Thursday, December 13, 2007

how does Mankiw's right differ from liberals and the left?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007 [by Greg "I worked for Dubya" Mankiw]

How do the right and left differ?

The conclusion of today's ec 10 lecture:

In today's lecture, I have discussed a number of reasons that right-leaning and left-leaning economists differ in their policy views, even though they share an intellectual framework for analysis. Here is a summary. [I replaced his asterisks with "GM," while my comments are labelled "JD."]

JD: first of all, I should note that Mankiw is only talking about one dimension of the political spectrum. I'd define left vs. right in terms of class, with the left siding with the poor and working classes and the right siding with Mankiw's employers. This left vs. right mostly coincides with democracy vs. dictatorship. There's also a centralized vs. decentralized spectrum, which is what Mankiw mostly describes. Finally, there's the tradition vs. modernism spectrum.

GM: The right sees large deadweight losses associated with taxation and, therefore, is worried about the growth of government as a share in the economy. The left sees smaller elasticities of supply and demand and, therefore, is less worried about the distortionary effect of taxes.

JD: Mankiw implicitly assumes that taxes "distort" markets, i.e., that the markets were "perfect" ahead of time. He assumes, for example, that no deadweight loss arises from the business sector. But even in the simplest neoclassical theory, it can do so: monopolies and monopsonies impose deadweight losses.

GM: The right sees externalities as an occasional market failure that calls for government intervention, but sees this as relatively rare exception to the general rule that markets lead to efficient allocations. The left sees externalities as more pervasive.

JD: This might be right, i.e. that the difference is empirically-based. But it should be mentioned that the right also likes to use methodological fiat to rule out the role of an important class of externalities, the pecuniary ones. They'd like to ignore such events as towns being destroyed economically when the major employer shuts down its operations, along with the Keynesian multiplier effect and the like.

GM: The right sees competition as a pervasive feature of the economy and market power as typically limited both in magnitude and duration. The left sees large corporations with substantial degrees of monopoly power that need to be checked by active antitrust policy.

JD: This defines the "left" as antitrust liberals. It ignores those of us who want to replace the capitalist monopoly on political power (unless we make a big noise) with real democracy, both in politics and in the economy.

GM: The right sees people as largely rational, doing the best the can given the constraints they face. The left sees people making systematic errors and believe that it is the government role’s to protect people from their own mistakes.

JD: The right's notion of "rationality" is close to tautological: rationality involves people doing what they want to do. Individual preferences are taken for granted and unexplained. A heroin addict is "rational" according to the right-wing economists. Further, "rationality" is totally an individual thing that can be expressed only in markets. This forgets the role of social values, which typically cannot be expressed through markets (no matter how rational they are) but can be expressed via democracy.

GM: The right sees government as a terribly inefficient mechanism for allocating resources, subject to special-interest politics at best and rampant corruption at worst. The left sees government as the main institution that can counterbalance the effects of the all-too-powerful marketplace.

JD: Again, this "left" is the liberals. It ignores the left which wants to end the artificial distinction between the state (government) and the "market" and to subordinate both of these to democracy.

GM: There is one last issue that divides the right and the left -- perhaps the most important one. That concerns the issue of income distribution. Is the market-based distribution of income fair or unfair, and if unfair, what should the government do about it? That is such a big topic that I will devote the entire next lecture to it.

JD: Is it a "market-based distribution of income"? Not according to the standard economics which Mankiw professes to profess. Standard neoclassical economics starts with the distribution of _assets_. Then the market results reflect that distribution (along with differences in preferences).

At this point, we should bring in non-standard economics: those with the most assets benefit most from the market. This allows them to accumulate more assets, so that they benefit even more from the market.

This kind of snowballing inequality of asset-ownership (and power) can be seen happening during the last 27 or so years of US economic history. This is now being admitted by mainstream economists. See the interview with Frank Levy in the current issue of CHALLENGE.

Jim Devine / "The conventional view serves to protect us from the painful job of thinking." -- John Kenneth Galbraith

26 comments:

Robert D Feinman said...

You've got it right. The fundamental difference is between faith in the public to manage itself through (imperfect) democracy and the lack of faith in the public and the need for the elite to run things. For some reason those who favor elitism always assume they are part of it.

What's really at work here is ideology vs reality. The problem with ideologues is that they have a blind spot and don't see that they are ideologues. Take human nature: people are either inherently good or evil, rational or irrational, greedy or altruistic. Each of these assumptions leads to a particular ideology.

But when you try to point out to the ideologues that people are not either/or they can't understand what you are talking about. It is just so blindingly obvious to them that their chosen characteristic is correct that no evaluation is needed.

That's their blind spot. They can't see their assumptions as assumptions. It's also why trying to discuss things with them is fruitless. Reason cannot be used against unquestioning belief.

A corollary is that when policies based upon strong beliefs fail it is not because the ideology is wrong, it is because some group of scapegoats undermined things. Right now its the neo-cons and the free marketeers that are in the bind. This explains the circular firing squad which is illustrated by all the books they are publishing pointing the finger at one another.

In a prior period it was the failure of the domino theory when Vietnam went communist or before that "who lost China?". Some are still trying to blame the great depression on FDR.

It is never the gods that fail, it must be traitors in our midst.

Econoclast said...

>It's also why trying to discuss things with them [the ideologues] is fruitless. <

it's not fruitless if there is someone else listening whose opinion might be swayed.

Jim

Jack said...

There is personal profit in the act of fealty. Pride takes a back seat to those who seek to profit most in that way. It is a relatively easy living. It does not assure great wealth, but it does gain an access to those in power, even if only as a courtier.
The courtier understands the requirements of his position, which is to support that person or persons who hold either economic or political power. Machiavelli understood this and practiced the craft to a high degree. Orwell recognized the importance of those who practice the craft in recreating reality through the
distortion of language. Things are not what they are or what they seem to be. Things are only what they are said to be, and then only if I say that they are.

Anonymous said...

How to ensure that our own view is not biased or equally ideological?

Robert D Feinman said...

Three good comments (the ones after mine), you guys should post elsewhere with your insights.

If you are interested in the how the minds of ideologues work you might take a look at psychologist Robert Altemeyer's free, online book:
The Authoritarians

Some people just seem more open to considering various sides of an issue then others. He finds a correlation between close mindedness and conservative political leanings.

Econoclast said...

Anonymous asked: >How to ensure that our own view is not biased or equally ideological?<

(1) try to avoid asking all relevant questions and presenting all relevant information about the question at hand.

(often, people bias the answers by narrowing their focus. For example, when talking about markets, orthodox economists want to talk about equilibrium, but not disequilibrium.)

(2) try to make sure that the question itself isn't biased.

(maybe we shouldn't be talking about markets at all and should instead be talking about the unequal distribution of wealth and power that structures the markets.)

(3) since those are impossible, the main thing is to be up-front with one's own biases so that the reader can adjust for the inevitable biases.

(I'm a socialist.)

Robert D Feinman said...
>Three good comments (the ones after mine), you guys should post elsewhere with your insights.<

I also participate in a list-server called pen-l, meaning the progressive economists network list.

Jim

Gibbon1 said...

""GM: The right sees government as a terribly inefficient mechanism for allocating resources, subject to special-interest politics at best and rampant corruption at worst.""

Um... has Mankiw ever actually worked in a real corporation?

YouNotSneaky! said...

"How to ensure that our own view is not biased or equally ideological?"

You can start off by not assuming that a person who disagrees with you has only the basest motivations. Which means that this:

"I'd define left vs. right in terms of class, with the left siding with the poor and working classes and the right siding with Mankiw's employers. This left vs. right mostly coincides with democracy vs. dictatorship."

is the most sanctimonious, self-serving piece of crap I've read on here so far.

Econoclast said...

Anonymous asked:> How to ensure that our own view is not biased or equally ideological?" <

"younotsneaky!" answers:> You can start off by not assuming that a person who disagrees with you has only the basest motivations. <

right. For example, even though "younotsneaky!" hides his or her identity, I do not attribute base motives to him or her (though I dislike how he or she makes me use compound pronouns [compnouns? propounds?]).

"younotsneaky!" then says that my sentences "I'd define left vs. right in terms of class, with the left siding with the poor and working classes and the right siding with Mankiw's employers. This left vs. right mostly coincides with democracy vs. dictatorship." represent > the most sanctimonious, self-serving piece of crap I've read on here so far.<

1) I don't attribute any motives to Mankiw, since I don't know that much about him. (He may be a totally sincere true believer, for all I know.) Rather, the point is that his employers like him, so he's well paid for his opinions. I don't know about his motives, but in general, the payment for rich-friendly thoughts encourages (via a market process) the domination of education, the media, and politics by capitalist ideology.

2) I consider those socialists who favor dictatorship (e.g., Stalinists) to be right-wing socialists. More accurately, they mix left-wing support for the poor and the working class with righ-wing type support for dictatorship.

Some right-wing folks (e.g., self-styled libertarians) officially favor the poor (because the benefits of free-market capitalism will trickle down to all). But in practice, they support the dictatorship of capitalist "private" property, a system which rewards those with the most assets (net of debts) the most, in the economy and in politics.

Jim D.

YouNotSneaky! said...

"For example, even though "younotsneaky!" hides his or her identity, I do not attribute base motives to him or her"

Ummm, what exactly does that have to do with anything? You can read my identity of the email address I leave with every comment.

And seriously, why bother with the "left wing" and "right wing" labels at all? Why not just get to the heart of the matter and talk about the "good guys" (who empathize with the poor, who support the democracy) and the "bad guys" (who play poker for kittens).

"I consider those socialists who favor dictatorship (e.g., Stalinists) to be right-wing socialists."

And I consider those right wingers who favor dictatorships to be National Socialists. More to the point these are just silly semantic games played to ensure that you and those who agree with you automatically get counted in the 'good guys' camp and the other way.

This is exactly attributing base motives to those who disagree with you.

Econoclast said...

younotsneaaky! writes: >, why bother with the "left wing" and "right wing" labels at all? Why not just get to the heart of the matter and talk about the "good guys" (who empathize with the poor, who support the democracy) and the "bad guys" (who play poker for kittens).<

I'm glad you agree that the good guys = the left and the bad guys = the right. No, I'm kidding. I am very skeptical of left/right spectrum ideas, which is why I always say that there are several different dimensions. (I also thought that it was easier to agree with Mankiw on one issue -- the existence of a spectrum -- and then disagree with his puerile content.) But some political scientists (cited in one of Paul Krugman's columns -- I have to look it up) actually found a left/right spectrum via empirical examination of the US House of Representatives. (Those who voted similarly were put on a map close to each other, etc.) The left/right spectrum that they found was all about class (labor issues).

quoting me:
"I consider those socialists who favor dictatorship (e.g., Stalinists) to be right-wing socialists."

Mr. sneaky: >And I consider those right wingers who favor dictatorships to be National Socialists. More to the point these are just silly semantic games played to ensure that you and those who agree with you automatically get counted in the 'good guys' camp and the other way.<

no -- see above. There actually is a left/right spectrum in real-world data.

Jim Devine

Jack said...

The issue is not whether or not we are in agreement with one another, but, instead, whether one is in agreement with the reality of the world. Does one's argument reflect the facts of the issue, whatever that issue may be? Of course one can always complain when his argument is shown to have little internal validity, but that argument has to include factual reference rather than ideological conceptualizations.

Then there is pure ideology, theory based on logical thinking rather than on factual data. The concept of the free market is a good example. It is a philisophical point of view having nothing to do with the real world of economics. Those who argue most strenuously in its favor will also argue with as much vigor for the need to protect their specific market activities from one form of predator or another. For example, why should interest rates be manipulated one way or another? Certainly not every participant in the market will be benefited by each intervention. Taking an ideological position is not a wrong position unless the ideology is one that suits only that ideoloque. In effect, I know a better ideology by the smell of it. If it suits only a minute portion of the economy then it's likely to smell like the BS that it is. Ideologies that seek to benefit the greatest number of participants in the economy have the strength of consensual validation.

Bias can be measured in much the same way. It comes back to the issue of factual validation. Hiding behind a veil of statistical models does not lend strength to one's perspective. Economic theories that contain assumption after assumption need to find better measures of economic functions. It's like pornography. You recognize the bias when you see it and it's distant from the facts of the issue.

Oh yes. younotsneaky, To suggest that your link to a site that provides no more disclosure than to repeat the younotsneaky label is to display some evidence of the likelihood of bias in your own arguments.

YouNotSneaky! said...

"To suggest that your link to a site that provides no more disclosure than to repeat the younotsneaky label is to display some evidence of the likelihood of bias in your own arguments."

I wasn't talking to you. I referred to the EMAIL address, Jack-of-the-very-obvious-last-name-and-identification.

Jack said...

We must be commenting on different sites, as it would seem obvious that a comment on a blog is addressed to all those who are participants in that blog. What EMAIL address?

My last name would be of little ID value to you, or any others on this site. I don't pretend to be an academically trained economist. Nor do I uphold or defend any particular economic theory. As noted above, the value of one's commentary is determined by the logic and/or validity of its content. I try to focus more on critiquing weak ideas and arguments rather than supporting specific ideologies rather than playing the role of the devil's advocate.

YouNotSneaky! said...

Jim

Even if the right/left spectrum thing is true along economic lines, which I'm somewhat skeptical about (depends when, depends what else is taken into account. etc.), that still leaves the pretty weird left-wing = democracy, right wing = dictatorship assertion.

Working class Reagan voters are a typical counter example to the above. None the less at least this is something that can be debated, rather than just artificially putting those who agree with you into a 'good group' and those who don't into a 'bad group'.

Jack,

That's sort of the point. I don't really need to know who you are in order to evaluate what you say, in most instances. And the same thing applies to you.

Jack said...

You're right about identity, but only in a limited way. Given that your posts tend to be critical of the others appearing on the site, those criticisms would be more seriously regarded if your identity wasn't completely hidden. I have, as an example, identified myself in psat postings.

Otherwise, you've got the left-right political continuum a bit backwards. It is not at all economic, ie rich and poor. It is a political control continuum dating from the French Revolution. The Second Estate representatives (the nobility, power elite) sat to the right of the presiding officer in the Estates Generale. The left side of the room was occupied by the Third Estate, those who were chosen to represent the masses which were about 95% of the population.

There is, of course, a resulting economic effect by having one side or the other holding power, as we have seen more clearly during the past two decades. That is not to say that those of a tyrannical bent have not used this dichtomy as a ruse to secure their own power. The masses can be duped, and have been by tyrants describing themselves as leftists.
They can also be duped by economic elitists who describe themselves as right wing, but redefine themselves as being inclusive of, and sharing the social values of the working class. This is just as duplicitous as was Stalin and his ilk. The result of the duplicity of the elite is to entrench their political power in order to maintain and enhance their economic position.

YouNotSneaky! said...

"Given that your posts tend to be critical of the others appearing on the site, those criticisms would be more seriously regarded if your identity wasn't completely hidden."

I don't see what that has to do with anything. There's plenty of people who's identity isn't 'hidden' who none the less are full of it.

"It is a political control continuum dating from the French Revolution. The Second Estate representatives (the nobility, power elite) sat to the right of the presiding officer in the Estates Generale. The left side of the room was occupied by the Third Estate, those who were chosen to represent the masses which were about 95% of the population."

Actually your history lesson is a bit wrong. But also illustrative. First, you're confusing and conflating the Estates General with the Legislative Assembly. In the Estates General you did have the three classes. Then the Third Estate left and, after a few matches of tennis, made themselves the National Assembly. Which then transformed into the National Constituent Assembly, which then wrote a (temp) constitution which allowed for elections. And the Legislative Assembly was the result(short lived - after they got done with the King and the riots by the Commune, they turned into the National Convention).
The terms 'left' and 'right' refer to the seating, relative to the King, in the LA, not the Estates General. On the right sat those who wanted a constitutional monarchy modeled on the British system, or a constitutional republic modeled after the US. On the left sat essentially people who wanted to chop heads (particularly of clergymen at this particular instance, though they'd become more open minded as time went by) (The Girondists, who are only seen as 'moderate' these days because their radicalism was nothing like the radicalism that came later, were still part of the general Jacobin faction at this time). Later the terms became identified with the National Convention.

Now, the second - the illustrative - part. Jim, above identified 'left wing' with democracy and 'right wing' with dictatorship.
So on which side did those democracy lovers Danton, St. Just, Carnot, Billaud-Varenne, Desmoulins, Marat, Robespierre sit?
On which side did Lafayette sit?

(this is partly a trick question)

Jack said...

You see younotsneaky, you now illustrate the basic dissatisfaction with your commentary. You take a complex issue, you declare that one illustration is wrong, but that your own is the only right, and then you try to use your point of view as proof of an unrelated argument.

Worse yet. The commentary is now not about the initial topic, but only about your own interpretation of the history and the facts of the issue. The discussion has been diverted from something useful to a bit of folly. I'm right, your wrong is the most obvious intent of your approach. It might have been more productive if it you had focused on the meat of the topic rather than who is right or wrong. This is a common fault in too many "liberal" blogs.
The contributors allow themselves to be drawn into irrelevant dialogues of one upmanship.

Econoclast said...

Jack writes: >The issue is not whether or not we are in agreement with one another, but, instead, whether one is in agreement with the reality of the world... <

The problem is that sometimes two distinct theories can both be "in agreement" with empirical reality to an equal extent. (The early debate between Monetarists and Keynesians had this problem.) This problem is in turn based on the fact that no theory fits reality completely -- since any theory involves some simplification. You can't understand the world if you try to list all of the facts.

>Then there is pure ideology, theory based on logical thinking rather than on factual data... <

"Pure ideology" is seldom found, since to be popular, an ideology must have _some_ basis in empirical reality. (Usually, it's personal experience, viewed from a partial perspective.) The problem with "factual data" is that it doesn't correspond exactly to the unknown reality behind them. Worse, the actual calculation of "factual data" may be infected with ideology. For example, GDP numbers are based on a view that market prices represent the only valid valuation of anything.

However, I agree that it is important to be empirically-oriented. Any total rejection of empirical data is ideological, as is any total rejection of purely logical thinking.

Jim D.

Econoclast said...

Sneaky (may I call you Pete?) wrote: >Even if the right/left spectrum thing is true along economic lines, which I'm somewhat skeptical about... , that still leaves the pretty weird left-wing = democracy, right wing = dictatorship assertion.<

It was more of a drive-by quip on the way to talking about Greg M. But it's not "weird." If you support the poor and working classes, you are supporting the majority of the population. The best way to support them is to empower them to run their own lives. The only way to do that involves collective action, not the individual action which leaves them divided and conquered. Thus: support for democracy. QED.

Sneaky continues:>Working class Reagan voters are a typical counter example to the above...<

There's democracy and there's democracy. The democracy that we use here in the US use is dominated by the power of money. (For simplicity, I'm ignoring political machines, like that of the late Mayor Daley of Chicago or the GOP in 2000.) By the time we get to a presidential election, the only two candidates are those who were able to raise big funds from those with lots to give (and this problem is getting worse every year). Third and fourth parties are essentially banned by law, while those that sneak through (e.g., Nader) are lambasted up and down because they disturb the "lesser of two weevils" equilibrium. (Of course, the system creates this kind of Nader dilemma by making it so hard for third parties to make it.) Meanwhile, the capitalist-run media keep people ignorant, while facilitating the rise of only capitalist candidates.

Nonetheless, a careful study of the facts would indicate that the vast majority of working-class voters cast their ballots for the Democratic Party (which is slightly to the "left" of the GOP). The
"Reagan Democrat" phenomenon has been woefully exaggerated by the punditocracy, themselves mostly loyal servants of big money. In fact, the problem is that most poor and working-class people are too disgusted (or too busy) to vote for either of the big-two parties. The party of non-voters win every time these days.

That doesn't say that democracy can't be made better. In fact, a commitment to democracy says we should strive to make it better, get rid of the power of money in politics, etc.

Jim D.

Jack said...

Jmmy D., Puhleese!!
"Pure ideology is seldom found, since to be popular, an ideology must have-some-basis in empirical reality." Across the globe and across the historical record those ideologies, we call them religions, that have always had the greatest number of adherents have been grounded in mythology parading as historical events nearly impossible to support with empirical data. So lets not start thinking that an ideology can't be floated top the heights of popularity without little more than a wing and a prayer, so to speak. What on earth is a beer swilling red neck earning $50,000 per year, if lucky, doing believing that the right-wing (or any wing for that matter) of the Republican Party has his best interests at heart?

My point is that any ideology can morph into a theory that is supposedly grounded in real world data. That theory can then be stood own its own head and represented to the public as something that it hasn't ever been, and undoubtedly never will be. Remember the concept of "trickle down economics?" A popular concept borne out of poorly supported economic theory. "A rising tide carries all boats," etc. Popular sloganeering rather than a genuine attempt to present to the average worker a plan for economic structure that will benefit the greatest number of people within that economy. The "free market" is another of those popular cliches. We don't, and haven't ever, run a free market in this country. It's only a market were in those with the greatest asset accumulation are free to do what they please, including that they are not being given free reign to do what they need to.

Take a look at the historical record of the past century and tell me that the left side of the political spectrum, not those phony leftists who parade around the globe as Marxists when they are genuinely Stalinists, has not been far more inclined to provide a fair share orientation to the economic structure of their societies.

As I have already pointed out, the greatest failing among those who adhere to a left oriented, more progressive point of view, is that they argue more with one another than their opposites on the right.

Jack said...

Excuse the typos in the post immediately above. My fingers some times have a mind of their own, and I'm not always attentive to editing.
Also, the last sentence of the 2nd paragraph should have ended, "including complaining that they are not given free reign to do what they want of need to do."

Econoclast said...

I wrote: "Pure ideology is seldom found, since to be popular, an ideology must have some basis in empirical reality."

Jack writes: >Across the globe and across the historical record those ideologies, we call them religions, that have always had the greatest number of adherents have been grounded in mythology parading as historical events nearly impossible to support with empirical data.<

Usually, such ideologies involve people talking about events they have no personal experience with. However, they do have a personal basis that "oceanic feeling" that religious people report (as with the guy who wrote the letter to Freud, reported in the latter's CIVILIZATION AND ITS DISCONTENTS). Also, religions give a lot of concrete benefits, such as a feeling of community, some comfort about dealing with one's own death (and that of others), how to get children to obey, etc. This makes the religion _popular_ even if it involves a Salamander (later described as an angel) presenting Scripture on gold plates to Joseph Smith (which he promptly lost).

>... What on earth is a beer swilling red neck earning $50,000 per year, if lucky, doing believing that the right-wing ... of the Republican Party has his best interests at heart?<

On that question,look at Joe Bageant's book, DEER HUNTING WITH JESUS. Among other things, he argues against dismissing people that way. He writes well, too.

> My point is that any ideology can morph into [from?] a theory that is supposedly grounded in real world data. That theory can then be stood own its own head and represented to the public as something that it hasn't ever been, and undoubtedly never will be. Remember the concept of "trickle down economics?" ...<

I think you'll find that the trickle-down theory is only popular with those people who have a lot of money. It's simply the party line at meetings of the Rotarians and similar upper-middle and upper-class groups. It provides them with obvious material benefits, plus the feeling that they may be actually helping the world.

A more plebeian version of the "trickle-down theory" is the one that's more widely accepted, among the working and poor classes: it's more like "hey it's possible that this lottery ticket will pay off big time. Look if Mariah Carey can make it despite her lack of talent, maybe I can, too." It's a matter of grasping at straws to find _some_ hope. It's safer than Oxicontin.

>Take a look at the historical record of the past century and tell me that the left side of the political spectrum, not those phony leftists who parade around the globe as Marxists when they are genuinely Stalinists, has not been far more inclined to provide a fair share orientation to the economic structure of their societies.<

I don't see why you think I disagree with this.

> As I have already pointed out, the greatest failing among those who adhere to a left oriented, more progressive point of view, is that they argue more with one another than their opposites on the right.<

True. Anyway, there's a difference between an argument involving animus and a more serious discussion.

On the latter level, I think we disagree about the meaning of the world "ideology." To you, I'd guess, it means "false consciousness" (hallucination. seeing things that aren't there). To me, it's more a matter of "distorted and partial consciousness" (being fooled by mirages, which actually have a material basis).

Jim D.

Jack said...

Jim,
No on so many counts I don't know were to begin, but I'll go to the end for a start. Ideologies are not so much false as they are philosophical concepts that are not often supported by empirical data. I'm not suggesting that they can't ever be shown to be valid concepts. More often they are presented as an idea of how something should be in spite of any supporting evidence of the ideas utility. Religion is simply one good example of an idea (ideology) that can't be supported by empirical evidence, but still enthralls millions, maybe billions, of adherents. Political ideologies have more likelihood of marshalling a body of evidence to support their inherent claims, but that evidence is so much subject to distortion and misrepresentation as to often fail to prove any point. Worse yet, any evidence that fails to support an idea can be said to be tainted by some failure of application rather than an inadequacy in the idea itself.

Furthermore, in making the statement, "..there's a difference between an argument involving animus and a more serious discussion," there is some uncertainty in regards to your meaning. I don't hink that our comments back and forth represent animus. If you mean animus between left and right ideas, and serious discussion within the discussion of progressive ideas, then that is almost exactly my popint. I'm not concerned with the animus of right wing ideologues. That is their general intent. Distortion breeds contempt and contempt distorts the original issues. They have accomplished their goal therein. I am concerned with progressive thinkers never being able to establish a consensus that can then be presented coherently to the general public in a way that will have the power to influence their understanding of the issues.

Lastly, my comment about the beer drinker and the Republican Party was not meant as a dismissal, but as a genuine question. Does that "Deer Hunter" really believe that his social and economic needsd are best served by Republican politics and politicians? And how has the Republican Party come to be seen as representing Christian ideals? This is a profound distortion of reality.

Econoclast said...

Jack wrote:
> ... Ideologies are not so much false as they are philosophical concepts that are not often supported by empirical data.<

This is a matter of definition. I find that it's futile to argue about the truth or falsity of definitions. I just think that the ideology-as-mirage definition is more useful for understanding people and their ideas.

>... I am concerned with progressive thinkers never being able to establish a consensus that can then be presented coherently to the general public in a way that will have the power to influence their understanding of the issues.<

I am not as concerned with the creation of a consensus as much as with the accuracy of it.

> Lastly, my comment about the beer drinker and the Republican Party was not meant as a dismissal, but as a genuine question. Does that "Deer Hunter" really believe that his social and economic needsd are best served by
Republican politics and politicians? And how has the Republican Party come to be seen as representing Christian ideals? This is a profound distortion
of reality. <

I think that the "working class Republican" story has been grossly exaggerated. (Hey, belief in the phenomenon might be ideological!) Mostly it's accurate to talk about "working-class non-voters." And given the alternative that the Democratic Party offers, non-voting seems pretty rational from a working-class perspective. That doesn't mean that working-class folks are non-ideological in their perspective (just as middle-class folks do not lack ideological blinkers). I'm not denying that there's a lot of crap that working people believe in (again see Bageant's book, for example).

BTW, I do vote (and for Democrats, too). As they say, the wheel may be crooked but it's the only game in town. Here in California, you have to vote against (or for) the ballot propositions or you're sinking your own boat. On top of that, the primary system fixes it so that all of the big decisions are made in DP primaries. The system was set up (likely partly by accident) to leave us with only the choice of the lesser of two weevils.
--
Jim Devine / "Segui il tuo corso, e lascia dir le genti." (Go your own way and let people talk.) -- Karl, paraphrasing Dante.

Econoclast said...

[I missed this one, even though some of it was addressed to me.]

Sneaky Pete quotes someone anonymous as saying: "It [left vs. right] is a political control continuum dating from the French Revolution. The Second Estate representatives ... sat to the right of the presiding officer in the Estates Generale. The left side of the room was occupied by the Third Estate, those who were chosen to represent the masses ..."

and Pete then says: >... The terms 'left' and 'right' [in reality] refer to the seating, relative to the King, in the [Legislative Assembly], not the Estates General. On the right sat those who wanted a constitutional monarchy modeled on the British system, or a constitutional republic modeled after the US. On the left sat essentially people who wanted to chop heads...:

They wanted to chop heads for no reason? the old aristocrats did it to preserve their power and wealth. were the new leaders proposing it just because it was the in thing? (Though the Terror was disgusting and morally base in many, many ways, it is distortion to forget the structural violence that maintained the ancien regime. Among other things, it ignores the reasons why anyone would want to kill the king and other aristocrats.)

> ... Later the terms became identified with the National Convention.<

Next, Pete asks me: > Now, the second - the illustrative - part. Jim, above identified 'left wing' with democracy and 'right wing' with dictatorship. So on which side did those democracy lovers Danton, St. Just, Carnot, Billaud-Varenne, Desmoulins, Marat, Robespierre sit? On which side did Lafayette sit?<

The left-right spectrum has always been vague. To make things worse, it has evolved over time. (This should not be surprising, since society has changed (a lot!) and political terminology changes roughly in step.) Since the 1789+ French Revolutions, it took on much more class-based meaning. In fact, it ssems to have gone back to the something closer to the empowered vs. commoners distinction that anonymous points to. Nowadays, the empowered are the capitalist wealthy.

The empirical work I mentioned (and I admit that I need a better citation than a reference to an old Krugman Kolumn) indicated that in reality in the 1990s and 2000s in the US, the left/right spectrum involves class, with the "right" being the rich, the capitalists.

As I said in an earlier missive, rule by the minority capitalists links up very nicely with dictatorship. Economic dictatorship fits well with anemic political democracy. (However, they usually don't need Bush-style tendencies toward tyranny: usually economic dictatorship is sufficient.) Similarly, the rule by the majority of economic commoners meshes well with improvements in economic and political democracy.

Back to the French Rev. Who sat on the left? who on the right? I don't know (not remembering historical details very well at all). But it was a _different_ left vs. right squabble than in current politics. It was more of a family quarrel, between different groups of rich folks, with some professional types (lawyers, abbes, etc.) involved. The plebes weren't represented, except marginally. (Hebert and Babeuf don't really count, since they were total losers at the time.)

Jim D.