Monday, July 17, 2006

Being a bureaucrat means never having to say you're sorry

As though compassion were a scarce and coveted proprietary political commodity, modern socialists, progressives, and even many generally well-intentioned citizens champion the defense and expansion of social programs belonging to the welfare state with the refrain, "what about the poor? what about the minorities?"

One might have asked in the 1930s, "what about the Ukrainian peasants?" … if one had been allowed to ask, that is.

The last fifteen or twenty years have afforded to people an unprecedented luxury to examine the levelling poverty, viciousness and despair that are the consequences of yielding jurisdiction over good intentions to political mastery and charging bureaucracies with their execution — and the rigours to which they will apply any scrutiny of the licence they have received by fiat to redefine good intentions in the interest of concentrating and expanding their monopoly. Needless to say, this luxury has been squandered by most. Public education has been helping to see to that…

Crossposted at Dust my Broom

7 comments:

bonnie abzug said...

"...modern socialists, progressives, and even many generally well-intentioned citizens champion the defense and expansion of social programs..."

Why, Mapmaster, are you implying that we progressives are not well-intentioned? And perhaps not even citizens? That's low, even by your libertarian standards.

I'd turn this around a bit. I'd say, "many crypto-capitalists, corporatists and even many generally well-indoctrinated citizens champion the defense and even expansion of social programs belonging to the corporate welfare state with the refrain, "What about the wealthy?"

MapMaster said...

It was not my intention to imply that progressives and socialists were not well-intentioned, but now that you raise it, I wonder how much tarnish accumulates to good intentions when repeatedly worn as a political device — especially to the orator. Don't get me wrong, I have to caution myself not to let my virtue be undermined by rhetoric.

"many crypto-capitalists, corporatists and even many generally well-indoctrinated citizens champion the defense and even expansion of social programs belonging to the corporate welfare state with the refrain, "What about the wealthy?"

Yes, very much so…

Anonymous said...

The problem isn't so much the intent, it is in the execution. The French Revolution was launched for Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, but ended up spawning the "terror" and paving the way for Napoleon to assume the reigns of power and carry out the bloodthirsty program of "enlightening" Europe with the virtues of Revolutionary France, modern governance and the "Code Napoleon".

We don't have to look far for other historical examples, the Bolsheviks had a pretty clear program for solving everyone's problems, and the Khmer Rouge had some pretty exciting ideas about getting "back to the land" and solving many of the preceived problems of urbanization. When the time came to put these ideas into practice, however, mass starvation and mass murder were the end results.

The roadmap is pretty clear, and there are no excuses anymore for not seeing or knowing the destination.

Mike said...

(Presently) big business and the (presently) wealthy love "progressivism" -- how better to stay big and profitable than by preventing competing entrepreneurship through taxation and regulation?

One of the biggest mistakes sincere progressives make is in assuming that "capitalists" are against socialism. This stems from the mistaken assumption of zero sum wealth. Under that assumption, benefitting the poor must necessarily mean penalizing the rich, who, under that assumption, would be expected to be the ones objecting and pulling political strings to prevent the progressives from helping the downtrodden.

But in fact it is the (presently) wealthy and powerful who most desire the economic retardation and anti-competition that progressivism brings. Under socialism the economy moves closer to a zero sum game, one whose rewards are set by a political system in which the wealthy and powerful by definition have much greater access and influence.

Bell GlobeMedia thanks you for wearing your Che T-Shirt and voting Liberal. Viva!

bonnie abzug said...

And one of the biggest mistakes that sincere regressives make is in assuming that all progressives are against capitalism. This also stems from the mistaken assumption of zero sum wealth. Under that assumption, benefitting the poor must necessarily mean penalizing the rich; which is cited as proof of the original argument. A classic class of circular reasoning. That it simply isn't true that wealth creation is a zero sum game gets shuffled off to the side. One could hardly expect the facts to get in the way of a good rant.

What regressives are motivated by is much simpler, and baser, than that which motivates progressives: self-absorption, greed and a callous disregard for the general welfare of the unknown other. Further, to equate progressives with socialism pro forma is as intellectually lazy as identifying the modern managerial class as capitalists. It is simply not very useful and does not reflect the complexities of modern political economy.

I know a few sincere regressives personally and in some depth. None of them are wealthy, only one of them owns her own business, all but one are members of the wage economy. I would say that it is the wealthy and powerful who most desire the economic retardation that regressivism drags along in it wake - the promise of ascension into the very ranks of the wealthy and powerful; a promise that is not likely to be fulfilled, given that it is true that the wealthy and powerful have much greater access and influence. Indeed, I would like to say that if there is a zero sum game at play in the modern economy, it is exactly these wealthy and powerful people who play it to keep their little cabals closed loops.

Mike said...

Under that assumption, benefitting the poor must necessarily mean penalizing the rich; which is cited as proof of the original argument.

Mapmaster's post was about social programs. Such schemes are usually understood to be coercive in nature.

If "progressivism" is now purely a matter of voluntary charity then there's nothing at all to object to. Go forth and do your good works with my blessing.

bonnie abzug said...

Mapmaster's post was partly about social programs, I suppose, but your reply went far beyond that, Mike.

Mapmaster made the claim that the modern social welfare ethic has been responsible for rising levels of poverty, despair and viciousness. Or, at least, I think that's what s/he was saying.

In responding to your post, I was merely making the statement that there are many progressives, by your implied definition, who might take umbrage at being classified as socialists if by socialism you are referring to the classical, static and not very useful meaning of the term.

Speaking for myself alone, of course, I can tell you that while I am very comfortable on the "left" - if even that term is very useful anymore - I am generally pro-market but not unmindful of the distortions the market can introduce to the modern economy, lukewarm (at best) to globalism, fiscally somewhat conservative, concerned more about responsibilities than rights, leery of the institutional effects of bureaucratization, and so on.

Progressivism is certainly not now a matter of voluntary charity. This is the preferred method of regressives who understand that, with this, they can keep their cake and eat it too.