Coming Soon:

The following books by Robert Paul Wolff are available on Amazon.com as e-books: KANT'S THEORY OF MENTAL ACTIVITY, THE AUTONOMY OF REASON, UNDERSTANDING MARX, UNDERSTANDING RAWLS, THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM, A LIFE IN THE ACADEMY, MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF FORMAL METHODS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for "Robert Paul Wolff Kant." There they will be.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON THE THOUGHT OF KARL MARX. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for Robert Paul Wolff Marx."





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Monday, January 18, 2021

EACH OF US HAS A CONTRIBUTION TO MAKE

Sixteen years ago I published a little book the principal purpose of which was to call into question the standard popular and academic myth of American Exceptionalism. I spoke about the origin of the European settlements in North America Not as a city upon a hill but rather inas what had come to be called in some circles a White Settler State. I freely confess that when I wrote the book, it simply never occurred to me that I would see an armed insurrection against the United States government fostered and encouraged by the President of the United States.

 

As more of the seemingly endless stream of videos make their way onto cable news, it is becoming clear how close we came to a genuine disaster encompassing the capture and execution quite possibly of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence.

 

This does not strike me as the time for elegant ironic commentary, but at the age of 87 in the midst of a pandemic I am not really sure what contribution I can make. Perhaps I should reproduce here the passage I quoted 3 ½ years ago from Kierkegaard’s Philosophical Fragments:

 

“When Philip threatened to lay siege to the city of Corinth and all its inhabitants hastily bestirred themselves in defense, some polishing weapons, some gathering stones, some repairing the walls, Diogenes seeing all this hurriedly folded his mantle about him and began to roll his tub zealously back and forth through the streets. When he was asked why he did this he replied that he wished to be busy like all the rest, and rolled his tub lest he should be the only idler among so many industrious citizens.”

46 comments:

s. wallerstein said...

Book review from the Guardian about America's "history as a bully-boy nation", ending with the phrase, "Trump is America's revenge on itself".

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2021/jan/18/america-in-retreat-by-michael-pembroke-review-grisly-history-of-a-bully-boy-nation

LFC said...

My impression -- could be wrong -- is that you've quoted that passage from Kierkegaard more recently than three-and-a-half years ago, but that's ok...

LFC said...

P.s. You're making a (small) contribution in this very post, at least as far as I'm concerned, by mentioning what is on cable news. That's because I don't watch cable TV (or for that matter have a hooked-up working TV; PBS NewsHr I catch on the radio, usually; occasionally online).

s. wallerstein said...

Same here. I don't have a TV set either.

Anonymous said...

Being busy just for the sake of being busy and making a contribution are two different things. Diogenes could have pitched in with his fellow citizens and helped them gather stones, or polish weapons, or repair the walls, rather than just pushing his tub around in order to persuade himself that he was doing something useful. Was this Kierkegaard’s way of commenting on the uselessness of philosophy/philosophers in times of an emergency?

This is not to say that we watching this drama unfold should be doing more to help the military defend the Capitol. In this situation it is best for us to stay out of the way and let the military and journalists do their jobs.

In the movie, The Counselor, there is a thought-provoking telephone conversation between an attorney, who participated in a drug deal gone sour, and a drug lord (played by Reuben Blades). The attorney is pleading with the drug lord to save the life of his kidnapped wife. The drug lord says, “I don’t mean to offend you, but reflective men often find themselves at a place removed from the realities of life. .. [I]n that despair, which is transcendent, you will find the ancient understanding that the philosopher’s stone will always be found despised and buried in the mud.” He then advises the counselor to read the poetry of Antonio Machado.

C said...

Here is a Bloomberg article about the K-shaped economic recovery:
https://apple.news/AKriWiH02T3O_AstcnHAZfw

This confirms much of what I wrote in my first comment on this blog post:
https://robertpaulwolff.blogspot.com/2020/11/i-need-help.html?m=1#comment-form

Quotations from the Bloomberg article:

“Economists such as Atwater are also sounding the alarm over longer-term consequences of widening income inequality, which has been associated with lower economic growth, higher crime rates and increased social unrest.

“”You cannot have a sustainable economy and political system where you have a small population who believe they are invincible and a growing population who feel defeated,” he said. “It’s in capitalism’s best interest to close this gap.””

Yes, we need to be SMART about capitalism and implement measures to strengthen the social safety net and reduce income and wealth inequality. These measures include:

- A 45% top marginal income tax rate
- A 1-2% annual wealth tax for ultra-millionaires and billionaires that is rigorously enforced and cannot be avoided
- A modest estate tax that is rigorously enforced and cannot be avoided
- A 25-28% corporate tax rate that is rigorously enforced and cannot be avoided
- The repeal of the carried interest loophole (which hedge fund/private equity/investment managers use to pay minimal income taxes)
- The taxation of capital gains as income
- Robust, universal healthcare (e.g. single-payer health insurance like Medicare for All)
- Universal childcare
- Free tuition at public universities and colleges
- At least a $1 trillion infrastructure plan
- A very robust climate change plan
- For the rest of the pandemic, bimonthly or quarterly $1200-2000 stimulus checks for individuals making less than $75K (or perhaps $60K) annually
- For the rest of the pandemic, $400 enhanced unemployment insurance
- Perhaps means-tested basic income (e.g. $500-1000 monthly for individuals making less than $25K annually) that continues even after the pandemic

Republicans would call these proposals “socialism” or “communism” over and over again. More precisely, we would call them “democratic socialism,” “social democracy,” or “FDR liberalism.” But really we should call these proposals “Smart Capitalism.” If you want capitalism to survive in the USA, if you do not want more mobs storming the Capitol building or looting/rioting in major cities, if you do not want the masses staging an armed revolt with firearms (the modern pitchforks), if the rich do not want to worry about driving around in bullet-proof vehicles or having their children kidnapped for ransom, then we absolutely need to reform contemporary USA capitalism in a smart, equitable, sustainable manner. Hence Smart Capitalism.

Whenever the Republicans, conservatives, libertarians, etc. denounce these policies as “socialism” or “communism,” we need to counter by framing the issue as “Smart Capitalism.” In particular, we need to say, “If you want to defend and sustain capitalism, then you better reform it and make it smarter, which is exactly our goal. FDR was basically the savior of capitalism, and we’re trying to do the same. We are neither socialists nor communists but rather smart capitalists.”

Eric said...

"we absolutely need to reform contemporary USA capitalism in a smart, equitable, sustainable manner. Hence Smart Capitalism."

That statement betrays a profund misunderstanding of capitalism.
Capitalism is inherently inequitable.
And the capitalist response to the climate crisis is proving that it is also unsustainable.

Eric said...

at the age of 87 in the midst of a pandemic I am not really sure what contribution I can make

Noam Chomsky is 5 years older than you, Prof Wolff.

Richard Wolff, Economic Update: Noam Chomsky on Prospects & Takes as 2021 Begins

Jacobin Weekends: Noam Chomsky—Where the Left Goes After Trump

Rojava Freedom Annual Lecture Series - Inaugural Lecture: Noam Chomsky

Omar El Chmouri (American University of Beirut) interviews Professor Noam Chomsky on the Middle East

Barry James Dyke interviews Noam Chomsky

Owen Jones interviews Noam Chomsky on Trump, Biden, the climate emergency, Palestine and capitalism

^ Just a few of the interviews posted on Youtube in the past couple of months. Chomsky's age, the pandemic, the fact that he is blacklisted by major corporate media don't seem to be hampering his ability to help shape the discussions younger generations are engaging in.

Anonymous said...

Under the definition of “chutzpah,” dictionaries should show Eric’s comments above.

Eric said...

;-)

Anonymous said...

Is one supposed to look at the above sideways? But shouldn't the semi-colon be a colon?

John Rapko said...

Comparing oneself and one's age to others is a losing game. I do what I can, but I've never written a play and I'm older than Shakespeare when he died; and I'm much younger and infinitely worse looking than Helen Mirren.

TheDudeDiogenes said...

The semi-colon means the emoticon is winking.

Eric said...

John Rapko,

@ 7:28 - 8:07
Robert Paul Wolff David Hume's Theory of Knowledge Lecture One

My point was that it's fine if RPW chooses to completely retire and lead a comfortable life, watching events from the sidelines. He's earned the right. But he shouldn't throw up his hands and claim there's nothing he can do because he's just too old.

(If it must be stated, I am a great admirer of Prof Wolff. I am just ribbing him.)

C said...

Eric:

“That statement betrays a profund misunderstanding of capitalism.
Capitalism is inherently inequitable.
And the capitalist response to the climate crisis is proving that it is also unsustainable.”

This is a superficial, flippant response that does not seriously address the actual substance of my post: we should implement certain economic and social policies in order reduce US income and wealth inequality and strengthen the social safety net; and we should frame these policies as “smart capitalism” instead of “socialism” or “democratic socialism.”

Instead, you pick out basically two sentences and quibble with them. You say, “that statement betrays a [profound] misunderstanding of capitalism,” and yet you misspell “profound.” And while I am not an expert in Marx or Marxism, I have fully read, watched, or listened to the following:

Marx and Engels, ‘The Communist Manifesto’
Marx, ‘On the Jewish Question’
Marx, ‘Preface to a Critique of Political Economy’
Marx, ‘Theses on Feuerbach’
Marx, ‘Address to the Communist League’
Marx, ‘Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right’
Marx, ‘Towards a Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right: Introduction’
Allen Wood, ‘Karl Marx (Second Edition)’
Robert Paul Wolff, lectures on Marx (YouTube)
Brian Leiter, ‘Why Marxism Still Does Not Need Normative Theory’
Brian Leiter, podcast on Marx (Elucidations podcast)
Brian Leiter, debate on Marx and capitalism at UW Madison in early 2020
Karl Popper, ‘The Open Society and Its Enemies’ (Volume II, which covers Marx)
Thomas Piketty, ‘Capitalism in the 21st Century’
Thomas Piketty, ‘Capital and Ideology’ [all 1040 pages]
Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, ‘The Triumph of Injustice: How the Rich Dodge Taxes and How to Make Them Pay’
Jean-Philippe Delsol, Nicolas Lecaussin, Emmanuel Martin, ‘Anti-Piketty: Capital for the Twenty-First Century’
Rana Foroohar, ‘Makers and Takers: The Rise of Finance and the Fall of American Business’

I doubt that you have studied all these sources but perhaps I am wrong. In any case, I reject your claim that I have a “profound misunderstanding of capitalism.”

Capitalism can come in many different forms, depending on the type and degree of regulation, the type and degree of taxation, the type and degree of the welfare state, the relevant cultural norms (e.g. Nordic countries have a very high degree of social trust and solidarity), etc. Just compare Nordic capitalism or Germanic capitalism (which both use the stakeholder model, as opposed to the shareholder model) to contemporary US capitalism (which uses the shareholder model). Or compare 1950s US capitalism (when the top marginal income tax rate was 80% or higher) to 2020 US capitalism (when the top marginal income tax rate is 37%). In short, we can actualize capitalism in many different ways.

Now, yes, Marx argues that the logic of (unfettered, laissez-faire) capitalism inevitably leads to extreme economic inequality and the impoverishment and immiseration of the masses (i.e. the proletariat). And Piketty argues that, in the long-term, (unfettered, laissez-faire) capitalism (without a highly progressive income tax, wealth tax, estate tax, and corporate tax) leads to extreme income and wealth inequality to the extent that the rate of return on capital (r) exceeds the economic growth rate (g). So Marx and Piketty are both very relevant today.

C said...

Continued:

However, once again, you can actualize capitalism in many different ways, and you can modify capitalism in a given country at a given time (e.g. contemporary US capitalism) to make it *more* equitable and sustainable. Piketty absolutely agrees with this point, since he has many positive recommendations: a steeply progressive income tax, wealth tax, estate tax, and corporate tax; minimum guaranteed income; a universal capital endowment (e.g. 120,000 Euros or $120,000 for everyone when he or she turns 25); the installation of worker representatives on corporate boards (like the Nordic or Germanic “codetermination” models). Overall, Piketty calls these policies “participatory socialism” but I think you can consider these as heavy modifications of contemporary, global capitalism. I would call it “smart capitalism,” which incorporates many socialistic elements.

Furthermore, I think even Marx would agree that you can modify capitalism to a certain degree to make it more equitable and sustainable and less cruel, sociopathic, and destructive. For example, I think Marx would absolutely approve of measures mandating an 8-hour workday, a 5-day workweek, unemployment insurance, a solid minimum wage (e.g. $15 per hour), universal health insurance, retirement pensions, the right to collective bargaining (i.e. labor unions), etc. Yes, Marx would absolutely favor having these policies to having none of them at all. Now, that said, Marx would likely still hold that capitalism (even capitalism with a robust social safety net) inevitably leads to significant economic inequality and relative poverty and misery (or dissatisfaction) among the proletariat, and this will eventually lead to a proletariat revolution and communism. But he would agree that, for practical purposes, capitalism with a robust social safety net is far, far better than capitalism without any social safety net (i.e. unfettered, laissez-faire capitalism).

Moreover, Richard Wolff and Noam Chomsky (whom you cite in another comment) would largely agree with my claim that you can find ways to modify and improve capitalism to make it work better for everyone. In particular, Richard Wolff supports stakeholder capitalism, worker cooperatives, and Nordic or Germanic-style “codetermination” models. And I’m sure Chomsky supports virtually all of the policies that I have listed above (including those in my first comment).

Therefore, you can modify capitalism to make it more equitable and sustainable. In particular, you can modify it such that you successfully address the climate crisis (e.g. by means of a Green New Deal or something similar) and extreme income and wealth inequality.

Finally, I notice that you did not make any flippant, superficial remarks about any of the proposed policies that I listed in my first comment (e.g. a 45% top marginal income tax rate, a 1-2% annual wealth tax for the super-rich, universal childcare, free tuition at public universities and colleges, etc.). These policies largely cohere with Bernie Sanders’ policy agenda and Elizabeth Warren’s policy agenda in their 2020 primary campaigns. And I’m sure a strong majority of this blog’s readers would largely agree with these policies. Thus, I was correct in the main substance of my first comment. So do not accuse me of having a “[profound] misunderstanding of capitalism” when you are not willing to do serious, substantive, intellectual work in your comments.

Eric said...

C,

I do not disagree that the US needs many changes in tax policy and in education and healthcare delivery. I do disagree that the goal should be instituting minor reforms that are intended to allow a system that produces multimillionaires and billionaires to continue to exist.

Yes, if a patient has severe pain and bleeding sores from a cancer, by all means give her pain medicine and bandage her sores so that she won't suffer needlessly. But if the cancer could likely be cured surgically, the treatment plan that is offered to her must also include excision of the tumor. Pain medicine and bandages alone will not fix her problems.

The signs that there would be a climate crisis such as we are facing today, which necessitates immediate societal changes on a massive scale, were not widely recognized when Marx was alive. So while one could try to modify capitalism to make it somewhat less cruel, as people like Robert Reich and Elizabeth Warren believe, that should not be the main goal; and I suspect Marx would agree with my assessment were he alive today.

But what do I know? Don't listen to me.

Richard Wolff on "Fixing" Capitalism

Anonymous said...

Eric,

It is obvious that C, while perhaps not an expert in economics, i.e., he does not, I assume, possess a Ph.D. in economics, he knows a hell of a lot about it and is extremely articulate regarding his views. Were his suggestions to improve capitalism implemented, they would substantially improve the socio-economic lot of most Americans currently in the lower and middle class. Regarding the crisis of climate change, there is nothing inherent in capitalism which indicates that current capitalism in America, or in improved capitalism as envisioned by C, cannot deal with the crisis, and could not have dealt with it sooner before it became a crisis, had there been the will to do so. The absence of will is not attributable to capitalism, but to the short-sightedness of human nature generally. You have not identified any factor relating to Marxism which indicates that had the U.S. been a Marxist country, it would have dealt with climate change any better, any sooner. Indeed, countries which purport to have Marxist or semi-Marxist economies, e.g., China and North Korea, have not dealt with the issue of climate change any better than the U.S.

And what do you offer as an alternative - that the proletariat rise up, seize the means of production, and establish a more equitable economy by force? As I have stated in prior comments, it is never going to happen in this country. The masses of people whom you would rely on to engage in such a revolution by force do not exist in this country, and will never exist in this country – they love their iphones, large screen TVs, and large, fast automobiles too much. They are consumers, first and foremost and would gladly adopt C’s proposals for an improved capitalism over your preference for armed revolution. While you may be able to indoctrinate some segment of our society to share your thirst for revolution, it will never be enough to stand up to the U.S. military. Have you seen the number of U.S. Army and National Guardsmen encamped in Washington, D.C. today? In past comments, you have pooh-poohed Prof. Wolff’s remarks that the reflective people like himself do not have the weapons to mount such a revolution. Have you ever fired a rifle? Have you ever hunted and shot a deer? Could you and your fellow intellectuals kill a human being? Do you have any idea what it is like to face an armored personnel carrier, armed only with a rifle and a handgun? You are very naïve, and continuously spout naïve ideas on this blog.

s. wallerstein said...

Anonymous,

Why do you always have to insult the other, to resort to ad hominen arguments in your comments?

You argue fairly well against Eric's position, but you spoil your presentation in your last sentence when you disqualify Eric.

At least in my case when I see someone resort to personal disqualifications in their arguments, I immediately subtract 50 points (out of 100 possible points).

Anonymous said...

s. wallerstein,

How is asserting that someone’s views, and the person expressing them, are naïve an ad hominem insult? You have a very low threshold for the term. And you may not have noticed, but Eric has been far more disrespectful regarding the views of others than my mild assertion that he is naïve. And please don’t tell me that two wrongs don’t make a right, since my asserting that Eric is naïve is not “wrong,” either factually or ethically.

David Palmeter said...

Eric,

I agree with s. wallerstein: that last sentence is pure ad hominem and detracts from the merits of your post and the atmosphere on this blog. I wish you'd cut it out.

Anonymous said...

David,

Really? And how would you characterize Eric’s statement to C, “That statement betrays a prof[o]und misunderstanding of capitalism.” Does not this statement equate to an accusation that C is naïve regarding his understanding of capitalism? Is this not an ad hominem attack on C’s purported lack of erudition? You are rather selective in your criticism.

David Palmeter said...

Thanks for the correction. I misread the name of the author of the post. The sentence I had in mind was for an anonymous: " Do you have any idea what it is like to face an armored personnel carrier, armed only with a rifle and a handgun? You are very naïve, and continuously spout naïve ideas on this blog."

That's ad hominem in my book.

Anonymous said...

Not in mine.

Have you ever seen or heard the arguments which take place in the British Parliament? They are far more incisive and acerbic than merely calling someone “naïve.” You know, the far right is correct in one of its criticisms of the spokespeople for the liberal left – they are a bunch of snowflakes, who melt at the merest criticism.

LFC said...

On Marx and reforms within capitalism: I believe he supported the 8-hour day and other reforms, but I don't think he anticipated the "mixed economy" or the redistributive Nordic-style capitalism of the 20th century (see his remarks about distribution in Critique of the Gotha Program).

David Palmeter said...

Anonymous

You seem to be justifying ad hominem. True, the British Parliament lives on ad hominem, but that's not true (at least before the the crazies captured the Republican party) of the U.S. Congress. Members who detest each other will refer to the "gentleman from X" and the "gentle lady from Y" and "my good friend." Hypocritical? Perhaps, but it serves a purpose.d The idea that the opposition is the "loyal opposition" and not the enemy is crucial to a democracy. Civility--even when it's phony-serves that purpose.

Christopher J. Mulvaney, Ph.D. said...

Dr. Wolff,
Rolling a tub around would is out of the question. Playing the viola as you stroll along during your morning walk would add a dose of beauty and pleasure. Of course, you could place the open viola case on the ground and start busking.

Anonymous said...

Oh come on, David, do you think I would be charged with being uncivil were I a senator in the U.S. Senate, and I said, “The gentleman/woman from New York is very naïve, and all s/he ever offers in this hallowed chamber are naïve ideas and recommendations.” Please. Grow an epidermis. (Uh, oh, there I go again.)

s. wallerstein said...

Say it loud, I'm a snowflake and proud.

I'm a snowflake and one of the things that attracts me about the left is that we're more sensitive about ourselves and about others.

The right has no sensitivity towards others, none at all. Life for them is football, a macho competition where they try to score goals.

On the left we've learned over the past 50 years or so to value the traditional feminine traits, concern for others, caring, sensitivity: among those of us who are male, to develop our feminine side as they used to say.

At times I can be unnecessarily competitive, but that's a defect, nothing I'm proud of and I am proud that at times I don't take it like a man, but like a girl.

I'm sure that Anonymous (whose initials I know, but I'll respect his wish to be anonymous) will mock this, but that just indicates where he's coming from.

Anonymous said...

No, s. wallerstein, I would not, will not, mock you. I have a feminine side as well – I tear up during Madame Butterfly and the Contessa’s aria Porgi Amor in the Le Nozze di Figaro; also during the last scenes in Sophie’s Choice and the Deer Hunter. But in the rough and tumble of real life, even women have to show a degree of male toughness in order to survive. My criticism of Eric is that he rejects C’s proposals for an improved capitalism in favor – of what? He has intimated in prior comments, rejecting Prof. Wolff’s concerns that those on the right have most of the weapons, that he would support an armed revolt in order to upend capitalism in this country and has claimed that those on the left have arms as well, as if they would be a match either for the those on the right who have grown up using weapons – most of them hunt – and/or for the U.S. military. And I do not regard it as impolite to ask him if he has ever fired a rifle and whether he could look at a man straight on and kill him in the name of Marx, because that is what it would take. He doesn’t know what he is talking about, and were he to succeed in persuading his like-minded intellectuals to take up arms, he would be responsible for the deaths of a lot of people. In this regard he is naïve, and he has expressed these naïve thoughts several times on this blog. Death and the loss of limbs in the name of some noble Marxist cause is not pretty, and it would be doomed to failure. So, as between the choice of C’s proposals for an improved capitalism, and Eric’s preference for a futile armed revolt in order to install a Marxist regime – which would be an improvement over C’s improved capital by what degree? – I, and I believe most Americans, would prefer C’s option for life, rather than Eric’s preference for death. And I do not believe it is rude or uncivil to call him out on it.

LFC said...

Possibly I have missed it, but I don't recall Eric advocating "armed revolt" (anonymous's words). I often like Eric's comments, whether or not I agree. I thought what he said in the other thread about the virgin birth and parthenogenesis was very funny, as I think it was (partly) intended to be.

s. wallerstein said...

Given the comments above about the viability or not of armed struggle in the U.S., this interview with Mark Rudd, a guy who about 50 years ago, led a group engaged in armed struggle against U.S. capitalism and imperialism, seems a propos. It's very recent, in fact, just posted yesterday and done by Jacobin magazine.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zIsHOBygUwk

LFC said...

The link to that interview brings up "video unavailable," but it had the side-effect of leading me to Mark Rudd's memoir (published about 10 years ago), Underground, which appears to be well-written (and may be something I'll get around to reading).

s. wallerstein said...

I don't know why the link doesn't work, but you can easily find the interview in Youtube, with the indicators Mark Rudd, Jacobin. It's quite informative, he does a thorough self-criticism of the Weathermen and of his role in it and he has a good sense of humor.

LFC said...

s. wallerstein

That was my fault. I was using a browser which I can't copy and paste readily with, so I typed in the link manually and I got it slightly wrong.

Christopher J. Mulvaney, Ph.D. said...


David Palmeter -
As I’m sure you read, a clown, or at least completely historically illiterate person, carried his confederate battle flag as he walked in front of a portrait of Sen. Charles Sumner. As I recall, that story is recounted by Kennedy (Schlesinger) in Profiles in Courage. I’d bet you know the story, but for any readers who don’t, Summer, an abolitionist from Massachusetts, was attacked by member of the House who believed a relative of his had been slandered by Sumner. He walked with a cane due to a prior political duel some 15 or so years earlier. Sumner was severely wounded by the attack and didn’t return to the Senate for three years.

Now we have republicans who think Biden’s elections was fraudulent. And demand the right to carry their weapons into the complex of House and Senate office buildings and the Capitol building. What this has to say for the immediate future of civility and comity at any level of politics is appalling. And it has had its precursor in the strategy that nothing that doesn’t let get a majority of votes in the caucus will never be brought to the floor for a vote. I would not expect anyTrump adjacent politician to even understand the reason why that is just stupid. Now the speaker and Pres. Pro Tem have to defend their legislative body against the body’a members.

Anonymous said...

It is generally acknowledged that Ted Sorensen, not Arthur Schlesinger, ghost-wrote Profiles In Courage, for which Kennedy was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. It was a common joke among some senators that they wished he showed less profile and more courage. When Mike Wallace’s guest Drew Pearson on Wallace’s ABC show disclosed that it was Sorensen who wrote the book, not Kennedy, Joseph Kennedy was furious and hired Clark Clifford to sue ABC, Wallace and Pearson. ABC issued a retraction.

One of the tributes contained in the book which I always found rather undeserving was the tribute to Senator Robert Taft for his having opposed the Nuremburg Trials on the basis that the trials constituted the enforcement of an ex post facto law, because prior thereto there was no international law declaring genocide a crime. Such a position, though accurate, exemplifies the phrase, “being honest to a fault.”

Christopher J. Mulvaney, Ph.D. said...

Anonymous

RE: the following statement -

“How is asserting that someone’s views, and the person expressing them, are naïve an ad hominem insult? You have a very low threshold for the term. And you may not have noticed, but Eric has been far more disrespectful regarding the views of others than my mild assertion that he is naïve.”

If you claim that a person’s view on a topic is naive, and can back it up with evidence, there is no incivility and a hopefully productive debate can ensue. If you state that the person is naive and that’s why their views are wrong, that is precisely a personal attack and uncivil. In the case of Eric’s comment to C, the assertion that C has “a profound misunderstanding of Marx” does not even imply incivility, only the belief that substantial differences obtain and they can be debated if they want. Had Eric said, “You’re an idiot for taking that position on Marx”, that would be uncivil.

Making no judgement on whether you are a sensitive male, I would point out that basing your claim on crying at the appropriate times at the opera, or movies, is not proof. The librettist and composer combine to produce a script and score to make people feel they way they want them to feel be it happy, or bereft at the loss suffered by the hero/heroine. So when you cry at the opera, you are responding exactly as the composer / librettist want you to respond, and they way the vast majority of opera consumers respond.

LFC said...

Re Nuremburg Trials: there were some aspects of the Trials that did not relate to the Holocaust, though the Holocaust certainly figured in the trials.

To take just one example, Alfred Jodl, head of the German Army High Command, was one of those found guilty and executed. According to Wiki, the main (though not only) charges against him at Nuremburg had to do with the Commando Order (which was not related to the Holocaust) and the Commissar Order (which wasn't either).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Jodl

C said...

Eric:

“I do not disagree that the US needs many changes in tax policy and in education and healthcare delivery.”

Okay, so you basically agree that the US needs higher personal income, wealth, and corporate taxes; free tuition at public universities and colleges; and robust, universal healthcare.

“I do disagree that the goal should be instituting minor reforms that are intended to allow a system that produces multimillionaires and billionaires to continue to exist.”

The policies that I have proposed are not minor reforms but rather major or massive reforms to contemporary US capitalism: a 45% top marginal income tax rate; a 1-2% annual wealth tax for the super-rich; universal healthcare; universal childcare; free tuition at public universities and colleges; a $1 trillion infrastructure plan; a robust climate change plan that will likely cost more than $1 trillion; perhaps means-tested basic income ($500-1000 monthly); etc.

Overall, these policies will make a huge difference for the upper middle-class, the middle middle-class, the lower middle-class, and the poor. And these policies will benefit the rich insofar as they will worry less about social unrest, mob riots, potential armed revolution, and potential kidnapping for ransom (which happens often in countries like Mexico, Brazil, etc.).

Once again, these policies largely cohere with the policy agendas of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. In your most recent comment, you cite Robert Reich and Warren but not Bernie, even though Bernie would be ecstatic if all the aforementioned policies were actually implemented. Recall that Bernie is a democratic socialist—more precisely, a social democrat or FDR liberal. He is NOT a full-blown socialist or communist who wants society or the state to own (all or the vast majority of) the economic means of production or who wants to nationalize all major industries.

Note that in their 2020 primary campaigns, Bernie and Warren wanted a higher top marginal income tax rate than 45% and an annual wealth tax greater than 1-2%. Warren’s proposed wealth tax was initially 2-3% and then she later increased the top end to 10% or so. If I recall correctly, Bernie’s proposed wealth tax had a top end greater than 10%. My proposed tax rates are lower because I think a 1-2% annual wealth tax has a much greater chance of being passed than one that tops out at 10% or more.

Regarding multi-millionaires and billionaires, I disagree with Bernie’s maxim, “Billionaires should not exist.” I do not mind if billionaires exist as long as they pay (what I consider) their fair share in taxes: a 45% top marginal income tax rate (where capital gains are taxed as income), a 2% annual wealth tax, and a 25-30% estate tax (with NO avoidance or evasion) once they die. As for multi-millionaires, there is a huge difference between someone worth $2-5 million and someone worth $100-999 million. In fact, Bernie and Warren are both multi-millionaires, and thus Bernie intentionally picks on billionaires, not multi-millionaires. Overall, I think it is much better to tax ultra-millionaires and billionaires appropriately and provide a robust social safety net (which will make life much better for the middle-class and poor) than it is to seek the elimination of all ultra-millionaires and billionaires.

C said...

Continued:

“Yes, if a patient has severe pain and bleeding sores from a cancer, by all means give her pain medicine and bandage her sores so that she won't suffer needlessly. But if the cancer could likely be cured surgically, the treatment plan that is offered to her must also include excision of the tumor. Pain medicine and bandages alone will not fix her problems.”

You are assuming that capitalism (in any form) is the cancerous tumor that must be removed surgically. I reject this claim. Once again, we can actualize capitalism in many different ways, and how we actualize it makes a huge difference (particularly, to the fate of the middle-class and poor). If you want to defend your claim that capitalism in itself is the cancerous tumor, then you need to provide serious justification or argument, which you have failed to do in your flippant, superficial comments. Merely appealing to Marx or posting links to videos by Noam Chomsky or Richard Wolff is not going to cut it. At the very least, you can provide a reconstruction of their arguments but that would require you to overcome your intellectual laziness.

And even if we did “surgically remove” (i.e. fully overthrow) capitalism, what would we replace it with? Full-blown socialism or communism in which the society or state owns (all or the vast majority of) the economic means of production and nationalizes all major industries? I’m sorry but I think this is a terrible idea, since there has never been a highly economically successful country that was fully communist or socialist. Just consider Soviet Russia, the Eastern bloc of the USSR, Cuba, North Korea, Venezuela, pre-1990 China, etc. You might cite contemporary China as a counter-example but contemporary China is not a fully communist country; China has introduced and cultivated a lot of capitalism but the Chinese Communist Party plays a huge role in controlling and managing the capitalist economy. Instead of “surgically removing” capitalism, China has incorporated and cultivated it. This further proves my point that a country can actualize capitalism in many different ways.

“But what do I know? Don't listen to me.”

Agreed.

Lastly, a note to all readers: if I post a comment (especially a long one) and if you seriously disagree with it, then please provide a serious, substantive, argumentative rebuttal. Do not be flippant. Do not use red-herring tactics. Do not just quote one or two sentences of my post and accuse me of “having a profound misunderstanding” of the topic, without you making any serious intellectual effort.

Anonymous said...

C. and Mulvaney are very sharp here.
And I actually enjoyed the long narratives by M.S. Esquire and wonder where he has gone.

I.E.R.

Anonymous said...

Christopher Mulvaney, Ph.D.,

I note that immediately after I pointed out that you were mistaken, that Ted Sorensen, not Arthur Schlesinger, wrote Profiles in Courage, your ego being piqued because someone asserted that you were wrong about something, you had a need to rise to Eric’s defense and claim that my calling him “naïve” was indeed an ad hominem remark because, you claim, I accused him of being naïve without offering evidence of his naivete. Wrong. I preceded my attribution by pointing out that in several previous comments Eric had disagreed with Prof. Wolff that violence is not the answer, because they have the guns. Eric has commented that, well, we too have guns. In addition, Eric posted the interview with Marcuse, in which, as I argue in a previous comment, Marcuse implicitly endorsed the use of violence by claiming that there had never been a successful non-violent revolution (which, I said, was erroneous = witness Gandhi’s use of civil disobedience to liberate India from British rule). I asserted that Eric’s belief that guns in the hands of his intellectual compadres would be sufficient to overthrow capitalism in the U.S. was a naïve view. I then accused him of being naïve, by virtue of his naïve views.

And apparently C agrees that Eric is naïve in his belief that the solution to our economic problems is to do away with capitalism in favor of a Marxist state. He writes:
“But what do I know? Don't listen to me.”

Agreed.

s. wallerstein said...

By the way, I doubt that any Marxist is in favor of a "Marxist state", since, according to Marx, in a classless society the state will wither away.

Whether or not Marx is correct about that (we have no example of a classless society), no Marxist wants to replace capitalism with a Marxist state.

Anonymous said...

s. wallerstein,

It is quite remarkable how you can quibble over semantics. Marxist society, then; or a communist state; or whatever. (You wouldn’t contend that communist states cannot exist either, would you?)

And this comment is not intended to mock you, just point out your tendency to quibble in order to avoid dealing with substance.

s. wallerstein said...

Since this is a blog of one of the world's foremost authorities on Marx, I don't see that I'm quibbling when I try to be specific about Marxist theory. In a blog about U.S. Constitutional Law if I stated that the 21st amendment is part of the Bill of Rights, you'd
be justifying in correcting me. As a matter of fact, you above corrected someone about who ghostwrote Profiles in Courage.

Certainly, there are communist states, but most Marxists, at least those who participate in this blog, would not claim that they correctly follow Marx's teachings. I'm not really a Marxist myself, by the way, but I've hung out most of my life with Marxists and I'm acquainted with their manner of thinking.