Creationism or Socialism: Which is Dumber?

It may seem that our title’s question is asking about apples and oranges, but it is nevertheless a question that must be asked. In the US, election day is less than two weeks away, and the two major political parties have transmuted themselves into those two alternatives. We have decisions to make.

Ever since we started this blog, your Curmudgeon has agonized over this problem. For example, see Creationism and American Politics, and also America’s Future: The Worst Possible Scenario.

Deciding the relative degree of stupidity and ignorance involved in each is difficult, but some comparisons can be made. Yes, the evidence for evolution is vast, but so is the evidence favoring free enterprise. There is also evidence that creationism — as a stand alone belief system — is utterly goofy: the world is older than 6K years, there’s no evidence of a recent global flood, etc. But the evidence that socialism is also goofy is vast and utterly overwhelming. Almost the entire 20th century has been an experiment in socialism, and in retrospect it’s been an absolute catastrophe.

One could, perhaps, make excuses for idealistic socialists who fomed their ideas a century ago, in the years just prior to and even during the Great War, but before the Russian Revolution. Socialism may have seemed new and “scientific,” and the alternatives, at least in Europe, were monarchy, aristocracy, and state-supported religion. One can almost understand, say, young Albert Einstein’s attraction to socialism, which he probably absorbed from conversations with his fellow intellectuals in European coffee houses. The horrors of the Soviet Union, National Socialism, and Mao’s China were all in the future.

Okay, we can forgive Einstein; as a young man he didn’t know better. He wasn’t an economist, and there wasn’t then any data to be observed. But what’s the excuse for someone today, a century later? It isn’t necessary to be an economist to understand that socialism, when seriously implemented, means tyranny, poverty, and death on a massive scale. If socialism’s corpses were piled atop one another, in their countless millions throughout Europe, Asia, and Africa, and in Latin America too, they might reach almost to the Moon.

The evidence against creationism isn’t quite that ghastly, so when comparing the two errors, one might say that although creationism is incredibly dumb, socialism is by far the dumber belief system.

“Ah,” say today’s socialists, “it’s true that our system always failed in the past, but this time we’ll do it right.” Yeah, sure they will. And believing that is a classic example of insanity.

“But look at Sweden!” they say. “Compared to what?” we respond. Can you know what Sweden would have been otherwise? No, so all you can say is that the place seems to be doing okay. But again we must ask, “Okay compared to what?” You can’t compare today’s Sweden with a “might-have-been” free-enterprise Sweden.

And we also say this: If you swapped Sweden’s women for those of, say, Bulgaria (we mean no offense to Bulgars, we’re just picking a country in Europe that’s far away from Sweden) would visitors to that legendary socialist utopia still return with praise? Without Swedish women, Sweden would be revealed as a drab and dreary state.

But let’s return to the question in our title — which is dumber, creationism or socialism? How can we calculate the relative stupidity of two erroneous belief systems?

At first it struck us that we had an easy method. After all, socialism is so incredibly stupid that even a creationist can see it. But on reflection, that method doesn’t work because it can be flipped around. One could say that creationism is so stupid that even a socialist can see it. Many science bloggers illustrate exactly that.

It’s obvious that we can’t get anywhere by adopting the viewpoint of either group. Each says the other is stupid, and to that limited extent they’re both right. Indeed, there are people so extremely stupid that they are both socialist and creationist. All one needs to do is think of William Jennings Bryan and his millions of followers — “progressives” and creationists all. It would seem that stupid is a very slippery slope.

Well, how about judging their relative stupidity by the degree to which they reject a rational enterprise like science? Surely that’s the key! But no, both groups are stupidly anti-science — it’s just that each rejects the science (or accepts the pseudo-science) that suits its purpose. We know about the Republicans and their creationism — in some cases sincere, in other cases perhaps it’s pure pandering — but they’re not the only anti-science party. As we said in Creationism and Politics: Aaaargh!!:

[W]e shouldn’t bog down over the fake issue of whether one party is smart and the other is stupid. They’re both stupid. Also, they’re both anti-science, but in different ways. We’ve previously pointed out that the Dems are just plain weird about their environmentalism — no oil drilling, and no nuclear plants either. We don’t know the principle involved (if there is one), but they also seem to oppose all weapons research. Further, they’re shutting down the space program, except, perhaps, for Muslim outreach. So the Dems aren’t very scientific at all.

So how else can we choose between two political parties, one of which is creationist and the other is socialist? This is very frustrating, because we know (at least your Curmudgeon knows) that both of them are stupid, and stupidity is a seemingly measureless quality. But Election Day is coming. Surely we should be able to develop a rational method of choosing between them.

All right, let’s try this: Can we somehow determine which is worse? Perhaps, but worse by what objective measure? How about this: Which is more destructive to our civilization? Aha, now we’re bringing the matter directly within the purview of our blog’s ultimate purpose: Conserving the Enlightenment values of reason, liberty, science, and free enterprise.

A creationist is stupid — incredibly so — but most of them aren’t destructive. There’s little harm to anyone else if someone chooses to believe in the historical reality of Noah’s Ark. Not, that is, unless the creationist gets aggressive with that belief and forces it into public schools, science texts, and then tries to shut down scientific research. A crazed book-burner is by definition destructive, but at this point we’re not faced with that nightmare (except a bit in Texas and Louisiana). For now we can set it aside to be dealt with if the occasion arises.

A socialist, on the other hand, is always destructive by definition. His goal is “social justice,” which means the confiscation and redistribution of wealth. That’s done by taxation and various welfare programs. (Please, dear reader, don’t imagine that we’re opposed to charity; but that’s voluntary. Our objection is to compulsory redistribution.)

To a greater or lesser degree, a socialist will also want to confiscate or at least control most or all of the economy, which is destruction per se. No one who has his business confiscated will ever create another that might suffer the same fate. But even without nationalization of industry, with “only” the evil of taxation and redistribution, private property is destroyed, and so is the future prosperity that would have been created had that property been left in the hands of its rightful owners.

Any fool can be a re-distributor of wealth and imagine that he’s being a great “social” hero. All it requires is a gun. Any street punk can “liberate” and then redistribute wealth, but it’s a very rare individual who can be a creator of wealth, and wealth-creators are always victims of the re-distributors. As with free-enterprise Sweden, what might have been created will never be known, because that alternate future will have been destroyed by redistribution.

But if we don’t know what the free-enterprise future might have been, does that mean it’s all guesswork? Are we only indulging our prejudices by imagining that life would be better without the “compassionate” re-distributors in power? Not really. To a limited (but sufficient) extent we can find some objective data to support what we’re saying. But first, one has to know what to look for.

In the lab, we can take one uniform culture of bacteria and divide it into two separate Petri dishes. Then we can introduce one new factor into one of those Petri dishes and observe the results. Would you believe that history affords us with similar, lab-perfect examples in human affairs? Such situations are rare, but they do exist.

To our knowledge, the first to notice and draw a useful conclusion from such a situation was Alexis de Tocqueville. You can read about it in this online copy of Democracy in America. Go to chapter 18, which is titled “The Present and Probably Future Condition of the Three Races that Inhabit the Territory of The United States.” Here’s a link to it. In that chapter, search for “Contrast between the left and the right bank of the Ohio.”

Tocqueville gives us a fascinating study of America in the 1830s, a generation before the civil war. In the text we’re talking about he takes a slow boat ride down the Ohio river, where it divides the states of Ohio and Kentucky. Like Darwin, Tocqueville was a brilliant observer. He says, with bold added by us:

The stream that the Indians had distinguished by the name of Ohio, or the Beautiful River, waters one of the most magnificent valleys which have ever been made the abode of man. Undulating lands extend upon both shores of the Ohio, whose soil affords inexhaustible treasures to the laborer; on either bank the air is equally wholesome and the climate mild, and each of them forms the extreme frontier of a vast state: that which follows the numerous windings of the Ohio upon the left is called Kentucky; that upon the right bears the name of the river. These two states differ only in a single respect: Kentucky has admitted slavery, but the state of Ohio has prohibited the existence of slaves within its borders.

See? It’s two Petri-dish cultures, identical but for one factor. And like Darwin, he notes the consequences of what he observes:

Thus the traveler who floats down the current of the Ohio to the spot where that river falls into the Mississippi may be said to sail between liberty and servitude; and a transient inspection of surrounding objects will convince him which of the two is more favorable to humanity.

Upon the left bank of the stream [Kentucky] the population is sparse; from time to time one descries a troop of slaves loitering in the half-desert fields; the primeval forest reappears at every turn; society seems to be asleep, man to be idle, and nature alone offers a scene of activity and life.

From the right bank [Ohio], on the contrary, a confused hum is heard, which proclaims afar the presence of industry; the fields are covered with abundant harvests; the elegance of the dwellings announces the taste and activity of the laborers; and man appears to be in the enjoyment of that wealth and contentment which is the reward of labor.

And he draws a conclusion from his observations:

Upon the left bank of the Ohio labor is confounded with the idea of slavery, while upon the right bank it is identifies with that of prosperity and improvement; on the one side it is degraded, on the other it is honored.


As the same causes have been continually producing opposite effects for the last two centuries in the British colonies of North America, they have at last established a striking difference between the commercial capacity of the inhabitants of the South and those of the North. At the present day it is only the Northern states that are in possession of shipping, manufactures, railroads, and canals.

Among Tocqueville’s conclusions is this:

The farther they went, the more was it shown that slavery, which is so cruel to the slave, is prejudicial to the master.

Reading that for the first time, years ago, we realized that we had previously been told only half of the reason why slavery was wrong. It’s not only a supreme injustice to the slave, it’s also injurious to the master and his entire society. But it took a keen observer like Tocqueville to make the point.

There are “Petri dish” examples which can be profitably studied regarding side-by-side societies in which the sole difference is socialism. The one which today is most striking is North and South Korea. What would Tocqueville make of a journey between them along the 38th Parallel? Several other examples have existed and are still worth studying: East and West Germany being a good one. Do today’s “social scientists” ever undertake such studies?

There are no counter-examples, and so it must be admitted by all honest and rational observers that socialism is everywhere and always pernicious. And here, dear reader, your Curmudgeon takes his stand — at the risk of offending many of his loyal readers.

In deciding between creationism and socialism, the latter is by far the worse alternative. That is our unhappy guide to figuring out the choices which the current US elections provide us. The creationist candidate — if opposed to socialism — is the lesser of the two evils.

Ah, you ask, but what if the creationists evolve into book burners and witch hunters, as has happened so often in the past?

That’s a simple question. Were that to happen, then it’s time to leave.

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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50 responses to “Creationism or Socialism: Which is Dumber?

  1. You are now an official teabagger. I had my suspicions from your previous admissions of conservatism but you have now confirmed it. Your whole article is based on a logical fallacy – the fallacy of presumption. You set up the premise at the outset that the Democrats represent a socialist agenda. You have been sipping the tea for so long that anything MODERATE appears far left.
    You have climbed into bed with the enemy.
    I am sorely disappointed in you.

  2. You set up the premise at the outset that the Democrats represent a socialist agenda.

    Well, he did ask the right question, namely “compared to what?” It has been said that if the entire political spectrum was laid on a football field, the American political landscape would be entirely between the 40 yard lines.
    The Dems may be *more* socialist than the GOP, but would still be labelled as corporatist stooges by a real socialist. Frankly, the word has been tossed around enough as an epithet that it has been diluted of any real meaning except as a dog whistle for the hoi polloi to rally around.

    Both parties are addicted to spending and neither are willing to take on entitlements and defense spending. The only real difference between the two is on the culture war issues and how far down the road they are punting the bill.

  3. social justice = the confiscation and redistribution of wealth?

    Wow, I guess you learned your quote mining from the best!

  4. Damn! It would take an entire blog to discuss all the issues brought up here. Is there a limit to the length of comments? Socialism vs creationism huh? Taken to the extremes, they are both dangerous. However, I give the nod to creationism as the dumber and most fatal of the two because creationism comes with a whole s***load of extra baggage. Creationists (for the most part) believe in Armageddon, that’s not a good end for humanity.

  5. RogerE asks: “Is there a limit to the length of comments?”

    I don’t think so, but it’s easier to get replies if you break the points down into separate comments.

  6. I like carlsonjok’s comment. It was the Democrats under Clinton that had a budget surplus and were reducing the national debt. Bush and the Republicans took over and we were again into budget deficits and soaring national debt. The current GOP & Tea Party candidates give lip service to being worried about the debt (blaming the Dems), yet give no solutions to the problem. Go back to the 2008 budget levels, except for security items? Keep the Bush tax cuts? That helps how?

  7. Our current democratic party is closer to socialism than, say, the typical tea-bagger is, but is a long, long way from the sort of socialism espoused in your examples, or even in some current European political parties. It’s a scare word used by the right, without any real meaning. It’s similar to a democrat calling a Republican a “fascist”. Our current parties differ on issues and objectives, but they do not differ in any fundamental way with respect to the structure of the government in this country, the free market economy, private ownership of property, and so on.

    I disagree with your comment that both parties are anti-science as well. Individual politicians vary, of course, but the democrats have generally been out in front on most science based policy issues, such as addressing climate change, supporting stem cell research, and advocating environmental protection. You may disagree with their approaches to these issues, but they are not based on being “anti-science”. I, for one, would like more use of modern nuclear power generation, but it is not specifically a democratic vs. republican issue so much as a local not-in-my-back-yard problem.

    Democrats also did not destroy the space program. I worked in the space program for most of my career, and have seen NASA evolve into an agency which in many ways is the very jobs program you would be opposed to. They can become wedded to programs long after they cease to make sense technically, simply because they are budgeted and jobs are tied to them. The current administration had the sense to put together an outside team of experts to review the program, and re-directed the agency in accordance with the findings, to actually go and do something interesting – like explore beyond the earth-moon system – and cancel the programs that were failing. They also put in money to support the burgeoning private sector space efforts (shockingly pro-free enterprise!). The politicians in districts where those jobs were, including both parties, naturally fought to save their jobs. The result is a mess, but this has nothing to do with the administration’s efforts to put NASA on a more interesting and sustainable path. (with a larger budget, by the way)

    In summary – if you have a choice between a clearly socialist candidate (a real socialist, not just one labeled as such by his/her opponent) – and an irrational creationist, then you have a tough decision. Maybe the creationist is the better choice. I don’t think you will encounter that choice on your ballot this year.

  8. “if you have a choice between a clearly socialist candidate (a real socialist, not just one labeled as such by his/her opponent)” – You don’t. I’m not aware of any on the Democratic ticket anyway.

    “– and an irrational creationist” – That’s pretty much the whole right wing ticket. Just read the blogs here. Almost all of the Republicans or teabaggers are anti-evolution creationists.

  9. Gabriel Hanna

    I do disagree with SC about ‘socialism’. There isn’t anyone in any of the big parties who wants ‘socialism’. One party wants the welfare state a bit more extensive than it currently is, and another wants it a bit smaller. Both parties have large constituencies that want the government butting into people’s lives.

    The number of actual socialists in this country are probably of the same order as the number of libertarians.

    The government’s ownership of GM, and the existence of public utilities, are about the only things I can come up with that are actual ‘socialism’.

    The label’s not helpful. It just angries up people.

  10. Gabriel Hanna says: “The label’s not helpful. It just angries up people.”

    It angers me too. Look, there’s free enterprise and there’s un-free enterprise. What’s your label for the latter — socialism lite? It doesn’t matter, that’s what one of the two parties wants. “Lite” now, but tomorrow? The GOP — well, they’re wishy-washy. Maybe at the moment they’re “socialism even more lite”? And they’re creationist too. It’s wonderful! And that’s why I’m a Curmudgeon.

  11. Gabriel Hanna

    What’s your label for the latter — socialism lite?

    No, less-free enterprise, I guess. Socialism and free enterprise are not mutually exclusive categories. By socialism I mean central planning and government ownership of production.

    For example, you don’t like the health care bill and neither do I. But it wasn’t nationalization of health care ala the UK. What they did was add extra government mandates to an industry already heavily regulated both at the state and Federal level, and adding more people to the already large number that are getting part of their health care paid by the taxpayers. It was a difference in degree, and not in kind.

    This was not a free-enterprise system that got nationalized. This was a subsidized, regulated system that got more subsidies and more regulations.

    When you call people who want these things ‘socialist’, are you winning them over or pissing them off?

  12. Gabriel Hanna says:

    By socialism I mean central planning and government ownership of production.

    I know what it is. But it can’t happen here all at once. It’s being done incrementally. Surely you can see this?

    When you call people who want these things ‘socialist’, are you winning them over or pissing them off?

    I can’t win them over and I don’t care what they think of me. I already know what they think of me.

  13. Gabriel Hanna

    Surely you can see this?

    No, actually, I don’t see it happening “incrementally”. There are people who want more subsidies and regulations true, but most of the European welfare states aren’t nationalizing anything and have no plans to do so.

    Central planning and nationalization have been shown to be failures and only people like Hugo Chavez do it these days.

  14. Gabriel Hanna

    I can’t win them over and I don’t care what they think of me.

    Maybe you could if you argued for or against something, rather than give it a name which signals to everyone that you don’t really want to argue. Calling something ‘socialist’ is like calling it ‘fascist’ or ‘racist’.

  15. A completely unregulated free market is something none of us would support. A market only works when consumers have adequate information to make informed choices, when competing companies cannot collude to set prices or divide markets, when companies cannot combine to form monopolies, etc. Regulation is necessary to provide those safeguards and make the market work.

    It is also not the case that when one party or the other desires more regulation of a particular activity or market that it is a step on the slippery slope to socialism. A bit of well-written regulation in the mortgage market would certainly have been beneficial in the 90’s, for example. I agree with you that not all regulation is good; much is no doubt prompted by special interests or industry groups trying to protect their turf, and there is probably a great deal of redundant or obsolete regulation still in effect. However, that does not undermine the fact that proper regulation is required in a market economy.

  16. Gabriel Hanna says:

    No, actually, I don’t see it happening “incrementally.”

    Don’t see it? Look at this chart. I don’t know if it tells the whole story, but it purports to show the trend in all government spending as a percentage of “Gross Domestic Product” — which is the private economy. It’s gone from 20% in 1947 (I didn’t know it was that high back then) to 33% now “Now” being 2007. I suspect it’s much higher now, approaching 40%. Anyway, regardless of the accuracy of the figures, observe the trend, and factor in what’s happened during the last two years.

  17. RogerE:

    It was the Democrats under Clinton that had a budget surplus and were reducing the national debt.

    You better double check that. From 1994 through the end of his term, Clinton dealt with a Republican Congress. Which adds a tick to the side of the ledger associated with voting for the creationist party. Having the White House and Congress in the hands of different parties could lead to pragmatic compromise on key issues. However, I am not hopeful. The GOP has seemed to spend the better part of the last two years throwing a collective tantrum over anything Obama did. Even when he did what they had previously advocated.

  18. The conservatives are now using the word “free enterprise” instead of the sinister-sounding “capitalism”. The right wing is attempting to patent the whole concept of freedom unless it involves freedom of reproductive choice, freedom of religion, civil rights, or privacy.

    Notice how the republican and teabagger political ads all preface “stimulus” with “failed”. Saying something repeatedly doesn’t make it true any more than harping on about an “evolution/creation debate” means that there is a debate.

    As far as the government owning GM and banks, it’s beginning to appear to have been a better investment than “free enterprise” could pull off. The US has actually profited from some banks it rescued and GM isn’t looking too bad these days. Look at all the jobs saved and unemployment costs avoided.

    Socialism? I don’t think so.

  19. Creationism is more dangerous, because that speaks to how people assess information from a variety of sources and reach conclusions.

    Socialism? The USA is hardly socialistic. Interestingly, if you look at a number of studies of “happiness”, “quality of life”, “educational scores”, or other various measures, the more socialistic Scandinavian countries always top those lists.

  20. Tomato Addict

    Not enough coffee, Curmie?

    Government has some useful functions. We might argue over which are more useful, but it is essentially true. A government requires taxes to function, that’s self evident, and we can argue over who pays how much. All taxes are a redistribution of wealth. Therefore, all government is Socialism.

    There is some truth to what you say, some serious problem to deal with, but there is also a lot of history to socialist policies. There are reasons they exist (whether or not we like those reasons is irrelevant), and you are ignoring all that and laying all our current ills at the feet of Socialism.
    Sorry, but that just isn’t helpful.

    Here is a better, more constructive question to consider:
    How Socialist should we be?

    PS: Frank Zeidler

  21. Oh come on Curmy,

    You can’t blame socialism for those atrocities any more than the creationists can blame them on evolution. Those acts of genocide and torment don’t belong in socialism alone. They are acts of power, and they have happened and will continue to happen with or without socialism.

    (I am pretty conservative, but the difference is that I see capitalism as the “least worst,” not as “the best” economic system. Human nature always messes things up. Monopolies are already sprouting as capitalism reaches its summit. I doubt this never-heard-of-before amount of power will behave any better than previous lesser powers.)

  22. gabo says: “I am pretty conservative, but …”

    You thought you were pretty conservative. That word, like socialism, seems to have many meanings. I like economic freedom, every bit as much as I like other forms of freedom. Yes, we need laws, and we need enough government to enforce them, but laws should be to protect freedom and individual rights, not restrict them.

    When we have more government than that bare minimum, bad things inevitably happen, because power attracts bad people.

  23. you’re a f****** moron. Last time I visit your stupidity.
    Adios, teabagger.

  24. Mr C

    like others here Im asking you to drop the socialism content from the blog….your stuff on evolution and science is spot on. You are funny, witty, incitive and on the ball every post.

    You start saying socialism and you start sounding like Glenn Beck or O’Donkey.

    Sorry mate but you are an American…so you dont have a danny what the word socialism means in practice.

    Why use Sweden? Almost all of Europe is run on socialist principles mate. Yes Germany and Spain played with facism but reverted back to socialist principles when they got sick of facism. France has been a socialist country since the Revolution, even while it danced with the false emperor Napolion.

    Using extremes like Russia and China (Communism not socialism…they are different) is the sort of dishonesty the Discoveroids play with all the time. And oggity boogity…National Socialism! waark waaark…thats the Hitler Argument alarm going off.

    The free market is a good thing. Really it is. We over here in Euro Land are big fans. BUT…when it comes to looking after sick people, the unemployed who aint malingerers, and deciding what the kids learn in school, a little centralised govt control has turned out to be a good thing.

    Sorry mate but when you can actually say America Is No 1 and it aint a lie, then you get to laud how great rampant uncontrolled capitalism is. Right now you are bobbing about waaay down the health, education and social happiness league tables.

    Now…to your OP question. Creationism or socialism…which is worse?

    Lets see….

    I can have my kids taught outright lies that make them stupid and gullable, open therefore to all sorts of nonsense beliefs, backwards and a damn embarassment. Because theyve been lied to they will probably fall for all sorts of snake oil sales nonsense be it pyramid schemes or miracle cure oils. Hell they may even grow up being a Truther or a Birther or a Glenn Beck fan. The people behind the movement will also happily piss my kids school education budget up a wall fighting court cases that are inevitably doomed to fail. All because they were brought up pig ignorant retards who think God Did It is an answer on Biology tests.


    When I earn my wages I pay a bit of tax towards a nationalised health service and national insurance. If I get seriously ill my medical bills are covered by the state, I dont loose my house and stuff, and I dont have some weasley f ing salesman scumbag and his leech lawyer mates finding ways of not paying for my treatments. If some greedy scumbag fat cat decides to downsize my company or sell it to the Chinese and lay me off so he can make a fast buck and buy another island in the Carib I have some sort of very basic income that covers me till I get a new job. My kids learn from a national curriculum set by education experts rather than Don The Dentist and Joe The Plumber.

    I vote Creationism as the worst offender…but then Im a commie red loving Limey asshole in your opinion…probably. I vote Liberal and never voted Labour ever but hey…..Im still a closet commie eh?

    Save the Tea Bagger rants bro…stick to science.

    Make me laugh or go Wow when I read your blog rather than scratch my head and wonder WTF???

  25. Sandman asks: “Why use Sweden?”

    Because it’s a standard argument over here, and I had what I though was a good response. As for the rest, relax. The elections will soon be over, and I had a lot to get off my chest because I’m unhappy with both parties.

    I know that my political views make this a rather unusual science blog, but it also immunizes me from the usual attacks from the creationists, who like to claim that they’re saving society from left-wing atheists. Anyway, I’ve pretty much said what I had to say. It’ll pop up again from time to time, but probably not for a while. I’m usually pretty good about staying on message.

  26. I, too, am sad to read about your decision.
    But I’m not going to chastise you for putting it on your blog. It is your blog and you can do with it whatever you like. Additionally, I won’t stop reading. I like your blog.

    However, I also think you are working from some faulty reasoning. Many commenters here have been more clear than I can be so I won’t add much. Your view of “free enterprise” seems as misquided and as unsophisticated as many tea baggers we tend to laugh at. To see you compare a dictatorship like North Korea to anything close to socialism is surprising. I really thought you would have better arguments or evidence about why socialism doesn’t work. And then the use of the Tocqueville example just stunned me–I kept looking for a point more relevant to your topic.

    Look, I don’t work to make a million bucks. I didn’t choose my career because I thought I’d “create wealth”. I do what I do because I am passionate about my design work. Many other people feel the same way; teachers, artists, scientists, civil servants, stonemasons, etc. Perhaps there are some people whose passion is “creating wealth” (I’m not even sure what that really means) or to end up with some kind of power trip because of the wealth they’ve created. You even admit they are rare. Then you call them victims–the victims end up being those that cannot create wealth.

    What happens to the vast majority of people who make up the non-wealth producers when the minority hold the power because their passion works in the free enterprise system? What about people who can’t compete, who really can’t create wealth no matter how hard they try? They end up subservient to those that can. Sounds like more of the separation of the haves and have nots.

    One thing I think humans have evolved to do is to realize that we have the power to make things more “fair” for others. We take care of the old, the young and the sick. Not always as well as we could, of course. We truly have the capability to evolve away from “survival of the fittest” and look toward compassion to lead us farther. We can move away from the powerful collecting resources to dole them out as they see fit. We don’t need that level of inequity. Voluntary giving is great, but when such is distributed on a whim, many lose out. The strings that the powerful attach to such distributions can be strangling.

    I am not an expert in economics so really can’t offer more here. But I thought you were more knowledgeable about it than me. I was wrong to make such an assumption. I think your education has been informed, as some said, a little too much from Beck and friends. Unless you truly have some better reasoning than this post illustrates, you seem to be without an evidenced argument for your postion.

    I am disappointed.

  27. Curmie, it seems like everyone disagrees with you, but I think there is one more thing that really needs to be said.


    I don’t read your blog because I agree with your politics.
    I read your blog because I disagree with your politics, yet we share common ground in science and reason.

    Blogs that offer up sarcastic skewering of cdesign proponentists are a dime-a-dozen, but some fall off into sort of an echo chamber, repeating “Evolution is good because it’s Liberal, Creationism is bad because it’s Conservative.” Though this can be entertaining (to a liberal like me) it’s also wrong, and probably alienates as many people as it reaches. The voice of Conservatives (or whatever) on the side of enlightenment is sorely needed, especially when so many politicians pander to the religious right.

    So keep up the good work, and post about your politics as you feel the need. I may not agree with you, but I am willing to consider your opinion because you have a consistent record of rational commentary. Who knows, maybe I’ll learn something.

  28. Tomato Addict says: “Curmie, it seems like everyone disagrees with you …”

    That’s okay. I was being disagreeable. I realize people come here for the evolution controversy and not for my politics. But what probably upset y’all the most was my conclusion that — as bad as creationism is — certain political trends (which don’t seem to bother most of you) are actually worse. Yes — that’s what I think. And by now you know I’m not crazy, so the whole thing is upsetting.

    Economics is a terribly neglected subject in education, and even when people think they understand it because they’ve had a class or two, it’s often like someone who thinks he’s studied evolution but he’s been in a science program designed by Don McLeroy. Alas, what McLeroy wants to do to evolution has already been done to economics. The free market has been Expelled.

    I knew that my little essay — which wasn’t easy to write — wouldn’t be popular. But I think it’s good for some on the science side to be exposed to what really isn’t a radical viewpoint — it’s just not much heard from these days. I don’t do stuff like that very often, and I’m not whining like a creationist who can’t get academic respect for his nonsense. But I think the situation we’re in is very bad. That’s what makes me a Curmudgeon.

  29. PZ Myers notes, “that today is 23 October, the date that James Ussher, Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, determined to be the very first day of creation in 4004 BCE. That makes the world 6013 years old today”

  30. Benjamin Franklin

    Monsieur Curmudgeon,

    Kudos to you for posting the dissenting remarks. I like to read your blog, and just because we differ in some aspects of our political thoughts, I will continue to follow and appreciate it.

    Want to buy some GM stock? I will sell you many shares at a most reasonable price for some of your gold.

  31. Benjamin Franklin says: “Kudos to you for posting the dissenting remarks.”

    They were all dissenting.

  32. “Yes, the evidence for evolution is vast, but so is the evidence favoring free enterprise. ”

    What evidence?

    According to the SEP, “The… discussion [on differing approaches Philosophy of Economics] does at least document the diversity and disagreements concerning how to interpret and appraise economic theories. It is not surprising that there is no consensus among those writing on economic methodology concerning the overall empirical appraisal of specific approaches in economics, including mainstream microeconomics, macroeconomics, and econometrics.”

    How are economic theories interpreted and appraised? What empirical methods are used to evaluate the success of a theory? Is economics an actual “science” or is it just rhetoric and folk psychology? Should we have any confidence in what economic theorists say?

    Furthermore, since there are no actual free economies in existence (as all economies are mixed), how can we say that free enterprise/laissez-faire capitalism will operate as people theorize that it will?

    Finally, if current economic studies focus on positive/descriptive and normative aspects of economics (the “is” and “ought”), then can we call the study of economics an objective endeavor ? Is objectivity even an appropriate goal? If not, then what is?

  33. ps. Fire departments are so… socialist.

    No pay, no spray:

  34. LRA asks:

    Finally, if current economic studies focus on positive/descriptive and normative aspects of economics (the “is” and “ought”), then can we call the study of economics an objective endeavor? Is objectivity even an appropriate goal? If not, then what is?

    I know nothing, and everyone disagrees with me, but since you asked … It looks to me like the end-result of a generations-long process of teaching the “strengths and weaknesses” of free enterprise, with an ever-increasing emphasis on the weaknesses to the point where people who study the subject end up thinking the free-enterprise system literally means granny starving in the street while Bernie Madoff steals everyone’s money.

    I also think there’s been a gradual abandonment of mentioning that there are any strengths to a free market economy. Besides, over time, as the system is regulated. subsidized, and distorted, people will forget that there ever were any advantages to it, so they aren’t taught that the system has anything in its favor. All they learn, if anything, is that it means “private ownership of the tools of production” as if that were a meaningful description. This is the end result of the “strengths and weaknesses” technique.

    As you can see, strengths and weaknesses is a tactic that’s been around for a long time, and now it’s being copied by the Discoveroids. They didn’t invent it, but they understand its effectiveness and they want to apply the technique to teaching evolution. If the Discoveroids are as successful, in a generation or two everyone will come out of school thinking Darwin was a fool who rejected his own theory, who inspired Hitler, and there’s no evidence for it anyway.

    And then one day, on the internet, you encounter a Curmudgeon who tells you that they’re teaching economics all wrong, free enterprise really is a great system, not merely because it’s far more productive and inventive than the alternatives, but because it consists entirely of voluntary transactions. It neither requires nor should ever receive subsidies from taxpayers. It demands nothing from government except courts to resolve disputes, police to deal with the occasional crooks, and protection of property rights.

    The Curmudgeon also rants that when free enterprise has been tested in side-by-side competition with an otherwise identical society (East and West Berlin, or Hong Kong and Mainland China) the comparison is laughable and the people always flee toward freedom.

    But you dismiss the ravings of the Curmudgeon, because what he’s saying is nothing like what your friends and teachers say. The Curmudgeon is like the old coot Winston Smith encountered in 1984 — the one who tries to reminisce about how things were in the pre-Party days. So that’s where we are.

  35. I know nothing, and everyone disagrees with me

    Not exactly. I am a big supporter of the free enterprise system, ‘specially considering I’ve spent my career as a small middle-management cog in the corporate machine. Free enterprise / capitalism works because it is the one system that doesn’t seek to subvert individual self-interest, but rather channel it productively. Systems like pure socialism seek, in theory, to replace individual self-interest with individual contributions to the collective good. In practice, of course, they don’t work because an elite class still emerges. It is just they use the imprimatur of the state to entrench itself.

    That said, pure capitalism isn’t much desireable, either. Devoid of any restraints toward collective good, pure capitalism does turn into robber barons, Bernie Madoffs, and Joseph Cassanos.

    The trick, of course, is finding the right balance.

  36. carlsonjok says:

    Devoid of any restraints toward collective good, pure capitalism does turn into robber barons, Bernie Madoffs, and Joseph Cassanos. The trick, of course, is finding the right balance.

    Yes! Now see how this sounds: Letting people walk around freely, as they wish, means that some of them will be muggers and mass murderers. We need the government to be in control of when and where people are allowed to walk around. The trick, of course, is finding the right balance.

    If you can respond to that objection to “walking around” freedom, please consider that the same response applies to economic freedom.

  37. Yes, but “walking around” freedom is regulated for the public good. There are laws against murdering and mugging others walking around. Even against jaywalking to be more literal; as a driver, it’s nice to expect where pedestrians will be. There are sometimes restrictions about where and how you can go; one way streets, private property, high voltage areas.
    Would you want to live somewhere with no restrictions like the above? If you think so, then I’d agree with your comparison. If not, I question it.

    Will you please provide some more specific strengths of free enterprise? Of going all the way that you seem to imply. How would one make sure people and the environment are protected with fully free enterprise? You once said that in a free market system that the bad ones eventually get weeded out. Show me how this is true. Right now, I agree with carlsonjok that balance is needed. Teach me more and I may reconsider.

  38. Lynn Wilhelm says:

    Yes, but “walking around” freedom is regulated for the public good. There are laws against murdering and mugging others walking around.

    There are also laws against stealing from your customers, selling defective goods, etc. You can’t seriously think I oppose such rules. I do, however, oppose laws that say “You can’t do business without government consent.”

    Will you please provide some more specific strengths of free enterprise?

    I have an entire post on it: See Evolution, Intelligent Design, and Barack Obama.

    How would one make sure people and the environment are protected with fully free enterprise?

    If you injure me, I’ll sue you. If you pollute my property, I’ll sue you for that. Surely, you don’t imagine that free enterprise is a license to kill and destroy? If you do, you’re a victim of “strengths and weaknesses” education about it.

    You once said that in a free market system that the bad ones eventually get weeded out. Show me how this is true. Right now,

    Good grief! Like extinct species, most products that get introduced to the market are failures. The Edsel flopped. So did duPont’s Corfam. Companies flop too — sometimes big ones. I don’t see many DeLorean dealers around. Where’s Woolworth’s? What happened to Polaroid? Can’t fly Pan American any more. As with evolution, all you see are the winners, but history is littered with losers.

  39. If you can respond to that objection to “walking around” freedom, please consider that the same response applies to economic freedom.

    Except for the libertarian anarchist, everyone’s commitment to economic freedom is less than absolute and it all comes down to specifics of what individuals considerable objectionable. Alas, how does one arbitrate amongst the competing objections in a representative democracy?

  40. For that, carlsonjok, you’ll have to ask a libertarian anarchist. As for “competing objections,” that’s a bit too vague. It’s usually not difficult to decide who has injured whom. That’s what we have laws for.

  41. you can choose to leave the ham fisted beliefs of your parents. It is almost impossible to lose the political ideology of the country in which you reside.

    Win, cretardation.

  42. If you injure me, I’ll sue you. If you pollute my property, I’ll sue you for that. Surely, you don’t imagine that free enterprise is a license to kill and destroy? If you do, you’re a victim of “strengths and weaknesses” education about it.

    Problem being that by the time you notice the effects the whole thing is in such a deep mess that there might be no solution. No matter how much you sue. You might not even find a company to sue.

    I never heard of “strengths and weaknesses” nor do I want to start now. It is true that free-enterprise is not a license to kill and destroy, but the amassed power becomes a license of sorts. Not free-enterprise’s fault. Human/power fault.

    The problem with socialism, as an idea, is that it starts with a monopoly, and assumes too much about human good-will. The monopoly just takes over.

    Free-enterprise is great, and it fulfils our deep desire to do exiting and new stuff. It goes better with human nature. It is an excellent way to start. Yet, monopolies finally arrive. Governments can do very little if they come to depend on a few huge companies (ups, sounds like today!), and courts are doomed to be the property of companies too. Whether officially or under the water. This is why I think capitalism is the “least worst,” not the best. There is no best. Socialism starts with the monopolies, capitalism ends with the monopolies. Capitalism should thus be prone to survive longer, and create more unimaginably immense powers. Other than that …

    Unfortunately, no economic system results in a promotion of good education. Education might give us enough good-will to solve our problems. Now I am just hopeful that creative entrepreneurs will see free-enterprise opportunities for developing clean technologies, educative materials, and whatever is necessary to survive this mess. That if the big monopolies don’t stop them. Then again, perhaps the big monopolies will see the business opportunities? (I doubt it, but what the heck.)

  43. gabo says:

    Free-enterprise is great, and it fulfils our deep desire to do exiting and new stuff. It goes better with human nature. It is an excellent way to start. Yet, monopolies finally arrive.

    Actually, it’s very difficult to get a big monopoly going without governmental assistance. In the US, the old phone system was a “legal monopoly.” Now that they don’t have that legal protection, there’s a lot of competition. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil was big, but he couldn’t stop people from starting new oil companies, and he had to keep his prices down because his oil was competing with coal. The monopoly problem is more mythology than reality. Really, the biggest monopoly problem we have is unions, and the only reason they’re as powerful as they are is that they have government protection. And of course, government is the biggest monopoly of all.

  44. Good points,PH

  45. There are only two choices: free choice, or coercion.

    I join the Curmudgeon in choosing freedom, and conservation of Enlightenment values.

    One thought to ponder: Creationists can do relatively little damage (other than trying to infect others with their dumb ideas) without the power to coercively compel others to listen to their garbage, or learn it; whereas socialism essentially does not exist without coercion to begin with, since at its root lies the principle that government knows better how to run your life and spend your money than you do.

    Lastly, I will leave the reader with a thought: the similarity between socialists and Creationists is that they BOTH reject the proposition of self-organizing systems — the Creationists reject it for biological evolution, and the socialists reject it with regard to economics — and both believe there must be an ORDER GIVER to “make things work.”

    In this sense, they are both making the same mistake. I say self-ordering is swell, in both science and economics. It’s an Enlightened way of looking at the World.

  46. satchmodog says: “Good points”

    Yes, but this has been my most discordant post ever. I’ve upset a lot of people. But we’ll carry on.

  47. Ah, Longie. Now you show up.

  48. As for “competing objections,” that’s a bit too vague. It’s usually not difficult to decide who has injured whom. That’s what we have laws for.

    You were talking (to me, at least) of economic freedom. Wrapping your objection to paying taxes for (some) government spending in the sackcloth of hurt and grievance doesn’t make it any more compelling.

    Or have you moved on from that point?

  49. carlsonjok asks: “Or have you moved on from that point?”

    Movin’ on.