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April 06, 2020

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From today's Times (of London), by my conservative friends' favourite commentator, for anyone who might be interested:

Are we witnessing end of the American era?
The coronavirus emergency has exposed how far the United States is retreating from its leadership of the free world

Daniel Finkelstein
Wednesday April 08 2020, 12.01am, The Times

It is an era that has lasted for the adult life of every person in this country. An era that began with the end of the Second World War, a war that had seen the world’s great nations bankrupted. In some cases morally, in some politically, in most economically. In some cases, all three.

It is an era that was defined by the decision of President Truman, urged on by his appointees George Marshall and Dean Acheson, to come to the aid of Europe financially and to make its security a priority. An era that was marked by the cultural dominance of Hollywood and rock ’n’ roll, by the great prosperity of western capitalism, and by the nuclear stand-off with the Soviet Union that preceded communism’s intellectual and political collapse.

And now it’s time to wonder, is this era over? Does the coronavirus catastrophe mark the end of Pax Americana?

Since Truman first earned the title, the American president has been “the leader of the free world”. The term is used so frequently, and so casually, as almost to suggest it is an official title. Just as Victoria was not only Queen but Empress of India.

Yet being the leader of the free world is not an office. It’s a role. Truman created it by his actions. And his successors accepted the responsibilities. Sometimes they lost their way, sometimes they were too strong, sometimes too weak, but always they accepted the American postwar duty, a self-imposed duty, to show a way forward, to rally liberal democracies, to support the opinion and actions of the free nations.


The case does not need to be overstated. No president has ever simply ignored American domestic opinion or placed being leader of the free world above being leader of his own nation. And free nations have only occasionally made the error of assuming American interests and opinions were the same as their own.

Yet in most of the struggles and crises since 1945, the world has felt able to rely on the United States to give a lead, to show a way forward. Until now.

Coronavirus respects nobody and stops at no borders. It doesn’t speak a language or inhabit a country. Covid-19 is the ultimate international crisis. Yet an extraordinary feature of this crisis has been how national the response has been.

We are facing something that is a threat to the health of everyone, in rich countries and poor, and that threatens to crash the global economy, perhaps destroying years, even decades of economic progress. But where is the international leadership to combat it?

This is a moment for a leader of the free world, yet there is no leader of the free world. Donald Trump is incapable even of adequately leading the US response, let alone guiding or inspiring international institutions. In any case, he has no interest in doing so. And were he to have such an interest, who would follow him as he flails around, lashing out in his incoherent press conferences?

Mr Trump is merely the embodiment of an American attitude that has been growing for some time. And is, in many ways, understandable. As the Second World War and even the Cold War retreats into history, many Americans have grown weary of their international responsibilities. They think international leadership costs money, time, energy and American lives, yet they feel (perhaps wrongly) that it doesn’t put food on American tables or keep Americans safe. To the contrary perhaps.

Trump may go next year or in 2025, but will this feeling ever go?

Of course Pax Americana is the result of more than the international leadership of presidents. It is also about the example of America. Even when that country was struggling with racial segregation and discrimination it has seemed to many an example to the world of what was possible.

A land of opportunity, mobility and prosperity. A constitutional democracy that protected free speech and liberty of the citizen. A nation always one step ahead, putting the first man on the moon, developing new technology and tomorrow’s corporate giants. A laboratory of democracy where states competed to test new ideas and policies. A place where class and inheritance counted for less than talent and endeavour.

Yet today this model seems frayed and coronavirus has shone a light on another America. One where the federal government seems too weak to act and where science has to compete with superstition in the public sphere. A place where there might be free speech but it is hard to know if one can trust what one hears. A place where the will to support the economy is not as great as the economic problems demand.

America dominated the postwar era because it came out of the Second World War stronger than any nation. It was richer, more powerful, more sure of itself. Without that self-assurance and wealth there would have been no Pax Americana.

But there is a chance that at the end of the coronavirus crisis, America will be among the nations worst hit, and will struggle to overcome the damage to its health and to its economy.

Will it still be in a position to lead the free world? And if it isn’t, who is? Western Europe is still financially and militarily dependent on the United States for its defence and security. Many of the world’s great industrial and scientific enterprises are American ones. If they have lost the will and capacity to lead, nobody else seems ready to do so.

Which brings us to China. It may be brazen enough and big enough to take up the role. If its economic and military clout continue to grow, and America leaves a vacuum, it would be a disaster for us. China could be a leader, but it would not be a leader of a free world.

This may be too pessimistic. Perhaps the crisis will renew America’s sense of its unique role and it will once again provide leadership that can be respected and accepted. But we can’t take that for granted.

So our task when this is over will be to join with other nations to create world structures that are not so dependent on the United States, to show a willingness to finance them and to help lead them. To accept a shared responsibility that we have left to the United States alone for too long.

If we do not, the danger is that we may not just see the end of Pax Americana, but of Pax itself.

The countries McKinney names as socialist have an additional helping of either totalitarianism, authoritarianism, or corruption (or a combination). None have a tradition of democracy.

I would much rather have a democratic government that leans socialist than an totalitarian, authoritarian, or corrupt government of any flavor. Sadly, we've recently adopted an authoritarian, corrupt government that exists to cater to some specific oligarchs without bothering with economic philosophy. Not much in it for anyone else but those on the take.

hooray! we're weaker and more isolated!

Make America Go it Alone!

McKinney's list of "socialist ... garden spots" is of course ridiculous. North Korea, a hereditary monarchy by any sane definition, is "socialist"?? No wonder "socialist" is McKinney's all-purpose insult, its definition inside McKinney's head being so nebulous.

McKinney speaks as if the US turning into a monarchist "garden spot", while embarrassing, would be preferable to him over a US with some sort of national health insurance system operated by a democratically elected federal government.

McKinney will not vote for Biden. He will find some reason not to. "Socialist tendencies" will do in a pinch.

--TP

Any distinction between socialists and communists? Serious question. I've read what I would characterize as the theoretical differences, but I'm still kind of fuzzy on where the fuzzy line is in practice. (Yes, both I and the line are fuzzy.)

There is no consensus on the distinction, if there is a distinction--other than people who continue--against all reason and experience--to embrace socialism claim that they would never follow the soviet or PRC model; rather, there is some previously unknown form of socialism in which all of us capitalists voluntarily agree to give up our private sector and live under the benign hand of a single, all-deciding government.

The better label may be Marxism, since you will never run out of hair-splitters who can explain why Trotsky was "this way" and Lenin was "that way", as if it matters two shits in real life.
The Scandinavian experiment with socialism-very-lite flopped, even though Bernie et al seem to think that is what socialism is. At one point Sweden's tax rates were confiscatory and that didn't work out. FWIW, I was in Stockholm for a 2 day visit with clients and we chatted over drinks about the difference between Sweden's welfare model and the US model. Sweden is much smaller and much more homogeneous than most other countries (true for all of the Scandinavian countries). My impression is that Swedes have--generally--a greater desire and willingness to assure a social minimum on medical care, housing and food. Which is great if everyone agrees and there is the money to do it.

Sweden also has a draft. Here is the motto of the Swedish Military: "We defend Sweden and Swedish interests, our freedom and our right to live the way we choose." As recent as 2018, every Swedish household received a pamphlet detailing a citizen's obligations in a time of war, including this bit of exhortation, "Every statement that the resistance has ceased is false. Resistance shall be made all the time and in every situation. It depends on You - Your efforts, Your determination, Your will to survive."

So, how much of that model do modern progressives want to buy into?

"Since the beginning of the war I had been retreating step by step from one moral position to another, until at the end I had no moral position at all. At the beginning of the war I .... was morally opposed to all violence. After a year of war I retreated and said, 'Unfortunately, nonviolent resistance against Hitler is impracticable, but I am still opposed to bombing.' A few years later I said, 'Unfortunately, it seems that bombing is necessary in order to win the war, and so I am will to go to work for Bomber Command, but I am still morally opposed to bombing cities indiscriminately.' After I arrived at Bomber Command I said, "Unfortunately, it turns out that we are after all bombing cities indiscriminately, but this is morally justified as it helping to win the war." A year later I said, "Unfortunately it seems that our bombing is not really helping to win the war, but at least I am morally justified in working to save the lives of the bomber crews."

He concluded: "in the last spring of the war I could no longer find any excuses."

I can help him with his problem: Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, Treblinka, Chlemno, Dauchau, to name a few.

War sucks. Losing to dictators sucks even worse. Gulags, gas chambers, re-education centers, etc. They all suck. Better to fight back and even better to win.

Which brings us to China. It may be brazen enough and big enough to take up the role. If its economic and military clout continue to grow, and America leaves a vacuum, it would be a disaster for us. China could be a leader, but it would not be a leader of a free world.

It is big enough and it is brazen enough, if we--the US--continues in our long-standing, bipartisan pattern of unilateral disarmament, it could pull it off as a matter of hegemony, but probably not outright occupation. For a time. Empires tend to crumble under their own weight.


The countries McKinney names as socialist have an additional helping of either totalitarianism, authoritarianism, or corruption (or a combination). None have a tradition of democracy.

Do you think that is a coincidence? Really? That every socialist country is also a dicatorship? How do you get people to give up what they have and follow gov't direction without having a dictatorship?

McKinney's list of "socialist ... garden spots" is of course ridiculous. North Korea, a hereditary monarchy by any sane definition, is "socialist"?? No wonder "socialist" is McKinney's all-purpose insult, its definition inside McKinney's head being so nebulous.

Feel free to give me some examples of successful socialism. Seriously, I'd like to see you put up something besides a snotty dismissal.

For people who pay attention, N Korea may have morphed into a family run crime syndicate but its formation and fundamental outline is right out of the PRC/Soviet playbook. Classic socialism in practice.

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less."

"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master—that's all."

How do you get people to give up what they have and follow gov't direction without having a dictatorship?

you pay your taxes and obey traffic signs, right?

Do you think that is a coincidence? Really? That every socialist country is also a dicatorship?

Every "socialist" country is also a dictatorship only if you either a) include being a dictatorship in the definition (which would probably let the US out), or b) come up with a way to exclude Sweden and Denmark (which otherwise seem to have all the features that McKinney objects to as "socialist").

Care to share which?

MCKT, you used the word Progressive in the same sentence as Socialist up thread.

Is North Korea Progressive? Is Daniel Ortega your vision of Adlai Stevenson? Was Bill Bradley a budding Fidel Castro?

My granpappy used to call Martin Luther King a Commie.

Bernie Sanders is pro-gun.

Biden is the candidate. All Socialists, whatever and wherever they are, are vanquished, for all practical purposes in this election cycle, should it be permitted to happen, unless republicans in red states are going to set up AR-15 semiautomatic crossfire at the polls for liberals to dodge trying to vote while of course, all bullet-proofed vests have mysteriously disappeared from the "market", having been dispersed to Trump voters.

A simple thank you would be sufficient.

As an aside, a more accurate description of the PRC would be Bureaucratic State Capitalism or, if you will, clients of conservative American businessmen seeking to escape regulation, taxes, and a living wage for their laborers.

Russia is a thug gangster state roughly akin to Sicily early in the 20th Century. Hop over to the Trump-butt-kissing American Conservative and let Buchanan/Merry/Dreher and company turn you on to Putin and his in-the-hip-pocket Russian Orthodox Church, and while you are there, introduce yourself to their deep affection for the Christian fascist totalitarian, read republican, Victor Orban of Hungary, whose government is due to be violently and savagely overthrown, but won't, because his iron hand has extinguished all opposition.

He is a role model for Trump. You don't think so?

McKinney is a reputable conservative, prone to changing his bedrock views, as I've noted here in the past, see gay marriage, given sufficient evidence. He's known, I hear tell, for the Mck-Tini, which if I remember correctly, having lost consciousness along about the fourth sip, for having both vodka and gin in it, but I kid.

What's not to like?

His rockribbed conservative friends consider him a liberal, so I do hope he is advising them from his precisely pinpointed unbiased position directly in the exact middle of the Overton Window that despising Biden and liberals does not make Trump, his cult and the corruption and sycophancy that now defines our executive branch the obvious default position.

Unless we do in fact live in a binary world, a binary country, a binary culture.

Further, be advised that electing not to vote in November, or voting for a third party candidate, instead of Joe Biden, will be counted as a vote FOR Donald Trump and the Republican Party and his crony corrupt sycophants (who are just now filling privately owned anonymous warehouses with tons of medical equipment stolen from the Federal government, American hospitals, and cities and states across the country who no longer possess anything resembling states' effing rights, for sale to the highest bidder) in God's ledger, which I am in possession of.

Texas might see some of the medical equipment if they pay up with cash and deliver the trump vote, now being whipped into shape. Exception will be made for oldsters who Lieutenant Governor Patrick, known far and wide even to the barely sentient, believes should snuff themselves out for DOW 30,000.

He coughs in their direction and puts HIS mask back on, which he changes daily, unlike nurses, grocery stores employees, postal workers, and public transport workers who are denied the luxury, like goddamned fucking always in America, where Socialism, like everything, is distributed by the trickle down method.

Fuckers.

More in a bit, but more, how you say, constructive?

Then I'll STFU except for a brief recap later of Trump's briefing this evening, which I'm providing as a public service in case people didn't quite hear him right the first time.

"How do you get people to give up what they have and follow gov't direction without having a dictatorship?"

Obviously, you can't:

"How do you get people to give up what they have and follow gov't direction without having a dictatorship?"

I'm not a socialist dictator, so my method of getting republicans and conservatives to not infect me with the Covid-19 on purpose is to borrow a page from the conservative playbook ... arm a militia and protect myself from their fatal breath with deadly self-defense and force.

It just occurred to me that one way to get myself to shut up here is to stop reading every blessed comment in every thread.

Insert this link after "you can't".

https://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2020/04/study-says-republicans-arent-taking-social-distancing-seriously/

How do you get people to give up what they have and follow gov't direction without having a dictatorship?

Radical notion: persuasion. Sure, it's more work than just saying "Do what we say or get shot" -- regardless of whether nominally left or right wing. But more pleasant to live under.

The Scandinavian experiment with socialism-very-lite flopped

IMO too much of this discussion is focused on trying to pin down definitions of 'socialism' or 'communism' or 'capitalism' or whatever.

In terms of economic development and political maturity, the US is most akin to the OECD nations. Of which we are one. Basically this is North America, western Europe plus Greece and Turkey, Japan and South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, and Columbia and Chile.

Virtually all of these countries have mixed economies - fundamentally market-based, financed largely through private capital, but with some level of public regulation and "safety net" welfare programs.

There is no public policy proposal under serious consideration in this country that falls outside of that profile.

The kinds of things that *are* under discussion basically amount to moving the needle some incremental amount toward the level of regulation and social programs that are more typical of western and northern Europe. And, there are very credible reasons for all of that.

It may in fact be easier to implement the kinds of things that are typical in the EU if you have a smaller population than we have here, mostly because it's likely easier to achieve something closer to consensus in a smaller and (presumably) homogenous population.

That said, countries like France and Germany have pretty large and diverse populations, and in Germany's case with a fairly federalized political structure.

By and large, what "progressives" are calling for here in the US are the expansion of programs that provide some insulation from the effects of the various kinds of disruption and plain bad luck that everyone is vulnerable to.

Sweden and the DDR are not steps on the way to Pol Pot's Cambodia.

Will I vote for Biden? Maybe.

I'm taking that as a win.

I am prepared to vote for Biden if the VP is someone I could accept as President. If he picked Klobuchar I would vote for them.

Persuasion. Yeah, the EVIL ones are working on it.

https://digbysblog.net/2020/04/good-lord-the-hoax-thing-is-back/

The fact is, because testing for the virus is spotty, the count is vastly under reported and ........ ah, fuck off, what's the use?

My biochemist son, one of them highfalutin doctorate know it all elites told me yesterday while I was hiking with with him (yeah we social distanced, ten feet at all times, separate cars, not being republican assholes, sure not all are assholes, but not all snakes are poisonous neither) told me that Italian epidemiologists believe 20% of their 60 million population (that's roughly 15 million humans; only 700,000 give or take have been formally diagnosed via testing, if my numbers are at all close) of their beleaguered country have been infected by Covid-19.

They estimate, AND EXPECT, the infected count to reach a 40% infection rate in the entire population, roughly 24 million, at which point "herd immunity"* may kick in and they can begin thinking about opening the country up.

See, I keep talking into the harsh transparent wind of conservative republican American stupidity, no matter that none of them is listening, let alone forced to listen by non-existent socialists.

*I love it when Catholics refer to their "flock" as a "herd". I guess when are shorn they are sheep, when they drop dead, they are cattle.

All too human.

"Will I vote for Biden? Maybe.

I'm taking that as a win."

Me too, but also McTX is showing us a little coy leg, like an ingenue at a casting call.

20% of 60 million is 12 million in Italy, not 15 million.

Fauci, I'm not.

So relax, discard your masks, kiss each other on the lips, share an ice cream cone, and fer Gawd sakes, stop vaccinating your kids like the socialists you pretend not to be.

I voted for Hitler in 1932, because the alternatives just didn't measure up.

McTX is showing us a little coy leg

OK with me. Baby steps.

As long as the needle moves in the right direction, I'm good with it.

:)

you pay your taxes and obey traffic signs, right?

And there is a price to be paid if I don't. However, you are describing laws enacted in a democracy. By your logic, all government is socialist.

MCKT, you used the word Progressive in the same sentence as Socialist up thread.

Is North Korea Progressive? Is Daniel Ortega your vision of Adlai Stevenson? Was Bill Bradley a budding Fidel Castro?

I don't believe I did. Nor do I think Stevenson or Bradley are the equivalent of modern progressives. They are classic liberals. What I will note--again--is that progressives seem to be at great pains to minimize socialism in practice as if there were some unicorn version of the dictatorship of the proletariat that everyone would be just fine with. There is not. Socialism is, by definition, a command economy. You get what the state gives you, you go where the state tells your to go and you do the work the state tells you to do. Owning your own business, owning your own home at the antithesis of socialism. If Tienanmen Square is any indication, or Hong Kong for that matter, the Chinese agree and for some of them, death is preferable to life under that dictatorship.

His rockribbed conservative friends consider him a liberal, so I do hope he is advising them from his precisely pinpointed unbiased position directly in the exact middle of the Overton Window that despising Biden and liberals does not make Trump, his cult and the corruption and sycophancy that now defines our executive branch the obvious default position.

All the time. Every day. With about the same level of success I have here.

Virtually all of these countries have mixed economies - fundamentally market-based, financed largely through private capital, but with some level of public regulation and "safety net" welfare programs.

There is no public policy proposal under serious consideration in this country that falls outside of that profile.

The Green New Deal, Medicare for All, Free College. Sorry, these are outliers and not consistent with a market economy in which gov't levels the playing field.

It may in fact be easier to implement the kinds of things that are typical in the EU if you have a smaller population than we have here, mostly because it's likely easier to achieve something closer to consensus in a smaller and (presumably) homogenous population.

That and they started most of their social programs 40-50 years ago, from a much less well-developed and advanced, for example, medical care environment. The level of coercion required to impose either the GND or MFA would be enormous. Free College is just a very, very bad idea.

By your logic, all government is socialist.

no, McTx, it was your logic. that's why i quoted it.

"I don't believe I did."

April 7 11:06 pm

"However, despising Trump, his cult and the corruption and sycophancy that now defines our executive branch does not make socialism or progressivism the obvious default position. We do not live in a binary world."

No sweat. I would deny my quotes too, but that's roughly several thousands of comments over the past 15 years I'd have to disavow.

"All the time. Every day. With about the same level of success I have here."

We gave you Biden, the default ham sandwich.

What did your other half give you?

11:06 AM

See?

The Green New Deal, or parts of it, if enacted, will be enacted in a Democracy too.

Like Medicare.

Like Social Security.

However, given voting restrictions on liberals pursued by conservatives in some red states, if SS and Medicare are abolished by law, possibly even by the Supreme Court rather than by legislative action, those enactments won't be occurring in a democracy.

McKinney, I'm curious. How is "Free College" any different, philosophically, from free public education for K-12?

I'm not sure I think that's the best place to put limited resources. But I'm not sure it isn't either. And I am very aware that California's super strong economy owes a lot to its decision, back circa 1960, to make college available at nominal cost** to any resident who wanted it. We ran it for a couple of decades, long enough for us Baby Boomers to get thru.

**Free for the first two years (at junior/community college). State 4-year college/university costing maybe $250 a year (call it $2,500 in current dollars, i.e. something you could easily earn in a summer at a half time, minimum wage job).

Setting aside any attempt to convince anyone to vote for Biden, I offer to McTX this article regarding a NEVER-TRUMPER conservative:

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/03/30/the-trials-of-a-never-trump-republican

She's not my cup of tea, though I agree with her that democrats in the battle with Trump are born losers afraid to go for the jugular, but Stalin wasn't my cup of tea either when America partnered up with him to defeat Hitler, plus I wasn't drinking tea as a pre-fetal human.

Look into her group called Checks and Balances and now something more recent she's up to called Center Action Now.

If you can't vote for Biden, make your own sandwich with white bread.

"However, despising Trump, his cult and the corruption and sycophancy that now defines our executive branch does not make socialism or progressivism the obvious default position. We do not live in a binary world

Dammit. I missed that.

We gave you Biden, the default ham sandwich.

What did your other half give you?

I'm not sure I can think of JB as a gift. I'm a Mitt Romney guy and have been for many years. That puts me in the same room as the Maytag Repairman.

McKinney, I'm curious. How is "Free College" any different, philosophically, from free public education for K-12?

Without giving this the full attention it deserves, K-12 gives everyone a base level of training/education. Past that, college is one of several options. Some people go to trade school (mechanics, welders, cosmeticians, barbers and so on). Some people study flower arranging or art. If you are going to pay for college (including art majors?), why not barbers? Why not pay for anything anyone wants to study, whether it makes them more employable or not.

That's my quick and dirty answer.

college is one of several options

Fair enough. So what you are saying is that it's a "very, very bad idea" because it isn't broad enough?

A man recently recovered from the brink of death with Covid-19, the scion of a distinguished family full of Conservative (non-socialist) politicians:

“I’m a student of history and of all the great things our country has done over the centuries the NHS is by far our finest hour.

“Our phenomenal health service is a towering achievement. ” He praised NHS staff, saying: "These really are the heroes of the moment. These are the Spitfire pilots of 1940."

Some people go to trade school

FWIW, I'd be in favor of public support for trade schools as well as college. I'd be in favor of motivating more young people to learn trades as an alternative to going to college just because it's "the next thing to do".

For that matter, I'd be in favor of getting young people into apprenticeships of all sorts as part of the last 2 years of high school.

Which may put me in the same room as you and the Maytag guy, at least in some circles. Oh well.


Related to GftNC's comment, this

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/apr/08/icu-doctor-covid-crisis-hospital

Caring for a severely unwell Covid+ patient is not what you think. I’m so close to them – dripping eye drops under their lids at night, so their unblinking eyes don’t dry out. I may never meet them but I hold vigil over traces of their breath for signs they need help. I change their bedsheets from under them.

I realize that the concept of helping someone in those situations might be foreign to McK, but at least the crisis will have him stfu about socialized medicine. Other kinds, no, but small victories, eh?

Unfortunately, this is what liberal schadenfreude looks like...cleaning up the mess that conservatives make every decade or so.

Well, the 'socialist' (lol) has dropped out of the presidential race today, so I guess we're safe from the Gulags for now - whew!

Which may put me in the same room as you and the Maytag guy

Bernie's in that room as well:

Pass the College for All Act to provide at least $48 billion per year to eliminate tuition and fees at four-year public colleges and universities, tribal colleges, community colleges, trade schools, and apprenticeship programs

McTX: Feel free to give me some examples of successful socialism. Seriously, I'd like to see you put up something besides a snotty dismissal.

The early Christians may or may not count as either "socialist" or "successful" in your book, so leave them aside.

Sweden and Denmark don't seem to count either, so what's the use? If it ain't a dictatorship it can't be "socialist", apparently.

Never mind whether higher education, or health care, or basic retirement income, are provided by The Government (not The Free Market) in some country or other. That country is not "socialist" at all. Or maybe it is, when you use the word. And of course subsidizing oil companies, or rescuing megabanks, automakers, and airlines with tax dollars is Capitalism, not "socialism". It's "leveling the playing field" or something.

Socialism is, by definition, a command economy. You get what the state gives you, you go where the state tells your to go and you do the work the state tells you to do. Owning your own business, owning your own home at the antithesis of socialism.

Funny thing: you're describing an absolute monarchy and calling it "socialism". But maybe an absolute monarchy would be OK with you, as long as you like "what the state gives you" personally.

--TP

Socialism is, by definition, a command economy.

Socialism is, by definition, public ownership of the means of production.

That does not exclude a market economy. It doesn't mean the government owns your house. It doesn't mean the government tells you where to live, or what to buy, or how much you will have to pay for anything.

None of that is an argument for or against it. I'm just trying to be clear about what the word means.

Medicare For All is arguably in the direction of socialism, because the government would be the actual provider of insurance. Although not necessarily exclusively so, in most public payer models there is also a complementary private insurance system providing all the stuff that the public one doesn't. Like Medicare Supplemental plans. And it's not like M4A is the only available model.

Once again, not arguing for or against, just trying to be clear about what we're talking about.

Denmark ain't the gulag.

Sweden and Denmark don't seem to count either, so what's the use? If it ain't a dictatorship it can't be "socialist", apparently.

What's the use, indeed. There has never been a more disastrous presidency than Trump's. GftNC's quoted article is indicative of how we're now perceived throughout the rest of the world, but who has time to mourn our international standing when the citizens of the USA themselves seem to have to sit back and watch the death of democracy with no nonviolent recourse, while being swept away by plague. All because the McKinneys of the world were afraid of Hillary Clinton, the most competent, "overprepared" candidate in my life, and are now making up definitions of "socialism" to dissuade them from voting for democrats (small d used intentionally), instead of watching the rest of this tragedy unfold.

It's incomprehensible, but, yeah, what's the use. And, yes, Romney is a "good" Republican, in that he cast a vote against the obviously criminal president, and was the only one to do it. It was a profile in courage, I guess. I applaud him for it, because it's apparently the best that they can do.


A recap of today's Trump Covid-19 campaign money raiser:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mzyeGBdQmCM

He's peeved, as the press gets religion.

It's in his blood, like the virus itself.

Let's loose the rats and the ratfuckers.

My impression is that Swedes have--generally--a greater desire and willingness to assure a social minimum on medical care, housing and food. Which is great if everyone agrees and there is the money to do it.

Sweden also has a draft. Here is the motto of the Swedish Military: "We defend Sweden and Swedish interests, our freedom and our right to live the way we choose." As recent as 2018, every Swedish household received a pamphlet detailing a citizen's obligations in a time of war, including this bit of exhortation, "Every statement that the resistance has ceased is false. Resistance shall be made all the time and in every situation. It depends on You - Your efforts, Your determination, Your will to survive."

So, how much of that model do modern progressives want to buy into?

Count me in for everything - including national service, provided that we widen that service the way that people here have agreed to widen what counts as higher education.

I am as much of a "progressive" as Sweden is a "socialist nation state," so that's a start to ratifying this devil's deal.

And Sweden's social cohesion and homogeneity are, yes, part of their having been able to make a welfare state work. Same with the other Nordic nations. That's being tested at the moment. But it can still work. The more diverse parts of California have made it work with larger populations than Sweden has. All that is required is enough familiarity to make the out-groups part of one's in-groups. That's been the story of my life, to the point where I don't feel at home in a predominantly white society. Monoculture squicks me out.

But I see no reason why the challenges to social cohesion can't be met and overcome. I see a lot of people set to make that more difficult because their money and power depends on making that change as hard as possible, but that just shifts the conversation from feasibility to strategy.

Are we in for making things better, more livable, and more widely fair, or are we just looking for excuses to take the easier route because fairness is hard and may cost us something?

The answer to that question tells us a lot about what each of us really believes.

As far as taxation in Sweden, in 2018 they collected ~44% of GDP in taxes compared with ~24% in the US, with a top marginal tax wedges of about 70% and 40% respectively. Seems like we have a lot of room on this side of confiscatory.

https://data.oecd.org/tax/tax-revenue.htm

these are outliers and not consistent with a market economy in which gov't levels the playing field.

Actually, the government does not "level the playing field" and it never has. You are starting from an utterly false premise.

Are we in for making things better, more livable, and more widely fair, or are we just looking for excuses to take the easier route because fairness is hard and may cost us something?

This.

Count me in for everything

Yeah, me too. It's been a while since this came up, but I'm more than fine with ubiquitous public service, military or otherwise.

The founders envisioned a relatively small - tiny, by today's standards - professional army, essentially a professional officer corps. And then near-universal participation in a citizen militia.

Not a vaporware "unorganized militia", but a by-god militia, under civil authority, trained and prepared according to laws and regulations created by Congress.

That, FWIW, is what the 2nd A is actually about, and not one damned thing else. But I digress.

Long story short, I'm not disturbed by the Swedish model.

Are we in for making things better, more livable, and more widely fair, or are we just looking for excuses to take the easier route because fairness is hard and may cost us something?

Fairness is actually not that hard. You just have to be interested in being fair.

I'm more than fine with ubiquitous public service, military or otherwise.

Would that be voluntary? Or, everyone who meets the minimum requirements will be forced to participate?

You really just need to agree on the definition of fair.

I dont know anyone who is against fair.

Would that be voluntary?

No.

You really just need to agree on the definition of fair.

Tru dat.

Would that be voluntary?

No.

So authoritarianism is OK. Just not the other side's authoritarianism.

So authoritarianism is OK. Just not the other side's authoritarianism.

Complying with what a political community has collectively agreed is normative or required is not authoritanism. It's self-governance.

See also John Locke.

Authoritarianism is when you have no voice. You have a voice.

No worries in either case, you've nothing to worry about. About a half of one percent of Americans are active military. Nobody's coming for you.

Complying with what a political community has collectively agreed is normative or required is not authoritanism. It's self-governance.

You can dress it up however you like. But it's still involuntary servitude.

But it's still involuntary servitude.

And playing the role of Typhoid Mary, our own CharlesWT!

You can dress it up however you like. But it's still involuntary servitude.

Nope, it's not involuntary servitude if you are free to go elsewhere. Don't like the draft, or national service, or whatever it's called locally? Go somewhere that doesn't have it. Nobody's sealing the borders; nobody's even talking about sealing them for exit. (And Somalia doesn't even have a real national government to restrict entry.)

On the North Sea cost of Germany there once was the principle of 'Wer nicht will deichen, der muß weichen' (He, who is unwilling to participate in maintaining the dykes must leave and live elsewhere).
On the other hand general (military) conscription was seen by the ruling class as dangerous and revolutionary and the very last resort in response to Napoleon. And afterwards a lot of effort was made to erase the idea in the public mind that 'the people' had anything to do with it and the victory. According to credible witnesses Prussian king Friedrch Wilhelm III successfully managed to persuade himself that all the initiative was his* and that it was inconceivable that commoners had played any part of their own. Even the initial conscription order took a lot of persuasion by his counsellors along these lines**.

*and his fellow monarchs'
**unlike Jabbabonk Fr.W.III was a dedicated family man though

You can dress it up however you like. But it's still involuntary servitude.

A lot of life is like that.

How the hell can this be true?

I got nothing.

You can dress it up however you like. But it's still involuntary servitude.

anything less than total anarchy is slavery!

How the hell can this be true?

I got nothing.

Every single reporter should ask Jackass why this is happening in tonight's dog and pony show. And every time he evades and lies, as he will, the next reporter should ask the same question, with supporting facts. And rope Fauci in (or whoever is there with any scientific or medical credibility) to restate how important testing is, and is going to continue to be, for the national good.

Jury Duty is involuntary servitude also, too.

But you might get to vote to put to death a MAGAt unlucky enough to face judgement, so that's a plus.

Acquitting someone who rids the world of a MAGAt? GRAVY.

Charles, name one law of your choice you want to force me to involuntarily serve.

McKinneyTexas,

The Swedish draft is pretty mild a system. Their system is based on the idea that everyone is required to fill first a computer-based test, then attend a medical exam and an interview. The draft quota is first filled with qualified vo,unteers, and if there are not enough volunteers, they draft non-volunteers based on the need of service.

This system is actually a result of trying out an all-volunteer military. Their system was probably one with the best individual freedom for soldiers: you could quit at any time, just like in any job. They were never able to fill their recruitment quotas, and the attrition was huge. Out of people entering basic, less than 20 per cent finished their first enlistment honourably. Most regiments had, at best, only one or two operation-capable platoons.

After the Ukrainian War started, Sweden felt an urgent need to get an actually functioning military. They could not get it by voluntary recruitment, so conscription was the only choice. And that is really the question. For example, the Finnish military estimates that to be able to combat the forces Russia would be capable of sending against us, we need a military of 350,000 troops. The only way to raise such a force from a country of 5,5 million people is conscription. It is not a question of capitalism or socialism. It is a question of whether we want to have a defense or not. If we want to have one, we need to conscript.

It is not a question of capitalism or socialism. It is a question of whether we want to have a defense or not.

Substitute whatever other common goods you think can fit in the place of "defense" and you'll find the same reasoning works for many of them.

On another note:

We all know "involuntary servitude" is a way to say "slavery" without saying it. We also know no one is talking about the government somehow owning human beings, beating human beings, raping human beings, degrading human beings, separating human beings from their families, denying human beings their histories and heritages, denying human beings their freedom of movement, disallowing human beings to own property, disallowing human beings to marry, denying human beings education, or denying human beings access to money and commerce when discussing universal national service of some kind.

In fact, pay and education would be part of it. And it would be temporary. I would bet a good many people would find it to be a rewarding experience and would look back on it with fondness in their later years. I doubt many people would say that about slavery.

Let's knock that kind of bullshit off so we can have a real conversation.

As Bannon said: Flood the Zone with Shit.

There will never be a real conversation in America again.

Until the shit-purveyors are terminated.

It is a question of whether we want to have a defense or not. If we want to have one, we need to conscript.

Which is not the case in the US. But some people on both the right and the left want to do a bit of social engineering by forcing people to devote a year or two of their lives to the state. This after they have just spent being where and when the state has ordered them to be for most of twelve years.

"Which is not the case in the US. But some people on both the right and the left want to do a bit of social engineering by forcing people to devote a year or two of their lives to the state. This after they have just spent being where and when the state has ordered them to be for most of twelve years."

Thought it would bear repeating for the sheer, earnestly pristine hymen-intact virginity of it.

I was a Libertarian in Junior High School.

The hall monitors wouldn't f*ck with me, for fear of being whacked upside the head with my hardback copy of "Atlas Shrugged".*

*Cue explanation of the difference between Libertarianism and Objectivism and every other never tried ism.

We also know no one is talking about the government somehow owning human beings, ...

So, borrowing for a period of time? And if you refuse to be borrowed, you go to prison. Now that can be slave-like.

I would bet a good many people would find it to be a rewarding experience and would look back on it with fondness in their later years.

The government shouldn't be in the business of giving people rewarding experiences and fond memories. And what about the people who found it to be a horrendous experience? Screw them?

So, borrowing for a period of time? And if you refuse to be borrowed, you go to prison. Now that can be slave-like.

Just to be clear, how would jury duty not fit that description, too?**

** OK, I realize you consider any and all laws coercion. But hypothetically....

No it's not F**KING SLAVE-LIKE!!! There, now I'm yelling in text. You're pushing total bullshit here. Slavery was an utterly monstrous institution. Stop comparing national service to slavery. They are not the same at all. You're minimizing the immorality and inhumanity of slavery when you do this. It's really, really, really not cool.

Just to be clear, how would jury duty not fit that description, too?

Yes, but it's short-termed and undemanding enough that most people grudgingly go along with it. The courts could pay competitive wages for jury service like everyone else in the legal system.

Boris Johnson seems to be recovering from his medical ordeal while both being enslaved and enslaving all those paying for his enslavement.

Pull the plug.

Set us free.


"I. Why Mandatory National Service Is Unjust.

Mandatory national service is not just another policy proposal. It is an idea that undermines one of the fundamental principles of a free society: that people own themselves and their labor. We are not the property of the government, of a majority of the population, or of some employer. Mandatory national service is a frontal attack on that principle because it is a form of forced labor—literally so. Millions of people would be forced to do jobs required by the government on pain of criminal punishment if they disobey. Under most proposals, they would have to perform this forced labor for months or even years on end.
...
II. Why Mandatory National Service is Unconstitutional.

The constitutional issues raised by mandatory national service are not as important as the moral ones. Nonetheless, any such proposal is likely to be unconstitutional, as well: if it includes civilian service, it would be beyond the scope of federal power, and it also violates the Thirteenth Amendment."
Why Mandatory National Service is Both Unjust and Unconstitutional: A post based on my presentation at a panel on mandatory national service organized by the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service.

In fact, pay and education would be part of it. And it would be temporary. I would bet a good many people would find it to be a rewarding experience and would look back on it with fondness in their later years. I doubt many people would say that about slavery.

Let's knock that kind of bullshit off so we can have a real conversation.

****

No it's not F**KING SLAVE-LIKE!!! There, now I'm yelling in text. You're pushing total bullshit here. Slavery was an utterly monstrous institution. Stop comparing national service to slavery. They are not the same at all. You're minimizing the immorality and inhumanity of slavery when you do this. It's really, really, really not cool.

What hsh said, and again. There are reasons to debate whether or not it would be a good thing, but to compare it to slavery is absurd and insulting. Anybody still doing so should GTFU (the G is for Grow).

Pull the plug.

Set us free.

I am a Boris-despiser, and have been in conversation with many more over the last few days, and FWIW not a one of us wishes BoJo dead.

I am a Boris-despiser, and have been in conversation with many more over the last few days, and FWIW not a one of us wishes BoJo dead.

What GftNC said.

You missed the point, GftNC.

I was merely trying to fulfill Charles' expansive view of absolutely unfettered self-realization without taxpayer-supplied ventilators FORCING air into Boris' enslaved lungs by FORCING enslaved rate-payers in England to pay for it.

Boris forcibly retired to live out his life, after government has forcibly saved his small, crabbed life without f*cking with me or you would be fine by me.

Speaking of ventilators, I want to correct something McKinney asserted last week, I think, on these pages. He said he prefers the private sector making decisions over our lives rather than incompetent government, using the purchase of broken ventilators as an example.

Turns out the Trump Administration, the leaders of the worldwide conservative movement forcing government to be run like a private sector business, or satrapy, or Mar-a-Lago, if you prefer, let the maintenance contracts on the ventilators in government warehouses lapse, following standard budget-cutting, just-not-in-time private business practices, which turn out to be murderous business standards when applied to government.

https://www.balloon-juice.com/2020/04/09/straight-into-my-veins/

Frum, the conservative is a hater. We need more haters of his ilk.

These murders, not by government, but by private business interests who have seized control of MY government for malignant purposes, which include making it incompetent, untrustworthy, and unavailable to individuals and states and municipalities, except in so far as conservatives in all three branches of government can use the power of the state they have illegally commandeered can prevent me from fucking voting, will be goddamned avenged.

To the extent that wasn't what you meant, JDT, I apologise. Trying hard to hold on to one's humanity here, but I admit it's easier in some cases than others (we discussed Jackass in the same conversations, and all admitted that we found this a harder sell. Probably still doable, but a harder sell).

And for all trekkies out there (and for people who reject two masters, an alternative):

https://twitter.com/paullicino/status/1247571606689341440/photo/1

No sweat.

Carry on.

but it's short-termed and undemanding enough that most people grudgingly go along with it.

"most people grudgingly go along with it" What an astonishing take on a moral position!

And I note that most people grudgingly go along with national service, too. Even the draft, when it was at its least popular in the late '60s, had that much acceptability.

And I note that most people grudgingly go along with national service, too.

People grudgingly go along with a lot of things when they're backed up by fines and jail.

I would say that there was a range of grudgingly in the late 60's, ranging from hell yeah to hell no we wont go. But yes 2.7 million people went to Vietnam some substantial portion of whom went grudgingly.

No it's not F**KING SLAVE-LIKE!!!

I never said it was. I alluded to involuntary servitude which is not on the same level as slavery.

Yes, like being forced by government to grudgingly stop trespassing on or stealing Libertarian's private property, the latter platted out by government using my stolen tax dollars.

A simple thank you will suffice.

Charles, in a stupid conversation, I admit you have some staying power.

At some point, Charles, you will be on the phone to government, seeking its skirts to hide among for protection.

CharlesWT @ 11:29 AM: So, borrowing for a period of time? And if you refuse to be borrowed, you go to prison. Now that can be slave-like.

Yes, like being forced by government to grudgingly stop trespassing on or stealing Libertarian's private property, ...

Most laws should be of the form of discouraging, stopping people from doing things instead of forcing them to do things. And only when what they're doing adversely impacts other people.

CharlesWT @ 11:29 AM: So, borrowing for a period of time? And if you refuse to be borrowed, you go to prison. Now that can be slave-like.

Perhaps I was unclear. Being in prison meets many of the markers of being a slave.

Most laws should be of the form of discouraging, stopping people from doing things

no law can stop anyone from doing anything unless there is some kind of coercion backing it up.

have you ever met a person?

no law can stop anyone from doing anything unless there is some kind of coercion backing it up.

I didn't say there shouldn't be. Otherwise, the law would be pointless.

I didn't say there shouldn't be.

what? what's the point of this entire conversation?

CharlesWT,

hairshirthedonist has a good, consistent position. I would not argue against him, as he starts from a different set of premises.

Being in the army is not really nice, when you are there. You lead a very regimented life, and are under duty to obey orders and regulations at all times. If you fail in your duty, you are criminally culpable. Moreover, the exercises are not nice: you are wet, cold, hungry and utterly tired, and even then, you are trying to learn how to kill your fellow human beings efficiently and ruthlessly. The pay is not that good (in Sweden, they pay about 15 euros per day. In Finland, they pay 5.15 per day. Plus free room, board, uniform and medical care.) So, even if the service is organised well, training is efficient and pedagogically sound, and you are not being humiliated for its own sake, military service is confining and degrading.

Not to mention that Nordic countries don't end conscription with the eventual demobilisation of conscripts. You are discharged from the reserves only at 60 years of age, and that is not only a theory. Come war, all young amd many middle aged reservists would get mobilised, and would be legally obligated to actually kill fellow humans.

It can be a great fulfilling time, if you are fit for that. It can also be a living nightmare for a year. And learning to kill a sentient being in organised manner is, alone, an assault on the learner's human dignity.

I would not press such a burden on my fellow citizens unless I would feel it is necessary for the well-being of everyone. We live right by a great power that suffers under aggressive authoritarian government, is steadily committing human rights abuses, and that has committed genocide against Finns already twice. I am ready to give up part of my own and my fellow citizens' human dignity to keep the rest of it. However, I can understand very well those who don't think it is possible to make that kind of compromise.

Lurker, I take your point. But, judged by many of us, the US military is already too large and expensive. And it would be greatly more so if it had to train and manage tens of thousands of people it would not otherwise enlist. In a population of 330 million, if it needs more personal, it need only raise wages.

I am ready to give up part of my own and my fellow citizens' human dignity to keep the rest of it. However, I can understand very well those who don't think it is possible to make that kind of compromise.

I think the way to phrase that is
"those who have the luxury of declining to make that kind of compromise. Because others are willing (or can be bribed) to do it for them. But the compromise still has to be made by someone, given the real world we live in."

As far as I can tell, human beings are in general obliged to do a variety of things purely by virtue of being part of one community or other. Some of those communities are voluntary, some (e.g. family) you are just born into. In general you can find a way out of those obligations, but also in general that requires stepping away from the community that imposes them.

So, usually people suck it up and carry on.

Taxes, jury duty, conscription when that exists, all range from being a PITA to requiring the potential loss of your life. They aren't trivial obligations, even something like jury duty can be a challenging experience, depending on if you are empaneled and what the trial is.

They are obligations imposed on us as the price of belonging to a political community.

In our particular political tradition, this is seen as being acceptable as long as you have a voice in establishing what the obligations are. You have that voice, however attenuated by the weight of tradition and the sheer number of people involved.

Maybe someday somebody will find the magical secret that will let human beings co-exist without the burden of government and the obligations that come with government. Until then, we all live with the situation as it is.

If it makes you feel better to rail against it, carry on.

Just to be clear, my use of "national service" does not exclusively mean military service. It could be Peace Corps kind of stuff. It could be working in an adult-literacy program. It could be Meals on Wheels. Look at all the stuff the PWA did back in the day, including arts, theater, music, publishing, organizing historical records - not just construction. Lots of possibilities.

wj,

Everyone has the possibility of deciding, individually, not to make that compromise. There are many things you can be forced to do, with modern methods of psychological torture, but you cannot be forced to serve in a military. The techniques that are needed to break you will probably break you too badly to serve efficiently.

There are many uplifting stories of people who have rather chosen death than taken up arms against other people. I would raise up Arndt Pekurinen, whose story shows exactly this kind of determination for non-violence. I don't accept his choice but I respect it greatly.

A few days ago, we were discussing the lack of basic medical supplies like masks and ventilators.

One item under discussion was how - absent a national procurement and distribution policy, which is the usual thing Presidents do when facing a national emergency - the states are as a consequence forced to bid against one another for those supplies.

IIRC, McK said this was simply the free market at work: there is a commodity in hot demand, so of course there are bidding wars. Let the highest bidder prevail!

Well. Now, even when a state government *has* prevailed, and outbid everyone else, and bought those supplies, multiple sources are reporting that FEMA is seizing them during shipment, diverting them from the buyer, and handing them over to the T Administration... which then turns around and uses them as patronage gifts and rewards for political support.

I'm curious how that fits into the "free market" model. McK?

Everyone has the possibility of deciding, individually, not to make that compromise.

True. But my point was, they are making that decision knowing that they will probably not have to pay the price that would be charged if essentially everybody in their society made the same choice. In that sense, it is a luxury.

As you say, there are cases where someone made the decision knowing that they would have to pay the price. (And then had to pay the price.) Like you, I don't agree, but I can at least respect their decision. However, those who know that they won't have to pay? Not so much. Maybe, maybe, they would have made the same choice anyway. But that wouldn't be the odds-on bet.

As you say, there are cases where someone made the decision knowing that they would have to pay the price.

cf Civil Disobedience, history of

"I would not press such a burden on my fellow citizens unless I would feel it is necessary for the well-being of everyone.

There are trucks that can be driven through that loophole. True story.

IIRC, McK said this was simply the free market at work

I'm not sure if McK was making that argument or not, but others surely are.

FWIW, the case at hand - lack of availability of medical supplies, including technically sophisticated medical equipment, during a pandemic in which thousands of people are dying - presents literally none of the conditions for an efficient market.

Markets are not magical unicorn factories. Specific conditions have to exist in order for market dynamics to be effective.

Meanwhile, on the xenophobia front, this:
https://kvoa.com/news/local-news/2020/04/09/trump-administration-quietly-shuts-down-us-asylum-system-in-response-to-covid-19-pandemic/
Note that this means that asylum seekers cannot even apply before they are booted out.

Miller is just totally unwilling to let a good crisis go to waste. When he could use it to further his hatred of others.

https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Shortages-of-protective-gear-hamper-COVID-19-15144500.php

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