Gabler Needs Some Scottish Enlightenment

by Don Boudreaux on May 22, 2011

in Civil Society, Complexity & Emergence, Man of System, Myths and Fallacies

Here’s a letter to the Los Angeles Times:

Discussing the past 30 years, Neal Gabler asserts that “Conservatives are pushing aside compassion” (“America the stony-hearted,” May 22).  In doing so, though, he simply assumes his conclusion – namely, that a people’s compassion is expressed only, or at least chiefly or best, through government programs and regulations.

Conservatives (or, more accurately here, skeptics of the welfare state) argue that government programs, because these rely upon taxation and force, are not the product of a people’s compassion.  These are instead the product of force-backed greed masquerading as compassion (Ever reflect on why the Food Stamp program is run by the Department of Agriculture, or why labor unions oppose free trade?), as well as of the wide acceptance of the myth that society and state are synonymous with each other.

We welfare-state skeptics perhaps are wrong to argue that true compassion can be expressed only when done voluntarily and that, when compassion is done voluntarily, it’s more effective than is ‘compassion’ compelled by government commands.  But Mr. Gabler certainly is wrong to write as if the argument on this front is settled in favor of those who suppose that a people’s compassion can be expressed only through the state.

Donald J. Boudreaux

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DG Lesvic May 22, 2011 at 5:40 pm

I just sent this myself to The Times.

In America the stony-hearted (Sunday Opinion, May 22, 2011), Neal Gabler implies that the Welfare State is only about compassion. As Ludwig von Mises observed, there is more to it than that:

“The Welfare State is merely a method for transforming the market economy step by step into socialism. The original plan of socialist action, as developed by Karl Marx in 1848 in the Communist Manifesto, aimed at a gradual realization of socialism by…the very measures that form the essence of…the Welfare State…Later, Marx…abandoned the…gradual approach…and advocated instead a…revolutionary overthrow of the ‘bourgeois’ system…What separates the Communists from the advocates of the Welfare State is not the ultimate goal…but the methods…that divide…the Marx of 1848 (in the Manifesto) from the Marx of 1867 (in Das Kapital).”

Is the Marxian the only way to help the poor?

Must we give the Democratic Party and its constituents a mortgage on our lives, and on terms they dictate, and can change at will?

Can’t we be compassionate and humanitarian without being foolish about it?

Ken May 22, 2011 at 9:19 pm


“Is the Marxian the only way to help the poor?”

I think it’s more important to ask is: Does the Marxian even help the poor? The Marxian welfare state proponents simply take it as faith that welfare programs help the poor; however, there is ample evidence that this is not so. For example, the destruction of the inner city black family is a direct result of welfare policy by incentivizing broken homes and fatherless families.

How many other problems associated with poor people are the result of policy rather than just the conditions in which the poor naturally find themselves? The primary argument of the conservative or welfare skeptic isn’t “Is the Marxian the only way to help the poor?”, but the Marxian hurts the poor and policies that hurt the poor should be eliminated.


DG Lesvic May 23, 2011 at 12:25 am


You’re absolutely right.

Stephen A. Boyko May 23, 2011 at 9:39 am

Is this a question of process vs. product?

jorod May 22, 2011 at 5:59 pm

Mr. Gabler likes fraud and corruption.

indianajim May 22, 2011 at 9:25 pm

From the linked article: “Neal Gabler is at work on a biography of Edward M. Kennedy.” QED

WhiskeyJim May 22, 2011 at 6:41 pm

If compassionate self-actualization and a hand-up rather than a hand-out were the goals of the welfare state, it would look much different than it does today. That is the chief reason many free marketers and ‘conservatives’ feel the welfare state is anything but compassionate.

If your grown child was struggling in life, would you just send them money and hope things turned out well? On the contrary. Successful learning, like habits, are both contextual and modeled full-time, and leveraged by neighborhood connections to find successful life streams and work.

That the welfare state believes it can emulate such success by building houses and once a week visits from social workers is not compassionate; it is a waste of money at best, and more likely a cynical condemnation to life-long dependency.

But then since it is mostly sociology that teaches us about learning, I suspect the sociological welfare state already knows that. So who exactly is it that is cold-hearted?

W.E. Heasley May 22, 2011 at 6:55 pm

“Skeptics of the welfare state”.

Yes, the abstract “society” becomes confused with the abstract “state”. -Or- is there zero confusion going on and merely purposeful confusion is being employed. Hmmm.

Is it “the welfare state” or is it really an ongoing exercise in political constituency building creating a dependent constituency through the use of other peoples’ money [tax payer money].

Ken May 23, 2011 at 11:58 am

Is it “the welfare state” or is it really an ongoing exercise in political constituency building creating a dependent constituency through the use of other peoples’ money [tax payer money].

There’s a difference?

John V May 22, 2011 at 7:27 pm

I think it’s more accurate to say that he measures compassion by the intent of government policies people support.

If you support a policy that is supposed to be compassionate then you are compassionate. It’s the lazy feel-good way to say you care. It’s actually just signaling.

WhiskeyJim May 22, 2011 at 8:07 pm

Yes, outcomes don’t matter; only intentions and one’s public support. Great insight.

Sam Grove May 23, 2011 at 10:53 am

Gesturing is the term you want here.
Gestures are easy to make, no substance is required.

Methinks1776 May 22, 2011 at 7:57 pm

So Gabler is complain that the victims of of mugging aren’t compassionate because the don’t happily submit to the mugger? Interesting perspective.

Stone Glasgow May 23, 2011 at 5:48 am

It’s not a mugging, it’s group consensus, which is always correct and always moral. Duh.

Methinks1776 May 23, 2011 at 8:31 am

Oh yeah. I must have been deprogramed for a minute there.

vikingvista May 24, 2011 at 12:34 am

Yeah, right. Like there is ever going back, once you’ve taken the red pill.

vidyohs May 22, 2011 at 7:59 pm

Neal Gabler is very intellectually weak as he wanders all over the map with his disingenuous nonsense, as if none of us are to know anything of history except the history as he cites it.

What is this Social Gospel of which he speaks? Is that the warped version that the uber-looney lefties now try to claim that Jesus taught? The one in which Jesus is a socialist?

“But this change, significant as it is, has been undergirded by a less apparent but no less monumental revolution that has transformed the nation’s values, ideals and aspirations. Over those same 30 years, we have become a different country morally from what we were.

The United States has always had a complex national moral system. On the one hand, there is the Puritan-inflected America of rugged individualism, hard work, self-reliance and personal responsibility in which you reap what you sow, God helps those who help themselves, and our highest obligation is to live righteously. These precepts run from Cotton Mather to Ralph Waldo Emerson to Billy Graham.”

As if we do not know that the America of FDR, LBJ, Carter, Clinton was a distortion of the major conservative views and actions in this nation before we imported European socialism. Evidently Gabler’s history begins with America being socialist, and the move back to conservatism is seen be him as something unprecedented in American history.

Got news for ya, Gabler, America was resolutely and over whelmingly conservative until FDR. What ya see now is not a change but a correction back to the only reasonable course humans can take.

And, last but not least, to read his ignorant ramblings about morality was sickening, so wrong and so distorted.

Gil May 23, 2011 at 2:49 am

Such biblical quotes can be found:

Then again many Conservative shows and movies from the Good Ol’ Days showed people who weren’t interested in charity and found it a disgrace to both give and receive saying that people should work for their keep instead of holding out their hands. A century ago people were trying to determiine the difference between the “deserving poor” versus the “undeserving poor” – those who aren’t worth saving.

P.S. If American was magically “overwhelming Conservative” before F.D.R. then he wouldn’t have got voted in, would he?

vidyohs May 23, 2011 at 6:17 am

“P.S. If American(sic) was magically “overwhelming Conservative” before F.D.R. then he wouldn’t have got voted in, would he?”

Sounds good on the face of it, Gil; but, things are never that simple. Under trying circumstances even conservatives are capable of making mistakes.

For instance I am making one right now for even bothering to respond to you.

Your link to biblical quotes is typical of the disingenuous tack of the looney left. Absolutely none of those quotes tell an individual believer to take the money of his neighbor to give to the poor. All of them direct the individual believer to use his own money, time, and effort to help the poor, no coercion there.

The attempt to pain Jesus as a socialist is effective only on the truly ignorant and mentally deficient.
Jesus teachings = voluntary.
Socialist teachings = compulsory.

Mao_Dung May 23, 2011 at 6:50 am

I would abolish the government, too, along with your pension that is funded tax dollars stolen at the point of a gun. You are owed nothing for the time you frittered away at your desk during your unproductive years working for the military. You weren’t protecting the U.S., you were working to destroy the country as a subversive. You should be in jail for high treason and made to work to pay for your keep. Actual you should be executed like Pvt. Slovik. Hypocrite and deserter.

vidyohs May 23, 2011 at 9:22 am

Conversely I would never abolish you, Cao Dung. You are worth a laugh every time you show up.

Gil May 23, 2011 at 7:07 am

Jesus’ teachings aren’t compulsory per se. If we were take the Christian concept of God and his Creation as literally true then much of Jesus is doing amounts to threats. If Jesus is telling give to the poor and be rewarded or else God will punished you then Jesus is a divine government agent and tax collector.

It’s like someone trying to beat you up with a pillow – they won’t hurt you but they shouldn’t have the right to threaten you anyway.

vidyohs May 23, 2011 at 9:18 am

LOL, go ahead, threaten me with a good glass of Petite Syrah. Tro’ me in dat briar patch!

No where in the bible is an individual threatened with punishment for not helping the poor. Jesus simply says that the individual who does not help, will not be rewarded.

Big difference between being punished and not being rewarded.

Gil May 23, 2011 at 11:40 am

In Luke 16:19-25, it describes a rich man getting eternal hellfire for simply ignoring the plight of a poor man, that’s all. There’s no suggestion he was a rich criminal. But that’s only scary if you believe the Bible to truthful in the punishment of people. If you believe the Bible to be the Word of a Libertarian God then you’re playing with yourself. You might as well say the part about not working on the Sabbath and lying are to be taken as suggestions because virtually everyone has committed both sins hence we’re nearly all doomed to fire and brimstone. Leviticus and Deutoromy contains laws which are offensive to Libertarians because they forbid actions deemed immoral but harmless to others (male homosexuality being the obvious one).

vidyohs May 23, 2011 at 1:43 pm


Nothing in that quote that suggests that the rich man was tormented specifically for ignoring poor Lazarus, it suggests the rich man was going to hell anyway for his general lifestyle choices and Lazarus is merely the focus point of the teaching.

Strictly speaking if we go by the bible, if we do not earn the reward as Jesus taught we are going to end up in hell (at least that is the interpretation my relatives made), but, again there is nothing in that verse that suggests a collective of people punishing the rich man or of taking his goods and helping Lazarus with those stolen goods.

As I said, Jesus never once spoke of compulsion regarding aid to the poor……..but, then I never heard Jesus speak, so my evidence is strictly anecdotal.

Gil May 24, 2011 at 12:10 am

I say again – that quote will God punished the rich man for not giving. If we are to believe the God of the Bible and that Jesus is spreading the Word of God then He is not a Libertarian because he punishes a rich man for not sharing (as well as make laws against “victimless crimes”). Of course, if you don’t take the Bible as serious then it doesn’t matter. On the other hand, Jesus had no problem with slavery either stating the only rewards that matter are in the hereafter.

Sam Grove May 23, 2011 at 10:56 am

FDR ran on a freer market platform, criticizing Hoover’s interventions.

Then he became a war president, and nothing rallies the crowd like an external threat.

WhiskeyJim May 23, 2011 at 8:35 pm

Like FDR, I suspect Obama would never have got elected if he ran on his true colors. And like FDR, Obama fooled most people who only paid casual attention. Worse, it is still happening.

Dan May 22, 2011 at 8:47 pm

This will aptly apply to reasoning for Democrats push for more and more for the ‘compassion’. Also, freebies for votes. Vote democrat or you will lose your SS, Medicare, welfare, housing, etc.,…..
The ‘govt compassion’ gives us tens of thousands of freeloaders like the guy who dresses like a giant baby to recieve disability, the lotto winner in Michigan who is recieving and using food stamps, the lady in Michigan who proclaimed that she won’t have to make her mortgage, car note, etc.,…….

Thomas Jefferson, “I place economy among the first and most important virtues, and public debt as the greatest of dangers to be feared. To preserve our independence, we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. If we run into such debts, we must be taxed in our meat and drink, in our necessities and in our comforts, in our labor and in our amusements. If we can prevent the government from wasting the labor of the people, under the pretense of caring for them, they will be happy.”

Chucklehead May 22, 2011 at 9:37 pm

Government is force, not compassion. True compassion can only come from freedom, not compulsion.
Collective responsibility is a way to put your individual responsibilities off onto the backs of others.
Doing charity through government is like feeding a canary through a cow.
“rogue economic behavior and enrichment at the expense of the community.” If human exchanges are voluntary, how can trade “by mutual consent to mutual advantage” be at the expense of the community?

Others have said it better
“The practical reason for freedom is that freedom seems to be the only condition under which any kind of substantial moral fiber can be developed — we have tried law, compulsion and authoritarianism of various kinds, and the result is nothing to be proud of.”-Albert Jay Nock

“Everyone wants to live at the expense of the state. They forget the state wants to live at the expense of everyone.” —Frederic Bastiat

“Run for your life from any man who tells you that money is evil. That sentence is the leper’s bell of an approaching looter.”- Ayn Rand

“Meaning to help poor people isn’t the same thing as actually helping poor people.” The Minimum Wage and The Forgotten Man by ART CARDEN

” it’s foolish to assume that just because the government doesn’t do something, that it wouldn’t be done at all.” -J Stossel

“He, or society, or a majority may claim that we, my neighbor and I, have “wrong” values, and might try to tell us so, but the imposition of force to get us to change our values is unwarranted; such use of coercion stems from an assumption of omniscience, which is not a human quality.”-Frank Chodorov

“No one can do what is morally right when this is being dictated to or coerced from a person.”- F A Hayek

T Rich May 22, 2011 at 10:36 pm

Thanks for that great set of quotes, Chucklehead. It is clear to me that we were created and endowed with free will as that is the only way to measure/test our goodness and righteousness. I don’t know as much as I should about Albert Jay Nock, but everything I have read by him is brilliant. I particularly like his discussions about “the remnant.” I believe that our blog hosts and many of the readers make up “the remnant” in thought and action. Gabler? Not so much.

kyle8 May 22, 2011 at 11:07 pm

I am glad they are going back to the “compassion” argument. They tried that back in Reagan’s day and were defeated at every turn.

As it happens, the American public are a little too sophisticated, or too cynical to be made to feel guilty for poverty they did not cause.

Dan May 24, 2011 at 12:59 am

Compassion?!?! Soooooooooo, the lotto winner in Michigan using food stamps is compassionat govt? The diaper wearing 300lb man who built his own adult size crib to assist in his disability claims….. That’s compassionate?

Mao_Dung May 23, 2011 at 12:13 am

Do you propose a gradual phasing out of all welfare programs, or do you want a shock treatment ending of those programs? Can we next dispense with the fire and police departments? What about the court system and government itself that’s also funded with “coerced tax dollars and the threat of violence.” I think we should resolve all disputes duels. May the fastest draw and best shot win! The loser gets the undertaker.

I agree that taxing poor people makes bad sense and should be halted immediately. Let’s start with repealing property taxes and sales taxes on poor people. Why do I have to pay property taxes to pay for my neighbors’ kids to go to some crummy elementary school? Why aren’t property taxes available to pay the exorbitant veterinary bills that my 17 year-old terriers are incurring. I would be libertarian in a minute if libertarians weren’t so fascist about the economic power of the well-to-do, many of whom live off the fat of the land and contribute zilch to the betterment of humankind. They are getting away with murder!

Tom May 23, 2011 at 12:59 am

I’d like to respond but I’m still wading through the ocean of cognitive dissonance here.

Chucklehead May 23, 2011 at 1:26 am

“fascist about the economic power of the well-to-do, many of whom live off the fat of the land and contribute zilch to the betterment of humankind.”
Libertarians are about as opposite as you can get from fascist.
Yes, the land just throws money at the well to do. They have all the money trees.
Being productive, producing goods and services that are desired is how wealth is created, and by itself, serves society.
Logic and reason are the murder victims of your posts.

Mao_Dung May 23, 2011 at 6:38 am

You’re getting away with murder. How do you pay your bills? What is your source of income? Trust fund baby, I presume from the amount of time you waste here.

Chucklehead May 23, 2011 at 4:51 pm

Sorry, no trust funds here. My income is derived from voluntary exchange where both parties benefit.

robert_o May 23, 2011 at 2:20 am

Ah yes, the fire department: Pinnacle of the welfare state!

J Cuttance May 23, 2011 at 4:47 am

yeah and what about the roads?
ok I’ll grant that you can make sophisticated and frankly sublime vehicles with free enterprise, but it takes the brilliance of a benevolent state planner to put down those layers of grit Mr robert_o

Mao_Dung May 23, 2011 at 7:24 am

Your comment is incendiary enough.

BZ May 23, 2011 at 1:04 pm

This is the closest thing to good sense I’ve ever read under that forum handle. Indeed, abolish property taxes and sales taxes! And then go after zoning laws and licensing that keeps the poor off the ladder to success.

Dan May 24, 2011 at 12:53 am

Damn those guys who brought us laptops, autos, HD TV, washing machines, cordless power tools, WWF, ………… er………. uh…….. Alarm clocks, cell phones, etc.,….. Muderers!!!!

ettubloge May 23, 2011 at 7:47 am

One of your best letters ever, Don!

It is unfathomable to most people that forcing others to do your kindness is a fraud. And I am defective because I believe voluntary acts always result better.

eriks May 23, 2011 at 7:59 am

Yuval Levin touched on this in a recent article for National Affairs, “Beyond the Welfare State.”
We’ve lived in a social democratic welfare state for so long, it’s difficult for people, conservatives included, to imagine life outside it.

Mao_Dung May 23, 2011 at 8:21 am

You are wrong. It is the capitalist, environmentally destructive pilfering and profiteering state that must be eradicated. Sad that you can’t see the forest for the trees.

Marcus May 23, 2011 at 8:38 am

Too bad you can’t see the trees.

eriks May 23, 2011 at 8:46 am

I can’t tell if you’re joking or not. What exactly are you proposing in lieu of a free capitalist market?

Mao_Dung May 23, 2011 at 9:00 am

Capitalist markets aren’t “free.” I’m tired of the mendacious trope. Stop repeating it.

Methinks1776 May 23, 2011 at 9:22 am

“mendacious trope”

cool vocabulary. Nice.

Mao_Dung May 23, 2011 at 11:04 am

Women are turned on by bald, rich, bright men. I’m one of the three. Can you guess which? I’m glad I made your day. You are a delight.

vidyohs May 23, 2011 at 1:57 pm

LOL, Cao Dung, because of your comments others beside Methinks have observed one of the three, and that one can be automatically eliminated.

Guess which one Bald? Rich? Bright?

Methinks1776 May 23, 2011 at 4:53 pm

My guess is Dung has more money than time and, if he has all his hair (on his head, that is), he’s the stud of the retirement community :)

nailheadtom May 23, 2011 at 9:33 am

” It injected a certain aggressive moralism into our political discourse and led to campaigns against abortion rights, homosexual rights, sexual freedom and other issues perceived as and then framed as moral matters. As a result, our politics became “moralized”; they were transformed into a contest of one set of values pitted against another.”
This guy is making up his own history. Abortion “rights”, for instance, didn’t exist until quite recently. There were no campaigns against them, the campaigns consisted of efforts to legitimize them. Be that as it may, he is also in error as to 19th century ideas of morality vis a vis government. As President Grover Cleveland, a Democrat, said when he vetoed the Texas Seed Bill in 1887, a measure intended to give federal aid to drought-stricken farmers in the Southwest: “I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution, and I do not believe that the power and duty of the general government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering which is in no manner properly related to the public service or benefit. A prevalent tendency to disregard the limited mission of this power and duty should, I think, be steadfastly resisted, to the end that the lesson should be constantly enforced that, though the people support the government, the government should not support the people.

The friendliness and charity of our countrymen can always be relied upon to relieve their fellow citizens in misfortune. This has been repeatedly and quite lately demonstrated. Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character, while it prevents the indulgence among our people of that kindly sentiment and conduct which strengthens the bonds of a common brotherhood.

Randy May 23, 2011 at 9:39 am

Separation of compassion and state.

vikingvista May 24, 2011 at 12:36 am

Hear hear. It fits my general formula: Separation of X and state.

Jeffrey Neal May 23, 2011 at 10:16 am

Jesus did not teach dependency, he taught freedom. Simple as that.

Christian charity does not create dependency, it is an act of love and compassion, meant to improve the lot of the recipient and benefactor alike. We give to support life, because we love and value LIFE, even that of another man. Free men do not strive to be alone in the world, atop a pile of corpses. They seek to be surrounded by other men who produce and accomplish things big and small. That is our nature – to be acquisitive and productive. We produce more than we consume – for proof, just look around – all those things are from human effort, not magic.

State welfare does induce dependency, robs men of control of their lives and empowers the state to tell the ‘beneficiaries’ how and where to live. It says “if you want to keep getting this check/voucher you can’t work, you can’t move, you can only eat what we want you to eat — oh, and by the way, if you don’t vote the right way, the check might stop coming.”

muirgeo May 23, 2011 at 12:21 pm

So you think Jesus would be a libertarian. What would he have to say about 400 people controlling $1.7 trillion dollars of wealth.

I know people like you think this gets all evened out in the after life. I hope you are right but I doubt it. I am not convinced there is such a thing and I want the balances sheets taken care of while we still walk the Earth because you Christians are obviously not doing enough to end the pain and suffering and dependency.

Seth May 23, 2011 at 12:44 pm

What about 535 people controlling $3.4 trillion in spending? Present value that to make an apples-to-apples comparison to your number, and you’re talking about roughly $34 trillion of “power”. Your number seems rather weak in that regard. Especially with the added consideration that many in the group of people you mention only “control” that wealth by providing stuff other people want.

Jeff Neal May 23, 2011 at 7:33 pm

Exactly. And he wants those same 535 people to control MORE and more and more.

muirgeo May 24, 2011 at 1:23 am

It’s 3.4 trillion for 300,000,000 people….. But yeah those 535 are responsible for setting policy that allows massive unneeded accumulations of wealth…

And Jeff Jesus would be glad for the medical care and food for the poor that part of that 3.4 trillion pays for.

crossofcrimson May 23, 2011 at 2:33 pm

” What would he have to say about 400 people controlling $1.7 trillion dollars of wealth.”

He’d ask that those who have give to those in need. There’s nothing un-libertarian about that. What I can’t imagine him doing, however, is calling his followers to raise swords against those who have in order to part them from their wealth or property. That particular notion of aggression shares a particularly antonymous relationship with libertarian sensibilities.

I’m not Christian – but it occurs to me that people who try to use Jesus as a wedge between libertarians and their sense of ethics are going to end up snaring themselves in their own thoughtless philosophical traps.

brotio May 23, 2011 at 4:58 pm

@ Yasafi,

Methinks posted this yesterday on the Simon thread:

May 22, 2011 at 5:06 pm

Totally, Moron. But, then, you think Hayek agrees with your pile of garbage.

Galbraith states once that he is “not attracted to the Soviet System”, but you have to wonder what he’s talking about as he spends the rest of the article breathlessly describing just how attractive it is. What shortage of houses? So many have been built!

And the scholars who privately managed to tell him the problems of the Soviet system? Galbraith thinks this would be admirable – if only the scholars weren’t saying it to score points against the Soviet system. All good, though. “Difficulties” were met with “wry humour”.

He did note the smoking and overweight were a bit of a problem in Russia, but totally missed the rampant alcoholism.

“That the Soviet system has made great material progress in recent years is evident both from the statistics and from the general urban scene. . . . One sees it in the appearance of solid well-being of the people on the streets . . . and the general aspect of restaurants, theaters, and shops. . . . Partly, the Russian system succeeds because, in contrast with the Western industrial economies, it makes full use of its manpower.”

It succeeds, according to Galbraith “because, in contrast with the Western industrial economies, it makes full use of its manpower”. An economist or a fool?

The streets are so much cleaner in Leningrad and Moscow (never noticed that myself). And he says there is no doubt they are safer (why wouldn’t they be, with drunks and the KGB roaming the streets at all hours?). The transportation is so much more efficient (unless you take ten steps outside of the city – there, nobody has paved roads, running water or electricity. Saddle up the donkey, Vanya. He died? shit.).

He had not trouble agreeing with some Leningrad academic that both countries faced problems with the enormous cost of the great modern metropolis. In three areas, Galbraith thinks the Soviets have better solutions than ours and we should adopt them (let’s hope culling the population and forcing the rest into communal apartments isn’t one of ‘em.)

“The first of the economic problems of the Soviet Union comes directly from this affluence, or relative affluence; it is the formidable burden that the infinitely numerous, incredibly diverse requirements of the modern consumer-oriented economy place on a socialist planning system.”. Most immigrants risked their lives to leave because of the affluence, of course.

Not a problem when all the USSR produced was tanks (and people starved to death and lived “v zhope”, but that’s the price you pay to build a brave new world). Now (in 1984), “the modern consumer economy, East or West, calls for the production and distribution of a truly mystifying number and variety of products (‘coz nobody wanted consumer goods the mystify him before)…”. They’re required in the U.S. and in only moderately less measure in the USSR. Say what? Oh, that’s right – according to this Keynesian, consumer demand is not organic. Sadly (according to JKG), private production crowds out public production and investment.

He acknowledges that the USSR has measures of failure – but then, according to him, neither the the unplanned nor the planned economy “works very well”.

There’s no Veblenian leisure class in the USSR , according to Galbraith. When I first read that years ago, I remember laughing.

He does point to some problems – Insufficient investment in infrastructure, just like the U.S. The shoe factory makes boots and women’s shoes. Yet boots are easier to make and the factory meets its quota by producing those instead of women’s shoes. Women who might want women’s shoes? Men’s heave boots for you. Obviously, this is problem across all consumer products, but to Galbraith this is a “small” if compelling example of the challenges in the consumer economy.

He does call mindless nonsense the suggestion that we can overstrain the Soviet economy by forcing them into an arms race. He correctly points out that this is central planning, which….according to Galbraith is “not our special forte”.

What was it JKG proposed? Expanding certain classes and contracting others. Specifically, the establishment of a class of elites that ran the country (like the USSR) and decided investment (like the USSR) – Supplanting private production and consumption with public spending and investment. He moaned an awful lot about all this production in private hands causing all kinds of “imbalances” he didn’t like. “The greater the wealth, the thicker the dirt.”

When he was still alive, I did sort of wish I could transport him to a few other spots on earth where he could find out just how thick the dirt of poverty is.

Don’t worry, Muirdiot. Nobody expects you to understand any of this.

You’ve been awfully busy this morning trying to claim that Jesus was a socialist like you. Methinks smacked you upside the head with Galbraith’s own words – after you pissed-and-moaned about being bullied by a woman. Was your ass too sore to talk out of after Methinks kicked it so thoroughly? Quack… Quack… Quack…

Why don’t you at least tackle the paragraph I highlighted above? Explain how his gushing over Soviet “success” is any different than the FDR Administration’s descriptions of the Stalin show trials during the Terror as fair and honest.

Methinks1776 May 23, 2011 at 6:35 pm

ugh, Brotio. I can’t believe I re-read that whole piece. Although, Galbraith was an excellent writer (of utterly silly, elitist tripe).

muirgeo May 24, 2011 at 1:27 am

BS Bro… I read the Galbraith article. Methinks is full of shit. Unless you’ve read it then STFU because her slant on it requires NOI response.

She is the one caught in a blatant lie.

brotio May 26, 2011 at 5:03 pm

Hmm… A ducktor who subscribes to the Clinton Doctrine of, “never tell the truth when a lie will do” accuses someone else of lying. I never fault you for at least going for the comedy – even though you always fail.

Methinks didn’t need to lie to discredit Galbraith at this Cafe, your endorsement of him was discredit enough.

Jeff Neal May 23, 2011 at 7:36 pm

Why do you read ‘libertarian’ into every comment? It’s not there. I guess it’s just your easiest bogey-man.

And, who said anything about my religion? Not I.

You constantly argue with the wrong person. Get adjusted.

Jeff Neal May 23, 2011 at 7:39 pm

OH, and you ignored the point I made just to distort it. Dependency – you’re for it or against it? Is it a good or bad thing that government forced ‘charity’ leads to generation after generation being dependent on government?

muirgeo May 24, 2011 at 1:33 am

Government shouldn’t create dependency. Likewise capitalism shouldn’t breed poverty. It’s all about HOW we set up the rules.
The libertarian solution is no solution. If we really hate government dependency we should start at the top with welfare for the rich and with corporate welfare. Get rid of that and the poor will have jobs and be less dependent.

The poor ARE NOT bringing down our country and or economy. The rich are the ones doing that.

brotio May 24, 2011 at 2:44 am

Again, you falsely accuse libertarians of favoring corporate welfare. You are the only regular visitor to this Cafe who supports corporate welfare.


muirgeo May 24, 2011 at 9:24 am


Your complaints are 90% about the poor and 10% about corporate and rich people welfare. Should be the other way around.

You guys seem to hate the poor and admire the rich assuming their lots in life has more to do with intrinsic character flaws rather then extrinsic things related to society. 90% of our success is luck of birth.

The failure of the poor is mostly not theirs… the failure of the rich IS theirs to claim. The failure of the poor is our failure to organize society properly.

The libertarian idea to allow society to self organize is baseless and almost a cult belief. It will result in inefficient poorly functioning societies.

Again that is my guess as to why such societies are not thriving all over the planet.

brotio May 24, 2011 at 11:48 am

Your comprehension skills are similar to the two-year-olds you (mis)treat.

Our complaints are 100% against leviathan State, and State interference in people’s private lives.

And, thanks for the tacit admission that you are in favor of corporate welfare.

crossofcrimson May 24, 2011 at 4:22 pm

“Likewise capitalism shouldn’t breed poverty. ”

Poverty (possessing nothing other than yourself) is, in fact, the default state existence. Capitalism (or, more appropriately, the people who engage in it) is not responsible for the addles of nature. This, I believe pretty clearly, illustrates why you can’t grasp the “gun” metaphor. Only a wayward conception of positive rights could so clearly lead a man to enslave his brothers for the deprivation nature itself has bestowed collectively upon men. It’s the essence of savagery.

muirgeo May 23, 2011 at 10:54 am

“We welfare-state skeptics perhaps are wrong to argue that true compassion can be expressed only when done voluntarily and that, when compassion is done voluntarily, it’s more effective than is ‘compassion’ compelled by government commands.” Don

And your evidence for this is found where? Which modern non-welfare state? When in time was there evidence of support for your claim? Right before which revolution? Is it a faith based claim? Is it simply a belief? Is it born out of compassion or selfishness or greed or pragmatism? Is it a claim based on logic or a personal hate of paying taxes? Is the evidence for your claim found in your church? Maybe in a Dickens novel or the writings of George or Marx or maybe a John Wayne movie provides the proof.?

I mean I am SURE you can give us the reason you make the claim. It HAS to be based on something. Again… is this an evidence based claim or a morality based claim. I think it is neither. My guess would be it is indeed a personality type based claim pure and simple. It’s a genetic claim… a codon based claim. Maybe you have NO basis for the claim… maybe it just comes out when you speak or write. Anyway I suggest along with the overwhelming majority of people of the modern civilized world that it will NEVER be a basis for which to order society….. never. I am just going with the odds… well and probably a little population genetics.

Methinks1776 May 23, 2011 at 11:03 am

If I enslave you and force you to serve my next door neighbour, is that evidence of your compassion or your bondage?

Marcus May 23, 2011 at 11:49 am

No Methinks, in the socialist world it’s evidence of *your* compassion.

muirgeo May 23, 2011 at 12:11 pm

In the libertarian world there is NO evidence because it doesn’t exist. So we… the serious ones… the adults in the discussion… the reality based among us are left to figure out how best to order society and to keep government effective and efficient as possible. Because that is the real world debate. What you guys defend is fairytales and silliness unimportant and irrelevant to the real world.

I am not saying you don’t serve a purpose. Indeed you do for those dug into power. You are the unknowing protectors of these elitist and that’s the role you play… the position you take. Even evil protector, charlatans, snake oil salesmen and vassals have roles to play. Just don’t pretend you have compassion on your side… you have nothing but poor greed and you are short sighted not even serving your own interest. The capitalist equivalent of useful idiots. Yes the wealthy love you… even as the pee on your legs.

Sam Grove May 23, 2011 at 1:25 pm

So we… the serious ones…

Added because is not evident in the argument. This is how children argue. “I’m the adult and you’re not.”

In fact, you sound much like a fan of Lyndon Larouche I once had a “discussion” with. Since he couldn’t answer counter my points, he promised that “they” would spank us libertarians when they were in power.

Those who seek political power over others, which is the goal of all collectivists, have never assumed their own power as adults, instead seething over their lack of power as children.

When you are able to make “adult” arguments, you won’t feel the need to proclaim that you are “serious” or “adult”, it will be evident from your presentation.

crossofcrimson May 23, 2011 at 2:57 pm

“In the libertarian world there is NO evidence because it doesn’t exist. So we… the serious ones… the adults in the discussion…”

So, muirgeo, are we to presume that people clamoring for democracy before the advent of them as functioning successful bodies were also not serious – not adults? It seems to me that the broken-record argument of “It DOESN’T exist so it CAN’T exist” seems to be the most non-serious argument being offered in light of…..well…..all of human history. Quite frankly, for how demeaning and castigating you seem to be regarding other arguments you seem to find silly, I’d suggest you start commencing with the actual arguments at hand instead of simply stalling (which is functionally what you’re doing). Simply ousting your opponents’ views as “fairytales” is not effective, productive, or substantial in any sense of debate – nor does it, in the least, make you a functioning adult. It quite clearly reveals you to be the child.

So consider this the clarion call; either proceed with actual debate and discussion or stop offering the derisively vacuous screed which you so nocuously proffer as actual arguments.

vikingvista May 24, 2011 at 12:38 am

“In the libertarian world there is NO evidence because it doesn’t exist.”

Free actions don’t exist?

muirgeo May 23, 2011 at 11:57 am

No but again no one is dong that… we all pay the same tax rates. We all ultimately (well not really but ideally…if anything the system favors the wealthy over the poor) have the same access to government resources. If anything corporate welfare extract more power over the government and the rest of us far more than do personal welfare programs.

Bottom line if we go your way many more babies and elders and disadvantaged and victims of circumstance will die and suffer needlessly and from your pure utilitarian dreary point of view… never to be allowed to contribute positively.

It’s my opinion that a well designed public safety net maximizes societal and economic effeciency and keeps those of us well to do from living in a caste society. I don’t want to be a rich man in a poor mans country.

But at it’s root my position IS selfish. I just think I am less likely to be mugged, robbed, revolted or have my gates crashed if all those other members of society born unprivileged like me are allowed to prosper and contribute rather than sick the government teat or decay away in the streets with the rest of society.

And I think there is NO benefit burdening just the good of heart with doing all the compassion while the jackals are allowed to prosper to no end with no need to pay back into the system. That’s just fucking stupid.

Methinks1776 May 23, 2011 at 12:47 pm

Okay. So, I gather you once again didn’t understand the question.

muirgeo May 23, 2011 at 4:06 pm

Okay. So, I gather you once again my reply schooled you so you replied like you always do when defeated. Some non-sense about me not understanding your question.

You have 2 replies to me. Either ad homs or claims about me not understanding your questions. BAHH OOOR RRRING!!!

Again if you can point to some one specifically being enslaved and providing for their neighbor let me know…. Oh wait.. YOU are right. The people at the sewage plant are being held hostage to take care of the crap you flush down the toilet towards them everyday. You are a god damn tyrant… start cleaning up your own crap and stop holding guns to those guys heads at the sewage plant… you ……you… ya… BASTARD!!!

Methinks1776 May 23, 2011 at 4:13 pm

So, I take it you still don’t understand the question, but you’ve once again found the caps lock.

muirgeo May 24, 2011 at 1:36 am

You just took another crap didn’t you?

Sam Grove May 23, 2011 at 11:27 am

What is compassion and how can it be compelled by threats?

muirgeo May 23, 2011 at 12:05 pm

Its quite simple. Like in Joplin Missouri this morning where I have family… We all have previously agreed to pitch in to a common pool to pay for the infrastructure that helped warn people of the coming tornadoes and to pay for Firemen and rescue teams and national aid to help these victims. All the good compassionate people would contribute anyway… we are just saying to people like the scum on Wall Street or wherever they are found … you too are going to help because you were helped in your time off need… you were allowed to become rich by the rules of this nation. Now you don’t get to bitch and whine like a fricking baby that someone is holding a gun to your head.

Why do you dopes think YOU are the only ones with your stupid metaphorical gun to your stupid big dumb heads. Grow the hell up or get the f out . Every single one of you when put in the position of the town of Joplin will be first n line looking for help in your time of need. That’s how we do it here. Everyone pitches in… no free riders and no we are not going to leave ALL of the burden on the compassionate because IT DOES NOT WORK and IT is not fair. And still the truly compassionate will contribute the far greater share.

Rich Berger May 23, 2011 at 12:27 pm

For a supposedly compassionate liberal, there is an awful lot of nastiness in your comments.

Methinks1776 May 23, 2011 at 12:49 pm

Nastiness is the new compassion like brown is the new black and forty is the new thirty.

Sam Grove May 23, 2011 at 1:29 pm

He’s all about collective gesturing so he never has to take any personal action, thus relieving himself of guilt over being able to afford vacations in remote wilderness areas at the expense of the poor families he treats.

No real compassion.

muirgeo May 23, 2011 at 4:08 pm

Yeah… when confronted with nasty … I get nasty!!!

brotio May 23, 2011 at 8:52 pm

Would that when confronted with intelligence, you could get intelligent.

Methinks1776 May 23, 2011 at 9:03 pm


Would that he could, Brotio.

crossofcrimson May 23, 2011 at 2:59 pm

“you were allowed to become rich by the rules of this nation.”

Basically, we’re allowed to take the air out of your lungs because we’ve let you breathe all this time.

The ethical presupposition is flawless.

crossofcrimson May 23, 2011 at 3:12 pm

“Why do you dopes think YOU are the only ones with your stupid metaphorical gun to your stupid big dumb heads.”

The gun is a proper metaphor because it involves a victim and perpetrator – someone must wield the gun. Natural disasters, hunger, disease, age – all threats to our livelihood; yet not one brought about by the trigger-finger of another man. You may still call him heartless, but there are multiple amplitudes of difference (as a matter of justice and more broadly ethics) in letting a man starve and binding his hands so that he may not eat. Libertarianism, as a normative view of justice, has nothing to say about the former – but an awful lot to say about the latter. Most libertarians, as a matter of personal morality, share a great concern with his non-libertarian brothers regarding the former – but he will not let them continue the binding of hands of some in order that others eat. He sees the shared end(s) as irrevocably inconsistent with such means. You don’t get to roam around the world putting everyone in shackles under the premise that innocent men are guilty for the perceived “crimes” of nature.

tdp May 31, 2011 at 10:46 pm

muirgeo isn’t even worth arguing with. He provides zero evidence for his assertions other than a handful of semi-coherent, outlandish claims that are easily incinerated by a glance at any relevant data on the matter, possesses zero sense of logic, ignores the countless instances in which logic and history have contradicted his claims, and is exactly the kind of horrible person he claims us libertarians are.

When this is brought up he immediately goes into advanced dipshit mode, launching a nonsensical tirade against the imaginary horrible capitalist robber barons who run the world (a theory not too far off from the anti-Semitic World Domination theories of the 20th century). I wonder why he even reads this blog if he hates being exposed to facts and intelligence so much.

In the words of the immortal Maddox (to paraphrase his description of 9/11 conspiracy theorist Dylan Avery), “Reading muirdiot is like being bukkaked with stupid.”

Peter McIlhon May 24, 2011 at 1:24 am

“Everyone pitches in… no free riders”

So in a Welfare State, do we have what we deserve, or deserve what we have?

tdp May 31, 2011 at 10:51 pm

The concept of the “Free Rider” was born during the age of the welfare state.

On a side note, if America/the West/civilization falls, it won’t be because of terrorists, China, or global warming, it will be because of a leviathan nanny state that sucks up money and creates an entire society of fat, lazy, irresponsible people who don’t do anything for themselves. Meanwhile the poor will continued to be screwed by the political class, who will blame it on everyone else.

crossofcrimson May 23, 2011 at 2:42 pm

“And your evidence for this is found where? Which modern non-welfare state? ”

Round and round we go. How is it that you manage to concede the fallaciousness of this non-sequitur in previous posts yet you invoke it in lieu of every imaginably rational argument you could possibly conjure. You can’t argue against something’s possibility simply by pointing out it’s non-existence – especially when people like you have been ravenously pushing against such attempts for millenia.

” Anyway I suggest along with the overwhelming majority of people of the modern civilized world that it will NEVER be a basis for which to order society….. never. I am just going with the odds… well and probably a little population genetics.”

Color me unconvinced that what the majority may hold to be right or best actually is. Let’s span the spectrum here and say that a nation of slave-owners didn’t make slavery right, nor do multiple platinum discs lining Britney Spears’ mantle make her music the best. People are often wrong – sometimes en masse.

Dallas Weaver May 23, 2011 at 1:06 pm

Another letter to the LA Times.

Neal Gabler’s opinion piece, (America the Stony-hearted” (5/22/11) claims that this country’s moral values have changed from the good old days of the New Deal to a less moral and more tough minded conservative self-interest. Mr. Gabler appears to have forgotten that the “good old days” included (and were not limited to) the “Dixiecrats” — those good old boy southern Democrats who legislated and enforced segregation laws. In the fog of political correctness, he has also missed mention of anti-homosexual laws, anti-miscegenation laws, anti-semetic zoning restrictions and anti-abortion laws. I was alive during Gabler’s good old tender hearted days, and I remember when you couldn’t sell your house in many areas of LA to a Black, Jew or Mexican. You couldn’t get a legal abortion. Cops enforced anti-sodomy and related anti-homosexual laws (except against Priests –where their arrest records disappeared). I remember when developers were forced to put in separate, duplicate, facilities for blacks, at their expense and when black men couldn’t get into skilled craft unions or get jobs as engineers. Those “good old days” of “an America of community, common cause, charity and collective responsibility” were days when leaders used this rhetoric to further their self-interest. The self-interest has stayed the same, but our understanding of that phenomenon has improved and we blocked our political class from using racist, sexist and homophobic laws to further their self-interests.

I am not opposed to America being a juster, nobler nation. But to pretend that it used to be so is a fantasy.

DG Lesvic May 23, 2011 at 1:30 pm

Say, those were the good old days.

Randy May 23, 2011 at 1:59 pm

And of course, much of the need for compassion is a consequence of the actions of the state.

vikingvista May 24, 2011 at 12:40 am

Sounds like a positive feedback loop to me.

RCP in NYC May 23, 2011 at 3:13 pm

This post reminded me of one of my favorite speeches in the house of representatives.

“Mr. Speaker–I have as much respect for the memory of the deceased, and as much sympathy for the sufferings of the living, if suffering there be, as any man in this House, but we must not permit our respect for the dead or our sympathy for a part of the living to lead us into an act of injustice to the balance of the living. I will not go into an argument to prove that Congress has no power to appropriate this money as an act of charity. Every member upon this floor knows it. We have the right, as individuals, to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity; but as members of Congress we have no right so to appropriate a dollar of the public money. Some eloquent appeals have been made to us upon the ground that it is a debt due the deceased. Mr. Speaker, the deceased lived long after the close of the war; he was in office to the day of his death, and I have never heard that the government was in arrears to him.

Every man in this House knows it is not a debt. We cannot, without the grossest corruption, appropriate this money as the payment of a debt. We have not the semblance of authority to appropriate it as a charity. Mr. Speaker, I have said we have the right to give as much money of our own as we please. I am the poorest man on this floor. I cannot vote for this bill, but I will give one week’s pay to the object, and if every member of Congress will do the same, it will amount to more than the bill asks.”

- Col. David Crockett

kyle8 May 23, 2011 at 6:41 pm

Old Davy understood that the government cannot grant anything that the people do not empower it to, and the people can grant nothing that they are not able to do themselves.

Therefore, if the people have not the right to take the money of others to give away, then neither can they grant that right to government.

RCP in NYC May 24, 2011 at 12:32 am

Davy was lucky enough to run into Horatio Bunce while campaigning for reelection. Mr. Bunce really let him have it over a bill Crockett voted for in his previous term that appropriated money to give to victims of a fire.

He went on to tell Davy that “[t]he power of collecting and disbursing money at pleasure is the most dangerous power that can be entrusted to man, particularly under our system of collecting revenue by a tariff, which reaches every man in the country, no matter how poor he may be, and the poorer he is the more he pays in proportion to his means. What is worse, it presses upon him without his knowledge where the weight centers, for there is not a man in the United States who can ever guess how much he pays to the government. So you see, that while you are contributing to relieve one, you are drawing it from thousands who are even worse off than he.”

Jeff Neal May 23, 2011 at 7:51 pm

I’ve been thinking about spending and taxation lately. It occurs to me that Americans pay exactly the amount of taxes we want to pay. No more and no less. Look at the history of taxes as a percentage of GDP – very constant at about 18-20%, with spikes for wartime and such. Elections keep the politicians from over-taxing us – we’ll vote them out if they do.

On the other hand, spending . . . no control, because the political class is without discipline and can’t resist taking money from one group and giving it to another group…to buy votes, perhaps?

Why do they get away with that? Because the class of people they are stealing from – future tax-payers – can’t vote yet, since their either under 18 or not yet born.

Can we call that taxation without representation?

RCP in NYC May 24, 2011 at 12:15 am

I think that the fact that taxes as a percentage of GDP have remained relatively consistent while tax rates have varied greatly also goes to show how people will adjust their economic behavior to reduce what is considered taxable in favor of that which is not. Large numbers of individuals are more adept in the direction their economic activity than the bureaucracy is at designing ways to capture it.

Dan May 24, 2011 at 1:17 am

The tax code, at a higher rate just means that more begging is required in DC to get the deductions wanted. A high tax rate is a wonderful form of discouragement for those looking to enter into higher rates of return on their hard work. The higher tax rates are also guarantees of Congress gathering more power. Few pay the rate, but can be threatened into losing their exemptions or subsidies should they not ‘play ball’.

muirgeo May 24, 2011 at 2:05 am

Jeff you haven’t apparently been thinking about them hard enough. A 2% difference means $300 billion less in revenue each year.

The biggest problem has not been spending but decreased revenue from the Bush tax cuts and the Bush recession.

Also if you believe we shouldn’t charge future generations with our spending debt how do we decide how to pay off the 14 trillion in excess spending right now. I think like in Monopoly when you have to pay the excise tax we should do it that way. Whatever your percent of total wealth you get to pay off that portion of the debt.

So the 400 richest owning about 2% of all our wealth would get to pay of about $560 billion of the debt themselves. A person of 1 million in worth would owe about $10,000.

Randy May 24, 2011 at 7:34 am

Re; How to pay off the debt.

I don’t really see that as a problem. More precisely, its not my problem. We can’t pay it, and what cannot happen will not happen, so sooner or later the political organization will have to default. But not for you to worry, as the rich, both the political rich and the productive rich, will be hit far harder than the common folks, because it is the rich who hold the vast majority of the soon to be defaulted debt instruments. These are demanding that the debt limit be increased to save their own asses, not mine. So, crisis, sooner or later. I’m for sooner. The sooner the crisis the sooner we can achieve an age of reason and liberty.

Randy May 24, 2011 at 7:34 am

P.S. This was supposed to be a “reply” to Muirgeo.

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