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French Socialist defeat: The aftermath
Posted by: McQ on Monday, May 07, 2007

I was reading about the finger pointing going on among French socialists in the aftermath of their presidential defeat and saw this quote:
”The left is not credible on so many issues, from the 35-hour working week to immigration and law and order,” says Dominique Reynié, professor at Sciences Po university.

“It is the fault of the left collectively. Ever since their [parliamentary election] defeat in 1983 they have never questioned their fundamental ideology, only thinking they needed to change tactics,” he says.
I can't imagine a more apt quote for the left in general, and that obviously includes the left in this country. This is and remains a blind-spot for the left. In each and every election they lose, they never question their message. Instead, the means of delivery, or the person or, as mentioned above, the tactics are questioned. Even "voting fraud" becomes the excuse du jour instead of examining the fundamental principles of their ideology. As with most forms of denial, it's never the message, it's the means of delivery. Most of us opposed to their ideology obviously hope the denial continues.

UPDATE: Sorry, didn't mean to step on Billy Hollis' piece, but it is amusing that we both noticed the very same quote and felt compelled to blog about it.
 
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"Most of us opposed to their ideology obviously hope the denial continues."

And watching the continuing violence and finger pointing of the french Left, their denial will continue. I have many friends who I would call Liberals who are rethinking their position today and that is a direct reflection of this very point. It is the true basis of what so many refer to as NeoCons.
 
Written By: SShiell
URL: http://
All of which would be true were it not for the shining example of the British Labour Party which has indeed re-thought its ideology, message, values and delivery and has won power as a result and kept the conservatives out of power for a decade.

So you see, the left HAS questioned its own ideology, and succeeded.
 
Written By: Blewyn
URL: http://blewog.blogspot.com
I would extend the claim to the right — when ideology drives policy, you end up getting locked into a small world where it’s hard to question core assumptions and beliefs, even when reality sends a different message.

It is time to move beyond ideology in politics. Ideology is, at base, a secular form of religion, it is a product of modern secularization, whereby spiritual meanings for life have been rejected, but people’s need for something to believe in are not. Not everyone goes to that extreme, but if you talk to a hard core Marxist or devotee of Ayn Rand, you often realize you are in the presence of a "true believer." (I blogged about this kind of thing on May 4, when I argued that what is needed another axial age).
All of which would be true were it not for the shining example of the British Labour Party which has indeed re-thought its ideology, message, values and delivery and has won power as a result and kept the conservatives out of power for a decade.
Exactly — and New Labor was driven by pragmatism. You maintain core values and goals, but recognize that these are not derived from ideology (e.g., not the result of processes of history a la Marx, or enlightenment era attempts to discover ’first principles’), but reflect either existing or proposed cultural/social norms. Then the means of achieving them rests on what works in the world, not what is ideologically pure. I think Sarkozy and Merkel reflect this perspective as well, as did Schroeder before Merkel. This makes me optimistic that the EU, and France, are on the right track — "left" and "right" be damned.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Let’s hope so. Personally, I feel better being led by a well-meaning realist (ie a socialist who recognises that economies have to be run pragmatically) than an ideological conservative. For this reason I favoured Royal. What leads you to believe Sarkozy’s not an ideologue ?
 
Written By: Blewyn
URL: http://blewog.blogspot.com
Let’s hope so. Personally, I feel better being led by a well-meaning realist (ie a socialist who recognises that economies have to be run pragmatically) than an ideological conservative. For this reason I favoured Royal. What leads you to believe Sarkozy’s not an ideologue ?
I would have preferred Royal as well. Sarkozy’s reaction to the 2005 riots made things worse rather than better; I’m not sure he can avoid the temptation to play the nationalist card. So you have a point, perhaps I’m being too optimistic that Sarkozy will be pragmatic. I do think, though, he’ll have to be to get anything done — he knows that in September 2008 there are National Assembly elections, and if the Socialists win there, he’ll essentially hand over most power on domestic issues to a Socialist Prime Minister.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Sarkozy’s reaction to the 2005 riots made things worse rather than better
2005 riots? Have they even stopped? It’s more like they went from a boil to a simmer.

Look, with the riots and the whole situation, I think it may be one of those instances where it’s going to get worse before it gets better. This sort of continuing lawlessness, property damage and disrespect cannot continue. Heck, they’re rioting again today.
 
Written By: ChrisB
URL: http://
Scott, So the ideal politician is one who only does what the latest poll says. Why have elections, why bother with leadership. Your schtick with all the supporting conjecture is awful tiring.
 
Written By: coaster
URL: http://
Personally, I feel better being led by a well-meaning realist (ie a socialist who recognises that economies have to be run pragmatically) than an ideological conservative.
One of the primary beliefs of Mussolini was that the socialist practice of nationalizing industries is that it was inefficient. He felt it more "pragmatic" to leave the industries in the hands of the private companies and merely dictate their directives.
 
Written By: tom scott
URL: http://
I love the "pragmatitism" of Dr. Erb....New Labour is just another Nanny State purveyor, they just don’t believe in nationalizing the means of production, now doing away with the jury trila, the right on protection from self-incrimination, the right to self defense, CCTV’s everywhere, and apparently systems to monitor whether you are recycling effectively or not, to include micro-chips in the waste bins, all that’s spiffing with them.

"Realism" and Socialist don’t actually mix. I love the non-ideology espoused by Erb, it’s to the Left, but as long as one doesn’t proclaim it as such it’s not ideology or is it that it’s NOT ideology to you Dr. Erb, but the Truth!? And as such, not a matter of debate or ideology?
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
"It is time to move beyond ideology in politics. Ideology is, at base, a secular form of religion, it is a product of modern secularization,..."

Infreakingcredible.

A taste of actual definitions of idealogy;

"Definitions of IDEOLOGY on the Web:

the unifying system of beliefs, attitudes, and values expressed in the superstructure of a culture. The body of thought and ideas that guides a society and perpetuates the status quo of the bourgeoisie.
www2.cumberlandcollege.edu/acad/english/litcritweb/glossary.htm"

"The body of ideas reflecting the social needs and aspirations of an individual, group, class, or culture.
A set of doctrines or beliefs that form the basis of a political, economic, or other system"

A dead white male once said something like "first, define your terms". Try it, it isn’t that hard, but it is inconvenient.


"Exactly — and New Labor was driven by pragmatism."

Which, evidently, is not a set of beliefs, etc.

 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
Wikipedia actually has a fairly good entry on political ideology:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ideology#Political_ideologies

Don’t confuse ideology with political culture or any kind of belief. Ideologies are organized and usually (are meant to be) internally consistent. They are simplifications of reality designed to make it easier to make judgements on issues like policy and governance, as well as to explain complex and diverse social situations. As such they can be a useful tool, but too often people become wedded to a particular ideology so that they always interpret reality through that lens, and never question the lens itself. They know they have the right lens (again, the archtypes are Marxists and Randian "objectivists.")

The key to transcending adherence to a particular "ism" is to recognize that not might all ideological perspectives be wrong in much of what they claim, but it’s almost certain they all are wrong in some aspects: to simplify reality to the level of an ideology is always going to involve numerous sacrifices. You look to all ideas — whether from socialism, capitalism, or any ism — to see if they have some useful insights and perspectives. Moreover, I’m convinced that shared cultural values and norms are indeed important — and I would not label them an ideology, even though timactual seems to have found someone who defines ideology so broadly as any kind of belief seems to be labeled that. The political system and set of policies that works best for the US may not work best for France or another country. The type of society and culture that exists determines what kind of government or set of policies can gain legitimacy and function best.

So treat ideologies as tools, understand them, and understand the limits of ideological thought. It’s not that ideologies are bad, but woe to the person who lets their view on life, politics and reality get defined and limited by one.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
It’s not that ideologies are bad, but woe to the person who lets their view on life, politics and reality get defined and limited by one.

You mean like thinking that iraq is hopeless and that the US is really causing more harm than good? Or that because the US SHOULD lose in Iraq it IS losing in Iraq?

Just wondered where YOUR Truth and My ideology parted ways?
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
You mean like thinking that iraq is hopeless and that the US is really causing more harm than good?
That’s based on analysis — getting evidence, looking at history, analyzing various theories and models (including how different ideological perspectives might look at it) and making a judgement about how best to understand a situation. If you want to make the term ideology mean "any kind of belief on anything for any reason," then you’ve made it so broad you’ve defined the term out of existence.

For Iraq I think most of the imagination-driven understandings (some based on ideology, some just on a belief they had that war was necessary) are from those proponents of the war who have a hard time accepting just how right war critics have been on a myriad of issues. Reality defies any ideology. Ultimately the view that works best in and with reality trumps wishful thinking, and claims that "it(insert ’communism,’ or ’Iraq war,’ etc.) would have worked if only (insert blame on some group, sabotage, or incompetence) had not occurred."
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
All of which would be true were it not for the shining example of the British Labour Party which has indeed re-thought its ideology, message, values and delivery and has won power as a result and kept the conservatives out of power for a decade.

So you see, the left HAS questioned its own ideology, and succeeded.
If it rethinks to the point of leaving socialism behind and embacinin free market capitalism, it might be on to something. And the UK may once again become a great nation.
 
Written By: Don
URL: http://
So what about the myth that the US has lost standing in the world?


Perhaps our image in the world isn’t quite so damaged as the left would have us think.

We have in France a President who ran a very loud campaign, saying he wanted to be freinds with the US, and the people of France overwhemingly elected him, over the socialist running an anti-US campaign.

Taken somewhat further, we have a German Chancellor, Angela Merkel who has publicly taken a farm warmer stance toward the US than that of her predesessors and those running against her for the position… and yet her approval numbers are quite high, indeed.

Taken seperately, these situations would seem to fly in the face of the image being pushed by the left… and the press…( Yes, a repetition, that) that our image in the world has suffered geratly at the hands of President Bush. Taken together, they disprove that myth outright, and cast some serious question about the biases within our press, and on the credibility of the Democrats and the press both.

And I’ll bet Erb won’t see it this way.

I wonder; Is this another case of the left’s ideology driving it’s policy, and thereby getting them " locked into a small world where it’s hard to question core assumptions and beliefs, even when reality sends a different message"?

 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://
If it rethinks to the point of leaving socialism behind and embacinin free market capitalism, it might be on to something. And the UK may once again become a great nation.
False dichotomy (in fact, New Labour is based on the recognition of that as a false dichotomy). Markets are effective mechanisms, far more effective than government bureaucracy in most cases. Yet markets are not perfect and can be subverted by powerful actors. Moreover, there are some societal objectives that don’t seem be met by pure market mechanisms. So in those cases you can use government programs. Moreover, health care programs can be compared; some like the one in Switzerland works far better than the British system, and there are various hybrids throughout Europe.

Pure communism and pure capitalism are unobtainable ideal types. The reality is to figure out what methods work best to accomplish desired results. In certainly does mean more emphasis on markets in much of Europe — but how and in what way, that answer varies based on conditions and the country involved.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
The world is heading in the same direction through fits and starts: anglo-saxon capitalism.

Sure, we’ll have people like Chavez to provide more examples of what not to do (after the oil prices fall) but for every one of those we have a Lula, supposedly a socialist, who ends up being a capitalist who spends a bit more on welfare.

In Erb’s view, this is "pragmatism" but in actuality, it is ideology: capitalism is the way to organize your economy, and the debate is only on how much re-distribution of income you do via taxes.



 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
Of course, it is somewhat heartening to see Prof. Erb quasi-agree with this.
 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
Ever notice that the failed ideas of the left have generated an allergic reaction to ideology? It’s basically a confession of the impotence of their ideas. Speak for yourself, Scott.

This notion that if you put two or more ideas together and create an organized system of belief creates a harmful ideology, necessary implies that logic is harmful. A syllogism is two ideas combined to produce a third.

Joe reminds us of the first attempt at an integration of pragmatism and socialism: Mussolini. John J Ray explains how leftists today are in his mold.
 
Written By: Jason Pappas
URL: http://libertyandculture.blogspot.com/
"We must transcend idealogy" he says as he puts forth his beliefs and attitudes about idealogy.

 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
We must transcend idealogy" he says as he puts forth his beliefs and attitudes about idealogy
Because Ideology is BELIEF, if there is no ideology, but only Truth, you see it works for you. YOU have ideology, I have Truth or "Pragmatism"...nowadays, "pragmatism" is preferable, as it implies an Empirical Truth to it, "this works" or "This issn’t some nutty idea, but something that works." No one wants to be an ideologue, they just want "solutions." So if you can couch your ideology in terms of solutions, sans discussion of basic axioms and definitions, and "pragmatism" you have a leg up.

As someone said, Pragmatism simply means you don’t believe your ideas will hold up to scrutiny, so you’ve decided to ditch ideas.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
"We must transcend idealogy" he says as he puts forth his beliefs and attitudes about idealogy
You want to try to make an insult, but you can’t quite pull it off. You see, the only way for your comment to at all work is if ideology means having any belief or ideas. Clearly, that’s absurd, and you know it.

This notion that if you put two or more ideas together and create an organized system of belief creates a harmful ideology, necessary implies that logic is harmful. A syllogism is two ideas combined to produce a third.
No, you apparently missed a few points:
1. Ideologies are useful tools, I said. They give us examples of how the world can be interpreted with different starting assumptions. They are only harmful when someone treats an ideology as something akin to religious belief system, identifying himself with that ideology and using only it to interpret political reality.
2. Ideologies are always simplifications of reality, I said. It is an effort to take amazing complexity and have a parsimonious method to understand it. Since all ideologies are simplifications none truly capture all of reality, and bits and pieces of different ideologies may be better for some questions and issues.

Bottom line: we all have ideological perspectives and beliefs. We need beliefs to interpret reality. We can decide to identify with one "ism" and interpret reality only through it, seeking evidence that supports our belief, and finding ways to interpret other evidence as a way not to contradict it, or we can compare and contrast interpretations that come from different ideological perspectives, minds open.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
I rather think ideas are refined by what works.
 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://
Ideologies are always simplifications of reality, I said
So why are your Ideologies so often totally disconnected from reality?
Are you really THAT simple?

 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://
And speaking of ideology-driven folk, we get Bithead who inadvertendly demonstrates my point while thinking he’s being sarcastic:
We have in France a President who ran a very loud campaign, saying he wanted to be freinds with the US, and the people of France overwhemingly elected him, over the socialist running an anti-US campaign.

Taken somewhat further, we have a German Chancellor, Angela Merkel who has publicly taken a farm warmer stance toward the US than that of her predesessors and those running against her for the position… and yet her approval numbers are quite high, indeed.

Taken seperately, these situations would seem to fly in the face of the image being pushed by the left… and the press…( Yes, a repetition, that) that our image in the world has suffered geratly at the hands of President Bush. Taken together, they disprove that myth outright, and cast some serious question about the biases within our press, and on the credibility of the Democrats and the press both.
Let’s see the errors of logic here. First, he seems to assume that the most important thing to French and German people in evaluating their politicians is their relatively closeness to the US, and that this means our image in the world cannot have suffered.

Of course, to buy this one has to ignore all the polls, statements from Americans living overseas, coverage in European press, and general anti-US foreign policy sentiments that some of us have seen first hand who travel there. Nah, none of that can be right since clearly the only thing that German and French folk take into account when voting is perception of how the candidate stands towards the US!

Alas, Europeans vote primarily on domestic issues, and Merkel extremely effective handling of the grand coalition has earned her a lot of respect both right and left. Moreover, the Bush Administration has made a very important shift in diplomatic tone. Gone is the cowboyish "you’re with us or against us," or "old Europe vs. new Europe," and back are efforts to work with and coordinate with European governments. They still aren’t giving Bush much on Iraq, and I think the Administration knows they’re stuck there. But in response to the diplomatic shift by the Administration, the Europeans have done more in Afghanistan, and in general the relationship has improved. Secretary Rice has done a very good job patching up relationships, and the Bush Administration deserves credit for changing its approach to Europe.

But what if they could go back to 2003 and have a "redo?" Bush gave up a lot. Social Security reform, surpluses, the "ownership society," and all these grand visions, left unfulfilleed as Iraq gobbled up his presidency. Even the Republican majority was lost. Seriously, Bithead, was it worth it?
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
If it rethinks to the point of leaving socialism behind and embacinin free market capitalism, it might be on to something. And the UK may once again become a great nation.
The UK became the richest nation in the world because we had the most powerful navy in the world, and were able to dominate global trade - all the profits from all those overseas assets flowing back to the UK (and traded with the US). The long-term UK recession since WW2 has to do with real-world finance and trade - the fact that the US subsequently pursued an expansionist foreign policy, that UK dominions asserted their independence etc. It would have happened whether the UK was run along socialist/communist/fascist lines or according to the flip of a dice. The truth is the UK has been in long term decline for decades and is still shuffling its cards to try and maintain its wealth. The same is on the horizon for the US as China and India get richer and start charging more and more for those cheap imports.....

As for greatness, I shall point out that all the things for which the UK is truly respected throughout the world (the NHS, the education system, the armed forces, the Police, the Royal Mail, the Ambulance Service, the BBC) are products of the government. To suggest that in adopting socialist policies after the war the UK somehow lost its way in comparison to the pre-war economy of landed gentry and cast-iron class barriers is ludicrous. "Oh but that’s not what a market economy is about" I hear you cry, and you’re right, ideally. But in truth, a market economy always ends up in the hands of the few, and they always end up stitching everything up for themselves.
 
Written By: Blewyn
URL: http://blewog.blogspot.com
I don’t have much time, so;

The same old bs. "Your beliefs are a noxious idealogy, but mine are pragmatic universal truths".

When bureaucrats want to look good and give the appearance of progress, they reorganize. Academics redefine. It creates tons of new opportunities. It would not surprise me to find something titled "Towards a New Political Paradigm; Transcending Idealogy" in some scholarly journal(take it away, Joe).

Idealogies are analogous to computer operating systems. Someone may detest Microsoft and run Linux on their computer, but it is still an operating system.

The cliche that people are entitled to their own opinions but not their own facts. Facts also include definitions.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
Hmmm. If Mr. McQuain is to believed (and I for one believe that he is) , for one reason or another, he was not aware of Mr. Hollis’ post when he drafted this post. Yet he and Mr. Hollis linked the same article and sound remarkably alike. Mr. McQuain:
”…they have never questioned their fundamental ideology, only thinking they needed to change tactics…"
I can’t imagine a more apt quote for the left in general, and that obviously includes the left in this country. This is and remains a blind-spot for the left.”
Mr. Hollis:
"....they have never questioned their fundamental ideology..." And I suspect they never will..
So a smart liberal could compare these quotes and make a case that both posters are not independent thinkers who arrived at the same conclusions at the same time, but instead are goose-stepping to a narrative. Presumably, QandO readers would laugh at this posit. Yet many believe that the left follows the Narrative in a sheep-like manner and adopts its claims uncritically (even when inconsistent plain facts stare them in the face) . How would one differentiate between the two groups and be completely comfortable with the perceived independence of the one group versus the herd-like behavior of the other?

Well, one way would be to observe either group in a transition time. During those times the independent thinkers tend to mill around for a considerable time, speculating on this and that before their analysis leads them to conclusions that solidfy their thinking enough for them to take positions. Positions which differ in some cases from the positions of other similar thinkers.

Contrast that behavior to the sheep. When things are unsettled they go silent. They get busy with other things. They select small points here and there to quibble about, but take no major positions. They retreat to broad philosophical treatises and avoid any discussion of practical issues except to question their opponents without stating their own position. Finally, their gurus speak and immediately they adopt the talking points and verbiage of their gurus, having found out at last what they think.

So, the issue of the day is the funding bill for the war. Mr. McQain has deftly described the disaster that will occur for the Democrats if they continue with a portion of their base adamantly opposed to a bill without withdrawal dates and another portion willing to drop that requirement (and do anything, anything else at all) in order to avoid taking responsibility for the outcome of the war.

So what has the Narrative had to say about this issue up to now? Simply read the past comments of liberal commenters on QandO. Briefly: we must get out of Iraq and the sooner the better. It is possible to support the troops and still have withdrawal deadlines in the bill. It is very responsible for Congress to attempt to micro-manage the war, Democrats are acting responsibly to do so. Fair enough?

Now the Narrative must be amended to solve this problem. Continuing the straddle involving supporting the troops while hostaging the deadlines is no longer workable. A change must be made. When it is made we can watch the gurus communicate it to the sheep and then watch them fall into line. How likely is it that such a violent change would occur in all their positions in a short period of time?

CNNand the
NYT
have signaled the change. Let’s observe how long it takes the suddenly loquacious liberals to take up the new cry.

The new Narrative now apparently holds that the surge needs to be supported (quel change!)* until its success can be determined. If it is successful but changes are needed, liberals are free to suggest changes that were disapproved in the past. But the Democrats are certainly not responsible for the outcome of the war, no matter what. Well, unless it is successful, then the success is due to the changes “suggested” by the Democrats. In this context “suggested” has the widest definition short of being responsible for the outcome of the “suggestion”.

Don’t quite understand that? Don’t worry, it will be made clear in subsequent articles in the usual sources. Point is, get off the old Narrative and onto the new. The old Narrative is no longer operative and an immediate change is necessary. Just watch.

*The narrative that governs my thoughts was changed yesterday; French is now very chic and references to cheese-eating surrender monkeys are very outre now. (sarcasm/humor alert)
 
Written By: notherbob2/robert fulton
URL: http://
Heh - Sometimes it’s like reading corporate mission statements from the 90’s around here.

 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
The UK became the richest nation in the world because we had the most powerful navy in the world, and were able to dominate global trade - all the profits from all those overseas assets flowing back to the UK
You became rich because of capitalism—just like we did. You have been in decline ever since you have chosen socialism.
I shall point out that all the things for which the UK is truly respected throughout the world (the NHS, the education system, the armed forces, the Police, the Royal Mail, the Ambulance Service, the BBC) are products of the government.
Respect for the NHS or BBC!?

 
Written By: Don
URL: http://
Heh - Sometimes it’s like reading corporate mission statements from the 90’s around here.
THAT was uncalled for and a needlessly wounding low blow......
"Towards a New Political Paradigm; Transcending Idealogy" in some scholarly journal(take it away, Joe).
Have to work in Gaia and the Working Poor, but I’m on it.....
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Let’s see the errors of logic here. First, he seems to assume that the most important thing to French and German people in evaluating their politicians is their relatively closeness to the US, and that this means our image in the world cannot have suffered.
Just a short time back we were being told that anti-Americanism was driving elections in Europe. Funny how the validity of Europian elections as a guage of voter sentiment seems to wax and wane in unison with how leftist the election results are.
Seriously, Bithead, was it worth it?
Well, now, since you seem to be on about logical errors, was it gobbled up by Iraq alone, or by Democrats using Iraq as a drumhead, as well?

And ignoring your obvious logical mistepping, the answer to your question in any event would be yes, since when someone’s trying to destroy the building you’re standing in, the items you list become lesser priorities to mere survival.


And with that, I guess I’ve answered my own question as regards your simplicity.


 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://
Ideologies … are only harmful when someone treats an ideology as something akin to religious belief system, identifying himself with that ideology and using only it to interpret political reality. - Scott

Perhaps what you have in mind is not ideology but dogmatism. Dogmatism is holding fixed ideas despite the evidence of reality. Warranted systems of ideas based on reality and derived from reality are power because they grasp reality.

Ideologies are always simplifications of reality, I said. It is an effort to take amazing complexity and have a parsimonious method to understand it. Since all ideologies are simplifications none truly capture all of reality, and bits and pieces of different ideologies may be better for some questions and issues. - Scott

There a difference between simple and simplistic. Understanding part of reality doesn’t mean one assumes that rest doesn’t exist. That’s simplistic. Knowledge isn’t omniscience. Your ideas don’t have to be an exhaustive description of reality to be true.

Socialism fails because it ignores the fundamental facts about human nature. Relativism, subjectivism, “expedient constructs”, are all attempts to evade reality. Correctly established and well-confirmed principles give one the power to grasp reality — in order of importance. You start at the right point and the pieces fall in place. You hold onto stale dogma and you are overwhelmed by new experiences ... like socialists who continue to created laws to compensate for the unintended consequences of past laws.
 
Written By: Jason Pappas
URL: http://libertyandculture.blogspot.com/
Just a short time back we were being told that anti-Americanism was driving elections in Europe.
Who told you that?

As to Iraq, you seem to suggest that somehow Iraq provided an existential threat to the US — so much so that the fight against al qaeda was put on the back burner so we could attack Iraq. That seems rather far fetched.

Jason, most of your post I can agree with, but this is a bit troubling:
. Correctly established and well-confirmed principles give one the power to grasp reality — in order of importance. You start at the right point and the pieces fall in place.
Correctly established and well-confirmed principles? The power to "grasp reality?"
That whole statement is vague and reminds me a bit of a Christian I knew who said that the Bible "correctly divided" had no contradictions and would provide a clear explanation of reality. (I think he said ’correctly divided because I’d been citing obviously contradictory passages at him). I could respect his faith, but he had simply found a way to interpret reality that seemed to work perfectly. So I am not sure what you mean by that.

I think all we have are complimentary and contradictory interpretations of reality, and each of us has our own metric of what is working or not working. That’s not necessarily bad (it may be all that’s possible), but I think it’s rational to recognize that if that is all that’s possible, it’s better to survey the scene and compare perspectives and not get locked into any one, rather than think there is a correct interpretation that can be found if only we find the correct way to establish and confirm. I find that the better I understand a variety of perspectives on an issue, the easier it is for me to creatively develop my own interpretation/understanding, rather than following an existing script or interpretation.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Heh - Sometimes it’s like reading corporate mission statements from the 90’s around here.

THAT was uncalled for and a needlessly wounding low blow...
Okay, what I should have said was -
It is a tale told by an idiot.. full of sound and fury.. signifying nothing.

 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
I was talking about getting to the essence of the matter. Concepts involve thinking in terms of essentials. It isn’t solely thinking about the essentials but it is an ordered approach that starts with that which gets to the essence, the central aspect of what one is investigating. Your approach is a modern “my narrative is as good as your narrative” approach which is just subjectivism in fancy new packaging.

Once can establish core principles even if further extensions, amendments, and details await future exploration and reflection. When I hear “creatively develop my own interpretation” I recoil in horror. We all have to rely on our own minds, it’s all we have; but that doesn’t mean our knowledge is mere “interpretation” or “narrative” or “processed knowledge.” There’s significant skepticism at the core of your approach.

You really are an academic. No normal person I know would understand what you are talking about.
 
Written By: Jason Pappas
URL: http://libertyandculture.blogspot.com/
We all have to rely on our own minds, it’s all we have; but that doesn’t mean our knowledge is mere “interpretation” or “narrative” or “processed knowledge.”
You OBVIOUSLY have not been hanging out in the Grove of Academe too much recently. That IS what is truth these days, narrative...everything is interperetation, and politics.
There’s significant skepticism at the core of your approach.
No there’s a CERTAINTY, that "ideology" is what YOU have, but what Dr Erb has is a Truth, just don’t try to pin him down on how he got there....
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
No there’s a CERTAINTY, that "ideology" is what YOU have, but what Dr Erb has is a Truth,
That’s not a claim I would ever make.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
I hear ya, Joe.

Usually “truth” is a word that’s out of fashion in academia. It’s not that they don’t think they have “it” but “it” dissolves as soon as it’s named … correction, it deconstructs as soon as it’s signified and embedded in a textual narrative. Truth is said to be “a tool of the oppressor.” The “t” word is forbidden. In any case, it’s something to attack.

This is usually followed by saying that there is no morality and the only sin is racism. The latter is denying group rights for an officially designated oppressed class to create their subjective narrative. Or something like that.
 
Written By: Jason Pappas
URL: http://libertyandculture.blogspot.com/
I was talking about getting to the essence of the matter. Concepts involve thinking in terms of essentials. It isn’t solely thinking about the essentials but it is an ordered approach that starts with that which gets to the essence, the central aspect of what one is investigating. Your approach is a modern “my narrative is as good as your narrative” approach which is just subjectivism in fancy new packaging.
That sounds vague. What are "essentials," and how do you know you have them? The essence? String theory deals with that, perhaps, but I don’t know how it helps us.

I don’t think every "narrative" is equal; somethings work better than others. A pragmatic approach recognizes that relativists raise some real good points — pure reason alone ultimately leads to post-modernism and nihilism. But we can choose not to go down that path, and we can decide how to make distinctions: look for what works in the world.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Scott, you’re more of a James or Dewey guy?
 
Written By: Jason Pappas
URL: http://libertyandculture.blogspot.com/
I came to my views mostly through philosophy of science (Larry Laudin’s *Relativism and Science* which is a dialogue between a relativist, realist, positivist and pragmatist). Working through that and work in sociology on constructivism has led me to my views more than reading straight philosophy. That said, I really don’t like Dewey that much, but in general I find James very interesting. I haven’t read Rorty’s neo-pragmatist approach, but what I’ve heard about it sounds interesting.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Of course, the socialists are taking it so gracefully now. Why don’t we hear of riots when the right wing loses?
 
Written By: steverino
URL: http://steverino.journalspace.com/
In general I view Pragmatism as a desperate attempt to avoid the skepticism in post-Kantian philosophy. I’m not familiar with recent revivals of the philosophy. Nevertheless, I find the mysterious “what works” no substitute for a sound epistemology. After all, everything works! The only question is: what does it do? To answer that you need to establish knowledge.
 
Written By: Jason Pappas
URL: http://libertyandculture.blogspot.com/
Of course, the socialists are taking it so gracefully now. Why don’t we hear of riots when the right wing loses?
Um, same reason we don’t talk about stolen elections when Dems win?

Er...because right wingers are too busy working to riot?
 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
Um, same reason we don’t talk about stolen elections when Dems win?

Er...because right wingers are too busy working to riot?
I’m thinking it’s because right wingers understand that it is possible to lose in a fair game. Something that the left hasn’t yet learned.
 
Written By: steverino
URL: http://steverino.journalspace.com/
Just a short time back we were being told that anti-Americanism was driving elections in Europe.
Who told you that?
Um....you did.
 
Written By: shark
URL: http://
In general I view Pragmatism as a desperate attempt to avoid the skepticism in post-Kantian philosophy. I’m not familiar with recent revivals of the philosophy. Nevertheless, I find the mysterious “what works” no substitute for a sound epistemology. After all, everything works! The only question is: what does it do? To answer that you need to establish knowledge.
I don’t know about ’desparate,’ to me it’s just an acknowledgement that there is no answer key or clearly discernible "right" interpretation of how reality operates and should operate. But we have the freedom to make choices. In that way life is like a work of art, we are responsible, we make choices. I see this as a kind of liberating perspective; we don’t need to try for the "right," answer, but are free to choose, with reality the arbiter of the wisdom of our choices.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Oh, and as to essentials. I approach it by trying to learn about science. Right now physicists believe that there is likely no such thing as time. Indeed, a photon experiences no time in the sense we do, as it is all velocity (it experiences neither distance nor time, it could be said to be everywhere, all the time!) Quantum mechanics shows a probabilistic universe where non-localitiy and other strange aspects of reality defy old traditional Newtonian views.

This leads me to find philosophers like the neo-Platonist Plotinus (whose work dramatically influenced Augustine, and who incorporated ideas from Hinduism and Zoroasterianism in his form of pure spirituality) and idealist epistemology like that of Bishop Berkeley intriguing. If the essential universe is simultaneous, probabilistic, as quantum mechanics and modern physics suggest, then that also means a philosophy of essentials can’t be Newtonian (cause and effect, materialist, objective).
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
As to Iraq, you seem to suggest that somehow Iraq provided an existential threat to the US — so much so that the fight against al qaeda was put on the back burner so we could attack Iraq. That seems rather far fetched.
And so it should. However, that wasn’t the claim, and you know it. THey were always each a part of the SAME threat. Once again, Scott shows his ability to get himself .."locked into a small world where it’s hard to question core assumptions and beliefs, even when reality sends a different message".
That’s not a claim I would ever make.
and yet, let someone argue against that particular point of view...

Oh, never mind, Scott... You’d never admit you were wrong anyway. Never have, never will.

 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitsblog.florack.us
As to Iraq, you seem to suggest that somehow Iraq provided an existential threat to the US — so much so that the fight against al qaeda was put on the back burner so we could attack Iraq. That seems rather far fetched.

And so it should. However, that wasn’t the claim, and you know it. THey were always each a part of the SAME threat. Once again, Scott shows his ability to get himself .."locked into a small world where it’s hard to question core assumptions and beliefs, even when reality sends a different message".
No, they were not part of the same threat. Al Qaeda was an enemy of Saddam’s, and Saddam was ruthless in cracking down on Islamic extremists. You are proving my point: lack of knowledge about the threat, and about Iraq specifically, made it easy for many of you to simply support a war that most experts warned in advance would turn out to be the disaster it has become. It’s not that the US couldn’t defeat Iraq — we did, and no one I know doubted we would — but the big government social engineering experiment that came next was mission impossible. Some people still can’t bring themselves to admit it, even as the whole project goes crashing down, Bush is at 28% support (that below Carter and Nixon!), and even Republicans are talking about ditching support for the "surge." I suspect the term "surge" will be a subject of ridicule in the future, sort of like Cheney’s last throes.

All that said, I do agree that we can’t just get out and ignore Iraq. But to have a real discussion about what’s necessary requires leaving the world of simplistic left vs. right and insults. You actually have to start thinking and engaging those with other ideas. Are you up to it?

You’d never admit you were wrong anyway. Never have, never will.
I’ve admitted being wrong many times, including here in threads where I claimed that the Vietnam always had majority support. Someone showed evidence that it did not after 1968, so I admitted I was wrong. I’ve also noted that I’ve changed my mind in response to arguments, such as on the issue of national health insurance. In fact, there have been numerous times in numerous threads I’ve admitted errors. When have you admitted you were wrong? You seem too caught up in the old left vs. right game that you don’t seem able to get out of that rhetorical dead end. That no longer works. The times, they are a changing!
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
As a pragmatist:
Jason -
Nevertheless, I find the mysterious “what works” no substitute for a sound epistemology. After all, everything works!
The pragmatic response is to measure how well everything works using a known measure and choosing what works the best. The unit of measure being the essential good for a pragmatic system.

Scott -
If the essential universe is simultaneous, probabilistic, as quantum mechanics and modern physics suggest, then that also means a philosophy of essentials can’t be Newtonian (cause and effect, materialist, objective).

Cute, when we get to act in a relativistic manner (stand in two places at once, outside of time at lightspeed) this shall become relevent to pragmatic action. Until then I’ll get by judging material gain objectively.
 
Written By: unaha-closp
URL: http://warisforwinning.blogspot.com/
After all, everything works!
I can’t resist. Could you please try taking a long walk off a short pier?

Kant said a true thing. He did not say an overiding true thing, he spake neither alpha nor omega.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp

 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
I’ve admitted being wrong many times, including here in threads where I claimed that the Vietnam always had majority support.
Riiiiiigfgggghhhhhttttt.

I’ve also noted that I’ve changed my mind in response to arguments, such as on the issue of national health insurance
This one is also, apparently, defective.

You seem too caught up in the old left vs. right game
Well here is another case, where Scott won’t be able to get his arms around what I’m going to tell him; this is not a situation of right and left, but right and WRONG. And yes, Scott, there are absolutes within that construct. Which is precisely why you won’t be able to understand.





 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitsblog.florack.us
No, they were not part of the same threat. Al Qaeda was an enemy of Saddam’s,
So why were they making nice with each other? Or had you forgotten the documented meetings between them?

Or, perhaps you thought WE had?

When you can think outside Liberal talking points, let me know. For that matter, when you can think at all. You show an alarming inability on that score.

 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitsblog.florack.us
Well here is another case, where Scott won’t be able to get his arms around what I’m going to tell him; this is not a situation of right and left, but right and WRONG. And yes, Scott, there are absolutes within that construct. Which is precisely why you won’t be able to understand.
What you "tell me" is nothing more than an abstract assertion, utterly devoid of any substance or meaning. You are so afraid of actually saying something you have to defend that you dance around while saying nothing. Grow a couple, kiddo! Make a real argument. It’s easy to throw out assertions, mix in some insults with innuendo, and not engage. Anyone can do that, perhaps you get a self-esteem boost from it. But it takes more to actually engage someone and let down the bravado.

Are you up to it?

Your claim that Iraq and Al Qaeda were working together isn’t even supported by the White House any more. They weren’t. Osama Bin Laden hated Saddam and the secular Baathism Saddam stood for. Saddam cruelly went after Islamic extremists. You try to deny all that because of allegations of one meeting that itself is contested? Sorry, that dog don’t hunt.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Is Scott Erb really MK Ultra without the fancy nickname?
 
Written By: meagain
URL: http://
For Joe and timactual:

"Towards a New Political Paradigm; Transcending Idealogy for the Benifit of the WOrking Poor and Our Earth Mother"

*takes a bow*
Heh - Sometimes it’s like reading corporate mission statements from the 90’s around here.
Or Mission Statements or Statements of Corporate Values from last year... I swear I think the company I work for has a core competency of "Making retarded decisions and wasting money like it’s on fire".

I sit on my ass for 8 hours and I’ve cost the company less money than a single decision made by our senior VP.

And decision.

Seriously, I think "Severe Blow to the Head" is a requirement for advanced promotion around my office... I’m not saying they are stupid, but after the same guy makes the EXACT same mistake and costs us (in total) probably a million bucks, you’d think you’d fire the guy...

He got promoted last month.

Because he’s a 6-sigma blackbelt... *sigh*
 
Written By: Scott
URL: http://
I tried to tell you.
 
Written By: notherbob2/robert fulton
URL: http://
You became rich because of capitalism—just like we did. You have been in decline ever since you have chosen socialism.
And the loss of empire and the development of other navies etc had nothing to do with it ? The loss of our dominance over the tea trade etc ? Your comment above illustrates precisely what Scott Erb posted about secular dogma becoming a religion, and is a clear example of the dogmatist’s confusion of wood for trees. Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Finland, Switzerland etc etc all socialist (by your standards) and all successful - most I would guess are above the US in the ’quality of life’ chart.
Respect for the NHS or BBC!?
Yeah man. Travel around the world and these two are the first things you will hear people mention about the UK - respect for the BBC and awesome envy for the fact that we have universal healthcare for all. Ask anyone in the US (how many millions ?) that has no healthcare at all whether THEY would like an NHS ?

Seriously, name any other TV organisation that produces anything like the the breadth and volume of output at such a consistently high standard as the BBC - you will find there isn’t one. And.....NO COMMERCIALS..:-)
 
Written By: Blewyn
URL: http://blewog.blogspot.com
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/6634285.stm

Yet again private enterprise fails to get its act together......see, when stuff needs to get done, the public sector has to take control. The debate about public vs private does not hinge on which is the more inherently capable (public) but on which is the more effective, and that’s a matter of management style and culture, not structure. It takes leadership (not to be confused with being a customer) to get things done, no matter who or what owns what. This is partly why the armed forces remain public. Can you imagine the mess if the army was privatised ? What’s the market salary for close combat with suicidal fundamentalists these days ?
 
Written By: Blewyn
URL: http://blewog.blogspot.com
Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Finland, Switzerland etc etc all socialist (by your standards) and all successful - most I would guess are above the US in the ’quality of life’ chart.
From the April 22nd issue of The Economist:

US Trade balance -825.2 billion
US Current Accounts: -856.7 (-6.1% of GDP)
US 10 year bond: 4.65%
US GDP: +3.1% Q4 predicted 2007 +2.7%
US unemployment: 4.4%, inflation: 2.8%

Sweden Trade balance: +20.3 billion
Sweden Current Accounts: +28.4 (+6.6% of GDP)
Sweden ten year bond: 4.03%
Sweden GDP: +4.7 Q4, predicted 2007 +3.8
Sweden unemployment: 4.8%, inflation 1.9%

Denmark trade balance: +6.3 billion
Denmark current accounts: +5.8 billion (+2.7% of GDP)
Denmark 10 year bond: 4.17%
Denmark GDP: +2.9% Q$, predicted 2007 +2.3
Denmark unemployment: 3.9%, inflation 2.0%

Even if you take the entire EURO area, which includes states like Italy, France and Germany which have an unemployment problem, the trade balance is only -6.2 billion (compared to the US -825.2 billion), and their current accounts deficit is 0.1%, essentially even. Euro area growth Q4 was 3.3% of GDP, predicted growth for 2007 is 2.3% of GDP (though recent good news on the German economy may bring that higher).

If you’re looking at real health, the stats on the US trade and current accounts deficit are alarming. These are signs not only of a structural problem, but point to a potential crisis — you usually can’t sustain current accounts deficits above 5% of GDP. Moreover, the dollar has already lost near half its value since 2000, with debt and deficits rising (debt now at about 70% of GDP — doubling in a short period of time).

China has a current accounts surplus of 160 billion, which is 7.6% of GDP. This is rivaled only by Germany, with a surplus of 153 billion, or 4.7% of GDP. (Norway’s stats are even more impressive, but they benefit from North Sea oil).

Compare all of this and it’s clear that the economic data do not point to the US as a superior system, especially when you take into account wealth distribution and quality of life indicators. In the realm of ideology and theory people know they have it right because that’s their belief. But the data doesn’t back them up; reality doesn’t conform to the theory.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Is Scott Erb really MK Ultra without the fancy nickname?
Doubtful.
For one thing, MK is smarter.

 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://
What you "tell me" is nothing more than an abstract assertion, utterly devoid of any substance or meaning
So, I take it that you’re in denial?
Or is that relative, too?
But it takes more to actually engage someone and let down the bravado.
So why not try it, once, Scott?
Given you’re still stuck with the DNC talking points, and little more, I doubt you’re going to be able to deal with anything more substantial.... as you show, continually.






 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://
Given you’re still stuck with the DNC talking points,
LOL! Besides saying nothing in your posts (note that I provide things like economic data, or links to sites with various perspectives on poverty, etc.), you say obviously false things, given how critical I’ve been of the Democrats (and of course I opposed Clinton’s Kosovo war with the same level of vehemance that I oppose this action in Iraq). No, Bithead, you want to avoid engaging and thinking, you want to fall back on talk radio simplicities and insults. That doesn’t work any more. The times, they are a-changing. We need to have creative thinking that rises above the current ’conservative-liberal’ dichotomy and that can only come from engaging in disagreements and taking seriously the other perspecitve.

Still, if you want to insult, please try to add some content! I’ve learned a lot and changed many of my views based on things posted by people who like to flame and insult. But your insults don’t have any content, they are just vague assertions and attacks. If you’re going to make noise, provide a little light as well.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
It is time to move beyond ideology in politics.
Moreover, there are some societal objectives that don’t seem be met by pure market mechanisms. So in those cases you can use government programs.
I find that the better I understand a variety of perspectives on an issue, the easier it is for me to creatively develop my own interpretation/understanding…
That sounds vague. What are "essentials," and how do you know you have them?
A pragmatic approach recognizes that relativists raise some real good points — pure reason alone ultimately leads to post-modernism and nihilism.
…there is no answer key or clearly discernible "right" interpretation of how reality operates and should operate.
…we don’t need to try for the "right," answer, but are free to choose…
Right now physicists believe that there is likely no such thing as time.
If the essential universe is simultaneous, probabilistic, as quantum mechanics and modern physics suggest, then that also means a philosophy of essentials can’t be Newtonian (cause and effect, materialist, objective).
The times, they are a changing!
What you "tell me" is nothing more than an abstract assertion, utterly devoid of any substance or meaning.
…it’s clear that the economic data do not point to the US as a superior system, especially when you take into account wealth distribution and quality of life indicators.
This could all be pure gold if anyone wants to create a Virtual Auto-Erbonic Blatherator.
 
Written By: Linda Morgan
URL: http://
I don’t worry much about balance of trade figures. To me, they’re a sign that we are a very wealthy country, producing much more wealth than anyone else.

See, I run a trade deficit with my local grocery store. I give them upwards of $7500 a year, and they don’t give me any money, so I run a relatively huge negative trade balance with them. On the other hand, I get $7500 worth of groceries, so I consider it a wash.

That’s the way trade balances should be looked at: we send out money, but we get real goods in exchange. And in the process, we make other nations wealthier simply by enriching ourselves.

But the deficit is so high! Who cares? It’s not like we’re employed somewhere and spending more money than we make. Nope, we are producing the weath here and trading it oversees. To put it on a more personal scale, it would be as if I were mining gold in my backyard and using it to buy the things I want/need. What I could buy would be limited only by my own efforts.

So, let’s not point to the balance of trade deficit as a sign of weakness in the economy.
 
Written By: steverino
URL: http://steverino.journalspace.com/
This is partly why the armed forces remain public. Can you imagine the mess if the army was privatised ? What’s the market salary for close combat with suicidal fundamentalists these days ?
Aegis Defence Systems are at 39 Victoria Street, London. SW1H OEU United Kingdom - go ask them yourself.
 
Written By: unaha-closp
URL: http://
I don’t worry much about balance of trade figures. To me, they’re a sign that we are a very wealthy country, producing much more wealth than anyone else.
No, you misunderstand a fundamental economic point: a trade deficit is not simply Americans being so rich that we can more on the world market. Your grocery store analogy doesn’t hold because you don’t have a deficit with the store. You have an exchange — you pay and you get something in exchange. Each individual trade on the world market is similar, that’s not where the deficit is. Theoretically every country’s trade deficit should be zero since the only way you can afford to buy what is not produced in your own country is to trade — you get the money to buy foreign goods by selling goods to foreigners.

That’s why I put the current accounts deficit in there. We are not producing more wealth, we are borrowing it, or in some cases selling American assets to get it. Our trade deficit is financed by foreign money coming in to the US buying bonds, stocks, and other assets. Now, that’s not necessarily bad, but it makes us vulnerable — especially when China and Saudi Arabia are two of the biggest participants in this practice. If bonds, stocks and currency are purchased, that’s a real danger sign to the US — these can be dumped at any time, with potentially devastating results. If foreign companies are simply investing in the US (which does happen a lot) that may upset economic nationalists, but ultimately that isn’t bad — Toyota is bringing a lot of jobs to the US. But when you get above 5% like the US is (with a current accounts deficit), that’s an imbalance that usually gets corrected by currency devaluation (which has been happening to the US dollar, which has become very weak). There may not be reason to panic, but this is a troubling statistic.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Stevorino: here is some comments by Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernacke about the current accounts deficit.

This speech was made in 2005 before he became Chair.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
No, you misunderstand a fundamental economic point: a trade deficit is not simply Americans being so rich that we can more on the world market. Your grocery store analogy doesn’t hold because you don’t have a deficit with the store. You have an exchange — you pay and you get something in exchange. Each individual trade on the world market is similar, that’s not where the deficit is.
No, YOU misunderstand. The grocery store analogy does hold, because when we buy things from overseas, we exchange money for goods of equal value. The balance of trade deficit is the difference between what we export and what we import. But this country must produce the wealth in order to import. It’s that simple.

I am aware that some economists disagree with me. I’m also aware that many agree with my view on this. To wit:
Since the falling from favor of mercantilism, most economists do not believe that trade deficits are inherently good or bad, but must be judged based on the circumstances in which they arose. Some claim that trade deficits are beneficial, noting the correlation between increasing trade deficits and increasing GDP and employment. An expanding economy means increased demand for domestic and foreign products. This rising demand promotes domestic investment as both foreign and domestic businesses seek to capitalize on the growth in demand. The greater net inflows from abroad, the greater the trade deficit. Thus, GDP growth is often correlated with a trade deficit.
And:
Milton Friedman, the Nobel Prize-winning economist and father of Monetarism, argued that many of the fears of trade deficits are unfair criticisms in an attempt to push macroeconomic policies favorable to exporting industries. He stated that these deficits are not harmful to the country as the currency always comes back to the country of origin in some form or another (country A sells to country B, country B sells to country C who buys from country A, but the trade deficit only includes A and B). In fact, in his view, the "worst case scenario" of the currency never returning to the country of origin was actually the best possible outcome: the country actually purchased its goods by exchanging for pieces of cheaply-made paper. As Friedman put it, this would be the same result as if the exporting country burned the dollars it earned, never returning it to market circulation.
In short, I don’t think trade deficits are nearly so alarming as you are making them out to be. Yet another red herring from you...what a surprise!
 
Written By: steverino
URL: http://steverino.journalspace.com/
Well, let’s consider who realy gets hurt in an off-balance of trade situation... THe Unionized work force.

Does Erb’s position make a tad more sense, now?

(Chuckle)
(and of course I opposed Clinton’s Kosovo war with the same level of vehemance that I oppose this action in Iraq).
Kosovo is one of the very few things Clinton did RIGHT. Big shock, you not supporting that action, huh? You’re consistant, Erbie, I’ll give you that. Consistantly wrong.

And by the Way, Erbie; What you label as ’sarcasm’, earlier, was not sarcasm, at all. You’re locked into your own little world, just as you described. Talk about projection.(Snicker)



 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://
Oh, by the way...Germany’s balance of trade surplus hasn’t helped its economy much. Its unemployment rate has been hovering around 10% for almost 20 years. And its recent real GDP growth figures:

2003 0.40%
2004 -0.10%
2005 1.70%
2006 0.90%

Calling it anemic would be an insult to anemia.
 
Written By: steverino
URL: http://steverino.journalspace.com/
Scott:
If bonds, stocks and currency are purchased, that’s a real danger sign to the US — these can be dumped at any time, with potentially devastating results.
Dumping the bonds would have equally or more devastating results for the Chinese or the Saudis. Why would they do it? The only reason they would need to dump the bonds would be if they needed to free up a large amount of cash to finance themselves out of a catastrophe or a war. As long as no meteor strikes occur or they do not go to war, there is no problem. Constricts your foreign policy a bit, but you are consistently against war as a tool of foreign policy so you at least should be happy with this situation.

But Steve:
In fact, in his view, the "worst case scenario" of the currency never returning to the country of origin was actually the best possible outcome: the country actually purchased its goods by exchanging for pieces of cheaply-made paper. As Friedman put it, this would be the same result as if the exporting country burned the dollars it earned, never returning it to market circulation.
The exporter does not wish to burn money and if this is the only value it returns then "cheaply-made paper" tends to become its tradeable value. Devaluation of your currency means that the government needs to print more of it to sustain its operation into the next year and inflation rises.

Bithead:
Well, let’s consider who realy gets hurt in an off-balance of trade situation... THe Unionized work force.
Isn’t that more of a cause for off-balance trade situation? Having an overpaid, underperforming workforce drives you to produce things too expensive for sale at their cost price. This is one of the drivers that causes your currency to fall and reset so the price in your currency is less than the sale price of the things in the purchasers currency.
 
Written By: unaha-closp
URL: http://warisforwinning.blogspot.com/
unaha, I understand your point. I think Friedman was just showing that even the worst case in terms of currency outflow was still not all that bad: the importing nation still gets X dollars worth of goods, and that in any realistic scenario, some of those dollars come back in time.

A trade deficit isn’t always bad. In an expanding economy, it means you’re creating more wealth than you can spend domestically. That helps all the nations you buy from, and in turn helps your nation (because other nations are now wealthy enough to buy from you).
 
Written By: steverino
URL: http://steverino.journalspace.com/
No, YOU misunderstand. The grocery store analogy does hold, because when we buy things from overseas, we exchange money for goods of equal value. The balance of trade deficit is the difference between what we export and what we import. But this country must produce the wealth in order to import. It’s that simple.
No, no, a thousand times no! That holds for every transaction made on the world market, but the current accounts deficit (which includes trade) is all the money going in and out of the country. We do not have money to spend on trade if we do not get that money from somewhere outside of the US economy. The US economy starts at equilibrium going into trade, it’s not like there is excess money that allows us to just buy on the world market without anything coming in!

The quotes you gave are not in support of the grocery store analogy, but in general discuss if trade deficits are good or bad. Overall it isn’t bad to have one as long as it can be financed by foreign capital coming in (as we’re doing), but the level at which we’re doing this makes us vulnerable to those foreign holders of American assetts.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Oh, by the way...Germany’s balance of trade surplus hasn’t helped its economy much. Its unemployment rate has been hovering around 10% for almost 20 years. And its recent real GDP growth figures:
Germany’s economic miracle after WWII was built on trade, and as recently as the early nineties their economy was booming. The problem they’ve had lately is trying to digest East Germany, which has cost a trillion dollars and led to tax increases which hurt growth. Even then, there are recent signs that Germany is starting to get back on track now that the East is mostly rebuilt. They also suffer a demographic problem in that their population is aging and they can’t afford the level of social welfare spending in the past (it’s driving up labor costs). Still, Germany is a rich country, a wealth built on export led growth, and they still have a strong manufacturing sector. As they digest the massive cost of rebuilding East Germany, they’ll hopefully be able to lower taxes and make reforms in their social welfare system.

And Stevorino:
A trade deficit isn’t always bad. In an expanding economy, it means you’re creating more wealth than you can spend domestically.
Again, the economy isn’t creating excess wealth, rather that wealth is being brought in from the outside — foreigners buying stocks, bonds, or investing in the American economy. Did you read Bernacke’s speech? It is not simply that we’re doing so good domestically that somehow there is excess money and we go abroad to spend it!

And to Unaha:

Yes, I agree — and in general I’m not too concerned that, all other things being equal, the Saudis and Chinese will refrain from doing such a thing. (And yes, I think this makes war less likely, though not impossible). Yet look at the loss of value of the dollar in the last seven years, it’s gone from about 78 cents per Euro to $1.40, almost half the value it was. China could slowly sell it’s American currency (it holds a lot of dollars) and sell American stock/bonds, and shift to Euros or internal investment. If done slowly this would gradually weaken the US economy and could cause a rush on the dollar if other investors lose faith. Moreover, OPEC is already considering changing from dollars to Euros for oil prices, given the weakness of the dollar. It’s not a crisis, but such a high current accounts deficit creates more vulnerability to any kind of economic shock or potential oil crisis than it would if we were closer to being in balance.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
What steverino says makes sense for the current environment where the Chinese and Sauds (and American pension funds) are willing to buy US debt at low interest rates. It is ideal to take advantage of these rates and sell the bonds, so that a large amount of government borrowed money can de direct invested into the American economy and boost internal economic activity. Under existing conditions raising of taxes or lowering of spending are unneeded and a high current account deficit is still beneficial.

But what Scott says is probably true, that this is too good to last. The purchasers of bonds are not going to be satisfied with the returns they are getting, as the currency falls it devalues the value. They will look elsewhere, to more stable places where the government spending does not exceed revenue by so much. This means the US government will either have to accept accelerated weakening of the dollar (allow inflation), increase the return it offers on bonds (raise interest rates) or borrow less (by either raising taxes or cutting spending).

The issue is to judge at what point the inflation justifies interest rate increases, tax hikes or spending cuts. Or indeed if inflation justifies these at all.

 
Written By: unaha-closp
URL: http://warisforwinning.blogspot.com/

 
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