Beware of All Tyrannical Dogma

Your Curmudgeon once again asks your forgiveness as we digress into politics — American politics. There’s not much else in the news these days — except for stories about the Ark in Kentucky, so we’re going off-topic for this one post, and then we’ll return to our usual subject matter.

As you know — and as many of you find incomprehensible — your Curmudgeon is an old-style conservative, concerned with limited government, low taxes, and free enterprise. Such conservatives were typical Republicans before the “social conservatives” invaded and pretty much took over the party with their bizarre obsessions about sex and religion. Many of those social conservatives had been Southern Democrats. Their departure from the Democrat party left it free to became increasingly devoted to left-wing economic ideas, and to seek increased government control of the economy.

The result has been that today’s two party system often presents no sane candidates, although some are crazier and more dangerous than others. We discussed that in Creationism or Socialism: Which is Dumber?, which is one of our favorite (but most controversial) posts.

We all know that creationism is wrong. It’s not only wrong, it’s crazy. But why do so many people — including some very bright ones who understand science — have so much difficulty grasping how wrong left-wing politicians are? Let’s think about it.

We easily detect the madness when creationists claim that their view of things is the only source of morality and ethics, while those hell-bound evolutionists are dedicated to animalistic Darwinian behavior in a world where survival is based on a lawless tooth and claw struggle. We recognize that the creationists are theocrats who want to control the government, the schools, and us, and we know what a nightmare world that would be.

But why is is so difficult to recognize that the political left is promoting what amounts to a theocracy of their own, in which they would control the government, the economy, and us?

We think it’s because for the last couple of generations, they have successfully promoted propaganda claiming that the free enterprise system is every bit as lawless and cruel as the creationists say evolution is. Yes, dear reader, they both use the same style of propaganda. They are the moral ones, and their enemies are lawless beasts. But unlike creationists, the leftists have been successful — at least so far.

Whenever anyone says anything to suggest that he favors the free enterprise system, the responses are swift and predictable. The critics assume that free enterprise means lawless behavior, where the rich ruthlessly exploit the poor. But no advocate of free enterprise ever suggests, or even thinks, that there should be no laws. We need laws to protect freedom and individual rights — but not to restrict them. And of course we need to defend the country. When we have more government than that bare minimum, bad things inevitably happen, because power attracts bad people.

The demonizing of free enterprise is the result of a generations-long process of teaching economics in the same way the creationists want to teach the “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution, by which they mean ignoring the strengths and emphasizing what they claim are its weaknesses, to the point where people who study the subject end up thinking that evolution is nonsense.

The same technique has been used regarding the free-enterprise system. Over time, as the economy is regulated, subsidized, and distorted, people forget that there ever were any advantages to free enterprise. People coming out of schools these days literally think that there are no benefits to free enterprise, and it means granny starving in the street while Bernie Madoff steals everyone’s money. That’s the way creationists want evolution to be taught, and no one seems to realize that it’s also the way economics has been taught for generations.

And then one day you’re shocked to encounter a Curmudgeon who tells you that they’re teaching economics all wrong. Free enterprise is really a great system, not merely because it’s far more productive and inventive than the alternatives, and offers consumers more choices and more jobs, 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.

In case you’re one of those who actually believes there are no benefits to free enterprise, we have a post about that — see Evolution, Intelligent Design, and Barack Obama.

Because the Left has been so successful in their campaign to demonize free enterprise, while claiming to hold the moral high ground, it seems to us that whether they’re aware of it or not, the creationists have been copying their techniques. That is why creationists claim that they — and they alone — teach a system of true morality, while their wicked adversaries, the evolutionists and science in general, are the advocates of evil. Or maybe there’s no deliberate copying going on. They’re just doing what seems to work — for their purposes.

Intellectual freedom and economic freedom are linked. We benefit from both. Creationists and leftists oppose freedom. They’re both after the same thing: control of the government and control of you. We find it difficult to see how anyone can be in favor of one but not the other. (And no, we don’t mean “freedom” to include creationism in science classes — except in religious schools.)

Okay, dear reader. That’s our rant. This humble blog will now return to The Controversy between evolution and creationism — but you’ll be aware that we regard it as only one part of the larger struggle between freedom and tyranny. Go ahead and express your shock and revulsion. We’re used to it.

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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21 responses to “Beware of All Tyrannical Dogma

  1. Re “Intellectual freedom and economic freedom are linked. We benefit from both. Creationists and leftists oppose freedom.”

    I think you overstate your case and the two are not linked really. In virtually every case that I can find historically, great economic freedom always leads to the massive exploitation of workers. At the other end, hugely restrictive economic systems are hugely inefficient.

    What is needed (and which humans are not very good at) is a system that has rules and, yes, regulations that protect the participants yet allows enough freedom of expression and action that progress ensues. Imagine what the NFL would be like if the officials decided to not enforce any of the rules. They just took off their whistles and winked at the players. Think about it. This is a little like what happened to our financial sector. They sold us the basic scheme as a way to provide funding for businesses needing to grow. They instead ended up catering to speculators as a way to line their own pockets. Anybody who thinks those assholes (sorry, no other word works) don’t need to be leashed in needs to have their head examined.

  2. Is it not redundant to qualify ‘dogma’ as ‘tyrannical’? Is there any other kind?

  3. Megalonyx asks: ” Is there any other kind?”

    I donno. Is Santa Claus a dogmatic belief? Even if it is, I don’t think it’s tyrannical.

  4. Further to Mr Ruis’ point, imagine a city that didn’t enforce traffic regulations and parking restrictions. It would be permanent gridlock with double parking down every thoroughfare. Because of the entitlement that comes with car ownership, inevitably. Imagine an economy with no central legal system to protect businesses, rights of property both physical and intellectual, and regulatory frameworks that a “free” market depends utterly upon. Street lighting, policing, foreign policy, the diplomatic service, defence, trade agreements, protection of the vulnerable from predatory corporations and small time crooks. And in the UK, the National Health Service, without which I among millions of others would be pauperised. It’s endless. Funding these things out of general taxation is what civilisation is, in large part. In America there seems to be this “Left Wing” that I hear about a lot, mostly from creationists of course. From this distance I’m not convinced it isn’t slightly mythical.

  5. I suggest that you read more from the economist Dean Baker to understand why this post is propaganda rather than fact. His ebook “The end of Loser Liberalism” (http://deanbaker.net/books/the-end-of-loser-liberalism.htm) describes very clearly why most things that are put under the title of “Free Enterprise/Free Trade” by conservatives are really further protections to ensure they capture the majority of the wealth generated by our economy. A more free economy can be envisioned that does not do this. Furthermore, it is by no means clear that the country’s investment in education, infrastructure, and basic research are a waste of money, all of which are costly, and not capitalistic, but probably contribute enormously to the great economic success of our country. Finally, the biggest challenge to our country is the costs of medical treatments, which are way out of wack to what other countries spend per capita that have as good or better outcomes at a much lower cost.

  6. How’s things in Brownbackistan? How about Jindal’s Louisiana?

    Would you prefer to live in a country with a socialist ruling party like Sweden, or a lovely theocracy like Iran?

  7. You are falling into the same trap as other people, using the word “socialism” without a full specification and using it to demonize. Free enterprise is not a be all and end all. There is a place for some socialism – roads, military, health care and so on. Sorry that you are playing the same game as the rabid Right. I am a liberal – doesn’t mean I am a Communist or Marxist or Socialist just that unfettered capitalism doesn’t work either.

  8. “the Ark in Kentucky”, secret plates hidden under a rock in New York by a lost tribe of israel, snake handling, intelligent dezine, the discotute,
    Don McLeRoy, Mary Lu Bruner Louisiana’s “critical thinking” law. Creationism is the gift that keeps on giving.

  9. I find SC’s very knowledgeable and thoughtful rant quite interesting, so up front, thank you for sharing another Curmudgeonly epiphany.. I think that it IS true that a special breed of crazies exert a lot of control in the GOP based on their “social conservatism” regarding religion and sex. But that group is associated with the same conservatism regarding guns, charter schools, creationism, race relations, federal authority, church power, foreign relations and war. I believe this group is a very,very significant demographic in the Republican party not only in the south but elsewhere as well.
    The left has its share of fruits and nuts AND people who want a free ride,
    minorities who feel left out, immigrants and the working poor and that educated cadre of people SC describes as being opposed to that animalistic tooth and claw Darwinistic free enterprise.
    But I feel that the center, which these days is also completely the domain of the democratic party based on the excesses of the GOPs crazies, makes up a very significant part of the electorate. And that it is still a stabilizing part of the citizenry. These people are educated,middle class usually, supporters of a federal government capable of at least standing its ground symbolically against voting laws abuse in the south where study after study has shown voter fraud is a non existent problem. Of standing up to sequestering well off caucasian kids in creationist charter schools using federal money, racism, which is a very real problem in our country still and hate radio talking heads like Rush Limbaugh etc etc etc.
    Most respect entrepreneurship, secular education in publicly funded schools, the rights of the individual and the value of business. This is still the central core of the electorate and is the strength of the American experiment.
    At least in the states that vote democratic. And thats what I think, the polls be damned.

  10. SC’s conservatism:
    “…your Curmudgeon is an old-style conservative, concerned with limited government, low taxes, and free enterprise.”
    That’s all fine, for long ago, but we are now a nation of almost 323 million people. Given that, exactly what does limited government mean? Low taxes, why everyone would love low taxes, but who’ll pay to fix the roads, monitor aviation, the seas, etc. Yes, privatize everything, but that just won’t work. There are just some things that demand uniformity, e.g., laws, which trump the petty political and social talk these days. And too, free enterprise is fine, yet when so many go hungry in this wealthy country, it’s hard to justiffy CEO’s making tens of millions of dollars, amassing huge personal fortunes while millions have no jobs or are paid diddly for their work. I don’t agree with everything from the other side, but today it seems nobody can get along. Maybe what the world needs is a good old-fashioned epidemic that wipes out 100’s of millions of people, then maybe we’ll agree on something to fight, at least for a while (unless Pat Robertson opens his damn mouth).

    But SC, I do admire your cynicism, your skepticism, and your satire and your diligence.

  11. “so much difficulty grasping how wrong left-wing politicians are?”
    Because, my dear SC, you consistently close your eyes for the hard fact that quete a few left-wing politicians have done an excellent job in many a European country. You also consistently close your eyes for the hard fact that on most social indices your kind of economic politics results in lower ratings.
    So the real question, my dear SC, you should ask: how come that you close your eyes as stubbornly for these hard facts as Ol’ Hambo for evidence for Evolution Theory?

    “why is is so difficult to recognize that the political left is promoting what amounts to a theocracy of their own, in which they would control the government, the economy, and us?”
    Why is it impossible for you to recognize the hard fact that the political left in many European countries haven’t turned them into theocracies at all? Worse – that many of them are actually far less religious than your own USA?

    Not that you will answer these questions any sooner than Ol’ Hambo will question creacrap. But that answers your questions in a pretty satisfying way.
    And of course you will ever recognize another hard fact – that the big spenders always are right-wing, not left-wing. Reagan and Bush Jun. are responsible for the biggest budget deficits in American history. You remain as silent about it as Ol’ Hambo about ring trees. That makes it impossible to take your claims seriously.
    Until you start to recognize those hard facts.

  12. You’re absolutely right SC…wonderful post…even if not appreciated by most of your readers and MUCH of our Party these days. Unfortunately, all we may do is vote for the least harmful to our values this round.😦

  13. Dave Luckett

    Me, I’m no socialist – but I’m with Churchill: “Democracy is the worst form of government – except for all the others”.

    Democracy cannot survive either entrenched wealth or entrenched poverty on a generational scale, because the former creates privilege while the latter breeds despair. Either is toxic to a democracy. Both together are catastrophic.

    There’s no way to doubt the facts of the last generation or two: fewer and fewer people are controlling more and more. More and more people are controlling less and less. The rich are getting richer, while the poor are proliferating, even if they are not getting poorer, and a demographic of “working poor” has emerged, while the middle class is diminishing. This has to be addressed, or democracy is imperiled.

    So I support progressive, differential, indirect taxation. I support taxing the rich, and their estates, to help fund education, housing, training and infrastructure – which is to say, opportunity. I support public ownership of utilities, which includes urban transport systems, water, power, and sewerage, and I support one-payer tax-funded health, pharmaceutical and hospital services, at least at a basic level. And I support constant monitoring to ensure that these are maintained.

    That means government. It means paying taxes for something other than a justice system, policing and defense. It does NOT mean socialism, which I define as the ideology that resources and the means of production and distribution should be owned in common. (“Communism” goes even further, and means the common ownership of all property bar strictly personal items. It has never existed in a real human society with more transactional trade than that of traditional Australian Aboriginals.) What I support I describe as “social democracy” and myself as a social democrat, small “d”.

    Possibly – I don’t really know – that makes me a socialist or even a communist by the definitions of those terms current in US politics. Too bad if it does.

  14. I don’t think I’ve ever met an American who really understands the reality of socialism, save those who’ve lived and worked in European countries. And of those, I don’t think I’ve ever met a single one who prefers the American model of health care over the European model of socialised health care – free at the point of service.

    This is the crux of it. Some examples of socialism are undoubtedly bad. Other examples of socialism are so extraordinarily popular with the vast majority of those lucky enough to be able to partake of it that they have become a political sacred cow; even the most right wing politicians in Europe dare not advocate ending socialised medicine. It would be political suicide.

    In the recent referendum in the UK, right in the middle of the Leave campaign’s “EU government has too much power” and “there are too many migrants” attitudes was a palpable fear that the National Health Service (NHS) was being eroded, both by demands on its resources and a proposed trade agreement with the USA that would (supposedly) lead to a privatised health system.

    I have no doubt that if the United States set up an equivalent of the NHS, fifty years on, there would be no going back. It would become a sacred cow of both right and left and Americans would eventually have a more realistic notion of what socialism can be.

  15. The problem with unfettered capitalism is that left to its own devices you get crashes like the one in 2008. You can also argue that the government contributed as well to the crash with poorly conceived programs but again you have banking regulations as set by the lobbyists for the industry. Its not capitalism that is at fault but the corporate cronyism that is pandemic in our government, the very same cronyism that allows all of our legislators to come into office as middle class and leave as millionaires.

    Keep in mind many western European socialist states have a better quality of life that we enjoy. Sorry Curmudgeon, but blaming leftists for our economic ills is like the creationist blaming scientists for the lack of faith among the faithful. The truth is never black and white.

  16. Hi Gary. I have experience with the UK public health care system. Besides taking about 40% of my income in taxes, the UK government’s health care system was slow, completely ineffective, incapable of providing significant outpatient care and frankly, not particularly confidence inspiring. The dental care is even weaker. No wonder the Brits are so often characterized as having bad teeth. So, sorry. I’m not buying the whole “free health care” story. The costs are huge and the benefits questionable.

  17. Eric Lipps

    Free enterprise is a great system–the greatest system we’ve never had.

    Before the Civil War much of the country’s economy depended on outright slave enterprise. Afterward, it depended on the power of corporate enterprises able and willing to collude to crush opposition and purchase politicians; the only real change has come from new enterprises emerging to fill niches which didn’t exist before or had been ignored by existing companies. (IBM, for instance, almost didn’t go into computers in the 1950s; its then-chairman preferred to stick with the company’s profitable, tried-and-true tabulating machine business, which had been a prduct of the high tech revolution of the 1880s.)

  18. och will, if you paid 40% tax on all or the bulk of your income in the UK you were a very high earner indeed, certainly in the top 20%.The vast majority of people pay half that on all or the majority of their income and the cost of private health care in the UK (indeed Europe) is well beyond the reach of most people.

    In the UK private healthcare is certainly quicker for routine surgical procedures, granted. And while the majority of private health physicians are also contracted to the NHS, quality of private facilities is often of a lower standard than the NHS. I used to work in an NHS hospital and I know of private hospitals calling ambulances to shift patients to NHS hospitals when complications have arisen during surgery. I’m not joking.

    I’ve lived in the UK for the past 26 years and my experience has been completely different to yours. I certainly wouldn’t call it “completely ineffectual”. Quite the opposite. I live in a rural area served by the Welsh NHS and several times I’ve seen an emergency call made, followed by the air ambulance helicopter arriving within 10 minutes. Few people could afford to pay for that out of their own pocket.

    Yes, the system has its faults, yes it can be slow for routine procedures, but the principle is always that clinical need comes first, the patient’s ability to pay is never taken into account. You might get the fastest service in a privatised system but only if you can afford to pay for it. Does the same standard of service apply to everyone, no questions asked at point of need? Well, from my several visits to the US, demonstrably not. That’s exactly why the NHS is so popular and people freak if they think its under threat. That’s why the socialised systems in Spain, Norway, France, Sweden, Netherlands, Germany & Italy etc are equally as popular. The question of clinical efficacy is a red herring here; surely when we’re talking about political systems it’s the democratic decision of the users that matters.

    Are you saying you’d be prepared to overide that in favour of an ideologically driven free-market agenda that meets your needs, but not necessarily the needs of others? Europeans obviously aren’t; but then Europeans have a more realistic view of socialism, everyone having actually experienced it throughout their lives.

  19. As a former American who immigrated to Canada, I wish to add the Canadian health care system to the list of outstanding public medical systems. I lived in the US for the first fifty years of my life and exerienced that system. If I hadn’t had a good job my medical costs would have banckrupted me. My wife and I came to Canada in 1982 and have had marvelous care under the “socialized” system we have here. Both of us have had major problems with cancer and the the treatment was all we could ask for. Yes, there is a problem of delays for some procedures – I would have liked my hernia repair to have been solved sooner than it was, but life thrreatening problems are given an appropriate priority. That’s triage, I understand the reason for it and I can’t say enough good things about the Canadian system over my experiences during my half centuary in the US.

  20. I omitted SCIENCE from my list of necessary things funded out of general taxation by those nasty governments we all exist wretchedly under.

  21. Who’s “they”?
    “Granny starving in the street while Bernie Madoff steals everyone’s money” is a pretty good summary of the state our so-called free enterprise right now with multinational corporations in control. The left wants a system “in which they would control the government, the economy, and us”–exactly what the founding Fathers had in mind when they dreamed of government by “we the people”. When you say the government is “they” and not “we”, you make it clear you do not believe in the founder’s vision and refuse to take part in it. If you refuse to play by the rules you don’t get to complain about the game.