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70 responses to “Ten things evil capitalists “really think”: a response”

  1. Ginja

    Lower the tax rates and the super rich will joyfully pay their fair share of taxes. What a load of twaddle.

    It’s obvious that the Right is in deep intellectual decline when they still honestly believe in something as risible as the Laffer curve.

  2. Down and Out of Sài Gòn

    Good on you, Robert, for tackling it. It might be your hour wasted, but you’ve probably saved other people time in responding. Just to respond to one line of nonsense – one that’s as persistent and as toxic as cane toads.

    Free-marketeers resent the bank bailouts.

    True capitalists never resent free government money going to them. Your robber baron’s attitude to free cash is always “Please sir, can I have some more?” (Some may baulk at saying “sir”, however.)

    However, they find it convenient to pay other people to pretend that true rugged capitalists don’t need government money at all, and only namby-pamby weak-minded individuals do. For example, look at the Koch family: daddy helped Stalin industrialize the Soviet Union, and sons subsidise academic prostitutes thinktanks like Cato and the AEI to say that greed is good and taxes are bad. They’re very, very useful idiots.

  3. Fran Barlow

    Isn’t it Miranda Devine?

    Interestingly as Quiggin has shown, the Tea Party movement started with the idea of bailing out Main Street rather than Wall Street.

    “Some depositors” losing money would have resulted in a) a good deal of financial hardship in its own right, and b) bank runs. Bank runs are kinda bad.

    And then there’s the damage arising from the stampede. The system was already far too complex for all the stakeholders to be able to process the second and third order effects of one or more significant elements failing, and of course commercial-in-confidence prevents people from knowing, even if they sought the information. So what occurs is everyone races to get their assets out of danger, calling in loans, and battening down, magnifying the impact of any actual bad debts. As the value of assets against which loans are written falls these loans also have to be called in, more assets sold into a falling market and so forth.

    Setting the bar a lot higher to borrow means that large parts of productive activity are disadvantaged merely because actors at arms’ length from them in the market tainted the pool.

    Those of us who believe in small government are not motivated by the desire to make the rich richer. We’re really not.

    The question here for me would be: if not, then why not? Surely, if one believes that a society with a handful of extremely rich people is the best of all possible worlds, as the miracles of trickle down and charity and incentive work their magic, then what would be wrong with that? If egalitarian outcomes make for general poverty, as they often assert, then surely the case is made out. I call dissembling here. Whatever we do, in this view, we must ensure that the rich can have at it with as little restraint as possible because in the end everyone else will either be better off or no worse off for the enrichment of our most talented and productive. Social darwinism rules OK …

    Choosing to give your money to charity is meritorious;

    It’s hard to see how that could be so, on his view. Charity, to the extent it has any impact at all, subverts market forces, by lessening the misery of those harmed by market forces. That misery is virtuous, in the view of market fetishists, for it reminds us of the hazards of failure and compels us to provide for ourselves. While some may be simply unfortunate, to borrow the language of Hannan, the costs of alleviating the misfortune simply reduce the moral power of market forces and thus are an unwarranted imposition on everyone’s liberty to be rich if they dare and help the convenenience of all those positioned to profit. Giving to charity smells of doubt in the invisible hand whose impartial and unyielding digital manipulation ensures always that the most productive come out on top of the mediocre and the weakminded.

    Evidence suggests that, as taxes rise, and the state squeezes out civic society, people give less to good causes.

    Anything Hannan reagrds as a ‘good cause’ is suspect on the face of it. But as there are no good causes that are not rewarded by the market, this must also be rejected as mere speechifying.

    What are timorous or dissembling chap this fellow is! Either he is faint-hearted about his god, or lying in its service.

  4. Fran Barlow

    And as I understand it, the Laffer Curve has about a 1 in 6 pay back — meaning that for every dollar of taxes cut, the rich pay about 16 cents extra from new taxable activity.

  5. Howard Cunningham

    Kudos for getting Rich Uncle Pennybags on the front page.

  6. calyptorhynchus

    Blackadder (the 3rd): Now then Frou-Frou, do you want to make some money?
    Le Comte de Frou-Frou: No, I want other people to make money and give it to me, just like in ze old days in France.

  7. Duncan

    “…taking a bigger share of the pie..”

    That’s all I have to read to know to ignore the rest of this diatribe.

  8. Fran Barlow

    Presumably Duncan, you mean “diatribe” to be used in its original sense of “critical dissertation” or “learned study” … 😉

  9. Lefty E

    ‘Thirteen of the warmest years recorded have occurred within the last decade and a half, the United Nations’ World Meteorological Organisation said.’ http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-11-29/past-15-years-warmest3a-un/3702564

    I must read up more on Freud’s theory of the death instinct.

  10. Patrickb

    “Free-marketeers resent the bank bailouts.”
    Again with the neo-liberal hairy chestedness? In this country just about every major capitalist enterprise, whether mining, manufacturing, agriculture or service benefits in some way from the redirection of tax dollars garnered from the general public. Look at the car industry FFS. And didn’t Kodak get into the Howard govt. for about 35 mil and end up leaving anyway? And it may be that in certain circumstances these measures were sensible. But it’s infuriating when tosspots like this Hannan or the cast of clowns at Apoplexy or Daniel Pipes or Frank Furedi carry on like they feel the pain of of big business at it has welfare forced into its tightly clenched fist. Pricks.

  11. BilB

    The whole idea that taxation for the 1% is charity is in your face offensive.

    I would rather they take the view “if your want our money you will have to wrench it from our cold dead fingers”.

    Your proposal is acceptable!

  12. Howard Cunningham

    The Australian car industry is another stratosphere of government assistance – it only exists because it is an article of faith in Australian Politics that we have to have a car industry.

    It would be cheaper if the government just nationalised the car industry. Or paid all the workers $40,000 tax free to do whatever they wanted.

  13. TimT

    And explain to me why I should care one way or the other about virtue? Outcomes are what matters.

    Because without virtue the outcomes are bad. Who would you rather have run Centrelink – Gandhi, or Hitler?

  14. TimT

    “Simplistic nonsense. There’s a very simple reason why the top-earning 1% are paying roughly double the share of tax they used to – their share of national income in the United States has doubled over the same period. “

    Still surprised Robert that you seem to favour a system where the rich make less money, and the government gets less money. Nobody benefits from this type of egalitarianism.

  15. Fran Barlow

    TimT said:

    Still surprised Robert that you seem to favour a system where the rich make less money, and the government gets less money. Nobody benefits from this type of egalitarianism.

    Petitio principii That’s not the case in the real world and it’s not what Robert is claiming as desirable.

    I should add that as a matter of practice, a situation in which “the rich make less money” will absolutely benefit some people. Within the category rich in the US, while the rich as a whole (the top 20%) have got better off, the top 1% of them have done a lot better than the other 99%. A situation in which the rich as a whole were earning less would be on in which a subset of them were better off.

  16. Fran Barlow

    Stiglitz explaining de Tocqeville:

    Alexis de Tocqueville once described what he saw as a chief part of the peculiar genius of American society—something he called “self-interest properly understood.” The last two words were the key. Everyone possesses self-interest in a narrow sense: I want what’s good for me right now! Self-interest “properly understood” is different. It means appreciating that paying attention to everyone else’s self-interest—in other words, the common welfare—is in fact a precondition for one’s own ultimate well-being. De Tocqueville was not suggesting that there was anything noble or idealistic about this outlook—in fact, he was suggesting the opposite. It was a mark of American pragmatism. Those canny Americans understood a basic fact: looking out for the other guy isn’t just good for the soul—it’s good for business.

    The top 1 percent have the best houses, the best educations, the best doctors, and the best lifestyles, but there is one thing that money doesn’t seem to have bought: an understanding that their fate is bound up with how the other 99 percent live. Throughout history, this is something that the top 1 percent eventually do learn. Too late.


  17. adrian

    ‘Because without virtue the outcomes are bad. Who would you rather have run Centrelink – Gandhi, or Hitler?’

    Virtue in itself is no guarantee of anything.
    Gandhi might have been a lousy administrator for all his good intentions and Hitler may well have delivered good outcomes for the majority of Germans despite his evil intentions.

  18. Fran Barlow

    H|tler may well have delivered good outcomes for the majority of Germans despite his evil intentions.

    That’s most unlikely in practice though, and given that his intent was focused on making outcomes much worse for sizeable minorities, it would be moot even if true.

  19. Adrien

    Again with the neo-liberal hairy chestedness? In this country just about every major capitalist enterprise, whether mining, manufacturing, agriculture or service benefits in some way from the redirection of tax dollars garnered from the general public.

    There’s a distinction between those who’d be supporters of neo-liberalism and actually existing corporations. When the GFC forst hit the fan the rhetoric was all Keynsian. We’ll need a bit more regulation said no less than Rupert Murdoch. After the banks were secure this changed.

    The leftist take on this would be the boss’s propaganda machine. The conservative take is that crazy socialists like Obama and Gillard went on a spend-a-thon.

    Free-marketeers resent the bank bailouts.

    Free marketeers are too busy resenting everything that came after. Mostly they agree not to discuss the bailout. What ever you do don;t mention the hypocrisy. I did once but I think I got away with it.

  20. Student T

    “it’s not about getting the rich to pay more tax in absolute terms for its own sake, it’s about creating a more egalitarian sharing of income.”

    Robert: So you are saying that the point of taxing me more heavily is not to pay for roads, it is to reduce my income to something close to the mean. “For its own sake.” Sounds like pure class envy to me.

  21. Salient Green

    @ 20, “pernicious effects that inequality has on societies: eroding trust, increasing anxiety and illness, (and) encouraging excessive consumption. For each of eleven different health and social problems: physical health, mental health, drug abuse, education, imprisonment, obesity, social mobility, trust and community life, violence, teenage pregnancies, and child well-being, outcomes are significantly worse in more unequal rich countries”

    Just google “benefits of a more equal society”.

  22. Adrien

    Shall we also good ‘benefits of a free-er society’?

    Actually from now I’m getting up first thing on election day and seeing how many hits [Insert candidate’s name here] gets and voting for whoever has the best emoticons.

  23. TimT

    “Just google “benefits of a more equal society”.”

    ‘Google’ may be a noun and a verb; it is not an argument.

  24. TimT

    I’m pleased to have been the chosen vessel of Godwin’s law in this thread. 😉

  25. TimT

    It did indeed seem to me that Robert was arguing that case Fran but I was waiting to see what/if he’d reply.

  26. akn

    Lets take Dawkins seriously for a moment and agree that neoliberalism has a sociobiological element to it. That is, that specific types of people are carriers of ‘the selfish gene’ and that these selfish ones are the 1%. The social theory underpinning this doesn’t really need exploring. Put simply it is that the social conditions created by neoliberalism allow the selfish gene carriers to flourish. It also allows psychopaths and sociopaths to flourish.

    If the biological argument is accepted as valid then the solution is straightforward and compelling. Wayward biological elements need to be eliminated. The French and Russian revolutionaries, using pre-modern culling techniques, actually went a long way to eradicating their ruling classes and with good reason. They had to be taught an historical lesson and they needed thinning.

    It turns out that 1% of 7 billion is 700 million. This is a substantial project but it is one way to further the project of globalisation. The 1%’s interests are now global. The globalisation of its greed has called into being the global counterproject of getting rid of it.

    We could even set the project out to tender. There’s a quid in this.

  27. Fran Barlow

    <emStudent T said:

    So you are saying that the point of taxing me more heavily is not to pay for roads, it is to reduce my income to something close to the mean. “For its own sake.” Sounds like pure class envy to me.

    Let’s unpick that.

    1. Although the position is not universally held, many people believe that living in healthy happy communities is not merely an extrinsic good for individuals but an intrinsic good and also a good that should triumph over the desires of individuals to maximise their own happiness when these two come into inevitable collision. One may or may not share this view, and one may dispute the calculus and where to place the boundaries, but it is widely held.

    2. The point of taxing is to underpin what may be plausibly encompased under #1 above. While most of the goods underwritten by taxation are instrumental in chracter — delivering tangible utility to the community in circumstances where no other vehicle for supply would serve as well, one may observe that communitirs in which there are decisive differences in wealth and income between the most privileged and everyone else is on in which the dignity of most people is diminished. Plainly, if one person can buy and sell another with impunity, then the possibility of any non-privileged person exerciseing something that one could call ‘free choice’ is sharply curtailed. Social inequality makes community problematic. If you regard community as valuable one can argue that social inequality should be restrained to below the threshhold at which one can cease believing that all memebers of the community have equal rights and standing in practice.

    3. To describe this as ‘class envy’ is objectionable on a number of grounds.

    a) It assumes that the goods that are the subject of the ‘envy’ are legitimately denied to those envying them. If they are illegitimate, some word other than envy would be needed. Yet the claim that these goods are legitimate is itself being disputed so there is an immediate bootstrapping problem.

    b) It’s not clear that claims to distributive egalitarianism is class-based in this case. While there can be little doubt that people of modest means or less would certainly like a bigger share of the goods produced by human labour to be settled on them, there’s no basis for thinking that the primary political advocates of equality in distribution are motivated primarily by these wishes. As we saw above, one needs no more than a a belief in the intrinsic value of community and the realted view that community would be of dubious standing in circumstances of serious inequality to warrant redistributive taxation.

    As it happens it’s unlikely that taxation that provided adequate and timely access to valuable public goods to those of modest means would not in practice be very greatly resemble redistributively-warranted taxation, so your characterisation of the measures sounds purely rhetorical — an appeal to the virtue of privilege rather than a complaint against base motives.

    That is, presumably, why one hears this term so frequently from the right whenever claims over the expenditure of funds for community services are made, and why such pleading reached such a shrill level over the carbon pricing matter.

  28. Incurious & Unread


    Wouldn’t it be more humane just to sterilise the 1%?

  29. akn

    Incurious aned Unread: well, that’s the sort of discussion we should be having. The options are a either a bad attack of the Pol Pots or a humane response. We could just tax the 1% properly but on past behaviour I think they’d rather be dead than pay taxes. Up to them, really.

  30. TimT

    “Inevitably, this means that the top 1% will get a smaller share.”

    Nothing inevitable about it Robert.

  31. David Irving (no relation)

    Actually, akn, they could be used for pet food and fertiliser at the end of the process. Double the profit!

  32. Helen

    A redistribution of some wealth from the 1% to the 99%, would hardly be a loss to the 1%. The bottom 20% will not be saving that money. It’ll all be spent on desperately needed goods and services whose purchase or replacement has been waited for far too long. They’re going to spend money to replace or repair that worn out old car or bicycle. They’re going to see that dentist.

    The money will go back to the 1%.

  33. akn

    DI (nr): that’s the spirit. Entrepeneurial.

    There’s a happy synchonicity between the development of a global movement for voluntary euthenasia and the rise of the 1%. Switch a few dials on the administration of voluntary euthenasia to ‘involuntary’ and start processing. I think pet food, while admirable, lacks political legs. We need to advocate for turning the 1% into mulch for bio-rganic urban gardens and fuel for low fat energy production before the 1% creates a future in which everyone eats soylent green.

  34. Adrien

    That is, that specific types of people are carriers of ‘the selfish gene’ and that these selfish ones are the 1%.

    #1 Dawkins is not saying that. There’s no gene for selfishness.

    #2 To varying extents everyone is selfish.

  35. Howard Cunningham

    Thanks to Fran Barlow, I’m now cross-eyed.

    You cannot make someone be part of a community. You cannot ban being a hermit. It’s even easier now considering everything can be home delivered.

    Those who want to be in “communities” can feel free to do so, as long as their camping at the City Square doesn’t prevent the Christmas decorations being put up.

    I’ll just stick with my family and my small group of friends.

  36. Fran Barlow

    HC said:

    Thanks to Fran Barlow, I’m now cross-eyed.

    Sorry about that.

    You cannot make someone be part of a community.

    No, but it’s very difficult in practice not to be part of a community. very few can manage it, and all of them are considered to be ‘odd’. The ‘Unabomber’ went close, but even he had to use the mail system, and as far as can be told he was also a man of astonishing intellectual gifts, as well as being a dangerous oddball.

    If you had a substantive point, and it was important that someone address it, you might like to publish it as soon as you return from the opthalmologist.

  37. Howard Cunningham

    I guess I disagree with an all-encompassing definition of a community.

    But that definition then becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. The wider the definition, the more likely any interaction with another human becomes an act of community.

    Visit the middle ground one day, most of us are here and we had jackets made.

  38. Fran Barlow

    HC said:

    I disagree with an all-encompassing definition of a community. But that definition then becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.

    Nice try, but no. Community in the juridical sense is virtually inevitable. It’s very hard to escape. As Donne said all those years ago, no man is an island.

    Not all communities are functional and good for those connected with them, just as not all families, or companies are functional and good for their participants.

    The point is to ensure that given that “community” is inevitable and carries with it many things of great importance to people which could not in practice be had otherwise and inevitably comes at some cost in personal discretion, we attempt to maximise the benefits of community and to generalise them as much as possible, while preserving as much as we can of personal discretion as is consistent with it.

    It’s a tough gig — no doubt about it. It’s called politics.

  39. Howard Cunningham

    Well, down in the world of the said jackets, most of us wouldn’t come up with that definition of communities.

    So, with your theoretical point made, I’ll stay here in the world of the practical with my jacket to keep me warm.

  40. Fran Barlow

    Howard …

    You do like your everyman schtick. Doubtless it reflects your experience of Pleasantville or wherever it was that Richie and Pottsie and Fonzie hung out. By all means, wear whatever jacket appeals to you.

    Personally though, I prefer intellectual rigour to vacuous exercises in trying to be all things to all people.

  41. Howard Cunningham

    Well, I guess you should stay up there on the high ground, because you may hurt yourself on the way down.

    BTW, the relevant point here to do with communities is if the majority of people don’t consider themselves part of a particular community (in any of a number of their daily interactions with fellow folk), then they don’t feel like their in a community, so they’re not really in a community.

    If it isn’t what most people (who you’ve derided with your Happy Days meme) feel, then in effect, it ain’t what’s happening.

    Most people just want to get ahead to improve things for those closest to them (which often includes themselves), and all the academic reviews and articles about that won’t do much to change that instrinsic fact about human nature.

    And I’m not trying to be all things to all people, just trying to let you know how the other four fifths live.

    Have a pleasant Friday.

  42. akn

    No Adrien, that is exactly what Dawkins is saying. We are all selfish but that some of us are first amongst the ranks of the selfish. Mary Midgely called Dawkins’ sortie into sociobiology “biological Thatcherism”. So, applying sociobiological logic to the proble of the 1% is merely turning one of the technologies of the oppressors back onto them.

    The roots of sociobiology can be traced back from Dawkins to E.O Wilson and thence to social Darwinism, Malthus, Herbert Spencer (whose ideas once apparently were distributed with the drinking water in US academies) and Francis Galton. Socio-eugenics, as it will be known in the future, will not fall prey to the sorts of irrational prejudices of the past.

    Now we know that the problem is the 1%.

  43. akn

    Howard Cunningham – Wittgenstein makes the point that human social solidarity, otherwise knows as community, is the essential foundation of language without which the concept of human is meaningless. Without complex communication of the order we have we would not be the species we are. This is one of, and the main, constituents of human nature.

    Your inability to see community when you are suspended linguistically in a web of communal meaning is simply a function of one of the distortions of neoliberalism. This is a hyper-emphasis on individualism and, as per Thatcher, an ideological refusal to acknowledge the obvious.

  44. Ambigulous

    “It turns out that 1% of 7 billion is 700 million.”

    No, only 70.

  45. Incurious & Unread


    Dawkins did not say that people are selfish, he said that genes are selfish. Quite plausibly, there might be a “co-operation” gene that makes its carriers co-operative, if co-operation by an individual increases that individuals chances of survival.

    Indeed, if you are arguing that only 1% of the population carry the “most selfish” gene then, by definition, that gene is highly unsuccessful: perhaps even headed for extinction.

    If you are going to critique somebody based on a book, it is probably a good idea if you read further than the title.

  46. tigtog

    Gotta agree with others, akn – “The Selfish Gene” is about how evolution operates via genetic propagation of inheritable traits, not about how genes are expressed in individuals. The whole point is that the genes don’t have any interaction with the mind so far as replication is concerned.

  47. akn

    Oh, I’m ok with disagreement around this subject. I have, I hope you’ve noticed, been mounting an argument for global genocide of a class. I assumed that some people would lodge objections to the ultimate aim.

    Instead, to my wonder and pleasure, I’m criticised for the fallibility of my reading of Dawkins. On that point, for those who object and insist I am wrong, the challenge is to mount a persuasive argument as to how Dawkins can ascibe agency to a componed part of humanity when it is the total of the summation of the parts, what is called the self, that most people reasonably associate with the idea of agency. Agency here is understood as a type of self sovereignty where rational courses of action can be designed and and set in motion as a means of satisfying needs.

    After that, I believe that they can isolate genes for being a wastrel, a wanton and even a poet. If we could isolate the gene for bad poetry we could eradicate them. Much cheaper and more subtle than locking them away like Fidel does.


  48. alfred venison

    dear akn
    i must say, dorkins aside, the longer things drag on like there are, the better bakunin starts to look to me (burn all the castles, burn the records, turn it all up-side-down), but, really, “up against the wall”, already yet? haven’t you even thought about “re-education camps”?
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  49. Incurious & Unread


    Dawkins is not ascribing agency to genes. It’s a metaphor.

    Read the book.

  50. akn

    alfred venison, you are being a squeamish liberal. Besides, a gene, being non-sentient, is incapable of being re-educated. Filtering the gene pool is the only answer.

    Incurious and Unread, the reason people use metaphors is because they cannot give clear expression to what it is that they are trying to say. Dawkins is incapable of saying directly what he means because it would open him to the criticism that what he claims is clearly an over reading and a desperate plunge into absurd biological determinism in which notions of the self as an agential being are thrown overboard.

    I’ve read the book, by the way, as well as his critics.

    As I was arguing, however, the new thinking of socio-genetics, following Dawkins biological determinism, can be useful to us now.

  51. Alice

    Re the discussion on community – no one I know can live without one and Ive never met a hermit in the bush (living on bush tucker).
    That is the only definition of someone who can live outside the community.

    We are apes. We always have lived in communities. The idea that there is no such thing is a replication of an even more stupid idea put forth by Thatcher – “there is no such thing as society”.

  52. akn

    Exactly, Alice. It’s laughable to think humans exist outside of the social.

  53. Incurious & Unread


    When you say that “notions of the self as an agential being are thrown overboard”, are you referring to someone on a boat being thrown into the water? Or is it possible that you are using a metaphor?

  54. akn

    Well said. However, when challenged about the intention of my metaphor, unlike Dawkins, I can say clearly that notions of the self as an agent are being dismissed in favour of a reductionist reading of human existence that ascribes agency to something that is merely a part of the whole. The gene doesn’t seek to replicate. The totality of the socialised human does. Worms replicate. Humans reproduce and the meaning of the act of reproduction is socially inscribed.

    Anyway, we should learn to stop those worms masquerading as humans from replicating. Suburb by suburb.

  55. alfred venison

    dear akn
    it would be a poor entrepreneur indeed who’d propose “re-educating” the inarticulate gene. i had in mind of course “re-educating” the articulate gene-carrying sack of protoplasm; the one dawkins reckons (iirc) is animated to its pursuits fundamentally by the genes’ evolutionarily acquired drive to reproduce themselves – we are “epiphenomena” of genetic actions, as it were.

    its long since i read it, but i thought at the time his proposition in that book a “long bow” & recall being singularly unimpressed by the argument. however, you’re wrong about metaphor: metaphors are fuzzy or sharp, well developed, or poorly; they are not the last resort of the inarticulate and/or shifty, dawkins notwithstanding. consider clerk-maxwell’s “demon” or lovelock’s “gaia”. are these better or worse than the more prosaic “punctuated equilibrium”? or just different?

    nor (imo) is dawkins “hiding” behind the metaphor of “selfish gene”, in order to avoid saying directly what he means, because doing so would arouse criticism. the question of whether the locus of evolution is at the level of gene, individual or horde was & is keenly debated & dawkins makes it quite clear in that book where he stood on the question at that time.

    like him or not (and i don’t), dawkins’ metaphor of “selfish gene” works: its indelibly associated with him & it functions to encapsulate his thinking on the locus of evolution question.

    now, “altruism”, is there competitive advantage in it for the primal horde and/or its members, or not? i’ve heard there’s a lot of work being done on that one.
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  56. alfred venison

    ahem: … whether the locus of evolution is at the level of gene, individual or herd

  57. akn

    Geez, alfred venison, another of my attempts at floating a world dominating praxiological theory failed thanks to you. I’ll run your critique of my brutal ideological interpretation of the use of metaphors past the collective once it gets out of bed and see how we can rebuild it. Off with their heads!

  58. alfred venison

    dear akn
    make it so, then. i still reckon “re-education” camps are the go, though. consider the long view: you get to husband/nurture a resource, whilst demonstrating your regime’s compassion & wisdom, and end up with gangs of former bankers rendered suitable to, maybe, plant trees in the remediation programs their arrogant indifference made necessary.

    alright, i’ll stick my neck out and go on the record. you may think i’m an irredeemable softy, an ineffectual idealist, in short, a “liberal”, but i still believe deeply that the 1% can indeed be helped & turned around to good works. it would just need cognoscenti like you & the collective to commit to a modest program of tough loving/re-education to effect it. hell, you could even generate a handy side-stream income from the “re-education” process by televising it: “re-education boot camp for bad-boy/bad-girl bankers”, maybe. imagine, comrades could kick back after a hard week, with a cool one, a bowl of popcorn & a klaxon to watch an hour of bankers getting up at 5:00 & making their own beds & stuff, and including the usual range of bizarre punishments for petty infringements of “the rules” by the recalcitrant with their “bad attitudes”.

    in any case, i just really don’t think you need resort to black helicopters at night dropping “remorse gas” over their gated communities. yet.
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  59. Adrien

    AKN – The roots of sociobiology can be traced back from Dawkins

    Dawkins is speaking of genetics, of ‘struggle’ at the molecular-genestic level. He is not spruiking sociobiology. Sociobiology should be called Bio-sociology because it is a form of sociology that uses biology as a paradigm; it is not a branch of biology. Dawkins is a biologist whose political views are among those of the ‘scientific left’ not of the ‘neoliberal right’.

    But yes doubtless this struggle of selfishness also manifests in human politics. But it’s important to see what distinguishes the two phenomena despite the resemblance of the patterns.

    We are selfish but we also have empathy; most of us. Our empathy is limited and tends to be focused on ‘us’ our community, our people, our tribe. Above all we are disposed to tend to our selves, our own bodies because the pain our own body feels tends to prevail over the pain of others. We feel great discomfort, for example, seeing another human mutilated. But we feel nowhere near as bad as s/he that actually experiences mutilation.

    Moving from Smith to Marx, capitalism dissolves traditional ties of community. It enables individuals to choose their own alliances and cancel them at will. One result of this is the emergence of the nuclear family. What we think of as families are a much smaller unit. Families tend not to live in the same neighbourhoods as the relatives. And it’s normal not to know your neighbours well if at all.

    Our community is the ‘nation-state’ a construct of laws and propaganda. We don’t really have a community. Or rather an old notion of community has been rendered obsolete but the shift from agrarian to industrial to digital economics. Our new technology has provided the basis for new types of community, ones that transcend geography and genes.

    Hence this conversation.

  60. Ootz

    Oh well, if no black helicopters, then the next best thing is to sue the pants off those crooks and charlatans. Is that the kind of re-education program you had in mind alfred?

  61. Terangeree

    @ 45:

    Actually, 1% of seven billion is 70 milliards.

  62. Ootz

    Adrien @60 “Our community is the ‘nation-state’ a construct of laws and propaganda. We don’t really have a community. ”

    Well think again and look back, during depression and war times there were strong neighbourhood communities and it may happen again. A real and tangible insurance policy for troubled times – close knit and caring neighbourhoods and workplaces for that matter.

  63. Adrien

    Ootz – I’m simply thrilled that Alex Steffen of whom I’ve never heard gave a smashing address at some conference I don’t know about. But I am familiar with the nostalgia for the community that arose during the Slump. Are we all looking forward to another depression in the hopes of the community that will arise?

    There are reasons to believe that when history rhymes again the stanza will be a dark one. There was an ethos that existed in the 1930s which has been unravelled since the 1960s. The ‘close-knit’ neighbourhoods of the 1930s are no longer proliferate. Also, the State’s powers of surveillance and control were nowhere near current levels; global capitalism was relatively adolescent.

    Dark times will foster a new sense of community? Let’s not forget that the dark times of the 1930s produced not just organic (voluntary) collectivism but mechanical (involuntary) as well. Usually the latter gets backed up by gunpowder. These days the State’s got a lot more than gunpowder.

  64. alfred venison

    dear Ootz
    for the record, i said no black helicopters “yet” – i’m hedging my bets. however, i was only thinking of “re-education” in terms of reforestation projects, desert reclamation, shoring up beaches in working class suburbs, &c. limited, punitive, after-the-fact measures, i now see, compared to your more humane proposal to teach a selection of irresponsible plutocrats exemplary lessons, now, in a language they all understand. clearly a superior “re-education” program in the circumstances.

    and the article, “JPMorgan, BofA Sued Over Home Foreclosures”, was a good read, too, thanks. i’ve heard/read from time to time that ivy league law schools are researching climate change litigation big time.
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  65. akn

    Adrien, irony is not lost on you. Its soul has shrivelled and abandoned all hope.

    You offer a rerun of the stock standard defence of Dawkins that ignores entirely the deadly comments of his critics including, of course, Midgley who brings attention to his sliding use of the word ‘selfish’ in The Selfish Gene including on p 3 of where he simply states that “we are born selfish”. By this manoeuvre he ascribes the ‘selfishness’ of the ‘selfish gene’ to the entire being. And on and on he goes consistently using the word selfish without ever bringing to the reader’s attention this slippery sleight of hand. Midgley has devoted an entire book Dawkin’s sociobiology and its antecedents.

    Gould and Lewontine, in an earlier argument around EO Wilson’s sociobiology, noted that sociobiology contended “that genes play an ultimate role in human behavior and that traits such as aggressiveness can be explained by biology rather than a person’s social environment.” (wiki-p).

    This exactly describes Dawkins’ thesis. Given Dawkins’ frequent muddling of exactly to to what he is ascribing the characteristic of selfish I’d say it is clear that Dawkins is very much in the lineage that has consistently misread Darwin from the Spencer onward.

  66. alfred venison

    dear akn
    he shoots, he scores!
    i just want to put in a plug for my old personal flames rose & rose of “not in our genes fame”. they got in a few punches in at the time, too.
    and daniel c dennett sh!ts all over dawkins on religion.
    that’s all. have a noice day.
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  67. Adrien

    Akn – Your relegation of my argument to the ‘stock standard’ are themselves a stock standard rhetorical tactic. Just because someone has used Dawkins’ theories on molecular-genetic behaviour and applied them to human societies does not mean that Dawkins himself is endorsing same. It would be better if you understand what I mean when I distinguish between sociology and biology.

    Your argument implies that there’s a gene for selfishness that runs strong amongst ‘oppressors’. If that’s what you’re saying, it’s groundless. If you want to quote The Selfish Gene and prove me wrong I’m willing to consider the possibility that I’m mistaken.

    There is a scientific basis for identifiable ‘oppressors’, some neurological studies have shown that sociopathology, the inability to feel empathy, may be in part heritable. That’s not so much a case of a ‘selfish gene’ as a genetic predisposition to fuck people over. How that measures up against the social hierarchy is a matter that requires further consideration. Doubtless sociopaths seek power as they get no kick from anything else.

    But they are not especially intelligent and so you’re likely to find higher concentrations of them anywhere where an industry bestows power, nursing homes and security companies being two examples. The post office being another. And yes: government, the armed forces, the police, and corporate boardrooms too.

    But selfishness, you find everywhere.

    Irony has no soul, irony is a cultural riff and existential condition. It is not alive. Trees have souls and so do we. If we tended to our souls perhaps we wouldn’t be so selfish.

  68. akn

    I did start out suggesting that if we took Dawkins seriously then we have a ready made program for the eradication of the difficult classes. A global Year Zero. The humanism of alfred venison and ootz have encouraged me to soften my initially very harsh prescriptions. Re-education is certainly a necessity. Except for bad poets and humourless, dour pedants. If we can isolate those genes we’ll make an exception for them.

  69. Adrien

    If we can isolate those genes we’ll make an exception for them.

    Ah so you’re joking. (I hope) Hardy-har. There will be others and they won’t be.