comments from afar (Aotearoa):

    Your centrist thesis seems designed to reflect tradition (rather than aspiration) so I’ll try to refrain from any progressive critique in addressing your thesis principles consecutively.

    Re the principle of individual liberty I agree social reformers ought to be unable to make ideologies mandatory via the machinery of government. Caveat: reformers are normally sectarian, but if they win the support of an effective majority of voters, doesn’t that mean governments legislating on their behalf are actually implementing the popular will?

    Representative democracy is no longer fit for purpose – but I agree Trump’s populism and anti-elitism made the system work for him.

    Re federalism, we’ve seen that progress on rights for cannabis users has been driven by the states while stymied at the top level of governance. Same for green initiatives. Greens charter principle of appropriate decision-making applies: decisions ought to be made locally by those most affected, regionally likewise, regardless which country. So yeah, federalism still works.

    I agree that equality of opportunity is preferable. Equality of outcome is an antique socialist goal discredited by socialist governmental practice in numerous countries through the past century. I also agree with commentators recommending equality in law, whilst noting that the law is a structural part of the residual patriarchy that makes use of the system so expensive as to actively discriminate against most victims.

    “The doctrine of collective guilt, by which all the members of a given group are blamed forever for the actions of some members of that group in the past” is indeed pernicious. Social harm creates victims, and society ought to recognise individual responsibility for such harm done. So I agree with your principle, but need to point out that groups also harm other groups, so this principle is insufficient. It ought to be accompanied by a complement: accountability. Any person or group ought to be held accountable for harm done to others, and that accountability ought to be enforced by law.

    Your principle of civics, in “which Americans founded voluntary organizations to address social problems” strikes me as essential for any healthy society. Restoration of the commons will likely only be achieved if governments partner the private sector via voluntarism, so a synthesis of your traditional organisations and new ones designed to fill in the gaps is desirable.

    Calls for an end to US imperialism having tailed off in recent decades, your renewed advocacy for an end to empire will appeal to elderly nostalgia freaks all over the world (grin), and I agree that when “the cost of maintaining the empire outstrips the benefits” is the crucial point to make the shift. Not sure we’ve reached that point though. As long as the Chinese govt pursues its own imperialism, a countervailing force will be an essential component of our current geopolitical scene. I’m presuming the sociopathic inclination to recycle their millennia-old `our emperor is the world’s pivot’ stance is obvious to readers? It’s almost prehistoric (having been derived from the polar axis). Tibetan genocide and their organised repression of indigenous minorities is the ongoing consequence…

    And finally, realpolitik as the preferable political praxis is sensible, since politics is traditionally said to be the art of compromise. Principles do have an essential place in any political debate (as reference points, values indicators) but outcomes of any political process ought to reconcile divergent interests. So we could also reference our common interests as the normal basis on which to proceed.

    That last point is, of course, applied holism – the best way to finesse the polarising toxic effect of political culture wars such as your country is still experiencing.

  281. Another thought. They are not illegal immigratnts. They are asylum seekers. Refugees. A special status defined under the UN convention on refigees. A treaty, incidentally, ratified by the Senate, which is the Law of the Land. It does not specify that refugees and asylum seekers present themselves at approved checkpoints. They deserve a hearing.

    This is a policy decision.

    And, IMO, a barbaric one.

  282. Phutatorius,

    As a fellow veteran I had the same thought. I chose to keep that little gem of military slang to myself.

  283. Actually Dennis Frank, what is really sociopathic is accusing the Chinese of committing genocide while the US Empire is actively and provably engaged in the genocide in Yemen.

  284. Now that I think about it, accusing the Chinese of all the nasty things that Americans are actually doing right now and on a far larger scale is probably just another example of the kind of psychological projection that has become depressingly commonplace amongst the intellectually dishonest.

    The US Navy actively blockades food shipments to Yemen. The US MIC provides military equipment to Saudi Arabia to continue its genocidal war on the Yemenese. The US imprisons more of its own citizens than the worst dictatorships on earth, on an obviously racially motivated basis. So, no offense Dennis, but it is quite obvious to me that you are guilty of projecting the worst crimes of the US Empire on China.

  285. JMG: ‘As long as everyone involved is a consenting adult and there’s no coercion or deceit involved, if people want to practice polygamy, why on Earth should it be anybody else’s business?’

    The obvious reason is, because if one man has two wives, another man has to go without, and vice versa for polyandry.

  286. JMG – “What ever happened to station wagons?” What happened, was “corporate average fuel economy” standards.

    When the Federal government decreed that the average miles-per-gallon figure for all of the cars sold by a manufacturer had to meet a shrinking number, the industry responded by saying “Let them drive trucks”. And consumers responded with “We like driving trucks!” especially if the alternative is small cars. And, as trucks proliferated, more consumers said “We need to drive a truck, just to defend our children against all of those other truck drivers around us.”

    Now, the fact is that I drive a 2003 Saturn station wagon, and have used it twice in the last month to carry items that were too big for my friends’ vehicles: two 3×10′ sheets of plywood for one, and a queen-size mattress for the other. My fuel consumption is in the high 20’s. But ten years ago, we were rejected by the other parents in a private-school carpool because our vehicle just wasn’t “safe” enough for the their children! They all drove trucks (SUVs), of course.

    This vehicle is not used for my daily commute, though. To get to work, I walk for about ten minutes to a convenient place to be picked up by a co-worker who lives farther away. This seems to be considered an extreme form of carpooling, to take so much trouble to travel a mere 20 miles each way.

  287. Joan from Michigan wrote:

    “If we, for instance, choose a way of life that does not involve biological reproduction, such as same sex marriage, the social conservative sees that choice harming our biological extended family as we refuse to do our part to carry it forward into the future. More than that: we set an example that makes deliberate childlessness more acceptable throughout our culture.”

    If that was their objection to same sex marriage and they stood by it, I wouldn’t have a problem with their objection Joan BUT its not. Conservatives hate gay people, they make them scared and their leaders use that fear to push their agenda and to get power over people to make them conform to their narrow view of acceptable life.

    At 61 if I were to choose to get married to a woman of my choice, the conservatives would support it, even though such a union would certainly be childless and do nothing to further my biological heritage.

    As I understand it there is very little in the Bible against homosexuality, a few passages. I wonder how many passages there are about adultery and divorce? More? And yet conservatives don’t seem to be marching in the street to overturn the right to a divorce.

    Having said that, I actually support the baker. I think you should have the right to choose who you serve. Let the marketplace support or punish you for that. I know that I personally would not shop at a baker with those views, just as I now boycott Hobby Lobby for their stand on women’s reproductive freedom.

  288. My prediction regarding the Supreme Court is that it would be entirely within Trump’s modus operandi to not repeal Roe vs. Wade, but to basically hold it hostage. In this scenario, whenever he comes under political pressure, he will announce some drastic sounding “reform” to abortion in order to drive his opponents to distraction, but in reality this will probably only result in some relatively harmless tinkering at the edges.

    This is because Roe vs. Wade is more useful to him alive than dead, and it will require overwhelming pressure from his own side in order for him to actually repeal it.

  289. This appeared on Twitter this week from some who says they are a robot builder in Silicon Valley and it meshes with this discussion. source: Anton Troynikov @atroyn

    Things that happen in Silicon Valley and also the Soviet Union:

    – waiting years to receive a car you ordered, to find that it’s of poor workmanship and quality

    – promises of colonizing the solar system while you toil in drudgery day in, day out

    – living five adults to a two room apartment

    – being told you are constructing utopia while the system crumbles around you

    – ‘totally not illegal taxi’ taxis by private citizens moonlighting to make ends meet

    – everything slaved to the needs of the military-industrial complex

    -mandatory workplace political education

    – productivity largely falsified to satisfy appearance of sponsoring elites

    -deviation from mainstream narrative carries heavy social and political consequences

    – networked computers exist but they’re really bad

    – Henry Kissinger visits sometimes for some reason

    -elite power struggles result in massive collateral damage, sometimes purges

    – failures are bizarrely upheld as triumphs

    – otherwise extremely intelligent people just turning the crank because it’s the only way to get ahead

    – the plight of the working class is discussed mainly by people who do no work

    – the United States as a whole is depicted as evil by default

    – the currency most people are talking about is fake and worthless

    – the economy is centrally planned, using opaque algorithms not fully understood by their users

  290. @Ben I agree with you that no rational American Citizen wants authoritarian policies to continue. Trump detractors never said anything about these policies under Bush or Obama and its really childish quite frankly to call Trump and his supporters names rather than talk about federal government overreach and horrible policy making.

    Part of the difficulty is we have be told over and over again that our fellow citizens are stupid and unable to make decisions. We see this is how it is reported on health issues people have, drug use, guns, household debt, religious practices, children/parenting. The government must do something! Schools must teach children not to do these things! People must report on their fellow citizen by calling the police! Experts must weigh in and give their advice so we know what to do!

    Its quite ridiculous how little we trust each other and work with each other one-on-one.

  291. @Dylan Your comment on education has me jumping up and down that someone else gets it.

    “If you take the young of any group, herd them into a pen for six hours a day, assign them public rankings, and then systematically deny economic opportunity to the lower ranks, you’re going to end up with a rigid caste system. That was the desired outcome in ancient China, republican Rome, medieval Europe- our system is only different in that it pretends to strive for universal equality through universal competition and ranking.”

    Exactly! When the system was established it was for habit-training and to sort the fit from the un-fit and to make sure those deemed un-fit were shamed into never marrying, and not reproducing with the good breeding stock.

    Public schools were universally rolled out and mandated attendance by state laws in the late 1800’s, we see its effects in how wide the gap is now between those who live in the ghettos and those who live in the chic suburbs. What was a fluid society where people could go between poor and rich is now rigid in its caste system. One can tell from how someone walks and talks, and what their first name is, what strata they are from.

  292. @ Patricia M: Glad you liked the poems and happy to hear the wrist bones are getting better! Were there really hundreds of thousands of marchers wearing the hats? I had no idea. For each one marching in person there are 100 others who *fundamentally* agree. No wonder folks think their hat-trick is worthy of constant “counter” attack. I have to admit that the women who marched saw further than I did and judged more correctly what was going on. They recognized yet another attempt to dismiss women’s potential as a unified political force and responded in the way they knew best. They knew that it was not about pussy-grabbing but power-grabbing. They came together as women, standing up on behalf of other women, knowing in their heart of hearts that they would be mocked and ridiculed for it — as they have been all their lives -–- despised not only by their powerful male peers by whom they were used, abused, and betrayed on every front, political, parental, and personal; but also by their own sons and daughters for whom they sacrificed and suffered in ways incomprehensible to those who were freely given the chances their mothers never had. They took one look at that oh-so-familiar configuration of male malice and spite and said once again “I will be true to myself no matter what you think about me. And I will join with other women who think like me. And we will not be deterred by your poisonous, self-serving hatred.” What courage they had and still have. Much braver than me! I have to take *my* hat off to them.

  293. @Darkest Yorkshire: I heard that pre-revolution attempts by small groups of idealistic aristocratic upper class Russians to set up schools to teach peasants how to read, write, do math, etc. were met with nearly unanimous rejection by the peasants whose expressions of contempt included obstinate faking of dullness, nasty practical jokes and even murder of the people who came out of a sense of personal responsibility to do what they could to rectify the imbalances and injustices of the system they were born to rule. That the peasants assumed the would-be-teachers were out to trick, trap or harm them, and responded to all local level attempts at reform with the traditional defensive measures of the weak.

    Is it now the standard policy among socialist thinkers that reform is harder to achieve than revolution? Do practical socialists aim for the unifying effect of revolutionary fervour (however dangerous it is to rouse) because strong emotional heightening (Wage War on Poverty!) is needed to jolt working class and classes with even lower levels of privilege out of their habitual postures of hunkering down in defense? Or is there some less drastic method that is recommended for high-privilege people to engage in realistic reform?

    Does micro-financing for mini-capitalist enterprises with peer support groups for payback of loans fit into the socialist model? How does socialism address the double and triple burdens of women and girls who are disadvantaged by being shut out of education, marketplace, land ownership? How does socialism treat the unpaid (housekeeping) or underpaid (menial, nursing, sweatshop) labor of billions of the world’s women?

    Some women are even bullied out of their fair share of water by males who force them out of line at the pump, take the women’s allotment of water and require the women they displaced to buy the water back from the thieves. Does socialism have an established program of practical fieldwork for getting clean water to women and children despite the cultural objections and casual theft of men?

    Does socialism consider that women’s capacities for supplying sexual pleasure and/or breeding children is personal capital that they can monetize or not as they choose? Is sex work legal and regulated only for the purposes of public health and safety? Does socialism allow sex work to be heavily taxed, like alcohol and recreational drugs, to fund walk-in programs that provide all women with no-cost pre- and post-natal care, funds health workers and epidemiologists to ensure containment of veneral diseases and sponsor programs to provide training for girls and young women that pay nearly as well as sex work in fields such as plumbing, electrician, solar power, herbal gardening, or what have you?

    Is there any attempt by socialist policy to ensure that women actually, and in real time, get equal pay for work done outside the home, or higher rates of home equity in their own names for doing the lion’s share of the work of cooking, cleaning, child caring and other work of maintaining the homes’ livibility? Does socialism encourage and subsidize with tax relief the practices of multi-family occupancy, and joint home ownership, perhaps with land trust stewardship to prevent speculative house-flipping schemes?

    Does socialism have an in-place model of response for providing rough, caravaserai-style housing, water, and waste disposal for frequent incursions of masses of migratory people displaced by war and economic upheavals, with some attention to basic health care and rapid response to infectious disease carriers, a.k.a plagues? If so, I am definitely interested, because capitalism certainly does not. And how would these mobile camps be funded and policed? You know in Africa there are refugee camps where the men assigned to guard the inhabitants and distribute donated supplies withhold soap and water and other basic goods unless young women ‘buy’ these ‘gifts’ by providing the men with free sex. And that the Ebola virus lingers in the sperm of male survivors for months after apparent recovery. So it might be in the best interests of any form of government to make sure that camp policing is not Stanforded into a virtual prison.

  294. @JMG

    I think I am finally beginning to understand the point you have been hammering home in almost all of your political essays.

    In my own words:

    We as humans are free to craft our own visions of an ideal society, based on whatever virtues or morals we hold dear. We are equally free to condemn those who disagree and – if a majority share our views – to pass laws to punish or imprison those whose actions are contrary.

    That said, no amount of condemnation or prison time is going to change the minds of our opponents, and is instead likely to accomplish exactly the opposite – a retrenchment into closedmindedness. So…no matter how much we may want to condemn others, it is in our own best interest to find common ground and have constructive conversations where we present a strong persuasive case that our desired values/policies would benefit them as well, and their values/policies are ultimately either self-harmful or contradictory to their own moral compass.

    The only way to resolve an ideology conflict without conversation and compromise is by removing those who hold conflicting views from the physical plane, i.e. war and genocide. Which no one really wants, most especially those who claim to oppose fascism.

    Therefore, it is not helpful to convince ourselves that we are right and good and the other side is wrong and evil – even if we can defend our case with a strong body of philosophy and historical comparisons. Ultimately, any strategy that does not include finding common ground with our opponents is not effective, and in the context of making history effectiveness is all that really matters.

  295. @JMG > Fkarian, to my mind, how the people of Europe decide to manage their affairs is none of my business. That’s why I’m in favor of bringing US troops home from Europe and letting the nations of Europe sort things out for themselves.

    I fully agree. I was only addressing an idea that seems prevalent in some US circles, that Europe needs/is desparate for/wants USA’s protection and NATO bases, or that it can’t pay for its own defence, etc.

    Many of us here in Europe are against all of those things (as many were against the EU itself), but we don’t get our voices heard, the same way the average American doesn’t.

    In fact, most of us don’t think Europe *needs* any defence in the first place, from the kind of countries that are used as an excuse for such defence. For the past 100+ years it’s we (well, our governments and elites) that are on the offence against them.

    Of course we still need to take care of terrorism domestically and such, but that’s a much minor concern, that can be perfectly handled by the police (not even army use is needed).

    And we wouldn’t have had that problem if we haven’t helped destabilize several countries, including Libya, Iraq, and so on.

  296. @JMG

    Remember what I said last week, about how anyone who does not subscribe to 57 genders will not be able to practice medicine or law?

    I was only mistaken about the timing. I thought this was going to happen in the future. It just happened in the UK last week:

    Government drops doctor who says gender given at birth

    Of course, the Telegraph spun this as a matter of “backward Christian belief” as opposed to self-evident biological reality. Gender-bending pseudo-science is now the new Lysenkoism.

  297. It is piling insult on top of injury to castigate underclass parents of whatever ethnic background–no need to single out African-Americans here–for not maintaining stable husband/wife families when the economic basis and support for such families has been yanked out from under them through no fault of theirs. As for why women have children without a plan for their support, that is called human nature. It has been shown and observed throughout the world that increasing education and opportunities for women reduces the birthrate. Why does anyone suppose that that phenomenon would not apply in our own impoverished communities? I can tell anyone who wants to listen that from my own experience, while middle class salarycrats might moan and deplore underclass families, what those same salarycrats do not want to see happen is scrappy, determined children of the underclass competing with their own pampered offspring.

    The objection which have always had to the far left, or New Left as it used to call itself, was and is that lefties can’t figure out what country they inhabit. The experience of living in even NYC will never equal that of living in even the smaller European cities for the simple reason that American cities are not a thousand years old. The USA is not Europe West. Never has been and never will be. I think the fall of Communism was a body blow from which the New Left and its successors has not yet managed to recover. Not only were the Communist govts. of Europe shown to be not the end of history, and socialist society even more environmentally damaging than even our own, but lefties were shown to have been wrong even in small matters. The Rosenbergs really were guilty as charged, for example, although they should never have been executed–other more significant members of the ring received long prison sentences.

  298. @dehooves
    Re: polling

    Actually, 538 doesn’t use a raw average. It uses a fairly sophisticated statistical model. As one example, it adjusts the results of each polling organization for “house effect,” that is, persistent bias in one direction or another. Rasmussen Reports, for example, has a well-known persistent bias of about 5 to 6 points in the Republican direction. Most pollsters have similar biases (in both directions), but usually not that egregious. So, for example, in the last few polls, Rasmussen reported 47% for Trump, adjusted down to 42%, while YouGov reported 43%, adjusted up to 44%.

    It also scores pollsters for reliability based on their methodology, and uses that to assign weights when doing the averaging. For example, Ipsos gets a B+, Rasmussen gets a C+, YouGov gets a B and SurveyMonkey gets a D-.

    Even so, at least one aggregator who uses a raw average still gets fairly close, so it seems that systematic biases and noise do cancel each other out, at least for this polling.

    Primaries historically have low turnout. Even so, that was unusually low, and in that one the Republican does seem to have been carrying a slingshot to a gunfight. There are similar issues with the special elections, which is why my expectations are that the results will be closer to the historic trend: the party out of power makes modest gains.

    @Darkest Yorkshire
    Re: Revolutions

    Thanks. That put together a lot of things I’d noticed or suspected.

    @William Fairchild
    Re: disproportionate response

    There are several reasons for the disproportionate response to the deliberate breaking up of families by the INS. One is that there’s an actual target to protest instead of a vaguely amorphous “the system.” When you’ve got systemic issues, people seem to be baffled and go elsewhere in droves.

  299. Delenda Est – It’s impossible to compare the prison populations of the US and China, because China regards the number of executions as a state secret, but is believed to conduct them in the thousands each year. Source: If you could convert the number of executed per year into growth in the imprisoned-for-life population, you might find that China had a greater rate per 100,000 than the US, but we just don’t know.

  300. JMG – To pick up on a question you posed way up thread:

    On a possible free medical system for the US, I think the best fit would probably be something similar to the Canadian system. Culturally, we Canadians are sort of Americans Lite, so it is not as big a stretch as the Nordic and EU models. We already share the same supply chains and infrastructure, similar levels of corporate avarice and corruption and so on, but even with this, the system is still demonstrably less expensive and more effective in many health outcomes than the current US system. I expect a US version would yield the same results or better.

    It definitely has some defects – dental is not covered, PharmaCare is spotty, and it is hard to find a traditional GP in some areas, so we tend to use clinics – but it is widely supported all along the political spectrum.

    The system is largely federally funded but provincially (state) delivered, which would be ideal for the US: Regional values and archetypes could have full expression… Texas could offer surgery without anesthetic, Oregon could substitute yoga for physiotherapy, and so on!

    Of course it could not be marketed as ‘Canadian’ due to the now-unshakable belief by some Americans that we have ‘medical death boards’ and force people to stand in line and get vaccinations while making them sing the Internationale, and paint our hospital corridors that yucky green colour and so on, but if a similar system were packaged in the US as something like ‘Veteran’s Benefits for All’ I think it might be very widely supported.

  301. jbucks – From last week’s discussion on “green dehumidification” … you mentioned using a bucket of rock salt to remove humidity from the air. Let’s think about that for a moment. Salt does absorb water. We don’t know exactly how much, but we can be absolutely certain that it will not absorb more than would be required to fill the bucket, right? If it was as effective (though it certainly isn’t) as the refrigerant-based dehumidifier in my home, the bucket would be filled with salty water in about three days. Now what? Either dump it (where?) and start with a new bucket, or drive the water off with heat to reconstitute the dry salt. Heating water requires energy, which could be raw solar, if you have lots of sunshine and a big flat pan to expose the salt water to fresh, dry air. It’s going to be a labor-intensive process, obviously.

    I’m looking at a “DIY dehumidifier” web page, which incorrectly says that “water” may drain out of your calcium chloride. That wet stuff draining out is actually calcium chloride solution. Table salt (NaCl) and silica gel will absorb water, but not enough to liquify themselves.

    There actually are efficient processes for extracting water from air into a chemical solution in one place, and driving it out as waste or as a resource in another place, but they aren’t simple or cheap.

  302. Dear A reader, your point regarding polygamy and polyandry is one reason for the success of the Christian faith in the late Roman Empire and surrounding countries. Christian morals forbade not only cousin marriages, as noted above, but all sexual activity outside of marriage, including concubinage, use of prostitutes, serial monogamy, and even sexual use of one’s slaves, a practice which was simply taken for granted by the Romans. Granted these strictures were much honored in the breach, but even so, under Christian morals, every man could hope to have a wife and family, and thereby a personal stake in the success of his country or city. Under the manorial system, referenced above, every man on the manor had his fief, which might be land or some task like fletching, from which under most circumstances he could not be dismissed–although a fletcher might be hanged for making bad arrows–which enabled him to support a family.

  303. Dear William Fairchild,
    How many of these ‘refugees’ do you know personally?
    I work and sometimes play with several people from the groups I think you speak of, and none of them are refugees requiring assylum. Those I know who are here illegally readily admit that they are motivated by economics.
    I’m not saying there are no refugees crossing into the US illlegally, but your generalization is completely outside my lived experience.

  304. GKB–If the men bully and rape the women in African refugee camps (or refugee camps anywhere) the obvious solution is to train women to be the armed guards.

  305. Hello gkb,

    You have written a lot and I will attempt some sort of response. Perhaps one by one, as I think you’ve answered back 3 times. At 2:18:
    Here I am a bit frightened as you admit if you had power you would enact very cruel legislations against a group you seem to have a lot of bitterness toward. Speaking of the USA, there is not inequality of pay. It’s a rallying point, but just isn’t true. Men on the whole make more money than women on the whole, but this statistic is not based on women getting paid less for the same jobs. It’s based on the fact that men do many jobs that women do not.
    You say women are not paid for household labor. This is a weird way of looking at it. Are women the employees of their husbands? Does this not take the monetization of everything to a new level? The home economy and the worldly economy are overlapping but different spheres. You also assume that if a couple are getting married, the man will be the richer. This is just as often not true, nor is the difference likely to be such that he has “assets” to be invested. You must be upper class!

    Where is the propensity of men to sacrifice women and children? Isn’t it the opposite? Haven’t men always sacrificed themselves for women and children? How many men would take a bullet for their wives and how many wives would do so for their husbands?
    And I’m not saying women should – in general women are the more valuable sex and men are more disposable. But it would be truly grand to at least have some gratitude for it.

  306. John—

    I was puzzling over a comment you made further up-thread, when you expressed relief that the sputtering denunciations were finally coming in. You mentioned among these, “Where is the JMG we thought we knew?” I suppose I’m puzzled because anyone who’d paid the least bit attention to your writing over the years would see this post and your comments in this thread as entirely consistent with the basic position you’ve staked out previously. Am I missing something, or is this the episode of projection I suspect it to be?

  307. US imperialism is an historical fact, Delenda. I’m aware that it originated in the 19th century. The difference with China’s imperialism is in style: covert vs overt. I was unaware that holocaust denial had morphed into Tibetan genocide denial.

    If you have an open mind, you need only google genocide in Tibet to encounter more reports of it than you’ll ever have time to read. I’ve been encountering such reports in the headline news & in history books since I listened as a child to the enthralling escape of the Dalai Lama on our radio every night for about two weeks as his party was chased through the mountains by the communists.

    Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn won the Nobel prize for his writing of life in Soviet concentration camps based on his own experience (he was an artillery commander fighting the Germans in WWII, but later criticised Stalin in a letter to someone). He described the communist regime in Tibet as “more brutal and inhuman than any other communist regime in the world”.

  308. Hello gkb, @ 12:11

    I just don’t know if I have ever seen quite this big of an onslaught of…perhaps I should avoid the H word, toward men. I wonder if you might try an exercise in which this level of loathing and anger were directed toward women in print? How well would that go over?
    One thing that stands out to me as I watch the words of the left is that they seem to be filled with passionate intensity for ideals which may be fine so far as they go, but in the real world human beings are quite flawed, and to varying degrees carry unhealthy programs in the subconscious minds which cause them to act out, lose control of their emotions sometimes, become addicted, make poor choices, treat one another horribly, and the list on. Have you considered that both genders of the species are roughly equal in how troubled they are in their psyches? And all such troubles come out in ways that are hurtful and damaging to other people. Women are not an exception. As one comic put it, an altercation with another man could be a simple matter of having your arm cut off and thrown in the river. Not a big deal. But a woman can eviscerate your soul in a way that you never recover.

    You think women have no power and I see a huge amount of victimology in your outlook. Also some false stats. Women hit men about as often or slightly more often. Yes, they are less dangerous but I have personally known 2 men who were hit by girlfriends and it is a special kind of helplessness when you’re afraid to even so much as hold her wrists so that she can’t keep beating you in the face because even that light maneuver could get him in trouble. Who has the power here? The other one said he used to curl up on the floor and wait for her to stop. And for child abuse, women do it more often than men. Of course, women are far more often in close quarters with the varmints and therefore more exposed to frustration, but there it is. Because hitting a woman is absolutely forbidden to a decent man, I have a special contempt for women who hit men.

    I don’t know how serious any threat is to women’s reproductive rights. I don’t think Trump is interested, but Pence might be. But in the main, much of what you say downright puzzles me. I don’t see women in today’s America suffering injutice at all, and in several ways have the advantage.
    Now, you say the great majority of portrayals of women in the media are negative stereotypes, but I just don’t see that as even close. You say men have all these missiles and monuments. The problem here for me is how to respond to this? I used to have hope that women would indeed be a positive influence in the public sphere of politics. I see now no evidence of that. There have been 2 times I’m aware of that a lone congresswoman argued against the whole room against war. I am proud of them for that. But it is all too rare and our woman Hillary is to me, like the reincarnation of Genghis Khan. I don’t see women caring any more than men about these things. I don’t see women ready to sacrifice for the common good or inconvenience themselves in any way. We are a very, very spoiled population.
    I am suggesting to you that if you really look, you will see that men commit crimes that are visible and more obvious. But women commit many, many acts of cruelty and emotional destruction, many of which I think deserve jail time and are not even illegal.

  309. JMG, thank you so much for this post. I have thought from the get-go that this reaction has been heading in a self defeating direction, part of a long and sordid history of the left eating its young, going back to the ideological purging that the Soviet Union and Communist China committed–now conveniently committed to historical amnesia. That is probably because I am still trying to have some of these conversations on Facebook, which is starting to resemble Sartre’s living room in “No Exit.” When I point out that someone’s latest comment is more vitriiolic and self-serving than Trump’s (I’m a little more diplomatic, actually), that they needn’t oppose him because they are in fact becoming him, they reply with something like, “I know; you’re right. I can’t help it though; it feels so good to do this.”

    I am seeking a sane center (in all senses of the word) where I can respectfully dialogue with people who may or may not agree with me in all things. It helps if people are already on board with the reality of climate change; it’s anyone’s guess how many ways from Sunday you’d have to torque your psyche to deny that one. How to decently live in the splendid mess we’re in–splendid just because it lives, it is–is something I want addressed by people of many different backgrounds and political stripes.

    I do want to say that I know many people who feared for their lives in the aftermath of the election–people for whom the civil society and constitutional guarantees you reasonably laid out have proved elusive. Not all of this is theoretical–there has been an alarming uptick of hate crimes and attacks against blacks, Muslims, Mexicans, Asians whether foreign-born or not– election night being a flagrant example. I’m Jewish and believe me, when the swastikas come out, it has not worked out so well for my cohorts and I to ignore them.

    Lastly, because so much of this sloppy thinking and excess ideology simply comes from taking oneself too seriously, I offer a welcome corrective and hopefully a place where the newly minted Esc-Center can bond. (Warning: references to excessive displays of female genitalia occur.)

    P.S. I know you didn’t like imbibing information by video, but this is a satirical sketch from the series Portlandia, meant for laughing out loud.

  310. After reading and thinking some more, I’ve come (like other commenters) to the conclusion that “equality of opportunity” is not a very useful term to use. Complete “equality of outcomes”, on the other hand, seems to only really be applied to gender quota because it is impossible to define for socio-economic status (quite apart from desirability) and apparently unsought for with regard to “race”, however that term is defined.

    If one is to focus exclusively on political process, as JMG said he wished to do in this post, “equality under the law” may be the only equality that can be applied immediately, in each case.

    If one wants to convince other people of some political idea or program, on the other hand, outcome (NOT equality of outcome) is maybe a better goal to argue for than any equality: less abject poverty (as argued by several commenters), better support for people from poor families and/or for visibly underprivileged people to go to university etc. This is clearly defined and can therefore be debated in each case.

  311. Gkb @ 12:43

    The protest was a gesture of defiance against sexual harassment? I have a problem with sexual harassment when it is overbearing in a way that is threatening, otherwise I don’t worry about it. The feeling I get from certain feminists is that they are trivializing things like rape by accusing men of such things when nothing of the sort happened. Like women hitting men, this will backfire. I’m sorry to say that when I read what you write, I get almost a sick feeling in my stomach at the level of contempt aimed at men. My feeling is that men will be systematically destroyed until they no longer function, because the least expression of maleness is smacked down. It is natural that males are somewhat sexually aggressive. Most of them behave within reasonable bounds, and when they overstep them, why, you slap them down. No need to agonize over it.

    Some men went into certain professions to get girls? So what? Who’s the prude now? Women are the most important thing in men’s world. The corollary is not really true for women.
    Of course I agree sex working should be legal. Like marijuana, the way this country was founded, such issues should not have been the province of government to decide.
    Reading paragraph 6, I’m puzzled as I don’t see women having any impediments in any of those areas. But there is so much complaining about women not being permitted, when it seems to me that the elephant in the room is that men create spaces and situations and structures, and then women ask admittance. Why not create our own structures? I suggest that is because that is not what women do.

    I do not for a minute believe that 1 in 4 women are abused by their partners. But many people do pull a lot of drama into their lives, and it is both genders. Some people have so much drama that their lives are almost completely derailed and the children have no stable environment. It’s not a simple matter of men being selfish and women being innocent.
    It’s not our job to force reform on Saudi Arabia, but obviously we have been giving them very soft treatment. There are ways to exert pressure. The problem is, that quote in paragraph 8 is all too common and it doesn’t come from the left. Funny that when the Soviets were in Afghanistan, they put the girls in school.
    I agree that certain Christian fundamentalists are very similar to the Sharia crowd. They also speak of implementing Old Testament law, which is on a par with Sharia.

    It is not true that men sacrifice women and children, for if it ever were, that group would be replaced by ones in which the males made a priority of defending the females and the young. It’s not an option. Males exist to serve the female, and females exist to serve the young. Men don’t really have a choice in these matters. They have to try to please women, and women can cut them to ribbons.

    I do feel very impatient with women for putting up with certain fantasies of men, though. Why do women in Islam tolerate that religion? I often wonder. But then, I wonder why people tolerate the pope, too. People are easily confused and misled. The problem of women, in my opinion, or where they could do better, where they really ought to be more like men, is to be stronger in creating their own structures and not always looking to men for admittance.

  312. @ a reader

    Re polyamory

    I can see that perspective, but I still don’t see how it is the state’s business. How can the state say, for example, “I’m sorry, Ms. X, but I cannot allow you to marry Mr. Y and Ms. Z because by doing so, you will be depriving someone else of a mate”? How does society get in between the free actions of consenting adults desiring a common contracted relationship? Or, I should say, in a nominally free society purportedly supporting individual freedoms, how is this proper? Certainly, folks can disagree with those relationships, just as people disagree with interfaith, interracial, and same-sex relationships today, but the civil state ought not be able to impose those kinds of social preferences on people’s choices. IIRC, in Virginia v Loving, the state made arguments attempting to justify the interference of society in the relationship between consenting adults. I don’t see how such a thing is any more proper in this instance than in that one.

  313. Nastarana,

    I’m sorry, of course there are some bad things happening in our economy, but those are just excuses. You insult poor people the world over when you insinuate they cannot possibly have any standards when it comes to rearing children. No, it is not human nature to get pregnant willy nilly. It happens, of course, because bad things happen to good people, and even more, people with poorly functioning frontal lobes are quite common. Look, we ought to be a better society, we ought to have balances against the constant aggregation of wealth and power into few hands, but people are still responsible for themselves and they do not make their lives better by having children when they are not ready, and no perfect system is going to hand opportunities to those who will not use it. You are making a lot of stuff up to justify your sense of entitlement. People have to work hard, play by the rules (generally) and take responsibility for themselves.

  314. JMG, there is so much to agree with in this month’s post; I think you have been reading my mind! Many commenters have made very profound points also. I have found it increasingly difficult to fit in anywhere politics is involved. While I would call myself more liberal than conservative, I realize that I may define those words differently than others; it’s getting quite confusing to understand what people mean anymore. There are some among the Democrats that actually condemn those who call themselves simply “liberal”, which used to floor me until I was told that in Europe what’s called liberal is actually what we in the USA call libertarian. I would guess the more socialist Democrats would think that’s what I am. And of course, I’ve heard some Republicans call others “RINO’s” (Republican In Name Only) so I guess they are going through the same process in the opposite direction. I can also vary on what area is being discussed (economics, social issues, military, etc.), so while leaning right in one area or regarding one issue, in others I will tilt left. Thus, some conservatives have said that I’m “way out in left field”, and some liberals think I’m “republican-lite”. I didn’t support or vote for either Trump or Clinton, so that put me at odds with both sides also. I dislike the whole idea of a political spectrum on a horizontal line for this reason, and prefer the diagrams (like the Political Compass) that place us in quadrants instead. It allows for much more wiggle room of opinion.

    I also agree with a post earlier in the thread (and you mentioned too, JMG, in your essay) that noted that the Ctrl-Left is acting like those within fundamentalist religions. I have a lot of experience in this; as a child I was taken to a very fundamentalist church on and off until around age 12 or 13, then as an adult I was “saved” and attended an evangelical Christian church for around 14 years, and then, after realizing that system didn’t fit what I could believe in any more, I went to a Unitarian-Universalist congregation for over 10 years. The evangelical church was quite conservative, but they were careful to keep the politics out of the church service. At first, the UU church was OK, and of course, was quite liberal but not so preachy about it, and I became a member for a few years. But the SJW force was strong in the UUA headquarters, and was filtering down. The people at the local level were polite, but being from a working class background I never felt I totally fit into their social circle. Then Trump was elected, and all of this politically correct and fearful language was being thrown around and politics were front and center in almost everything. I was quite willing to learn about systems that needed to be changed, and about groups such as People of Color who still have barriers thrown up against them, but I didn’t agree with the solutions of guilt, shame, and centralized government that were presented as the answer. In fact, so many of the people, plus the info filtering down from Boston headquarters, focused on “Resistance!”, that I realized they were demonizing a whole selection of people for their beliefs, just like the fundamentalist church of my childhood did. I realized that, in a way, the UU churches were still as puritanical as those in their Congregational roots from before the Revolutionary War. They just shifted what they wanted to be pure about. I even told a guy from the church that I thought they were turning into the mirror image of the fundamentalists; he just gave me a strange look, like he couldn’t process what I just said. It’s now been over a year since I’ve attended. I was only going once a month by then anyway, and I found myself finding excuses not to go each Sunday, so why bother? I find I gain more knowledge from reading books and blogs (like yours, JMG!) anyway.

    Sorry if this turned into a rant; this post caused quite a cathartic reaction to rise out of me! But it helps to recognize that others also are thinking along similar lines. Also, if there are any Unitarian-Universalists reading this, I recognize that there are a variety of people who attend UU churches and hold different opinions and beliefs. Not all UU congregations are the same, so the above may not hold true for your situation.

    Joy Marie

  315. Yorkshire, that is to say, you still haven’t answered my question: how have programs like the one you’re proposing for the NHS worked out in practice when other countries have done the like? It’s a very simple question, you must admit, and it’s also not hard to answer; I’m not sure why you went all around Robin Hood’s barn instead. The reason I ask for real world examples is that it’s the easiest thing in the world to make a system look great on paper; ask a devout capitalist libertarian to explain how the free market system works and you’ll get a glowing vision of perfection just as detached from realities as your vision of socialism. How has it worked in practice? That’s the one question that breaks through the handwaving to provide some perspective on a proposal.

    Someofparts, got it in one. People on the left routinely engage in hate speech at least as bad as anything Barr said, but since they aim it at the targets approved of by their peers, they get a free pass.

    Dylan, that’s certainly a point of view worth considering. For what it’s worth, I’m in favor of public schooling, but not the system we have now. I want to see local accountability, and I want to see competition — one of the core reasons why the public school system in the US has become far and away the worst in the industrial world is that it has a captive market and so can get away with the most egregious abuses, knowing it won’t be held accountable no matter what it does.

    I’d like to see every parent with school age children have an education credit that can be assigned to any school they choose, public or otherwise, provided that school meets a few very broad standards set on a state by state basis. If you want your kid to have a public school education, you sign your credit over to the public school. If you want your kid to go to a Waldorf school, or a Montessori school, or a religious school, or an atheist science-and-tech school, or a Druid school that meets out in the woods rain or shine, you sign your credit over to that school…and it gets that kid’s share of state education funding. Those schools that provide a lousy education will promptly go under, those teachers who can’t be bothered to teach will have to find a new job, and those schools and teachers who do a good job won’t be limited to those families that can afford private schools.

    Oh, and of course it goes without saying that the No Child Left Unharmed bill should be repealed with extreme prejudice and the federal Department of Education shut down. The Constitution does not give the federal government the right to meddle in education, full stop, end of sentence.

    Will, excellent! That insight earns you this evening’s gold star.

    Phutatorius, we had them in the Boy Scouts in my day, and yes, we called them that too.

    Ray, that’s pretty good.

    Sansleep, thanks for this.

    Violet, ten years from now you’ll still be slapping yourself on the forehead saying, “How did I miss that the last umpteen times I read that passage?” I still have that reaction to some books I’ve been studying for years.

    Gkb, no, I didn’t think you would get my point. If you want to keep on insisting that those hats were powerful and disturbing to everyone because they seem that way to you, well, by all means…but to the extent that other people on your side of the political chasm share that viewpoint, you’re just going to keep on losing. You don’t win a political conflict by focusing on how your actions make you feel; you win a political conflict by paying attention to how well you communicate your point of view to others. Trump understands that; Hillary Clinton never got it, which is why he’s in the White House.

    William, her victory is one of the reasons I expect, as I mentioned above, a bona fide socialist party to rise out of the ruins of the current Democratic party. I’m not a fan of socialism as such, but it’s good to have such a party out there with people in office; it’s the one sure way of scaring the capitalists badly enough that they back away from the worst kinds of kleptocratic mania.

    Robert, and of course there’s also the huge issue of access to petroleum. We still don’t produce anything like as much of it as we consume, and our current way of life can be brought to a screeching halt by even a modest shortage. So, yeah, we’re brutally dependent on overseas sources of way too many things, and we have effectively no way to remedy that, other than completely retooling our military posture for low-tech defense in depth, along the lines I sketched out in Retrotopia.

    Ray, thanks for this. I think, all things considered, that the case for equality under law as a replacement for equality of opportunity is probably a sound one.

    Shane, no doubt the sky is falling in response. 😉

    Gkb, er, whatever. Do you think that venting your feelings like this will have any effect on how other people think? Or is that the point?

    PatriciaO, certainly what I’ve seen from this side of the Pacific supports that.

    Dennis, thanks for this. The point about retreat from empire is a matter of brutal necessity at this point. The US is falling apart from decades of underinvestment in infrastructure; if you came here and headed into the middle of the country, away from the faux prosperity of the coast, I guarantee you would be shocked by the dilapidation, impoverishment, and immiseration you’d see all around you. So it doesn’t matter whether the Chinese are expanding their empire; we can no longer afford ours.

    William, no, they’re not. The vast majority of them are economic migrants coming here because the wages they can earn here are so much better than those they can earn back home. Insisting that they’re all legally protected asylum seekers is profoundly misleading.

    A Reader, and since there would probably be about equal amounts of polygyny and polyandry, it would all balance out. Once again, what’s the problem?

    Lathechuck, gotcha. The rolling fortress mentality has to be kept in mind. I wonder if the next generation of SUVs will have battlements and drawbridges?

    Phil K., that would indeed be along the lines of what he’s done so far. It’ll be interesting to watch.

    Denys, highly funny — and highly accurate.

    Mark, yep. Thank you for making the effort to understand.

    Fkarian, ah, I see. No, I’m simply pointing out that the US empire is ending in the usual way, the way the great European empires of the 19th century ended, and other countries will have to take that into account.

    Michael, I’m a little startled to see the Torygraph saying that!

    Dan, and since it already has an established track record, it would be possible to look at the pluses and minuses on the basis of actual experience. Thank you; that’s helpful.

    David, oh, I know. One of the reasons I chuckle when I field comments along the lines of “Where is the JMG we knew?” — and I get them every time I goose the shibboleths of the privileged left — is that I’ve been saying the same things all along; it’s just that now it’s their turn to get pinked.

    Roberta, you’re welcome and thank you. I’m stunned that the people you talk to are so open about what they’re doing — my post a while back about hate as the new sex seems to have been taken to heart!

    Matthias, fair enough. That seems reasonable.

  316. Okay, I’ve had a bunch of people pile on with a flurry of posts debating whether China is or is not doing X, Y, or Z in Tibet et al. That’s off topic for this post, and I am therefore drawing a line under it. No further comments on that subject will be put through from either side. If you want to debate that, go somewhere where it’s relevant.

  317. Joy Marie, thanks for this. No, it didn’t come across as a rant. I’ve seen the same thing over and over again — apparently calm and rational people suddenly foaming at the mouth and abandoning their own ideals because they’ve convinced themselves that Donald Trump is everything they can’t stand.

  318. Plural marriage type arrangements work very well for a lot of gay men, and I know quite a few poly straights as well.

  319. JMG: ‘and since there would probably be about equal amounts of polygyny and polyandry, it would all balance out’

    I don’t know why you are confident about this. Polygyny is vastly more common in human societies than polyandry (see e.g. Wikipedia). Scientists have classified humans generally as a mainly monogamous and slightly polygamous species. Throughout the animal kingdom males compete, often violently, for access to females. This continues in our own species e.g. witness the aristocratic duel and the fact that the highest category of homicide rate is male-on-male. The obvious conclusion is that women are more willing to share men than vice versa, and this is indeed a cliche of social observation, of history (e.g. the biblical patriarchs, the imperial harems of antiquity), of religions (Islam, Mormonism). If polygamy becomes accepted the result will likely be not a happy world of free spousal choice but an inequality between males and a concomitant increase in violence and distrust, dysfunction etc. As Nastarana says, the Christian prohibition of polygamy gives, on the one hand, every man something to look forward to, and on the other hand, puts a ceiling on how much sexual success a man can have; without this, there is an incentive for a once-married man to keep grubbing for resources in order to afford more wives.

  320. Shoot, I meant to say that the type of comment that says we can’t interfere with another culture no matter what they do, does not come from the RIGHT.

  321. Dear onething, are you able to carry on a conversation without insulting people?

    I never said poor people the world over have no standards, ‘standards’ is your word, not mine. I said that the economic support for two parent families (in which one partner stays home), ie, jobs and particularly union jobs has been taken away from underclass families. I think that phenomenon is a little more than “bad things happening in our economy”; I would say that catastrophic things are happening in our economy, and you apparently are expecting middle class lifestyles when folks can barely pay the rent. What infuriates me is that there are things we could be doing right now, today, to at least alleviate the plight of the poorest among us. Rent controls. Public works, like the WPA, which put people to work doing useful things and, incidentally, helping them learn useful skills. Extension of mass transit, as Willie Brown put it, “Get people out of their cars and to their jobs”. Restrict immigration until our real full time employment is around 2-3%. Tariffs to protect American manufactures. I think the health and vitality of our population is a little more important than a few folks being able to get rich, or than someone’s fantasy of “multiculturalism”.

    I think I also said that if you want to lower birth rates, the one thing which seems to have that effect every time is to raise living standards and opportunities for all, but particularly for women.

    As for my “sense of entitlement”, sure I consider myself to entitled to disagree with you, our gracious host on occasion and with many others. After my husband died I thought myself “entitled” to devote my energy, efforts and money to raising our children, not pampering some new male partner. Now that they are grown, I believe myself “entitled” if you insist, to remain unpartnered. If the alt right wants to have fits over women making that choice, too bad.

    To anyone interested in yet another pink hat comment, I have never understood why women’s advancement should require or entail us taking up the traditional vices of men, such as promiscuity, or behaving like idiots in public and expecting to get away with it.

  322. onething, gkb, re: gender issues

    Just a few comments.

    I will state upfront that some of gkb’s comments fill me with cold pricklies in addition to being, in my opinion, a recipe for political and social disaster.

    Nonetheless, I would not agree that women are overall advantaged in US society, although in some particular areas they are, and I think the pendulum has been swinging a bit anti-male for a while now, and many women I know have become hardened into a victim role (often based on legitimate grievances) and now interpret (and collectively encourage each other to interpret) many innocuous incidents as outrageous oppression.

    That being said, sexual violence is a real, persistent, commonplace problem. Domestic violence, while not only perpetrated by men, does most of its physical damage to women. While I do not dismiss what you are saying about the emotional power of women over men, and the damage they can inflict, I am reminded of the quote that goes something like, “A man’s worst fear is that a woman will laugh at him, while a woman’s worst fear is that a man will murder her.” I think there is a seed of truth here. These are the areas in which I see it as a real, practical disadvantage to be a woman in the US or other similar country today.

    While there are still some sexists out there, and it is unpleasant to encounter them, it is not generally pervasive enough to limit a woman’s economic opportunities in a life-altering way anymore (except perhaps for the very poorest women, who are often economically and sexually exploited in a systematic way that is difficult to dodge). Likewise, the low-level sexism that one sometimes encounters is noticeable (even if unprovable) but more or less negligible, I think. Annoying, but we all must suffer annoyances, and I think it is not unreasonable to simply suck it up and deal, and I see more people working themselves into emotional distress over the socio-political context of minor incidents than is caused by the incidents in and of themselves.

    Regarding unpaid domestic labor, I am not in favor of commodifying everything, but the point usually being made is 1) men do less domestic labor, so a disproportionate burden falls on women; and 2) women taking on this unpaid burden of labor in effect subsidizes men’s paid labor. To give the stereotypical example, a male executive may benefit from his wife’s housekeeping, entertaing, emotional support, childcare etc. which allows him to focus on work and advance to higher salaries, whereas she may be absent from the work force, working part time, or just have less energy to devote to her career because she is stuck with a disproportionate burden at home. If he had to pay a housekeeper, nanny, caterer, and therapist to fill these roles, or do them himself, he would be either poorer or at a lower rung at work. This is changing, but still true, and it contributes a lot to the wage gap, in addition to the different jobs taken by men and women. The problem is not that the work in unpaid per se, but that the unpaid labor falls mostly on women and that this disadvantages them economically.

    A final comment about the goodness of men and protected status of women in general. Onething, I think you may have a slightly idealized view. Many men are not so gallant! Or they are only gallant when it strokes their ego, or when the situation is very obvious and clear cut, but they do not do much otherwise. the protection of women and children is idealized in theory but people look the other way, rationalize, doubt, stigmatize, or ignore when the pedal hits the metal. I know; I have volunteered with a domestic violence shelter (which also seved men and people in same-sex relationships) and with abused and neglected children.

    Also, I would say that most husbands and wives would take a bullet for each other; I can’t see a gender skew there.

    I would make the final comment that while the vast majority of men are decent, it really only does take one that isn’t to have a major impact. I’d say that about one in ten guys come on a little too strong, one in a hundred actively creeps me out, and perhaps one in a thousand I have found to be an actual threat. Which is overwhelmingly good odds for any man to be a decent guy, but not such good odds for any women to never be impacted by male violence, if you think about how many thousands of people you encounter in your life, or even how many people live in the average small town. Some of this danger is socially constructed; some is not.

    I do not however really think that further progress on gender equality or eliminating violence toward women is likely to come from increasing ideological indoctrination and social control as promoted by the “ctrl-left.” I do think there are ways to mitigate these problems, however.

  323. JMG: No, I do not think I can win over anyone nor expect anyone to accept my interpretations of events. I was merely explaining what I see and how I interpret certain signals and communications. I stopped following certain comedy shows because it was Trump this and Trump that relentlessly. Tedious. Not funny. When I saw the same thing on the other side but about the hats, I figured that there must be a deeper reason for it than I expected. No need for anyone to validate my viewpoint at all. Thanks for permitting me to air it.

  324. @onething,
    I always look forward to your comments, they often teach me something new and important about a topic I thought I understood well, even/especially when you’ve disagreed with me forcefully on subjects that are dear to me (I used to post as Vesta). Thank you.

  325. @Onething,
    I wholeheartedly agree with you on your observations about men out there devoting their entire lives to women. Gratitude for our guys, our priceless other half, has been utterly lost. This is not to denigrate women who have been utterly bowled over by men’s obsessions, they do need protection, but a yin without a yang is nothing but a drip.
    Also, please forgive me for not getting back to you for you kind message, oh good grief, about a month ago. Busy and feeling rather poorly. I’m doing a lot of good stuff off line these days.

    @JMG, I’ve been meaning to comment that the Druid symbol you showed us is highly reminiscent in shape to that of the Fuji Cult (the translation of “Fuji Shinkyo” based on its popularity, before the word got associated with “death” and “suicide” and so on). It’s a Mt. Fuji, usually red on white, with three peaks, the middle slightly higher, and the significance of “three” being, briefly, yin, yang and synergism..

  326. JMG – How about this for another fundamental principle of the esc-center? “We say what we mean, using the ordinary meanings of words as found in a dictionary. If you are with us, or against us, because you hear a secret “dog-whistle” which expresses ideas that you think we’re afraid to say plainly, ask for clarification. Or just go away.”

  327. JMG
    One commenter (Roberta) uses the term ‘splendid mess’. I rather like that description of life at the moment. It seems true enough elsewhere in the empire, like in off-shore Europe, aka Britain: a kind of baroque mess, if that is possible. Henley Regatta’s yearly Edwardian re-enactment, tennis and strawberries at Wimbledon, and of course football streaming out of every open pub door into the drought that has converted green June into a premature late summer with water restriction. We await the next flood.
    But back in the USA, Art Berman is getting to the heart of the politics of decline. One does not need facebook extravaganzas.
    “We are nowhere near energy self-sufficiency, nor do I think we will ever get there. We’re in deep trouble.”

    Phil H

  328. John–

    Later in the comment period here, but I saw this post this morning and felt compelled to comment on it here, as it touches on the very topics you discuss:

    Of particular concern to me were the comments in the subsequent thread. One of my old sparring partners (who is quite knowledgeable about history and with whom I did agree on certain points) raises concern in the comments re the situation getting out of hand with these protests and brought up the 1970s and the Weathermen as examples of where things need to not go. Most folks, it seemed, were having none of it. “That was then; this is now,” and “you need to wake the f**** up,” were typical replies to his numerous warnings. There is great exuberance on the left, it appears, in this emerging tactic of chasing Republican politicians from public (even private) spaces. I cannot see this ending well. Excuses range from “these aren’t normal times,” to “our country has been taken over by a foreign enemy.” I’m seeing frightful parallels in these sorts of comments and I grow increasingly concerned. If people are getting this unhinged now, what will happen if the Blue Wave (TM) fails to materialize this fall to the extent promised and/or Trump gets re-elected in ’20 (both of which are seeming more likely than not at this point)?

  329. My two cents on gender & identity politics

    I’m fairly libertarian in my social views, as evidenced in this discussion and others on this blog. I fully support my daughter, who is gay/bi and who is beginning to make her way in this world as an adult. I support equality under the law, individual choice, personal and religious freedom, and the basic respect of persons. I live modestly and do what I can to improve the world, the environment, and my community. I am, however, also a well-credentialed, middle-aged, cis-gender, heterosexual, white male of reasonable economic means (certainly upper middle class, perhaps within spitting distance of lower-upper class, depending on where and how one draws the lines) and I oughtn’t have to apologize for existing. That latter attitude, which I have indeed felt expressed by some on the left in various fora, makes me somewhat less sympathetic to their arguments. I’d argue that such an approach is rather counterproductive to the fundamental need to gather allies into a coalition.

  330. Onething, yes I am a revolutionary but my interest is combing through the history of revolutions to find out what went wrong and what recent innovations can be applied to make them work better in the future. You bring up an important point about personal responsibility. Feminist and some other movements have taken a serious misstep by making protecting people’s feelings from victim blaming there top priority. So for example any attempt at teaching women self defence and risk awareness is dismissed as victim blaming. And with how the poor live, they have no choice but to help themselves especially as the ruling class hates them and wants them to suffer. But the concept of personal responsibility is also a fundamental comfort for the ruling class, who could end much suffering at the stroke of a pen, as it lets them feel smugly superior to those debased hoards and their fecklessness and drama. Note how the narrative changes if they not only take personal responsibility but also take collective responsibility and start organising politically or in unions. And even if some of those people are responsible for a lot of their own problems, castigating them about it won’t help them.

    There will always be some injustices that go against the grain and these need to be dealt with. Consider whether any of these may in fact be ruling class policies given a gloss of radicalism. Transgender politics definitely is this, there may be others. But the whole ‘poor persecuted white man’ theme seems more like how aristocrats react when they’re told they’re not allowed to whip their servants anymore. Somehow they’re the victim. The whole incomprehension of the different levels of suffering reminds me of something from the Second World War. The Nazis became totally dependent on foreign labour to run their war industries. They were called something like ‘guest workers’ but they were essentially slaves. The conditions in their camps and workplaces were bad enough to make hardened murderers from the Eastern Front physically sick. They were only one step above the concentration camps, which were always held over them as a threat if they didn’t behave. But still a significant part of the German civilian population was convinced that these slaves were getting better rations than them.

    Lathechuck, thank you. The mentality of the communist bureaucrat is one of the greatest risks we face and if it gets to that point, that’s a failure condition and we’ve lost, even if the regime still calls itself socialist. Native Americans weren’t the only ones who didn’t do too well out of the American Revolution. America has a habit of leaving its revolutions unfinished. The American Revolution didn’t solve the problem so they had to have the Civil War, that didn’t solve the problem so they had to have the Civil Rights Movement. And so on. You know even if something is a horrific bloodbath, that doesn’t necessarily stop people from enjoying it. 🙂 WW2 was what, 50 million dead? Yet it was ‘the good war’, the defining event in the lives of those who took part, and many of them loved it, despite the horrors. It defined the identity of individuals and nations for generations to come. I grew up listening to my grandparents’ stories about the war and I always imagined the revolution would be remembered like that, only probably even more positively (assuming it’s done right this time).

    On the subject of population, it is true some events like the plague swept away a lot of feudalism and improved quality of life (and have you seen the paintings of survivors in the generation after the plague? Neither men or women have ever looked that confident and self-assured before or since). But after a revolution, especially facing the kind of resource crunch we may be facing, the demands will be very labour intensive. We’ll need everyone we can get to do everything that needs to be done. Remember humanity is an exothermic reaction and every person can (at least in the right circumstances) produce more than they consume. This must be true or human civilisation could never have formed in the first place.

  331. Nastarana,

    I’m sorry if I insulted anyone…not sure where I did that.
    It seems I agree with what you have written above. I want to be clear though, that while all those things you brought up are a big problem, it is still a deterioration in our culture to accept lots of births without two parents. This is the biggest problem we have right now. It is surely more difficult to be poor than ever before, at least in this country. But poor people, including our own poor decades ago, had intact families and low crime rates. And, I think the best way for people to fight the trends is to limit their family size and keep it together.

    As I see it more and more, our entire culture is the subject of a slow and insidious propaganda campaign. The gutting of the home economy and monetization of everything has been pushed via feminism. Of course feminism was important, but I think it has outlived its usefulness and is now promoting dysfunction, dividing and conquering the strength of society by making enemies of men and women, taking hold of children more and more through the public school system which is increasingly toxic, and even the bad food and aggressive medicine is part of the picture.

    It is true that middle class living reduces birth rate. That is only in part due to education and understanding options. It is largely because a middle class lifestyle involves two working parents (not always but often) which makes having a large family quite difficult and each kid is very expensive. But when you have a welfare state, there is no incentive to limit family size. I am not entirely against welfare and various safety nets, but I am not sure what the answer is, either.

    As to your defensiveness about remaining single, especially after being widowed, I am somewhat surprised. I can’t imagine anyone cares if you remain single. Where is this coming from?

  332. Well said. The need to debate the cost of empire is overdue and there is almost nowhere one finds such a discussion. While plenty of connected people profit from empire, the general citizenry has no clue as to why the US maintains 100s of military bases, mostly around Eurasia. I suspect it’s due to ignorance of geography and history.

  333. Regarding political venting, I’m reminded of a parallel religious phenomenon:

    There are religious acts that are purely about communicating with the divine, and there are religious acts that are partly that but also partly pageantry, moral instruction, community-building and/or therapy. People who don’t really believe there’s anyone ‘out there’ to communicate with – or who do, but imagine it serenely indifferent to any human behaviour except for maybe serious moral violations – will enthusiastically participate in the latter dual-purpose kind of act. But if you ask them to do something that has no human-directed ‘value-added,’ then they are embarrassed and reluctant, like adults being asked to leave cookies out for Santa.

    The political equivalent is a ‘protest’ that is really a rally or consciousness-raising seminar, aiming its message solely inward in the belief that nobody ‘out there’ is listening or, if they are, it couldn’t possibly do any good.

    It can, though. The Left used to have a concept of an “enemy to ally spectrum.” You don’t necessarily want to ‘convert’ people so much as bump them one step along the spectrum. It’s enough if an active enemy becomes passive and grumbles instead of obstructing you; if a passive enemy decides they’re no longer sure what to think about an issue and becomes netural; if a netural is swayed to become a non-participating but supportive passive ally; or if a passive ally, who already agrees with your goals, comes to also agree with your means and actively cooperates. The political landscape looks like an unbridgeable gulf only if you stop seeing the middle three categories.

  334. @JMG I totally agree with your prescription to fix schools by allowing a free market with standards in place, much like doctors, dentists, plumbers, car repair shops…. well basically every other service we purchase.

    Public schools, like public healthcare and public roads, exist to hand out lucrative government contracts for supplies and well-paying jobs. No politician will vote to end the ability to reward their followers with a system where families get to choose. Schools, healthcare and roads are awful and we are told “if we as taxpayers just paid more money this year, then it will get better”. All have gotten steadily worse even though they cost more than double what they did 30 years ago.

    Families will never get to chose for their children because so much money is spent showing us over and over how stupid our fellow citizens and we beg the government to protect us from the stupid. Make school year round – that will teach those kids!!

    I don’t know what it is going to take to break the school monopoly. You much political capital is invested in it.

  335. It’s late in the string, but please let me try a brief summary of why we should avoid striving for equality.

    ‘Trying different ways of reaching a goal, observing their effectiveness, selecting the best ways and reducing the worst, is how we become better. This is true across every aspect of humans’ behaviors, and the observing/selecting/reducing produces various inequalities BY NECESSITY.’

    So if we want a world in which we make things better, inequality is a fundamental tool.

  336. A slight quibble on the .Alt Right.

    The .Alt Right is basically Paleo Conservatism using Alinsky’s Rule for Radicals. The difference between what they believe and say Pat Buchanan does is minimal

    What they seem off to some is that the Right has never used left Wing designed tactics before as far as I can tell.

    Now re: Federalism. Good idea, rational, not utopian, as impractical as a moon shot

    First, o chance in Hell in the Left going to stop trying to make its utopias. The Communists killed hundreds of millions trying that back in the 20th and learned nothing. They’ll have to made to back off.

    Even if that’s done, we’d still have to discuss the actual issues they have a point on (economics, ecology among others) good luck with that in a country that hasn’t had a clean budget in a quarter century

    To be honest I’m not sure the union is going to survive anyway, its a little past its do date frankly and as you noted the diversity among political preferences even among closely related ethnic groups is considerable.

    Its stupid for Scandinavians, Anglos, Southrons and Yankees to share a polity much less people of different ethnic groups with strongly different world views and living preferences

    How it could be split without mass bloodshed is beyond me though.

  337. Jen,

    Overall a reasonable viewpoint. Perhaps a few quibbles. I did not exactly say women have an overall advantage, but I don’t think they are disadvantaged either. Men have some disadvantages that balance things out. About domestic violence, while there is no excuse for it, I have come to see that it isn’t just a simple matter, either. I don’t think sexual violence is generally common, although it exists. I wouldn’t be downplaying these things if they weren’t being hyped out of proportion.
    Your point about domestic labor can be true, but the division of assets in a divorce seem reasonable to me. If every person who isn’t blissfully happy takes legislation to right things, we are all undone. Life isn’t that fair, and there are many times when you make the best of things. Women, anyway, ask for divorce most of the time.
    I’m not sure what domestic violence has to do with men sacrificing themselves for women. I’m talking about societies in general and in times of danger, not the sort of men who beat their wives in a drunken stupor. There are what we call low lifes. They are not the standard. I’m not denying that male predation and violence do happen, but neither should all men be tarred with that brush.


    Thanks! I did not know we had sparred…


    Thanks. Continued good wishes.

  338. Darkest Yorkshire,

    Now you’ve scared me. I wonder what you think went wrong in previous revolutions. I know what I think went wrong – too many executions and a life of fear and tyranny.

    You’ve got a couple of things skewed methinks. You say the ruling class hates the poor and wants them to suffer. I disagree. They do not hate the poor although they don’t want to see them, and they certainly aren’t interested that they should suffer. Who hates the poor are middle class and slightly more upper middle class people.

    You say gender politics is ruling class policy…in what way and for what purpose?

    OK, the following sentence makes me feel pretty angry:
    “But the whole ‘poor persecuted white man’ theme seems more like how aristocrats react when they’re told they’re not allowed to whip their servants anymore. Somehow they’re the victim.”

    Where do you get this? If, as I think is happening, an out-of-control SJW left is being egged on to ever more ridiculous stances and claims, and revenge and hatred of whites but mostly white males is on the agenda, this could get very ugly and I don’t personally know anyone in the ruling class but I have known thousands of white males in my lifetime who would all be in danger. Whip there slaves? I mean, don’t toss off such insults without thinking what you’re saying. Only a very small minority of whites had slaves. An even tinier number of blacks had slaves…

    There was a situation recently. Some old hippies I know live on a piece of land, 4 households, that was donated in the 70s as a land trust, and there is another related piece of land that has had a long and rather failing history. This land came up empty and so those hippies put it on facebook to give away a leasing right, and because they are such bleeding heart liberals they jumped at the chance to give it to 3 trans people. The two main of those 3 are white, and whie I do roll my eyes a bit as she considers herself male and he considers himself female while being a hetero couple, nonetheless they are quite likeable. They were there two years struggling with the place, which was in ruins. Somehow, into the picture came a pretty young girl who claims to be Native American, of Aztec ancestry no less. All havoc broke loose. The two white kids were guiltloaded into leaving – because they were white. And when we had a meeting, only I asked them any hard questions. I told them they were racist. But it turns out that they were far more racist than I had imagined. Never in my life have I heard things – said carefully and softly – that made my blood run cold. This girl is dangerous and possibly psychopathic. If she could kill and get whites out of this country, she would do it.

    I personally think it is kind of rich, since the Aztecs not so long ago were taking captives and using them for human sacrifice. So the 3rd one, of the original set, was alright until he got into this girl’s orbit. Understand that these two had no rights, legally. And the only one with the strength and skills to do things like bring in firewood, was the guy who represents himself as female. But at the meeting, this 3rd once started crying when I asked him something pointed and started saying how every single day he lives with threats and prejudice, which I know is utter nonsense. So they told me that the 2 white kids (they are all in the trans community) were told that they could stay (!) if they submitted to the two people of color (who had no homesteading skills) but that it was too painful for people of color to take any direction from any white people.
    Sadly, the two whites who left are now living in their car. They come from a poor background. The two people of color come from wealthy families and are just playing. Playing havoc, that is. and the east Asian guy (transwoman) comes from the richest demographic in the US. Yes, east Asians are wealthier than whites. He has never known deprivation.

    Yet, at the close of that meeting the elder hippies were prepared to GIVE this land over to those two snakes and sever ties legally. But just after the meeting with these unbelievably naive, sweet, gullible and softhearted elder hippies, they went to instagram or facebook and slandered them horribly, lied unbelievably, and accused them of violence!

    Finally, the hippies had enough, and kicked them off the land because it was not too late to do so. They took a lot of abuse first. They are very naive.

    One thing you have to realize is that a lot of people are in it for the ride. They don’t have principles nor any ability to stick to them. Where those two kids were coming from was revenge. They are NOT interested in this country becoming a peaceful place where past wrongs are transcended. They are OBSESSED with issues of color to a degree that astonishes me! And filled with anger. Yet they told me it isn’t possible for people of color to be prejudiced. Now, THAT’s a dangerous idea. I fear for my son-in-law, and I fear for my little grandsons. I don’t think I would want them to attend college in this country, if they were old enough. We’ll see what transpires before then. Things could settle down.

    But what worries me on that score is I am coming to strongly suspect some serious psychology experts are being deployed to put out the memes that are taking hold, including those behind Trump Derangement Syndrome. I think that a large segment of the public are being quite literally brainwashed. So it takes a very strong level of vision to see through it.

  339. Hey Mark L,

    I see I didn’t reply. Perhaps because there wasn’t much to take issue with. I can only reiterate that ideas like equal opportunity and pursuit of happiness really were meant to stop absolute barriers for people to try things. How to completely make life in all its untidiness be fair to all…what to call it…

  340. Dear onething,

    First it was “entitled” and now it’s “defensive”. I do wish you would stop with the labeling already.

    If I mention my personal situation it is because that is a real world example of a phenomenon, widows and widowers with minor children, which your grand pronouncements don’t take into account. If you would prefer to see every family have two parents, what about people whose spouses have died? I don’t think I implied or said that everyone must be raised to middle class status and wealth. What has been shown, over and over, is that the birth rate falls when women have increased opportunities and choices for their lives, that is, when options like further education or business ownership are available to them. It seems to me that what works overseas ought to work in our own impoverished areas.

    I also think that lecturing and hectoring the poor over the alleged state of their morals is a convenient excuse for not doing some of the simple things which would make their lives easier. Why not mass transit around the clock? Why should a minimum wage worker have to maintain a car in order to be employable? Why can’t we have rent controls outside of Manhattan and Berkeley? You want to talk about morals, what is moral or ethical about someone, the property owner, who does no work, collecting half a working stiff’s paycheck? What exactly is the problem with someone growing a few tomato plants in the yard of their rental house? For some reason, that last example is the one which self-styled ‘libertarians’ fall over their twisted tongues explaining how they believe, oh yes they do, in personal liberty right up until the moment the neighbor plants a squash vine.

  341. JMG, you said:
    “I’d like to see every parent with school age children have an education credit that can be assigned to any school they choose, public or otherwise, provided that school meets a few very broad standards set on a state by state basis.”

    You can’t do this for a very practical reason… non-public schools are not required to take all applicants. The only schools required to take all applicants are public schools. The better charters in our area are virtually inaccessible for this very reason. The charter can say, sorry, we’re out of space. The public school has to expand or pay for the child to be transported to a different campus if the neighborhood school is full.
    Additionally, charters also tend to lean on public school district special ed staff for help in that area.
    What ends up happening is that the vast majority of parents end up sending their kids to public school anyway because they have no other real choice.
    Until non-public schools receiving public money are required to accept every applicant that comes their way, it isn’t a level playing field.

  342. onething,

    Sorry I wasn’t clear about what I was getting at regarding the relationship of domestic violence to men sacrificing themselves for women. The point I was trying to make is that even societies which espouse the sanctity of women and children and the role of men as their defenders in theory often fail to protect them in practice. Sure, men who beat their wives are lowlifes, but I also see a lot of men who turn a blind eye to the actual violence in their communities while still preserving their self-image as guys who would save a woman if she were being dragged screaming into a dark alley (in other words, the kind of violence which basically never happens). I do not think it is all willful blindness; the deterioration of social bonds and the sick conditions of our society make it hard to know what is really going on, and there is much we don’t see outside our own milieu. I myself was utterly shocked at some of what was taking place in our rural county when I started volunteering as a CASA for abused children—stuff that I would have thought was overkill on the most lurid crime drama. I do have to disagree with you on the prevalence of sexual violence; in my experience, it is very common (and I’m talking about the real thing). Domestic violence, especially of the deliberate and sustained sort, less so.

    To return to the point I was attempting to make, it’s perfectly common historically for men to die protecting their women in war whilst those women remain chattel without legal rights who can be abused with impunity, and those same men are usually perfectly happy to rape and enslave the enemy’s women, so I think the sacrifice of men in those situations is more about personal pride, group survival, property rights, and reproduction than it is about valuing women as people or protecting them for their own sake or for reasons of chivalry. I certainly don’t think it’s evidence of a social or biological imperative towards privileging women as a class.

    I’d agree with you that men and women are about equally advantaged/disadvantaged, although in different ways, in our society today.

    Anyway, I guess we’re getting pretty off-topic at this point, so I’ll wrap it up.

  343. @Violet–
    I remember that you once said that you believed that people were entitled to civil rights, even if they hate you. In spite of the offensiveness of a person who would not sell cupcakes to lesbians, you haven’t backed off on your support of civil rights, and for that I applaud you–and regularly quote you. 🙂
    IMHO, it’s Okay if you do not like people whose rights you defend.
    Suggestion: As an emotional response to the baker and his ilk, why not pity? He is, if you think about it, trapped in a system in which he fears the retribution of an all-powerful God for any infraction of the Rules. I propose that he lives in fear, and his response to the gay men and the lesbians was from his fear. That is a pitiable condition.
    Pity may enable you to treat people like him with more gentleness. Of course, it doesn’t mean you have to buy your cakes from him, whether cup- or wedding-.

    What a discussion about the baker! It reminds me a bit of Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham–

    Sam I Am:
    “What if the Cake were there or here?
    Shouldn’t he bake it? Tell us, Greer!”

    “It matters not if There or Here,
    He need not bake cakes for the Queer
    He won’t bake cakes, Nor Muslims, ham–
    He doesn’t have to, Sam I Am”

    Sam I Am:
    “What if they’re Nazis, and they’re Black?
    Shouldn’t he put that cake on a rack?”

    “Whether Nazis, Black or Green,
    He needs not bring a cake to their scene.
    He need not do so, though he can–
    He doesn’t have to, Sam I Am.”

  344. Pondering how we got here and I read an opinion over a decade ago that it was the direct election of US Senators that cause