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August 03, 2009

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The neat and fortunate thing is that the tendency for people to define economic unhappiness in terms of fairness and justice means that there's still a chance that some meaningful social reform could occur if the unrest gets anywhere.

No guarantee, but I'm going to remain optimistic.

I'm with Patrick. Economics is undoubtedly at play here (the main supporters of Ahmadinejad are those who received money from his regime), but Iranians, especially Iranian women, are definitely seeing the possibilities of some real social reform, as well.

Without going back into arguments of Marx or sociology, I would just point out that China did see a lot of unrest when it witnesses solid economic growth in the 1980's.

Same could be said for South Korea.

I'm not convinced that

A) Iran's recent troubles are largely economic;

or

B) that if they are, they offer much support for Marx in general--(the banal observation that economic problems can lead to civil unrest dates rather further back than him, see for example constant Roman discussions about how bad economic stewardship by provincal governors could lead to unrest). So if this is the insight that makes you think Marx is important, I would tend to suggest that you look beyond him.

Also your China example is more complicated than you let on. In many ways China is much more liberated than Iran--especially with respect to women. Also China is somewhat better at controlling information when it wants to.

I think this is a stretch. While it's likely true in general that economic woes are contributing to Iran's internal instability, this seems like something of a no-brainer, the equivalent to saying that the levees in New Orleans failed because of poor maintenance. While that may be a contributing factor that laid the groundwork for the instability, it seems silly to ignore the major events that pushed things over the edge.

In the case of Iran, there has been unrest for some time and for a variety of reasons. But until this election the Iranian regime was doing a fairly good job of not crossing some invisible line that would translate discontent into civil unrest.

It seems to me that the ham-fisted way the regime tried to exploit what was clearly a compromised election, and the disproportionate violence that was visited on those who protested, exacerbated a situation that otherwise might simply have resulted in no more than some pissed-off college students.

iran and iraq is full of b.s. we need to destroy it and forget about it

If things in Iran are bad, then what adjective would you use to describe someplace like Zimbabwe? How much worse would things have to get there before something gets done?

There's no evidence that hte elections were a "sham" at all -- see IranAffairs.com for the collected list of fraud allegations, matched by the counter-claims (all from WESTERN source)

Why look at the world through Marx's eyes when one can easily get ones vision corrected?

Look at the big strides made in personal freedom and prosperity that have happened in India and China since they threw away their Marxist eyeglasses.

"If things in Iran are bad, then what adjective would you use to describe someplace like Zimbabwe? How much worse would things have to get there before something gets done?"

It is not PC in the global community to step in and stop a wealth redistribution scheme from being implemented by a central government. For that reason Zimbabwe cannot be interfered with. Venezuela is on the same path but 20 years behind.

correction
" A couple of weeks ago, we had a good thread on Marx. "

It is not PC in the global community to step in and stop a wealth redistribution scheme from being implemented by a central government. For that reason Zimbabwe cannot be interfered with.

I'd be curious to hear your plan for how we should "step in and stop the wealth redistribution scheme." Who exactly should be doing that: publius? you? The 101st Airborne Division? And once they "step in", how are they supposed to stop anything short of overthrowing the government? And once they overthrow the government, what will govern the country? And what makes you think any of this "stepping in" is legal? Or do conservatives no longer concern themselves with mere legality?

It is not PC in the global community to step in and stop a wealth redistribution scheme from being implemented by a central government. For that reason Zimbabwe cannot be interfered with. Venezuela is on the same path but 20 years behind.

I'd like to echo Turbo's questions. What kind of "stepping in" did you have in mind? Who is the stepper?

Further, are you not aware of the history of the 20th century? Do you know how often and to what bloody ends western powers "stepped in" to prevent wealth redistribution schemes? Do you want a list?

Those were not particularly pretty chapters in history - usually involving mass slaughter of civilians. If being "PC" means one doesn't support those types of poilcies, then I'm proudly PC. You're not?

Very difficult to do this without a computer, but...
I find the concept of unrest in Iran and more sanctions
Inextricably linked. More sanctions will produce less unrest unless tied
To the protestors demands. That would be specific action aimed at
Regime change, what they have accused the US of doing.
A more beneficial route, it seems to me, would be to very
Publicly lift all sanctions "until the Iranian people determine who will govern them".

Time is on the side of the protestors and the UN inspectors. Then, before we reimpose sanctions,
Understand they will not work without a real threat of
Military intervention. So if that is not an understood end, then don't bother.

"But the ultimate cause (the dry forest that was susceptible to fire, if you will) was Iran's economic problems."

The Suzanne Maloney testimony you linked to in your previous post somewhat contradicts this. This seems odd.

[...] However, one caveat regarding assumptions on the state of the Iranian economy: Particularly over the past four years, the media as well as policymakers have routinely speculated on the prospect for economic grievances to spark turmoil that might threaten the Islamic Republic. The longstanding distortions that plagued the Iranian economy have been greatly exacerbated by Ahmadinejad’s spendthrift, interventionist policies, and in recent years Iranians have had to contend with double-digit inflation and unemployment rates. Analysts often pointed to small-scale labor actions as well as the short-lived protests against the gasoline rationing program, launched in 2007, and other poorly-designed efforts to revamp the government’s vast subsidies as the harbingers of mass unrest. They were repeatedly wrong on this count; Iranians grumbled and routinely vented their outrage over the economic conditions, but largely resigned themselves to making do.

Instead, what drove the Iranian people into the streets in record numbers and established the nascent stirrings of a popular opposition to the creeping totalitarianism of the Islamic Republic was a purely political issue – the brazen abrogation of their limited democratic rights. This should not imply that Iranians view their economic interests as somehow secondary to their political aspirations, but rather that three decades of Islamic rule have generated the conviction that Iran’s representative institutions and its citizens’ limited democratic rights represent the most effective tools for advancing their overall quality of life. With the brazen manipulation of the election, Iranians saw not simply the abrogation of their voice but the continuing hijacking of their nation’s potential wealth and their individual opportunities for a better quality of life.

This reflects a remarkable transformation in the way that Iranians view their leadership; although Ahmadinejad, like Ayatollah Khomeini before him, prefers to emphasize the regime’s ideological mandate, the population as well as much of the political elite have come to identify the responsibilities of their leaders as primarily oriented toward the provision of opportunities and a conducive environment for the nation’s growth and development. Neither Ahmadinejad nor Khamenei can meet this test; their functioning frame of reference remains the fierce passions of religion and nationalism.

d'd'd'dave:

Why look at the world through Marx's eyes when one can easily get ones vision corrected?

Look at the big strides made in personal freedom and prosperity that have happened in India and China since they threw away their Marxist eyeglasses.

Which part of publius' "That doesn't justify his normative<>/i> proposals (which are wrong, and require humans to be something other than humans). But his descriptive observations seem more persuasive to me" did you have trouble following?

Sorry; I'm having wireless connections due to my use of only a single USB port, and running what I have to through a hub; I'm paying to get this fixed next week (anyone who wants to make a donation to help pay for replacing the other USB ports is more than welcome to). It's led to my having less opportunity to preview, due to the connection cutting in and out, in and out.

Apologies for all the format errors.

"I'm having wireless connections"

Argh! "wireless connection problems"!

"Wireless connection problems"

I have been without a power cord for my computer
For four days. I simply read a lot on phone. Hopefully
Get one tomorrow.

It is highly interesting to read comments on Marx. You Americans (most of you) are just so scared of debate on insights Marx brings to the table. Ignore it on your own peril. His observations include herd mentality incorporated with predatory one in economic sphere of capitalism. The proposed solutions are highly debatable, to say it lightly, but observations of capitalist traps are inescapable and Great Depression and recent collapse are prime examples proving Marx correct.
FDR and democrats used such observations to keep the predatory mentality in check but military might escaped it first and rest of it followed with Reagan.
No matter how much proof there is about Marx insights all over Europe, Americans piss their pants whenever Marx name is mentioned. That also proves it how legitimate and powerful his observations were since it caused huge action from the powers that be to cover it with dirt and paint it as Pandora's box, while i consider Marx as Cassandra who sees incoming self-destruction unable to do anything about it.

turbulence, eric martin

I don't recommend stepping into the Zimbabwe mess. I was just responding to John Harrold who asked when something would be done there. I essentially said it's not likely because XYZ..

If you read my words carefully I said "it is not PC to ... step in". I really don't understand why you guys want to misread my clear words. Where did I recommend stepping in?

" That also proves it how legitimate and powerful his observations were since it caused huge action from the powers that be to cover it with dirt and paint it as Pandora's box"

Opposition equals proof?

I'm happy to debate it. My pants are dry.

Yes, no system is perfect. There are problems in capitalist systems...blah blah blah. What makes you assume that people who reject Marxism think there are no problems with capitalism?

What makes you assume that people who reject Marxism think there are no problems with capitalism?

What makes you think that a guy arguing that Americans ignore Marx at their peril assumes that Americans think there are no problems with capitalism? Seems like an odd assumption, given that Jordan is saying something that is . . . not that.

dave, this bit about people not wanting to step in because political correctness is simply wrong. People don't want to step in because doing so would be illegal and because it would be insane. If you actually bothered to engage with people that disagree with you, then you might learn that things like legality and logistics and efficacy matter a heck of a lot more than your own nutty ideas about political correctness.

d'd'd'dave, let me repeat, absent my accidental italics problem, in hopes of getting an answer: Which part of publius' "That doesn't justify his normative proposals (which are wrong, and require humans to be something other than humans). But his descriptive observations seem more persuasive to me" did you have trouble following?

To restate: do you understand the difference between a descriptive set of observations, which is what publius said had some merit as regards Marx's observations on some of the problems of capitalism, and a normative set of solutions to those problems, which publius said "are wrong, and require humans to be something other than humans"?

(These are both observations I agree with, incidentally.)

I ask because you've said absolutely nothing specific as to where you disagree with Marx's descriptions of the problems of capitalism. But various of us have specifically agreed that Marx's "solutions" are dreadful ideas.

So why are you pointing out, as if you're disagreeing with publius and others here, that Marx's solutions are bad ideas?

Incidentally, I'm curious: have you actually read any Marx, or have you just decided his descriptions of the down side of capitalism must be wrong, simply because his proposed solutions are, we agree, wrong, or what?

Gary

I haven't bothered answering you because on the last several threads you have misread what I write to a great degree. It seems you answer the voice in your head rather than the words I've plainly written. It's not worth the grief.

"What makes you assume that people who reject Marxism"

Do you mean "reject each and every part of Karl Marx's observations about capitalism" s, or do you mean "reject Marx's proposed solutions and some of his analysis"? If people are assuming anything about your statements, it's because you're being completely unclear about what you mean in your statements about Marx.

I don't recommend stepping into the Zimbabwe mess. I was just responding to John Harrold who asked when something would be done there. I essentially said it's not likely because XYZ..

If you read my words carefully I said "it is not PC to ... step in". I really don't understand why you guys want to misread my clear words. Where did I recommend stepping in?

Where you wrote:
[...] It is not PC in the global community to step in and stop a wealth redistribution scheme from being implemented by a central government. For that reason Zimbabwe cannot be interfered with.
You stated that there's only one reason Zimbabwe can't be interfered with. Please try to pay attention to what you write, and you'll have a better understanding of why people actually respond to what you write, rather than what you may mean to write instead.

I do, as a rule, read words carefully. (Not always; I've been known to make errors.) If you didn't want to assert that there was only one reason not to "step in," than you should not have written "[f]or that reason Zimbabwe cannot be interfered with. (Italics mine.)

If you meant there were various reasons, you could have, and should have, written so, in any number of ways, such as "among the many reasons the global community does not step in to overthrow the government of Zimbabwe," or somesuch.

Please don't blame others for not "read[ing] my words carefully," when you write them so carelessly as to turn out to mean something different than what you write. HTH.

Otherwise I'd echo Turbulence's points to you about Zimbabwe; not overthrowing the government of Zimbabwe has nothing to do with being "PC," but with minor practical difficulties in stepping in to run the country once we overthrew the current contemptible and horrific government, which I can't imagine anyone here possiblely defending as unobjectionable.

"I essentially said it's not likely because XYZ.."

Yes, and that statement is factually wrong. People respond to factually incorrect statements. It's a Law Of The Internet that the best way to get responses is to make demonstrably wrong claims, rather than to make positive statements or ask actual questions. (See here, if unfamiliar.)

(That is, an occasional outright lunatic does drop by here now and again, but aside from such a person, no one would defend the government of Zimbabwe.)

Feel better now? You might want to wipe that froth off your chin.

"Feel better now? You might want to wipe that froth off your chin."

D'd'd'dave, you make me doubt why I bother responding at length, on substance, to your comments, when your only response is to avoid substance, and substitute insult. If that's your sole response here, I'll reconsider, especially in context of your frequently trollish behavior here.

D'd'd'dave, you can't complain that nobody reads what you write carefully, and that nobody responds substantively to you, and then turn around and mock someone when they quite self-evidently read you carefully and respond substantively.

This behavior is especially trollish when in the same thread you expend a great deal of energy misreading others and not responding substantively.

By the way, one reason we fought the war in Iraq was so the people of Iraq could be Free and have free speech, unlike under Saddam, right?

Right?

If you read my words carefully I said "it is not PC to ... step in".

Ohhhh. So you were saying it's a good thing that we're all politically correct about interference in the doings of foreign governments.

Here I thought you were being derisive. I thought you had a negative view of political correctness. I had no idea that you were such a fan - such that you would use "PC" to describe policies that you wholeheartedly supported.

My bad.

On the plus side, at least we agree that it would be foolish to step in to Zimbabwe or Venezuela to stop wealth redistribution schemes. Iran too.

In Iran, as in China in 1989, high inflation has been the key economic stressor. Both countries had decent GDP growth at the time of unrest. More at http://xpostfactoid.blogspot.com/2009/06/autocracy-inflation-revolt-crackdown.html

"Which part of publius' "That doesn't justify his normative<>/i> proposals (which are wrong, and require humans to be something other than humans). But his descriptive observations seem more persuasive to me" did you have trouble following?"

Coupled with "It is highly interesting to read comments on Marx. You Americans (most of you) are just so scared of debate on insights Marx brings to the table. Ignore it on your own peril. His observations include herd mentality incorporated with predatory one in economic sphere of capitalism. The proposed solutions are highly debatable, to say it lightly, but observations of capitalist traps are inescapable and Great Depression and recent collapse are prime examples proving Marx correct."

Sometimes I wonder if "Marx" is just used as a shorthand for "Capitalism Isn't Perfect" because neither publius' post nor the Jordan comment have much to do with Marx in actual writing.

Which alleged insight of Marx are we supposed to think has something interesting to say about Iran right now? That economic hardship can contribute to social unrest? As I noted before, that insight goes back at least as far as the Romans and I'm pretty sure as far back as the Persian Empire--which is to say more than 2000 years before Marx. And unlike many classical insights, that one was never really lost.

Now some interpretations of Marx (and they may be correct interpretations I suppose) suggest that economic problems are ultimately the ONLY cause of social unrest. But that 'insight' is garbage so far as I'm concerned. It leads to the 'if all you have is a hammer everything looks like nails' problem of analysis.

As for Jordan, the herd mentality insight was much more from Gustav Le Bon, Trotter and Freud so your specific example isn't particularly a Marxist insight. I'm also not sure which Marx insight leads easily to the current financial crisis, but it isn't any of the standard ones.

I honestly wonder if Marx would still be talked about it he hadn't inspired Lenin--which is why I'm skeptical of the idea that his alleged insights are so separable from his normative proposals.

"I honestly wonder if Marx would still be talked about it he hadn't inspired Lenin"

I'm sure not remotely as much. People don't even talk about Engels as much, let alone any of the myriad of other communalist writers/theorists of the 19th century.

I don't see how that speaks to the value of the insights of any of them, though. It simply means that a gigantic propaganda machine, which propagated other gigantic propaganda machines, bellowed out quotes from Marx, and then misused them to justify their terrible and murderous policy prescriptions. It doesn't speak to whether he ever made any valuable observations or not, one way or another.

And unlike many classical insights, that one was never really lost.

Except in laissez-faire France. Oh, and America before the New Deal. And America today.

Gary, "It doesn't speak to whether he ever made any valuable observations or not, one way or another."

Sure, but we aren't getting any of Marx's allegedly valuable observations contributing to this thread. He was just vaguely invoked for no obvious reason.

hf, "Except in laissez-faire France. Oh, and America before the New Deal. And America today."

The insight hasn't been lost, though it may sometimes be ignored. (In contrast for example to some of the structural innovations of the Romans which were lost for quite some time). And I would note that the insight I'm talking about is that economic *hardship* can cause social unrest. Not necessarily economic stratification.

Publius's thesis that economic bad times cause revolution is pretty vulgar Marxism. He says that a mode of production enters into crisis when it ceases to develop the productive forces, but that's a different, more epochal, conception. Certainly, Lenin and Gramsci both knew that revolutions arise for primarily political reasons.

This thing about "laissez-faire" France is very peculiar to me. If the refence is to the ancien regime before 1789, then it was highly mercantalist and as opposed to laissez faire as it was possible to be. If you are talking about nineteenth century France, the one thing no one could possibly be accused of was a lack of awareness of the possibility of revolution.

"economic bad times cause revolution"
!=
"economic interests generally drive events"

And I would note that the insight I'm talking about is that economic *hardship* can cause social unrest. Not necessarily economic stratification.

Boy, it's a good thing nobody suffers economic hardship in America today. And if they did, we certainly wouldn't advise those with the most justification for violence to congregate in one place or "room".

"Sure, but we aren't getting any of Marx's allegedly valuable observations contributing to this thread."

Will you forgive me if I don't haul out the heavy copy of Das Kapital I study copiously from every week (not) to come up with some relevant quotes?

Publius' apparently controversial observation consisted of "One point I made was that the most persuasive part of Marx (to me) was his argument that economic interests generally drive events."

I'll stipulate that this is vague, and hope you'll stipulate that no one in this thread has made any reference to Marx that isn't, in fact, vague. That's probably because we don't actually have any dedicated Marxists around. Perhaps we should recruit some.

But this arouses some interest on my part, Sebastian:

And I would note that the insight I'm talking about is that economic *hardship* can cause social unrest. Not necessarily economic stratification.
What, exactly, are you trying to say about economic stratification? That it can't cause social unrest? Or that it need not, and therefore we should have no concern over economic stratification? Or what? I genuinely can't derive from this brief statement what you believe about economic stratification, or to what degree you believe it's acceptable/non-worrisome/something-to-be-concerned-about, or what. Clarification, perhaps?

"Publius's thesis that economic bad times cause revolution is pretty vulgar Marxism."

Where did publius even allude to such a "thesis"? I'm not seeing how you derive that from his post, other than by addition of a considerable amount of imagination; perhaps I'm missing something in what he wrote, in which case, I'd ask if you could quote the lines you have in mind, please?

Gary,

publius said, " But the ultimate cause (the dry forest that was susceptible to fire, if you will) [of the post-election unrest] was Iran's economic problems. " I think "bad times cause revolution" is a reasonable summary of that.

If Capital I is too hard to read, I'd suggest "Karl Marx's Theory of History: A Defence", by G.A. Cohen, who just died.

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