Free Markets, Free People

Kristof reflects the left’s naiveté on democracy in Middle East and Africa

Nicholas Kristof manages to roll up all the naiveté of the left into one article in which he explains why he thinks those who don’t think democracy will be the final outcome of the unrest we’re seeing in North Africa and the Middle East are selling the people there short.  He’s pretty sure all those who’ve said that democracy  most likely won’t be the product have got it wrong.  Because he’s looked into the eyes of those who’ve protested the authoritarian governments there and, well, let him tell you:

I don’t think so. Moreover, this line of thinking seems to me insulting to the unfree world. In Egypt and Bahrain in recent weeks, I’ve been humbled by the lionhearted men and women I’ve seen defying tear gas or bullets for freedom that we take for granted. How can we say that these people are unready for a democracy that they are prepared to die for?

Well, sir, because they haven’t any tradition of democracy nor do they have any democratic institutions ready to ensure the outcome of the turmoil is democracy … that’s how.

There have been thousands … millions even … of “lionhearted men and women” who’ve braved tear gas or bullets in the name of freedom, only to end up suffering under authoritarian or totalitarian regimes.  Take the way back machine to Hungary in 1956 for instance, when a scenario much like this played out there ultimately to be crushed brutally by oppressive communism.

It certainly isn’t for the lack of wanting to see something like democracy flourish in the Middle East and North Africa.  Heck, that would be wonderful.  But it is an appreciation for history and an analysis of that history that ends up pointing out that probability – because of conditions beyond the protesters control – doesn’t bode well for a democratic outcome.

Kristof’s premise is many in the West think Arabs, Chinese, etc. are “unfit for democracy”.   Not at all. In fact, he misses the point completely.

It has nothing to do with the fitness or unfitness of any people.  I’m of the opinion that all people yearn for freedom and, if introduced into a democratic system, would flourish (and millions have, emigrating to free countries).

It isn’t their fitness or unfitness that’s in question, it’s the fitness or unfitness of the culture in the country or region in which they live.  Does it indeed support the principles of freedom and liberty, does it allow equal access for all, does it indeed allow all to participate equally and finally, does it contrive to protect the rights of the individual over the power of the state?

Look at the present regimes in the area and history of the countries in the area and you tell me.  For the most part the cultures in many of them don’t support the principles that underlie a democratic society.  That’s obviously not to say that can’t change, but the question is what is the likelihood, given the specific country’s culture and history, that it will change?

That is where the examination has to take place – not in the hopes and aspirations of a relatively few “lionhearted” people who yearn and fight for such freedom.  Is there a chance?  There’s always a chance.  Is it likely?  Well, history says no.  I’d like as much as anyone to see history proven wrong in the case of all of these countries.  But like Egypt, where the real power behind the throne – the military – is still in charge of the government they’ve essentially run for 50 years, it appears unlikely that the essential pillars of a democratic society will be allowed to be erected and strengthened.  It just goes against human nature and the dominant political culture that still holds power in that country. 

Do I hope democracy is the product of these protests and revolutions.  Yes.  Do I expect it?  No.  And the reasons given are why.  What the US should be preparing for is the probable outcome while working to encourage the hoped for outcome.  Unfortunately, I don’t see it doing either.



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149 Responses to Kristof reflects the left’s naiveté on democracy in Middle East and Africa

  • There is a whole literature in political science about transformations to democracy.  What you’re talking about is a form of political development, whereby the foundations for a democratic political culture are built.  You are right that at this point those foundations are weak to non-existent.  That, in fact, was the argument about the naive view that Iraq and Afghanistan would easily become market democracies, the so-called “model Iraq.”  That was never likely.  I’m glad you have come to understand that.  However, when the people rise up to overthrow the old order, that is the first step towards building a democratic political culture.  It is something we must welcome and try to assist, the new generation is not going to tolerate continued corrupt oppression.   As I noted in my blog ,this is like the French revolution for the Arab world, and we all know how bad the French revolution went, or how Germany and Japan’s early efforts at democracy turned into something ugly.  Since corrupt dictatorships are being swept aside — a good thing by all accounts — and the Islamic extremists are not being embraced by the masses — another good thing — we can explore how best to play a positive role in the region.  That isn’t being naive, that’s being realistic.  It’s understanding that another part of the world is about to embark on a processes that was bloody and long for the Europeans.  It might be bloody and long for them too.  Or, perhaps due to globalization and the fact there is an international community and functioning democracies, we can help.   It will not look like a western democracy, it will reflect Arab culture.  There will be laws we see as horrid (just as our early democracy had slavery and didn’t allow women to vote).
    So let’s not fear sticking by our values and welcoming change.  The old system was untenable and given demographics, a revolt was virtually inevitable.  Where it’s going we can’t know.  But assuming the worst is pointless, assuming the best is also misguided. Trying to find a policy to make a positive result more likely is the most wise path.

    • There will be laws we see as horrid (just as our early democracy had slavery and didn’t allow women to vote).

      Which, at the time, were purely normative…hence, not the least “horrid”.
      What a putz.

    • Democracy didn’t bring slavery.  It already exist.  Democracy created a path to extricate ourselves from it.

      • Well, it bears remembering that in a pure democracy, you could have all kinds of outrages against the minority.  Which, of course, the Greeks knew forever ago.  Human nature does not change.

          Liberty Is What Mideast Needs, Not Democracy
          Posted 02/23/2011
          It is truly disgusting for me to hear politicians, national and international talking heads and pseudo-academics praising the Middle East stirrings as democracy movements. We also hear democracy as the description of our own political system.
          Like the founders of our nation, I find democracy and majority rule a contemptible form of government. You say, “Whoa, Williams, you really have to explain yourself this time!”
          I’ll begin by quoting our founders on democracy. James Madison, in Federalist Paper No. 10, said that in a pure democracy, “there is nothing to check the inducement to sacrifice the weaker party or the obnoxious individual.”
          At the 1787 Constitutional Convention, Virginia Gov. Edmund Randolph said “that in tracing these evils to their origin every man had found it in the turbulence and follies of democracy.”
          John Adams said, “Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There was never a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.”
          Alexander Hamilton said, “We are now forming a Republican form of government. Real liberty is not found in the extremes of democracy, but in moderate governments. If we incline too much to democracy, we shall soon shoot into a monarchy, or some other form of dictatorship.”
          Our Great Legislator
          The word “democracy” appears nowhere in the two most fundamental documents of our nation — the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. Our Constitution’s Article IV, Section 4, guarantees “to every state in this union a Republican form of government.”
          If you don’t want to bother reading our founding documents, just ask yourself: Does our pledge of allegiance say to “the democracy for which it stands,” or to “the Republic for which it stands”? Or did Julia Ward Howe make a mistake in titling her Civil War song “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”? Should she have titled it “The Battle Hymn of the Democracy”?
          What’s the difference between republican and democratic forms of government? John Adams captured the essence when he said, “You have rights antecedent to all earthly governments; rights that cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws; rights derived from the Great Legislator of the Universe.”
          That means Congress does not grant us rights; its job is to protect our natural or God-given rights.
          For example, the Constitution’s First Amendment doesn’t say Congress shall grant us freedom of speech, the press and religion. It says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.”
          Contrast the framers’ vision of a republic with that of a democracy.
          Webster defines a democracy as “government by the people; especially: rule of the majority.” In a democracy, the majority rules directly or through its elected representatives.
          An Offense To Liberty
          As in a monarchy, the law is whatever the government determines it to be. Laws do not represent reason. They represent force. The restraint is upon the individual instead of government.
          Unlike that envisioned under a republican form of government, rights are seen as privileges and permissions that are granted by government and can be rescinded by government.
          To highlight the offensiveness to liberty that democracy and majority rule is, just ask yourself how many decisions in your life would you like to be made democratically.
          How about what car you drive, where you live, whom you marry, whether you have turkey or ham for Thanksgiving dinner?
          If those decisions were made through a democratic process, the average person would see it as tyranny and not personal liberty.
          Is it no less tyranny for the democratic process to determine whether you purchase health insurance or set aside money for retirement?
          Both for ourselves, and our fellow man around the globe, we should be advocating liberty, not the democracy that we’ve become where a roguish Congress does anything upon which it can muster a majority vote.

      • Democracy and slavery co-existed and was codified in law.  The southern states would have kept it using their democracy if they had been allowed to, they thought their way of life ‘honorable.’  My point: don’t expect 2011 style human rights and democratic norms any time soon.  That takes time.

        • Support “The southern states would have kept it…”.  I mean, with something besides your broke-dick opinion.  ‘Cause the economics of slavery had already dictated that it would die off rather quickly.

          My point: don’t expect 2011 style human rights and democratic norms any time soon.

          Especially if the 12th Century norms of Islamism are in the ascendancy.

          • LOL!  The southern states fight a war to keep slavery and you want me to support that they would have kept it much longer if not forced to give it up?   Wow.  OF course for someone who claims he has metrics and then can’t show them except to say “Google Egypt,” it’s clear you’ve got no real argument.  You are anti-reason, anti-enlightenment.

          • So, no, you just have your broke-dick opinion.
            Was the War Between the States really about “keeping slavery”?  Really?  What an ignorant moron.
            Thank you for helping with this little demonstration.
            Which, it must be noted, includes an outright lie.  Well, at least one…

          • So now you’re saying the south wasn’t fighting to keep slavery in the civil war?  You, the guy whose “metrics” are “google egypt?”  LOL!  Oh, this is delightful.

          • Another set of lies.  Those are “delightful” to you?  Well, I guess that is consistent.

          • The South was fighting to keep the status quo, particularly the division of slave states and free states among new states.  Many deserters and draft dodgers in the Confederacy didn’t want to fight for another man’s right to own slaves, and they were often imprisoned or murdered for their resistance.  Romantic notions of the South fighting for more noble causes are revisionist.
            On the other hand, the North wasn’t fighting to free the slaves, but to keep the union.  The Emancipation Proclamation did not free slaves in Union-controlled states.  It freed them in the South, to punish them.  So, the idea that the war was generally about slavery is also revisionist.

          • Just an interesting little historical note; Lincoln rescinded the FIRST emancipation, which was made by Charles Fremont.
            Too controversial…
            I think it would be true to say that the War Of Northern Aggression was, to the Southern States, about somebody trying to change the deal without consent.
            Bear in mind that the Constitution was ANOTHER experiment in central government by a gathering of mini-nations, and NOBODY was sure it would work when it was enacted.  Those mini-nations were very jealous of their prerogatives and independence.

          • I didn’t know that about Gen. Fremont.
            I consider the concept of government being an “experiment” as a rather disgusting way to distance the rulers from being held accountable, if you really look at it.  It’s not like the lives of individuals are playing pieces on a game board, which get to start over if the “experiment” goes awry.  No 1-ups here.

          • Elliot, remember the Art. of Confederation were tried and failed pretty miserably.
            The United States WERE (not WAS) trying something really new.
            We tend to think of the Constitutional drafters as guys who were absolutely prescient.  They were not.  They came really close to NOT producing a document, and it took some conspicuous compromising.

        • Democracy and slavery co-existed and was codified in law.  The southern states would have kept it using their democracy if they had been allowed to, they thought their way of life ‘honorable.’

          Reason #423 why democracy and freedom are not interchangeable.
          We still have the draft, which is slavery, too.
          Whenever you give the majority of voters the power to make moral decisions, you open the door for abuse.  Whenever you pit neighbor against neighbor in a mock battle (whichever army shows up with the most people wins, and they all go home without shedding blood) and you make the stakes involve looting the productive efforts of citizens, wherein the winners of this contest get unfair advantages using this power to loot their neighbors, you squander the opportunity for people to work problems out with one another on a personal level. Specifically, when everyone’s business becomes everyone else’s—de facto, through broad taxation and regulations—you deny the subset of people who actually have a stake in a given matter their moral right to work things out with one another, absent unjust interference by people who don’t have a personal stake.  You squander the opportunity of neighbors to work out their problems between one another through peaceful negotiation, using reason, rather than turning to the main force of government (*), and start with a winner-take-all battle.
          * No, I have no illusions that all problems will be solved like this.  Some people are predators, with or without harnessing the power of government.  And, some problems are intractable or difficult.  And, in some situations, bad things happen despite the honest efforts of people.

          • I like the romantic notion of individuals just working things out together.  But as you note, realistically, there are numerous complications.  Population density, power, wealth and other factors alter the processes, as of course does government.  What left libertarianism is, Elliot, is a belief that both government and concentrated economic power can be used to deny liberty.  It is a desire to hold all forms of centralized power accountable, not just government.  It does not ignore the quickly growing maldistribution of wealth, or believe that it’s simply a natural result of the market.  But unlike the traditional left, the libertarian left does not trust government to solve the problem, and recognizes the inherent danger of governmental power.  Moreover, the goal remains individual liberty, not collective well being.  Left libertarians also recognize that societies exist and individuals get both identity and meaning from their place in the social structure.  Efforts to advance individual liberty that ignore this are going to be misguided.  Ultimately, I think progress is slow, there is no ideological rule book (ideology is always a vast simplification of reality and thus is always prone to error and incompleteness) and its a generational undertaking.  I’m convinced we are nearing the end of the bureaucratic nation state, though what replaces it is unclear.  An era is ending not just in the Arab world, but also in the industrialized West.

          • You are a blabbering fool, at least, if not clinically insane.

          • What left libertarianism is, Elliot, is a belief that both government and concentrated economic power can be used to deny liberty.

            You’ve made this argument dozens of times before, to no effect.  It’s a transparent attempt to pull a bait an switch game, claiming to be for protecting liberty (bait), then saying that wealth “can be used to deny liberty” (a vague assertion which blindly ignores how the vast majority of examples turn out to be wealthy people and large companies harnessing the power of government, e.g., rent seeking, squashing competition, etc.) and therefore, we need socialism to keep those “powerful actors” in check (switch).
            As for the “maldistribution of wealth”, that’s based upon the premise that wealth is distributed in the first place—it isn’t, people create wealth as a means of survival and self interest, not to toss into some big cannibal pot for all to share.  The “mal-” prefix also presumes that there is a good “distribution”, which effectively means redistribution.

            But unlike the traditional left, the libertarian left does not trust government to solve the problem, and recognizes the inherent danger of governmental power.

            You keep claiming to be anti-government, but whenever there is an election or an upcoming legislative vote, I’ve never seen you advocate anti-government positions or people.  In fact, I saw you malign the tea party types over an over, smearing them with suggestions that they were filled with racists and whatnot.  (Granted, the tea party was a heterogeneous bunch, and I disagreed with most of them, to one degree or another.  But the partisan smears from the “left” were very often dishonest and unfair.)
            About the only substantive, nonpartisan thing I’ve seen you do is to oppose Clinton’s use of force in the former Yugoslavia.  (I wouldn’t doubt if you’ve had similar criticisms of Obama, but I can’t recall seeing them.  If so, you get credit for that, too.)  Otherwise, you’re only anti-Republican, not anti-government.

            Moreover, the goal remains individual liberty, not collective well being.

            The whole “maldistribution” shtick belies that claim.

            Efforts to advance individual liberty that ignore this are going to be misguided

            Except it’s a lie to imply that free market individualists ignore social interactions and influences.  Indeed, how do you have a market unless billions of people are interacting with one another, creating global exchanges of materials and goods, to offer products that people want?  How do you have freedom unless billions of people have freedom of association, i.e., the freedom to have natural interactions with other human beings?
            The stereotype of the libertarian as a hermit is just stupid.

            I’m convinced we are nearing the end of the bureaucratic nation state, though what replaces it is unclear.


          • Well, left libertarianism is part of the political spectrum at least in terms of the study of politics, so I can accept you don’t like it, but it is there.  I think it’s valid that people on the left side tend not to be as vocal in criticism as government, while capitalist libertarians tend not to be as vocal in criticizing big money.  I think they can learn from each other.   I’ve certainly made numerous posts critical of government on my own blog.  I do think that the massive shift we’ve seen of wealth to the wealthiest, turning us into a kind of plutocracy is dangerous — and I agree that it is very much a factor of big money in bed with big government.  When did I smear the tea party?  If I did point me to it and if I said something that was unfair I’ll admit it and apologize.
            My research is looking at the changes caused by the current information and technology revolution (starting back with the last one).  I describe in my own blog why I think we may be nearing the end of bureaucratic central state in my entries on January 12 and 13 (“The Great Compromise” and “Power to the People.”)   Look, though I think we have some similar basic goals and values, we read reality differently on how they can be actualized, and even the nature of social reality.  We can shout at each other, or investigate the differences and try to learn from each other.  I always prefer learning to shouting (unless I’m at a sporting event).

          • “Left libertarianism” is just a hall of mirrors you throw yourself into when you want to make your confusion someone else’s

            You must recall how often you have defended ObamaCare? Left libertarianism?

            I know, I know, you get away with this stuff in your classes, and probably with your colleagues, because universities are not serious places, and are filled with Messrs. Goofyballs such as yourself. But you shouldn’t try to pass it off as serious anywhere adults gather.

          • Well, left libertarianism is part of the political spectrum at least in terms of the study of politics…

            The German Democratic Republic, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam were part of the collection of nations, but only useful idiots actually believed that they were/are actually democratic.
            I’ll interject my standard disclaimer about the notion of a “political spectrum”.  Mathematically, that’s like putting all of the ideas and actions, all of that complexity, into one single number to measure each person or party.  This, based upon the anachronism of the French Revolution, which doesn’t even apply today.  Furthermore, the placing of fascists and Nazis on the “right” was not only ridiculous—Hitler and Stalin were virtually indistinguishable in every measurement that mattered, and yet the spectrum makes them as far apart as possible—but a deliberate effort to smear all capitalists, regardless of whether they wanted government involvement in business or not.  Free market, anti-government libertarians aren’t on the “right” by any honest accounting, though they may share some ideas in common with conservatives at times.

            …people on the left side tend not to be as vocal in criticism as government…

            No kidding.  I use the term “left” as a shorthand, but as I explained with my aside about the “spectrum”, it’s an oversimplification to try to divide people into two “sides” on everything, especially on the concept of libertarianism.  Even slightly more sophisticated geometric measurements of politics (two axis or more) put libertarians on an axis orthogonal to the line which nominally represents the difference between Democrats and Republicans.  (Much of the divide between those two parties is greatly exaggerated to get voters fired up.  Elected politicians tend to do the very things they attack the other party for doing.  Republicans spend and grow government.  Democrats get huge contributions from Wall Street and some big businesses and tend to give them special advantages via regulations.

            …while capitalist libertarians tend not to be as vocal in criticizing big money.

            There are certainly plenty of self-described libertarians who are basically Republicans when it comes to government authority, though they may differ on a few things like drug prohibition.  Even anti-“leftists” can confuse the basic tenets of self ownership and free market.  Some don’t recognize the contradictions while others are “pragmatists”.
            That said, I know plenty of people whom I’d describe as free market libertarians and free market anarchists (anarcho-capitalists), who definitely criticize rent seeking, “corporate welfare”, bloated military budgets, etc..

            I think they can learn from each other.

            At best, the “leftist” types who pay close attention to civil liberties, for example, do occasionally point out inconsistencies in the positions of people who seem to think their positions are consistent with libertarians.  And, it’s sometimes useful to sharpen one’s arguments by debating someone who thinks differently.
            But the big problem with “learn[ing] from” “leftists” is all the butchery and slavery which comes with the whole collectivist package.  I’d just as soon such political positions never took hold in this world, that well-meaning people weren’t suckered into supporting the ideology of theft and control.

            I do think that the massive shift we’ve seen of wealth to the wealthiest, turning us into a kind of plutocracy is dangerous…

            The only time there is a “shift…of wealth” is when one group takes from another, directly or via proxy.  Yes, “corporate welfare”, rent seeking, anti-competition regulations, and other such use of government does result in big business gaining wealth unfairly.
            But measuring wealth disparity and pointing to that as a problem in and of itself ignores the fact that, outside of fraud (legal or illegal) or outright theft (legal or illegal), wealthy people create their wealth.  If an entrepreneur has a great idea and gets rich selling it to people who want to pay for it, he isn’t taking away from their wealth.  He’s trading.  The fact that he has a huge bank account isn’t, in and of itself, a problem.  He shouldn’t be punished because other people with big bank accounts attained their wealth dishonestly or unjustly.
            Human beings are not equal in ability, talent, intelligence, charisma, personality, creativity, etc., so the egalitarian ideal is just an attempt to punish success.

            When did I smear the tea party?

            Here’s one example.  I recall a few others, but my google search returned 460 results and I don’t have time to pore over them to find the ones I remember you posting.

        • And not Forming the US would have ended slavery in North America?
          In fact, the Constitution laid the groundwork where battle to end slavery could begin.  The US was later in ending, though, because high economic benefit still existed.  Ironically its mis-told that the cotton gin helped offset the loss of slavery.  In fact, the cotton gin extended slavery with a newly feasible crop that was manpower intensive.

      • jmp100,

        The English were introducted to slavery when they engaged in slavery and secured slaves from Spanish ships. This first occured (to my knowledge) sometime after Jamestown was founded in 1607. By that time, England was already evolving a crude democracy.

        The key thing is that England’s democracy evolved over time. One could argue that its origins lay with the Magna Carta, a series of documents that limited the Crown’s power in the 1200s. By 1607 England had a parlament. By the period of the American Revolution (a rebellion, really, not a revolution) England had a well formed democracy. American success was due to our ability to leverage off of the English experience. 

         Slavery in America was a difficult tradition to end, much like social security. For one thing, it involved people’s private property, as perverse as that was. And the federal government really had no mandate to involve itself in people’s affiars such that banning slavery at the fedeal level was a viable option early on. And there was the issue of what to do with freed slaves . . . In short, Erp can point fingers, but slavery was a significant problem with no easy solution.

        By contrast, the problem in the ME is a culture that lacks the fundamentals to make democracy or free markets work. The English colonists did not have this problem.

        • It should read:

          “The English were introducted to slavery when they engaged in piracy and secured slaves from Spanish ships.”

        • Parliament was in elitist hands in 1607 at that time.  The house of Commons was weak and had been “sacked’ a time or two since that date.
          And slavery in England pre-dated settling North America by millennia and not as a rarity either.

          • Nevertheless, England was evolving democracy by 1607, rough and toumble as it was.

            I’m not sure what slavery you are referring to, prior to that point. There were indentured servents, and priviously serfs. Earlier they was no doubt chattel slavery during the Dark Ages and Roman times. To my knowledge, modern English chattel slavery began shortly after 1607, with the capture of slaves the Spaniards were bringing to the New World.

        • Slavery was prevalent in the Roman Empire, centuries earlier, and the slavery of Medieval Europe transitioned to serfdom-style slavery, which mostly ended by the time the Renaissance kicked in.
          During colonialism, the slaves from Africa were, more than not, tribal people captured by Muslim slave traders.

          • African slavery started out amongst the Africans themselves. and then the Arabs got involved, then the Portugese, then the Spaniards.

            The Africans had at least three major slave trading empires, and it could probably be said that Africa’s main export at the time was slaves.

    • There is a whole literature in political science about transformations to democracy, written by wise pragmatic moderate leftists like me who have never been outside a college campus except to take a guided tour of Italian monuments. That gives us perspective to understand those noble brown savages that you ex-military basket cases like McQ and Hollis just can never have, because your first impulse is to call in the military for some grand old imperialism.

      What you’re talking about is a form of political development, whereby the foundations for a democratic political culture are built. It’s a magical process, and when the time is right it just happens. The right leader comes forth, like Arthur pulling the sword from the stone. He rides a white unicorn into the capital city and decrees that henceforth it will be a peaceful, democratic society, and the noble brown savages see the unicorn and the sword, and rejoice.

      You are right that at this point those foundations are weak to non-existent. We don’t know where the sword is, and it’s always harder than it should be to find unicorns. I’ve only seen one in my entire life, taking shelter in a moose herd at the edge of campus.

      That, in fact, was the argument about the naive view that Iraq and Afghanistan would easily become market democracies, the so-called “model Iraq.” And that’s not a strawman, so stop saying that! I don’t care that you dense righties didn’t think it would be easy! I need you to have thought that for my argument to hold together, so you just have to go with me here!

      That was never likely. I’m glad you have come to understand that. Yes, when I was saying that it was just impossible for those wogs noble brown savages in Iraq to put aside their religious differences, stop killing each other, and form a stable society, I was the wise one. And the fact that they did exactly that, with the help of the US military, is beside the point. It’s all going to blow up and Iran will be the beneficiary. You’ll see. Whereas, in Eqypt and those other places whose names I struggle with because they don’t make movies about them, democracy will just happen if we give it long enough, though it will be tough as I said before. And my position on this is perfectly consistent, and has been perfectly consistent throughout. If the American military is involved, the resulting imperialism screws everything up, but if it’s not, the gently, benign nature of the noble brown savages eventually comes through.

      However, when the people rise up to overthrow the old order, that is the first step towards building a democratic political culture. And that’s not just a trite, meaningless observation. It’s analysis, I tell you. I read many sources on this, ranging from the reporters for Newsweek and the Times up to those anthropologists and other dedicated social science academics who have devoted their lives to also reading those same articles and even occasionally visiting the pyramids. Those guys really think about it. They just sit and think, think, think. That’s what they’re paid to do. They’re professionals, with phds, just like me, and you think I’m going to pay attention to ex-military dense rightie basket cases over them? Hah!

      It is something we must welcome and try to assist, the new generation is not going to tolerate continued corrupt oppression. Obama will do our part, any time now, Obama has a christlike visage and wonderful creases in his trowser, this paragraph has no run-on sentences, stop saying that.

      I noted all this in my blog, which you should come over and read and go back and forth with me a thousand times in pleasant, informatative debate, in which I handwave aside any objections you have and you demurely accept that I’m the world’s greatest expert on everything from middle eastern politics to quantum physics. I said that this is like the French revolution for the Arab world. See, that’s analysis! Not just a cheap and obvious comparison. Stop saying that! And we all know how bad the French revolution went, or how Germany and Japan’s early efforts at democracy turned into something ugly. And then they magically got better, and it certainly was not because the US miliary helped Germany and Japan establish a stable democracy, so just shut up about that!

      Anyway, it will be hard, which I say because I need to do some backtracking, because I really need to make sure I have something to point to later that says I predicted it all. When I predict actual numbers, I sometimes actually have to lie about what I said to keep from looking like I don’t know what I’m talking about. Like I did in that discussion this weekend where I claimed my 2010 election predictions were from April, when they were actually from September only a couple of weeks before McQs. Hey, it took me a while to come up with a self-delusion for that one. I mean, we all know I can’t really be very far wrong, and the numbers looked pretty bad for my September prediction, so I just sat and thought about it until I convinced myself that the prediction was actually much earlier than that, and so the error was understandable. Because I did make a prediction back in April. So I just forgot about the one in September. See, it didn’t even exist. Wasn’t that a thing of argumentative beauty that I slipped that in on you guys and none of you noticed. Not even Ragspierre and Elliot and Hollis, who were too busy insulting me to see what I did there. Just like all the rest of you, who just constantly insult me with no reason at all. Because I don’t change my story and say dishonest things. Never, uh, uh. Once I take one of the blue pills that keep the magenta caterpillars with Sarah Palin’s face and ample bosom from invading my house, I can pretty much form any argument that I want, and it’s complete and honest and whole in my mind. That’s what a phd from a really, really important place does for you. They blue pills just help a little.

      Since corrupt dictatorships are being swept aside — a good thing by all accounts — and the Islamic extremists are not being embraced by the masses, which I decree so don’t argue with me about it — another good thing — we can explore how best to play a positive role in the region. Which absolutely does not involve the American military. That isn’t being naive, that’s being realistic. It’s also not just generic pap that doesn’t mean anything. It’s understanding that another part of the world is about to embark on a processes that was bloody and long for the Europeans. It might be bloody and long for them too. So now I’ve covered all the bases, said nothing definitive that anyone could pin on me later as a prediction, dazzled you all with my brilliance, and generously devoted my time to informing you thick righties on a complex issue. And I absolutely did not write the meandering BS above just to get another long thread started and get attention from you guys! Not, not, not!

      So some on and respond to me. Please. Heck, insults are fine. When you insult me, I get to pull out one of my classic more in sorrow than in anger responses where I gently assert that I’m not anything like your caricature of me even though you’ve read tens of thousands of my words in a decade or so. And where I plead yet again that you engage me in gracious argument, where of course my advanced degree allows me to set the rules and handwave aside anything you say that doesn’t fit my predetermined leftist conclusion. I mean, I’ll take the insults and all, because they are at least attention of a sort, but it would be so much better if someone would engage me and go back and forth a thousand times. So that I could destroy you in argument, the way I bragged about back in that other thread, but couldn’t actually link to anything that supported that. I don’t need to link to anything. My phd is good enough. Haven’t you guys figured that out yet? Wow, you sure are dense.

      Anyway, perhaps due to globalization and the fact there is an international community and functioning democracies, we can help. In a non-military way. And I can’t give you any specifics – that’s for the grunt engineer types to figure out, not high-level thinkers like me. It will not look like a western democracy, it will reflect Arab culture. There will be laws we see as horrid (just as our early democracy had slavery and didn’t allow women to vote). Yep the fact that we were not perfect in the past allows those noble brown savages to keep mutilating women’s genitals for another thousand years or so, killing people who leave Islam for another two thousand, and of course they might blow up a few more buildings and kill a few thousand more Americans. Hey, just consider that our contribution to their growth and development!

      So let’s not fear sticking by our values and welcoming change. And that sentence isn’t either incoherent. Stop saying that. The old system was untenable and given demographics, a revolt was virtually inevitable. Where it’s going we can’t know. So don’t you dare come back and tell me I was wrong about anything I said. But assuming the worst is pointless, assuming the best is also misguided. And that’s what you dense, ex-military righties are doing, assuming the worse. I decree it. Oh, sure, you think you’re just pointing out dangers. But it takes a wise pragmatic moderate leftist with advanced powers of political science to tell you that you are assuming the worst, because we understand what you are thinking much better than you do. If everyone would just follow our generic, non-specific, totally without details advice, everything would work out great.

      Trying to find a policy to make a positive result more likely is the most wise path. No, that is not either more trite, meaningless BS! It’s just not! I’m smart and informed, and darn it, people like me!

      • Excellent, Ott.  A classic.  I missed the lie mostly because I don’t store Erp’s crap in my brain.  Sherlock Holmes had something to say along those lines.  Also, I identify so much of Erp’s stuff as lies, and it would take WAY too long to isolate them all.  The guy is a freaking fabrication factory!!!

    • So how has that worked in Cuba ?
      The Cuban Revolution was sparked by the upper middle class, who thought that Batista was too corrupt.  What they missed was that once the chaos began, that little group of Marxists with guns in the hills were the most powerful group on the island.

      • That was a different era, a different century — without the Soviets, Castro wouldn’t have had a chance to maintain power long enough to institutionalize control. Cuba will soon change as well.

        • Umm….C-(cough) havez…
          I think you’ll find all those French, German, and Japanese allusions you made were in “a different century”, too.

          • “Chavez”.
            No kidding.  Not only has the guy looted assets owned by foreign investors, imposed price controls and other socialist theft, but he’s shut down opposition media and co-opted the democratic process by pressuring the legislature to give him dictatorial power.  The “enabling act” was a different era, a different century, but here it is again, right in the here and now.

          • Yeppers.  And THIS century…without a Soviet Union in sight…
            But we COULD evoke the baby Soviet Union…RUSSIA…that is moving AWAY from a democratic model and toward a totalitarian one.
            Maybe that would hurt Erp’s feewwings…

        • The Chinese PLA Navy was sent to Libya (where the US had none available) to evacuate Chinese nationals, and Russian arms dealers travel the Middle East routinely.  What’s so different ?
          The real problem is that the most ruthless always seem to win out, and that’s usually not the peace loving democracy lovers.

      • Oh!  it was a different era!  Human nature has changed soooooo dramatically over the last 40 years, things that men (and women of course…simper) have repeatedly done for centuries prior to this – pfffffffft – out the window, new century, new paradigm, so decreed, live with it.  It’s changed because Scott says it is changed, has to do with the internet, and IPhones, possibly radiation leakage from Chernobyl and evil American atomic bombs.
        Yes, people are smarter now, except the people who want to be dictators and tyrants, and they’re not as smart now, it’s not clear why that would be, it just is, again, so decreed, live with it.

    • Impossible ignorance. You’re not in touch with the facts, at all, and are just throwing unwarranted assumptions into a pile.

      You always write as if the paragraph had never been invented when you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.

      You’re not fooling anyone, Scott.

  • Without bloody revolution there will never be change in a democratic way. It took lionhearted men with guns to secure just about every democratic revolution i can think of. Lionhearted martyrs are of no use unless tied to well orchestrated rebellion, otherwise they only serve to demoralize. The problem is that today, the disparity in weaponry of normal people and military is incredibly great.

    • Scott doesn’t get the point that if all it took was lionhearted martyrs – it would be a toss up which would be the pinnacle of democracy in the world today, China or Russia, with their democratic handmaidens in Kampuchea and North Korea.

      • Well you also have to remember that there are “lionhearted” people on the side of oppression and authoritarianism.

        • Ah, but we don’t think of them as ‘lionhearted’, unless we grew up in whatever state they created of course, and they, with rare exception, don’t think of the people who resisted their ascension to power as ‘lionhearted’ either.
          I was thinking more of the dead lionhearts that I’m sure Lenin/Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and Kim Whateverflavor had directly, or through their flunkies, martyred.

  • The danger here is that their motives for demanding leadership change isn’t about establishing democracy for democracy’s sake.
    Its about living conditions (which was originally reported until the story was glamorized).  They want a better Rainmaker.  And people who want a rainmaker will accept a thug, as long as they aren’t the ones under boot, if they get what they want.  Eventually, they come across a thug that won’t leave after a few weeks of demonstrations (eg. Iran’s theo-thugacracy) but will mow them down in the streets.  And that’s who the end up stuck with.

    • I don’t think you realize how much the world has changed.  The new generation in the Arab world wants real change, and the international community is starting to recognize the need to stop embracing dictators.  The 20th century mentality doesn’t work anymore — thank goodness!

      • Scott, you know less about “the new generation in the Arab world” and what it wants than you do about most of the subjects you know nothing about.

      • Young American voters were convinced that they could vote for hope and change.  But the major changes were Health Care Deform (a socialist nightmare which will make matters worse), more Mussolini style fascist involvement in private business (banks, GM), and a basketload of special benefits for unions.  Where did all that hope get these young voters?  Where’s the change they wanted?
        Guantanamo is still open.  US troops are still in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Whistleblowers are still under attack.  Medical marijuana providers and users are still being prosecuted and having their business interfered with by feds.  Homeland Security is still oppressively violating the rights of Americans.
        “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

        • I was interviewed on Sirius radio during the 2008 campaign for a radio show about blogs.  The host, Joe Salzone asked me if Obama would bring the change people wanted.  I said no.  The system changes slowly, Obama is himself very establishment, and that the dream of hope and change was misplaced.  It’s a good campaign theme, but the reality is the system operates in a way no one President can truly change, even if he wanted to.  Having studied Italian fascism, I can’t say I agree there are anyting but very superficial similarities to anything Mussolini did — and much of that came from the Bush Administration anyway.   Change doesn’t come from above, it comes from below.  When forced from above, it usually fails or requires more control.  That’s why the Iraq war was a bad way to try to create democracy, while an uprising is better.  To change society, the culture has to change.  If the culture changes, then leaders will change.

          • Yes, the big difference so far between Obama and Mussolini is 1.) that Obama must manipulate the current American political system as opposed to the one from 1920s Italy, and 2.) Obama and his ranks don’t style themselves with the leather outerwear.

            The power grab for government bureaucratic control of the health care industry was dramatic and revolting and clearly a form of democratic fascism, using a small congressional majority to impose government not just on a sixth of the economy but on every individual American, interferring with every business and every life.

            The “stimulus” was nothing but a political payoff that poured an incredible amount of public money into the least productive elements of the economy with huge payments to the very worst of the rentseekers. It was catastrophic and helped spiral a recession into what is now on its way to a depression. It did nothing to stimulate the economy.

            Another major difference between Obama and Mussolini is that Mussolini probably had a sincere concern for the future of Italy, despite his warped vision of “everything within the state, nothing outside the state.”

  • How can we say that these people are unready for a democracy that they are prepared to die for?

    How can we say we know that democracy is what these people are militating to have?  Kristof doesn’t seem to support that.
    That is the first colossal assumption.  The second…and this is in the face of METRICS to the contrary…is that these emerging regimes will not be Islamist.  Or even more likely, SUBVERTED into Islamist regimes.
    But, as always, we wish them well, and hope for their sakes they CAN manage to eek out democratic, pluralistic, secular societies that can live in a peaceful world with the U.S. and Israel.
    I will not hold my breath…

  • McQ There have been thousands … millions even … of “lionhearted men and women” who’ve braved tear gas or bullets in the name of freedom, only to end up suffering under authoritarian or totalitarian regimes.  Take the way back machine to Hungary in 1957 for instance, when a scenario much like this played out there ultimately to be crushed brutally by oppressive communism.

    One doesn’t even need to go that far.  Go back to A-stan, where brave men ejected the Soviets… in order to ultimately establish the Taliban.  Or to Iran a decade or so before that, when brave men and women ejected the Shah… in order to establish the ayatollahs.

    Bravery and (as jpm100 notes) a desire for a better life are not the sole requisites for establishing a democracy, else people like the Somalis, Afghanis, Vietnamese and Filipinos (people possesed of tremendous courage) would have rock-solid democracies that would be models for the entire world.  After all, even pirates have bravery and a desire for a better life.

    RagspierreHow can we say we know that democracy is what these people are militating to have?  Kristof doesn’t seem to support that.

    Exactly.  Perhaps there are Egyptian counterparts to Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, and Madison who are all set to draft, enact and uphold a Enlightenment-style constitution for Egypt, but I am not aware of them.  I AM, however, aware of polling data that indicate that the majority of Egyptians want Sharia law, something that is incompatible with liberty and democracy.

    • It depends on what form Sharia law would take.  If it’s Taliban like extremist versions, then no, it is not compatible with any idea of human rights.  Modern variants of Sharia law can easily be connected with democracy, especially variants that incorporate secular law. There are a lot of scare tactics used to make it seem Sharia is some dangerous thing (especially when harsh punishments are made).  The reality is that it’s a pre-modern code that in many ways is obsolete, but in others can provide legitimacy. Rather than go through all that here, I’ll point you to a good balanced article on the subject from the Council of Foreign Relations:

      • Scott, when women are required by law to cover their bodies and denied basic rights, you may not consider that a “dangerous thing” because you don’t see behind closed doors how women are “convinced” to comply.  But whenever I see that, I can’t imagine anyone finding that sort of thing acceptable, whether or not the rulers cut off hands or stone people, or are more civilized than that.
        I flatly reject any sort of legal system based upon a religious doctrine, regardless of whether there are occasional instances of such systems not being tyrannically horrible for a given span of time in a given area of the world.

        • But you don’t need to have a law that requires women cover their bodies.  The Koran did not have anything like that, women didn’t cover their bodies in Muhammad’s time, nor did they even wear veils.  There are schools of thought in Islam that deny such extremist notions of either Islam or the sharia.  A mix of a moderate Islam for cultural continuity (remember – one problem of the French revolution is their complete break from past cultural norms, something Edmund Burke saw) with secular limits, and you can have gradual change.  Again, women couldn’t vote and we had slavery for a long time.   At least think about Burke’s critique of the French revolution.  Traditions and customs hold a society together.  To transform a society you can’t let it disintegrate.   That’s why in countries like Egypt the rule of the military is important.

          • You seem completely unaware that Egypt was fairly Westernized, going back to the 19th century, but that the predominant organized social movement has for decades been anti-Western and directed toward re-Islamization.

            “For Islam the solution to the problems of Islam is always more Islam.” — Bernard Lewis

            That’s the trend. Not modernization as Westerners understand it. Having cell phones and facebook is not the essence of modernity. Islam projects a theocratic collectivism, not individual rights and freedom. And, while I’m not saying it is set in stone, the likely outcome of the Egyptian street uprising is more, and more radical and anti-Western, Islam.

            Your bliss in thinking otherwise is just more sugar in your weak tea.

          • Where are your metrics?  How many Middle Eastern countries contain these ‘moderate’ Islamic power structures?
            “That’s why in countries like Egypt the rule of the military is important.”
            We know, it’s what’s kept Egypt running since Nasser, with varying results.
            WE understand that, it’s a corker for you to now cite the importance of military control in order to convince us that Sharia is not the wave of the future – and yet the anecdotal evidence provided by a series of photos (posted here) of the graduating class of Cairo University shows the trend TOWARDS women becoming less Western, and more in conformance with Sharia, rather than away from it, from the 70’s to the magical NEW CENTURY!”
            That ENTIRE time, a military strong man (Sadat, Mubarak), ran Egypt.
            “Again, women couldn’t vote and we had slavery for a long time.”
            “WE” – had slavery for 78 years, and it’s been abolished for 150.  Prior to 1783 any slavery we had here was sanctioned by the British Monarchy, and not EVERY state permitted slavery, so even when it was permitted it was not sanctioned in all 33 states.
            Women, with rare exceptions in European history, could vote in NO country until 1905 when Finland allowed it, and American women followed on 15 years later.
            So stop mumbling like we’re a thousand years behind the curve because we practiced the same things the Europeans were practicing in the same time periods.  Using that method just continues to illustrate how backwards the Middle Eastern countries ARE.

          • OK, you started this with the claim that Sharia law didn’t have to be bad.  And, now you’re saying, “you don’t need to have a law that requires women cover their bodies.”
            I’m curious, can you name some countries where Sharia law is the current jurisprudence (besides instances where Islamic courts are limited to marriage, divorce, and custody—places where all aspects of law fall under the Sharia system), but in which women’s rights are respected?

    • Actually, there are several fatwas I can remember AGAINST democracy EXPRESSLY.  There is a branch of Islamic scholarship that says the democracy is evil.
      Which is one reason those ladies in Iraq with the purple fingers, showing they voted, were wonderful examples of courage.

      • Thanks, Rags. Nice to know somebody gets some amusement. But I tell ya, it’s getting harder and harder. As tim basically points out below, there’s no there there.

        I mean, look at the entire Erb post and find a single genuine idea. He used to be 60% generic meaningless blather, 30% leftist talking points, and maybe 10% stuff that could be tested against reality. I guess he got tired of being pwned over anything he said that actually had content, because now it’s about 90% meaningless blather and maybe 10% talking points, with nothing tangible.

        So I’m running out of ways to point out that he’s not really saying anything and just posting to get attention. I’m reduced to lame jokes about his mental illness. The magenta caterpillar / blue pill thing is getting stale.

        I noticed, though, that when I switched to the “Narcissism” avatar, he quickly changed his. Given how long he usually sticks with one, I don’t think that was a coincidence.

      • That’s why it’s good that the extremists are not getting much support.   They are fighting against change and modernism, they are fighting against the equivalent of the French revolution.  History is against them.

        • That’s nonsense. Extremists not getting support? Those “democratic” mobs in Tahrir Square were just supplanted, about ten days ago, by a much larger mob there to celebrate the return of the big ideological makker of the Muslim Brotherhood. See my link elsewhere in this thread to Andrew McCarthy’s piece on what is happening.

          Try to catch up with the facts as they are, rather than repeating your preferred narrative.

          • Also, if Scott thinks this is going to be something like the French revolution, I’m wondering when the Reign of Terror will begin and who is the modern day Robspierre.?

          • And all of us remember Napoleon, and those merry years of enlightenment and modernity that ensued.

        • LOL
          “History is against them”

          And you claim to have a Ph.D.?

          To quote Stalin, “How many divisions does history have?”.

  • By the way, look at Kristof’s bio and all the work he’s done in Africa and elsewhere, and compare that with anyone here’s first hand experience on these issues.   He definitely has a lot of real world experience in Africa and on human rights.   He may be wrong, but naive he is not!

  • The attitude is not just naive, it reflects a willfull ignorance. The idea that men and women will fight and risk their lives only for democracy is ludicrous given the innumerable historic examples to the contrary. Even in the 21st century.

    As for Erp, his logorrhoea reminds me of the old Chinese restaurant menu joke; take one item from column A, two from column B, etc. In his case it is take one leftish cliche from column A, and two from column B, etc. and mix well. No thought recquired, only memorization and regurgitation.

    Erp inspired word of the day;
    Nebulous; “cloudy: lacking definite form or limits; “gropes among cloudy issues toward a feeble conclusion”- H.T.Moore”

    • We’re also working here with a ludicrously distended meaning of democracy. It is rare that a mob can be said to want a particular form of government. The notable exception were the mobs walking out of Eastern Europe in 1989. They wanted to walk away from the failure of end stage socialism (which is now coming around for them again across Europe, with the social democracy smiley face slipping off).

      What Westerners, particularly Americans, mean when they say “democracy” is short hand for a representative form of limited consensual government, where individual rights and freedom are paramount. That doesn’t apply in any of these middle eastern countries, except in a relative sense in Iraq and Turkey. Iraq has been led by the U.S. into a model of representative government, with our military as the guarantor of the process. In Turkey decades of the Turkish military guranteeing a secular, i.e. non-theocratic, government is coming to an end under an Islamist government now in its ninth year. That government is the “democratic” preference of the Turkish people.

      What Egypt is facing is a confrontation between the sixty-year-old military establishment for which Nasser, Sadat, and Mubarek were the front men, which is socialist and relatively secular and the parallel antagonist Islamist movement embodied by the Muslim Brotherhood, which is also socialist but unlike the military aggressively theocratic. These two can merge to form an aggresively theocratic regime backed by the military, or they can engage in a civil war. But a civil war would mean the military killing a lot of Egyptians, now that the “democratic” cat has been let out of its cage. The most likely scenario is that the theocrats will get the upper hand in the arrangement and the military will itself be Islamisized.

      “Democracy” as Americans understand it will, to put it mildly, be taking a rather different form, and will look much like “democracy” looks under a lot of regimes, which is to say perfunctory in the midst of continuing oppression.

      Everyone wishes that it could be different, but not all of these countries can have the benefit, as did Iraq, of the greatest military in the history of the world on the ground to guide them through a process that may or may not take.

      • Speaking of mobs, I am reminded of Robert Heinlein, who I think wrote that to determine the IQ of a mob, take the average IQ and divide by the number of people in the mob. 

  • Andrew McCarthy can perhaps reintroduce even Nicholas Kristof to reality:

    “It was only a week ago that close to 2 million Muslims jammed Tahrir Square to celebrate the triumphant return to Egypt of Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, a Khomeini-esque firebrand who pulls no punches about Islam’s goal to “conquer America” and “conquer Europe.” Yet, to take these threats seriously is now to be dismissed as a fringe lunatic, a Luddite too benighted to grasp that American principles reflect universally held truths — truths to which the ummah, deep down, is (so we are told) every bit as committed as we are.”

    In other words, the “old dictatorships” are most likely to be replaced by a parallel Islamist structure. As Bernard Lewis has said, for Islam the solution to the problems of Islam is always more Islam.

    Only in Iraq have the people and the various factions been helped through and into a process that could lead to a stable and enduring parliamentary democracy. But all around Iraq, the Islamists are making their move. And as you can see in Egypt, the narrative in Tahrir Square has changed. But people in the Western media like Kristof are still working their sugar high.

  • I had the impression that the left felt that the attempt to introduce democracy to Iraq would fail because the people there were not ready for it, or could not sustain it on their own.  Now it seems as if they believe that in the turmoil and chaos of the protest-ridden nations of the mideast, it is possible for democracy to flourish and silly to be pessimistic about the prospect.

    • You seem to think there was some actual thought process going on, instead of reflexive posting to irritate people and get attention.

      In fact, if the main objective is to feed narcissism by getting attention, it’s actually *better* to be illogical and inconsistent. It encourages people to respond with a correction, which can then be airly dismissed as simply not understand the nuances of the issues, or some such BS.

      • Well, it’s clear that I’m irritating you and getting your attention.  You come out with those same reflexive insults, you just can’t help yourself.

        • While you merely post the same meaningless drivel, and when it’s pointed out, you post the same tired assertions about how wonderful you are and we just misunderstand you. You just can’t help yourself.

          • There was strong programming of weak routines.

          • You reflexively throw out insults.  Look at the responses above to Elliot.  I may be wrong and misguided — that’s always possible — but it’s clearly got more thought and substance than a lot of what some others have posted here.   You know that, but you can’t acknowledge it.   Think about what that says about you, Billy.  You seem very bothered that I apparently think I’m wonderful.  Yet I haven’t been making those claims, nor have I been insulting the intelligence of anyone else (though I have mocked Rags effort to put ‘google egypt’ as his metric — but given what he says to me, I figure it’s fair).   Seriously, you need to step back and think of how these exchanges would look to someone neutral.

          • Again, strong programming of weak routines.

            You’re an interesting case, Scott, but not an interesting person.

          • …it’s clearly got more thought and substance than a lot of what some others have posted here.

            You’ve written quite a few whoppers the past couple weeks, so I have to say that if you put a lot of thought into them, that’s a huge red mark against your though process.

            You seem very bothered that I apparently think I’m wonderful.  Yet I haven’t been making those claims, nor have I been insulting the intelligence of anyone else…

            You drone on and on about your authority on foreign affairs, philosophy, etc..  You constantly bring up your education and title and belittle others as lacking your alleged expertise.

            Seriously, you need to step back and think of how these exchanges would look to someone neutral.

            Do you ever wonder why so many people are flummoxed by your seeming inability to see yourself as others see you?  You really don’t want to put this assertion to the test, if you have a real stake in the outcome.

          • I don’t believe I drone on about my “authority.”  When do I do that? I do know that others drone on about how I have no brains, am an imbecile, an idiot, don’t know anything, etc.  It’s odd that while those constant insults don’t bother me, it does seem to bother others if I even mention that I’ve spent my life studying and teaching political science.  But given how much disagreement there is in academia, no one can claim authority, my main purpose in discussion is to learn by engaging people with different perspectives.

          • I’m sure that I could summarize what others here find so incredibly revolting about you, Scott, but in this case I’ll speak just for myself.

            It’s the Mr. Goofyballs pathology, including both its exhibitionist and suppressed rage elements. The idea that a state university inflicts you on students who enroll there in good faith is offensive to anyone who has even residual empathy for others.

        • “…those same reflexive insults”

          Hey! I take offense at that. Although our contempt and disgust may be the same reflexive behavior that Happens when you find a slug in your salad, the insults are not. They require thought, creativity, and sometimes some research (as opposed to your vapid ramblings).  Of course you probably have not realized thatr Ott
          Scerb’s writings are an insult to you. Sorry to break that news.

    • I think Bush had it right that with the demographics of the region and the unsustainability of corrupt dictatorships that democracy and markets are the answer for the Arab world.  What I thought wrong with Iraq was: a) the attempt to use force would play into the hands of extremists who would use the inevitable Iraqi deaths to paint this as western imperialism and thus make democracy harder to achieve; and b) it’s better to support democratic movements that arise naturally.  I think there is a legitimate argument that Obama hasn’t done that, and  in fact cut good Bush administration efforts to support such movements.  It certainly is not silly to be pessimisitic, nor is unguarded optimism warranted, I noted that in my blog on Feb. 12.   But we have to recognize this is a true revolution that aspires to become democratic, and perhaps we can be a positive influence.

      • You don’t, or better, can’t understand what happened in Iraq, starting with what drove the intervention and the sequencing of events that followed.

        It’s unfortunate that students probably have to endure your confusion.

      • I think Bush had it right that with the demographics of the region…
        Where do you find that in the Bush speeches or documents, Erp?  I just don’t recall Bush dwelling on “demographics”.

      • “true revolution that aspires to become democratic,”
        A revolution perhaps, aspiring to become democratic, WHY?  What proof do you have of that?
        Being tired of your old dictator is NOT the same as wanting democracy.  You are projecting.  You have not a clue what these people want.  You WANT them to want democracy, we ALL want them to want democracy, but YOU are the only one convinced that what the American military strove to do for neigh on 10 years in Iraq will happen by miracle out of the muddy soup that is currently North Africa.

  • Riddle me this Batman …

    Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan predicted on Sunday that America faces imminent uprisings that mirror those in the Middle East.

    “What you are looking at in Tunisia, in Egypt … Libya, in Bahrain … what you see happening there … you’d better prepare because it will be coming to your door,” Farrakhan said in a booming voice, thousands of followers cheering in his wake.

    … how does this fit into that idea about generating democracies ?  I mean .. when “The Man” is Obama ?

  • Rags claims he has “Metrics.”  I ask to see them, and he tells me his published them.  When challenged it comes out that to get Rags’ metrics I should “google Egypt public opinion polls.”  LOL!  Thank you, Rags, for demonstrating that your rhetoric is empty and your assertions nothing but BS.   Delicious.

    • Rags claims he has “Metrics.” I ask to see them, and he tells me his published them. When challenged it comes out that to get Rags’ metrics I should “google Egypt public opinion polls.” LOL! Thank you, Rags, for demonstrating that your rhetoric is empty and your assertions nothing but BS. Delicious.

      And don’t anyone dare point out that I’ve been challenged on things a thousand times to produce links or other support, and I never do except to link to my own blog. Just don’t start! Don’t you dare bring up that thread from the weekend where people asked me to support my assertions a dozen times and I blew them all off! I’m a phd from a really important place, and that should be good enough for you!

      Don’t you dense righties get it YET? I have godlike powers of political science! I get to merely assert things without support! Then I get to hand out homework assignments, like the smart and urbane professor I am, that you must complete to be taken seriously, no matter how much time it takes you. Then, if that homework in any way suggests that I’m wrong about something, I handwave it aside. It’s so simple!

      That’s partially because of my godlike powers, but also because my time is far too valuable to respond in any detail to inbred, sterile, Nazi-like people like you guys. I work 60 hours a week! And I still have time to go to a bunch of other blogs to comment! This blog is nothing special! It’s just one of many, and I certainly don’t have to point out any of the others I spend time at. They’re real! They are! And I spend more time there than here! I decree it!

      Jeez, how many times do I have to explain this to you people?

      • Thank you for saving me the effort of composing a suitable reply. Not to mention that you say it better than I could.

    • Well, now that you are nicely exposed, I will just proceed to shoot you to pieces.

      Who doesn’t the Egyptian public like? Israel. In the 2010 poll, just 3 percent of Egyptians had a positive opinion about it versus 92 percent unfavorable; these were the worst grades for Israel of any country included in the survey.


      By wide margins, Muslims surveyed in the spring of 2010 believed that Islam’s influence in politics was positive rather than negative. In Egypt, Islam’s role in politics was seen favorably by an overwhelming 85%-to-2% margin among Muslims.


      Among Egyptian Muslims who did see a struggle [between modernizers and fundimentalists], a 59%-majority sided with the fundamentalists. Just 27% of those who saw such struggle sided with the modernizers.  [Just 31% recognized a struggle.]


      Traditional Muslim practices
      54%: Believe men and women should be segregated in the workplace
      82%: Believe adulterers should be stoned
      84%: Believe apostates from Islam should face the death penalty
      77%: Believe thieves should be flogged or have their hands cut off

      And those are just a smattering.  I have actual work to do.
      Which, Erp, you should remember involves luring people into making stupid, unsupportable statements, and then figuratively murdering them in open court.

      • So to you “metrics” means public opinion.  Well, I’m heartened by the fact I got you to go out and actually do some work to support your position, thank you!   Yet nothing you post is at all against anything I’ve said.  My point is that the Arab world is starting a path of modernization and change.  The Islamic extremists are not winning the public — terrorists, anti-western fundamentalists and the like.  Think of what a French poll in 1780 would have said about women, the Catholic Church, what laws should exist.  The US had slavery when we started modernizing, and we kept it for generations.
        Don’t you get it — no one is denying that the Arab world still is very conservative.  It’s starting a process that will take a long time to complete.  You are pointing out something I’ve also said — the process will be long and difficult, like it was in Europe.  But what’s the alternative — to support dictators who repress the people?  That won’t work any more.   So like it or not, we have to deal with an Arab world that is modernizing.
        I still find it odd that “metrics” to you means “public opinion.”  But I really appreciate that you actually posted some evidence instead of just a quick one liner.

        • “My point is that the Arab world is starting a path of modernization and change.”

          And there is nothing that supports that point other than mobs of people in the streets holding up signs in English saying some vague things that Westerners think they want to hear.

          The only structure that can be seen through this fog is that of a pan-Islamist movement that regards the current regimes under fire as too Westernized, too un-Islamic, too modern.

          And the polling presented here yet again says that the Egyptian public, at least, supports more Islam, not less, and finds the secular socialism of the military regime unappealing without stronger enforcement of Islamic law.

          Where you find “modern” in that is what you never support in all your flabber about it.

        • Huh…
          So when a guy like Michael Barone uses the term “metrics” you are just clueless that he’s talking about MEASURABLE, QUANTIFIABLE DATA that support a perception.
          And you say you are a political scientist…?!?!??

          • Metrics isn’t used to talk about survey results.  You tried to make it sound more impressive than it was, and what you posted actually goes along with what I said.   So you really had nothing.

          • And, as before, I get to demonstrate you are a liar….
            Of Minds And Metrics

            But the most important changes occurring, not just in Iraq but across the Muslim world, are changes in people’s minds. These are harder, but not impossible, to measure. George W. Bush has proclaimed that we are working to build democracy in Iraq not just for Iraqis but in order to advance freedom and defeat fanatical Islamist terrorism around the world. Now comes the Pew Global Attitudes Project’s recent survey of opinion in six Muslim countries to tell us that progress is being made in achieving that goal. Minds are being changed and in the right direction.

            You make this remarkably easy, you know…

          • The Pew Global Project Attitude’s metrics give us reason to believe that today’s Americans, at far lower cost, are once again changing minds in the Muslim world.

            Just making your carcass flop.  But it is fun

        • Well, I’m heartened by the fact I got you to go out and actually do some work to support your position, thank you!

          You “got [him]” to repost sources you denied he did in the first place.
          You don’t get to take credit when you’re the one on the wrong side.

          Yet nothing you post is at all against anything I’ve said.  My point is that the Arab world is starting a path of modernization and change.

          Everything he posted is precisely against your unjustified assertion that the Arab world is starting a path of modernization (towards secular representative democracy).

          • No, that does not show that the Arab world has not started on the path to modernization.  The uprising by the youth, driven with facebook and twitter, very many with secular values — something that’s expanding as al-jazeera brings them news about the rest of the world — is prima facia evidence that modernization is STARTING.  At the start OF COURSE opinion will not yet be in the modern camp.  That is a given.  So showing that mass opinion is still not modern is what one expects at the start of a modernization process.  It does not contain an iota of evidence against it.

          • That’s pure nonsense.

            “Many with secular values?”

            Many! That’s meaningless.

            “Many Americans practice witchcraft.”

            And facebook, twitter and al Jazeera?

            That’s very strong, Scott. Al Jazeera has a narrative it’s pushing, and you won’t catch it off that narrative.

        • “So to you “metrics” means public opinion. ”
          ah, yes, the ordnance that shall be used to blow up your Good Ship Lollipop on another day.
          Merci mille fois.

      • Ah, royal handwave – aside varlet, your metrics are not metricky enough.  They are nothing.  In contrast Scott has….??????
        Oh dear.  Well, he has Kristol’s ‘opinion’, so there.

  • The 1965 Hungary example doesn’t fit. The problem there was the Soviets, not the Hungarians.

    Better examples are the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, and the Iranian Revolution.

    • The leaders of the Russian Revolution never pretended to be democrats

      • There were a varity of Russian Revolutionaries. Bolsheviks were only one small group. IIRC, a coalition government siezed control of Russia and established democracy, but were overthrown since they continued the unpopular war with Germany. The Bolsheviks gained power in large part because they were the one group that opposed the war.

      • Are you sure about that? Isn’t that what the United Front is all about..pretending to be Democratic until you get control and then can dump everyone else?

  • I think that if Bruce (or one of the other Q&O bloggers) puts up a post where he has a very particular interest in a serious discussion and Erb comes around with his usual greywater bilge and and starts spilling it in at the top of the thread and throughout that there’s no compromise of purpose in zotzing that crap before it takes over.

    I don’t think that this thread had that sort of interest or was necessarily going to take off, just based on the delusions of Nicholas Kristof, but it made me think of a theoretical or potential thread where some serious and perhaps new ground might be broken.

    You might not want to have a situation like that made pointless by Erb’s flabber (flabby blabber). Letting that fatigued nonsense settle onto something serious can waste honest efforts by both the blogger and the commenters.

    Just a regular’s input.

  • Let me defend Erb here, even though I barely skimmed his comments…its actually faster to read Scerb sometimes.
    Of course some of the young people in Egypt want democracy and a “normal” country. That number is probably growing, though the best educated and most westernized of them are also those who might emigrate or go abroad for school in London and never go back to Egypt except for vacations. But they do exist.
    That said radical mosques do exist there and in greater number. And even if you are educated but are disheartened by living in autocracy with a poor economy, you may decide the mosque offers better solutions than Thomas Jefferson.

    • That’s not a defense of Erb. It’s just a reasonable position. That’s a distinction that has to be made.

      There are a lot of things that are not quite understood by Westerners about the individual maturation process in the Islamic world, especially in the Arab region. There are deep family and tribal structures from which one can be excluded if the wrong path is chosen.

      But the age of secularization and Westernization does seem to have passed, and much of the credit for that goes to the Muslim Brotherhood. Going to the West, especially Europe, for an education or work, is not necessarily an alternative to the culture at home. There are mosques in Europe that are ferocious and Muslims are expect to maintain their Islamic identity and not assimilate into decadent Western societies. There might be cheating and plenty of leeway, for instance, during the student years, but the call back to the pack is a strong one.

      The idea that there is a mass “youth movement” in the Arab world is nonsense, of course. Drawing people into a mob to shout slogans has no structure to it and, as has happened in Egypt, was quickly substituted for with the bigwig from the Muslim Brotherhood as the next move by the people who have worked an actual movement — an Islamist movement — for decades. They know exactly what they are doing, including how to manipulate the Western media, which is probably among the easiest of their tasks, along with manipulating the views of Western Leftist academics.

    The hidden video of Erp’s recent “victory”.

  • “That, in fact, was the argument about the naive view that Iraq and Afghanistan would easily become market democracies, the so-called “model Iraq.” 

    Sorry to go back to beginning, but I just wanted to point out the lie here. There was no serious argument that Iraq and Afghanistan would easily become democracies, it was always seen as a long-term proposition. There was debate over whether it was possible for them to be democracies at all, but the supporters (and the vast majority of the military) knew it would take a massive effort, possibly over a period of decades, to effect the transition. The scope of the insurgency necessitated more troops that had been put on the ground, but it is a fabrication to claim that those in favor of the Iraq war thought it would become a democracy with minimal time or effort.

  • As to the adoption of Facebook, Twitter, etc. as a sign of a “modernity” trend…
    Remember what we called the analogous adoption of modern communications by the demographically young Germany…?

  • Elliot, here’s what you don’t seem to be able to comprehend.  When you have wealth, you can rig the game in your favor and keep winning (and have your family keep winning).   The poor end up being stuck.  This happens in a completely free market, and it would be hopelessly naive to think results are all related to differences in ability.  Power matters.  If you ever had a completely free market it wouldn’t last long at all because power differentials would give people opportunities to thwart it.  Your ideology is, in my opinion, a pipe dream, as realistic as Marx’s dream of pure libertarian communism (remember, he saw the state as withering away).  Both are similarly simplistic and unrealistic.
    This false dichotomy you raise between collectivism and individualism is similarly simplistic and misguided.  We are all linked on various levels, and it can never be purely voluntary.  Humans are not only social animals, our very identity is social.  If you were born as the same biological entity in a different culture, you’d have different tastes, interests and beliefs because you cannot help but be in part of a product of the culture you’re in.   Yet we are also all individuals capable of choice and volition.  The only way to understand humanity is to recognize that the individual-collective dichotomy is a false dichotomy, at odds with reality.  I’ve written more about that, also noting the psychological factors such a simplistic approach to understanding the human condition entails.
    The Nazis and fascists were on the right because they were nationalist, anti-rational, appealed to cultural values, and believed some people naturally superior (race, gender, etc.).   Marxism is on the left because it was internationalist, a rationalist, objective ideology, and appealed to reason and had a goal of human liberation with a belief all humans had inherently equal value.  Now, Kurt Schumacher, German Socialist, did call the Soviets “red painted fascists” because he believed ultimately Communism had become right wing in its focus on power.  I think he may have a point.
    Every political scientist would tell you the “German Democratic Republic” was not Democratic, and all that.  But left libertarianism is an accepted ideological perspective whether you think it should be or not.  It is in text books, it is taught, and you may think that’s a misplaced notion but its only that way within your particular ideological beliefs.  If one rejects your labeling and assumptions, then one reaches different conclusions.
    The link about the tea party was not a smear, it was an analysis which I stand behind.  We can discuss it if you want, but I think I accurately described what drives the tea party — and why it won’t last.  You mistake a critical analysis for a smear.   Even if you think the analysis is wrong, it’s intellectually weak to mistake it for a smear.

    • Babbling nonsense. Riddled with mad bullshit riffs you’ve tried to peddle for years. Indefensible crap.

    • When you have wealth, you can rig the game in your favor and keep winning (and have your family keep winning).   The poor end up being stuck.
      Which is why the DATA keep showing the roiling of income groups in the U.S., I suppose.
      And to think you actually are allowed to teach young people.  You ought to be sued.

      • The data shows a growing gap between the rich and the poor, we are becoming a plutocracy.  Yup, I teach.  *smile*

        • The data show that people in each of the economic strata change places…a lot…every decade.
          The data also show that…until recently…the standard of living for all Americans was steadily ramping up, regardless of dollars earned.
          These are just Collectivist talking points that I could get from Fiery DogShit Lake.
          You aren’t even original.

        • The very last thing anyone needs to worry about is the “gap between rich and poor.” It’s irrelevant to any concept of general well being, general prosperity, except in the positive sense that it indicates hearty capital formation and investment potential.

          • With one important exception…the concentration of unearned wealth in Obamic cronies.  There has been a MASSIVE transfer of wealth in just two years…much of it essentially stolen from our children and grandchildren…to favored individuals and groups.  See Pigford.

    • Nazi (National Socialist) Party was on the right?  What part of “Socialist” don’t you understand?

      • The Strasser brothers believed in the socialist aspect, they were the “left” wing of the party.  Hitler thought it only useful for propaganda, he was the “right wing” of the party.  The Strassers were eliminated as were their allies.  The right wing controlled the Nazi party.  Socialist was a useful term to try to win over the workers, but when the Nazis took power they were in coalition with the right wing and conservative parties of Germany.

        • Every bit of that is a lie.  Hitler was a dedicated socialist.  He adopted the fascist economic model that another life-long, prominent socialist…Mussolini…had evolved.
          BOTH fascist models were composed of the corporatist collective…BIG GOVERNMENT, BIG BUSINESS, and BIG LABOR, with BIG GOVERNMENT calling the ultimate shots.  A PLANNED economy, in which the workers (the compliant workers) shared with capital (compliant capital).
          Just like GM and several other structures we could name.

        • Hitler was certainly a socialist. He was a nationalist, but he detested both international socialism and international capitalism. When he pushed the more radical SA aside and murdered its leaders he did so because their para-military aggressiveness offended the German military and Hitler wanted and needed the German military on his side. Many Communists eagerly jumped to the Nazis, and Hitler didn’t care about businessmen or conservatives, except to manipulate them for his purposes. He was a revolutionary populist who used the mythical German past to shape a revolutionary future that was indisputably socialist.

          • There was that interesting little vignette, too, where the Soviets were sending food and other aid to the Wehrmacht.
            Their buddies and brothers…for a time…in devouring Poland.

          • And Mussolini was similarly a socialist, born and bred to it, and one of the leading socialist intellectuals in Italy. He broke with the socialist party over the WWI and began to understand the value of national identity in revolutionizing Italy. “Everything within the state, nothing outside the state.” He always thought of himself as a man of the Left.

            As Goldberg points out in “Liberal Fascism,” the American Left was hot for both Mussolini and Stalin. In other words, they were competitors for the revolutionary football. It was Stalin who declared Fascism “right wing,” a not uncommon practice for Stalin who often denounced other communists as “right wing” and also as “fascists” as ways of indicating that they were “out.” Socialists play these factional “in” and “out” games all the time, and in Stalin’s case it was a deadly game, for those who were “out.”

          • And, naturally, our lying contributer, Erp, is just too pleased to ape the party line.
            Just like he was programmed, or something…

    • The term “Nazi” is a nickname for the National Socialist German Workers’ Party…

      For instance the best known organisation expousing this system, the German party led by Adolf Hitler was called the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (German abbreviation: NSDAP). Similarly, the second volume of Mein Kampf is entitled The National Socialist Movement. According to Joseph Goebbels in an official exposition of the ideology, the logic behind the synthesis of Nationalism and Socialism as represented in the name, was to “counter the Internationalism of Marxism with the nationalism of a German Socialism“.

      Really, Erp; is there any lie you blush to tell???

      • God, rags, you need to educate yourself.  I told SShiell how Hitler eliminated the left wing of the party and socialism was used for propaganda purposes.  But the Nazis were alluring to the right because of their fierce anti-communism.  But hey, you must believe the German Democratic Republic was a democracy, eh?  *chuckle*
        Oh well, thank god you don’t teach!

        • And you are simply a liar.
          Collectivists frequently turn on their own.  Idiot.

        • Hitler was a “fierce” anti-communist because the communists were an easy demon to use in gaining the nervous support of German conservatives. Hitler actually rather admired communists, and German communists joined the Nazis in large numbers. Hitler’s purpose was to take the revolutionary football away from the communists. He was, until 1938 when he took Germany to its destruction, a smarter and more agile leader than any of the communists.

          • Communists also were a threat to his hegemony.
            Like EVERY threat to him, they were dealt with ruthlessly.
            Just like the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks, and Stalinists and Trotskyites and other factions.
            It is what Collectivists do.

    • When you have wealth, you can rig the game in your favor and keep winning…

      When you use that wealth to influence politicians, you can harness the power of government as a force multiplier on your investment.  So a widget manufacturer can donate $20,000 to a politician who then creates new licensing restrictions for widget manufacturing, for example, which drives smaller competitors out of the market and prevents upstart competitors, resulting in a huge windfall, far in excess of what they could do by using that money through free market means.
      You identify the source of the problem as people being rich, but the real problem is government having the power to manipulate the market, allowing the connected to leverage that power.  Socialists stupidly think that by stealing from the rich, you keep their power in check.  But as we saw with the Soviets and other communists who tried to do this, black markets become necessary to circumvent this theft and corruption, while politically connected people still get rich and powerful.

      The poor end up being stuck. This happens in a completely free market…

      That’s not true.  In a free society, immigrants and young people start off poor but have the ability to work their way up to a middle class income, or better.  Not that there is any truly free society, but one can extrapolate by comparing results between places where one is more free than another.  And, there are no guarantees in a free market.  Disasters happen.  Accidents happen.  Sometimes people who are hard working and honest fail because of poor happenstance.  But in a socialist country, you’re pretty much guaranteed to be equally poor, unless you’re politically connected.

      Your ideology is, in my opinion, a pipe dream…

      I’ve corrected you on this a million times.  I have no illusions that the predators will ever allow decent people to live in a truly free society.  In no small part, because many of the decent people are easily scared into trading freedom for the illusion of economic security.  So, I’m not puffing any opium, promising Galt’s Gulch.  To suggest otherwise, after the fiftieth time I’ve disputed that, is dishonest.
      What I am doing is arguing that the status quo is unethical.  It’s wrong to force people to do things they don’t want to do and never agreed to do, so long as they’re minding their own business.
      Only useful idiots actually believe all the good intentions of wealth distribution.  Those in power understand that they’re not solving problems.  They’re just getting people worked up so they can consolidate their power.

      This false dichotomy you raise between collectivism and individualism is similarly simplistic and misguided.

      The left/right “spectrum” is far less accurate and absurdly simplistic.  Close your eyes and have someone pick a politician, describing him only as “right wing”.  Now, tell us what that means.  Pick a topic, from taxes, spending, military, drug prohibition, immigration and try to guess what that “right wing” politician stands for.  So many people from racial supremacists to civil libertarians, from the devoutly religious to secular corporate, drug warriors to anti-prohibition libertarians, are all stupidly labeled by political opponents as “right wing”.  This is typically intended to suggest a guilt by association with anything negative that a reader might feel about “right wingers”.
      But tell me if a person is a collectivist or an individualist, and I know whether they respect each individual’s self ownership.  Sure, I don’t know if the collectivist is a socialist, fascist, theocrat, or other.  But I’m more interested in the rights of life, liberty, and property than I am in the color of the tank that’s rolling down my street.
      Making the distinction between individualist and collectivist is based upon a useful distinction, as opposed to the left/right nonsense.

      Humans are not only social animals, our very identity is social.

      Once again, for the umpteenth time, of course humans are social animals.  In a free society, people are free to have associations to satisfy their need for community.  And, with advanced industrial and technological offerings, people must necessarily form all sorts of associations to make the things people want to buy (you need materials from all over the world, for example).

      The only way to understand humanity is to recognize that the individual-collective dichotomy is a false dichotomy, at odds with reality.

      The concept of the collective as an entity (the underlying premise of “the public good”, “the people decided”, “society’s needs”) is definitely at odds with reality.
      Each person has an individual mind with individual thoughts.  Yes, you are influenced by others, particularly when you are young.  But as you develop the capacity for reason, you develop the ability to decide that you don’t agree with others, that you don’t consent to a given proposition, even if there is pressure from others to conform.
      What the collectivist does isn’t to argue simply that people are helped by other people, thus they should show appreciation to those who touched their lives.  That’s pretty common to all humans.  The collectivist insists that because there are social interactions, they get to wave their hands and decree that people who have no stake in a given matter somehow deserve a say in it, because, you know, somehow eventually there’s like some connection.  It’s arbitrary and lazy.

      The Nazis and fascists were on the right…

      Refer to the exercise above, identifying what an unnamed “right winger” believes on a particular topic.  Once you’ve failed that, perhaps you might get a freakin clue that “right” doesn’t mean squat.  In France, it meant pro-monarchy.  What does that have to do with National socialists?  And, how in the hell can Hitler and Stalin be as far apart as possible?  That’s just stupid.

      Marxism…was…a rationalist, objective ideology, and appealed to reason and had a goal of human liberation with a belief all humans had inherently equal value.

      So murdering 100,000,000 people and enslaving billions comes from being rational and objective?  Slavery is liberation?
      There goes the Goebbelesque MASSIVE LIE.  It’s insane for anyone in 2011 to make such a claim.

      …left libertarianism is an accepted ideological perspective…

      Among “left libertarians”, of course.  Academics in your field overwhelming trend towards socialism.  Like I said, people concoct all sorts of oxymoronic combinations.

      It is in text books, it is taught…

      Smirk.  So is the story of Noah’s ark, you simpleton.

    • “what you don’t seem able to comprehend”  – so, did you have to use opera glasses to SEE Eliot as you looked down your nose at him?

      “aimplistic”, “misguided” ‘We can discuss it if you want”

      Yes, you’ve certainly led him into a place where he’ll want you to discuss his simplistic, misguided views and possibly he won’t be able to comprehend what it is you’r saying.   Yet you deign to speak to him any way, how noble and lofty of you.

      Why don’t you try, just for a moment, to imagine that most of the people here are at least as smart as you are, just for once….sorta get the feel of it….instead of assuming that having a PH.D. is some sort of magic brain injection system that made you smarter than those around you (Ah!  I have it! you used the Krell brain booster didn’t you Morbius!)

      That is, if you REALLY want discussions as equals, as opposed to treating anyone who disagrees with you like they are 15 years old.  There’s a distinct difference between the way people deal say, with Pogue, than you.  They may (often) disagree with Pogue, they may think he’s a screaming leftist, but at least the disagreements manage to stay at a relatively peer to peer level.  You seldom achieve that, even when you AGREE with someone, you do it with a superior attitude in the majority of cases.

      You GET what you GIVE.  Like loyalty, it’s a two way street.   Sorta a take off on the loopy Christian savior dude that said “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them”

      (Funny, he doesn’t talk about killing them in the name of Allah….no wonder he didn’t make it as senior prophet in Islam)

  • So, after 132 comments generated by McQ’s discussion of Kristoff’s account of the Left’s naiveté we can see one single, shining, abiding imperative – Erb’s total commitment to the Liberal Narrative

    And what’s even funnier, the man is convince no such narrativ exists when he is the single pure embodiment of it.  Now that is to LOL!!!!!

  • Elliot, the poor do not generally “move up,” their opportunities are constrained, and the wealthy usually stay wealthy.  Yes, some do move, but it is a mix of luck and often performance beyond the norm (beyond what a person born to wealth need do to succeed).  There is nothing about “collectivism” that causes abuse of power.  People abuse power, whether in government or in business.  Any time people can get power, there is a potential for abuse.   People are both individuals and part of a larger society, we are by necessity social animals with a need for connection.  You create a false dichotomy and you build your ideology around a false belief.   That is where you go wrong.   As for Marxism, you make a really glaring error — you compare the actions of dictators (Stalin’s purges, etc.) with the ideology itself.  Marx’s ideology was utopian and libertarian — but he was wrong.  Those who tried to implement it undertook actions either out of lust for power, or to try to force their utopian vision on reality, a utopian vision that was based on a wrong headed ideology.
    Your description of the individual clearly overlooks a lot of psychology.  There is a reason why Ayn Rand isn’t considered a major philosopher and isn’t taught in political philosophy — that perspective is so easily proved fallacious and wrong that it’s not taken seriously.  You’ve fallen victim to a very simplistic “good vs. evil” ideology and you apparently have put your faith in it.  Your description of “the collectivist” is so caricatured as to be silly.  Politics is necessary because we are connected as a society.  Your “ideal” is impossible because it is based on something unreal.  You can believe it if you want — people believe a lot of things that give them a sense that they are right, that somehow they have figured it out.  I’m sure it gives you a sense of comfort, certainty and even superiority.  You think you know the truth, you think you have insights that others do not.  But you don’t.  You’re victim of delusion.   But if you’re comfortable in that delusion, you’ll go on and play rhetorical games to demonize the other side and proclaim yourself right.  It’s not rational — you are not using reason here — it’s faith.
    Yesterday was a snow day and I had some fun, but reality calls.  You can have the last word at this time.  I know you won’t acknowledge or accept what I say, but for your own sake consider the possibility that you might be wrong.  Look inside and ask yourself if you’re believing this because you’ve honestly examined the alternatives (not just as strawmen to be knocked down, but really getting into understanding the intricacies of different perspectives) or if you’ve grasped this because it feels good.  Be self-critical as well as other-critical.  Put your own ideas up for critical review.  Remember: ideologies are always very simplified versions of reality, a dichotomy like individual vs. collective can never be all that useful in that it’s a vast over-simplification of how the world works.  I know it is comfortable to hold on to what seems clear and easy to understand beliefs that give you a set of principles that you consider ethical and seem to set you apart from the masses that you know doubt consider ignorant or misled.  But it’s an illusion.  Think about it.
    Thanks for the fun, guys, but I’ll probably not post much in the next few days, the real world beckons.  I

    • People abuse power, whether in government or in business.

      At least a true statement.  And ONLY in government do you find the concentrations of power that have resulted in the BIG GOVERNMENT horrors of the 20th Century.
      Which is why the Framers carefully constrained the CENTRAL government from accreting and expressing too much power.   They even were careful to restrict the land the Federal government could own, because they knew land was power.  They want power to be dissipated, and retained largely in the hands of the people…to whom it actually belongs.
      Which is why the market, WITHOUT governmental collusion (i.e., a FREE market) naturally dissipates power among competing players.  And why Erp is a liar.
      History, the study of human nature, even role-playing exercises verify all this empirically.  Yet we have an idiot like Erp condescendingly telling us reality is fantasy and visa verse.
      The man is only a rather dull cell in the Collective…not even original.

    • Elliot, the poor do not generally…move up…their opportunities are constrained, and the wealthy usually stay wealthy. Yes, some do move, but it is a mix of luck and often performance beyond the norm (beyond what a person born to wealth need do to succeed).

      Scott, the poor in socialist countries or countries with rigid class structures do not move up. But in the US, demographic data shows that most people move up the strata as they get older, gain experience, and work for advancement. The great dividing line is a high school diploma, which doesn’t cost a poor person anything.
      I’ve known tons of immigrants who come to this country dirt poor precisely because of the American dream, the fact that they can work hard and become middle class, far wealthier than they could in their home countries.
      Of course successful people provide for their children to give them every advantage. Any good parent does all sorts of things, passing on their wisdom and knowledge, providing them with good nutrition and a safe place to live. You act like that’s some dastardly trick, like the rich people should drop their new pups off at an orphanage, then go through the line and pick a random tot to take home. Do you neglect your children? Do you withhold knowledge or nutrition or comfort from them, so that they don’t have advantages over the poor kids on the other side of town?
      Helping one’s offspring to give them an advantage is a good thing, so long as you’re not dishonestly undermining others or stealing from them. Just spending your own money is your moral right and you’d be a bad parent not to do that.

      There is nothing about…collectivism…that causes abuse of power.

      History says otherwise. Governments murdered on the order of 200,000,000 people last century (Rummel, the researcher who coined the phrase “democide” estimates 260,000,000). The vast majority of those deaths occurred as a result of some sort of collectivist government. Way back in second were dictatorships.
      There’s just something about ganging up and rallying people behind a collectivist ideology that makes going to war, concentration camps, prison camps, etc. so much easier.
      In order to have abuse of power, you have to start with power. There’s no more powerful human institution than a government backed by a military. Even the most powerful private enterprise, absent the power of government, can only do so much with hired goons or even mercenaries. They don’t get “true believer” followers to rally behind them.
      So, when wealthy people abuse power, they have to harness the power provided by government. Governments are never more powerful than when they take control of production (either by nationalizing it or by controlling the owners, socialist vs. fascist) and control people to prevent opposition.
      Thus, collectivism naturally leads to the abuse of power.

      Marx’s ideology was utopian and libertarian…

      You’re cracked. You throw around the word “libertarian” as though it means nothing. That is obviously your purpose, to destroy the language of thinkers so that you can keep them from convincing others that your socialist rot is dangerous.

      Your description of the individual clearly overlooks a lot of psychology.

      No, it doesn’t. I simply don’t consider the arguments surrounding psychological issues to be valid excuses for depriving people of their rights. Of course humans are complex, cerebral animals. You don’t get to say, “ooh, that’s complicated” then wave your hands a bit and say, “therefore, we need to tax the rich to fix these things.” There’s no logical connection.

      There is a reason why Ayn Rand isn’t considered [by socialists to be] a major philosopher and…isn’t taught in political philosophy [by mostly socialist professors]…that perspective is so easily…proved fallacious [according to the boasts of socialists] and wrong that [socialist professors and pundits decree, despite copious evidence, that] it’s not taken seriously.

      There, I fixed your statement. I’m not the one who brought up that woman. You did. I’m not interested in going off on a tangent. I doubt either one of us is sufficiently well versed in her writing to make such a discussion interesting.

      You’ve fallen victim to a very simplistic…good vs. evil…ideology and you apparently have put your faith in it.

      You’ve packed many lies into that statement:

      fallen victim“: My political and philosophical viewpoints evolved over decades. It was, at times, difficult to abandon the ideas that were inculcated into me from the time I was in Kindergarten saying the Pledge of Allegiance (an insidiously nasty bit of brainwashing that is), to distance myself from the vast majority of people, including people I love and respect. I climbed up to the individualist position after years of reading and thought.
      very simplistic“: The elegance of true statements is not an indictment of their correctness. But I don’t dismiss complexities. I consider all sorts of things and it’s your BIG LIE that I disregard them. The thing is, one can easily cut short a discussion with a collectivist like you right at the outset by pointing out the ethical flaws at the foundation of your argument. If your premise is unethical, there’s no need to go further.
      good vs. evil“: Having had other, less enlightened, viewpoints, I understand how good people can earnestly believe in a political party or philosophy without having evil intent. In a peaceful country where people are relatively free, I suspect that most of the people who involve themselves in politics (either by action or discussion) are well intentioned. Most of them are fooled by party propaganda into getting worked up to rescue the “good guys” from the “bad guys” on the other “side”. And, as rotten as I consider many of the politicians in this country, I realize that they’re nothing compared to the despots in other countries. There are degrees of evil, different levels of the abuse of power.
      faith“: WTF is with you and “faith”? That’s a constant mantra of yours and you seem to think that repeating it a thousand times makes it true. I look at events, news, books, articles, etc. and decide, based upon evidence and logic, what makes the most sense. I don’t consider faith to be a virtue, but a vice (which goes hand in hand with my being an atheist). So, I don’t get why you think you can repeat this BIG LIE, too. It makes no sense.

      Your “ideal” is impossible because it is based on something unreal.

      What “ideal”?  Do you see me going around promising Galt’s Gulch?  Nope.  The reason it isn’t going to happen isn’t that it’s impossible, but simply because there are too many predators and too many people who give in to fear.  I know there won’t be any utopia.  So quit lying about that.
      My ethical objections to the status quo are based upon the very real fact that governments violate the rights of individuals.  It’s not “unreal” to look at the cost of Iraq and Afghanistan, the cost of drug prohibition, the unjustness of redistribution of wealth, etc. and see how people who are not harming anyone else are being harmed.

      You’re victim of delusion.

      Says the man arguing that Marxism is a form of libertarianism.

  • “Elliot, the poor do not generally “move up,” their opportunities are constrained, and the wealthy usually stay wealthy.  Yes, some do move, but it is a mix of luck and often performance beyond the norm (beyond what a person born to wealth need do to succeed).”

    Wrong. There’s constant shifting between the income quintiles. See: Thomas Sowell’s Basic Economics.

    Of course, when entire families are deadened by inter-generational dependence on welfare, cultivated by the state, they lose access to the tools of self-reliance and initiative. But otherwise people of modest means to start with can do quite well by the time they retire, and there are only tens of millions of living examples, so you have to work not to see it.

    “There is nothing about “collectivism” that causes abuse of power.”

    That’s just the comment of an idiot, which is all the more ironic coming from the son-in-law of an old Soviet Communist Party member who ran a collective farm.

    “Yesterday was a snow day and I had some fun,”

    O.K., so you’ve defined a near psychotic break as “fun.” Very impressive achievement of postmodern, ah, something.

    I feel obliged to say this: seek help.

    • Plus, Scott, try to do something about the greasy gobs of Marxism oozing from your pores. I know that there’s a raging epidemic of it in academentia, but you’ve had years of outside exposure to people who have experienced, you know, those other ideas, having to do with how the world actually works when it is working. You know, the wildly successful record of entrepreneurial capitalism vs. the grey rotten failure of socialism — that sort of thing. Freedom and self-reliance vs. Bosom State dependency. Put that lifetime tenure at your Marxist academy to good use: try breaking out of your fugue state. I know you’ve been in it since your S.D. days, but better late than never.

  • I propose the PhD axiom:  When one deals with 19 year olds all day, one begins to think and reason like them.

    • Heh, he’d be further down the road if he could manage to treat others here like they WERE 19 instead of 15.

    • It could be something as “simple” as he was taken away from his family in a van at age seven and returned like that at age 14. Various key words set off the “tapes” the way pulling the little ring at the back of Chatty Cathy’s neck made her speak. It’s something from a side-show tent at a carnival: See the Bearded Lady Read the Same Daily Horoscope Over and Over.

      On the other hand, I can’t imagine what a gagging horro it must be to be required to sit in one of his classes and listen to this babbling nonsense. No matter how young and immature a student is, it has to be dreadful.