Anarcho-Capitalism & Stateless Society

I’ve been watching some videos on the Youtube channel Freedomain Radio. The guy who makes the video I guess is in favor of an anarcho-capitalist stateless society… which basically just seems like an extreme version of conservative libertarianism (a government so small it’s non-existent).  I got involved in a discussion in the comments of the first video and so listened to the second video to understand his perspective on stateless society.

(As an aside, I found the ending of the first video amusing.  The guy stared into the camera trying to look stern, and it reminded me of my friends dad when we were kids.  My friend’s dad would shuffle into the room… shoulders slumped and belly sticking out… and, trying to look mean, he’d grumble, “Who drank my pop? Someone owes me 50 cents.”  It was, to say the least, hard to keep a straight face.  That was my emotional response to the righteous moralizing of the guy in the video.)

I’m truly perplexed why someone can be so critical of the government and yet have blind faith in capitalism.  This kind of libertarian talks about the ‘free market’ as almost a religious ideal.  In the entire history of civilization, a stateless free market has never existed on the largescale.  I added “on the largescale” because I believe such a thing might be possible on the smallscale such as in an isolated intentional community or in an isolated hunter-gatherer tribe.  I agree with Derrick Jensen that largescale modern civilization inevitably leads to oppression… or all the evidence points to this being an inevitability since there are no couter-examples that weren’t quickly crushed.

The only way to create a stateless society would be to overthrow every government which would lead to mass famine and death.  During this process, a group of people worldwide would have to systematically destroy all technology and all infrastructure.  The survivors would return to either the lifestyle of small agrarian villages or hunter-gatherer tribes.  Then and only then might a free market stateless society exist.

I actually agree with many of the criticisms pro-capitalist libertarians have of government.  My only difference is that I don’t look to scapegoat a single group.  The entire system is the problem.  If US citizens overthrew their state returning to a simpler localized governance, then some other state government (Russia or China) would conquer our then defenseless citizenry and impose a new state.  Or another possibility is that, if all government regulation and protection was dismantled, the transnational corporations would either create a new government in place of the old or make themselves into a new privatized fascist government.

This seems obvious to me.  The problem isn’t in some external force or institution.  The problem is human nature itself or rather human nature gone awry because of the problematic nature of modern society in general.  Humans simply aren’t evolved for such unnatural conditions.  If we want to elicit the moral impulses of the human species, we have to re-create the natural conditions under which human nature evolved.

The reason I felt drawn into debating the anarcho-capitalists in the comment section is that some of them seemed fairly intelligent.  They’re perfectly logical people and even are capable of supporting their arguments with evidence, but their vision of a stateless society seems like just another utopia.  Why do they believe so strongly in something that has never existed?  How is that any different than religious faith?

The guy who makes the videos does have some other videos that are quite insightful about human nature (which I wrote about in my post Victimization: Culture & Education).  He is cynical about our present society which he blames on the government, but he is idealistic about human nature.  He thinks that if the external constraints were removed and the psychological shackles were overcome, then people would manifest their inherent morality and there would be peace on earth… or something like that.  His criticisms are righteous and I agree with them to a large extent.  

However, I’m not sure why he thinks capitalism is the natural state of the human species.  If he just stopped at where his evidence-based criticism ends, then his argument would be reasonable; but he wants to go beyond the mere evidence.  I find myself annoyed whenever I’m confronted by self-certainty that verges on that of the True Believer.  Even though he is a bit too intelligent and rational to be an unabashed True Believer, he comes awfully close to it.  History is filled with True Believers who overthrew the oppressive government only to put in place a new government that was just as oppressive.

So, I took all of this seriously and wanted to learn more.  I visited a website one person recommended (Ludwig Von Mises Institute).  The person thought I couldn’t possibly disagree with him once I properly informed myself.  I didn’t take insult.  It’s possible that I could be completely wrong.  I looked around the website, read a few articles and watched a video.  It turned out not to be anything I hadn’t seen before.  It was just the typical ideas one hears from libertarians and anarchists.  As for libertarianism, I prefer Noam Chomsky… who was mentioned some on the Mises website.  These conservative anarcho-capitalists, of course, were of mixed opinion about Chomsky’s libertarian socialism.  Their criticisms of him wasn’t anything I hadn’t heard before.  Chomsky is closer to my position in being critical of both state power and capitalist power.

I watched some other Youtube videos on ‘stateless society’.  The following video interested me just because of the comment section where I noticed some criticisms that were in line with Derrick Jensen’s thinking.

There was one commenter who caught my attention: mcc1789.  His criticisms went to the heart of the matter and no other commenter even attempted to refute his argument.

Ok, but what about vertical oligopolies and monopolies, as MettaliarYanto says in his response? Also, what prevents a “monopoly of force in a given area” your definition of the state?

“[I]f one starts a private town, on land whose acquisition did not and does not violate the Lockean proviso [of non-aggression], persons who chose to move there or later remain there would have no right to a say in how the town was run, unless it was granted to them by the decision procedures for the town which the owner had established.” [Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State and Utopia, p. 270] Is that not such a monopoly, i.e. state, if private?
 
Is that not such a monopoly, i.e. state, if private? Contracts that employees signed could have provisions forbidding strikes, organizing, etc., agreeing to pay for police, courts, doctors, stores and militaries hired by the employer.
 
Company towns had every feature which anarcho-capitalists propose, private police, courts, military, etc. Company rules were law. Buying at the company store was required by their contracts. If they sturck or formed a union, they were fired and evicted instantly. The contracts were entered voluntarily, in your sense. Since rights can be waived, exactly what stops this? The British East India Co. was its own state, ruling for centuries. Same with King Leopold’s Congo, run by his corporation.
 
“Each mining camp was a feudal dominion, with the company acting as lord and master. Every camp had a marshal, a law enforcement officer paid by the company. The ‘laws’ were the company’s rules. Curfews were imposed, ‘suspicious’ strangers were not allowed to visit the homes, the company store had a monopoly on goods sold in the camp.
 
The doctor was a company doctor, the schoolteachers hired by the company . . . Political power in Colorado rested in the hands of those who held economic power. This meant that the authority of Colorado Fuel & Iron and other mine operators was virtually supreme . . . Company officials were appointed as election judges. Company-dominated coroners and judges prevented injured employees from collecting damages.” [The Colorado Coal Strike, 1913-14, pp. 9-11]

Derrick Jensen uses the exact same argument with similar examples in his book The Culture of Make Believe.  I was happy someone went to the effort of typing up such perfect quotes.  I was feeling too lazy to do it myself.

As the commenter clearly points out, anarcho-capitalism has already existed in the towns owned by mining companies.  The problem isn’t in creating a privatized government.  That is easy to do if there is no strong state government to regulate against it.  The obvious failure is that this leads to fascism and not freedom.

Libertarians: Reasonable Arguments, Extremist Behavior

I just wanted to share a video of someone who seems fairly reasonable to me.  But he also seems typical of a certain kind of libertarian… the whole attitude of “Don’t tread on me!” and all of that.  I doubt he is exactly my kind of person, but I respect his views. 

The only thing that was slightly irksome was his criticizing the interviewer as a snotty elite.  That always seems like an empty taunt.  Chris Matthews isn’t a reporter who appeals to me, but I didn’t think he was out of line in forcing the guy to answer some basic questions.  Of course, Mathews didn’t need to be so aggressive.  

My personal issue is that it perplexes me why some libertarians feel it’s necessary to incite conflict.  In the following video, Matthews states that he supports and most Americans support the right to carry arms, and Matthews then asks why this guy chose to openly carry a loaded gun to a presidential speech while carrying a sign that referred directly to violent and bloody revolt.  I think that is a fair line of questioning.

From my perspective, the guy’s response seemed weak and he acted a bit evasive.  He has a right to carry a gun, but if he isn’t intending to incite violence he needs to change his behavior, needs to change the way he is conveying his message.  Why do some libertarians not see the connection between behavior and consequence?  Just because you have a right to do something doesn’t mean you should do it. 

I don’t think this guy was necessarily a rightwing extremist, but all that he is doing is reinforcing the stereotype of the rightwing extremist.  Rightwing extremists do kill people and rightwing extremists who kill people do argue for the right to carry arms.  Matthews asks about the history of guns at presidential speeches.  The guy refuses to give the obvious answer that a number of gun-toting extremists have assassinated and attempted to assasinate many presidents.  Why would he want to align the libertarian message with such violence?

I think libertarians weaken their message when they act like (or appear to act like) extremists.  Most Americans don’t want violent and bloody revolution, and threats of bloody and violent revolution aren’t appealing to most people.  Libertarians like this guy seem a bit disconnected from the mainstream.  The average person is closer to the so-called liberal elites than to the rightwing extremists.

This is a major problem because the message of libertarians is worthy of being heard.

Online Debates: Ideology, Education & Psychology

Internet discussions more often than not drive me bonkers.  I’ll mention some data and immediately someone will question and criticize the data.  If they’re a more worthy opponent, they’ll ask for specific sources.  I usually comply and then add even more data just to further support my argument.  The other person may offer data too, but they rarely cite the data and it’s even more rare for them to offer multiple sources.  Most “debates” never get past mere opinionated nitpicking.

I mentioned one example in a previous post.  I gave specific data and quotes from specific sources and framed it within the larger context of scientific consensus… and the other person acted like it meant nothing at all.  As a person who respects facts, I find it odd that many adults (who are potential voters) have such a dubious relationship to facts.  If someone shares facts with me that prove I’m wrong, I accept my being wrong and I do further research to better inform myself.  This attitude of intellectual humility and curiosity seems not to be shared by many people… or at least not many people I meet online which may or may not be a representative example of the American public (but if I had to guess, I’d think that the average internet user is more intelligent and better informed than the average non-internet user).

I just experienced another example.  This one was on Youtube and it was also about the scientific consensus of climatology experts.  Youtube has very limited word count for comments which makes intelligent debate a bit constrained, but I was up for the challenge.  I first mentioned some facts withou citing them, partly because Youtube doesn’t allow comments with url addresses in them.  Some person questioned the validity of my data and offered some other data which they didn’t cite either.  I felt lazy and didn’t want to try to figure out where he was getting his data, and I wasn’t in a mood for debating to any great extent.  So, I just offered the url addresses (by replacing the “.” with “DOT” which Youtube allows) of several scientific articles and Wikipedia articles (and the Wikipedia articles cited many scientific articles). 

My “debate” partner responded by saying that what I was referring to wasn’t peer reviewed and I assumed he must be talking about the first set of data I mentioned.  I had been looking at this data recently and I knew it came from the University of Illinois, but I didn’t know if it was or wasn’t peer reviewed.  I did a quick websearch and found it had been peer reviewed.  This is so typical.  If you look at people’s nitpicking, it is often unfounded.  I suppose people like this just hope you won’t actually check it out for yourself.  Why would this person lie to me just to try to win a debate?  It only took me maybe a minute or so to disprove his claim.  Does this person normally get away with such lies?  Are most people unwilling to check the facts for themselves?  Do most people not know how to use a search engine to find information quickly?

The ironic part was this person said the media is always lying.  So, I pointed out to him that, whether or not the media was lying, it appeared that he was lying or else uninformed.  He never responded back to further challenge me nor to admit to being wrong.  His only objective was to “win” the debate at all costs.  When it became apparent he wasn’t going to “win”, he simply abandoned ship.

I have an online “debate” like this probably on average of once a week (sometimes less when I’m not in a commenting mood).  I don’t go looking for idiots.  It’s just that the idiots are often the ones most willing to brazenly challenge any opinion (no matter how factual) that disagrees with their opinion.  To be fair, there are also many reasonable people online.  My experience, though, that the line between idiotic and reasonable often becomes rather thin when it comes to political and religious ideology.  Even when faced with the facts, few people are willing (or able?) to change their mind.

Why is this?  I’ve studied psychology enough to realize that humans are mostly irrational creatures, but I’m constantly amazed by how irrational certain people can be.  I seem unwilling and unable to accept the fact that most people aren’t capable of intelligent debate.  Part of me thinks that if I present the facts in a fair manner and make a reasonable argument that I can expect the same in return.  Apparently, I’m the irrational one for feeling frustrated by the inevitable irrationality of human nature.

But I do have reason for my irrational hope for rationality.  I occasionally have very intelligent debates with people online and these people even sometimes change their minds when offered new information… I even change my mind sometimes when presented with new information by an intelligent person.  Most often these people seem to be more liberal, libertarian or independent-minded. 

I’ve found that the only subjects that regularly attract intelligent conservatives are economics and sometimes philosophy/theology, but these are subjects that aren’t as easily determined factually according to scientific research (including psychological research).  Conservatives tend to argue more from a perspective of principles that they support with historical examples.  To conservatives, the past is where they look to verify a theory or claim.  I guess that is fine as far as it goes, but it makes for difficult debating because the attempt to understand principles and history is easily swayed by subjective biases.

For example, many libertarians and fiscal conservatives like to talk about free markets.  The problem is that it’s almost impossible to ascertain what this means.  The idea of a “free market” is highly theoretical if not outright idealistic.  No free market has ever existed.  Furthermore, no free market could ever exist because it’s merely a relative label of a market being more free than some other market.  There is no ultimate freedom of markets.  So, these debates lead off in all kinds of directions such as referencing “experts”.  The issue I have with experts in fields such as economics is that expertise is much more subjective in that there is less hard data.  Many of the economic models that have been relied upon have been proven wrong.  It’s almost impossible to scientifically study markets in that confounding factors can’t be easily controlled.

But even intelligent libertarians sometimes are wary of actual scientific data.  Libertarians don’t trust government.  Since scientists sometimes get government grants, scientists can’t be entirely trusted either.  For some reason, libertarians think corporate sponsored scientists would be more trustworthy.

Conservatives in general are more mistrusting of objectivity.  I’m not quite sure what is the reasoning behind this.  Some intelligent conservatives I’ve met actually agree with me about humans being irrational and that seems to be their reason for mistrusting objectivity, but this is a more intelligent argument and probably doesn’t represent the opinion of average conservatives.

To be fair, the smartest people of all probably are independents.  From the data I’ve seen, independents (and the American public in general) are socially liberal and fiscally conservative.  The question is which is the cause?  Do smart people tend to be socially liberal and fiscally conservative?  OR do social liberals and fiscal conservatives tend to be smart?  Or is there a third causal factor?  MBTI iNtuition and FFM “openness to experience” correlate with testing high on intelligence and correlate with high representation in college.  Also, these psychological functions/traits correlate to liberal attitudes, but I’m not sure how they may or may not correlate to fiscal conservatism.  (There is a nice site about politics and psychological types: http://www.politicaltypes.com.)

Some of the most intelligent debaters will be the MBTI NT types (iNtuition Thinking).  I know that INTPs tend to be self-identify as politically independent and I suspect the same would be true for INTJs.  NTs probably either vote with Democrats for reasons of social liberalism or with libertarians for reasons of it being a third party, but I some NTs might vote Republican for reasons of fiscal conservatism or else for reasons of principles.  I’m not sure how many NTs vote Republican, but polls I’ve seen show that ENTJs are more conservative (probably because TJ – Extraverted Thinking – is their primary function).

So, I can presume that most often, when I’m enjoying an intelligent discussion, I’m probably interacting with a socially liberal iNtuition type.  I don’t know what good this knowledge does for me.  Maybe it helps me to be more forgivng (this person sure is stupid… it’s too bad they were born that way). 

To be more optimistic, psychological research doesn’t show that most people fit in absolute categories.  Most people can learn non-preferred thinking styles and learn to develop weak traits.  Education should teach people how to use all parts of their mind.  The fact that so many people lack critical thinking skills is a failure of our education system and shouldn’t be blamed on individuals.  College favors iNtuition types.  Most professors and college-level teachers are iNtuition types and most of the coursework is more appealing to iNtuitive types.  It’s hard for a strong Sensation type to do well in traditional schooling.  Who can blame them that they don’t go to college or have bad experiences at college?  Who can blame them for falling prey to the notion that college is controlled by liberal elites?

Considering that the MBTI shows Sensation types represent the largest portion of the population, it is quite sad that our education system has the hardest time reaching this category of person.  Sensation types don’t have as much natural talent for abstract thinking and critical thinking.  Sensation types are better with concrete information and concrete learning.  Too much of higher education deals with abstractions and theories.  Dumbing down higher education isn’t the answer.  I think we should have more alternative routes of education. 

When I was in highschool, my best friend was very much a Sensation type who took many alternative classes involving technology.  He was good working with machines and with computers, but he wasn’t extremely smart in terms of intellectuality.  Alternative classes served him well in terms of preparing him for a job in the real world.  The potential criticism, though, is whether he was prepared for being a well-rounded and well-informed citizen.  I suspect not.  The highschool I went to didn’t require students take classes in logic and critical thinking.  The classes in general seemed rather dumbed down.  Unless you were taking college prep classes, you wouldn’t be intellectually challenged.

I feel frustrated.  I don’t want to blame the average person for not being well educated, but I do feel pissed off that our education system has failed these people and so created an intellectually inferior society.  Even news reporting seems dumbed down for the masses.  Shouldn’t the education system and the media, instead, serve the ideal of uplifting the masses by informing them?

Even with intelligent people, I think the education system has often failed.  College is less focused on providing a liberal education and created well informed citizens.  College has merely become a career path.  Many have talked about the problem of specialization of knowledge.  People go to college only to become isolated in some particular field and outside that field they may be largely ignorant. 

People, whether well educated or not, seem less capable of understanding the larger context.  Maybe it’s always been that way.  If so, I hope it’s changing.  I probably shouldn’t expect the education system to do anything more than create good workers… as that seems to be its primary purpose.  My hope is more in the realm of media technology.  The traditional media has been failing for a long time, but the new media has been very successful.  The most well informed people are those who use the new media to inform themselves.  And, because of the new media, the uninformed (be they the average public or the average politician) can no longer spout misinformation without being challenged.

So, to return to the original topic of online debates, maybe a purpose is served by all of the ideological conflict found in the forums and comments sections around the web.  The people who weren’t educated well in school get confronted, whether they like it or not, with new information and with actual critical thinking skills.  Some people might just become even more ideological in response, but many others will learn to be more intelligent debaters.  Even debates where people deny expert opinions may serve a purpose in that a discussion then ensues about the definition of ‘expert’.  The question about the new media is whether the positives will outweigh the negatives.  The uninformed have the opportunity to become even more polarized and entrenched in their views by isolating themselves in forums of the likeminded, but those who want to be informed have more opportunity than ever to do so… and there are many in the middle who are neither extremely ideological nor extremely motivated to learn.

My hope is that the internet remains an open resource and open platform for public debate.  My other hope is that the internet my force the education system to improve by offering both teachers and students to become more well informed.  Students now no longer have to solely rely on the information given by teachers, and teachers no longer have to solely rely on the information that was given to them when they were students.

Meritocracy? Growing Poor, Shrinking Middle Class

Let me give some context to why I’m posting all of this. 

I heard two different people talk about why some social liberals vote Republican.  The stated reason of these people is that they aspire to climb the ladder of socio-economic success, and they think Republican policies will favor the middle class and the striving business entrepreneur.  This, of course, isn’t based on the reality as the middle class has been shrinking and the government growing ever since Reagan’s administration.  The tax cuts that Republican politicians preach about mostly only favor the rich.  These middle class Republican voters may dream of becoming rich, but this American Dream of meritocracy is a fool’s dream.

I think this is similar to the reason why the poor white working class votes the way they do.  They have more in common with poor minorities and immigrants, but they see these other poor people as their enemy.  So, they vote for the Republican party with it’s policies that favor the rich.  Democratic policies, on the other hand, tend to be more beneficial to the poor which is why the minorities and immigrants vote Democrat. 

A difference with the poor white working class is that they’re not as poor as many minorities and immigrants.  Looking down on the even poorer gives them a sense of superiority and this breeds a lot of racial hatred.  It’s no accident that the conservative movement has promoted the superiority of “white culture” for decades and many conservatives still openly promote it without any sense of shame.

The middle class is shrinking even as more people are trying to identify themselves as middle class.  The conservative movment has preyed upon the class wars and mixed it with the culture wars.  This “middle class” perceives themselves as hard working real Americans.  Conservative politicians and pundits tell this “middle class” that their meritocratic aspirations are threatened by the socialism of the liberal elites and the moral depravity of poor minorities.  Meanwhile, the true wealthy elite (with it’s corporatism and military-industrial complex) increasingly takes over our country… wrapping itself in the American flag.

‘No Labor Market Recession For America’s Affluent,’ Low-Wage Workers Hit Hardest: STUDY
By Ryan McCarthy

Though the national unemployment rate dipped slightly in January to 9.7 percent, a new study suggests that not only have low-income workers been the hardest hit by the jobs crisis — but, shockingly, there has been “no labor market recession for America’s affluent.”

The study from Andrew Sum, Ishwar Khatiwada and Sheila Palma at Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies suggests that the unemployment problem is largely a problem for low-wage workers (hat tip to the Curious Capitalist).

Our Polarized Society
With no middle ground, we are always on opposing sides.
By Ken Eisold, PhD

Here is where real, underlying social issues come into play, the second reason for our increasing polarization. The gap between the rich and the poor has been growing. This is reflected in one way by the growing disparity between workers salaries and the lavish compensation packages of top executives, but more generally in the increasing erosion and fragmentation of the middle class. As a result, two increasingly distinct and identifiable interest groups are emerging.

This is not simply the rich versus the poor, of course, those who have and those who don’t. If that were so, the rich would not stand much of chance. It is a matter of identification and aspiration, those who do not want their opportunities diluted by taxes to provide social safety nets for the poor, those who emphasize the importance of sacrifice and discipline in getting ahead, who are convinced they will succeed and are motivated by the achievements of others, the stories of hyper-successful geeks and those who have worked their way up the ranks.

On the other hand, there are those at the margins of our national prosperity who tend to be left out, those sinking in status, and those troubled by our unequal access to security and protection against suffering. Many also don’t like the picture that is emerging and want a more equal society, but they, too, increasingly have no choice but to side with the underdogs.

Lulled by the celebritariat
By Toby Young

Michael disapproved of meritocracy because he saw it as a way of legitimising inequality. After all, if everyone starts out on a level playing field, then the resulting allocation of rewards—however unequal—seems fair. Those at the very pinnacle of our society might not inherit their privileged position, as their forebears had done, but its pyramid-like shape would be preserved. Indeed, once this hierarchical structure became legitimised, as it would in a meritocratic society, it was likely that power and wealth would become concentrated in even fewer hands.  […]  Analysts of the broader sweep of social mobility are divided on how much it has slowed down (see David Goodhart’s previous article), but there is some consensus that there has been a falling off since the time my father wrote Meritocracy.

[…]  Writing in the 1960s, the sociologist WG Runciman, author of Relative Deprivation and Social Justice, argued that ordinary people tolerate high levels of inequality because they don’t compare themselves with those at the top, but with people like themselves. By that measure, they are far better off than they were 50 years ago, even if their incomes have grown by a smaller percentage than the top earners.

However, this argument doesn’t seem plausible any longer. Mark Pearson, the head of the OECD’s social policy division, has identified something he calls the “Hello! magazine effect” whereby people now compare themselves with the most successful members of society, thereby increasing their insecurity and sense of deprivation. This appears to be tied up with the decline of deference. A person’s social background may still affect their life chances, but it no longer plays such an important role in determining their attitudes and aspirations, particularly towards those higher up—and lower down—the food chain

[…]  As Ferdinand Mount notes in Mind the Gap: “The old class markers have become taboo… The manners of classlessness have become de rigueur.” To put it another way: a profound increase in economic inequality has been accompanied by a dramatic increase in social and cultural equality. We can see this most clearly in changing attitudes to popular culture. It is a cliché to point out that the distinction between high and low culture has all but disappeared in the past 25 years or so. In this free-for-all it is high culture that has been the loser, with most educated people under 45 embracing popular culture almost exclusively.  […]  The rich and the poor no longer live in two nations, at least not socially. Economic divisions may be more pronounced than ever, but we support the same football teams, watch the same television programmes, go to the same movies. Mass culture is for everyone, not just the masses.

[…]  If this is the case, I believe it is largely due to the emergence of a new class that my father didn’t anticipate and which, for want of a better word, I shall call the “celebritariat.” […] the premier league footballers and their wives, pop stars, movie stars, soap stars and the like.  […]  If the celebritariat really does play a role in legitimising economic inequality, it is also because ordinary people imagine that they, too, could become members. A YouGov poll of nearly 800 16-19-year-olds conducted on behalf of the Learning and Skills Council in 2006 revealed that 11 per cent said they were “waiting to be discovered.”

Some commentators believe that the preponderance of reality shows and their casts of freaks and wannabes—the lumpen celebritariat—have devalued the whole notion of stardom. Yet the YouGov survey discovered that appearing on a reality television programme was a popular career option among teenagers, and another poll found 26 per cent of 16 to 19 year olds believe it is easy to secure a career in sports, entertainment or the media. If the existence of the celebrity class does play a role in securing people’s consent to our winner-takes-all society, then the fact that the entry requirements are so low helps this process along. If people believe there is a genuine chance they might be catapulted to the top, they’re more likely to endorse a system in which success is so highly rewarded. To paraphrase the advertising slogan for the National Lottery, it could be them. As with the lottery, people may know that the actual chances of winning are low but the selection mechanism itself is fair—a level playing field. After that, their “specialness” will take care of the rest.

Buckley & Skousen, Palin & Beck

Why the South Must Prevail
By William F. Buckley, Jr.

The central question that emerges-and it is not a parliamentary question or a question that is answered by merely consulting a catalogue of the rights of American citizens, born Equal-is whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not predominate numerically? The sobering answer is Yes-the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced race. It is not easy, and it is unpleasant, to adduce statistics evidencing the median cultural superiority of White over Negro: but it is a fact that obtrudes, one that cannot be hidden by ever-so-busy egalitarians and anthropologists. The question, as far as the White community is concerned, is whether the claims of civilization supersede those of universal suffrage.

The Tea Party 600: Canaries in the Political Coal Mine?
By Arianna Huffington 

There was much to mock about this past weekend’s Tea Party convention: the low turnout, Tom Tancredo’s repulsive immigrant bashing, a conspiracy-drenched documentary claiming the financial crisis was deliberately engineered by radical 1960s ideologues bent on bringing down capitalism, and, of course, Sarah Palin’s keynote lite. 

But it would be a huge mistake to dismiss the movement that led to the event. 

Yes, some of the Tea Party movement is ugly. Yes, some of the Tea Party movement is race-based. Yes, some of the Tea Party movement is being bankrolled by conservative political groups — and all of it promoted by Fox News. But focusing only on those elements obscures the fact that some of what’s fueling the movement is based on a completely legitimate anger directed at Washington and the political establishment of both parties. 

Think of the Tea Party movement as a boil alerting us to the infection lurking under the skin of the body politic. 

In his recent piece about the Tea Parties, The New Yorker’s Ben McGrath wrote: 

If there was a central theme to the proceedings, it was probably best expressed in the refrain ‘Can you hear us now?’, conveying a long-standing grievance that the political class in Washington is unresponsive to the needs and worries of ordinary Americans. Republicans and Democrats alike were targets of derision. 

Though this weekend’s event had a decidedly conservative bent, it was interesting to watch how during the Q&A session after her speech, both Palin and Judson Phillips, the chief organizer of the convention, proudly informed the crowd that neither of their spouses vote Republican. 

Limbaugh and Palin: Round Four
By Chris Kelly 

“Rahm’s slur on all God’s children with cognitive and developmental disabilities – and the people who love them – is unacceptable, and it’s heartbreaking.” — Sarah Palin 2/1/10 

Sarah hadn’t seen it herself, because it was in a newspaper. But “a patriot” told her about it. Really. On Wednesday, Rush weighed in. This went beyond party politics. Someone had to stand up for boorishness on principle. 

“Our politically correct society is acting like some giant insult’s taken place by calling a bunch of people who are retards, retards … I’m not going to apologize for it.” – Rush Limbaugh 2/3/10 

He went on to say “retard” or “retarded” twenty-seven times. On Sunday, someone asked Sarah Palin how she liked them apples, and she replied: 

“He was satirical in that… Rush Limbaugh was using satire. So I agree with Rush Limbaugh.” – Sarah Palin 2/7/10 

Yum. Delicious apples. 

Of course, you know all this. The knock on Sarah Palin is that she’s applying two different standards, one for Rush Limbaugh, because he’s a friend, and another for Rahm Emanuel, because he can do the crossword puzzle. But I think there’s something even creepier going on. Here’s what Limbaugh said Tuesday: 

“I only hope here that Rahm doesn’t go out and call these people another F-ing unfortunate name out there, folks, because I’ll have to repeat it in another satire.” Rush Limbaugh 2/9/10 

Notice how he said “satire?” It’s a quintessential bully move. He said it because she said it when she said it was okay for him to insult her children. He said it to let her know that he knows that he made her eat shit. 

A Reality TV President: Only a Matter of Time
By Barry Levinson 

The trick about this magic is that it’s not a trick. It is real. We embrace reality stars without reason. And because it is a baseless adulation, no negatives can dilute our affections. Negatives that are said about Sarah Palin have no ballast. No meaningful critique can harm her. Expose her. Or for that matter, even elevate her. She has reality TV star status. Words have no relevance in our relationship to her. We don’t communicate with reality TV stars, and they aren’t required to communicate with us. It’s the unspoken connection, an electronic embrace, it is a fragile relationship, and faulty at best. 

To debate Sarah Palin’s abilities and her acumen are meaningless. Words lose their currency. She’s impervious to rational critiques. Nothing can be said to shake a supporter who idolizes her. It is ironic that the vacuum tube brought on the electronic age of communication. A reality TV star lives in some strange vacuum. A shield that seemingly protects them from any rational discourse. Nothing can be said that rivals their TV glow. They burn brightly, and their light fascinates and captivates. And oddly enough, just as you can’t explain their sudden rise to fame, you can’t explain their fade into oblivion. And when we are asked why we cared, we can’t remember. To a reality TV star, their only enemy is time.

Ron Paul vs. Sarah Palin for the Soul of the Tea Parties
By Jane Hamsher 

There’s trouble brewing between the Ron Paul libertarians who staged the the first modern tea party in 2007 by dumping tea into Boston Harbor, and the neocon war hawks led by Sarah Palin who are furiously trying to hijack their message. 

After I appeared on MSNBC talking about Sarah Palin’s appearance at the Nashville tea party convention, several libertarians told me they were unhappy with the exchange. 

I said that Sarah Palin’s hawkish message on Iran was oddly out of place in a group whose roots belong to the Ron Paul libertarians, particularly as the anti-interventionist Rand Paul is looking strong in the Kentucky Senate Senate race — and Palin just endorsed him. The woman who appeared with me representing the tea partiers disagreed with that premise, and claimed she was very much an interventionist. 

My libertarian friends couldn’t imagine what she was doing on TV representing the tea parties in the first place, and thought it was a sad day when the opposition stated their position more fairly than their supposed allies. 

But it underscores a rift between the anti-tax, pro-civil rights libertarians who started the tea parties and the corporatist neocon grifters of the GOP who are now trying to swoop in and capitalize on all of the hype. And in the irony of ironies, tea party-identified candidates are now trying to oust Ron Paul from his Texas House seat. 

Meet the man who changed Glenn Beck’s life
Cleon Skousen was a right-wing crank whom even conservatives despised. Then Beck discovered him
By Alexander Zaitchik
 

Even if the turnout wasn’t the 2 million that some conservatives tried, briefly, to claim, it was still enough to fill the streets near the Capitol. It was also ample testament to the strength of a certain strain of right-wing populist rage and the talking head who has harnessed it. The masses were summoned by Glenn Beck, Fox News host and organizer of the 912 Project, the civic initiative he pulled together six months ago to restore America to the sense of purpose and unity it had felt the day after the towers fell. 

In reality, however, the so-called 912ers were summoned to D.C. by the man who changed Beck’s life, and that helps explain why the movement is not the nonpartisan lovefest that Beck first sold on air with his trademark tears. Beck has created a massive meet-up for the disaffected, paranoid Palin-ite “death panel” wing of the GOP, those ideologues most susceptible to conspiracy theories and prone to latch on to eccentric distortions of fact in the name of opposing “socialism.” In that, they are true disciples of the late W. Cleon Skousen, Beck’s favorite writer and the author of the bible of the 9/12 movement, “The 5,000 Year Leap.” A once-famous anti-communist “historian,” Skousen was too extreme even for the conservative activists of the Goldwater era, but Glenn Beck has now rescued him from the remainder pile of history, and introduced him to a receptive new audience. 

The anger of the festering fringe
By Roger Ebert 

These beliefs are held by various segments of our population. They are absurd. Any intelligent person can see they are absurd. It is not my purpose here to debate them, because such debates are futile. With the zealous True Believers there is no debating. They feed upon loops within loops of paranoid surmises, inventions which are passed along as fact. Sometimes those citing them don’t even seem to care if you believe them. Sometimes they may not believe them themselves. The purpose is to fan irrational hatred against our president. 

What are we to make of the recent suggestion on the “respected” right-wing site NewsMax, later withdrawn, that “it might not be such a bad thing” if the U. S. military rose up and overthrew Obama in a coup? That sort of talk belongs on a password-protected neo-Nazi or Klan site, not in a place where ostensibly intelligent people look for information. Where were the editors? What did they think? If they’re “conservatives,” do they support the overthrow of our government by a coup? 

I don’t really think so. But I believe they will stoop to almost anything to fan the flames of their cause. And they have created a timidity in the mainstream Republican party, afraid to alienate a “base” it should be ashamed of. When Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, he is said to have observed that with one signature he had lost his Democrats the South. It took moral courage to sign that bill. He did indeed lose the Southern racists, who were to its shame embraced by the GOP — a poisoned pill, it is becoming obvious. 

[…]  Racism plays a role, but conspiracy theories themselves have an addictive quality. They appeal to a personality type. Many of those who take nourishment from them have, I suspect, a bitter resentment against authority. They don’t want anyone telling them what to do. They’re defiant. Anyone who is in power is lying to them for evil motives. Nothing they learn from the mainstream media can be trusted. Some people may think they’re so smart — but these conspiracy insiders know the real story. They learn it from each other, they embellish it, they pass it around, they “document” it with invented connections, they bond among themselves, and they live in a closed system that seems to validate them. 

They lack common sense. Their conspiracy theories cannot tolerate it. Most reasonable people, when they heard Obama wanted to kill their grandmother, simply smiled, because — well, because they knew he didn’t. But the conspiracy people Know Better. That’s the whole point. That’s where the fun comes in. They have a peculiar intensity in their circular reasoning. They cite facts that are not facts, supported by authorities who are not authorities. As my grandmother freely said of perhaps too many people, “They don’t have the sense God gave them.” 

Some of this may be connected to the weakness of American education. Yes, I know that there are splendid schools and brilliant, dedicated teachers. See my recent review of such a school. But many good teachers will be the first to tell you that they despair of some of the students sent to them from lower grades. They cannot read, write, spell, speak or think on a competent level. They aren’t necessarily stupid. The schools, their parents and society have failed them. The words “no child left behind” are a joke. 

Among the things the schools often don’t instill is a sense of curiosity. Too many kids have tuned out. They nurture a a dull resentment against those who know more. Feeling disenfranchised, they blame those who seem to have more information and more words. Some of these victims may in fact be quite intelligent. Some of them may grow up to become fringers. Read the web sites of conspiracy zealots and you will find articulate people who can write well. Their handicap is that they missed the boat when it sailed toward intellectual maturity, and now they’re rowing furiously in pursuit, waving a pirate flag. Their screeds are a facsimile of reasoned, sensical arguments. They don’t know the words, but hum a few bars and they’ll fake it. 

Sith Lords of the Ultra-Right
By Steven D

Ever wonder how the right always seems so coordinated in the strategy.  How all the multitude of organizations they’ve created all seem to use the same playbook?  How they all manage to focus on the same talking points each day, day after day, year after year.  Well it’s no accident.  But how do they do it?The answer my friends lies in a little known organization with the innocuous sounding name The Council for National Policy.  Don’t go looking for an official website because you won’t find one.  In fact this “think tank” goes out of its way to avoid publicity:

When a top U.S. senator receives a major award from a national advocacy organization, it’s standard procedure for both the politician and the group to eagerly tell as many people about it as possible.Press releases spew from fax machines and e-mails clog reporters’ in-boxes. The news media are summoned in the hope that favorable stories will appear in the newspapers, on radio and on television.It was odd, therefore, that when U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) accepted a “Thomas Jefferson Award” from a national group at the Plaza Hotel in New York City in August, the media weren’t notified. In fact, they weren’t welcome to attend.The media should not know when or where we meet or who takes part in our programs, before or after a meeting,” reads one of the cardinal rules of the organization that honored Frist. The membership list of this group is “strictly confidential.” Guests can attend only with the unanimous approval of the organization’s executive committee. The group’s leadership is so secretive that members are told not to refer to it by name in e-mail messages. Anyone who breaks the rules can be tossed out.What is this group, and why is it so determined to avoid the public spotlight?That answer is the Council for National Policy (CNP). And if the name isn’t familiar to you, don’t be surprised. That’s just what the Council wants.The CNP was founded in 1981 as an umbrella organization of right-wing leaders who would gather regularly to plot strategy, share ideas and fund causes and candidates to advance the far-right agenda. Twenty-three years later, it is still secretly pursuing those goals with amazing success.Since its founding, the tax-exempt organization has been meeting three times a year. Members have come and gone, but all share something in common: They are powerful figures, drawn from both the Religious Right and the anti-government, anti-tax wing of the ultra-conservative movement.It may sound like a far-left conspiracy theory, but the CNP is all too real and, its critics would argue, all too influential. 

What amazes most CNP opponents is the group’s ability to avoid widespread public scrutiny. Despite nearly a quarter century of existence and involvement by wealthy and influential political figures, the CNP remains unknown to most Americans. Operating out of a non-descript office building in the Washington, D.C., suburb of Fairfax, Va., the organization has managed to keep an extremely low profile an amazing feat when one considers the people the CNP courts.   

Sounds a little tin foil hattish to you?  Trust me it gets worse.  Founded in 1981, its first president was Tim LaHaye famed millenialist preacher and writer of the Left Behind series of

popular books about the “end-times” and the Second Coming of Christ. He was also a co-founder of the Moral Majority. In the 1980s he headed the American Coalition for Traditional Values. While heading that group, LaHaye said, “If every Bible-believing, Christ-loving church would trust God to raise up an average of just one person over the next 10 years who would get elected, we would have more Christian candidates than there are offices.”

A list of former and past members reads like a who’s who of conservative Christian Right activists, anti-tax and anti-government activists, billionaire right wing philanthropists and GOP office holders, past and present […]

Today’s “conservative journalism” — what would Bill Buckley say?
By Eric Boehlert

Thirty-one Republican members of Congress co-sponsored a resolution in October 2009 honoring O’Keefe and partner Hannah Giles for “display(ing) exemplary actions as government watchdogs and young journalists uncovering wasteful government spending.” Nobody inside the right-wing world cared if O’Keefe and Breitbart allegedly edited out exculpatory portions before releasing the tapes. They don’t care that he and Breitbart refuse to this day to release all of the unedited videotapes so independent observers can determine just how manipulated they were before posting them online.

So the moral is obvious: To get on Fox News, you concoct a video that makes Democrats look bad. End of story. But of course, that’s not journalism.

Don’t just take my word for it. In the wake of the ACORN videos story last year, a few voices within conservative media actually pointed out the obvious. James Taranto, a member of the far-right Wall Street Journal editorial board, included this boulder-sized caveat in his otherwise fawning interview with O’Keefe’s mentor and employer, Andrew Breitbart, last year:

The approach Mr. O’Keefe and Ms. [Hannah] Giles used — lying to prospective sources or subjects — is grossly unethical by the standards of institutional journalism. Almost all major news organizations, including the Journal, strictly prohibit it.

Fox Business’ Rebecca Diamond made a similar point during an interview with O’Keefe last November:

But, James, if you want to be considered a real journalist and not just a conservative activist — just doing stuff on behalf of your conservative agenda — you can’t pretend you’re somebody you’re not. … If I did that, Roger Ailes would probably fire me because it’s unethical as a journalist, as a real journalist.

Which brings me back to Buckley. If you rewind to the time of the National Review’s founding in the 1950s, Buckley had to decide how to treat the emerging right-wing influence of the radical John Birch Society, which at the time was convinced Dwight Eisenhower was a communist agent, that most of the U.S. government was run by communists, as were the health care and education industries. As Buckley biographer Sam Tanenhaus explained to Bill Moyers on PBS last year, at first the National Review indulged the John Birch Society because it was fanatically anti-communist, which bolstered the conservative movement.

Then, finally, in the mid-1960s (and yes, it took way too long), Buckley said “Enough.” As Tanenhaus recounted last year:

And he said, “We can’t allow ourselves to be discredited by our own fringe.” So, he turned over his own magazine to a denunciation of the John Birch Society. More important, the columns he wrote denouncing what he called its “drivel” were circulated in advance to three of the great conservative Republicans of the day, Ronald Reagan, Barry Goldwater, Senator John Tower, from your home state of Texas, and Tower read them on the floor of Congress into the Congressional record. In other words, the intellectual and political leaders of the right drew a line.

“We can’t allow ourselves to be discredited by our own fringe,” said Buckley, referring to the conservative movement as a whole. Today, however, rife with would-be lawbreakers and committed name-callers, “conservative journalism” faces the same fringe conundrum.