William H. Gass is one of the cheerleaders of American statism and he has done his fair share of work in support of the near total state (having done stints at the White House, if memory serves me right). His latest efforts are in the November 2012 issue of Harper's Magazine, in a pretty hostile article about George Orwell who is perhaps most famous for his book 1984 and short story Animal Farm, both warnings about the love many intellectuals have for powerful government engineering. Here is how he concludes his piece:
"We need to see society as an extension of ourselves, an invisible part of our anatomy that assists us every day without dominating us and that, like our own arms and legs, we tend when injured, and whose welfare reconsider at all times. The relation resembles that of a violinist to his instrument − useful but more than something useful, cared for like an esteemed friend. If such a part of us fails, we do not discard it for a peg leg, nor are we fired from our job because we cannot play hopscotch. We may be a disposable member of the symphony, but our violin is us to us. The relation is somethings − oh dear − called love." William H. Gass, "Double Vision," Harper's Magazine, Oct. 2012, p. 78.
This theme of collectivism spells out Karl Marx's claim, made in his posthumously published book, Grundrisse (Penguin, 1973) that humanity is an organic whole (or body), a total negation of American individualism wherein you and I and the rest of human beings are understood to be sovereign, independent agents with unalienable rights to their lives, liberty and pursuit of happiness. Instead, we get the vision of human beings as cells in the body of society or humanity. (The best little book in modern times laying out the case for this is Lewis Thomas's Lives of a Cell [New York, Viking Press, 1974].)
The individualist idea rests on the recognition of the fact that human beings have the capacity to govern themselves, to think for themselves and act from their thinking. Of course, individualism doesn't contradict the plain fact that we all draw on advice and information we receive from other people, starting with members of our family. But individualists have learned that such learning must itself be initiated by human agents who will draw on it as fuel for their living. Individualism also affirms the capacity we have for free choice. (One fine little book defending this is Theodosius Dobzhansky's The Biological Basis of Human Freedom [Columbia University Press, 1956].)
In point of fact, the collectivist position is, just as Gass notes, the reactionary kind, going all the way back to Socrates and before when people found it of great advantage to unite into groups so as to have a better chance at survival and flourishing. Indeed, uniting into groups has always been a prudent move for people unless the group in question, e.g., Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union, happens to be the enemy of the members of the group.
Individualists have always had to fight off the distortions evident in positions such as the one laid out by Mr. Gass. These views are dangerous because in the name of the collective it is usually a number of "leaders" who offer their own agendas as the state's business, agendas that are coercively imposed on society. Such leaders are not willing to use peaceful means by which to recruit support for their visions and thus they mostly champion what amounts to a police state. Everyone must be made to conform to the collective vision they insist is the one size that fits us all.
The right approach is, of course, one that acknowledges that human beings are a species and have a common nature up to a point. But it also acknowledges that a distinctive aspect of the human being is its individuality! It is confirmed every minute within human communities, of course, as millions present ideas of their own by which to carry on their living. (Even Mr. Gass testifies to this by presenting his own particular take on the collectivist idea!)
Sadly, Mr. Gass's position is widely shared among intellectuals at some of the most prominent educational institutions. (It animates the thought of Mr. Obama, for example, who is very weak in his endorsement of individual initiative, entrepreneurship, on the economic front and enthusiastic about mandates.)
Posted by dimitri on 11/15/12 07:55 PM
A large proportion of those identified and approved by the system as intellectuals are remarkably lazy and self-indulgent individuals who expect to be venerated for promulgating various agendas hostile to exactly what they surreptitiously cling to: individualism.
Posted by countzero on 11/15/12 05:58 PM
A Note To Those Who Still Remain Subject To Statism:
We are all of us, each and every one, cast under a spell of enchantment. The Maleficent Ministers of Misinformation have placed us in a trance; enthralling man, woman and child with words and images which hold us in fitful slumber. It is a place of bad dreams and the staccato vibration of fear. According to the steady drumbeat of the survivalist Blogs and the Doom & Gloom talking heads of YouTube, we are deep into The End Of The World (as we know it). The Dark Days are upon us.
The inescapable truth is that the world is almost certain to experience change (both good and bad) of such a magnitude that will have a massive impact for the majority of the unsuspecting world's population for years and probably decades to come. It is, alas, the coming reality of humanity's Great Regression.
We are the generations that must adapt to these painful changes. And there is no short term action taken by any of our governments that can alter the bad outcomes. They have tried, and failed. And that, as even those who are slumbering in denial would admit, is something that everybody already knows.
Our politicians, those who would lead us, those who make the laws that govern our lives, have mostly sold out to the lobbyists and peddlers of graft and corruption. As we see daily, those with the deepest pockets with which to buy the votes are those who reap the vast rewards of these ill-gotten gains. The rest of us, and the 47% as they are so dismissively called, cannot win this lopsided political game of exploitation. This is not conspiracy theory run amock, this is the sad reality of our lives today.
It is time to "Get Out Of Dodge!" It is long since past the time to make a change, you must not tarry further. Yes, it is time to explore places that offer personal freedoms that you may have forgotten still exists, that allow you to seek out new opportunities for a productive and positive life for yourself and your family. The very thought of change in one's life is scary to a lot of people. But change is our only constant companion. It is the only sure thing in our lives. Thus, we ought to embrace such a transformation process as a friend who brings opportunity, even though in the companionship of uncertainty.
There are still countries that, due to their unique circumstances, offer a more benign governance to their citizens, along with their foreign residents. These places, particularly a few countries in South America, will soon close down their borders to the veritable tsunami of immigrants attempting to escape from the tyranny of their current governments. You must distance yourself from the steadily encroaching fascist Security State apparatus that seeks to hold you in thrall to their corporatist masters and bleed from you the taxes necessary to wage their Everlasting War (aka population reduction). This is what Statism is all about!
'When fascism comes to America
it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.'
(Sinclair Lewis - Nobel Prize Winning Journalist)
Those who have 'Eyes To See and Ears To Hear', will act. Those who don't, well ……..
Posted by EdwardUlyssesCate on 11/15/12 04:43 PM
"William H. Gass is one of the cheerleaders of American statism"
Geez, making a living selling out your family, relatives, neighbors and countrymen. What does he see in the mirror? Perhaps googling "profile + sociopath" provides one with an answer.
Posted by budwood on 11/15/12 12:36 PM
Certainly, society is an extension of ourselves. But society is those with whom we interact daily; it is not a monstrous octopus run by politicians whose interactions are a one way street of issuing edicts.
Posted by speedygonzales on 11/15/12 10:37 AM
Due centralized control of every aspect of life by 1%, communist could not achieve this goal due lack of technology at this time, selfemployment in the US is single digit. All are capitalists, all are against socialism, see health care issue, but all want to work for: government, big corp or union because of benefits. Why they do not work for themselfs? System will eat 'em all up. Can even afford health care for family as selfemployed.
Spain, Italy, Greece, Ireland were edging 40% of selfemployed. This is exactly what individualism is and what is not.
One must realize, that coops in Spain and Italy are non profit organizations and all in them are self employed by law. Compare to tens non profit 1%'s organizations, as Carnegie EFIP, which are just tax evasion tool for medling in other countries politics.
Reply from The Daily Bell
What's your point?
Posted by speedygonzales on 11/15/12 10:19 AM
Socialism for the rich, capitalism for the poor: that is how our economies work. Those at the bottom are subject to the rigours of the free market. Those at the top are as pampered and protected.
Those at top, known as 1%, are also well socialized: Bilderberg,CFR,Royal Institute, Tavistock,UN,IMF,World Bank, funds, massmedia,NSA, police, military.
In Bismark's Germany they rejected radical or Marxian socialism and advocated what they called state socialism. William H. Dawson, in his sympathetic exposition, Bismarck and State Socialism (1890), explained the difference:
"Socialism would abolish the existing political order altogether, while State Socialism would use the State for the accomplishment of great economic and social purposes, especially restoring to it the function, which Frederick the Great held to be the principle business of the State, of 'holding the balance' between classes and parties."
Bismarckian state socialism meant to save the established order from revolutionary upheaval and societal disintegration by admitting many of the criticisms that socialists made against a market economy-exploitation of the workers by employers, self-interested behavior that fails to serve the general welfare, poverty of the many in the midst of material riches enjoyed by the few-and by introducing a series of interventionist and welfarist policies that were to improve the economic lot of the masses while saving what was good and worth preserving in the traditional social order.
As von Schmoller expressed it, state socialism proposed "the reestablishment of a friendly relationship between social classes, the removal or modification of injustice, with the introduction of a social legislation which promotes progress and guarantees the moral and material elevation of the lower and middle classes."
The German Historical School and the state socialists also rejected the "orthodox" laissez-faire economics of the classical economists and classical liberals.
Click to view link
This is in contrast with: Reason why the Roman Empire fell - Unemployment of the Working Classes (The Plebs), Failing Economy.
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Yes, there is an alternative to capitalism: Mondragon shows the way.
Why are we told a broken system that creates vast inequality is the only choice? Spain's amazing co-op is living proof otherwise.
Click to view link
The Mondragón Cooperative Corporation (MCC), the largest consortium of worker-owned companies, has developed a different way of doing business-a way that puts workers, not shareholders, first.
Click to view link
Legacoop Cooperative in Bologna, Italy Empowers Worker-Owners.
Click to view link
To see that there are other options, you have to travel to the richest city in Italy: Bologna -- Communist Bologna (years ago the Italian Communist Party renamed itself the Democratic Party of the Left, or P.D.S.).
Click to view link
Just as greater poverty and misery are threatening the realization of economic and social rights, the repression of growing social protest is threatening civil and political rights.
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Motto: Cooperation instead competition.
Any political theory in deeply corrupted and centralized entity is just wistle in to wind. Because 1% does not allow open free market economy. As once Rocky said: Competition is a sin. What we need to do is push them competition as deep into throat as possible in any possible way. Politicaly- direct eclections and direct democracy, economicaly- let BRIC invest directly thru the states, not D.C. Including energy.
Posted by DarbyJie on 11/15/12 09:41 AM
This minion of Mordor is more transparent than most.
Like a swarm of locusts, they are ubiquitous and we must just SWAT them down whenever they appear, and never tire.
Hopefully then God will sort it all out ... We are in great need of a great stroke of Divine Justice.