Friday, February 10, 2006

The Holocaust Memorial Museum

I just went to see Glenn do his book signing at CPAC where there were bloggers, journalists and reporters galore! From there, I went to the Holocaust Museum to look at the exhibits. As a psychologist, I found the exhibition on "Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race" the most interesting. The Nazi emphasis on health and fitness was certainly intriguing--while it sounds good in theory, it reminds me of why I feel upset with all the fitness gurus in this country with their propaganda that makes smokers seem like outlaws and those who eat at McDonald's one step away from a heart attack and lifelong reliance on the health insurance system. It is all about more government control--even to the point of telling people how to eat and exercise. Heck, I ate at McDonald's on the trip up and it was fairly healthy.

The National Socialist Party is an amazing representation to me of the worst characteristics of the authoritarian mixed with far left leaning propaganda. While the far left sometimes likens the right to Nazi's, it seems to me that Hitler also had traits of the left--I guess that's why they called it the National Socialist Party. One of the displays in the Deadly Medicine exhibit mentioned a quote from Hitler that I did not write down--but the gist was that the goal of the National Socialist Party was to have children as its top priority (in a 1938 speech, Hitler proclaimed the mother to be the most important citizen in his state) and that the selfishness of the individual was to be overlooked for the good of the collective society. Sounds very much like a form of socialism to me.

My question is, why do so many of the left tout Nazism as a creation of the right when there were so many traits of the left embedded in it's theology?

Update: Ed Driscoll has more.

Update II: Wow, these guys think I am calling them terrorists and Nazis. I didn't have that in mind at all--but it's interesting that they think I did. Can anybody say, guilty conscience?

Update III: Reader Ardsgaine in the comment section gives a lesson in logic to Tboggians:

All Nazis were socialists.

All socialists are leftists.

Therefore, all Nazis are leftists.

And she ended with the question, so why do the leftists call the right Nazis?

Now, if you had a basic philosophy class in college, you probably remember how this works. The statement "all Nazis are leftists" does not imply that all leftists are Nazis. It just means that some leftists are Nazis. It's the same as with "all horses are mammals." You can't flip it around and say that all mammals are horses. Got it? Or should I sketch you out a Venn diagram?

112 Comments:

Blogger Dave said...

The ideological left sees the ideological right as racist.

12:45 PM, February 10, 2006  
Anonymous dweeb said...

There is no doubt that both naziism and fascism are both extremes of the left. Because Germany attacked the USSR, people see it as them as opposites to socialism, but they're merely different flavors of socialism. Also, the left refuses to believe that it is anything but peaceful.

1:09 PM, February 10, 2006  
Blogger Nick said...

Another similarity is that during the 30's Hitler was very big into labor unions, and the ideas of manual labor. While one can see this as his way of getting people working during the German depression of the time, it also had a lot of similarities to a lot of union philosophies which are the favorite of the left.

1:21 PM, February 10, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember a history teacher I had in high school telling us that the line that runs from the far left to the far right is actaully a circle and that the two ends are very close to each other. It's always made sense to me.

1:44 PM, February 10, 2006  
Anonymous DenverJohn said...

The reasons stated thus far are correct. I believe it's also the case that private industries were not nationalized under Nazism (so evil "capitalism," as many people in the 1930s saw it, was maintained), though they might as well have been since they served the state.

Left and right are concepts that are so easily abused and misunderstood. A more accurate representation of the ideological spectrum, instead of a linear one, would be a circle where left and right, diverging at the top of the circle (which would be the current "center"), meet at the bottom, highlighting the commonality of extremists.

1:51 PM, February 10, 2006  
Anonymous Alan said...

I'm sorry, but you are making a couple of fundamental mistakes.

The most obvious of which is that there is rarely a reason to invoke the Nazis in any discussion except when it is obviously appropriate. In the absence of any good justification, comparing the Far Left to Nazis is no more justified than they comparing the Far Right to Nazis. It's lazy, pandering intellectualism.

You are also cherry picking your observations. BOTH ends of the political spectrum have "collectivist" (as in the individual should subvert his individuality to the will of the collective) characteristics. It is disingenuous to suggest it is true of one extreme and not the other – especially when you clearly favor the viewpoint that (surprise, surprise) is supposedly free of any such taint. It just makes you look like a propagandist.

The political philosophy of the Nazis had characteristics that clearly demonstrate that it was to the far right of the political spectrum: Fervent nationalism; a close alliance with business interests; an idealization of role of father and mother; an idealization of militarism; the view that all life was an endless struggle for dominance, and; many other examples.

Point is that political systems based upon extremes are bad for everyone. We shouldn’t forget that.

2:03 PM, February 10, 2006  
Blogger Catholicgauze said...

Good post. There is a theory in political science called the "radical center." It states once one becomes so radical, right and left lose their meaning as traits from both sides are adopted.

The Holocaust Museum has to be the most powerful in DC. I was blown away by it.

2:11 PM, February 10, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

alan wrote: "The political philosophy of the Nazis had characteristics that clearly demonstrate that it was to the far right of the political spectrum: Fervent nationalism; a close alliance with business interests; an idealization of role of father and mother; an idealization of militarism; the view that all life was an endless struggle for dominance, and; many other examples."

Other than "a close alliance with business interests", I don't see how this list of attributes would not also nicely apply to the former Soviet Union.

2:42 PM, February 10, 2006  
Blogger Jonathan said...

My question is, why do so many of the left tout Nazism as a creation of the right when there were so many traits of the left embedded in it's theology?

One reason may be that, for obvious reasons, the Left doesn't want to be associated with Nazism, despite the close functional similarity between "leftist" and "rightist" varieties of statism.

Whatever theoretical differences may exist between different totalitarian ideologies, those ideologies all tend to resemble each other in practice. Leftists often focus their arguments on theoretical distinctions while ignoring real similarities. By insisting that they share no responsibility for Hitler and other nominally non-leftist totalitarians leftists distract attention from their own culpability as supporters of totalitarianism generally.

3:02 PM, February 10, 2006  
Anonymous Rob said...

The usual reason for calling Nazi's "far right" is the hyper nationalism and militarism. The others that Alan states, such as "an idealization of role of father and mother" or "a close alliance with business interests" don't have nearly as much to do with it. (as an aside, Hitler's "close alliance" with business went like this: do what we want or we can find someone else to run your company).

I see it slightly differently. I see left-right politics as an attempt to balance the needs of the individual with the needs of the group. Generally speaking, the Left in the US takes the side that says, "the group is more important than any individual member" and the Right takes the side that says, "individual liberty is more important than the group". Both sides are right, of course, hence the debate. Since the two sides are nearly perfectly balanced, we can conclude, I think, that the population as a whole would like to walk as fine a line as possible to balance the two naturally competing interests.

If you take this model, then the Nazis come down squarely on the left, as they clearly considered the whole vastly more important than any individual (except, perhaps, Hitler himself).

The link above goes to a lengthy essay about this on my website...

3:11 PM, February 10, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great article on why the Nazis were socialists here:

http://www.mises.org/story/1937

Its also important to remember that the eugenics movement, which was the underpinning of racist Nazi ideology, actually began in Victorian England, where many were fascinated with dog breeding. It then migrated to America and developed a strong following, and then migrated back to Germany. The Germans studied a lot of American eugenics "scholarship". Then there is the American legacy of thousands of involuntary sterilizations, lobotomies, and "psychiatric commitments"..........

3:21 PM, February 10, 2006  
Anonymous Bilwick said...

"My question is, why do so many of the left tout Nazism as a creation of the right when there are so many traits of the left embedded in its theology?"

As a psychologist, you are, I am sure, familiar with the concept of "projection."

3:26 PM, February 10, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a psychologist, you are, I am sure, familiar with the concept of "projection."

Then there's the old saw: To the man with the clinical hammer, everything looks like a clinical nail. Or can be made to, if consulting fees, government funding, career advancement, and/or ideological agendas are involved.

3:37 PM, February 10, 2006  
Anonymous Alan said...

Rob:

Do you actually read any left-leaning sites? I read from both sides of the political spectrum and I can assure you that the association between what the Left and the Right "really" stand-for you make is exactly the OPPOSITE you'd find on those pages -- e.g. they'd argue it is the RIGHT that is all about collectivism and the LEFT is all about individuality.

I'd personally argue that you see expressions of "collectivism" and "Individualism" in both camps. Just as there are those on the Left that want laws and government controls to guarantee what they see as equal rights and benefits there are plenty of social conservatives on the Right who want to use the government to enforce their own views of morality. Likewise, many on the Left champion the right of people to live as they want even as on the Right you see the more libertarian "I'll do it myself" attitudes.

Point is, you can't place either side into nice (and often self-serving) boxes. What amazes me the most is how many on both sides can so completely think they are the true champions of what are basically the same ideals!

One more detail: Go read some histories of the Nazi era, Rob. It was in many ways the business elite that put them in power and then worked hand-in-hand with them afterwards. There is a reason why people like Krupp went to jail for war crimes.

3:40 PM, February 10, 2006  
Blogger David said...

There's a stylistic point about the difference between Right and Left which was well captured by Aldoux Huxley:

In the field of politics the equivalent of a theorem is a perfectly disciplined army; of a sonnet or picture, a police state under a dictatorship. The Marxist calls himself scientific and to this claim the Fascist adds another: he is the poet--the scientific poet--of a new mythology. Both are justified in their pretensions; for each applies to human situations the procedures which have proved effective in the laboratory and the ivory tower. They simplify, they abstract, they eliminate all that, for their purposes, is irrelevant and ignore whatever they choose to regard an inessential; they impose a style, they compel the facts to verify a favorite hypothesis, they consign to the waste paper basket all that, to their mind, falls short of perfection...the dream of Order begets tyranny, the dream of Beauty, monsters and violence.
***
According to this formulation, I'd argue that today's "progressives," who tend to be obsessed with aesthetics, are closer to the traditional Right than to the traditional Left.

4:56 PM, February 10, 2006  
Blogger reader_iam said...

Extreme is extreme; right or left are merely flavors.

5:22 PM, February 10, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The liberals in America always fawn over totalitarian regimes. The left said for years that socialism and marxism and communism were not threats. Why are they not afraid of these idologies? Because these ideologies have accomplished what the liberals dream about . . . a society in which the government is in control of everything.

5:26 PM, February 10, 2006  
Anonymous Teresa said...

I don't think it's a Left/Right issue so much as a "branding".

What is the one political group that everyone knows is evil? Why the Nazi's of course! Therefore - to equate a group with the Nazi's is a fast way to make everyone understand you are depicting your opponent as EVIL... utterly without redemptive qualities. (at one time Satan and all the demons of Hell would have been used this way - but that's too religious for today's sensibilities)

Whether or not the Nazi's were far Left or Far Right becomes irrelevant in this case because the intent is to completely discredit the opponent. Although I must say the term Nazi has been used so often and with so little restraint - I don't think the impact is there anymore.

6:26 PM, February 10, 2006  
Blogger CatoRenasci said...

Perhaps the simplest, most obvious, answer to Helen's question is that in the crucible of post-WWI German politics, the burgeoning National Socialist movement considered itself in opposition to the communists. It allied itself with the war veterans who were active in anti-communist groups like the Stahlhelm and the other anti-communist Freikorps. Nazi Sturm Abteilung (SA) members battled the communists in the streets and Nazi propaganda was explicity anti-communist. Hence, they are regarded of the right. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

6:43 PM, February 10, 2006  
Blogger a psychiatrist who learned from veterans said...

That the Nazi's are far right is accurate in that they were so seated in the Weimar parliament, perhaps being anticommunist. Kuenhelt-Leddihn in "Leftism..." points this out and says they were an 'identitarian party.' You had to have a certain ideal identity to be included, originally a successfully dominant political idea in the French revolution, also seen in communism and as 'leftist.'

6:50 PM, February 10, 2006  
Blogger Assistant Village Idiot said...

alan and catorenasci make reasonable points, and I have partial agreement. Perhaps because Naziism has been reflexively categorized as rightist for years, when conservatives get an opening they over-emphasize the leftist tendencies inherent in National Socialism. As that reflexive rightist characterization is so common, I will throw the word "disingenuous" back at you. You are clearly well-read enough to be aware of the common characterization, but conveniently leave it out of you argument.

"Nationalism" as a right-wing idea looks promising at first, as leftists tend more to see themselves as World Citizens. But in practice, they belong to nations with invisible boundaries based on ideology, and are congratulating themselves on nothing. National Socialists were business allied in that they interfered little in the day-to-day workings, believing that such issues were better left to those nearby. In this they were correct, but they were unable to tolerate that amount of independence, and gradually assumed greater control.

It is true that liberals see conservatives as collectivist, describe them as such, and believe they want to impose their social morality on others. The evidence for this is poor. Cultures have always regulated sex, marriage, suicide, etc. For those who wish a change, they should advertise it as such, rather than condemning conservatives for continuing in the practice of every other culture. People who wish to see different rules may win the day, by convincing others of the rightness of their position. However, I will not take seriously a group which engages in misleading rhetorical flourishes for political effect, or worse, has deluded themselves into these positions.

The idealising of the mother and father is a stronger point. I don't know if it is always necessarily right-wing, but it is certainly a point of contact between that culture and current conservatives. Idealising of "militarism" seems either an error or slyness. Supporting your group's current military actions is not militarism in any sense, else all groups can fall in that category and make it meaningless. Nor is believing that the military has some fine points about it a "militarism" of the right. That rhetoric is often used, but it is still not accurate.

"Life is an endless struggle for dominance..." yeah, I hear that in conservative circles all the time -- we're just brimmin' over with that idea. And I've never heard anything like that from the left.

My tone has been irritating, and I admit it. I was a leftie once, and am perhaps little-willing to grant them the benefit of the doubt for their self-congratulation on their purity of motive. I've heard them in private too often.

7:22 PM, February 10, 2006  
Blogger Billy Beck said...

Once, in Usenet, I posted a challenge: I cited two examples of practical political conditions -- actual policies in place -- taken from Alan Bullock's superb 1992 study, "Hitler And Stalin: Parallel Lives". I dared one & all to correctly tag them to the regimes that put them in place, either the USSR or Nazi Germany.

Nobody was able to do it.

There is a good reason for this.

None of them -- not one -- was able to think in terms of principles.

7:57 PM, February 10, 2006  
Blogger Billy Beck said...

Uhm, excuse me, but I believe that I just mutilated my own point, at the end. The only proper response to the challenge would have been: "It doesn't matter which one is which. They're both the same." However, the fact remained that nobody was able to distinguish between the USSR and Nazi Germany. The larger point that I would lodge here is that there is no crucial difference between them.

This fight is completely impertinent.

8:02 PM, February 10, 2006  
Anonymous John said...

an idealization of role of father and mother;

Somebody has never heard of the Lebensborn, I see.

The only way Alan could show any more ignorance is to claim Hitler was a Christian.

Hitler was a socialist:

http://constitutionalistnc.tripod.com/hitler-leftist/id9.html

9:09 PM, February 10, 2006  
Anonymous Alan said...

John:

If anything your first bit about Ledensborn only proves my point. The difference is that the Nazis idealized GERMAN Fathers and Mothers. It is not exactly news that they were racists.

As for the link you give it doesn't even pass the laugh test. The author is clearly cherry-picking his information and taking things out of context to fit a pre-determined belief. For instance, Hitler's quote about socialist Russia came during a time when the two nations were technically allies -- Hitler needed to maintain the charade. But, even a casual student of the subject will quickly learn that he was an ardent anti-communist. He did, after all, invade Russia the following year.

But, this really misses the point -- when taken to the extreme either end of the political spectrum can become totalitarian and all such repressive societies share common characteristics.

One should also be careful about throwing stones -- it would be easy for someone on the Left to use the same basic reasoning to argue that any so-called "connections" between Fascism and Socialism just proves that socialism is actually a FAR RIGHT ideology. They'd be wrong, of course, but I trust you get my point.

9:57 PM, February 10, 2006  
Anonymous Alan said...

Village Idiot says:

It is true that liberals see conservatives as collectivist, describe them as such, and believe they want to impose their social morality on others. The evidence for this is poor. Cultures have always regulated sex, marriage, suicide, etc.

So, let me get this straight -- the Right has no collectivist leanings (or at least the evidence is "poor") because they are just supporting collectivist beliefs already in place as opposed to trying to impose new ones?

Maybe I'm misunderstanding you, but that's not a particularly impressive argument. In fact, it borders on sophistry.

10:04 PM, February 10, 2006  
Blogger Christy said...

Maryland's Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, a Republican candidate for Sarbane's U.S. Senate seat, is in big trouble today for likening stem cell research to Nazi eugenics in a talk to a local Jewish group yesterday. Sigh. He apologized but still.... Serious tone deafness on the part of the Republicans' best hope here.

10:35 PM, February 10, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

LOL - I think that this debate qualifies as one of the web's perpetual arguments. Thankfully no one wants to be a Nazi ;)
____________________________

One point that I'd like to contribute is that the standard Left v. Right metaphor, of a continuum between totalitarian communism and blood & soil Fascism, is a European invention. IMO it's not particularly useful when applied to American political history. The Right in many parts of europe, and specifically during the period upon which this model reflects, was nativist and often monarchist. It bore very little resemblence to US Republicanism, and regarded the liberal democratic principles that American conservatives embrace as an abomination. Their Right is not our Right.

Fascist sympathies, in the US, were actually most prominent among nativist Progressives ( e.g. Eugenics ) and Populists ( e.g. Coughlin / H.Long ) - note the caps.

11:28 PM, February 10, 2006  
Blogger CatoRenasci said...

assistant village idiot,
At this stage, I'm not sure what point you're trying to make. A few things do seem clear to me (put simplistically):

1. National Socialism, like Italian fascism, were movements which openly and directly opposed communism. In that sense, they are clearly of the 'right' in the traditional European sense.

2. The founders of both National Socialism (pre-Hitler) and Italian fascism (especially Mussolini) had socialist backgrounds and were imbued with socialist -- collectivist -- ideas, and many of the policies later adopted by the Nazi and fascist regimes seem indistinguishable from socialist or communist policies, save perhaps that the rhetoric was nationalist and racialist rather than internationalist.

3. The movements of the right (National Socialism, Italian Fascism and the Action Francaise) and the communists on the left all relied on violence and intimidation.

4. The fascist movements of the Right and the communists of the Left were all materialists with an eschatalogical world view that posited the triumph of their respective ideologies.

5. There are fundamental differences in the pre-fascist "right" in Europe and in America which make comparisons less useful than one might think. The continental European pre-fascist "right" was in no way almost classical liberal or Lockean as the right has been in America at least since the early 20th century. The European "rights" were far more collectivist (often Catholic collectivism), statist (especially in Prussia and France), and anti-capitalist (here one thinks of the ultramontane French and Spanish aristocratic rights, the Junker-led right in Prussia, and the implacable 19th century hostility of the Roman Catholic Church to capitalism) than was the case in the Anglo-Saxon world of England and America.

6. The only European 'right' comparable to the American 'right' - and then only partly so - is the English Burkean right. Even so, the 'right' in America has always been more philosophically Whig (think Whig plus Burke) than it has traditionally Tory in sentiment. Our conservatives (at least the serious ones) have never sought to repudiate the classical liberal and Lockean roots of our Revolution and founding documents.

7. The American right today is a blend of (at least) two strong strains of thought (a) the classical liberals (who are not quite libertarian) who are more or less true to 18th and 19th century liberal thought, especially with respect to the primacy of liberty, and (b) religious conservatives (both Catholic and Protestant) who reject Modern Liberalism/Socialism's determined assault on traditional values.

8. These two strains are much mixed, of course, and do give rise to antinomies, or at least contradictions from time to time on the right. The religious right is, ceterus paribus less concerned with economic liberty and free expression in the traditional sense, and more concerned with promoting values. In that sense, there are conservatives who are willing to use the state in collectivist ways similar to some on the left, though the behaviors they would coerce differ.

9. Religious conservatism has mixed views of collectivism - traditionally, Protestants are more individualisticly oriented -- it comes with the theology and anti-institutional bias of (especially conservative) Anglo-Saxon Protestantism-- whereas Catholic theology has always been more amenable to collectivism and the subordination of the individual to the group.

12:05 AM, February 11, 2006  
Blogger Kurt said...

How right you are. Let's face it, in "National Socialism" the anti-semitism was simply a peculiar version of class hatred. Hitler's nationalists hated the Jews for being a cosmopolitan and successful people. Instead of blaming capitalism and capitalists for all of society's problems, they blamed the Jews (and, to a lesser extent, other groups that they considered decadent influences). But it's important to remember that Hitler was no enthusiast about free markets.

I saw that same exhibit in December, and one of the things that struck me about it was that the eugenics movement represented the influence of questionable science on social and governmental policy. And where do we see the insistence on basing policies on "science" most regularly these days? Such moves almost always come from the left, whose proponents harbor an almost nostalgic faith in the idea of the perfectability of human societies.

12:19 AM, February 11, 2006  
Anonymous John C said...

The thing that struck me most while touring the Holocaust Museum was the nearly complete absence of the discussion of the role of gun control in facilitating Hitler's genocide (as well as that of every genocide in the 20th century...)

Perhaps my father's upbringing in Fascist Italy (and my life membership in JPFO) have made me more sensitive to this issue than most...

12:26 AM, February 11, 2006  
Blogger Ardsgaine said...

catorenasci wrote:
Perhaps the simplest, most obvious, answer to Helen's question is that in the crucible of post-WWI German politics, the burgeoning National Socialist movement considered itself in opposition to the communists. It allied itself with the war veterans who were active in anti-communist groups like the Stahlhelm and the other anti-communist Freikorps. Nazi Sturm Abteilung (SA) members battled the communists in the streets and Nazi propaganda was explicity anti-communist. Hence, they are regarded of the right. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

The reason for their opposition was the internationalism of the communists. Musolini was part of the communist movement before WWI, but broke away because he believed that the communists had betrayed Italy during the war by remaining neutral. He shared the same basic political philosophy as the communists with the exception of the belief that national boundaries would, and should, collapse into a universal, world-wide communist collective. To the fascists, the exact form that socialism would take within a nation was determined by the culture and traditions of the people of that nation. They moderated their socialism in an effort to reach out to conservative and liberal elements*, and present themselves as a less radical alternative to the communists.

This accounts for the bitterness between the two sides. Both were outgrowths of the socialist movement that swept Europe in the second half of the 19th century. Both have their roots in the political philosophy of Hegel. Whereas the Marxist analysis of history was based entirely on class struggle, Hegel had based his on the struggle between peoples. Fascism made cynical use of both racial and class antagonisms in its rise to power, and was able to succeed in countries where communism had failed to gain sufficient support. Marxists, with their commitment to ideological purity, naturally detested such rivals, and put them into the same category with conservatives and liberals as defenders of the status quo, even though the fascists came to power with a socialist agenda.

The similarity between our left and fascism is in their use of both race and class to analyze social conflict and in their modified socialist agenda, i.e, government control of industry, as opposed to government ownership. The platform of the National Socialist Party could almost be adopted wholesale by the Democratic party. The primary difference is in their focus on raising up oppressed peoples, which is more Marxist in nature. They are definitely on the same end of the political spectrum with both. All three are collectivist in nature, and if the spectrum is to have any meaning at all, then it has to be a measurement of collectivism vs individualism. Other aspects are non-essential, although I don't mean to say that our leftists are Nazis. There is an additional thing which has to happen to take a collectivist movement from oppressing the individual to genocide, a kind of mass hysteria or complete moral breakdown of the people. The one element of our left I will hang the label on with gusto, though, are the eco-nazis of ELF and ALF, who would love to see us all dead.

Conservatism in the US combines elements of classical liberalism in an uneasy alliance with religious puritanism. The popular acceptance of socialist politics in the 20th century has injected late conservatism with a complacent attitude towards the welfare state and big government, and a willingness to use these to advance its religious agenda. It has been drifting further and further to the left since the 1970s.

---------------
*I'm using 'conservative' and 'liberal' as they were understood in Europe, that is, conservatives representing the monarchy and the privileges of the nobility and the church, and liberals representing the middle-class and capitalism.

12:27 AM, February 11, 2006  
Blogger Ardsgaine said...

Catorenasci,

I sent my last post before seeing your most recent. We're making the same points, although I think your post is more clear than mine, so just read mine as a head nod.

12:35 AM, February 11, 2006  
Blogger CatoRenasci said...

ardsgaine,
I think we are substantially in agreement (see my subsequent post above). There is a German view (one side of the 1990s Historikerstreit) that views the struggle between fascism/nazism and marxism as essentially part of a European civil war that began with the Bolshevik revolution. It is at least worth reading Ernst Nolte's older (but still excellent) The Three Faces of Fascism which may be back in print now, but is usually easily obtained used in any case. Nolte's more recent chef d'oevre which lays the theory out at length and answers many of his critics is Der europaeische Buergerkrieg 1917-1945. It has not been translated as far as I know, but is worth the effort if your German is up to it.

12:38 AM, February 11, 2006  
Blogger CatoRenasci said...

I'd like to add a comment on the marriage of classical liberal 'conservatives' and religious 'conservatives'. While they have different emphases that give rise to contradictions from time to time, the reason the marriage works (IMHO) is that:

On one hand, most classical liberals believe that the traditional values which the religious right defends (at least to the extent that they are social constructs and not enforced by the state) are far more conducive to liberty (including the economic liberty necessary for the efficient functioning of markets) than are the values of the collectivist religious left or the assault on traditional values they see as part of the attempt by the marxist-based left to destroy the notion of truth and the rule of reason.

And, on the other hand, most religious conservatives believe that the liberty (both personal and economic) advocated by the classical liberal 'conservatives' is the surest guarantor of the religious liberty so ingrained in the American tradition.

The sport in all this is Roman Catholic conservativism. To the extent Anglo-Catholic the influence of English thought inclines it away from the reflexive collectivism and anti-capitalism of (especially French, Spanish and Italian) modern Catholicism.

12:54 AM, February 11, 2006  
Anonymous Kip Watson said...

What a fabulous discusson.

For those who haven't read it, Australia's John Ray (a political conservative/libertarian blogger wth many published psychology articles) of Dissecting Leftism, has a first class essay on this topic, "Hitler was a Socialist", to the effect that Hitler was precisely what he said he was, a Nationalist Socialist.

In this and some of his other writings many of the policies and utterances of Hitler, Marx and Engels are compared to each other and to those of modern Leftists. Plenty of black humour there (of the grimmest, bleakest sort), I can tell you!

The continuing widespread popularity of so many of his policies also helps to explain how such a thoughtful people could have been seduced.

1:53 AM, February 11, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

YOu know I have been thinking about this all day. I've never liked the slippery statement that wehn you get far enough out both left and right become the same extremist views. Nazis and Communists aren't the same and it's clear that they aren, but why is Nazi on the right anfd Communist on the left? i think it is less about government role in the public sphere, both had very little regard for people, yet there is a difference that can be sensed.
I think it is that on the left the view point tend to be future oriented and on the right it tends to be past oriented. When you;re fairly close to the middle this turns into traditionalist and progressives and neither is purely looking one way. But at the extremes it becomes very dangerous. Hitler had a passion for an racial history that never existed, but he was willing to murder millions to bring it about. The communists knew the future, their ideology dictated what had to pass and they were willing to murder millions to bring it about. When a leftist revolution occurs its often about sweeping away the old and marching to a bright new future, and when radical conservatives come to power its about a return to old ways and values. (I don't mean our garden variety democrats and republicans. The islamofacist are the reactionary right as an example. Its ALL about going back to the *pure* version of how we are supposed to be, while communists march us into a deadly future of how we are supposed to be.)

4:42 AM, February 11, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

(I'm the anonymous from 3:21PM that linked the link below, which I still strongly recommend.)

http://www.mises.org/story/1937

This thread is so long I'm not going to take the time to address individual posters, I'm just going to comment on a few points.

Question of Nazi Socialism: The link above, I feel makes a very strong argument that the Nazis were socialist. The Nazis really didn't like "free markets" - they instituted wage and price controls that triggered the familiar pattern:

Wage/price controls {trigger} shortages {which trigger} rationing {which triggers} black markets & cheating {which requires} draconian, totalitarian crackdowns and the curtailment of civil rights to supress free market forces.

They also only gave private owners nominal business ownership. The Nazis controlled what was produced, how it was produced, the price charged, dividends paid, etc. All of the above amounts to socialism, whether or not they opposed the officially named communist party in their rise to power.

Difference between Soviet/Nazi regimes: The only difference seems to be the pathological racism and belief in eugenics by the Nazis. Both were socialist, both were totalitarian. And as the link explains, true socialism basically requires totalitarianism to supress free market forces. (Many nominally "socialist" countries really have just severely hampered capitalist economies.)

Nazi racism as class warfare: There is some truth to this. The Jews in pre-war Germany were a market-dominant minority that caused them to attract a lot of jealousy, animosity, and scapegoating. (See this link for an explanation of market-dominant minorities, coined by Amy Chua):
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Market-dominant_minority

But the attacks on Roma (gypsies), Slavs, the "mentally ill", homosexuals, etc. showed that they were fanatical believers in eugenics as well. It is possible that they just used eugenics as a way to justify attacks on a market-dominant minority.

Left vs Right Totalitarianism: This concept might be better understood by introducing the third axis in politics that libertarians often discuss, variously referred to as size of government, statism vs non-statism, or big government vs small government. Once a government gets to the point where it possesses enough size, enough scope, and enough power it becomes totalitarian no matter what direction it leans - Left, Right, etc. Look at the wage/price controls that triggered de facto socialism in the Nazi regime - many times politicians or governments thought of as being on the right call for wage or price controls - basically calling for socialization of the economy or parts of the economy.

And also look at how the legal system is manipulated for certain agendas. Take alcohol, for example. Arguments could be made that it is sinful (traditional argument of the puritan Right) or that it is a danger to public health (traditional argument of the "we'll decide what's good for you" Left). But in either case prohibition would require an increase in the income, size, scope, and powers of government. And this would be followed by a stifled private economy (to pay for enforcement efforts) and the creation of more criminals.

8:32 AM, February 11, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you slam on folks who are healthy with that sloppy haircut of yours??

9:00 AM, February 11, 2006  
Blogger Assistant Village Idiot said...

I defer to the excellent comments of "anonymous said" and catorenasci, which show a greater depth and subtlety than mine. I would quibble with the latter only in his citing as evidence -- I think twice -- of NS Rightist definition that they sat in direct opposition to the Leftist parties of Europe. His later comments make a greater distinction, but the simplification as originally stated is objectionable.

The other anonymous: I'm pretty sure I don't want to be using the term collectivist here, which to me has a primarily economic meaning. I used it in my answer in the sense you seemed to be using it, which seemed to include more of the idea of uniformity. But with that caveat, yes, that is what I am saying, and I don't think it anywhere near the border of sophistry. There is a type of social conservatism which gives weight to tradition, but not the final vote. We can move away from our traditions by intent because we believe a new idea is better, such as in the founding of the Republic or giving the franchise to women. But the traditions in place deserve the default setting. Even if only by trial-and-error, those who have come before have created ordered, regulated societies in which people may live and prosper. New rules about euthanasia or marriage should not be off the table, but their burden of proof should be large. The libertarian has the almost hyper-American idea that our culture should be no shared culture -- that what defines the modern social contract should default to the individual's choice even if the society at large is affected. I have some sympathy for that view, and certainly the American experiment shows that we can indeed abandon such cultural unities as a shared religion without disintegration. My objection would be that the bands of shared culture do not go away, but reform in unpredictable ways. As those denominations which abandoned the liturgies of the established churches (and congratulated themselves for it) remade liturgies in all but name in their own worship within a generation, so too an abandoning of our current attitudes about end-of-life care will simply result in new rules -- invisible at first, but no less powerful. And with no guarrantee that they will be better.

Similarly, when people abandon religion, they do not move to No Religion. They move to something that they can say is no religion, but bears all its core aspects.

I do, however, apologize for my tone. I only half-apologized for it before.

11:19 AM, February 11, 2006  
Anonymous John said...

alan wrote

If anything your first bit about Ledensborn only proves my point. The difference is that the Nazis idealized GERMAN Fathers and Mothers. It is not exactly news that they were racists.

The collective rearing of children in institutional homes does not idealize the parents, racist or not. So your point is refuted and not proven.

Let's see, which right wing nut came up with the phrase, "It takes a village to raise a child"? Oh yeah, that's right, none of them did. Alas, there's nothing new under the sun. Heil Hitllary.

12:22 PM, February 11, 2006  
Blogger CatoRenasci said...

Assistant village idiot:
For your kind words, thank you. I think your quibble needs some attention, because I think few people understand that were speaking of National Socialism on several levels. My comments about the fact the Nazis defined themselves in opposition to the communists (as someone pointed out significantly, if not largely on nationalist and racialist grounds) place National Socialism on the "right" in the larger context of the larger European civil war (to use Ernst Nolte's term) following the First World War. I think that's simply a fact.

Where confusion reigns, I think, comes from the fact that the philosophical origins of Marxism-Leninism and National Socialism both lie in Hegelianism and 19th century materialism and the revolt against Christianity which began in earnest in the 18th century. Combined with the fact that many of the fascists in Italy and National Socialists in Germany came from communist or socialist backgrounds, it is not surprising that the two movements have very similar ideas and policies (except for the defining differences). It at least seemed to many in Italy in the early 1920s, and to many in Germany in through the later twenties and early thirties, to be a question of which totalitarian movement would end up running things: the fascists or the communists.

There is no question that many on the traditional right in both Italy and Germany found the fascists and Nazis less threatening than the communists, if only on the theory that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Right up until the Nazis took complete power in 1935 after von Hindenburg's death, the traditional right and parts of the Army thought Hitler and the Nazis could be used and manipulated for their own purposes.

It is truly unfortunate that this period is not taught in depth today the way it was at least until the 1970s. The things I have written on this post don't go much beyond what was common knowledge among the educated or the interested in 1965: it's almost all in Bullock's Hitler: A Study in Tyranny, Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich and Ernst Nolte's The Three Faces of Fascism (Der Faschismus in seiner Epoche 1963). Both the Bullock and Shirer were bestsellers in the US. Nolte was a bestseller in Germany and the translation was almost universally used in Modern Europe and 20th Century Europe courses at selective colleges and universities through the 1970s.

12:36 PM, February 11, 2006  
Blogger CatoRenasci said...

AVI: Further, your points about conservatism and change are good, they seem to me very Burkean. If you haven't read his Reflections on the Revolution in France you should. Also outstanding, but little known, is Burleigh Wilkin's The Problem of Burke's Political Philosophy (Oxford 1967) (I only know it because I studied with Wilkins).

12:40 PM, February 11, 2006  
Anonymous dweeb said...

The circle concept is a creation of relativism, and is not accurate. The extreme of true conservatism is not totalitarianism; it is anarchy.
As for social morality, the true conservative believes it is self enforcing when society does not try to intervene between individuals and the natural consequences of immoral choices.

12:57 PM, February 11, 2006  
Blogger Jacques Cuze said...

Praise Jebus Helen, 0 to Godwinning in two paragraphs! Not bad!

Oh, go fuck yourself.

1:46 PM, February 11, 2006  
Blogger dadvocate said...

Alan made some good points. I think the militarism aspect is strong. Liberals seem to hate anything resembling the military. Here is a post where the liberal blogger criticizes Bush addressing the Boy Scout Jamboree and makes a reference to "brown-shirted youths" and then a comparision to Castro. A commenter calls it a "Neo-Nazi Youth" rally.

2:18 PM, February 11, 2006  
Anonymous Alan said...

John says:

The collective rearing of children in institutional homes does not idealize the parents, racist or not. So your point is refuted and not proven.

You are missing the larger truth -- when you have a regime that over-idealizes the concept of the "Father" and "Mother" it doesn't take much for them to start believing that in order to have such ideals "properly" expressed they need to step in to make sure it's "gotten right" (no pun intended). That is what happens with all extreme beliefs -- after a certain point the person and/or group begins to think they know better than everyone else and therefore has no qualms about stepping in and taking control. The fact that it may undercut their supposed beliefs doesn't matter -- by that time they've lost all sense of perspective.

That, I think, is the real distinction here -- Once any political/belief system (Left, Right, Up, Down, whatever) becomes so strong that the "faithful" take its tenets as givens they lose perspective and start to believe they can do no wrong in pursuit of their ideology. Once you get past this point and the group in questions gains enough power to impose its worldview on others it will inevitably do so. After all, to their eyes their belief system is 100% correct. Therefore, by definition, everyone else is wrong if not "evil". Forcing their views on others becomes justified for any number of reasons including "defending against enemies" or "for their own good."

That is why I worry about some of what I see here, even from Dr. Helen. Too much of it sounds too self-assured (even arrogant) in its zeal to see all bad in the opposition and all good in its own views.

Anyone who thinks they can't fall into self-delusion is already there.

3:08 PM, February 11, 2006  
Anonymous AkaDad said...

I can't imagine how anyone could honestly say, that those tree hugging, do gooder liberals, have fascist tendencies.

Read the characteristics of fascism, and then tell me, that fascism is a trait of the left.

http://www.rense.com/general37/char.htm

3:56 PM, February 11, 2006  
Anonymous GoatBoy said...

"Fascist sympathies, in the US, were actually most prominent among nativist Progressives ( e.g. Eugenics ) and Populists ( e.g. Coughlin / H.Long )

Yeah, because nobody was more Progressive than Luce and none more Populist than Lindbergh! If the American left has to claim Senator Klansman (and often Stalin himself from the less temperate punditos) then the right surely must take possession of their pre-Pearl Harbor Nazi sympathizers.

6:36 PM, February 11, 2006  
Blogger Ardsgaine said...

Catarenasci,

Thanks for the book recommendations. You might also like The Anatomy of Fascism by Robert Paxton, if you haven't read it already, and The Ominous Parallels by Leonard Peikoff.

2:54 AM, February 12, 2006  
Blogger Ardsgaine said...

Dr. Helen,

Regarding your second update, I responded to the guy who posted it (quxxo). Just in case the post disappears, here is what I said:

She didn't say that leftists are Nazis, she said that the Nazis were leftists. To be more exact, what she said (although not as emphatically) was:

All Nazis were socialists.

All socialists are leftists.

Therefore, all Nazis are leftists.

And she ended with the question, so why do the leftists call the right Nazis?

Now, if you had a basic philosophy class in college, you probably remember how this works. The statement "all Nazis are leftists" does not imply that all leftists are Nazis. It just means that some leftists are Nazis. It's the same as with "all horses are mammals." You can't flip it around and say that all mammals are horses. Got it? Or should I sketch you out a Venn diagram?

But even "some leftists are Nazis" is stronger than what Dr. Helen was trying to say, because nothing in her post suggested that there were any leftists alive today who qualified as Nazis. She was simply saying that the National Socialist Party of Germany was in fact socialist (hence leftist), and then asking why do leftists keep equating the right with Nazis?

3:21 AM, February 12, 2006  
Blogger CatoRenasci said...

One must also consider that despite the actual behavior of socialist and communist societies, which is certainly totalitarian despite Marx's notion that a communist society was an ideal one in which warfare would be obsolete (come the millenium, as it were), the true believers consider communists peaceful. The modern left's argument to distinguish "true" communism/socialism from the obvious tyranny of Soviet (and to the extent the acknowledged it, Chinese) communism was that it wasn't true marxism or the tyranny was imposed upon it by rightist regimes hostile to communism.

The persistence of the classification of the National Socialists as "rightist" even though philosophically they can be considered "leftist" is not so very different as a psychological mechanism than the left's denial of any negative aspects of a communist society as inherent in socialsm/communism.

All of this points to the inherent contradictions adherents of both right and left totalitarian social engineering schemes must somehow reconcile in themselves to avoid insanity. Manifestly, most of them do not succeed.

10:34 AM, February 12, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As evidence of Dr. Helen's point..
There are leftist critiques of socialist authoritarianism, its role in Naziism, and the communist genocides - namely by Anarchists and various syndicalist factions. This is one of the reasons that many Anarchists go to great pains to distinquish themselves from Socialism. Also, there are still animosities present which linger from the Spanish Civil War.

11:51 AM, February 12, 2006  
Anonymous Alan said...

I had hoped that upon seeing some of the criticism to this piece Dr. Helen might soften her stance, but instead she just digs in even more. Her updates do nothing to dispel the notion that she is engaging in casual self-deception.

First of all, posting a link to Ed Driscoll's post and the "work" he links to is misleading in the extreme. The related essays are a textbook example of lazy and even fraudulent intellectual reasoning. Data is cherry-picked, taken out of context, and "spun" it in ways that are plain old dishonest. It's clear that all concerned approached the subject backwards -- they had a preconception and twisted the evidence to fit. In the end you get a hack job that will only stand up in the eyes of the "true believer" because only they are apt to take it at face value.

Likewise, Ardsgaine's rationalization doesn't help either. To suppose the proviso that not all on the Left are Nazis fixes everything is to damn with faint praise. The underlying proposition of the original post remains unchanged -- that all light and goodness is to be found on the Right side of the political spectrum, while the Left is either evil or merely delusional. To throw the bone that some on the Left "aren't so bad" (to paraphrase) hardly redeems this bit of rather obvious Shadow Projection.

Mind you, this has nothing to do with the quality of the views on either side of the political fence. If this was a Left leaning site making the same arguments to opposite effect I’d be voicing the same objections. My concern here is in the sloppy and self-serving reasoning being offered to defend an absurd idea. It just makes everyone championing it look either self-delusional or knowingly manipulative.

1:57 PM, February 12, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

(I am the original 3:21 anonymous)

Nazis as Left or Right: I think there is some confusion here between the economic definition of "socialism" and the period political definitions of "socialism", and also the dilemma of how to define social and legal policy. I'll just state that economically the Nazis were basically socialist and that totalitarian social and legal policies can be justified from a Left or Right perspective.

On Extremism: I think libertarianism seems to be an exception to the "extremism" rule. One of the basic tenants of libertarianism is to refrain from imposing your will on another. Therefore if someone claiming to be a libertarian was seeking to forcefully impose their will on someone else they would cease to be a libertarian. (Matters of true self-defense or defense of others aside.)

On Militarism and the Left: That much of the Left seems to disavow themselves from militarism is deceptive, in my opinion. Many on the Left would not have a problem with someone employing violence to further their policy agendas, whether in uniform or plainclothes - whether police, military, security, bureaucratic, administrative, or medical personnel. Many of them are "ends over means" type people. Not all, mind you. Some of them are genuinely pacifist, non-violent, non-interventionist, etc.

And some don't even seem to realize that their violence is violence.

2:22 PM, February 12, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

anonymous (3:21)-

My concern here is in the sloppy and self-serving reasoning being offered to defend an absurd idea. It just makes everyone championing it look either self-delusional or knowingly manipulative.

What's the absurd idea? The Nazis were basically socialists, and therefore at least economically they were on the Left. They were racist, nationalist, totalitarian Leftists, but they were Leftists none the less. What's so absurd about that?

2:29 PM, February 12, 2006  
Anonymous Alan said...

Anonymous says:

What's the absurd idea? The Nazis were basically socialists, and therefore at least economically they were on the Left. They were racist, nationalist, totalitarian Leftists, but they were Leftists none the less. What's so absurd about that?

It's absurd because it flies in the face of plenty of evidence to the contrary.

The Nazis worked hand in hand with the corporate elite until in many ways there was no difference. The power of the state was used to support and promote the corporate agenda (which in turn supported the state). Capitalism didn't go away; it was just used for the regime's own ends. This is light-years away from a soviet style command economy where capitalism did not exist at all. Fascism is merely one possible end-result of taking the pro-business attitudes of the Right to their extreme.

This whole argument about "Totalitarianism = Always Left" only works if one very selectively picks their data points and then pretty much assumes that the Right wing ideologies can never do wrong. Such a belief either indicates naiveté or deliberate manipulation. Take your pick.

3:58 PM, February 12, 2006  
Blogger David said...

"That much of the Left seems to disavow themselves from militarism is deceptive, in my opinion"...I also agree with this. There are plenty of self-defined leftists who are all for violence, as long as it's conducted by their side. For example, shortly after 9/11, there was a demonstration in Spain by "progressive" women carry "NO WAR" signs and clad only in mock (I assume) bomb belts, in evident solidarity with the homicide bombers.

6:06 PM, February 12, 2006  
Blogger Ardsgaine said...

Alan,

You have an absurd idea of what capitalism is, if you think that corporations cooperating with government for the sake of gaining privileges (or warding off penalties) = capitalism. Capitalism is the economic system that results when government is limited to protecting individual rights. Period. Anything else you call capitalism is a straw man. Fascism had absolutely nothing to do with protecting individual rights, and was emphatically opposed to individualism.

Further, I offered no rationalization of Dr. Helen's point, as you claimed further up. I simply broke it down into its logical structure. Nowhere in what she wrote can you find the accusation that leftists are Nazis. It's simply not there.

7:49 PM, February 12, 2006  
Anonymous Alan said...

Ardsgaine said...

You have an absurd idea of what capitalism is, if you think that corporations cooperating with government for the sake of gaining privileges (or warding off penalties) = capitalism. Capitalism is the economic system that results when government is limited to protecting individual rights.

There's the problem right there -- this idealized portrait of capitalism where by definition it can do no wrong because the moment it does it's no longer capitalism. That's just sophistry. By comparison, how many people here would argue that Islam is completely off the hook for terrorism just because no doubt many Moslems would argue that in that case it's no longer "real" Islam?

While I am very much a believer in capitalism, I am enough of a student of history and modern events to acknowledge that it all too often has and is getting out of control and doing great harm. Coming up with contorted rationalizations to keep one blind to its weaknesses does no one any good.

And, yes, Dr, Helen never came out and directly stated that "Left = Nazi", but don't insult our intelligence by suggesting that there wasn't a clear attempt at guilt by association.

8:40 PM, February 12, 2006  
Blogger a psychiatrist who learned from veterans said...

Dr. Helen, you might want to look at that symbolic logic text again, Ardsgaine, as you quote him, I beleive is right. Symbolic logic says: If the statements 'If A then B' and 'if B then C' are both True statements, then the statement 'if A then C' is a True statement. To say, which you do, this does not say 'if C then A' is also a True, but different, statement

1:22 AM, February 13, 2006  
Blogger CatoRenasci said...

A leftist having difficulty with Ardsgaine's syllogism is probably not prepared to admit the either the premise "all socialists are leftists" or, alternatively, the premise "all nazis are socialists."

Alan's notion that "Left=Nazi" is somehow a worse smear ("a clear attempt at guilt by association") than "Left=Communist" shows the depth of the left's ignorance of history and capacity for self-deception.

Virtually every conservative I have ever known with even a smattering of historical knowledge has regarded the Nazis and the Communists with something akin to equal revulsion: both have histories of mass murder, totalitarianism, economic stupidity and warfare. In once sense they cannot be compared by saying one or the other was "worse," rather both represent the depths of evil to which humanity is capable of descent.

On the other hand, I have never known a leftist who did not engage in some sort of special pleading for communism as "not as bad" as nazism.

6:43 AM, February 13, 2006  
Blogger CatoRenasci said...

learned psychiatrist:

The form of the argument is really:

1. All members of Set A (Nazis) are elements of Set B (socialists).

2. All elements of Set B (socialists) are elements of Set C (leftists).

3. Therefore, all elements of Set A (Nazis) are elements of Set C (leftists).

The leftist quibbles will be with either (or both) set inclusions: either they would argue not all elements of A are elements of B or not all elements of B are elements of C, making 3 untrue, or more properly indeterminite on the premises.

8:15 AM, February 13, 2006  
Anonymous Alan said...

CatoRenasci said...

Alan's notion that "Left=Nazi" is somehow a worse smear ("a clear attempt at guilt by association") than "Left=Communist" shows the depth of the left's ignorance of history and capacity for self-deception.

First of all, remember what I said earlier about throwing stones? It's such blanket, negative statements about the limitations of an entire group that make people look uninformed if not wholly bigoted.

Second of all, I never said anything about communinism not being Left wing ideas taken to a tyrannical extreme. My point is that fascism is Right wing ideas taken to an extreme. I'm the one arguing that EITHER extreme is bad.

What concerns me is this rather transparent attempt to equate all goodness and light at one end of the political spectrum while banishing all darkness and tyranny to the other. It flies in the face of facts and long established thought on the subject -- not to mention honestly looking like a case of projection.

In other words, this sort of argument just makes it proponents (and by association the ideology they support) look like self-deceivers or propaganists. Either way, it hurts their cause.

8:38 AM, February 13, 2006  
Blogger CatoRenasci said...

alan,

As one who has been a classical liberal for nigh unto 50 years, having debated modern liberals, socialists and avowed marxists since 1960 at least, having read significantly in leftist, mainstream and conservative history, political science and political philosophy during the past 45 or so years, and having spent more than a decade of that time in academia with some of brightest liberal and leftist intellectual lights, I feel comfortable drawing at least tentative conclusions based on my own experience and reading concerning what one might call 'typical' or 'best practice' left-liberal/socialist thought. I would not suggest that all leftists take a precise set of views (any more than I would argue that the right is monolithic), but I do think it's fair to day that (1) virtually every leftist or modern liberal I have known (the rare exceptions being some older 1960's academics who strongly anti-communist - and most of whom were WWII (and in one case a WWI) veterans) has engaged in special pleading for communism and socialism, and (2) leftists and liberals I meet whose academic training occurred after about 1980 are woefully historically ignorant.

What I find curious is your insistence I never said anything about communinism not being Left wing ideas taken to a tyrannical extreme. My point is that fascism is Right wing ideas taken to an extreme.

You seem to be arguing that there are no similarities other than communism and fascism are "extreme".

There is a philosophical question here: regardless of whether fascism and marxism-leninism were political and military enemies (which is undeniable - a point I have made earlier), are there essential similarities in ideas that make them more akin to one another than to traditional Western worldviews? There are related questions whether the methods and policies of fascism and marxism leninism share essential elements incompatible with liberty, and whether those shared methods are somehow integral parts (or at least necessary consequences) of both fascist and marxist-leninist ideology.

By insisting that "left is left" and "right is right" and "ne'er the twain shall meet" -- which I take to be a reasonable reductio on your argument -- you essentially refuse to address those questions.

Perhaps you don't think those are interesting questions, but many of us do. And some of us, I at least, believe that it is both willfully ignorant and self-deceptive to refuse to address these kinds of questions.

I am not suggesting, nor have I seen any serious poster here suggest that all goodness and light [is] at one end of the political spectrum while banishing all darkness and tyranny to the other, rather that traditional European characterizations of 'left' and 'right' may be less meaningful in the American context.

9:52 AM, February 13, 2006  
Blogger geekWithA.45 said...

Oh, my, my, my.

Dr. Helen, don't you realize that only the left can authentically claim moral outrage?

Since Nazis are morally outrageous, and since all sources of moral outrage belong to the Left, then, clearly, Nazis cannot be creatures of the Left. Therefore, Nazis are creatures of the Right.

10:46 AM, February 13, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Nazis worked hand in hand with the corporate elite until in many ways there was no difference. The power of the state was used to support and promote the corporate agenda (which in turn supported the state). Capitalism didn't go away; it was just used for the regime's own ends. This is light-years away from a soviet style command economy where capitalism did not exist at all. Fascism is merely one possible end-result of taking the pro-business attitudes of the Right to their extreme.

Per the article linked the Nazis seized all of the substantive powers of ownership and left the businessmen owners in name only. If the government determines what you make, how you make it, the price you charge, the wages you pay, how much you pay yourself or take out of the business in dividends, etc. you are no longer an "owner", your title might just as well be commisar or that of some other government manager. You might have a higher standard of living than the average worker, but then again so did the commisars or party managers who managed factories, stores, etc. under communist regimes. This all is de facto government control of the means of production, which is by definition socialism.

While I am very much a believer in capitalism, I am enough of a student of history and modern events to acknowledge that it all too often has and is getting out of control and doing great harm. Coming up with contorted rationalizations to keep one blind to its weaknesses does no one any good.

Part of the problem is that often people call something a problem caused by capitalism when it is really a distortion to capitalism, often caused by government intervention. Take the boom-bust cycle which many socialists and communists blame on capitalism. Some fairly strong arguments can be made that boom-bust cycles, or at least very extreme boom-bust cycles, can be attributed to unbacked currencies which can be manipulated by central banks. If those arguments hold extreme boom-busts are not a failing of capitalism, but a failing of government interventionalism.

What concerns me is this rather transparent attempt to equate all goodness and light at one end of the political spectrum while banishing all darkness and tyranny to the other. It flies in the face of facts and long established thought on the subject -- not to mention honestly looking like a case of projection.

What if the "long established thought on the subject" is not supported by the facts? What if evidence is presented that the Nazis seized de facto control of the means of production and therefore established a socialist economy?

Part of the problem with this discussion is that economic, social, and legal policies are all being lumped together. This presents a problem, because as I mentioned above earlier many social and legal issues can be either opposed or supported by various factions of the Left or Right.

12:33 PM, February 13, 2006  
Blogger CatoRenasci said...

Part of the problem is that often people call something a problem caused by capitalism when it is really a distortion to capitalism, often caused by government intervention.

As true as this may be in the sense that one never sees "true" capitalism any more than one sees "true" communism, I find this argument troubling because it is the same sort of special pleading found on the left.

Invariably, more or less capitalist systems will deviate from an "ideal" capitalism and more or lest socialist or communist systems will deviate from an "ideal" communism.

Hence, the fact that there are distortions seems to me not to be helpful in evaluating either. More interesting, I think, is the question whether the distortions are inherent in a way that negates the benefits of the system touted by its adherents.

For me, liberty is a primary value as opposed to a lack of liberty. Totalitarian systems whether called "left" or "right" fail on those grounds alone.

12:57 PM, February 13, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Save yourself the pain and ban quxxo now. S/he has been stinking up Ann Althouses blog for some time. Snippy comments and obscenity are all quxxo posts.

3:50 PM, February 13, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

catorenasci-

Hence, the fact that there are distortions seems to me not to be helpful in evaluating either. More interesting, I think, is the question whether the distortions are inherent in a way that negates the benefits of the system touted by its adherents.

Well there seems to be a lot of evidence that when the distortions are removed the economy in question does well, all things being equal. Take the "hindered" economies mentioned in the linked article. Evidence tends to suggest that less hindered economies perform more robustly. Of course unbacked currency is thought to be a significant hindrance that impedes even the American system.

What you refer to seems to be the common practice of politicians promising one thing and then doing another, with the thing they actually do tending to increase distortions. The public, not having a good grasp of what is going on, doesn't or can't hold them accountable. Then when one of these economies fails or falters the difficulty is blamed on capitalism and worse distortions are created as people turn toward socialism as the "answer".

For me, liberty is a primary value as opposed to a lack of liberty. Totalitarian systems whether called "left" or "right" fail on those grounds alone.

I agree. But what one can read between the lines of the linked article is that when the totalitarian measures that are enacted to enforce socialism are enacted all kinds of other agendas can be thrown into the mix - all kinds of attacks against liberty that can be "rationalized" by all kinds of arguments on the Left, Right, or both.

9:39 PM, February 13, 2006  
Anonymous Alan said...

catorenasci says:

Perhaps you don't think those are interesting questions, but many of us do. And some of us, I at least, believe that it is both willfully ignorant and self-deceptive to refuse to address these kinds of questions.

I have addressed those questions. Namely, I pointed out that all totalitarian regimes will share some traits in common precisely because they are generally what you get when ANY belief system is taken to an extreme. That is, when its "true believers" lose so much of their perspective that they can no longer see any other ideology as having any value. Once that happens -- and they gain the necessary power -- then they will naturally see fit to enforce their views on everyone.

Again, this is true of any belief system. It is, as you say, special pleading to argue that Right\Libertarian views are somehow immune to this.

10:29 PM, February 13, 2006  
Anonymous Just an MD said...

Dear Doctor,

aren't you a little inconsistent? Why did you not make your comments about smokers and McDonalds during your TV presentation on heart disease? I can not believe that you succumbed to political correctness.

11:03 PM, February 13, 2006  
Blogger CatoRenasci said...

alan,
you will note I raised the question of special pleading with anonymous' argument as well as with yours, on essentially similar grounds.

I must say, however, I think your insistence that it is [only] the common extremism that unites forms of totalitarian regimes to be wrongheaded and unhelpful. Unhelpful because I don't think it conveys any insight into the nature of any system to say that it tends to totalitarianism if taken to extremes. Wrongheaded because it seems to me you're starting with the conclusion that national socialism and communism are different in kind and working back to find an explanation ('extremism') for any similarities. Rather, I think it is more fruitful to look at the underlying philosophical tenets and the implied views of human nature to evaluate whether in fact they are different in kind or are rather more closely related.

11:18 PM, February 13, 2006  
Blogger Ardsgaine said...

Alan,

We're going to always disagree on this point, because what you take to be characteristic of the right side of the political spectrum is different from what I consider it to be. You apparently associate it with nationalism and social conservatism. I associate it with individual freedom. There is absolutely no way that Nazi Germany could be interpreted as having taken individual freedom to an extreme, so I can't see it as an extreme example of the right.

I know that your view is a popular one. A lot of people like to think that they are in the middle between two sets of extremes. (I used to think of myself that way once upon a time.) I don't see any functionality, though, in a spectrum that measures political systems by non-essentials. Any difference between communism and fascism made no difference to the millions of people murdered by the state under both systems. I think the principle they share--that the goals of the collective outweigh the value of individual lives--is both the best way to explain their aberrant behavior and a good basis for judging any political system. To the extent that a political system devalues the individual, it moves towards totalitarianism. To the extent that a political system is limited to protecting the individual, it moves towards freedom. That seems both simple and functional. I'm not interested in drawing distinctions between communists, fascists or theocrats that allow them to pretend like they have something different to offer society. All they offer is death, and they deserve to be lumped together. And anyone who tends in one of those directions deserves to have it pointed out to him that they all lead to the same place.

1:16 AM, February 14, 2006  
Blogger Helen said...

Just an MD,

I mentioned on the tv show that I was a vegetarian and obviously, that did not keep me from having a heart attack. Frankly, I feel better and am better since I have given up such a strict vegetarian diet. I think moderation is the key--in my cardiac class, the patients used to be told not to eat meat and a bunch of them were getting anemic and sick. Once they started eating meat again, they were better. I am not saying to go to the extent of "Supersize Me" but a hamburger once in a while probably won't hurt anyone. I do not advocate smoking but I do not think that smokers are outlaws the way many people do. If people want to smoke in their homes, why not? Some states are trying to make that illegal--that is what I find troubling. We cannot outlaw any vice in people that we don't like.

7:01 AM, February 14, 2006  
Blogger CatoRenasci said...

Helen,

One of the significant results from the combination of (1) the decline of widespread acceptance of classical liberalism's emphasis on the primacy of liberty, and (2) the widespread acceptance of much more intrusive state power and the 20th century exemplars of both 'left' and 'right' totalitarianism has been a blurring of what used to be fairly clear distinctions between undesireable behaviors which were subject only to social sanction (i.e. sending people to Coventry, tossing them out of a church, boycotting, bad reputation, etc.) and that which is the subject of state sanction through (primarily) the criminal law.

Primarily involving matters of morality of one sort or another, things like smoking, illegitimacy, public lewdness, drunkeness and the abuse of drugs (opium and its derivatives), there was a time when most people refrained from these behaviors more because to engage in them was to cut oneself off from most of society than because of any potential criminal sanction.

Curiously, I think the role, at least in setting the climate of elite opinion, of Freudian psychology in the first half of the 20th century was significant in reducing the force of social sanction as an effective middle ground between license and government intrusion.

7:28 AM, February 14, 2006  
Anonymous Alan said...

CatoRenasci said...

I must say, however, I think your insistence that it is [only] the common extremism that unites forms of totalitarian regimes to be wrongheaded and unhelpful.

I think you are missing a subtle distinction -- it's not merely being "extreme" that unites them, but rather the practical results of that extremism. What we associate with totalitarianism (repression, "group think", a dominating central authority, etc) are the inevitable end result of mixing ideological fanaticism and political power. That is the commonality you are noticing.

I do agree, however, that it is worth looking at the differences in belief between the two extremes so as to better understand them. However, I'd argue a large part of the errors being made in this discussion arise from confusing end result with ideology. To put it another way, totalitarian behavior can have a broad range of ideological/psychological justifications behind it.

Ardsgaine said...

We're going to always disagree on this point, because what you take to be characteristic of the right side of the political spectrum is different from what I consider it to be. You apparently associate it with nationalism and social conservatism. I associate it with individual freedom.

Actually, I would argue that the Right/Left distinctions being made here are by-and-large overly simplistic ones that lend themselves to convenient stereotyping (in this case in favor of the Right). I would argue that "Right = individual freedom" is both intellectually deceptive and self-serving.

Mind you, this is not because Right-Wing ideology doesn't concern itself with such a thing, but rather that BOTH sides clearly do. What the Left and Right offer are differing views and approaches for guaranteeing "individual freedom". Now, you can certainly argue that one wing's philosophy is better than the other, but it is disingenuous to suppose it is the concern of only one side (and that, by extension, the other side promotes the clearly negative opposite).

I think it is important to keep in mind that there are or have been very few people doing evil deeds that saw themselves as "evil". Quite the contrary, they typically saw themselves on the side of the righteous. The fact that they wholly believed in their virtue even while committing atrocities just demonstrates the inherent contradictions in any extreme belief system.

This is why you can't just list off a series of platitudes and declare that since you support them your rivals must support the opposite. The simple truth is that both sides claim to support the same general ideals. Both can offer reasonable ways to trying to achieve them just as both sides can rise to self-deceptive extremes.

10:23 AM, February 14, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

catorenasci-

I agree that the value placed on liberty has declined and that this is a very bad thing.

This is probably a function of age and my generational differences, but I disagree about "social sanctions". First, I think that too often it degenerates into "getting" whoever the town gossips, busybodies, school marms, prudes, and church ladies don't like. (After they have been delving into everyone's personal business, of course.) Second, with our society becoming increasingly multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-religious, etc. this becomes much more difficult. I'm not very religious and I don't think that's anyone's business. I don't think its appropriate for people to try to blackball, ostracize, ruin, intimidate, etc. me to try to force me into being religious. To me, its akin to someone trying to run people from minority ethnicities or religions out of town. And all this is basically counter to principles of liberty, in my opinion.

10:35 AM, February 14, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alan-

I think you're ignoring that the libertarian right is different from the rest of the right. How can one take personal freedom, as long as you're not violating anyone else's rights or using force/fraud, to an "extreme"?

And the article I linked earlier makes a strong case that socialism requires totalitarianism because free market forces have to be constrained by force and people have to be forceably kept in the system. Do you disagree with the evidence presented, the analysis, or the conclusions? Where is the article wrong?

10:45 AM, February 14, 2006  
Anonymous Alan said...

Anonymous said...

I think you're ignoring that the libertarian right is different from the rest of the right. How can one take personal freedom, as long as you're not violating anyone else's rights or using force/fraud, to an "extreme"?

It's the difference between the ideal and its practical application. It's easy to speak of "individual freedom" and other lofty concepts, but we all tend to seriously underestimate the difficulties inherent in making them work in the real world.

For example, what exactly does "Individual Freedom" mean? Freedom to always have a job? Freedom from prejudice? Freedom to make as much money as you can? Typically, when we use such a term we are in fact thinking of our own subjective and usually self-serving ideal of "freedom". Problem is that one person's view of a basic "freedom" can directly clash with that of another's when you try to put it into practical use.

For instance (to borrow from a classic Right/Left schism), one person may believe that as a business owner he should be "free" to make whatever choices he likes without any governmental interference. At the same time, his workers might define "freedom" as having a perfectly safe environment with good pay and benefits. While those two "freedoms" are not per se opposites, they represent a situation highly prone to dispute.

The point isn't to get caught up in debates as to who is right here, but rather to acknowledge that whenever you try to apply an ideal across a broad group you will inevitably run into clashes of interpretation along with plain old human limitations as to what can and cannot be achieved.

Now, take any particular view of "freedom" and then combine it with the certainty of a fanatic and real political power. For example, if the business owner wants to "defend his rights" when faced with strong opposition he may call in the troops or write draconian laws that favor his own point-of-view. Likewise, in the reverse situation the workers may blackmail through force to make the business owner guarantee their basic "rights". In both cases those with the power are sure they are promoting "individual freedom" even as, in fact, they are using strong-arm tactics to get their way.

And the article I linked earlier makes a strong case that socialism requires totalitarianism because free market forces have to be constrained by force and people have to be forceably kept in the system.

I would argue that an absolute "Free Market" has just as much likelihood of resulting in totalitarianism as absolute "socialism". The reason for this is that both make the mistake of thinking that people are "naturally" a certain, narrow way.

In fact, human beings are complicated creatures that can split up into different groups wanting very different things.

For some people the idea of a "Free Market" is the best thing to heaven on Earth while for others it would represent little more than a formalized "Mad-Max" sort of civilization where the economically strong prey on the weak. Likewise, where as some might see socialism as crushing individual initiative others might see it as some utopian ideal of common sacrifice and effort.

My personal belief is that each system when used together (uneasily) in moderation allows for the best (at present) practical balance between competing human desires. However, when you champion one completely over the other the end result will inevitably be totalitarian because that is the only way to keep otherwise unfulfilled human desires in check for the sake of privileging the reigning ideology.

11:20 AM, February 14, 2006  
Blogger CatoRenasci said...

This is probably a function of age and my generational differences, but I disagree about "social sanctions". First, I think that too often it degenerates into "getting" whoever the town gossips, busybodies, school marms, prudes, and church ladies don't like. (After they have been delving into everyone's personal business, of course.)

Perhaps it's just generational difference, but I see a fundamental (and critical) difference between the (curiously mostly female) private citizens whose power to enforce conformity to local norms is purely social and agents of the state enforcing conformity to local norms with the police power and the state's monopoly on the means of force and violence behind them.

Liberty is not license. The fact that the state does not (and ought not IMH) regulate large classes of behavior does not mean that that behavior should be free of consequence if people don't like it. If you don't like how someone else behaves, you are perfectly free to exercise your own liberty by declining to associate with them, trade with them or provide support of any kind to them. There is no coercion of the kind that exists when the state says do X (or refrain from X) or go to jail: a person has a choice whether to do as he pleases and risk the (non-violent) consequences or to generally avoid behavior that will (grossly) offend local norms.

Second, with our society becoming increasingly multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-religious, etc. this becomes much more difficult. I'm not very religious and I don't think that's anyone's business. I don't think its appropriate for people to try to blackball, ostracize, ruin, intimidate, etc. me to try to force me into being religious. To me, its akin to someone trying to run people from minority ethnicities or religions out of town. And all this is basically counter to principles of liberty, in my opinion.

Hmmm. Your first point is that society is sufficiently diverse now that such sanctions are less likely to be effective than previously. True as far as it goes, but it doesn't change the fact that private sanctions are different in kind from state sanctions.

You then suggest that somehow your liberty to do as you please (be irreligious is the example you've given) is somehow superior to others' liberty to associate with those whom they please. I didn't know.

I always thought that my liberty was not inherently different than anyone elses. You can choose to be around those who don't like your behavior, or not to be around those people. If you choose to be around them, you have choice of conforming or suffering the effects of their disapproval.

You then bring up the red herring of discrimination against minorities generally. I think discrimination by and large is incredibly stupid, but I'm also old enough that simply raising it sweeps all arguments away and is dispositive. Does that mean the state can require one to socialze with someone in particular (of any given race or ethnicity)?

Surely you would allow some sphere for individual choice among those with whom one associates. Where's the line.

12:44 PM, February 14, 2006  
Anonymous Carleton Wu said...

First, the clear purpose of the entire topic is presenting an emotional argument disguised as logic. The syllogism above is far to simplistic to be interesting to those studying fascism or totalitarianism. It isn't useful in understanding leftism in general (or, if it is intended to be, it is exactly the insult that it was denied to be by the author)...
It is similar to the statement "some Republicans are serial child molesters". A true statement. So if I want to make that statement over and over again (as some on the right or the left use the Nazi association slur), no one here should complain. Unless we recognize that it is not it's logical truth value that makes the statement attractive to some- it is its value as an emotional smear.
[Why, I was watching TV this evening, and I saw a story about a child molester. And I thought to myself "self, some conservatives are child molesters. isn't it interesting that conservatives say they are trying to protect children, when some of them are child molesters?"]
[In case anyone is too dense, Im suggesting that the above *isnt useful*.]

Second, having had variations on this discussion many times, here are several points:
1)anyone on the right who wishes to dismiss totalitarianism as solely a left-wing phenomenon must explain the likes of Batista and Pinochet. If they can twist their definitions around enough so that Pinochet is a leftist (or conversely, not a totalitarian), then they generally aren't worth talking to. Likewise, any leftist must be able to accept Stalin as a leftist dictator.
2)while totalitarian governments resemble each other, the paths to totalitarianism may not be identical. Practically, this is where the distinction between right and left might be made. And since a considerable amount of the interest in totalitarianism is in preventing it, this is also a very important thing to understand. In the end, the Nazis overran the business leaders who put them in power. In the end, Stalinist Russia was profoundly nationalistic.
3)It is very tempting for the ideologue to redefine their 'side' and remove any objectionable elements (eg conservatives suggesting that socialistic control of business makes it the logical home for control of personal lives; liberals suggesting that the existence of White Supremacist groups on the fringe of conservatism mean that the entire movement is racist). Conservatives who cannot accept Pat Robertson or David Duke, and liberals who cannot accept Noam Chomsky or present-day communists are again probably not worth talking to.
4)It is pointless to argue that a)Stalin was a leftist and b)Stalinist Russia resembled Nazi Germany ergo c)Hitler was a leftist. Or a)Pinochet was a rightist, etc. Like arguing that a man who was hit by a train actually fell off of a tall building, since his body resembles that of a man who fell off of a building.

Finally, as a simple rebuttal to the initial point (omitting all of the 'Hitler banned labor unions' v 'Hitler had a state-controlled economy' stuff), consider the neo-Nazis today. They exist (uncomfortably for the mainstream conservatives) on the fringe of the right wing, associating with the Militia movement, the Christian Identity folks, etc. This is not intended to smear the right by association- just a statement of fact, one more datum that needs to be accounted for before accepting the author's theory.

3:30 PM, February 14, 2006  
Blogger politikalpressure said...

the nazi argument can be taken even further.
you make an excellent argument, very clear.
i agree 100%.
(i love your blog)

3:32 PM, February 14, 2006  
Blogger CatoRenasci said...

carlton wu,
Much of what you say is unobjectionable. Just as leftists almost always are outraged at the suggestion that there is any commonality between communism and fascism, many conservatives - especially libertarian conservatives - cavail at the notion that there is anything authoritarian in rightist thought. Hardly a bold insight.

On the other hand, I find this statement odd, or at least confusing:

Conservatives who cannot accept Pat Robertson or David Duke, and liberals who cannot accept Noam Chomsky or present-day communists are again probably not worth talking to.

Unless you mean this in a "we have our nut cases in the attic" sense why does any liberal have to "accept" Chomsky or the marxists or the conservative "accept" Robertson or Duke?

I'm also not sure you're right about people attempting to dress emotional arguments up as logic. It may well be that people want to have neat theoretical packages within which place the rather messy historical phenomena of 20th century communism and fascism. Truly, as you pointed out, and as I have tried to suggest in mentioning some of the scholarly and popular work in the field in earlier posts, historical communist movements and regimes, and fascist movements and regimes, require careful and patient analysis of their complexity, including any number of internal contradictions and inconsistencies, as well as points of similarity and difference that dance about, changing seemingly as often as the weather.

4:42 PM, February 14, 2006  
Anonymous Carleton Wu said...

catorenasci,
To your second point, yes that was my meaning. Although I might take it further than 'nut cases in the attic', to something more like 'these people follow some of my basic principles, even if they are confused/illogical/extremist in their viewpoints & I don't endorse them at all'.
Acknowledging the nut cases in the attic does more than just illustrate the potential hypocrisy of criticizing the other sides' nuts; it also makes it clear that any (most? Id say any, but arguable) political philosophy can be misused badly (not just misinterpreted or used as a cover story, but actually perverted). Thus, Marx's workers' utopia becomes a brutal dictatorship.

Having said that, seeing folks try to move all of the 'objectionable' cases out of their camp is doubly dangerous. Potentially, it clears the path for those people to move into the extremes, to ignore the dangers inherent in, say, a governement becoming so business-friendly that it actually becomes an integral part of big business.

For the first point- yeah, it's obvious, but not so obvious that some folks here aren't missing it.
For the third- I suspect that many of the folks 'concerned' about fascism, yet using such a completely surface analysis that the furtherest that they get is putting the Nazis in the 'other side's' camp are not in fact trying to understand a complex historical phenomenon. I suspect that *you* are, but that the original author of the post is not.

7:12 PM, February 14, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know from my point it is quite clear. You are so far to the right that you see faschist as left wing. No wonder, you think Clinton is left wing as well. Ha! You did a funny there.

7:19 PM, February 14, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alan-

Your example calls for all kinds of background information that would have to be established before a sensible discussion could be had. Granted, coming to an agreement about what personal freedom is or should be can be difficult at times, but not necessarily as hard as you make it out to be. I means we did have an effectual Constitution and Bill of Rights at one time.

As far as "free market totalitarianism" is concerned you seem to be in oxymoron territory. The beauty of free markets is that they rest on voluntary and non-violent exchange, without the use of force. Totalitarianism implies the use of force. Of course there is some legal system in place to prevent or stop the use of force and fraud and to protect property rights, but that's generally thought of as a necessary underpinning of "free markets".

2:01 AM, February 15, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps it's just generational difference, but I see a fundamental (and critical) difference between the (curiously mostly female) private citizens whose power to enforce conformity to local norms is purely social and agents of the state enforcing conformity to local norms with the police power and the state's monopoly on the means of force and violence behind them.

I see the difference too. But it depends on what you mean by "social sanctions" or "social enforcement". First, there is no due process or evidentiary proceedings, so you don't know if some kind of infraction has actually occurred or whether its just a case of "he rejected my princess", "he goes and drinks in bars", or "he didn't kowtow to the local chapter of the prissypants tea party club", etc. Second, these "local norms" are often set by controlling busybodies with too much time on their hands and are used for score settling and selective enforcement against people the enforcers dislike, while the enforcers themselves violate their own norms or ignore the violations of those they like. And finally these "social sanctions" can often turn into tortious and criminal behavior - libel, slander, defamation, tortious interference, housing discrimination, employment discrimination, force, fraud, threats, intimidation, etc.

As far as state enforcement of "local norms" go, these efforts are open to the same problems of score settling and selective enforcement as social sanctions. Perhaps no one should be in this business until a "violation" turns into a serious crime or tort. Maybe a renewed effort to leave people the hell alone is in order.

I always thought that my liberty was not inherently different than anyone elses. You can choose to be around those who don't like your behavior, or not to be around those people. If you choose to be around them, you have choice of conforming or suffering the effects of their disapproval.

And again this depends on your "social sanctions" consist of. When it crosses into tortious or criminal behavior this seems to be at odds with your expressed thoughts on liberty. And with the advent of "group stalking" and "gang stalking" sometimes these things exceed any reasonable geographic limits.

You then bring up the red herring of discrimination against minorities generally. I think discrimination by and large is incredibly stupid, but I'm also old enough that simply raising it sweeps all arguments away and is dispositive.

I don't believe the issue of dicrimination in this context is a "red herring". Often "local norms" and "social consequences" are code for the "old boy's network" and the "old biddy's netowrk" - often with specific connotations if you happen to possess the wrong race, ethnicity, religion, outlook, etc.

3:14 AM, February 15, 2006  
Blogger CatoRenasci said...

anonymous,

I think it is revealing that your frame of reference with respect to social sanctions is entirely focused on the potential for abuse, especially in the most petty of ways. You sound more petulant than anything else, as if your greatest fear was that you couldn't tweak someone's nose without fear they'd do something about it. Or, perhaps that you think liberty implies license.

To the extent social sanctions would go beyond purely voluntary action into violations of criminal law, they are of course unacceptable.

The whole point of social sanctions is to fill the gap between behavior sufficiently dangerous to society that it is criminalized and behavior that is is broadly objectionable but either in an area we do not wish the state to intrude or is not of an order to merit criminal sanction. Just because something is legal does not mean it is to be encouraged or even that it isn't bad.

To the extent one opposes the totalitarian state and does not want the agents of the state (who can be as petty, vindictive and capricious as any small town bluenose) interfering in large classes of behavior, and to the extent one encourages personal responsibility rather than reliance on the state, I would think one would welcome non-state ways of accepting personal responsibility for encouraging behavior one thought beneficial and discouraging behavior one thought harmful.

Can that be subject to the self-appointed overzealous? Sure. However, since their power is purely moral suasion (or social opprobrium), there is a significant check on their behavior in that if it becomes excessive, people will ignore them and they will lose credibilty.

The case of state agents behaving in equally petty and overzealous ways with the police power behind them does not have such a ready check. Any check on their power relies on either influence with government or the cumbersome and slow political processes.

7:57 AM, February 15, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it is revealing that your frame of reference with respect to social sanctions is entirely focused on the potential for abuse, especially in the most petty of ways. You sound more petulant than anything else, as if your greatest fear was that you couldn't tweak someone's nose without fear they'd do something about it. Or, perhaps that you think liberty implies license.

That's because such "social sanctions" are so often just a transparent attempt to try to force someone to agree with your opinions and outlook. Also, in some quarters as a way to "entertain" oneself with a kind of social sadism. You sound rather petulant yourself - like the thought of not being able to exert pressure on other people in an attempt to impose your will on them perturbs you.

I don't feel that liberty implies license, but I also don't believe in substituting petty intrusive social tyrants for petty intrusive state tyrants. I also believe that what seperates a liberty from a theory is actually being able to exercise it. Believing that you can date anyone you want but then having the "small town bluenoses" as you put it try to socially sanction you when you date outside your race, date someone younger, or date someone they "disapprove" of amounts to you not actually having the liberty you believe you have, and actually being sibject to their meddling.

To the extent one opposes the totalitarian state and does not want the agents of the state (who can be as petty, vindictive and capricious as any small town bluenose) interfering in large classes of behavior, and to the extent one encourages personal responsibility rather than reliance on the state, I would think one would welcome non-state ways of accepting personal responsibility for encouraging behavior one thought beneficial and discouraging behavior one thought harmful.

I believe in liberty and believe that if someone isn't violating someone else's rights or breaking the law they should be left alone. Perhaps the behavior that should be "discouraged" is trying to intrude in and meddle with other people's lives using "local norms" and "social sanctions".

Can that be subject to the self-appointed overzealous? Sure. However, since their power is purely moral suasion (or social opprobrium), there is a significant check on their behavior in that if it becomes excessive, people will ignore them and they will lose credibilty.

As mentioned before, this can often lead to tortious and criminal conduct. There seem to be very strong human impulses to attempt to impose your will and opinion on others, to engage in mob behavior, to be jealous and petty, and to attempt to work out insecurities by tearing others down. These motivations are often present in "social sanctions" and often they are not easily or automatically restrained. Often, unless they are stopped or opposed they will continue indefinitely. Mob and crowd behavior is often self-reinforcing and self-sustaining.

The case of state agents behaving in equally petty and overzealous ways with the police power behind them does not have such a ready check. Any check on their power relies on either influence with government or the cumbersome and slow political processes.

Well the check is supposed to be internal oversight and the possibility of legal sanctions, both civil and criminal. In some cases this is effective, in some cases it isn't. Things can get dangerous when there are blocks to effective legal sanctions.

3:08 PM, February 15, 2006  
Blogger CatoRenasci said...

anonymous,
You have not answered my points at all; rather you have simply reiterated the same petulant concern for bluenoses in more hyperbolic language. You purport to support liberty, but you seem to have more confidence in the state's ability to keep the behavior of state agents (with unlimited police power) than you have in the people to voluntarily and rationally regulate their own group behavior by turning away from those who abuse their power. You're just digging yourself in deeper. You actually sound like a leftist. And a young one without much experience in the world at that. This has ceased to be interesting.

4:41 PM, February 15, 2006  
Anonymous Alan said...

Anonymous said...

As far as "free market totalitarianism" is concerned you seem to be in oxymoron territory. The beauty of free markets is that they rest on voluntary and non-violent exchange, without the use of force.

That's the ideal. Problem is we don't live in an ideal world -- and we can't just glibly assume that somehow our personal ideal will magically work where they haven't for others in the past. That's the first step toward self-deception.

9:30 PM, February 15, 2006  
Anonymous Dr Ken said...

OK, since the comment page ate my attempted post, I'll try again & hope for the best. :(

I'm getting lost trying to follow the discussion here, since the frequent posters seem to talk past each other. It's time to get all Aristotelian on you, and impose definitions and some rules.

1) To understand a political movement's beliefs, look at its specific policy positions.
2) US political issues can be divided loosely into economic policy (ownership rights, taxes, regulations, wages, etc.), social policy (gay rights, abortion, divorce, etc.), and foreign policy (best to leave this one alone for now). Economic and social issues can be treated independently (clarified below). That's a simple, but adequate model.
3) The Left wants more government restriction on the economy, and less restriction (government or societal) on social/moral issues.
4) The Right wants less government restriction on the economy, and more traditionalism (including restriction, either government or societal) on social/moral issues.
5) some people are neither left nor right, but I don't mean moderates (whatever they are).
6) Libertarians want less government restriction on the economy, and less restriction (government or societal) on social/moral issues. There's this guy Glenn whom Helen knows, who seems sort of libertarian.
7) Populists want more government restriction on the economy, and more traditionalism (including restriction, either government or societal) on social/moral issues.

I just described a US political model that hs four corners. It's a map, in two dimensions like a picture on paper. A one-dimensional model, such as a line from right to left, lacks these essential four corners and thus is too simple to describe US political reality.

Anyway, gettig back to Helen's post, the Nazis and their US neo-Nazi heirs believe in government control of the economy (albeit with private ownership). Hitler wanted to overturn practically every social convention. He was against Christianity and wanted to bring back Norse paganism. He wanted to redefine marriage, etc. etc. Mo traditionalist there. Anyway, he espoused positions of the Left. That's it, we're done, Hitler was a leftist.

I think my definitions are honest and reasonable. Adhering to them, I'm unable to think of any significant violent movement in the US that is right. The KKK is populist, neo-Nazis are left, Earth Liberation Front is left, communists are left. So called "anarchist" anti-WTO protestors and their Wobbly forebears are left, while theoretical anarchists are libertarian and tend not to throw or burn things. There is no violent movement that espouses both economic freedom and social traditionalism, which are the hallmarks of conservatives (the right) in today's America. Don't bother talking to me about the 1990s militia movements, because they never killed anybody.

I'll email a lengthier discussion of this (with a chart) to Dr Helen, on the off chance she cares to print it.

11:40 PM, February 15, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's the ideal. Problem is we don't live in an ideal world -- and we can't just glibly assume that somehow our personal ideal will magically work where they haven't for others in the past. That's the first step toward self-deception.

Free trade is everywhere, it's not a "pie in the sky" ideal. It has worked everywhere. The problem comes when people try to hamper it, usually for personal gain or a pathological need to control. Take one of the first New England colonies - they tried socialism and collectivism and they nearly starved. They then tried private property and trade and they survived and thrived.

These examples aren't few and far between, they are everywhere. To believe otherwise would be to practice self-deception.

12:11 AM, February 16, 2006  
Anonymous Alan said...

Anonymous said...

Free trade is everywhere, it's not a "pie in the sky" ideal. It has worked everywhere. The problem comes when people try to hamper it, usually for personal gain or a pathological need to control. Take one of the first New England colonies - they tried socialism and collectivism and they nearly starved. They then tried private property and trade and they survived and thrived.

Do I really have to point out the HORDES (myself included) of people that would differ as to any number of your conclusions above? That's all that matters in this case.

In a democracy you have to be willing to compromise. That's not going to be possible when all that either side offers are ideals seen as absolutes.

12:22 AM, February 16, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

catorenasci-

You have not answered my points at all; rather you have simply reiterated the same petulant concern for bluenoses in more hyperbolic language.

I answered your points but I'll clarify them.

You purport to support liberty, but you seem to have more confidence in the state's ability to keep the behavior of state agents (with unlimited police power) than you have in the people to voluntarily and rationally regulate their own group behavior by turning away from those who abuse their power.

I do support liberty. But as I stated above the concept of defining "local norms" and using "social sanctions" to enforce them are too subjective and too open to abuse by bad actors. I'd rather both the state AND local bluenoses get out of the business of trying to define and enforce "local norms" unless violations rise to real criminal or tortious conduct, in which case they cease to become violations of "local norms" and become crimes and/or torts.

In a nutshell: leave people the hell alone. This is very supportive of liberty.

You're just digging yourself in deeper. You actually sound like a leftist. And a young one without much experience in the world at that. This has ceased to be interesting.

Careful, catorenasci, you sound petulant. Again, you sound like you get angry at the thought of not being able to impose your will and opinion on others. You sound like you would be crestfallen if you weren't permitted to band together with the local Welcome Wagon and run those riff-raff from down the street with their beer and their rap music out of town. You sound dangerously like a "Scooby Doo" episode waiting to happen. Is dressing up as a ghost and rattling chains a "social sanction"?

12:36 AM, February 16, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

alan-

In a democracy you have to be willing to compromise. That's not going to be possible when all that either side offers are ideals seen as absolutes.

The US is nominally a constitutional republic, not a democracy. What its becoming is for another discussion.

That aside, there are some things you don't compromise on. Your right to ideologically wave your arms ends at my nose. Your right to ideologically play with others' property ends at my property line and anyone else that doesn't agree with you. Etc, etc, etc. for all Human, Civil, Constitutional, and Private Property Rights.

12:44 AM, February 16, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

alan-

Do I really have to point out the HORDES (myself included) of people that would differ as to any number of your conclusions above? That's all that matters in this case.

Forgot this point.

No, you don't have to point out that horrible, repeatedly failed ideas can still be popular. After all, the popularity of socialism after the socialist/communist/collectivist genocides of the last century, which killed millions upon millions of people, proves this.

Someone wrote recently that the Communist Manifesto is only 45 pages long. That's only two million corpses a page for the last century. (by some estimates)

1:03 AM, February 16, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

dr ken-

Basically agree with your characterizations.

Your characterizations are similar to the "Nolan Chart":

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nolan_Chart

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3:48 AM, April 14, 2009  
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1:38 AM, April 20, 2009  
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