Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Coming of the Postliberal Era

One of the big challenges faced by any student of current events is that of seeing past the turmoil of the present moment to catch the deep trends shaping events on a broader scale. It’s a little like standing on a beach, without benefit of tide tables, and trying to guess whether the tide’s coming in or going out. Waves surge, break, and flow back out to sea; the wind blows this way and that; it takes time, and close attention to subtle details, before you can be sure whether the sea is gradually climbing the beach or just as gradually retreating from it.

Over the last year or so, though, it’s become increasingly clear to me that one of the great tides of American politics has turned and is flowing out to sea. For almost precisely two hundred years, this country’s political discourse has been shaped—more powerfully, perhaps, than by any other single force—by the loose bundle of ideas, interests, and values we can call American liberalism. That’s the tide that’s turning. The most important trends shaping the political landscape of our time, to my mind, are the descent of the liberal movement into its final decadence, and the first stirrings of the postliberal politics that is already emerging in its wake.

To make sense of what American liberalism has been, what it has become, and what will happen in its aftermath, history is an essential resource. Ask a believer in a political ideology to define it, and you’ll get one set of canned talking points; ask an opponent of that ideology to do the same thing, and you’ll get another—and both of them will be shaped more by the demands of moment-by-moment politics than by any broader logic. Trace that ideology from its birth through its adolescence, maturity, and decline into senescence, and you get a much better view of what it actually means.

Let’s go back, then, to the wellsprings of the American liberal movement. Historians have argued for a good long time about the deeper roots of that movement, but its first visible upsurge can be traced to a few urban centers in the coastal Northeast in the years just after the War of 1812. Boston—nineteenth century America’s San Francisco—was the epicenter of the newborn movement, a bubbling cauldron of new social ideas to which aspiring intellectuals flocked from across the new Republic.  Any of my readers who think that the naive and effervescent idealism of the 1960s was anything new need to read Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Blithedale Romance; it's set in the Massachusetts counterculture of the early nineteenth century, and most of the action takes place on a commune. That’s the context in which American liberalism was born.

From the very beginning, it was a movement of the educated elite. Though it spoke movingly about uplifting the downtrodden, the downtrodden themselves were permitted very little active part in it. It was also as closely intertwined with Protestant Christianity as the movement of the 1960s was with Asian religions; ministers from the Congregationalist and Unitarian churches played a central role in the movement throughout its early years, and the major organizations of the movement—the Anti-Slavery Societies, the Temperance League, and the Non-Resistant League, the first influential American pacifist group—were closely allied with churches, and staffed and supported by clergymen. Both the elitism and the Protestant Christian orientation, as we’ll see, had a powerful influence on the way American liberalism evolved over the two centuries that followed.

Three major social issues formed the framework around which the new movement coalesced. The first was the abolition of slavery; the second was the prohibition of alcohol; the third was the improvement of the legal status of women. (The movement traversed a long and convoluted road before this latter goal took its ultimate form of legal and social equality between the genders.) There were plenty of other issues that attracted their own share of attention from the movement—dietary reform, dress reform, pacifism, and the like—but all of them shared a common theme: the redefinition of politics as an expression of values.

Let’s take a moment to unpack that last phrase. Politics at that time, and at most other periods throughout human history, was understood as a straightforward matter of interests—in the bluntest of terms, who got what benefits and who paid what costs. Then and for most of a century thereafter, for example, one of the things that happened in the wake of every Presidential election is that the winner’s party got to hand out federal jobs en masse to its supporters. It was called the “spoils system,” as in “to the victor belongs the spoils;” people flocked to campaign for this or that presidential candidate as much in the hope of getting a comfortable federal job as for anyother reason. Nobody saw anything wrong with that system, because politics was about interests.

In the same way, there’s no evidence that anybody in the Constitutional Convention agonized about the ethical dimensions of the notorious provision that defined each slave as being 3/5ths of a person. I doubt the ethical side of the matter ever crossed any of their minds, because politics was not about ethics or any other expression of values—it was about interests—and the issue was simply one of finding a compromise that allowed each state to feel that its interests would be adequately represented in Congress. Values, in the thought of the time, belonged to church and to the private conscience of the individual; politics was about interests pure and simple.

(We probably need to stop here for a moment to deal with the standard response: “Yes, but they should have known better!” This is a classic example of chronocentrism. Just as ethnocentrism privileges the beliefs, values, and interests of a particular ethnic group, chronocentrism does the same thing to the beliefs, values, and interests of a particular time. Chronocentrism is enormously common today, on all sides of the political and cultural landscape; you can see it when scientists insist that people in the Middle Ages should have known better than to believe in astrology, for example, or when Christians insist that the old Pagans should have known better than to believe in polytheist religions. In every case, it’s simply one more attempt to evade the difficult task of understanding the past.)

Newborn American liberalism, though, rejected the division between politics and values. Their opposition to slavery, for example, had nothing to do with the divergent economic interests of the industrializing northern states and the plantation economy of the South, and everything to do with a devoutly held conviction that chattel slavery was morally wrong. Their opposition to alcohol, to the laws that denied civil rights to women, to war, and to everything else on the lengthy shopping list of the movement had to do with moral values, not with interests. That’s where you see the impact of the movement’s Protestant heritage: it took values out of the church and tried to apply them to the world as a whole.  At the time, that was exotic enough that the moral crusades just mentioned got about as much political traction at the time as the colorful fantasies of the 1960s did in their own day.

Both movements were saved from complete failure by the impact of war. The movement of the 1960s drew most of its influence on popular culture from its opposition to the Vietnam War, which is why it collapsed nearly without a trace when the war ended and the draft was repealed.  The earlier movement had to wait a while for its war, and in the meantime it very nearly destroyed itself by leaping on board the same kind of apocalyptic fantasy that kicked the New Age movement into its current death spiral four years ago. In the late 1830s, frustrated by the failure of the perfect society to show up as quickly as they desired, a great many adherents of the new liberal movement embraced the prophecy of William Miller, a New England farmer who believed that he had worked out from the Bible the correct date of the Second Coming of Christ. When October 22, 1844 passed without incident, the same way December 21, 2012 did, the resulting “Great Disappointment” was a body blow to the movement.

By then, though, one of the moral crusades being pushed by American liberals had attracted the potent support of raw economic interest. The division between northern and southern states over the question of slavery was not primarily seen at the time as a matter of ethics; it was a matter of competing interests, like every other political question, though of course northern politicians and media were quick to capitalize on the moral rhetoric of the Abolitionists. At issue was the shape of the nation’s economic future. Was it going to be an agrarian society producing mostly raw materials for export, and fully integrated into a global economy centered on Britain—the southern model? Or was it going to go its own way, raise trade barriers against the global economy, and develop its own industrial and agricultural economy for domestic consumption—the northern model?

Such questions had immediate practical implications, because government policies that favored one model guaranteed the ruin of the other. Slavery was the linchpin of the Southern model, because the big southern plantations required a vast supply of labor at next to no cost to turn a profit, and so it became a core issue targeted by northern politicians and propagandists alike. Read detailed accounts of the struggles in Congress between northern and southern politicians, though, and you’ll find that what was under debate had as much to do with trade policy and federal expenditures. Was there to be free trade, which benefited the South, or trade barriers, which benefited the North? Was the federal budget to pay for canals and roads, which benefited northern interests by getting raw materials to factories and manufactured products to markets, but were irrelevant to southern interests, which simply needed riverboats to ship cotton and tobacco to the nearest seaport?

Even the bitter struggles over which newly admitted states were to have slave-based economies, and which were not, had an overwhelming economic context in the politics of the time. The North wanted to see the western territories turned into a patchwork of family farms, producing agricultural products for the burgeoning cities of the eastern seaboard and the Great Lakes and buying manufactured goods from northern factories; the South wanted to see those same territories made available for plantations that would raise products for export to England and the world.

Yet the ethical dimension became central to northern propaganda, as already noted, and that helped spread the liberal conviction that values as well as interests had a place in the political dialogue. By 1860, that conviction had become widespread enough that it shaped thinking south of the Mason-Dixon line. As originally written, for example, the first line of the Confederate song “The Bonny Blue Flag” ran “fighting for the property we won by honest toil”—and no one anywhere had any illusions about the identity, or skin color, of the property in question. Before long, though, it was rewritten as “fighting for our liberty, with treasure, blood and toil.” The moment that change occurred, the South had already lost; it’s entirely possible to argue for slavery on grounds of economic interest, but once the focus of the conversation changes to values such as liberty, slavery becomes indefensible.

So the Civil War raged, the Confederacy rose and fell, the Northern economic model guided American economic policy for most of a century thereafter, and the liberal movement found its feet again. With slavery abolished, the other two primary goals took center stage, and the struggle to outlaw alcohol and get voting rights for women proceeded very nearly in lockstep.  The 18th Amendment, prohibiting the manufacture and sale of alcohol in the US, and the 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote, were passed in 1919 and 1920 respectively, and even though Prohibition turned out to be a total flop, the same rhetoric was redirected toward drugs (most were legal in the US until the 1930s) and continues to shape public policy today.  Then came the Great Depression, and with the election of Franklin Roosevelt in 1932—and above all with his landslide reelection victory in 1936, when the GOP carried only two states—the liberal movement became the dominant force in American political life.

Triumph after triumph followed.  The legalization of unions, the establishment of a tax-funded social safety net, the forced desegregation of the South: these and a galaxy of other reforms on the liberal shopping list duly followed. The remarkable thing is that all these achievements took place while the liberal movement was fighting opponents from both sides. To the right, of course, old-fashioned conservatives still dug in their heels and fought for the interests that mattered to them, but from the 1930s on, liberals also faced constant challenge from further left. American liberalism, as already mentioned, was a movement of the educated elite; it focused on helping the downtrodden rather than including them; and that approach increasingly ran into trouble as the downtrodden turned out to have ideas of their own that didn’t necessarily square with what liberals wanted to do for them.

Starting in the 1970s, in turn, American liberalism also ended up facing a third source of challenges—a new form of conservatism that borrowed the value-centered language of liberalism but used a different set of values to rally support to its cause: the values of conservative Protestant Christianity. In some ways, the rise of the so-called “new conservatism” with its talk about “family values” represented the final, ironic triumph of the long struggle to put values at the center of political discourse. By the 1980s, every political faction in American public life, no matter how crass and venial its behavior or its goals, took care to festoon itself with some suitable collection of abstract values. That’s still the case today; nobody talks about interests, even when interests are the obvious issue.

Thus you get the standard liberal response to criticism, which is to insist that the only reason anyone might possibly object to a liberal policy is because they have hateful values.

Let’s take current US immigration policy as an example. This limits the number of legal immigrants while tacitly allowing unlimited illegal immigration.  There are solid pragmatic reasons for questioning the appropriateness of that policy. The US today has the highest number of permanently unemployed people in its history, incomes and standards of living for the lower 80% of the population have been moving raggedly downward since the 1970s, and federal tax policies effectively subsidize the offshoring of jobs. That being the case, allowing in millions of illegal immigrants who have, for all practical purposes, no legal rights, and can be employed at sweatshop wages in substandard conditions, can only drive wages down further than they’ve already gone, furthering the impoverishment and immiseration of wage-earning Americans.

These are valid issues, dealing with (among other things) serious humanitarian concerns for the welfare of wage-earning Americans, and they have nothing to do with racial issues—they would be just as compelling if the immigrants were coming from Canada.  Yet you can’t say any of this in the hearing of a modern American liberal. If you try, you can count on being shouted down and accused of being a racist. Why? I’d like to suggest that it’s because the affluent classes from which the leadership of the liberal movement is drawn, and which set the tone for the movement as a whole, benefit directly from the collapse in wages that has partly been caused by mass illegal immigration, since that decrease in wages has yielded lower prices for the goods and services they buy and higher profits for the companies for which many of them work, and whose stocks many of them own.

That is to say, a movement that began its history with the insistence that values had a place in politics alongside interests has ended up using talk about values to silence discussion of the ways in which its members are pursuing their own interests. That’s not a strategy with a long shelf life, because it doesn’t take long for the other side to identify, and then exploit, the gap between rhetoric and reality.

Ironies of this sort are anything but unusual in political history. It’s astonishingly common for a movement that starts off trying to overturn the status quo in the name of some idealistic abstraction or other to check its ideals at the door once it becomes the status quo. If anything, American liberalism held onto its ideals longer than most and accomplished a great deal more than many, and I think that most of us—even those who, like me, are moderate Burkean conservatives—are grateful to the liberal movement of the past for ending such obvious abuses as chattel slavery and the denial of civil rights to women, and for championing the idea that values as well as interests deserve a voice in the public sphere. It deserves the modern equivalent of a raised hat and a moment of silence, if no more, as it finally sinks into the decadence that is the ultimate fate of every successful political movement.

The current US presidential election shows, perhaps better than anything else, just how far that decadence has gone. Hillary Clinton’s campaign is floundering in the face of Trump’s challenge because so few Americans still believe that the liberal shibboleths in her campaign rhetoric mean anything at all. Even among her supporters, enthusiasm is hard to find, and her campaign rallies have had embarrassingly sparse attendance. Increasingly frantic claims that only racists, fascists, and other deplorables support Trump convince no one but true believers, and make the concealment of interests behind shopworn values increasingly transparent.  Clinton may still win the election by one means or another, but the broader currents in American political life have clearly changed course.

It’s possible to be more precise. Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, in stark contrast to Clinton, have evoked extraordinarily passionate reactions from the voters, precisely because they’ve offered an alternative to a status quo pervaded by the rhetoric of a moribund liberalism. In the same way, in Britain—where the liberal movement followed a somewhat different trajectory but has ended up in the same place—the success of the Brexit campaign and the wild enthusiasm with which Labour Party voters have backed the supposedly unelectable Jeremy Corbyn show that the same process is well under way there. Having turned into the captive ideology of an affluent elite, liberalism has lost the loyalty of the downtrodden that once, with admittedly mixed motives, it set out to help. That’s a loss it’s unlikely to survive.

Over the decades ahead, in other words, we can expect the emergence of a postliberal politics in the United States, England, and quite possibly some other countries as well. The shape of the political landscape in the short term is fairly easy to guess.  Watch the way the professional politicians in the Republican Party have flocked to Hillary Clinton’s banner, and you can see the genesis of a party of the affluent demanding the prolongation of free trade, American intervention in the Middle East, and the rest of the waning bipartisan consensus that supports its interests. Listen to the roars of enthusiasm for Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump—or better still, talk to the not inconsiderable number of Sanders supporters who will be voting for Trump this November—and you can sense the emergence of a populist party seeking the abandonment of that consensus in defense of its very different interests.

What names those parties will have is by no means certain yet, and a vast number of other details still have to be worked out. One way or another, though, it’s going to be a wild ride.


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Avery said...

2016 has offered an embarrassment of riches to people hoping to poke holes in the official narrative. George W. Bush and the Koch Brothers, rightfully lambasted in decades past as the epitome of warmongering and pay-to-play politics, are now trumpeted by my Hillary-supporting friends as Trump opponents and evidence that "those who really matter" lack confidence in him. The Iraq War has shifted in the national discourse from a national disgrace indicating incompetence at the highest levels to a regretful, unavoidable necessity. I remember attending a left-wing anti-NAFTA panel when I was in college, but now the Daily Beast and other hip, young "liberal" media tell me it's ridiculous to question the logic of free trade. It is as if veils are falling away everywhere you look.

I notice, though, that you gave us examples of the religious movements that powered past political eras, but nothing for this one. 2016 should be remembered as the year the "flat earth" movement somehow became part of several different spheres of actual public discourse. As The Atlantic pointed out, it's not even an illogical theory; rather, like all mad theories, it's far too logical. It fits the logic of something we all both perceive and desire: that the "experts" are lying to us about the fundamental nature of reality, that the "world" as we know it is a myth. It's not very original, but I think it's accurate to say that the dominant religion of America this year is conspiracy theory. We have stepped over the line into real, actual gnosticism, and only the Demiurge knows what comes next.

Michelle said...

So timely! A friend just shared his opinion with me on Monday: "I think Elizabeth Warren is the first step in the Democrats of tomorrow becoming the Republicans of the 50s, while the current Republicans vanish, and a new Progressive party comes up over the next 30 years."

Or, to quote the talking head on the Knight Bus in that Harry Potter movie, "Hang on, it's gonna be a bumpy ride!"

And thank you for making easy to understand the divergence between interests and values. They seem rather to intertwine and separate over and over.

Fred said...

Years ago when we began homeschooling, I had a conversation with a mom who had been homeschooling for 15 years.
Me "Well if it wasn't for the North winning the Civil War, slavery would have lasted another 50 years until machines replaced people."
Well Read Homeschooler "The Civil War wasn't about slavery. It was about economics."
Me "Huh?"
Well Read Homeschooler "The southern states were producing the best quality cotton in the world and they wanted the right to sell it to the highest paying buyer. This was usually England, who had done away with their own slaves when they didn't need them anymore because they had ours."
Me "Wait, what?"
Well Read Homeschooler "The northern states were trying to force the southern states to sell the cotton to them. They tried various tactics but it didn't work. 80% of the world's cotton came from the southern states and most went to England where it was made into clothes and sold back to the US. The northern factory owners wanted in on that business."
Me "I never heard any of that in history class. The Civil War was all about the morally superior northern states wiping out the sin of slavery in the southern states."
Well Read Homeschooler "The north destroyed the south, instigating the war and fighting all of it except Gettysburg on their land. They couldn't let the south leave and be free. As soon as the war was over they rebuilt the railroads to get the cotton to move north. They used the same black slaves to grow the cotton as before the war. There was no freeing of people."
Me "Wow. I need to go do some reading."

Fred said...

(hit publish too fast) In the conversation about the Civil War, I learned about the economic interests at stake in a way I never considered. Of course that war had economic interests, don't all wars? I could see the economic interest of the Bush led invasions of Iraq - secure oil resources for the US - while it was being talked about in the media as bringing democracy to the people (values).

Now our occupation of the Middle East is talked about as keeping us safe from terrorists (more values), while its really keeping watch over the oil and keeping it away from China (economics). Or am I reading that wrong?

Sébastien Louchart said...

What a lesson in history and a clear train of thoughts! Thank you John!

Reminds me of the concept of paradigm shift from Donella Meadows' book "Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System". You describe one of them (melding values with interest in the politics) and think another one is happening. I must agree with you.

Julien Aklei said...

Wow, great post. It is disorienting how much things have changed in the last few years. Last election, I was considered an extreme liberal and now I am considered an extreme conservative, despite the fact that my views haven't changed much at all. Just because I don't believe every working class person who doesn't listen to Beethoven is a secret Klansman deserving of ridicule and humiliation, I get called a racist everyday. Oh well.

I wonder if you will ever write anything about the current trend of calling people "ignorant" and "uneducated" all the time. (Maybe you have, I am just beginning to read through your posts.) I find the current worship of education to be a little disturbing, since it implies that non-intellectuals are stupid, and also tends to imply that intellectuals can't be self-educated. I worry it will lead to free college education, which will then cause people to spend great amounts of tax-payer money earning women's studies degrees, or other things which won't benefit society at all.(No offense if you are in favor of free college!)

Thanks again for writing your blog- it is very refreshing and insightful!!

Breanna said...

In a previous post (quite awhile ago, I'm not sure what it was called) you discussed different types of Progress and distinguished moral progress from technological and economic progress. In this essay, you are saying that much of that moral progress (abolition of slavery, rights for women, etc) was due to the liberal movement, which has now been captured by affluent interests and is in a period of decadence and will eventually be gone, or mostly so.

You have also made quite a point, in your Retrotopia series, to emphasize that we can "go back" to certain technologies of, say, the Victorian era, without having to "go back" to some of the deplorable social conditions of the time (women's status, child labor, etc.)

So, do you have a guide for how to continue/preserve moral progress in the face of a) economic and technological decline; b) the decline of the liberal movement which championed those causes; and c) the potential for liberal values to get caught in a backlash against affluent interests?

I pretty much ran away from most other big peak oil blogs than this one due to the glee I saw in the comments about, for example, how economic change would put women back in their places. There is a similar viciousness around many Trump supporters - not even most of them - but the accusations of racism aren't entirely misplaced! I don't want what equality we have achieved to get swept away.

Do you have advice for those of us whose values are liberal but whose interests aren't affluent (besides supporting Sanders)? I'm totally on board with getting out there and doing something...if I had the faintest idea where to start.

David, by the lake said...


Another thought-provoking post. I'm going to have to chew on this one a while, I suspect, but a couple of initial thoughts and reactions.

I was engaged in a recent conversation with someone who would very easily fall into the category of liberal as you've described, with the typical technocentric views. I had been proposing that we might better focus on developing well-paying jobs for American workers, rather than notions of efficiency, output, and trade. During the discussion he pointed out that automation was as much or more a culprit than trade when it came to job-loss (I'd accept that it does have a significant role) and that is why we need to institute a UBI (universal basic income). The conversation had ended at that point, but my first thoughts turned to your discussion of intermediation -- and that UBI is a good way to destroy human society. My labor is irrelevant, I merely consume. (Setting aside the fact that the technotopia wouldn't actually work due to resource limits, etc.) I would lose all sense of being human, of value, of purpose. I have been trying to come up with any similar ideas in history -- would you consider the "bread and circuses" of ancient Rome to be a reasonable analogue?

I did not watch the debate, but I read analyses afterwards (better for my psychological well-being, I find), and many folks thought that the populist-type on the stage scored a number of points against the establishment-liberal on the topic of trade, even though the over-all scoring (to the extent it means anything in terms of votes) went to the establishment-liberal. There was one story I read where a blue-collar, historically-Democratic voter was convinced that he'd vote Trump and was completely put-off by Clinton. His comment was something along the lines of "her points either don't affect me or else they hurt me," which speaks to your gap between rhetoric and reality.

I do think that the new parties forming will be establishment-corporate and populist, defined significantly (though not necessarily completely) by class interests. How we get to that point and what conflicts act as the catalyst for that process, we shall see. As you say, a wild (but fascinating) ride.

Paul Murney said...

Hi John,

Just wanted to say thank you for your very thought provoking essays as they have had a real positive effect on my outlook for the long descent. It is very easy to fall into despair and solitude with what is coming. Your essays have challenged this part of my nature and they are helping me take positive practical steps and giving me hope for some form a sustainable community based future. This is something I want to be involved in.

If there is anyone reading this blog from Christchurch NZ who would like to get together to discuss its contents and steps to take during this time of transition please contact me at

Once again, thanks John.


Violet Cabra said...

Where I live there are many Gadsden minutemen flags, one near my house, with the snake and a backdrop of the Confederate flag. I live in Massachusetts. This to me signals a seismic shift in the orientation of the politics on the Right, and quite possibly politics in general. My interpretation of the Confederate flag being displayed this far north signifies that many, many people believe the federal government is an occupying force. This belief is both deeply radical and has a strong tendency towards decentralization.

On the leftward end of things where I find my social niche there is less powerful symbolic initiative. I am critical about much of the left because:

a) it's attached to an identity politic that seems to delight in alienating as many people as possible
b) places much, much more emphasis on values than interests which hamstrings effective politicking
c) it has contempt for the laboring classes who are, historically, the very people who support the Left, and;
c) frequently imagines no positive futures and simply says that the alternative is worse

My positions are shared by most on the Left who I engage with. It should be noted that I'm someone who for the most part can (and do!) talk about hot-button issues such as immigration in a subtle, nuanced way without being shouted down, I believe largely on account that I'm olive skinned, trans, and a religious minority (that I need to have certain appearances and identities to have honest discourse with genuine content is offensive and grotesque to me, but still, I work what I got). What I find in these conversations is that underneath a perhaps outdated consensus about social values on the Left, there is a desire for more social democracy - ie larger government institutions, more social welfare, and the protections for the vulnerable. This seems to me a centralizing force.

It thus appears that the new political paradigm is one that pits radicalism against conservatism. The Right is radical in its thrust for decentralization whereas the Left seeks to preserve the New Deal, and perhaps expand the welfare state which is ipso facto conservative, federalist, and centralizing. The Right seems more coherent in its initiative, whereas the Left seems of two minds and somewhat divided against itself - it is half in the old paradigm of liberalism and half in the new. Said perhaps more simply the Right seems awake to itself whereas the Left is mostly asleep. If I'm reading the signs correctly, these two perspectives are much more diametrically opposed than the current political arrangement of senile liberalism, and I pray that the tension they imply can be shared collectively without ripping the nation to bloody shreds.

Joel Caris said...


Well, this is a particularly fascinating (and early!) post. As someone who has identified most my life as liberal but who has seen an increasing influx of populist thought into my political ideology, this one hits very close to home. I feel increasingly dissatisfied with the choices offered up by both parties--and not excited about the third party options, either. I would be quite happy right now if Bernie Sanders was the nominee (and likely sporting a 10 point lead on Trump, though perhaps I'm being too generous) and if I had a candidate who truly understood the devastation of globalized free trade who didn't also make it a habit of making misogynistic statements about women, making bigoted remarks toward a variety of ethnicities, and just generally being a smart but still kind of terrible candidate who refuses to formulate a clear world view despite having many of the pieces of such right there in his stump speeches.

Alas, so goes current politics.

To be perfectly honest, I would love to see the rise of a populist movement that advocated for a protectionist economic policy; limited legal and illegal immigration that provided an infusion of cultural and ethnic diversity without impacting the wage-class to too detrimental a degree; a movement away from over-reliance on the speculative financial economy in favor of a return to a goods and services-based economy, with heavy emphasis on "goods"; a general favoring of a closed system economy in which we largely provide for ourselves utilizing our country's own energy resources, natural resources, and labor base--and rebuild rural communities and economies in the process; a strong support of civil rights and internal diversity; and a reduced federal government that still maintained oversight of those civil rights and implemented certain national priorities, such as a reformed, single-payer health care system, a national transportation network that emphasized rail transit between population centers, a reformed tax structure that rewarded employment and penalized mechanization, and a national energy policy that incentivized conservation and local and renewable energy generation with a focus on passive technologies (make solar water heaters and passive solar design as mandatory as fossil fuel-powered hot water and space heaters, for god's sake!)

I'm sure I'm missing a wide variety of elements in that break down, but it's a heck of a good start in my mind. The thing is, too, if liberals like me want to ensure a society in which minorities are treated fairly and equitably, then we need to ensure as broad-based and beneficial an economy as we can, address the problems afflicting the wage class and rural people, reduce our own standards of living for the benefit of everyone, stop advocating and supporting destructive policies so long as they don't impact us, and acknowledge the very real and legitimate concerns, interests, and devastation of people not in our class, or else we're going to guarantee the exact sort of abuses we proclaim to be against (but engage in ourselves at times). Sometimes the sheer stupidity, short-sightedness, and unwillingness to face hard truths makes me crazy. And yeah, I include myself in that statement.


P.S. This week's new Litterfall blog post is up and features some discussion of JMG's concept of LESS. And for those who found the above interesting, I'll be starting a series of "Closed System Economics" posts in less than two weeks, expounding on some of the above principles and ideas.

Eric S. said...

Hmm… You’re pointing out a pattern I haven’t noticed before, so I’m going to need some pointers toward literature from the time that showed the opposition to pre-civil war liberalism reacting to a shift in the role of the political process, rather than responding with their own set of contrary values, especially in the case of the women’s suffrage movement, which was almost entirely led by women pursuing their own interests and was opposed largely on a value based platform (of people believing that women were ruled by their passions and would degrade society as a whole through voting… people invoking biblical morality… stuff like that). It seems, in fact, that the decision to include a bill of rights at the beginning of the constitution implies that ethical values were always at the heart of the political system in America. What I imagine is that the presence of a bill of rights in the constitution, and the use of the bible to oppose the nascent women’s rights movement is part of something different than what you’re alluding to, but it definitely looks like values were always extremely close to the surface.

My other thought: you’re pointing out here that values are not always at the heart of politics, and sometimes don’t even feature at all, and on the other blog you’ve pointed out the dangers of turning religious institutions into political ones, and called for religious spaces to remain open and neutral. Meanwhile, you’ve also pointed out in past essays here on this blog that religion itself isn’t always about ethics or moral values, and is at its heart about spiritual relationships (though, of course conflicts within religious traditions such as say… the conflicts within the heathen world over the two lines of traditions with competing and irreconcilable values surrounding ethnic diversity, gender roles, and the like), and of course the history of liberalism you’ve discussed here or certain theocratic societies (such as Saudi Arabia) show that values and morality can take a central stage in politics, but as you’ve pointed out with other examples this week, just like religion can be completely about spiritual experience, politics can be purely about individual interests. Which means that it’s feasibly possible for a society to exist in which values, ethics, and morality are the domain of neither the church nor the state, that suggests the presence of a binary that is in need of resolving… if there are no ethics in either religion or politics, what institution would be powering the ethical aspects of the society’s actions?

As for the future of politics on our own world: do you see a full on return to the social Darwinism of the Gilded Age? Or do you think that liberal politics has left enough of a mark that ethical concerns will continue to factor into political decision making on at least some level? And of course… the million dollar question: you just wrote an entire novel about the ways that adopting the technologies in the past won’t guarantee a return to the uglier cultural institutions of the past. What can be done, going forward into a post-liberal and post-industrial world to actually avoid that? Just because retroversion of technologies and retroversion of cultural institutions aren’t connected, doesn’t mean the latter can be avoided simply through sitting back and assuming that it can’t happen… so what exactly can be done to try to avoid a future with a “Handmaid’s Tale” vibe to it?

peakfuture said...

It is amazing when folks want to overturn the status quo, and then, when they *become* the status quo, they don't want any more overturning, or their ideals fade away. Has there ever been a movement or idea where this hasn't been the case? Some folks may have held on to their ideals longer than others; from your vast historical knowledge, which ideas haven't been as diluted as quickly? Which ones have faded the fastest?

Did you see or read the presidential debate transcript, by the way? My own term for them is 'intellectual NASCAR'. My gut feeling is that not many people want to hear true debate, but want to see the intellectual version of a car crash - the gaffe, screwup, or foot-in-mouth of the other person who they dislike, and to reinforce their own view of things. The debate was being televised in the local pub, as any other sports event, of course.

Gee said...

Truly full circle. Basically, the powers that be of the original order (politicos, financiers, lawyers) made the rules of the game, and decided what worked best largely for their interests. It's not that they didn't take values into account, they simply didn't take normal well-functioning, conscientious, human values into account. They took into account the values of the immoral. Their values were essentially binary : the intersection of money and power.

Today, we have a similar thing. The democratic party, what we are told is the last bastion of liberal and progressive ideas (which I'm sure most people can now understand is anything but, seeing how the party treated Bernie Sanders)has essentially over the last three to four decades morphed into the professional moneyed elite, and have, aside from a few social niceties like gay marriage and pot smoking, turned against all values about the ethical treatment of those that don't get a fair start in life, and have become the same rapacious types that required the creation of a liberal movement in the first place. Today, it's the same nexus : finance, law and politics, but at a more professionally corrupt level, since it's marketed as anything but, with of course, the also corrupt world of economic academy providing cover for its policies.

A sorry state of affairs.

Bill Price said...

I'm not sure I agree that governments were preoccupied with balancing competing interests, not with morality per se, in the preliberal era. The Peace of Westphalia and the Peace of Augsburg in the mid 17th century did much to establish our modern notions of government and international relations, and they're arguably quite liberal in character. The principle of "Cuius regio, eius religio" is, after all, the de jure embedding of religious policy- of the holy salvation of the people- at the level of national government. That looks like a moral consideration—at first glance, at least.

But perhaps I conflate religion and morality, and perhaps the fragmentation of religion across the Holy Roman Empire is better understood not as a moral question of liberty and self-determination (as it is typically cast today), but as a preliberal weighing of power and interests-- a mutual recognition that no one side had enough power to wipe the other side out, and that mutual toleration of others' competing interests was preferable to eternal conflict.

I don't know.

Johnny said...


One thing I was struck by, watching the debate, was how Trump seemed to be so open, and almost flaunting that in business morality didn't seem to factor into his decisions. I think Hilary wants to paint him as a bad person who is selfish in his business affairs and would therefore be the same kind of president but Trump seemed to spin that and say that he makes those decisions because they are smart business and the only way to get him, and others like him, to act differently, to make things in America (for example) is to make laws that make it more expensive for them to go elsewhere. I can't remember ever seeing someone use the main criticisms lobbied against them as a way of illustrating the necessity of their policies.

drhooves said...

This week's post is an excellent summary of American political history. As irony goes, there's plenty in the pipeline as American conservatives and populists who want to see the leftists and their movements tossed on the trash heap of history, may very well find another dictator to fill the vacuum. The trend of Americans wanting security and handouts versus protection of liberties and less government interference, all within the backdrop of the effects of deindustrialization, almost certainly guarantees that a dictator will have much more in common with Hitler or Stalin versus Washington or Lincoln.

A wild ride, indeed!

James M. Jensen II said...

One of the things you've helped clear up for me is why I'm so ambivalent about the election. What's happening is that my values align more with Clinton but my interests align more with Trump, who to me represents the last chance to derail neoliberalism peacefully (read: without major disruptions to medical supply lines). Bernie offered to make the two line up with one candidate, but that didn't happen.

Now, I'll admit that my values don't quite line up with the modern left as much as they used to. Another tech CEO—Palmer Luckey—has come under fire for the crime of donating money to a political cause the left doesn't like: "Palmer Luckey and the outrage mobs: How to make Trump fans look good"

At least Luckey seems to be a genuinely unlikable person, the tech he's peddling is a nine day wonder, and the cause he donated to is kind of shady. Mozilla's former CEO Brendan Eich, who was subject to similar nonsense for his donation to the CA Prop 8 campaign—a cause I fully oppose—strikes me as a stand-up kind of guy. In both cases, I happen to think that mass demonization of a person for having political views shared by a significant portion of the country is illiberal and undemocratic. According to some leftists I've encountered online, that makes me a bigot!

Finally, changing subjects, I learned that Elon Musk has decided to make my story idea of colonists dying on Mars for Progress' sake a reality:

Sending people to die to live out your Sci-Fi fantasies while milking the government for even more subsidies? Now there's a tech CEO who's earned some criticism.

Patricia Mathews said...

So it all began with the Transcendentalists, peaked with FDR, and slid rapidly downhill after that. I can believe it. "The sun looks largest in the late afternoon" and all that. I've been telling people for some time that this is no ordinary crisis era, but a megacrisis at the very least.

I'm looking at, for instance, the way the entire medieval consensus shattered with the rise of the Tudors; including its institutional social safety net (in extremely bad shape in England by the time of the Dissolution, which was still a wealth grab pure and simple.) Mass dislocation and hardship and total realignment of the sort described in this blog post. And that wasn't even the size of the Fall of Rome.

OF course, we also have issues of temperament driving the entire values-driven vs spoils system clash, alas. Even if it's a simplistically expressed as "The Daddy party and the Mommy party."

Or with more concise wit, courtesy of Gilbert & Sullivan, "Every boy and every girl who comes into this world alive, is either a little liberal - or a little conservative."

We don't need to learn to surf the waves any more, let alone just swim; we need military quality deep water survival skills. Especially us little liberals, whose value train has long since jumped the tracks. (Or surfboard jumped the shark?)

Just my $0.02; Pat

Twinruler334 said...

That was a very fascinating report. I suppose, the Northerners have a strategy of projecting their very own antiblack sentiments upon the White Southerners. In this way, they divert African American hatred away from themselves, and unto the region of The South. Very cunning, on their part.

mmeo said...

George Mason of Virginia refused to sign the Constitution because of its preservation, unchanged, of slavery. He wanted it to abolish the slave trade. The Constitution itself, as a compromise measure, put off the abolition of slave-trading until another twenty years had passed. Neither of these facts squares with your statement, "[T]here’s no evidence that anybody in the Constitutional Convention agonized about the ethical dimensions of the notorious provision that defined each slave as being 3/5ths of a person." Failure to take a stand outright opposing slavery was simply one of many compromises, but the stand against slavery obviously was a moral one.

Mickey Foley said...

Another amazing essay, dude. I know you don't watch TV (your one reference to "The Colbert Report" a few years ago notwithstanding), but I hope you're at least somewhat familiar with "South Park." I think I hear the death knell of liberalism in Cartman's recurring cry of outrage, "It's wrong! Wrooong!" He takes these "principled" stands when his interests are threatened. The show's creators are noted libertarians, and they routinely mock values-based politics as a masquerade for self-interested lobbying. Funny that Values Voters are now identified with the Right. It could be their novelty or the decadence of liberals. Or both.

Mister Roboto said...

Watch the way the professional politicians in the Republican Party have flocked to Hillary Clinton’s banner, and you can see the genesis of a party of the affluent demanding the prolongation of free trade, American intervention in the Middle East, and the rest of the waning bipartisan consensus that supports its interests. Listen to the roars of enthusiasm for Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump—or better still, talk to the not inconsiderable number of Sanders supporters who will be voting for Trump this November—and you can sense the emergence of a populist party seeking the abandonment of that consensus in defense of its very different interests.

I just saw a headline on saying that Obama recently said that not voting is a vote for Donald Trump. So even the act of not voting is voting? Should I also assume that being celibate is now a form of promiscuity and dieting a form of gluttony? You can just smell the rank desperation when the political class is openly resorting to such blatant anti-logic.

For myself, I am freaking done with the Democratic Party. I have given that institution more chances than I have ever given anybody or anything only to be kicked in the teeth every time. If I ever vote again, it will be for anybody but a Republican or a Democrat. For now, I think it would be better to just not show up at the polls, because the declining participation numbers will send a message that voting for some vanity-candidate never could.

Paul said...

Over the last few weeks, I've been reading both Howard Zinn's book, A People's History of the US, and your book, Decline and Fall, which this particular blog post echoes quite closely.

It's interesting to see both the parallels and the variences. You're both talking about the same things, in more or less the same way. As systems and processes I suppose. Yet you draw subtly different conclusions. Zinn, from a nuanced radical left position. You from a nuanced Burkean Conservative position, as you describe yourself.

Both views are given shape by History, and the processes that underpin it.

Zinn is more moral than you.

This is not an insult! His standpoint is explicitly moral, and I'd suggest close to the subject of this post. You're more dispassionate. This doesn't mean you're any less compassionate. Just a different style.

Anyway, loving the History. Will draw my own conclusions, and will take both you and Zinn with a pinch of salt.

Phil Knight said...

One thing I've noticed from the increasingly shrill voices of Liberals in the UK is that the liberal mind has no conception of the idea of consequences. There seems to be an unspoken assumption that as long as a policy is considered morally and ethically correct, then no negative consequences can ensue from implementing it. This is why Brexit has been such a huge shock to them - they believed that because it was so obviously abhorrent, and because its supporters were so obviously reactionary/xenophobic/ignorant, then it couldn't possibly happen.

It also explains the Iraq War, the global banking crisis, the failure of the Eurozone. Anything built from good intentions cannot possibly go wrong. This is why personally I'm so ambivalent about the likes of Trump, Farage and Le Pen - they are simply what happens when an elite and their enablers in the media and commentariat don't bother to think through the potential consequences of their attitudes and actions. The result is that the consequences manifest themselves, whether they are wanted or not.

Tom Hopkins said...

What is your take on so many non-politically connected black leaders/voices asking what the democrats and president Obama has actually done for the black community?

barrigan said...

In a nutshell, I think all successful social movements are ultimately vanquished by their success (the unsuccessful ones, of course, fail for different reasons). By definition, a "movement" has to be moving. Having accomplished its goals, the movement no longer has a reason to exist, so it starts dying - but many people have their livelihoods invested in the movement. So how do they keep it afloat? Two ways come to mind:

1. Move the goalposts - find some different but similar goal to support. This is of course subject to the law of diminishing returns, because a social movement is naturally going to go after (what it perceives to be) the most impactful goals and the most overt forms of oppression first, until it gradually reaches a point where it's fighting against "oppressions" that are arguable at best, and its goals have negligible or even negative impact on the situation of the supposed beneficiaries.

2. Invoke perasmenophobia, the fear of the past seemingly ubiquitous today - imply, for instance, that the movement's successes are entirely due to the continued existence of the movement and that if they ceased to fight, all their successes would be forfeit nearly instantly and the situation would revert to that of, usually, the period in the past the movement's hangers-on perceive as having been the most oppressive for its beneficiaries. But this loses its effectiveness as time passes and the oppressions of the past fall out of memory into history.

This is not to discount the importance of social movements. When the status quo is unacceptable or untenable, movements are an absolute necessity to break social and societal inertia. But they are inevitably self-defeating by virtue of their own success.

Tidlösa said...

I also noticed that Trump (more or less) avoids the culture war issues which preoccupy other conservatives. Instead, he talks about jobs, trade, raw law and order, etc. "Interests" rather than "values". Seems to be working just fine!

As I perhaps said before, I think Trump himself is a transitional figure even if elected. During the primaries, he sounded like a right-wing populist with some quasi-left features tacked on. Now, he sounds like a strange hybrid of conservative Republican, liberal Republican and populist. In other words, he wants a deal with the old establishment (which he is really a part of himself), while aiming to win over the Tea Party types *and* holding on to his neo-populist base at the same time. How this will turn out is anybody´s guess at this point, although I think a Trump victory is fairly certain unless Clinton organizes *massive* election fraud.

You are right that there seems to be a re-alignment between liberal Democrats and Neo-Cons around the Clinton candidacy. I think this reflects a broader re-alignment between left-liberals and neo-liberals internationally. The goal is to create a global and globalized "free market" economy, but with left-liberal values rather than conservative ones. Mass immigration is part of this agenda. It lowers wages and destroys welfare states, but can be pushed as a left-liberal demand ("multi-culturalism").

The present challenge to this comes largely from the right (UKIP in Britain, Trump in the US, Front National in France), but in the future, there "should" be a traditionally socialist reaction from the workers, if only because many of the right-wing populists are really pushing an alternative corporate agenda. Even if Trump gets the manufacturing jobs back to the US, there might still be low wages and union-busting... I´m not sure what role, if any, Corbyn will play in this drama. On the one hand, his rise is the result of opposition to neo-liberalism. On the other hand, he is left-liberal and "pro-Muslim" and apparently supported Remain (!). Labour´s future might be a pretty wild ride, too!

Perhaps there will be three or even four parties in the US in the future. Apart from the Marie Antoinette Cookie Party (led by guess who), there could be a People´s Party to the left, a minimal government/state rights Tea Party to the right (Ted Cruz?), and a right-wing populist but government-interventionist party (Fred Halliot?). There might also be ethno-nationalist parties among Hispanics and Blacks, when these minority groups get tired of being played by Marie Antoinette in pantsuits.

And yes, the world *is* watching...

Tidlösa said...

Two postscripts to my earlier posting.

Yes, I also noticed the flat earthers! LOL. They even have factional battles, between Christians and New Age people, and refer to those who believe in a spherical earth as "spherecucks" (I hope that´s not too much of a profanity for this blog).

Two, I rather liked liberalism, especially the FDR-Sanders-Social Democratic version. Somehow, I hope it can be recreated on a smaller scale. A kind of Lakeland People´s Party Republic...


Josh said...

Interesting post but I would like more elaboration on the distinction between "values" and "interests" as they inform politics. For example, is it possible to pursue "interests" without any contamination from "values"? Your thesis that liberalism injected values into politics which was previously only (or mainly) driven by interests implies it's possible to have a much more cut-and-dried politics that really just reflects "interest." But what all makes up "interests" is a bit vague here. I'd like to hear more.

I'm working out a couple of hypotheses that are probably related. One is that democracy might be inherently unsustainable - because it posess no natural defenses to the accumulation of wealth and power in a few hands. In previous eras there were periodic "jubilee years" that attempted to level the playing field again. But it probably takes authoritarianism to do this.

The other hypothesis is based on the observation that now in the US we seem to be extremely obsessed with celebrity and personality. I feel there is a connection here with the hegemony of "values" in politics as you put it - as the basis for all of this conflict over identity issues. Viewed in terms of likely outcomes, I feel a Trump or Hillary Presidency (or anybody else for that matter) is all basically the same. But if you try to tell some one, "Hillary or Trump, 6 of one and half dozen of the other..." people freak out. Because they are judging based on personalities (or maybe better term, personae), which are really different. Outcomes are what matter though. To the extent that we obsess over celebrity and differences in personality we fail to deal with substance. We never get around to discussing practical stuff, like how to allocate scarce resources with a modicum of fairness.

"Democracy" has become all about the right to choose whose personality you most resonate with or against - whoever is willing to trumpet your favored values/identity issues. Outcomes fall by the wayside. I don't wish to live under a dictatorship, but it would be good if some wise and powerful entity could cut through the bullsnott and set things straight.

Shane W said...

things are changing so fast now it's making my head spin (see my comment from last post), wage class people are literally all over the map now w/their beliefs. Have you seen the Rainbow Gadsden flag? It gained popularity after the Pulse nightclub shooting. I have not seen a Gadsden Confederate flag, besides the Rainbow Gadsden flag, the only Gadsden I'd seen was the standard yellow background. Supposedly, there's a Rainbow Rebel Confederate flag, but I've yet to see it...

Justin said...

I have very clear memories of my parents and their friends (who are very, very salary class, as am I, to a lesser extent), complaining about hypocritical republicans (during the Bush the Second era) who are against legal immigration, but tacitly allow illegal immigration to depress working class labor. It's rather amusing to watch these same people, who politely ignore Obama's extension of the Bush-Clinton regime, rail against a republican who at least claims to fix the illegal immigration issue, and instead propose electing another Clinton to reverse the indistinguishable policies of Clinton, Bush and Obama. It really is amazing to watch.

I also think it's funny that these people who criticize Trump's unique diction and mode of speaking also worship Elon Musk, even though Elon Musk has comparable, but much more salary-class speech defects.

Nastarana said...

Dear Mr. Roberto, welcome to the club. I have been DONE with the Democratic Party since 2010.

I expect, at this point, that I will vote Green this election, keeping mind that, as our host as said, it is a mostly elite organization which represents the interests of a certain segment of the salaried class. Nevertheless, someone has to speak for the trees. I would like to see Green Party members on every city council and in every state legislature. Someone has to be willing and able to say NO, you are not going to pave paradise, and NO, you don't get to clear cut the only remaining forest for 200 miles in any direction. Jobs, you say, how about don't spray RU along roads and instead hire idle and energetic teenaged youths to be brush cutters. Then, run the brush through a chipper and sell the chips to gardeners.

Dear Joel Caris, I like every part of your list of proposals; perhaps you would consider adding support for regenerative agriculture along with banning harmful chemicals, glyphosate in particular, maybe bringing back commodity price supports (which don't cost the taxpayer a dime), along with a general understanding that the primary purpose of the agricultural sector is supporting the health and vigor of the population, not earning foreign money. I am of the opinion that farmland, such as remains, should be designated a critical natural resource which cannot be sold for development or owned by foreign individuals, governments or companies.

Bill Pulliam said...

Hmmm... I think I need clarification on how Sanders represents a break with clasical liberalism, and not a reactionary effort to ressurect its heyday, which is how he always sounded to me. And how do Trump's supporters not also represent politicization of values, just different values? "Make America Great Again" sounds like the ultimate in a declaration of values, not policy.

There is also a cyclical process here. There is always a popular reaction against the party of the current president. Anti-government militias rose during Clinton, and again during Obama. Left-wing street protests rose during Nixon, and during Bush II. I expect they will subsude under Trump or continue to grow under Clinton. Amidts all this it can be very hard to pick out anything specific and ongoing as representative of the large cycles of history versus these shorter cycles.

One large cycle I see is the evolution from Democracy to Oligarchy. This seems to be independent of liberalism. Trump and Clinton both fit this model, even though Clinton tries to pretend otherwise while Trump embraces it.

John Roth said...

Interesting take on matters. I'm going to have to reread it a couple of times to make sure I've got your argument down properly, but I think I'm going to disagree on a few points. One of them is the historical importance of interests vs values. Every Awakening in the American Experience has been about values: the Great Awakening, the Second Great Awakening or Transcendental Awakening, which is the one you reference, the Third or Missionary Awakening and finally the Fourth or Consciousness Revolution (aka "the 60s.")

As far as the Civil War goes, slavery and economics were so intimately intertwined that it's impossible to talk about one without talking about the other. The last time I looked at it, I was pointed at the Declarations of the Causes of Secession that several of the southern states had published. One was a rant about slavery; there was absolutely no mention of economic issues. Another covered slavery, economics and a boatload of other issues; I think the authors dredged up everything any of them had ever been peeved about. They're interesting documents.

Another thing I learned is that Lincoln came into office with a worked-out plan for the 30-year abolition of slavery, including reparations to slaveholders, resettlement and ways to handle old age. This seems to have been deleted from the official histories.

Justin said...

Mickey Foley, I agree about South Park. It continues to be an excellent critique of American politics (granted, without offering positive alternatives) after 20 years. Last week's episode, I think, will get quite a few chuckles from Dear Blogger.

Unknown said...

Hi JMG - off topic, but you gotta check out what has just happened in South Australia - the entire state lost power, because of our centralised distribution network infrastructure (privatised and aging) failing to cope with an extreme weather event, and the screams of entitlement are deafening! And I just think of your many essays, and light my candles...

Howard Skillington said...

It has been fascinating this week, in a grotesque sort of way, to observe how the political professionals behind Hillary have managed to make the campaign be about Trump, and how awful he unquestionably is, rather than any actual issue regarding their own candidate. Liberals are so aghast that Trump may once have ridiculed a beauty queen for gaining weight, that they are entirely relieved of concern for the central role Hillary has played in the ruination of millions of lives in the Middle East. They have been manipulated into such indignation over the parsimony of Trump’s charitable giving, that they can completely ignore the funneling of funds from corrupt foreign regimes through the State Department into the Clinton Foundation.

It will be interesting to see if Hillary’s campaign and the enormous bipartisan forces that have rallied behind it can manage to keep attention focused on the speck in Trump’s eye, rather than the beam in Hillary’s until November.

Perhaps the new populist party could be called The Deplorables. I kind of like the sound of that, myself.

Patricia Mathews said...

Speaking of the values regime having gone bloated and stinking - I am trying to break myself of the habit of passing judgement on things I simply don't like, without having a mind so open my brains fall out. I find Thomas Jefferson phrased the standard for that very succinctly. "[if]... it neither picks my pocket or breaks my leg." That is, tangible, visible, and immediate harm.

A local homeowner's astroturf is disgusting, but none of my business. The guy sleeping at the bus stop I'm walking past is not even inconveniencing me; why call the city on him? And so on. "An it harm none, do as ye will."

Though a letter to the editor about a really stupid public policy is always in order, and there it's often very hard to keep down the self-righteous bile. Why can't these people see and do the right thing - according to the Great Goddess Pat? Sigh. David Brin has a bad case of that.

And if somebody is actually harming others, well, that's one of the things a cell phone in the pocket is really, really good for. Dial 277-COPS.

Mark said...

In a contracting economy, interests will of course trump values in national politics (bad pun only partially intended). It's going to be up to all of us to try to hang on to the values side of the equation in our personal lives, in whatever way we see those values.

Pantagruel7 said...

This may be a little bit half-baked. But it's a question that has bothered me for some time. Is "environmentalism" an interest or a value? Are you familiar with the legal concept of "standing"? The late (but not lamented) Justice Scalia consistently sought to exclude environmentalist plaintiffs from US courts on the basis of lack of "standing." They lacked "skin in the game" according to Scalia. So if they lacked "skin in the game" how could they have been pushing their own particular interests? So was it values, then? Something along the line of "do-gooders"? The lawyers, and economists, tend to view environmentalists as just another competing interest group. So according to Scalia they could be ignored as not an interest group, but on the other hand they were just another interest group. It's as if any lame logic at all would suffice to avoid taking environmentalist concerns seriously. One might think that "Conservative" would include conservation, but that does not seem to be the case. Sorry, again, if this seems half-baked.

Urban Harvester said...

The idea that every political movement has a lifespan seems very healthy to me. It is also very stimulating to consider other facets of American life that were shaped by the rise of liberalism, and which will be shaped by its fall. It's especially interesting to think about how interests were able to hide behind and manipulate the values emphasising politics, for example - I remember hearing claims that the Rockefellers funded the temperance movement and benefitted thereafter as Apple alcohol stills were outlawed, dismantled, and ultimately forgotten as alternatives to the Rockefellers newly repurposed waste product-as-auto-fuel: gasoline. And thus how (as you've previously said) by drawing the discussion of interests out of the murk might turn things around.

pygmycory said...

One thing I really wonder about if Trump wins is what happens to those currently surviving on some form of benefits. There seems to be an assumption on the right that a lot of those receiving help don't need it and are fraudulent. This assumption seems to be held rather widely. I assume they are right about a few people, but given how low a lot of the benefits already are in the USA, I tend to assume that the vast majority of those receiving help actually need it.

If SNAP gets removed entirely, or a whole bunch of disabled people are kicked off disability, they aren't going to magically be able to support themselves all of a sudden. A lot of people could die, and homelessness and hunger would get a lot worse.

Nixing harmful free trade agreements with increased jobs is something essential that would help large numbers of people, but if you are unable to work and there isn't a safety net, you're in big trouble.

That's actually my biggest worry about Trump, and it seems to get mentioned less often as a potential problem than things like his statements about women or illegal immigrants.

I'm speaking as someone on disability in Canada, who would have extreme trouble working enough to remain housed even if my wages were twice as high as they currently are. I've been trying to be less dependent on the government, but my best just isn't enough. That's how I ended up in this situation in the first place!

Tower 440 said...

Greetings to the assembled Wizardren!
Switching to the well-advertised and quarterly format made our Autumnal Equinox meeting a rousing success. We were pleased to receive a new friend from New York who saw our announcement on this blog.
In our meeting (and various rump and ad hoc sessions) we have resolved the following:
1. Immediate recognition of all new Towers, Guilds, Sole Practitioners, and Friendly Societies of Green Wizardry and related studies and practices.
2. To open communication via a professional email address. Please contact us at We love to talk. (You knew that.)
3. We have started observing relevant celestial events as meeting days and feast days. Stated meetings will be held at or near the changes of seasons. Friday’s Black Moon is declared a Revel Night for Tower 440 and anyone who wishes to join us either in person or in spirit.
Many thanks to our host!

W. B. Jorgenson said...


George Mason was a slave owner. Wanting to ban the international slave trade would of course be in his best interests. Of course, forbidding the imports of new slaves would increase the value of his, thus a classic interest move. It is perfectly possible to argue against the slave trade for interests, not just values. Furthermore, please note that George Mason did not argue against slavery.

Robo said...

It occurs to me that the liberalism discussed here has been practical only with the assistance of fossil fuels; coal in the 19th century, oil and natural gas in the 20th and 21st. When we can daily employ hundreds or even thousands of cheap human-equivalent chemical energy slaves per capita to do our work, process our food and zoom us around, who needs actual human slaves?

The relatively small percentage of menial agricultural, service or industrial tasks that cannot be easily automated or mechanized are now consigned to a convenient new sub-class of "illegals" whom we pretend are undesirables, conveniently unworthy of civil rights yet absolutely indispensable in their invisible servitude. Manufacture of most consumer goods is outsourced to adjacent or overseas countries where economic slavery is overt yet comfortably out of our direct view.

The eventual and inevitable depletion of our fossil energy slaves will necessarily revert us to the long-term historical norm of human relations, politics and economics, and for liberals it won't be a pretty sight.

Tower 440 said...

Breanna – regarding your wondering about what to do and where to start – we in Tower 440 have developed a two-step process that works very well in field trials. One: buy a copy of Green Wizardry. Two: Get busy! (Three: Keep a weather eye on politics, just in case.)
Another idea: Rusty, our resident Ruinman, puts salvaging the observational sciences high on his “to do” list.

Maverick said...

From India here, thanks for the lesson in American history. I have to tell you that it's not just US where liberalism is failing, it's happening throughout the world including in my own country. Which leads me to believe that liberalism is joined at the hip with economic growth and empire.

Ever since the British set foot here, the followers of English language, customs and traditions have always had an upper hand over the natives who failed to adopt to such nuances. This resulted in the political discourse getting dominated largely by people who were educated in elite western institutions. This tradition continued well after our independence largely because the west and it's ideas dominated almost everything.

In the interest of keeping the republic alive, local histories (which included religious, caste and linguistic rivalries) were suppressed and school books were modified accordingly. Even mentioning any such trends or native history was considered blasphemy unofficially and such people were routinely branded fundamentalist and backward. However over the last 20 years or so the natives have fought back (helped by the slow demise of the empire) and this has resulted in the rise of several regional parties and one 'nationalist' party in particular who have no sympathies for such western educated elites.

Even then the grip of the empire is so strong that although socially and culturally we are moving away from the west, economically we are still rooted to the same old ideas. This is because the moneyed elites from west and our own diaspora (from west) still dominate economic theory, but I expect that to change going forward as the west declines and Asian economies regain their natural standing in the world order.

Jack Ellis said...

Dear Mr Greer,
Help! I am really struggling to understand this week's post.

I would have considered Corbyn or Sanders - and, to a lesser degree Trudeau in Canada, to be more socially (if not economically) 'liberal' than Clinton...

Yes, working class people may be turning to Corbyn or Sanders because they believe their policies may benefit their interests more than the slick, corporate 'middle-path' parties of the past two decades, but that doesn't make their policies any less liberal - it just makes them potentially effective?

I also understood that the criticism of Clinton is that her liberalism is not 'moribund', but that it's clumsily fake; a flimsy mask over an interests-based realpolitik.

Is criticism of Clinton a criticism of liberalism or emperor's-new-liberalism?

Or is the thesis that there is no difference; that all apparent liberalism is (or very quickly becomes) propaganda for political interests?


Maverick said...

On the topic of how to bring change into society folks might find this article from 'Taleb' interesting

He is what I'd call a new age intellectual, his ideas are original and he detests anything from the 'yale, oxford, harvard' stable. It's a long read but worth it.

Unknown said...

@Paul: I loved reading A People's History of the United States. It was full of events in history I never heard of before. Zinn showed me that we have never actually had the right to assemble. Fitting, since this is the constitutional right that is most likely to change things. My sister and brother-in-law salvaged some bricks from the street where the Haymarket riots took place when they were torn out by the city. They have a real piece of history at their house.

Wendy Crim said...

Great story. Thanks for sharing that.

Wendy Crim said...

Excellent. I agree. I have been called a radical liberal and a anti-feminist conservative both in the last few years and mostly I haven't changed my core beliefs.
Enjoy discovering the blog. I look forward to it every week!

Unknown said...

Thank you for another relevant essay. Perhaps it would be useful to differentiate between codifying moral values into law versus codifying laws to keep order, to ensure that people behave in an orderly fashion and have no reason to resort to violence. I have been thinking about the origin of law and government, since I have been reexamining Libertarianism and anarchy. I think with 7 billion people on the planet, it's unrealistic to imagine a world with minimal government, because we no longer have the type of social institutions that correct behavior in a small community (I grew up in a town of 500 people, so I understand how behavior is regulated in a place like Mayberry, for example). When community is eroded by large size, too many interactions are between total strangers so there are no repercussions for bad behavior. Reputation is everything in a small town, and it's meaningless in a city. So my thoughts brought me to the first code of laws written by Hammurabi. It's no coincidence that law had to be codified and enforced in the first civilization, because once a community reaches a certain size, everything is mob rule, pitchforks and torches, until someone creates a system of law and punishment. Certainly, "an eye for an eye" is a type of ethical statement (as archaic as it is now), but it wasn't promoted to make people more ethical. The law was created to prevent people from murdering each other over lost eyes. It was to create order, as opposed to the alternative, which is unethical behavior being policed by the angry mob. Granted, there was a danger of women and slaves turning into angry mobs until their conditions improved. I think as things degenerate, we should probably keep this in mind, because if social systems and governments degenerate and lose the capacity to provide justice and order, we need to understand how to prevent chaos. It goes back to building small communities, where values are traditionally enforced by gossip and the ostracizing of neighbors. The government never needed to codify values before, because communities enforced values. As communities grew larger, people became more anonymous and communities could no longer impose values. The problem is growing complexity and diminishing returns in social interaction.

For example, in a town of 400 people, there are no secrets. Every secret gets out and becomes "the talk of the town" eventually. Infidelity is found out, and then the victim of the infidelity can personally chase down everyone who perpetuated the rumor until he or she finds the source. Some rumors are false, but most are true(but exaggerated). Once a rumor gets out, the cheater and homewrecker have to face an entire community looking at them sideways. Parents worry what their children will think. Just the thought of your dirty laundry getting aired to everyone you see on a daily basis is terrifying. What if everyone you knew was aware that you were cheating on your spouse? That's what happens in a small town. You sneeze and the phone rings and someone across town says "bless you." If you do something truly horrible, you get run out of town. The flip side of the coin, is everybody knows everybody. So people living alternative lifestyles are still people first. Every face has a name, so it's easy to overcome prejudice.

Once a community is large enough to avoid punishment for bad behaviors by simply blending into the crowd, you need codified laws. You need codified morals. You need codified punishments. I think if you look at the evolution of law, and what behaviors Hammurabi made illegal and what behaviors are illegal today, it reveals a clear picture of the growth of humanity from towns to city-states to gigantic states. I think we have gone so far off the rails now that government no longer remembers the purpose of law at all, and it has become a self-serving system of promoting interests, not order.

Wendy Crim said...

I did find it interesting, thanks. I grew up working class liberal, never voted for a republican. Voted Green Party last go around. But I want all the kinds of things you listed above and I'm not going to get them from the Democrats.
This year the family and I are headed to the beach for the first week in November. My husband and I are choosing not to vote and to be warm and happy instead.

Wendy Crim said...

Here here! I'm, also, totally done with the Dems. I, also, am not voting.

Zachary Braverman said...

The distinction between interests and values is one of those scalpels that, once internalized, can affect how you see the whole world.

Martin McDuffy said...

I think it is worthy to note that the rise and fall of liberal "values" politics will map directly onto the bell curve of fossil fuel exploitation, and this is no coincidence. When there is a growth in material prosperity, people can demand larger pieces of the pie. They are then more comfortable and in a better position to wax on issues of moral righteousness. When the pie shrinks, however, out come the pragmatists ready to secure their own by cutting off someone else's.

Sheila Grace said...

Thank you for all you do. Each week we look forward to your posts. We loved Retrotopea.

Out here in the intermountain west I’m working to repair the 30+ year old Anderson window frames in a dwelling we refer to as the inefficient modern home, as all homes built in the last 300 years on this continent are, and may continue to be (yes even LEED / solar powered) into the future. The sand paper is interesting; the sand comes from Mexico, gets shipped to Canada where the paper pulp is shaped, treated, cut, and sent to the US where it is packaged, marketed, shipped and sold.

Meanwhile the battle for Allepo is raging.

Politics, all politics for large agrarian-dependent centralized societies is but the frosting on the cake of resource allocation - parceled out in ratios to the existing participants of the hierarchical system of that time.

As you have mentioned more than once in past posts; we’ve had a good run. We’ve managed to use up millions of years of stored sunlight in a fraction (150+years) of geological time as the dominant species on this planet.

As resources go, this particular country has had the benefit of the lion’s share of those resources for some time now. The ugliness of human beings forced by way of violence, to arrive and work here are part of that resource story. Unless any one of us can claim membership to a Native American Nation, all of us to a person are immigrants from somewhere else and arrived to a continent absolutely filthy rich in resources. My family left Ireland, that island having been stripped of its forests, and its people stripped of their land. Values and interests become murky water, and their differences can go mostly unnoticed when the resources are plentiful and cheap to extract. Optimism, and opportunity, like the butterfly winged rainbow unicorn kitten, can grow and expand to include countless ideals, values, and ‘rights ‘and those pursuing the aforementioned exercises can afford, by virtue of abundant resources, to look the other way as to how those resources, now shrinking since the 1970’s have arrived at their doorsteps.

My understanding is that John Quincy Adams, who had some concerns relevant to the dangers of foreign entanglements and the incompatibility between imperialism and democracy mentioned we might best avoid “going abroad in search of monsters to destroy” and I might add, resources.

None of us, it seems, are willing to do with less, yet speak in words that indicate extreme emotion when it comes to talking about our values, while refusing, each and every one of us, to address the actual physical limitations of how that might work out given the increase in population and decrease in resources. Left or Right, Up or Down, our collective culpability in missing the basic facts of physics has allowed self-interested parties to spin the story of interest as the story of value to its countless consumers, and as the pie keeps shrinking the Unicorn Kitten will face ever increasing pressure to deliver.

Meanwhile the battle for Allepo is raging and we will continue observing and finding ways to treat relics as resources.


patriciaormsby said...

Oh no! I'm late to the comments! Any JMG follower in the Tokyo area on Sunday, October 2, is invited to the 2nd meeting of the Kanto Green Wizards. The next typhoon is still far away, but may still provoke some rain from the "Akisame" stationary front currently parked over Honshu. In the off-chance that it threatens a real downpour that day, I won't make it. It is, after all, a potluck picnic. (Bring something sinful to share.)

For details, please see the comments of last week's post, where it is nicely up at the top.

John Michael Greer said...

Avery, good. I think it's quite accurate to say that Gnosticism, whether or not it's become the dominant religion in America today, is certainly the dominant political and social ideology.

Michelle, your friend is quite correct -- though it's entirely possible that the new populist party will be called the Republican Party. Stranger things have happened.

Fred, your well-read homeschooler's analysis is rather oversimplified -- there was more going on than that -- but what she's talking about was certainly an important part of the picture. A really thorough history of the forces that drove the Civil War would offend people on all sides of the Mason-Dixon line!

Sebastien, you're welcome and thank you.

Julien, that's a very good point. One of the consequences of the common liberal use of "uneducated" and "ignorant" for the people who disagree with them is that, across a very broad range of American society, education and knowledge are becoming suspect, or even treated with contempt. Of such things are dark ages made. More on this in an upcoming post.

Breanna, good! That's a point I'll be discussing in an upcoming post. The short form is that liberalism is not the only ideology of the left. Sanders and Corbyn, for example, are socialists, not liberals -- they're not the same thing -- and there are other leftward approaches as well. One of the things I'd like to see, as a moderate Burkean conservative (who recognizes the point of having someone speaking for values in a political context), is those people who are actually concerned with values, and not just as a stalking horse for the interests of the affluent, jumping off the sinking ship of liberalism and making common cause with the downtrodden via one of the less elitist leftward approaches. I see Sanders and Corbyn as moving hard in this direction, and I wish them success.

John Michael Greer said...

David, it's certainly true that automation -- which, as I've pointed out, is rewarded by government tax policies, just as hiring people is penalized by those same policies -- also has a role in the current mass unemployment in the US. So does offshoring, which again is rewarded by government tax policies, and so do several other factors. The tacit encouragement of mass illegal immigration is, as I noted in the post, one of the things involved, not the only thing involved; it's simply that you can reliably get a kneejerk shout of "racist!" out of a liberal by mentioning it, thus my use of it as an example.

Paul, you're welcome and thank you!

Violet, I hadn't seen the Gadsden snake over the Confederate battle flag, but it doesn't surprise me a bit -- no, not even in Massachusetts. The old lines and loyalties are shredding, and new patterns are taking shape. Whether that can be done without a convulsion like the Second Civil War of my narrative is the big question.

Joel, for what it's worth, I'd vote for such a party in a heartbeat. I suspect a lot of other people would, too -- the issue is simply getting that set of ideas into circulation.

Eric, as I noted in my post, first wave feminism had a long and convoluted trajectory on its way from Seneca Falls to the Nineteenth Amendment. One of the things that made it so is also, coincidentally, an answer to your second question: where do values reside if they're neither in politics nor in religion? One answer, of course, is "in the household" -- and it was central to nineteenth-century antifeminism (see, for example, Coventry Patmore's The Angel in the House to assign values to the female sphere and interests to the male sphere. It was precisely when first wave feminists learned to turn that around and use the language of values to shame male legislators into voting for suffrage that they triumphed.

Peakfuture, no, I didn't watch or read transcripts of the debates -- my stomach isn't that strong these days. Still, from what I've read, "political NASCAR" is a good description, complete with everyone hoping that one or the other car will crash and burn right there on camera.

Gee, that's absolutely standard. The radicals of one era, if they survive, become the entrenched establishment of the next. "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss..."

Bill, I see the Peace of Westphalia as a profoundly pragmatic document, based on the decision of all sides after the Thirty Years' War to ditch the absolute claims of religious values as a political requirement and, instead, recognize that all sides had interests that needed to be accommodated.

Johnny, fascinating. I didn't watch the debate, but it's definitely a sign of the transition from values to interests that Trump is acknowledging his pursuit of his own interest rather than cloaking it in value language.

Drhooves, I certainly hope you're wrong.

James, the deliberate cultivation of outrage as a kind of recreational drug deserves some serious discussion...

Pat, in today's America, the shark jumps you. ;-)

Twinruler, it is indeed. Carl Jung discussed it in terms of the projection of the shadow: what you can't stand in yourself, you attribute to someone else, and hate them for it.

John Michael Greer said...

Mmeo, neither of those details involve values at all. Mason was a slaveowner, and so had economic reasons to want the slave trade stopped -- it boosted the value of his property -- and the compromise over when the slave trade was to be stopped was, equally, a compromise between those whose interests benefited from its continuation (primarily slaveowners in recently settled areas who were still relying on imported slaves) and those whose interests benefited from its end (primarily slaveowners in long-established areas who could sell their slaves at a profit).

Mickey, I'm aware of South Park only because people have mentioned it to me now and then, and who Cartman might be is a complete mystery to me, but yeah, that sounds about right.

Mister R., well put! One of the few ways in which Obama's paralogic makes any kind of sense is if he thinks that the media's audience is solely composed of Democrats -- as though Trump voters are tentacled horrors from the dawn of time who glibber their own detestable language to one another in deep caves far from the sun. It's a bravura display of arrogance, one way or the other.

Paul, I don't take it as an insult. Zinn, as an honest and thoughtful liberal, puts politics in a perspective that centers on values, while I address the same things from a point of view in which interests play a more central role. By all means make up your own mind!

Phil K., that's an excellent point! One of the problems with today's liberalism is the conviction that if you do the right thing, it can only have good consequences. This makes it very easy to dismiss the hideous consequences that many supposedly good and moral choices have.

Tom, what do I make of it? That the African-American community has been played for suckers by the Democratic party for decades, and I'm delighted that they're finally challenging their supposed friends over the lack of actual help they've gotten during that time.

Barrigan, I don't think I've encountered the term "perasmenophobia" before -- thank you! You're right, of course, that it's pandemic today; the only way believers in progress can keep on claiming that history is headed onward and upward from the caves to the stars is if they redefine the past as Dante's Inferno. Life in today's America, for most of its current inmates, really does suck -- one of the reasons why I think my novel Retrotopia may be timely...

Tidlosa, what I see happening, rather, is a gradual rapprochement between the Corbyn/Sanders left and the populist right. The fact that UKIP basically destroyed the British Nationalist Party by giving people who rejected open borders someplace less extreme to go shows, to my mind, that there's a huge potential following waiting for the first politician who rejects both globalism and austerity, and sets out a platform refocusing government's role in the economy from enriching the already rich to benefiting the general citizenry. I doubt this lesson is lost on the younger generation of ambitious political activists...

Josh, the difference between values and interests is very simple. Interests are about who gets the goodies and who pays the costs, pure and simple. Values are about ideas of right and wrong. If you say "I voted for this measure because it's going to improve my standard of living," you're motivated by interest; if you say "I voted for this measure because what it's meant to stop is morally wrong," you're motivated by values.

Justin, yep. It was quite something to watch people who screamed hate speech at George W. Bush turn around and spend eight years insisting that Barack Obama was above criticism, even though the two men pursued exactly the same policies, and in some cases (drone strikes, for example) Obama was even more extreme than his feckless predecessor.

Nancy Sutton said...

Re: UBI, I think where it has actually been implemented, it has not 'destroyed human society', but actually freed many/most people to 'work' at what what they choose to do, including their 'old' jobs. Humans innately do want to 'produce.' It's not called 'wage slavery' for nothing; and it is a high price to pay for a basic security, which is the prerequisite to contentment.

Re: 'values', I recently heard Nick Hanauer, on being asked how the campaign for the $15/hr wage here in Seattle was presented, state clearly that they ignored the 'value' of 'fairness', and simply explained the historic truth that in the real economic world, everyone benefited from increasing the 'demand side'... the 99% AND the 1%. He excoriated the 'Reagonomic/neoliberal' myth.

Re: current politics, I think we are being played for fools, by the old and typically successful 'divide and conquer' strategy, i.e., the duopoly. I found it miraculous that the Occupy Wall St got the 1% vs 99% meme into folks' heads, laying the ground work for truly hearing Bernie tell the unvarnished truth about where the opposition to all the good stuff Joel outlines actually lies. Jesus had it right... choose God or Devil Mammon. It's not rocket science ;) But distracting us from seeing our true enemy by waving Hillary's 'women and children' and Trump's 'make america great again' red herring flags, is the work of true black magic.

Nathan said...


Would you say that Americans before the rise of liberalism saw the state government and local government as more appropriate venues for the legislation of values than the federal government? I don't have detailed knowledge of the constitutions of individual states, but from the little that I do know they seemed more involved with structuring the lives of their citizens than our federal Constitution, which as you wrote in this post, is a monumental work of apportioning power and compromise.

John Michael Greer said...

Bill, good heavens, I'd have expected you to get that. Sanders is a socialist -- of course he's Socialism Lite, but he's one of the people I referenced in the post who assailed liberalism from further left. That's why, like Jeremy Corbyn, he's attracting people who have lost faith in the liberal movement. As for oligarchy, nah, we had that in the first half of the twentieth century, and have now moved into the stasis that comes when power is so diffuse nobody can muster enough of a majority to change anything. What comes next, as Polybius pointed out better than two thousand years ago, is some form of monarchy -- in American terms, the election of a charismatic leader to the Presidency with enough of a mandate to overturn the status quo and impose an entirely new order on things; cf. George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Roosevelt.

John, good! But notice how the Awakenings alternate between primarily religious and primarily political focus -- the Great Awakening and the Missionary Awakening were primarily religious, the Transcendental Awakening and the Hallucinogenic Awakening were primarily political. (The next one will therefore almost certainly be religious.) As for slavery, of course -- as I noted in my post, slavery was the linchpin of the Southern plantation economy, which promptly went broke once it was abolished. Lincoln's plan would have prolonged that process -- though it still would have been preferable to what happened.

Unknown, I read about that! May I recommend that all my readers in South Australia consider getting backup 12 volt power systems, since events like this will become more and more common as time goes on?

Howard, they kind of have to talk about Trump. Clinton just isn't that inspiring or impressive a candidate -- they basically have to do a "lesser evil" campaign.

Patricia, the capacity to say "I don't like that, but it's none of my business" is a rare achievement these days, and one of the basic rules of civilized existence. You can interpret that as you wish!

Mark, nicely summarized.

Pantagruel, environmentalism is a political movement, currently a captive constituency of the Democratic party. Like most political movements nowadays, it talks entirely in terms of values, and that's one of the reasons most Americans ignore it. If it learned to talk in terms of interests it might get somewhere!

Harvester, exactly. The taboo concerning interests in today's politics resembles nothing so much as the taboo concerning sex in Victorian times, and in both cases, frank talk is a necessary cure for a lot of ugly things.

Pygmycory, one of the nasty consequences of the accelerating decline of the US is that a lot of worthwhile expenditures are being thrown under the bus to keep a lot of worthless ones going. You could pay for a lot of SNAP payments by cancelling the F-35! One way or another, whoever ends up in the White House, a lot of people on this side of the border are going to face a lot of unnecessary suffering. I wish I knew of a way to stop it, but I don't.

Robo, the concept of "energy slaves" has been used by peak oil types to try to talk about that. Why do you think so many people on the left are so frantic in their insistence that of course renewables can keep their lifestyles intact?

Maverick, thanks for the update from the subcontinent! In 1600, as I recall, India was among the richest countries on Earth, and England was a backwater that mostly produced wool and codfish. In 1900, India was among the poorest countries on Earth and England was filthy rich -- and of course you and I both know why that was. (It was an Irishman, as I recall, who said that the sun never set on the British Empire because God Himself wouldn't trust an Englishman in the dark.) As India regains control of its own economic destiny and shakes off the last hangovers of the Raj, I expect it to become a major economic and political power again, and yes, that's going to involve a lot of changes worldwide.

John Michael Greer said...

Jack, you're falling into the trap of assuming that "liberalism" includes everything left of center. It doesn't; it's a specific movement, and there are other leftward movements such as socialism, social democracy, and syndicalism, which have their own very different answers to the questions liberalism once tried to solve. Sanders and Corbyn are socialists, of course, and that's why they both came under such savage attacks from liberals, who don't want their temporary monopoly of the left to be overturned. Does that help?

Wendy, in at least some browsers, the comment you're responding to doesn't appear with your comment, so I (for one) have no idea who you're responding to! If you can put in something like "@JMG, that's a lousy idea and here's why..." or what have you, the rest of us will know who you're talking about...

Unknown, that's an excellent point. One of the downsides of the liberal focus on values is precisely the insistence that laws ought to be passed to make people do the right thing, however defined -- Prohibition is a solid example of this -- rather than restricting laws to their proper sphere, which is the prevention and punishment of those behaviors that undermine the basic agreements that make civilized life possible. We have far, far too many laws in the United States today, and of course you're right that a vast number of them are simply meant to further somebody's interest under the camouflage of values.

Zachary, I certainly find it useful!

Martin, yes, that's another piece of the puzzle.

Sheila, nicely put. Thank you.

Nancy, can you point me to examples of UBI being implemented? I'd like to look into how it's worked out in practice.

Nathan, that depends hugely from state to state, and that in turn reflects the divergence in the motivations of the various original colonies. Massachusetts was founded by Puritans, of course, and spent the next two centuries trying to legislate virtue, with little success. Other colonies such as Maryland were founded for the purpose of making money, and generally avoided that bad habit. One of the things I'd like to see embraced by a new American populism is the idea that if you're going to legislate morality, please do it on a state by state basis rather than nationally, so that people in South Carolina and Minnesota can have the laws they want, rather than constantly beating each other up in Congress trying to impose their laws on everybody.

Cherokee Organics said...


Thanks for taking the time to provide a solid analysis of the current state of affairs. It is happening down here too. During the recent election, I was rather surprised to engage in a conversation with a young lady who was a supporter of Pauline Hanson's One Nation party who talks to the disenfranchised down here. They won four Senate seats during the recent Federal election, and to be honest I make a point of speaking to everyone no matter their social standing and I just listened to what the young lady had to say. We too often make a point of not engaging and not compromising when our values are clashing with others and I don't feel very strongly about values anyway as I don't generally feel that there is a political solution to the current state of affairs, although a political solution can help soften the blows.

I'm sort of wondering whether the display of values are also subject to diminishing returns? Like take Obama's campaign with the noise about "hope" and "change" and then nothing. Surely, that experience would have undermined faith in the establishment? And people also tend to worry more about interests rather than values when there are economic incentives to do so - like the people don't have a job or a living wage?

I've just finished reading Liar's Poker by Michael Lewis (him of The Big Short fame) and honestly it is like watching a car crash. I can now see the bigger picture that the deficit spending since the days of the Reagan era have fuelled speculation. It just became more lucrative to hoard tokens than run businesses - literally in many of cases and often not even voluntary. The four biggest companies down here are banks and what does that say? And the debt, I doubt many people understand what a destruction of built infrastructure and productive capacity many of us have witnessed in such a short period of time. Oh my, there will be a fall out from this. I tend to be a bit contrary in that if people are running in one direction, I'll check out what is going on in the other directions before deciding to join the massed hordes. Far out, it is not good.

Whilst I mention, the not good thing. A cyclone appears to have hit South Australia (the state to the north and west of this state) and it took out the power grid. The main feeder transmission lines between this states coal fired generators and that state (which has 40% wind capacity) simply buckled. I didn't believe that those big steel things could actually buckle. The photos are pretty awesome: SA weather: Worsening conditions cause more blackouts as BOM warns of more storms.

Anyway, the loss of the grid meant that the wind turbines had to be shut down.


Cherokee Organics said...

Just to paraphrase something I wrote elsewhere: People forget the technical side of these large scale wind turbine devices. You see the resistance from the electrical grid when applied to the wind turbines helps to slow the blades from rotating too fast. When the grid goes down, the resistance on the turbines motors disappears and the blades can spin much faster (i.e. because it is so much easier with no resistance) and then the turbine may possibly self destruct. They avoid that fate by turning the blades out of the prevailing winds and keeping them out of the severe winds. I had to build that sort of fail safe into the wind turbine here back when I had one and the fail safe device actually caught fire and it was one of the reasons I got rid of the wind turbine. Anyway, a lot of that state still has no power, although they are slowly bringing it back on line in places. This is the second time in under twelve months where states relying heavily on renewable energy sources got to find their upper limits first hand. The other was Tasmania last summer which relies heavily on hydro power and because of the drought the dams got down to as low as about 12% to maybe 14% full. The interesting thing there is that the cable link between Victoria and Tasmania broke and took about five months to repair (it was under Bass Strait) so they lost access to our brown coal fired generators...

I'm not saying that renewable energy sources are not good, it is just that they have limitations and more often than not, we install them (like grid tied solar PV systems) with the assumption that nothing will go wrong and that they can operate when the grid is disconnected - which they can't. The grid itself is used like a giant battery system for these renewable energy devices in their current format. They work much better in smaller arrangements rather than these gargantuan setups.

You have readers in South Australia so it will be interesting to read their views. Oh yeah, I heard one of your readers on the radio the other day (perhaps it was Monday) talking about America's economic decline...



koen said...

If a politician talks about democracy, freedom, or human rights, you can be 99% certain he's lying.

Brigyn said...

Dear Mr Greer,

Here in the Netherlands, we're noticing the same thing happening in politics. I think the main reason (our now internationally famous) Geert Wilders is getting so much attention is because he's saying the things many people are thinking - though it would have been near unimaginable two decades ago. From his actions it seems he prefers being in the opposition over ever actually ruling, though. Maybe he's found a nice stable career in pointing out everything that's wrong without ever having a hand at trying to fix it. People are angry and desperate, but I worry that emotions are being projected on mostly powerless minority groups who have no direct relations to the causes of the problems - mostly that there is no economic growth - companies don't grow, people don't get hired - thus banks won't loan money. I also find that people out of a job tend to be less sympathetic to the plight of those who, say, find they're in the wrong body or somesuch.

I've heard many people say that the crisis of 2008 is still ongoing. It has mostly led to a strange mix in society, no longer are there middle-class or poor areas in town, rather, you have some people struggling horribly for the last 8 years in one house, yet their next-door neighbours kept their jobs and haven't noticed a thing. It's rather hard to be put out of your house here, so impoverished people tend to stay put - they definitely can't afford to move, even to scale down.

Part of it is new housing projects being aimed either at seniors or the wealthy. There are few to no affordable homes for poorer or starting families being built, since there's not enough money in it. The city councils promise new housing for students and the like whenever open meetings are held, but I've seen them been cut out of the final budget plan at the last moment for five years in a row now.

Supermarkets and the like tended to fire employees right before their 18th birthday, because they would have to start paying them minimum wage after. Under new laws, after 3 temporary contracts a permanent contract has to be offered. This resets after 6 months, after which they can offer another 3 temporary contracts, and so on. This has only lead to almost no one I know having had anything more than a 6 month contract. One of my friends is a lab technician and has been hopping between several large companies for years now. It's a good line of work - still pays well above minimum wage - but no one is getting permanent contracts, anywhere, it seems. He just saves up and tries to weather the 6 months cooldown period, and tries to find another job for that time. You can't make promotions this way - the best you can do, if you can afford it, is study next to your job, and let your next temporary contract be for a higher paying function.

Banks won't issue you a loan for a house if you're working from a temporary contract. For most, horribly expensive rental is the only option. The few people I know who managed to buy a house had their (wealthy) parents guarantee the payments to the bank.

I'm unsure why -all- young people are being screwed over. It's even tough for those with wealthy parents and a scientific university education (but admittedly far more bearable - there's work, and hope). I thought it was usually the poor who were thrown under the bus - or are the young (twenties) seen as poor collectively? Since we can't get into the workforce, the vast majority of us will remain so, possibly for decades... And I'm even more unsure how exporting immigrants will solve these issues.

Brigyn said...

Oh, as an aside:

I did achieve some insight in European Hipster culture, though. They are, for the vast majority, people who live with their parents and have no hopes of affording a car, a house, a family or ever making a career. Usually they studied Arts and ended up working at starbucks or the like. Since they have money but, they feel, no future, they live 'ironically' and spend what money they have on brand clothing, fancy electrical gadgets, overpriced starbucks coffee and so on. It seems like decadence, but it's mostly desperation.

. said...

I want to help shape the emergence of the postliberal era in Ireland but we have some differences in context from either the US or UK that have to be taken into account and I’m not sure how to do that.

Ireland is very pro-EU compared to Britain, even after the 2008 crisis and German-imposed austerity for banking debts etc. Most here think Brexit is a terrible mistake motivated by racism. And everyone understands now that if you defy the Germans by, say, repudiating the banking debt overhang, you will be the next Greece (the poverty there is now extreme but barely reported on in the mainstream media outside that country).

Ireland I think has a unique problem in that we don’t have a recent history of relative prosperity and economic independence to look back to. Ireland in the 1950’s and 1970’s was a pretty poor place with massive emigration, inflation, unemployment etc. (things improved briefly in the 60’s before the oil crises hit).

As you’ve said, Britain spent 800 years stripping the country of all wealth that wasn’t nailed down and people were disappointed to find that you don’t recover from that overnight following independence. By and large they took to blaming themselves – for being as incompetent, venal, corrupt and parochial as they had for so long been told they were. We still do that.

We’re different to the US in that most Irish people today, even among the wage and welfare class, are economically better off than their parents or grandparents were – although that is beginning to change now, particularly as a result of high rents and property prices that are partly caused by the IT salary bubble and immigration here.

But you have Irish people in their 50’s who grew up on farms that were not far from subsistence agriculture and who now have a standard western European upper middle class standard of living. There is nostalgia for some aspects of the past but we don’t have that American post-war working class prosperity to look back towards. People here have genuine reasons to be terrified of falling back into poverty and isolation.


. said...

Perhaps we’re at an earlier stage of the process – something similar to the US in the 1980’s with a free-wheeling financial sector but ever fewer jobs for the unskilled and semi-skilled.

Economic protectionism has extremely negative associations with economic autarky, a twee Irish nationalism and the poverty of trade wars in the 1930’s. You have to go back to pre-1800 (before the Act of Union with the UK) to find an Irish economy with a semi-prosperous industrial sector. Foreign Direct Investment from the 1960’s, being an open economy without trade barriers and membership of the EU are seen as the policies that saved us from that very real poverty.

Basically most people know that we’re pretty much a tax haven, a relatively favoured client state of Germany and through it the US, but as long as we’re doing ok economically they’ll defend that state of affairs. We’re a tiny country that never industrialized the way the UK and US did. People I think understand that we’ll probably always be under someone else’s hegemony (at least as long as empires can reach here).

So retrovation will be a tougher sell here than elsewhere. My hope is to emphasize that we’re not limited to the example of our own history but can also take good ideas that have worked in similar contexts in other parts of the world. On the EU and euro I’d take the stance that it is in the process of falling apart anyway, whether we like it or not, so we need to prepare for that.

The wage class are the ones whose interests need representing – so to them I’d point out that if we continue on our current path there will be work for middle class graduates in the likes of google, facebook and the financial sector while the wage class is reduced to competing for sandwich-making jobs competing with illegal immigrants who work 3 jobs and sleep in shifts in an 8-bed room.

I’d be making a kind of precautionary principle argument: that we should learn from where other countries who are further along our course have ended up and for once decide not to simply follow their bad example.

Sorry this was much longer than intended! Do you have any thoughts on it?


Shane W said...

on the whole, Trump's labor relationships have been better than most companies, with more union cooperation and fewer strikes/disputes. There are exceptions, such as his property in Vegas and one other location, which has deployed union busting, but that is not the norm for his company...

YCS said...

After reading this post I've been mulling your points over and I've realised another parallel analogy. The difference between values and interests are the same as the difference between abstractions and reality.

Values are a form of abstraction - you can never really prove or disprove them, and they are subjective views masquerading as objective truths. On the other hand, interests can be reasoned and argued, as they are real - it's very hard to say that some decision or the other won't benefit or harm someone, and the causations can be proven with logic and evidence.

Just like values have been used to mask interests, in general abstractions are used to mask reality. I'm thinking of all the propaganda from the liberal outlets that America has a growing, nay, booming economy right now. To prove it are pages and pages of unfounded abstractions, to hide the reality that any person outside of silicon valley can tell you - America is in serious trouble.

Why? Because liberal values dictate that free trade MUST be good, and immigration IS morally correct, therefore, all sorts of abstractions are used to prove this fact, and hide the 'reality' that all this talk is just a way on ensuring liberal interests. So much so that the nonsense field of econometrics is a professional abstractionist con-art of who can doctor data and statistics to prove whatever ideological points they want to.

It is surprising that a society that has increasingly become obsessed with abstractions, has sacrificed the bare truth of interests for empty discussion on values? I think there's some causation there.

I'm hoping you can clarify my thoughts on this!


K Sc said...

Thank you for your blog, This is my first post as a long time reader.
You've definitely improved the way I think, and I very much appreciate that magic.

My thoughts on today's post.
The question I'm interested in, is how the post-liberal period will emerge.
While I agree with your line of thought about how the left/salary class treats the wage class here's another angle worth considering...

I used to be left/liberal, believing what I'm supposed to believe as a left/liberal.
However over the last few or more years, I've noticed a number of problems with these 'crystallised' thought patterns.
I've moved away from that a little and become a little more libertarian in my leaning (will never become proper libertarian :) ), one of the reasons is because whenever I see people/organisations wanting to control others and power centralising, it's often misguided or misused.
When for self interest, fine we understand that, but it's when it's for the 'common good' I've come to feel it's often misguided, or even well marketed (manipulated) beliefs.

The main example I've seen in my life is when I made the decision not to vaccinate my child. Now I obviously won't go into the reasons for that here, but as a result of how hard as it's been to take this position and be on the 'wrong' side of society, it's become a 'blessing in disguise' as it's really opened my eyes.
I can see how group-think works, whether it's the average Joe, corporate Australia or the 'Scientific Community'.

As a result of this change of seeing the world, I recently told the relative who I used to argue with over climate change (I believe it's real), that while I still don't agree with him, I can no longer trust the nature of the public arguement. I can see how there is no discussion or understanding, not even accepting a single point from the opposing side, just arguing from two polarised sides.
I've come to the understanding how intellectually vapid alot of left/liberal thought like I used to have has degenerated into.

Now, for good reasons we can't think about all subjects with a fresh mind all the time, so it's perfectly normal and appropriate for our thoughts becoming crystallised. However those people who are driving public discourse on matters of importance tend to not only over simplify (dumb down) the argument but get caught in taking and then defending positions.

And that's where I think liberal thought will break, with the taking and defending positions, those 'thought leaders' who tend to lack critical thinking, will ignore or even attack any evidence which conflicts with their 'intellectual' or 'scientific consensus' positon. This is creating a cognitive disonance which becomes more apparent the longer the argued positon is crystallised and ignoring inconvinient facts.

As for vaccines, when the 'vaccines are safe' bubble does break, and I strongly believe it will, it'll shatter not only that industry but alot of faith in science itself. Which will be a very sad day indeed.

(p.s. I loveed the part about Chronocentrism, once again you've put to words what I've felt for a while)

Bill Pulliam said...

JMG -- I am not sure that Sanders *supporters* were actually embracing socialism per se, though. The S-word was rarely used, of course; but they seemed to be motivated by the same sorts of liberal values-based politics that motivated their parents and grandparents. The line between European democratic socialism and American progressive liberalism is rather hazy, as there has always been a large amount of cross-breeding. The 60s activists here were anti-corporation as well, and the American left has been pushing for British-style national health care for as long as I can remember. So other than his occasional use of the S-word, I found Sanders and his movement a throwback, not something new on the American scene. And it seems like a reaction against Corporatocracy (Corporatarchy?) more than anything else, not a reaction against liberalism.

Chester said...

That dichotomy of interests vs. values is a really interesting one to use as a lens this election season. As someone who defines himself through values more often than not (does this mean I have to admit I'm a liberal?), I'm going to have to chew on that one a bit.

David, by the lake said...

@Mary Sutton re UBI

My reaction (admittedly venturing into hyperbole to an extent) was perhaps colored by the context of conversation I was trying to describe -- an automated technotopia wherein all labor is performed by robot servitors -- and I saw humanity being reduced to purposeless vacuity, a la Pixar's WALL-E. In that kind of system, our only purpose would be to consume, so that the consumerist economy might be kept afloat. Credits deposited into my electronic ledger, used to order food and other goods online, delivered by robotic drones, meals prepared by an automated kitchen. Void of any depth or meaningful human interaction. The atomization of community into singletons would be essentially complete. That is the "destruction" of humanity to which I was referring.

I lean socialist myself, but argue that the governance and provision of the goods and services ought to be done at the closest level to the people as possible -- some things more or less have to be nationally administered, but much can (and ought) to be done at the state, local, and community levels. Further, I would distinguish between public goods and services available to all (public transportation or community garden plots, for example) on the one hand and an allowance of monetary credits on the other. The latter strikes me as yet a further layer of intermediation and a relegation to the role of mindless consumer. I would also distinguish between pensions for which one has contributed or a community providing for those of its members who are in times of need versus a systematic allocation of money simply by virtue of existing.

So perhaps we are talking about slightly different things when we each speak of UBI.

Greg Belvedere said...

The thing about this election that drives me crazy is the way Clinton supporters have given up even trying to make a case FOR her. That they have shifted their focus to attacking Trump does not surprise me, but the way they have put so much energy into attacking her opponents' supporters strikes me as rather obnoxious and more likely to alienate those people than win them over. First it was painting all Bernie supporters as misogynistic white boys regardless of race or gender, now it is calling anyone who wants to vote third party selfish. Of course this ignores that politics is largely about self interest. I have my own problems with the green party, but right now Stein is getting my vote. The standard line of attack is that green voters are selfish ignorant straight white people who can afford to vote for her because they don't have anything at stake in this election, ignoring that everyone has something at stake and that the demographics of the green and democratic party are equally white and privileged.

This is the most comprehensive rundown I have seen of all the experiments with UBI.

I have mixed feeling about government benefits, but this approach does seek to get rid of some of the bureaucracy surrounding benefits which to my mind is one of the big drawbacks of many of these programs. I also like the idea that giving people a small guaranteed income frees up time for them to pursue more meaningful work, get educated, or take care of family. When given UBI people generally did not use the money to stay idle, but instead used it as a means to pursue this kind of work over wage slavery. But I don't care for the way UBI gets pitched as a solution to the way automation is putting people out of work, very enabling.

ganv said...

That is a compelling viewpoint. I particularly like your identification of the destructive taboo against talking about interests in educated company. At many educational institutions, framing an argument in terms of who benefits is enough to get you labelled an outsider. Instead, interests have to be discussed under a cloak of liberal values. And the double-think required is a big barrier against clear thinking.

A major challenge in seeing ahead through the unravelling of liberalism is that I find it easier to identify the incoherent rhetoric that must collapse than to identify which coalitions of interests will emerge. It is easy to see that claims like "multi culturalism is a universal cultural value that everyone must embrace", or the claim that "traditional family structures will return if we just elect the right politicians" are incoherent. But it is much harder to see how establishment members could find enough common ground to build a party to oppose a populist party. Populist rhetoric can evolve quickly, but underneath, the populists that want a conservative overhaul of the current system and those who want a progressive overhaul are going to have a hard time finding common ground. It seems ideological fragmentation may be the most pervasive feature of the coming era. The economic realities of individuals are so very different and the possible solutions so diverse, that we may get quite used to electing people that most people don't like. And the possibility of violent social upheaval is the real wild card of the future.

DaShui said...


I'm surprised you did not mention our moralizing in foreign affairs. Since WW1 we have been fighting for "democracy', then "human rights".
Worked great in Europe, not quite as good in Asia, and now we are at negative returns in the Middle East.
Military recruiters don't typically recruit from Beverly Hills, they go to the inner cities and dead end small towns, to find the fodder to fight Ivy League wars.

Pantagruel7 said...

Alright, but treating environmentalism as an interest also runs into difficulties; because it's so hard to quantify environmental services (not to mention the inherent value of other living things). Thus when treated as an interest environmental services tend to be assigned some arbitrary (usually small) value. I brought this up with my economics prof at MSU some years ago and his response was that we do know that the value of environmental services is "not infinite." This, apparently, was the justification for assigning some inconsequential value to these services. This is the logic of "market liberalism" which is not the same liberalism you are discussing in this post. I don't even buy his "not infinite" claim, because if some blunder on our part makes the planet virtually unlivable for some period of geologic time, was that not infinite in any practical sense?

Neo Tuxedo said...

Nancy, can you point me to examples of UBI being implemented? I'd like to look into how it's worked out in practice.

I don't know if Nancy's gotten back to you on this yet, but here's something off my Tumblr dashboard:

They tried something like this out in Canada as a sort of social experiment, called Mincome. What they found was that, on the whole, people continued to work about as much as they did before. Only new mothers and teenagers worked substantially less hours.

But wait, there’s more. Because parents were spending just a little more time at home and involved with their families, test scores increased. Because teens didn’t have to work to support their families, drop-out rates decreased. Crime rates, hospital visits, psychiatric hospitalizations and domestic abuse rates all dropped, as well. More adults pursued higher education. Those who continued to work reported more job flexibility and more opportunity to choose employment they preferred.

Basically, now you can go prove to your [bodily orifice] family members that society won’t collapse without poor people for you to feel better than.

Disclaimer: a quick Google search shows that it was only tried in Dauphin, MB, so there's no certainty it would have been sustainable on a national scale (and plenty of legitimate reasons to assume it wouldn't have been).

Nastarana said...

Mr. Greer, I wonder if the Homestead Act could not be considered a kind of UBI?

Eric S. said...

"One answer, of course, is "in the household" -- and it was central to nineteenth-century antifeminism (see, for example, Coventry Patmore's The Angel in the House) to assign values to the female sphere and interests to the male sphere. It was precisely when first wave feminists learned to turn that around and use the language of values to shame male legislators into voting for suffrage that they triumphed.”

Ok, I can see that, as well as the way that could easily have been turned around in this passage from “The Angel in the House,” in which the stereotype of women as chaste and honorable and men as unthinking brutes ruled by their passion is used in defense of the male need to dominate and the idea of men as being interested in Christian justice is put forth as a fiction:

“She seem'd expressly sent below
To teach our erring minds to see
The rhythmic change of time's swift flow
As part of still eternity.
Her life, all honour, observed, with awe
Which cross experience could not mar,
The fiction of the Christian law
That all men honourable are;
And so her smile at once conferr'd
High flattery and benign reproof;
And I, a rude boy, strangely stirr'd,
Grew courtly in my own behoof.”

It’s interesting that the same stereotype that was being used in antifeminist literature in the 1850s continues to be used today by certain types of feminists as a way of insulting men (the usual “you can’t trust men, they only think with their penis” sort of polemic). So the values contained in the stereotype were reversed, without the stereotype itself changing among those who still see a need to use gender stereotypes. One thing that those stereotypes highlight though is that complete reversal of gender stereotypes that emerged in the 19th century, from what they were in the middle ages.

If you look at gender stereotypes in medieval literature, what you see is a portrayal of women as insatiable in their appetites, blind in their lusts, and only capable of pursuing their own self-interests, while men were the ones portrayed as paragons of virtue and reason whose job it was to protect their weaker wives from falling into sin. Something changed between that, and the 19th century hesitance to admit that women were even capable of having orgasms, and I’ve never quite been able to figure out what precipitated that shift. The closest example I can think of to the Victorian stereotype of women as innately chaste and virtuous, enticing men to be better is Dante Alighieri, and his portrayal of Beatrice, but even there, the power of Beatrice in that story comes from her ability to channel that raw female sexual energy into a higher virtue, and Dante spends a great deal of his poem exploring love as the highest virtue, and sexual sin as almost forgivable because of its closeness to being holy. So he’s essentially subverting the idea that the sexual and indulgent aspects of female nature are reflective of female weakness, by saying that it actually shows women as closer to holiness than men and therefore more prone to having that holiness perverted. Other medieval and renaissance courtly literature, such as Mallory’s Morte d’Arthur, still used the stereotype of women as lustful and men as virtuous, with the men like Launcelot who succumb to female allure being treated as fallen men (closer to the 19th century idea of sexual women as fallen women). Meanwhile, in the 19th century you had figures like the Pre-Raphaelites generating controversy merely by reminding people of those forgotten medieval stereotypes (and subverting them in their own ways). I’m not sure if any of this features in to your argument or not, but it does seem like being faced with two completely contradictory narratives about the innate nature of women had to have done something to start to chip away at the idea that women are necessarily any particular “way” at all, which made the idea of “male and female spheres” a much easier structure to start tearing away at.

Eric S. said...

Thinking through the history of the Civil Rights Movement, liberal politics, etcetera, picking up on the liberal focus on values, and the elitist center of that movement became the dominant channel of social change, I can also see several examples of value-based and interest-based politics in conflict with each other. For instance… during the civil rights movements of the ‘60s, you had the differing political strategies faced by liberal groups like the NAACP on one end, and various Black Nationalist Groups on the other, the former occupying the traditional liberal strategy of appealing to the values of the establishment and the other taking matters into their own hands and building a movement based entirely around advancing their own interests. And of course, the liberal side of the movement tended to discount the concerns and interests of the Black Nationalist groups every chance they got. It could possibly be looked at as evidence that the liberal narrative was already fraying around the edges before the end of the Vietnam War, that the biggest advances in the era were made not by the NAACP, but by Martin Luther King Jr.’s movement which occupied a middle ground position, putting the people the movement concerned at the center and pushing their own interests, but being willing to appeal to values when necessary.

Fast Forward to the idea of post-liberalism you’re discussing emerging today, and I think you can see the post-liberal approach at work in the way the Black Lives Matter movement is operating, in which you have an organization that’s being led by people advancing their own interests and speaking out for themselves, a liberal establishment that is trying to jump on their movement and subsume it into their own narrative at every turn, and leaders of BLM having very little room or patience for would be “white saviors” to play entryist with them. What’s emerging even on the left, is a culture in which when you have an activist group speaking out about some issue related to rights for trans people, gay people, African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, women, and so on, there’s a general expectation that the people leading the movement should be the people the movement concerns and when that’s not the case the people the movement concerns start speaking out for themselves pretty fast. And the WASP savior mentality is losing ground on all sides, with people on the right noticing that half the people calling them out for saying something non-PC are well… white middle cass people… and calling fowl, and people on the left beginning to realize that minorities and vulnerable demographics are starting to get really tired of other people speaking for them. Is that trend part of the tide you’re noticing?

Mister Roboto said...

I would also like to add that I've noticed a tectonic shift in my own thinking about politics. It is mostly in response to the very enlightening education about our society that I have received in the past six, but particularly the past three, years. Your post this week has made me realize the nature of this shift is very largely the recognition that acting or even pretending to act that all legitimate voting proceeds from values-voting alone, tends to result in an awful lot of Kool-Aid drinking and muddled thinking. But once one admits that rational voting decisions proceed at least as much from interests as from values, then one's picture of political reality becomes much clearer very quickly.

Yucca Glauca said...

I'm very impressed by what this post has to say and I think I've been dipping my toes into thinking about politics as including interests for some time now, but with this post bringing that into direct focus, I've noticed something.

I'm on board with this idea, but thinking about politics without turning everything into questions of values is actively hard. As in, it takes focused mental effort and feels like I'm stretching my mind.

Getting free from Progress-ism involved a bunch of mental objections that I dealt with one by one and a process of clearing out subconscious assumptions that used Progress as the sole narrative that continues to this day, but it for the most part it wasn't actively hard to think about. Once I really got it, it was actually a lot easier because it relived the mental pressure that develops from trying to force the real world into a narrative that the real world seems to have no interest in following.

With the idea that politics can be done on the basis of interests, rather than values, I don't have a bunch of objections and I feel like I get it, but I really have to forcibly push my mind to think that way, and it keeps snapping back into a values-only approach.

I think my troubles may be representative of the sort thought-training one gets as a Millennial Liberal.

Sleisz Ádám said...

Thank you for this thoughtful post. I am one of your regular readers and I really appreciate your work.

Nonetheless, this is an unusual occasion because I have to disagree with one of your points. (Or something like that.) The point is not the main message of the post but I think it is still relevant: you said that you are grateful to the American liberal movement "for championing the idea that values as well as interests deserve a voice in the public sphere". In contrast, I usually find value-based politics unpractical, often hysterical and potentially very dangerous.

In my mind, values and interests are interdependent: values usually originate from experience and embody interests. The emphasis on these established standards is certainly a political tactic but it is acceptable only when the standards in question are held by everyone affected, and everyone understands their roots anyway. Otherwise the whole thing can lead to shouting, hatred and violence. Values are clearly not universal. On the other hand, the direct discussion of underlying interests avoids the question on "whose values are better", this is a practical way people can give respect to the views and beliefs of others without betraying their own. (I think it is crucial, at least in my region of Central Europe.)

The argument can be turned around, of course. If the origin of values can be left unknown in politics, then the door is open for... ehm... "new" or "artificial" moral standards. For example, you said that it is impossible to argue for slavery on moral grounds, but that is not true if the principles are freely selected.

The latter objection seems to be similar to your critic of contemporary American liberals who cover their interests with casually convenient values. The initial success of the movement is more surprising to me. Perhaps the fundamental moral principles of the 19th and early 20th century America were more solid and widely held than those of today; if this is the case, then the problems with value-based politics could less important in those earlier times. It would probably also mean that we talk about the same thing using words differently.

gwizard43 said...


In 'The World Beyond Your Head,' another thinker for whom I have great respect, Matthew Crawford, comes at this issue from a different angle, primarily socio-culturally. He begins with a call for an 'attention commons' after discussing the ways in which our attention is usurped without permission - such as mass transit riders in S Korea who have an advertisement in the form of the smell of Dunkin' Donuts coffee squirted into their noses while an audio advert plays just before stopping outside of a franchise location (that one won an award), or the way you now find insurance ads in the bottom of the little bowl you're forced to use at the airport when emptying your pockets, or the way that TVs are now everywhere in profusion, or (my favorite) the school district in Massachusetts that sells advertising space on the blank backs of report cards and permission slips. From there he navigates through territory populated by Kierkegaard, Hegel and Kant - as well as by casino designers who exploit the psychodynamics of addiction to keep the seats at slot machines in Vegas occupied (a particularly horrific description of this little slice of Sheol) - and winds up in much the same place as your latest post does: the place where liberalism, and its core doctrine of so-called individualism, has led us. As he argues "the Enlightenment project for self-responsibility appears to be self-undermining."

In this post, we see how these related processes have played out on the political stage - and interestingly, one of the key elements I perceive in the 'way forward' proposed by both you and Crawford involves developing handicraft skills and learning crafts that will serve us well in the tumultuous days to come. Along these lines, Crawford makes the very same argument that you did in Mystery Teachings about how "the mind participates in the creation of the reality it experiences" - and in fact it is this truth that renders the aforementioned "Enlightenment project" - which depended in large measure upon an explicit separation between the mind and reality - ultimately unworkable.

Interestingly, Crawford also references a Burkean perspective.

All in all, another very illuminating post that traces an historical arc to drive him its point - I've already forwarded to my liberal friends, albeit without much hope. But, one must plant ideas like seeds, as one is never sure whether or when currently barren terrain may become fertile in the future!

A question: given that your analysis is so heavily based on history, aside from Vico, Toynbee and Spengler, who are some of the other historians and historical writers who have engaged your interest and influenceds your analysis? I'd love to have a reading list to work from!

Sven Eriksen said...

I had no idea that that the act of importing values into the political discourse was such a distinctly liberal thing, but it does go a long way to make sense of the whole movement, and also perhaps particularly the way that the whole mess is currently imploding. I sense a fine irony in the fact that a movement that rose through implementing value centered rhetoric is now hellbent on destroying itself by, on the one hand, using value talk to try to cause every concievable aspect of human life to degenerate into a political issue, and on the other hand using the same value talk to ensure that no actual political issue ever gets to come up for actual discussion on its own terms.

Phil mentioned the inability of liberals to concieve of consequences, and JMG made a passing reference to the Gnostic undercurrents of the contemporary social discourse. Having contemplated the antics of liberals I have been subjected to, the conclusion I came to was that at the core these people are at war with limitation. Any percieved limit gets a kneejerk reaction of fear and loathing and "the good" always boils down to some effort to erase distinctions between one thing and another (the imagined global utopia where borders do not exist, ethnicities have blurred to the point of being indistinguishable from one another, and everyone ekes out the same miserable middle class consumer existence while having fashionable liberal left beliefs and at least three genders is basically a representation of the absence of the horror of limits). The inability to anticipate, relate to, and learn from the consequences of ones actions? That is an inevitable part of the package when you take it upon yourself to transcend limitation (i.e. existence itself) through the act of having the right opinions. Admittedly this business sounds somewhat drearily familiar, methinks... ;-)

Ric said...

I always feel the (relatively large...60% ??) part of me that tends toward sticklerism frowning when I see someone referring to the old attitude allegedly regarding a slave as 3/5 of a person. The wording of the US Constitution (look it up, or the sentence is handy in Wikipedia under "Three-Fifths Compromise") refers clearly to "other persons" who are counted up, with the resulting number used in a formula for political purposes. This wording does regard slaves as persons to be counted. If the purpose was to apportion representation, Southern slaveholders would have preferred counting fully, never mind how it was worded, but if the purpose was taxation, they would prefer less. The voting power of the slaves, of course, was zero, not 3/5: any power derived from the count and the formula was assigned to others. The common reaction of bridling at the supposed 3/5 insult always seems odd to me, as to many the personhood of slaves was denied entirely or mostly, not just discounted 40%. The phrase "3/5 of a person", which would be clearly insulting if applied to what we consider a person, seems misleading or irrelevant, and captures very little about 18-century attitudes. Too vague to be illuminating, and not sourced carefully.

Varun Bhaskar said...


You should write a political science 101 book. I’m serious about that statement, it’s not just an empty compliment. Your perspectives would breath new life into my stagnant sector of academia.

There is one things that does bother me. Which is more likely to be dominant in political discourse – values or interests? Talking about values seems to be far easier than talking about interests. The former just needs emotionally charged rhetoric, while the latter requires significant nuance. On the political stage playing to emotions usually wins out, or am I misunderstanding something?

Can I also venture a guess that you support the rise of the syndicalist faction of the left wing?



Nancy Sutton said...

Here is one of the proponent's websites with FAQ

Finland is looking at a trial...

...check out 'Mincome' in Wiki for Canada's short experiment in the 70's

... and Germany, Netherlands and US are considering trials.

There's more .... but...

(PS, thanks Maverick for the link to Taleb's article...very, very interesting... and unsettling.)

Moon-Shadows said...

Excellent! Wish more people knew this!!!

Caryn said...

Hi JMG & fellow commenters:

Thank You again for connecting the dots, making sense of the various snippets of ideas and changes I see all around me. I must admit, I'm getting confused by the labels these days. I've always considered myself a liberal, regardless of my own interests and economic standing - which has changed and covered almost all levels at one time or another. I believe in those classic liberal values of equality, universal, tax-paid safety nets for the poor, the sick, the old… Government interference if necessary to promote a more level playing field for the working class and less fortunate. IMHO these are more important than a free and open playing field which ultimately favors the lucky few who have been either born rich or clever, ambitious or ruthless. I think community well being and harmony is something that needs to be decided upon and enforced. Human individual aspiration comes far more naturally and IMHO doesn't need to be promoted as much if at all. I am aware that this philosophy is not shared by everyone, or even everyone here. That's perfectly fine by me.

Like many others here, I don't feel like I've left the democratic party, but it has left me. Where do I go? I find on some issues I fall more into the libertarian or far right camp, on some - the socialist camp… and I just lost a very long-term friend here for making a joke about being a Commie! (a joke, I'm sure I've made many times in the past) Has he changed? Have I? Has it always been this messy?

thymia10 said...

Regarding the response to Pygmycory about unnecessary suffering because of improperly directed government supports, the only hope seems to me to lie in those who are at risk of suffering turning to one another for mutual support, rather than to government, a la Incredible Todmorden or other community-based efforts. We have few of any of these in my town, so I take articles on them to a local discussion group just to "seed" the concepts (or on Tool Shares or time banks or "sharing economy") among people who could and should have an interest (better would be to live them). My parents told me in rural areas, that's how people endured the austerity of the Depression. Even educating conservatives about Burkean conservatism as more appropriate for their lives than free-trade neocon/neoliberal politics (most have forgotten Trad conservative values) helps, if one lives as I do in a predominantly Right-oriented area.

Susan J said...

The end of liberalism as a political entity. Okay?

I used to begin an analysis of the positions of political candidates in a new election by starting with my values and working towards what I thought were relevant issues or actions. Those had no similarity to the candidates’ positions. Which I thought was weird.

My point here is I never started with a candidate’s positions and confined my analysis to that.

I was initially a Republican, simply because my parents were and we lived in Orange County, California—which was a considerable Republican stronghold in those days. After getting an MBA and embracing laissez faire capitalism, I registered as a Libertarian. A few years later I realized that capitalism was a bad thing and I registered as Democrat. I see myself as “progressive” and possibly “liberal”, whatever those mean; but definitely not mainstream Democrat—which has evolved into a creature that is more committed to its own survival than any other-focused values.

I do hope the Republican Party self-destructs and soon. After that the Democratic Party can fold its tent.

Perhaps a return to interests, instead of values, will be good for the country. Perhaps it will be possible to explore the differences in interests in a way that does not rip the country apart.

To change the subject a bit, will you please discuss the limitations of a 52-state-union, alternatives, and paths to those alternatives. I welcome a Lakeland Republic and a Mississippi Republic and a Northwest Republic. Uniformity no longer appeals. It’s hard enough making common cause with my neighbors, but to do so with people 3000 miles away is just impossible.

Scotlyn said...

Firstly, a data point relevant to your 2016 predictions:

Scotlyn said...

Secondly, I found this a very enlightening post, and principally for the useful interests/values distinction. You have highlighted this distinction before, but sometimes it takes a bit of repetition for a new thought to sink in (or as another commenter put it, for a new conceptual tool to demonstrate its uses). In mulling this post, several new ways of looking at old reflections came up for me.

1) in a previous comment thread, I tried to analyse Black Lives Matter in terms of interests, not values. I said something to the effect that "a state or police force that can kill black citizens with impunity, is a state or police force that can kill citizens with impunity". That is to say I feel that regardless of my skin colour or ethnicity, I believe I have a personal stake in the existence of a rule of law that protects citizens from state or police over-reach. And every (in my judgment) unlawful, unpunished police killing of unarmed, unthreatening citizens injures my interests. Another commenter called this "liberal boilerplate". (Boilerplate, maybe, but liberal? No, I don't think so).

2) JMG you have answered a commenter with the view that feminists first succeeded by turning the tables on the domains allocated for values/interests... perhaps it is time to turn the tables again. In much of current discourse, the domain of "values" is OUR TEAM (tm) and the domain of "interests" is THE OTHER TEAM (tm). It strikes me we could all learn a great deal from re-phrasing what we think of as our own values in the language of interests - and we may even discover that pursuing our own interests does not necessarily make us terrible people. (It makes us normal). (We might also be more willing to consider that people we disagree with have values, as well as interests - much like ourselves).

3) The most problematic kinds of interests are "powerful interests" (because they are difficult for less powerful people to check/counter) and "hidden interests" (because they are difficult for anyone not in the know to check/counter). One of the problems you highlight in this post is that "values" language can so effectively mask interests as to make them "forbidden" to discuss. Quite often having a clear idea of another's interests is the starting point for reconciling theirs and yours. Without it, your conversations will sail past one another and never connect.

4) Just as an individual may have conflicting values, they may have conflicting interests. That is to say, the value vs interest pole of conflict is not the only pole that may give rise to internal contradiction, or tension, within any individual. Value vs value, and interest vs interest may also do so. To understand how this could be, consider the famous "tragedy of the commons" problem. It may be in an individual's short term interest to cheat and take more from the commons than it can sustain for short term gain and advantage. Yet it is equally in the same individual's long term interest to have a share in a sustainably managed commons. One could analyse many of our current political, social, and yes, environmental conflicts in this way.

Nancy Sutton said...

"the deliberate cultivation of outrage as a kind of recreational drug deserves some serious discussion"...Here! Here! cheerfully awaiting that post :)

Scotlyn said...


5) When you grant consideration to interests, as opposed to values, it becomes more obvious that conflict is inevitable. It is not possible for any two people to completely share interests, if for no other reason than that we cannot occupy the same place at the same time as another, therefore our histories, our perspectives, must diverge - a little or a lot. IF conflict is inevitable, then the necessary skill or knack is to be able to resolve conflicts in the most bloodless way possible.

6) This leads to the thought that some concepts that seem intuitively to be values, may actually be meta-interests. For example, the saying "privilege benefits some, justice benefits all" speaks to the "interest" in the concept of justice rather than the "value". For good order, let me say that my definition of justice is simply this - "the principle of arranging things such that, were our positions in the arrangement reversed, the arrangement would still work well for both of us". For an analogy, let me reach for a sporting one. The interests the players and the teams have is in winning, and they will bend their efforts towards that end. In that sense, the interests of one team will be opposed to the interest of their opponents. In a different sense, the meta-interest of all players is in having rules, arbitration, facilities, etc so arranged that no team derives a hidden or unfair advantage, and all can use the play opportunities to demonstrate skill, teamwork, and etc. If the play were rigged, sooner or later, the whole concept of playing would lose its flavour, and no one would want to.

Ok, that's enough. What a fruitful post!

Lucretia Heart said...

Commenter Howard Skillington mentioned the idea of a new political party called "The Deplorables" as Clinton made a statement about half of Trump's supporters were such. I've actually heard the term used several times by Trump supporters who are aware of how they are perceived in the media with a sort of sardonic humor-- they are embracing the name.

The term is catching on:

You get the idea-- plenty more of THAT to be found in the web-o-sphere, and more everyday.

When a group of people just shrug off the value judgment and agree with being called "deplorable", its a pretty clear sign to my mind that the liberal 'high horse' is just not as impressive as it used to be...

Scotlyn said...

PS, one last thing.

8) A focus on values does give rise to the delusion that everyone can agree on everything. And dispatches disagreement into one of two bins which have "don't need to think about" written on the outside. One is "BAD values" - ie the values "haters" have. The other is "INTERESTS" - ie those distasteful things that only selfish, greedy people have.

I could go on forever here - I have 30 years worth of reflections on why, for some reason, my early faith's notions that I should be selfLESS never took properly. I have been slowly developing a personal ethic/politic of selfFULLness that takes account of the worth of my own self, my purposes and interests (all of which both evangelical christianity, in one way, and "objective" rationality, in another way, tried to rob me of) and this ethic evokes respect in me for every "self" I meet (not all of them human by a long shot), which I expect to have legitimate interests and purposes of its own to rightfully pursue. We may have conflicting interests, but each of our selves is worthy of respect and should not be asked to erase itself in selflessness (nor disregard itself in "objectivity").

Stopping now, for real.

M Smith said...

Sheila said, " Unless any one of us can claim membership to a Native American Nation, all of us to a person are immigrants from somewhere..."

That is incorrect and needs to be called out, though usually it's a line used by liberals to silence anyone who dislikes illegal aliens in our midst. The funny thing about that is, they insist that anchor babies born to illegal aliens on American soil are Americans and from there, they shrill that "we" must not "tear families apart", so here comes the entire family instead of the illegal and her baby being deported.

I'm not an immigrant. I was born here. That makes me an American. The manufactured moral superiority of the left and its talking points do not change that fact. I can't help but wonder why they keep insisting there are no Americans.

Scotlyn said...

@Mallow and anyone else in Ireland, I wonder is there any interest in an Irish Green Wizard meet-up? If so, please email me at scotlyn DOT s AT gmail DOT com. I'd be happy to get something going, though, as I'm in Donegal I'm not the most centrally located.

LewisLucanBooks said...

Dear Mr. Greer - Thanks you for this post. I mean, I was aware of most of this history of liberalism, but to have it all pulled together into one place and interpreted and clarified ... breathtaking!

As an aside, Hawthorne's "Blithedale Romance" was a fictionalized account of his time at the communal Brook Farm. Wikipedia has a pretty good overview of that experiment. Also of interest is Fruitlands. Another communal experiment at about the same time. The Alcott's (Louisa Mae, et all) were involved in that. Louisa Mae Alcott later wrote an account of Fruitlands in her "Transcendental Wild Oats." Fruitlands is also covered in a pretty good Wikipedia entry.

As I'm sure you are aware, there were many Utopian community experiments up here in the Pacific Northwest. From memory, I believe there's a book called (I think) "Utopias on Puget Sound." Lew

Phil said...

I could not help but compare this to a (quite magnificent) screed posted on twitter by one of the alt-right. - this is the start of the stream.

One @mrb_rides_again, manages to talk about progressive liberal theory, the alt-right, egregores, and a new god Kek all at once. In the multi-post twitter essay, he posts a commentary on Sarah Perry's "Weaponized Sacredness" article :

This is very very good read in itself. I cannot do it justice in summarising.

A few notes here: Mr Bones represents a section of the alt-right, the kinds that lurk in the murky bogs of 4chan, /pol and other disreputable hives of scum and villainy. He is intelligent, verbose, ironic and actually onto something here, a few quotes to wet the palate: I've condensed some of his tweets into contiguous paragraphs.

" Much confusion around Catholicism, Christianity, religion, etc in Alt Right and similar rejections of modernity. This is largely due to our rejection of the sacredness of progressive liberalism, sometimes via rejection of sacredness itself. Some of us look at the Pope suckling on the toes of Muslims, saying the same tripe as leftists, and see it as more progressive liberalism. Some of us see religions as competing with progressive liberalism, demanding we respect their sacredness instead. Some of make an uneasy truce, rejecting some claims to sacredness but accepting others, unsure if we have a good basis for choosing. Plenty of us embrace progressive liberalism's doctrine of degrading the sacredness of all others, but then apply it to all including proglib. This is a confusion born from lack of understanding the mechanism at play here, "sacredness" itself."

"Sacredness forms us into marauding mental tribes to wage social warfare for resources and status. But the ideas we form around, demand of us steep payment for their services. Payment to an *idea*? This is no ordinary warband situation We need a better metaphor. And so we meet the Egregore: believers worshipping their god, waging war on other sects. No accident that we speak of feminism or progressivism as we might speak of vengeful gods. No accident, either, that we bring our own: Kek.

Meme magic is real: it made both Pres candidates notice us! Egregores really do exist: they ARE the acts of its believers, working its will. Egregores are not just for war (though it is their natural element). They could coordinate a band of builders, too. Western Civilisation is the greatest, most complex artifact built by man. It was built under the dominion of successive egregores. At first Christianity (particularly Catholicism) was the steward-god supervising the construction of the Western world. After came the Enlightenment, secular liberalism, driving us through the Industrial Revolution, whipping us harder, a frenzy of achievement. And then, the West was beholden to Progressive Liberalism. Lacking the skill or taste of our previous masters, it had us produce modernity. But this egregore is sick, it is dying. Harassed by that other egregore, Islam, it cravenly sacrifices its humans to avoid a fight.

Our disgust with modernity, our violation of proglib sacredness, is because we see clearly that it has abandoned our wellbeing. Disaffected, we performed - unconsciously, unknowingly - a great ritual to spawn a new egregore, and we christened it Kek. This egregore bound us together, hardened us against our foes, formed us into a formidable warband, challenged the others prowling society. The "4chan/GG/altright" bogeyman that social justice sees under the bed? A clear message from their god, ordering them to fight our god. And we have seen great success. But our god Kek is a new, synthetic beast. Like proglib, it has few safeguards."
I may not agree with all the things the alt-right represent, but they seem to have a clear handle on what our good host is speaking on.

Fred said...

@Neo Tuxedo - thank you for sharing this "But wait, there’s more. Because parents were spending just a little more time at home and involved with their families, test scores increased. Because teens didn’t have to work to support their families, drop-out rates decreased. Crime rates, hospital visits, psychiatric hospitalizations and domestic abuse rates all dropped, as well. More adults pursued higher education. Those who continued to work reported more job flexibility and more opportunity to choose employment they preferred."

Look at all the "professions" that are less needed when families function - psychiatrists, doctors, nurses, school administration (to chase down missing kids), special education teachers (to increase test scores), police, social workers, and all the various non-profits that feed, house and clothe the hungry. What isn't listed is elder care, nursing homes, day care, preschools, the various after school programs, fast food restaurants and every kind of place to grab a quick bite between jobs or because one just isn't home to cook.

So paying people a decent living wage will basically crash the economy, not because it will cost too much to implement, but because of all the people put out of work when people aren't struggling to survive. Interesting.

W. B. Jorgenson said...

Off topic, but I think people here will be interested:

It is now possible for Americans to sue Saudi Arabia for a claimed role in 9/11, in American courts. Whatever else you say about it, this is a sure sign the Saudi-American alliance is fraying, with fairly drastic implications for the future.

Nastarana said...

Dear Caryn, about where to go next, you are not alone with that question.

An underreported aspect of this year's election is that the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee (DSCC) and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) have been at pains, and spent lots of money, to salt both Houses with compliant conservadems who can be relied upon to rubberstamp the Clinton/Schumer Mideast war plans. Check out the spring and early summer archives of a site called Down With Tyranny, I think, for the gory details. In so doing, the Democratic leadership, I use the term advisedly, have managed to disrespect and sideline some very capable and ambitious people, and I doubt those individuals are going to run away and cry in a corner somewhere.

So, we may be seeing some quite serious and sustained new party building over the next few years, with candidates who already have national reputations and national followings. I imagine new party staff members will be scouring the internet to figure out what kinds of policies might attract voters; therefor, I would suggest, now is the time for us to make our preferences and criticisms known.

Justin said...

Regarding the Gadsden flag, well, good. The pundits who insisted that the stars and bars merely represented racism are just as full of it as the 'heritage not hate' folks. A flag that only CNN, MSNBC and Al Sharpton will call racist that represents the legitimate desire for Southern independence, but is sufficiently divorced from the 'Old South' that a sympathetic Canadian might consider flying it because, well, Don't Tread On Me is the American Molon Labe, or Tiocfadih Ar La, or Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite.

One reason why I think the USA was successful, on top of the (far more important) geopolitical reasons is the model of loosely confederated states. Even when the USA was 90% white, politics often followed ethnic lines among whites. One interesting point that Scott Adams of Dilbert fame has made recently is that our perception of reality is modulated by evolutionary factors and is therefore not objective but also inherent in us. Adams does not go so far as to point out that different ethnic groups might perceive reality differently, but I think the evidence for that idea is strong. I can't find the link, but there was a fascinating study done where people were asked to group three objects into two groups. Two of the objects were made of the same material, and two were the same shape (for example, a wooden cylinder, a plastic cylinder and a wooden cube). Asians (living in China) nearly all grouped the objects based on material, and whites in America almost all grouped them based on shape. There's a possibility that there's a cultural bias, but culture comes from people after all.

It's obviously silly to say that the Asian way of looking at things is superior or inferior to the (white?) Western way of looking at things. But it my hypothesis is correct, then we live in a far richer world than the cultural-deterministic model popular in elite circles suggests, and that we must also acknowledge and respect our differences with other people, which goes back to the notion of states rights. I think we need to accept that we're not all going to get along, and should leave each other alone to a certain extent.

Bob said...

I must be missing the changes to liberalism in Canada. Status quo north of the border, with the usual crop of bland politicians. Will we follow the US lead?

Carl Dolphin said...

I saw a funny t-shirt "I was deplorable before it was cool!"

Violet Cabra said...

Shane, thanks for sharing your information on the flag mash ups and rapidly shifting political environment (I was tempted to respond to your thoughts last week but was a bit too busy). I'm enormously heartened and relieved that there is no longer the same polarization of queers towards the left, that we are becoming, it would appear, less of a captive constituency and more fully integrated into the American project right, left and center. this would also mean that there is greater general acceptance of queerness - I've been thinking this week that a major reason that minority groups tend to cluster around the left is because we want to, very understandably, be protected by a centralized power. if queers as a group are becoming more center and right orientated I imagine that would imply that there is no longer such a desire to cleave to the state for protection against a hostile majority. Perhaps we have, I dare say, assimilated quite nicely into the mainstream culture. This squares pretty neatly with my experience - mostly, people don't care that I'm trans, at all. It is totally a non-issue. Sure, there are a few people that look at me like they want to stomp my skull in, but mostly no one gives a flying frack that I'm queer. Some people are really into it even and are generous with me or take me under their wing, which is nice and sweet. I should also note that in truth, I'm not even sure why people give me the death stare when no words have been exchanged; I haven't asked, so am only assuming

Noroman B said...

Long-time lurker here, but I thought I'd pipe up, albeit over a minor issue that came up in the discussion. I notice JMG said

"In 1600, as I recall, India was among the richest countries on Earth, and England was a backwater that mostly produced wool and codfish."

As someone with an amateur interest in the history of India, I'd be interested in knowing more about this view, particularly what measure of wealth you're going by. India was ruled by Sunni Muslim foreigners (the Mughals, essentially Mongols), and looking forward to a period of warfare and decline before the British would come with as much economic as military strength.

I think by 1600 England was already carburizing wrought iron, regularly sailing ships around Africa and trading with the east, and in possession of the printing press.

John Michael Greer said...

Cherokee, good! Yes, no doubt value-based politics also obeys the law of diminishing returns, and we're well into negative returns at this point. With regard to wind turbines, the gigantic ones that are fashionable these days are riddled with problems, but of course we can't just have good sturdy old-fashioned wind turbines of the sort that existed all over the US in 1920; no, we've got to progress to something that works much less well!

Koen, these days, if a politician's lips are moving, you can be 99% sure that they're lying.

Brigyn, thanks for the report from the Netherlands! The reason all young people are being screwed over, of course, is that in a time of serious (though unmentionable) economic crisis, if young people were to get a fair share, their elders would have to live less lavishly, and that's unacceptable to the elders. Always look for who gets the benefits and who pays the costs!

.Mallow, likewise, thanks for the report from Ireland! I really don't know what to say, other than that we're definitely further down the curve here in the US, and what makes sense here may not make sense elsewhere. How exactly to help the working class see past liberal virtue-mongering and pursue their own interest -- well, that's the challenge, of course.

YCS, excellent! Yes, and that puts the rise and fall of liberalism into a broader context I've discussed before, the movement from concrete to abstract that Vico traced in the cycle of the rise and fall of nations. In a real sense, liberalism is in trouble because its abstractions have become so obviously divorced from reality that too few people are falling for the rhetoric any more.

K Sc, the implosion of public trust in science is something I've talked about here before, of course, and it's a huge issue. Recent events suggest that it's moving ahead faster than I expected -- there'll be a post on this in the fairly near future, focusing on the intersection between the replicability crisis and the accelerating corruption of institutional science.

Bill, fair enough. I'd point out, though, that liberalism as such has more often than not been fairly comfortable with corporate power, so long as that's been wielded in ways that support the liberal agenda -- not at all surprising for a political movement of the affluent elite! Thus we get talk about breaking the glass ceiling rather than, say, talk about flattening out the hierarchy of wealth and influence; if women and ethnic minorities have an equal shot at becoming absurdly rich, to the liberal mind, all's well. Socialists like Sanders, at least in theory, disagree.

Ozark Chinquapin said...

K Sc wrote,

"when the 'vaccines are safe' bubble does break, and I strongly believe it will, it'll shatter not only that industry but alot of faith in science itself."

That's the exact same thought that I've been having recently, I won't go into the reasons why I also believe it's a bubble that will pop, but if it does, I'm almost sure it will be the last straw for faith in science in America. I don't that would've been the case ten or fifteen years ago, maybe even five years ago. Medical advice has changed dramatically plenty of times in the past. What makes this different is how the establishment has become ever more shrill about labeling anyone who questions any of the official line about vaccines under the labels "antivaxxer" and even more importantly, "anti-science". Talk about taking purity politics to the extreme. This is uniting everyone who has any any skepticism about the official line under one banner, from those who just want to delay vaccinating their children or space them out to those who want to rid the world of vaccines, and since so many of the science types in fields far from medicine have equated any dissidence on the vaccine issue with being anti-science, that's setting the stage for any sort of scandal to irreversibly ruin the prestige of science as a whole.

Grebulocities said...

The paralogic that Obama is claiming when he says that not voting is a vote for Trump is designed to get the sorts of young voters who turned out for Sanders to turn out for Clinton, by scaring them with the prospect of a Trump presidency. Young voters, of course, see little reason to vote at all and are expected to have even lower turnout than usual. Democrats are also fond of calling votes for third parties as votes for Trump, as well. It's a classic bit of propaganda that they use every four years. Nothing new to see here.

The pull of the two-party system is so strong that even in a race with two candidates that have net approval ratings in the negative double digits, all third parties combined are going to be lucky to get 10%. All sorts of prominent Republicans claimed they were going to vote against Trump, but now they're meekly falling in line.

My prediction is that Clinton will edge out Trump in a narrow election, have an abysmal presidency with approval ratings akin to Bush II's second term, especially after the trouncing of US combat jets over Syria by the Russians in late 2018 followed by the Panic of 2019. Then Fred Halliot makes mincemeat of her in 2020, with a map that looks like an updated version of the Carter-Reagan map in 1980. Trump showed that it's possible to take over the GOP nomination against the GOP elites' will and get them to meekly go along with it, so I expect Halliot to come through that party rather than fight the uphill battle to get NPAPP onto all of the state ballots, past both political machines, past the 15% threshold to get into the debates, and so on.

KL Cooke said...

"Will draw my own conclusions, and will take both you and Zinn with a pinch of salt."

I found Zinn's "History" to be longer on rhetoric than scholarship. For an analysis of the history of slavery in the United States, I recommend "The American Slave Coast" by Ned and Constance Sublette. It is a massive tome, but without a dull page (Also, rather expensive--$30 prox--but well worth the price if one can afford it. Some libraries may have it available.). Albeit the tone is slanted toward social justice outrage, the research behind the writing is extensive, providing, for me at least, a fascinating insight to the economics of slavery(as well as dishing our "Founding Fathers" in style for hypocrisy and moral turpitude in the manner our host terms "chronocentrism).

In short, prior to the discovery of gold in California in 1848, the fledgling nation had very little specie or precious metal to back currency. In place of bullion there was a system of fungible bank paper, collateralized by slaves, which was tranched and speculated upon in both the North and South in a manner similar to the home mortgages of recent history. Slave breeding and trading became more profitable than the produce of slave labor.

KL Cooke said...

"There seems to be an unspoken assumption that as long as a policy is considered morally and ethically correct, then no negative consequences can ensue from implementing it."

Such consequences may occur in the United States regarding the override of President Obama's veto of the bill to allow 911 victims to sue the Saudi government. If the Saudis carry out their threat to dump their massive holdings of US Bonds, the effect will not be slight.

Further, the US may find itself sued for acts committed abroad, as well as individuals held criminally liable. The latter is tempting to contemplate in the cases of certain persons, but the overall effect could be large.

KL Cooke said...


"When the grid goes down, the resistance on the turbines motors disappears and the blades can spin much faster (i.e. because it is so much easier with no resistance) and then the turbine may possibly self destruct."

I once did some work for a wind turbine company. They call that phenomenon "going weedwhacker." ;o)

Brigyn said...

@ K Sc:
As a biomedical sciences student, as well as a druid, I feel I ought to reply to what you said about science and vaccines here.

It is true vaccines are not entirely safe. Science has never shown them to be anything else - I don't personally know a single medical scientist who believes they are.

The political decision has been made that the diseases that they probably prevent outweigh the risk of some people potentially getting (horrible) side effects. That has been a political, ideological decision, not one made by scientists themselves - though some few individual scientists might well have had a political agenda in supporting it.

The "scientific community" has many opinions on things, but those are rarely the opinions of the actual research scientists. The whole thing is completely run by non-scientists, who understand the actual science very poorly - policy makers who cherry-pick results, and promoters who do all the actual communicating with the media. This leads to scientism, an excessive faith in what science can do and will do, but most scientists don't accept scientism themselves. As Mr Greer has often said, science tells us a lot more about what you can't do, than about what you can do.

Scientists are those people whose thoughts rarely crystallize, which makes them incredibly hard to talk constructively with. They think in percentage chances. These are then spun into supposed hard facts which no actual researcher ever uttered.

Don't blame the poor scientists. They are just a group of socially awkward people who have been caught up, empowered, idolized and exploited by an industry, like so many others. Agreed, that distinction doesn't matter to the public, and they will likely eventually be torn down for not being able to deliver on promises they never actually themselves made.

KL Cooke said...


"I'm unsure why -all- young people are being screwed over."

I notice the same thing here in the US. Here's a theory--not really a theory, but speculation.

Except for a handful of 20 and 30 something techo-jillionaires, the Boomers are mostly running things now. The Boomers were the first large-scale youth movement, and we prized our youth above all (remember, "Never Trust anybody over 30?"). Now our youth is gone, and we resent the hell out of those still young enough to enjoy Sex, Drugs and Rock'n Roll--if they can afford it. So we'll see to it that they can't.

Santeri Satama said...

The liberal elite has indeed become the neoliberal-neoconservative 1% status quo, and self-identified liberals, progressives, social democrats, the "left" have no genuine alternative to offer to neoliberal globalization in terms of either values of interest. Current form of globalization - "race to the bottom" levels the playing field geologically and at the same time it's class war creates higher and higher levels of inequality everywhere. Regressive left desires for nostalgic return to social democratic "New Deal" everywhere, but as economist and former Minister of Economy in Greek government Yanis Varoufakis explains in this excellent speech (, it's a fools dream.

The real challenge is to form an real altermundialist alternative to neoliberal globalization, alternative that unites both our values and interests, not to hold on to statism and national socialism in any form, "left" or "right" or that of the Radical Centre.
With Varoufakis, I suggest that Global Universal Basic Income (GUBI) could and should be the midterm primary goal. Most of the thinking and initiatives for GUBI still function primarily within the statist paradigm, accepting current monetary system of central bank ponzi as given and getting stuck at the question of how to fund GUBI within prevailing model. With advance of blockchain tech (Bitcoin, Ethereum, etc.) we have now the opportunity and responsibility to reimagine and reprogram money and globalization.

The very simple solution: create money - aka decentralized ledger and information network of supply and demand - directly as GUBI!

Kevin Warner said...

When at the end of your post you pointed out the emergence of affluent versus populist parties arising, isn't this the way it mostly is in history? Whether you call them Republican & Democrat, Conservatives & Labour or whatever, the outline is mostly the same. They just take turns is all. Going way back, Republican Rome was a balance of these two forces until Caesar knocked that set-up over.
On another level, I think that historically there has always been a sort of grand bargain between rulers and ruled. The agreement has usually been that the ruled say to the rulers; "OK, we know you want to skim some money off the top but as long as things run smoothly, we are cool with that. But you must provide paying jobs, keep the streets safe and clean, have the schools run smoothly, give the little guy a chance to advance themselves, etc." It is a pragmatic approach to human nature and if the rulers do not get too greedy and corrupt, can work over a very long time. When it doesn't work you have France 1789.
The present elite in most western countries has deliberately broken this bargain as they feel that they can now get away with it. All of us can name a hundred things without much effort of how things are being stuffed up by them such as the F-35, fracking, Cold War 2, global warming, decreasing life spans, terrorism, rigged economies, oil dependency, quantitative easing, negative interest rates, bail-outs and bail-ins. In short, our so-called elite are giving us a golden shower and trying to tell us it is only rain.
One member of the French elite in the past made the astute comment that "if we want things to stay the same, we will have to change". The present elite, however, refuses to make a single concession to a track record of constant failure and refuses to change course but instead wants to double down doing the same. This is a standard definition of insanity. My point in all this rant is that as our elites are digging in to keep everything that they have and more, that it is going to get rough before long and it is time to batten down the hatches. I am personally studying my copy of "Green Wizardry" as a start.

On a side note, if JMG decides to write a post on the present state of the wage class down the track, I have the perfect title for such a post - "Les Deplorables"

Rebecca Brown said...

Hey JMG,
This isn't really about the current post, so feel free to delete it if you want. I want to think you for being so open and honest about having Asperger's. I've mentioned a couple of times over the past few years the little girl we adopted unexpectedly. She was just diagnosed with Asperger's. Knowing you're doing great with it really gives me hope for her future. Thank you!

Cherokee Organics said...


Since you brought the idea of diminishing returns to our consciousness as something that is applicable to many parts of our lives, I'm seeing it applied to more and more areas.

I find it rather strange when people talk about breaking the glass ceiling, and not because it isn't there - oh yeah, I could tell you a story or two about what I've heard in my time at the top end of town on that topic, but alas it would cause me great trouble, so I shall refrain - but because simply people don't realise that in order for females salaries and wages to reach parity, men's salaries and wages have to reduce. And I don't see anyone suggesting that course of action which would actually work, so no wonder the movement for pay equality focuses instead on appeals to "values" instead of anything that would actually produce a useful outcome on that issue.

And I have also noticed that when it comes to salaries and perquisites, some pigs certainly feel that they are much more equal than others... Just sayin.

And if anyone should choose to judge me for those opinions, I once took a lower salary so that my team could be paid more, and because they all pretty much knew what everyone was paid (because they were snoopy as and access to the accounts!), they were a very loyal team and followed my lead and worked hard. I met one of them a few months back by sheer accident in the city and I got a big happy hug, which was nice!

You are so right about the small scale wind turbines as there is so much less to go wrong with them. The large ones just will not operate without a base load grid which plays the role that the batteries do here. And nobody wants to pay for that massive investment of infrastructure.

You may be interested to know that the old school wind turbines down here were usually used to pump water from water bores into storage tanks. Those were very common and they were all over the landscape. You can even still see them nowadays, although they are probably not as well maintained as they should be. The ones for electricity were not as common, because most rural houses in those days (and it wasn't that long ago) just didn't have or need electricity. But water, they needed water... Oh yeah.



Hi eagle eye,

Mate, the Tarkine. Awesome and total respect! What a stunning part of the world you live in. Thanks very much for the suggestion about the steel. I almost missed reading your comment and may never have considered that option. There is a specialty supplier in Melbourne too. I could fabricate something myself. And yeah, drilling hardened steel is a nightmare. Last year, I had a lot of fun with 3mm stainless steel. What a nightmare...



David, by the lake said...


Perhaps I'm just in a mood this morning -- it's likely the fact that the season is transitioning and I've started my autumnal tradition of playing Christmas music -- but this post has me observing my reactions to what I, at least, project onto this passing era. The Christmas piece is relevant, at least for me, because of the prevalence of 19th century Americana in holiday decor. I have always had a sentimental view, to a degree, for that era. The student of history in me knows -- knows very well -- of the considerable warts that time period had, but there was also, at least as viewed in hindsight, a balanced simplicity but also an optimism for the future, a sense of open possibility which contrasts strongly with the narrowing of possibility today. Community still existed and vestiges of noblesse obliged remained, as opposed to our increasingly fractured and isolated individualized society today. On the other hand, I also know that the achievements of that period were largely possible only due to the very trajectories that resulted in our problems of today -- so perhaps this is foolish sentimentality on my part. The question before me remains -- what will I do about it? Given the (non-negotiable) set of circumstances we face, what path will I take? I feel my way forward, blindly at times, and cannot see very far. Perhaps as things continue to work through their course, I will be able to see more clearly. In the meantime, mining the past for what works seems a good place to start.

latefall said...

Haven't read the comments, but saw UBI came up.
I recently learned that "in the good old days" Gaddafi apparently had some interesting handouts. Lifted from quora (no references):

-Electricity bills in Libya didn't exist and for all Libyans, electricity was free
-If a Libyan citizen couldn't find a job after he finishes his university education, the country would pay the average salary for that profession until he finds a job
-Gaddafi worked on the biggest irrigation project just to be sure that every citizen can get water (the Man-Made river project)
-All newly married Libyans would receive 60,000 Dinar (about 50,000 $) by the government to buy their first apartment/house so they can start a family
-Small but significant portions of Libyan oil sales were credited directly to the bank accounts of all Libyans
-A mother who gives birth to a child would receive $5,000
-Education and medical treatments were free in Libya
-25% of Libyans have a university degree today. Before Gaddafi only 25% of the population was literate. That number now is 87%

It is not the same by a long shot, but I thought what works for one doesn't necessarily work the same for another. So it may still be a valuable data point. I would assume that the "universal" part may need some qualification though.

By the way David Graeber also discusses this topic, and I am sure there are interesting historical examples of related things.

Bill Pulliam said...

JMG -- The real test will be the 2020 election when President Trump is trying to defend against Elizabeth Warren...

latefall said...

Are you aware of the World Value Survey? It does not map onto the issue at hand 1:1 but I think it is still pertinent.
The other factor (interests) which I think have a lot of sway how things pan out culturally is who works in what fields (and of course levels as you've pointed out) and how important those fields just happen to be or become in the expected future.
Lots of data here:

Bill Pulliam said...

Actually, check my last comment. The real test will be Elizabeth Warren's PRIMARY challenge in 2020 against incumbent President Clinton II!

Anthony Romano said...


I had to read this essay several times before posting in an effort to avoid my initial kneejerk. Your response to Jack really helped bring the point into focus for me. You said...

"you're falling into the trap of assuming that "liberalism" includes everything left of center. It doesn't; it's a specific movement, and there are other leftward movements such as socialism, social democracy, and syndicalism, which have their own very different answers to the questions liberalism once tried to solve."

I think many Americans, myself included, have fallen into that trap. The word has become synonymous with being "on the left" and I never really considered it as a distinct flavor of "leftness." It makes it that much harder to consider alternatives and that is clearly by design.

The situation appears to be similar on the right end of things. Modern mainstream conservatism is a far cry from the moderate Burkean conservatism you champion.

Hammer said...

Now that politics in the future will be more about interests than values, is slavery more likely to come back? Agriculture will require a lot of labor at low cost, after our cheap energy runs out.

David, by the lake said...

Re my previous nostalgia

I suppose that I was just another 4th-century Roman thinking back on the days of Augustus -- or even on the ideals of the Republic. (Sigh) We've got a dark-age transition to navigate, though, so I'd best get to it and do something useful.

ganv said...

One other thought inspired by perusing movies at TV this week. Liberalism is unravelling as a coherent project, but there is still a lot of life left in the splintering causes fired by progressive values. After your exploration of the progress myth, this post focusing on values replacing interests suggests a likely trajectory for the next few decades. If reality is crushing progressive economic utopian dreams. A natural shift will be to focus more on progressive social values that are not explicitly economic like racism and sexism. One might argue that the current stream of movies and shows about race relations and oppressed women can be read it that light. The problem is that there isn't a path forward to rights the wrongs of the past. As reality bites back at an economic system that has been using resources beyonds its means, then everyone is going to feel oppressed. It may be convenient to focus on traditionally oppressed groups rather than facing the reality of the coming decades.

gwizard43 said...

The references to the 'downtrodden' strike an interestingly tangential chord to David Graeber's latest piece, which focuses, in part, on the plight of the working class in Britain and how they're being used by the governing class:

"In other words, the historical defeat and humiliation of the British working classes is now the island’s primary export product. By organizing the entire economy around the resultant housing bubble, the Tories have ensured that the bulk of the British population is aware, at least on some tacit level, that it is precisely the global appeal of the English class system, up to and including the contemptuous sneer of the Oxbridge graduates in Parliament chuckling over the impending removal of housing benefits, that is also keeping affordable track shoes, beer, and consumer electronics flowing into the country. It’s an impossible dilemma. It’s hardly surprising, then, that so many turn to cynical right-wing populists like UKIP, who manipulate the resulting indignation by fomenting rage against Polish construction workers instead of Russian oligarchs, Bangladeshi drivers instead of Qatari princes, and West Indian porters instead of Brazilian steel tycoons."

Matthias Gralle said...

Off-topic for this week, but a fabulous quote from Nature on the topic of parts failure in nuclear power plants and why they should not impede extending the plants' licence for another 40 years:

"If you maintain them and replace parts, there is no reason why nuclear plants can’t run a very long time, which is great news from a climate perspective,” says Michael Shellenberger, president of the Environmental Progress advocacy group in Berkeley, California.

(source) said...

Fascinating article John.

I agree with you that liberalism is on its deathbed.

For me, the populist centre-right are in the strongest position to take power in the coming years on a anti-globalization and nationalistic programme designed to appeal to the working voters.

The establishment centre-left (liberalism) is finished as a significant political force and its likely successor, populist left-wing politics (Corbyn/Sanders) have potential but serious weaknesses.

I have outlined in further detail why I think Corbyn and the radical left forces he represents still have major challenges to overcome, principally his addiction to open-door policies on immigration and refugees. This is politically toxic to Middle England.

Donald Trump represents an aggressive populist right populism which is struggling to transition into a more serious, centre-right and governing approach as we enter the elections. The debate showed where Trump still needs to improve in articulating his national vision, his policies and why the voters should vote for him rather than Clinton. Trump is a fast learner and has recovered after the Khangate debacle. I suspect that he will improve during the course of the remaining debates.

One black swan (potentially) coming up is the growing crisis with Deutsche Bank. There is a growing risk of a major banking crisis erupting in Europe which could easily cross the Atlantic. The prospect of a second bailout of the US banking system prior to the elections could push voters into the arms of Trump.

On a final note, I thought you might find this article interesting, in light of your prediction of a Saudi collapse.

Unknown said...

You wrote a bit there about the masking of liberal values over their interests. I quibble with the change as you describe it earlier, that liberal politics was a change of interest to value, when its a masking of interest as value. The dynamics are the same, as you say, you can often bet and predict that the moral political positions of liberals at any given time tend to be exactly ones that also further their interests.

The article is chilling, I've noticed liberals are literally incapable of understanding any basis in Trump's support apart from expressions of ignorance, racism and immoral belief. Literally, Reddit message boards full of this rubbish. Chilling because of the parallel to the Civil War dynamics, once they put themselves in a moral stand, they can't sit down.

Synthase said...

Re: the vaccine issue, there's good reason to tolerate absolutely no dissent on it whatsoever - a small percentage of the population can ruin the whole thing for everyone. Antivax is just like the YEC thing, except that antivax kills people and YEC not so much.

It's a very sad thing that the social order required to eradicate diseases through 100% vaccination compliance seems to be collapsing.

You can now enjoy this comment with 40% less liberalism.

. said...

gwizard43: Graeber is just rehashing the same old left trope about the rich redirecting the anger of the poor towards other poor people. That happens, of course.

But, the nonsense starts when the left talks about the likes of UKIP. They invariably accuse them of 'fomenting rage' against immigrants. In fact, UKIP et al are not aiming to foment such rage at all. They aim, as it says on the tin, to reduce immigration levels and in support of that aim they point out to people the concrete damage that mass immigration causes. It's perfectly possible to agree with that aim and that statement of fact without feeling any rage whatsoever towards any immigrant. That is what most UKIP supporters do.

The reason that the left insists that any such movement is simply stirring up base emotions against often darker skinned minorities is that they know perfectly well that they themselves have no intention of doing anything to reduce immigration levels even though that's exactly what many of their constituents actually want. The other purpose of the accusation is just to call Farage a racist fascist, again, but in a passive aggressive indirect way. And that's about all the left ever does on immigration. It sounds sophisticated but it's not.


Synthase said...

On another note, it's very difficult to be genuinely illiberal, even intentionally. Liberalism is to westerners as water is to fish.

John Roth said...

@K Sc

Anyone who says that vaccines are safe is either uninformed or lying. Vaccines are not absolutely safe. There will always be some proportion of people who have a reaction of some level of severity. They’re justified because they prevent pandemics of more serious diseases via something called “herd immunity,” which simply means that, when just about everyone is vaccinated against something, pandemics don’t have a chance to take hold. By not vaccinating, you’re helping to break “herd immunity” and contributing, in some small way, to the next pandemic.

This seems to be a hard concept to get across.

There’s also a more generic question of what over-vaccinating does to a person’s micro-biome and whether it hinders the development of a healthy immune system. A lot of the current crop of vaccines seem to be oriented more to financial interests than addressing a significant health problem.


I noticed your comment about Awakenings alternating between religious and political. Then I remembered that in a prior post you had that alternation at 40-year intervals instead of 80-year intervals, which matches Strauss and Howe’s formulation: Awakenings are always about values while Crisis periods are always about politics - specifically, about how to fix the crisis, stabilize the situation and keep it from happening again.

In the Michael Teaching, the first, third and fifth in a set of five are individualistic (for very different reasons) while the second and fourth are community-oriented. This may match your perception of the four Awakenings we’ve seen in the American Experience so far. I notice that both the Transcendental Awakening and the Consciousness Revolution had a strong commune movement; I don’t remember that commune movements being anywhere near as strong during either the Great Awakening or the Missionary Awakening.

I could also comment that John Xenakais (Generational Dynamics), in his work to expand Strauss and Howe to the rest of the world and the rest of history, does not find that the Awakening periods are in general religious in nature. This seems to be a local characteristic of the American Experience.

Re: Clinton

I note that a number of people have criticized Clinton for not having anything positive to say. I suspect that it’s because she’s very detail-oriented, and simply does not trust grand plans of the kind that politicians like to trot out on the campaign trail and then promptly forget once they’re in office.

In any case, the last astrological prediction I saw, in the current issue of The Mountain Astrologer, says that this election will go to the Democrats, and the next one to the Republicans, or whoever replaces them as the challenger. That’s based on Medieval astrological analysis of the Aries ingress at Washington, and further validated by analysis of all US elections back to 1880.

pAYYORFARE said...

As a boy in the late 1960s I went with mom to the polling place and witnessed a mildly disheveled older man go into the voting booth, pull the lever right and immediately throw it left and exit in a huff without casting a vote. For years I wondered what made him so angry. A few years ago, I stopped wondering and realized I am him.

Stu from New Jersey said...

@Mister Roboto: I don't think staying home has the impact of voting third party. The appearance of a mass third party in the face of first-past-the-post voting system will shake things up. Consider, the Libertarians are not exactly anti-establishment, but they ARE anti-war-party. Huge savings to be had there. The Green Party's candidate Jill Stein has said one of her first acts will be to pardon Edward Snowden and then offer him a job in her government - not exactly an establishment thing to do! There are others, but they differ from state to state.
Encouraging these parties to dump the majors at the local and state level is worth the trip to the polls. (Plus, if they get 5% popular vote they get a ton of money in the next presidential election.)
Also, just saying hi to your neighbors.

JMG, yes, once again you've made me think. "Chronocentrism" will appear in one of my conversations this fall if I have to start talking to myself to make it happen!

W. B. Jorgenson said...


I have autism, which is similar to Asperger's (close enough that the current diagnostic manuals lump them together), and I'm currently doing fairly well too. I have one piece of advice JMG likely won't give since as I understand it he was diagnosed later in life: The best thing for her is to work on her social skills, no matter what other people say. From my experience, most official support will neglect that, and focus on how to get her to test well. I wish both you and your family the best, and just be prepared for a lot of "help" of questionable value.

I'm also curious, but how did you unexpectedly adopt someone?

Armata said...

Speaking of the escalating banking crisis in Germany, have any of you been following John Ward, a British blogger who has been talking about this issue for years? Here are his two most recent blog posts on the subject. Ward's blog The Slog is one of the blogs I follow regularly along with this one, SNAFU, Vineyard of the Saker, Fourth Revolutionary War, Traditional Right and Lord Beria's.

The US news media has largely ignored this story in favor of the latest trash talking about Donald Trump and his supporters and whether or not Kim Kardashian will vote for him, but this could be YUGE! Between the financial crisis unfolding in the German banking industry, growing tensions over the immigration crisis, the rise of populism on both the right and the left and continuing concerns over terrorism coming from Islamic and right-wing extremists, things could get very interesting indeed in the European Union.

Oh, and it look like Hungary might get kicked out of the EU if its citizens fail to vote to allow asylum seekers from the Middle East overrun their country as well.

The vote is on Sunday and polls show Hungarians are likely to vote overwhelmingly to tell the senile elites in Brussels and the SJW's exactly where they can stuff their demands. Since Brussels has already threatened to stick Hungary with a 250,000 Euro fine for per day for every migrant they fail to take in and its been months since the standoff began, Hungarians are in a position where if they do knuckle under, they risk being assessed crippling fines they will never be able to pay off. That's the problem with pushing people until their backs are against the wall: sooner or later they realize their only hope is to fight back because they've got nothing to lose.

That old Chinese curse about living in interesting times just keeps coming to mind over and over again...

Armata said...

@ gwizard43:

Thanks for the David Graeber essay.

Armata said...

Grebulocities wrote:

"the trouncing of US combat jets over Syria by the Russians in late 2018"

The S-400 and S-500 advanced anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense systems will in widespread service by then and the first few squadrons of T-50 PAK FA stealth fighters will also be in service by that time. How much you wanna bet one of those gets covertly deployed to Syria right before Hillary decides to send in the Lardbuckets for their combat debut? The production model of the T-50 is expected to be at least as good as the F-22 Raptor, perhaps better and should be able to mop the floor with any lesser fighter, including the Lardbucket. The Russians recently announced they are accelerating the development and production schedules for the PAK FA because of better than expected results with the planes definitive engine design and electronic sensor suite. Contrast that with the Lardbucket, which has been under development for decades and still isn't ready for combat.

They'll be plenty of Su-30's and Su-35's to back up those PAK FA's by then as well.

Between the idiotic warmongering of American elites and the devastating effect the F-35 program is having on American airpower, a scenario along the lines of Twilight's Last Gleaming seems more and more likely as time goes on.

Justin said...

Jorgenson, I'm 'on the spectrum' too, and for those of us with a touch of the autism, the best thing to do is well, deal with it. Despite being diagnosed as having Aspergers at age 12 or so, I was lucky enough to have parents who did not push me into victim culture and basically told me that I'm socially retarded and need to deal with it. I still have trouble because I have poor automatic responses (for example, it takes me about half a second too long to return a smile), but I certainly have no trouble in normal society. One reason why I don't like victim culture is that I'm aware that if I had been taught that I'm a special snowflake, rather than someone with a mental difference from the average human, I might not have been so inclined to regard neurotypical social iterations as normal and aspire to being normal, which would have lead to a worse outcome for me.

I need to work on my run-on sentences.

Armata said...

William Lind's latest on the unfolding fuster cluck in Syria, including the how the delusional worldview of the liberal establishment and the neocons helped make it inevitable. He writes

"The pathetic performance of the U.S. State Department with regard to Syria makes America appear an international naif. Secretary Kerry bleats about starving women and children, Russia agrees to another ceasefire, and events go on as before. So disconnected from reality is the American Establishment that it seems to have lost even the most basic understanding of how wars are fought. The front page of the September 26 New York Times offers an example. It began a story on Syria saying,

Make life intolerable and death likely. Open an escape route, or offer a deal to those who leave or surrender. Let people trickle out. Kill whoever stays. Repeat until a deserted cityscape is yours.

That sounds to me like a normal description of how sieges work. But the Times is horrified. We have become the equivalent of the sort of stringy-haired, horse-faced, post-menopausal woman who goes to peace marches.

A realistic policy on Syria would begin with the understanding that cease-fires and the like only work when all the participants in a war are exhausted. We seem to be a long way from that point in Syria. Instead we are in the early stages of the Middle East’s Thirty Years’ War, with Syria playing the role of Bohemia."

Justin said...

Armata, a quarter million Euros per day per refugee? That means that 1.2 million refugees (probably not too different than what Brussels wants them to take) would require Hungary's entire GDP in fines.

The EU cannot collapse soon enough, and I would be tickled pink to see a few of the big EU figures against walls or dangling from lampposts.

I'd be thrilled to see someone take Obama, Hillary, Merkel and Junkers for a Pinochet-style helicopter ride.

Related note, is the current EU head Junkers related to the Nazi era weapons company bearing the same name?

Cherokee Organics said...


Hey, did you note that this week OPEC has agreed to cut supply in order to raise prices?

Hi KL Cooke,

That is very funny! Hope you are elsewhere when it happens! :-)!



Jo said...

To the commenter who recommended 'Woman on the Edge of Time' by Marge Piercy a couple of weeks ago - thank you! I found it a luminous experience - the contrast of the voiceless, powerless narrator in our own violent and exploitive society, with the future imagined society where everyone has a voice is just heart rending.

In the same way that Retrotopia has imbued many of us with a sense of wanting to return to this sane, safe place that feels like home, the future utopian agrarian community in 'Woman on the Edge of Time' feels almost womb-like in its practices which prioritise the mental health and happiness of its citizens - not, incidentally, in the sense of liberal ideals as JMG outlined today, but because these communities have realised that their longterm survival, their real happiness and significant limits on material progress are all synonymous terms for living lightly in terms of things, and deeply in terms of relationships, philosophy and social cohesion.

This is, of course, also the conclusion that many traditional societies have come to - for 40,000 years or so Aboriginal Australians have lived both lightly on the land and deeply in regard to complex social relationships, the arts and spirituality.

The contrast of this ideal with our current priorities - the worship of technical progress, of material wealth over the health and happiness, or even the basic rights and dignities of citizens - is like a blow to the solar plexus. What on earth are we fighting to preserve our current way of life for? It really is time to get serious and fight in the opposite direction - to get rid of as much damaging technology as we can, along with the appalling assumption that technological progress is more important than the health and well-being of humanity and the earth.

Apart from reforming my own lifestyle, I am currently trying to work out just how I can engage in my community to further these ideas..

siliconguy said...

""If you maintain them and replace parts, there is no reason why nuclear plants can’t run a very long time,"

Well, duh. I can say that about anything. The question is are they economic? The Kewaunee nuclear plant is quite capable of running 20 to 40 more years, but the service life extension overhaul is not economic. The can't make money unless they get paid more than the going rate for power. Which is the deal Cuomo strongarmed for that plant on Lake Ontario.

There is an argument that reliable baseline load electric power is under valued by the market, But that argument is based on the old industrial economy which has been systematically dismantled over the last decades. And energy efficiency has improved a lot in the survivors. Consider my employer. In 2004 we pulled 50 megawatts pretty much constantly and produced 220 tons a month. Now at full speed we pull 20 to 25 megawatts, and produce 1500 tons a month.

Multiply that by everyone else, and base load demand must be a fraction of what it was.

Armata said...

@ Justin:

It's true. The EU really is threatening to fine Hungary a quarter of a million Euros per day per refugee they don't take, a move the Hungarian government openly describes as "blackmail", and they are right. Here are a couple of articles that appeared in the British news media:

And apparently, Poland is facing similar sanctions:

Pretty disgusting, huh? It's no wonder why the Hungarian government is urging its citizens to vote "no" in the Sunday referendum. Like I said, if you push people too far, you give them no choice but to stand up and fight back because they have been left with no alternative.

Between EU bullying of countries like Hungary, Greece and Poland, the predatory beggar-thy-neighbor economic policies of the Germans and the escalating crisis in the German banking system, which could trigger off banking crises in other countries like Spain and Italy, it certainly looks to me like the senile elites in the EU are sealing their own fate. I think we will see things come to a head a lot sooner than anyone expects, especially if Hillary somehow does get into office and tries to continue with business as usual.

John Michael Greer said...

Chester, excellent. I want people to chew on these ideas, not merely accept or reject them blindly.

Greg, to my mind the best arguments for UBI are that it would cost rather less than the current US welfare system, be much less intrusive, and would allow some millions of government bureaucrats to be fired. (They'll be fine -- after all, they'll have UBI to fall back on.) Since it would actually lower government expenditures and cut bureaucracy, it seems like a very conservative measure!

Ganv, the establishment party doesn't need rhetoric -- it simply needs a recognition of shared interests. The same is true of the populist party. That's the thing about a shift away from a value-centric politics: rhetoric plays much less of a role. You're certainly right, though, about the wild card.

DaShui, if I'd set out to make a complete catalog of the ways that American society dresses up blatant self-interest in moralizing drag, I'd be busy for weeks! Which is to say, of course you're quite correct.

Pantagruel, that's exactly what you can expect from an economics professor. Not all interests are economic in nature. Keeping your kids safe is difficult to quantify in dollars and cents, but people identify it as an important interest. The key is to get outside a purely economic analysis of interests and understand them as anything that somebody wants, or wants to avoid.

Neo, thanks. It's a data point, at least.

Nastarana, no, when combined with the extortionate railroad pricing policies of the day, it was a form of sharecropping. The point of UBI is that you don't have to do anything at all to collect.

Eric, exactly! In politics, every narrative is always contested and always in competition with other narratives. The liberal narrative was never univocal, even when it monopolized the mass media, and yes -- the rejection of elite white liberal leadership by BLM and others is very much part of the process I have in mind.

Mister R., glad to hear it. Yes, once you bring interests into the picture, things really do get clearer in a hurry!

Yucca, of course! You've spent your life in an environment in which all politics were by definition framed in terms of values, so yes, it takes an ongoing effort to think your own thoughts rather than those that your culture and the media hand you.

Sleisz Ádám, I suspect here we have one of the great divides separating the Anglo-American from the continental European experience. In 19th century America, there was a very high degree of consensus on moral values, and nothing like the sort of cultural diversity you've got in central Europe, thus the very different results of values-based politics in the two regions.

Gwizard, I'll definitely take a look at Crawford as circumstances permit. As for other historians, the vast majority are writers on specific, narrowly defined historical issues -- for example, Bryan Ward-Perkins on the fall of Rome.

John Michael Greer said...

Sven, thank you. I'm not sure why I didn't catch that, but I somehow managed to miss it -- and you're right, of course; one of the other core aspects of liberalism is the absolute, and at times hysterically frantic, rejection of limits. Hmm. That's going to need some serious brooding.

Ric, I made use of the phrase precisely because it's misused in that context so consistently, so I knew that a reference to it would get the reaction I wanted to undercut in the next paragraph. If this were a book, and not a blog post, I would have footnoted that very point.

Varun, whether values or interests predominate in politics is a matter of cultural fashions, and varies from culture to culture and from era to era. As for syndicalism, why, yes -- democratic syndicalism (I'm not a fan of anarcho-anything) has long struck me as one of the best of the forgotten alternatives, and I'd be happy to see it revived and put back into the debate.

Nancy, many thanks. I'm interested in data from trials, primarily -- you can make any system, even Marxism, look good in the abstract. If Finland gives it a try, it'll be interesting to see how things go.

Moon-Shadows, thank you.

Caryn, no, it hasn't always been this messy. Old alignments and allegiances are disintegrating and new ones haven't yet formed, and so a lot of people are trying to define themselves when the lines between the categories have been washed away. It does make for tangled conversations!

Thymia, that's certainly a crucial element. The other thing I'd like to see is more churches putting their money (and labor) where their mouths are -- there are some very good examples in this field, but also a lot of self-absorbed churches that have forgotten what the founder of their religion said about helping the poor. (And of course there are plenty of other religious bodies, some of which do a great deal, and some of which could do much more.)

Susan, that's a fair challenge! I'll consider doing a post on the alternatives to the current system, of which a return to federalism is one and peaceful dissolution of the Union is another.

Scotlyn, excellent. Exactly. And the jujitsu move of turning the tables, redefining a position in terms of interests rather than values when values are supposed to be the hallmark of "your team," is the kind of political thinking that might actually get some traction. As for Saudi Arabia -- yes, I'm watching that carefully. I'm beginning to wonder if the slump in luxury real estate worldwide may be driven by frantic selling of assets by the Saudi government, in an attempt to refill a looted treasury before the whole thing comes crashing down...

Nancy, I'll certainly consider that.

Lucretia, true enough. Liberal rhetoric has devolved to "do what I tell you, or I'll call you a nasty name!" That somehow doesn't have a lot of clout.

John Michael Greer said...

Lewis, I remember that book! It was the first place I found out about communes before the 1960s. In Federal Way, WA, where I spent a chunk of my childhood, a defunct commune from the late 19th century was still a subject of fading local gossip in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Phil, yes, I've been watching the alt-right for some time, ever since some of my posts started to get lots of page views via alt-right blogs. (They seem to like my challenging the myth of progress, though they aren't happy about my comfort level with gender equality and my dismissal of the myth of "the white race.") If Clinton wins this race, my guess is that the alt-right will be the big winners -- she gave them a great deal of publicity, and they can now present themselves to the public as an alternative to the moribund status quo that she embodies.

WB, yep. Things are heating up in a big way.

Justin, I don't have the references handy, but one of the major new trends in psychology research focuses on the fact that theories based purely on the behavior of white American college undergraduates (the main research-subject pool for most psych experiments on humans in the US) simply won't work when applied to people of other cultures. America is not the generically human -- it's an extremely idiosyncratic culture with its own weird kinks and twists. That is to say, I think you're on to something.

Bob, different countries have different histories, and liberalism in Canada may have a while to run yet.

Carl, funny! I like that.

Noroman, I got that detail from Niall Ferguson's Empire -- amusingly, he managed to miss the obvious implication.

Grebulocities, that certainly seems like one plausible set of outcomes to me.

KL, I'll put that on the get-to list. Many thanks!

Santeri, so get out there and organize a movement for that goal, if you really think that's the way to do. Political change does not happen because someone posts a comment on a blog, after all.

Kevin, of course that's normal -- a party for the establishment and a party for everyone else. The last few decades, during which both parties have pandered to the establishment, is the anomaly. As for "Les Deplorables," I've already considered it.

Rebecca, you're welcome. Since I have Aspergers, I'm comfortably unaware of any social reaction to my mentioning that I have Aspergers! ;-) Seriously, though, there are a lot of us out there, and a lot of people in nearby regions of the autism spectrum. While I think it's an utter waste of time to play the victim role, the more of us are public about our condition, field questions from those who don't know a lot about it, and provide role models to show young people with AS or the like that they don't have to become full-time victims or let the medical industry drug them into numbness -- that they can have pleasant, productive lives doing things they care about -- the better off everyone will be.

(BTW, fans of my novel The Weird of Hali: Innsmouth may like to know that one of Owen and Laura Merrill's children has Aspergers. He'll be introduced in the fifth book; I'm not sure, but I think he's going to grow up to be a mad scientist...)

John Michael Greer said...

Cherokee, true enough. Fixating on breaking the glass ceiling also distracts attention from questions like "just what does an executive do to earn those absurd paychecks?" and "does it actually benefit other women if one woman becomes an overpaid CEO?"

David, to my mind, that sort of nostalgia is already becoming a powerful force. The challenge will be to overcome the assault of the progress worshippers, who will insist (screech, rather) that if you favor anything from the 19th century you must by definition be in favor of their extreme caricature of all its worst features.

Latefall, and if you have a lot of oil revenue to throw around, things like that are options.

Bill, your first comment I can agree with. Your second? Not a chance. If Clinton wins this year's election, as of course she might, she'll face no meaningful opposition in the 2020 primaries; she could bomb Canada, legalize slavery, and strip mine the national parks, and the Democratic voters will do their fifteen minutes of socially approved protest and then fall bleating into line to vote for her.

Anthony, good! Exactly; two very narrow political ideologies that barely differ from one another have defined themselves, via the media, as the whole spectrum of political choice. The question is how to get other options into circulation again.

Hammer, if I had a dime for every time this question has been asked here, I'd order pizza right now on the proceeds. Slavery only makes economic sense when you have an export-based economy and a labor shortage -- that's why it was so important in the Roman world and the antebellum South, for example. We won't be facing that combination of circumstances for many centuries to come.

David, and yet that nostalgia motivated attempts to preserve Roman culture, some of which had very valuable results. Nor was it out of place for fourth-century Romans to back candidates for the imperial purple who were capable of providing relative stability the way Augustus did...

Ganv, yep. And those who care about, say, gender equality or the rights of sexual minorities can jump off the sinking ship of liberalism and find other political frames for their interests.

Gwizard, Graeber is interesting, but he's missing the possibility that the poor are also angry about their treatment by his class...which they are.

Matthias, sure. And if pigs had wings, we'd all catch our breakfast bacon in butterfly nets... ;-)

Lordberia3, thank you. A lot depends on whether the populists can mobilize fast and hard enough, at least in this country -- in Europe, their ascendancy is basically a given at this point, and becomes more so with every idiotic utterance out of Brussels. Yes, I saw that article on Temporarily Saudi Arabia; it's anyone's guess, as I said at the beginning of this year, exactly how soon that's going down, but going down it certainly is.

John Michael Greer said...

Unknown, there I think you're being overly cynical. Like most other political movements, liberalism began with high ideals and gradually betrayed them -- but I would argue that a look at the 19th century origins of the movement shows that the ideals were actually there, and not just as reflections of interests. Nowadays? I won't argue with you at all.

Synthase, and one of the core reasons it's collapsing is that institutional science has become so gaudily corrupt, and so riddled with claims that too obviously support this or that interest, that a great many reasonable people can no longer take on faith the kind of claim you've just made. Yes, that's a pity. More on this in an upcoming post -- the decline and fall of science is shifting into overdrive around us. As for illiberalism, do you track the alt-right at all? Some of them do seem to manage it pretty well.

John, oh, I'd agree wholeheartedly that the alternation between religious and political awakenings is an American thing. Remember that Europe shipped us all its religious fanatics in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries!

Payyorfare, a lot of people these days are becoming that man.

Armata, yep, I'm watching both of those closely. That's "flustered cluck," by the way, as in the noise made by an upset chicken. ;-)

Cherokee, yep also. Now let's see if that agreement is worth the toilet tissue it's written on!

Dorda Giovex said...

Dear Archdruid and all, thank you for this interesting post. I think that the same "valuification" has been also applied to the labour market.
In the current public discourse having a job is described as something necessary for dignity instead of being the trade of time and effort in exchange of money as it is. So an employer becomes a "workgiver" and is advertised as a good man providing people with the opportunity to make themselves useful. Unpayed overtime, pushing a company culture requiring people to sacrifice more and more time and effort just to maintain the job? Opportunities To make themselves even more useful ! Good!
Subscribing to a trade union (not the old ones .. all bought ) and -horror- striking ? How bad, horrible, lazy unpatriotic attitude! They deserve to be fired ... and they better learn to be flexible afterwards and bend to every whim of their next employee after a convenient period of suffering imposed by personeel selection practices.
In the meanwhile they can make themselves useful volunteering free time and effort for the CEO wife (herself very well payed for presiding over the charity!).

Companies writing sweety "mission" statements describing how they, yes, want the bottom line but whatreally interests them is bla bla bla.. Companies (Apple) sanctifying their CEO as if he had all ideas and were directly responsible for all good produced in the company while all employees were are unfortunate but necessary costs to bring all this good to the people.

All this has in common is that what used to be a simple exchange .. balanced or horribly unbalanced and abusing is masked in moral overtones that make an honest discussion over the fairness of the deals impossible.

Kyle Schuant said...

Not related to this post, but a favourite recurring topic of yours, a tech boondoggle:-

$200 million to build a 39MW solar thermal plant desalinating water to... grow 15,000 tonnes a year of tomatoes. That's $13.33/kg, btw, of course that would be amortised over some years but there's labour and maintenance and so on, too. And while they're congratulating themselves on their low emissions they do not mention how the tomatoes will reach the consumer.

One aspect of the tech boondoggle is One Big Facility. It's never $200 of solar thermal cleaning of stormwater so that Uncle Jimmy can grow potatoes in his backyard.

Kyle Schuant said...

Oh, and the solar thermal tomatoes article said,

""It won't always be a power tower and it won't always be sea water, but it will always have a sustainable resource angle. The sky is the limit. I don't see any limits on growth."

which is just precious.

Kyle Schuant said...

As for liberalism rejecting limits, since we have not abandoned self-interest, it has to: economic liberalism says "everyone can be rich", and social liberalism says, "everyone should be rich." If there are limits to growth, then the only way for the poor to get richer is for the rich to lose some.

If the pie is a fixed size, then the rich liberal has to give some of their pie to others. Whereas if we can just make the pie a bit bigger...

Unknown said...

@Justin, regarding culture differences:

Surprisingly, or perhaps not, many of our standardized testing (most notably the SAT) is biased based on cultural differences such as these.

Justin said...

JMG, so, do you think that the American tendency for fundamentalism could in any way be genetic?

Regarding collapse and the alt-right, well, Guillaume Faye's book Archaeofuturism does point out that radical multiculturalism in a society suffering serious resource shortages and climate upsets probably won't work. From what I can tell though, most of the alt-right isn't really onboard with collapse, and are convinced that our economic troubles are the fault of the Jews, but I expect that to be a phase. (Ironically, one of the ways Hitler 'fixed' the German economy was by borrowing a bunch of money he didn't intend to pay back to buy resources). I don't pay too much attention (I read counter-currents, and that's about it), but one thing the alt-right does seem to consistently believe is that the world that progress created is not so good after all. I'm not a fan of the holocaust denial and viler forms of racism (I don't consider it to be unreasonably racist to work towards, say, forming a white ethno-state in Alaska as long as you don't trample on other's rights in doing so).

I agree with JMG that some form of syndicalism, applied on a suitably local level is a good idea. I'm not so sure about the merits of democracy - it seems too much like a system deliberately designed to keep 48% of the country mad at the other 50%, and typically ends up as government by those who control information flow. This leads to a not-so public hierarchy that nobody can elect an alternative to.

Ideally I would like to only see maybe 25% of the population able to vote, selected for by some kind of tangible real-world accomplishments.

Pantagruel7 said...

John - I promise to stop beating this dead horse after this post. It's that the economic approach wants everything to be quantifiable - to have a price. And the economic approach is applied to everything these days, including theories of jurisprudence (think Chicago Law and Economics). It's been called the imperialism of economics. (It reminds me of Guenon's book "The Reign of Quantity, which I read a long time back.) Gary Becker (I think he's died recently) typified this trend and it was popularized in the book that I never read, "Freakonomics". It seems to me that, referring to my two earlier posts this week, this is the reason environmentalists resort to values instead of interests. Now I'll stop. I promise!

Unknown said...

@Cherokee, regarding glass ceiling and so-called gender divide:

I suspect a combination of the difficulty breaking the "glass ceiling" plus the obscenely large paychecks of CEO types are the birthplace of the suspicious gender-divide statistics in the first place. Everywhere I look from a middle-class vantage point the pay is gender-blind and only based on skill or experience.

I'm with Mark Twain about statistics being one step above "damn lies."


Jay Moses said...

it seems that u.s. politics may be returning to the themes that dominated in the 1830's. then, a populist party of jacksonian democrats faced off against an elite party of whigs. values played a minimal role in that confrontation. it was a straightforward collision of the interests of white agrarians, heavily oriented to the south, with a largely northern class of emerging bankers and industrialists. much the same dynamic is at work now. while the transcendentalists (i assume that's your reference to the boston origins of political liberalism) emphasized values, the jacksonian democrats cared not a whit for values, being concerned exclusively with the interests of their white constituency. it is also worth noting that values played little role in national politics until the demise of the whigs and the emergence of the republican party. if history does indeed rhyme, it seems reasonable to expect u.s. politics, after the ongoing shakeout, to devolve into an entirely interest driven confrontation. it is likely to get very ugly indeed.

Matthias Gralle said...

@Eric S.:
I love Vita Nuova and Divina Commedia, and I am really interested to know where you see "power of Beatrice in that story comes from her ability to channel that raw female sexual energy into a higher virtue, and Dante spends a great deal of his poem exploring love as the highest virtue, and sexual sin as almost forgivable because of its closeness to being holy". That's not something I've seen, but I am quite open to new viewpoints on the poem.
The rest of your points I fully agree with, the Decameron is a great example of medieval stereotypes about women.

Patricia Mathews said...

@JMG, who said "does it actually benefit other women if one woman becomes an overpaid CEO?"

Dead on and thanks! The old-fashioned Queen Bee is still around and singing the same song with a feminist twist, "I made it, therefore if you didn't, it's because you didn't try hard enough," and expecting her office workers to be content with shining in her reflected glory because, feminist triumph, don'cha know? NOT!

Rebecca Brown said...

It's amazing to read these articles and the comments and watch what's happening in real life uncomfortably parallel them. Sometimes in real time. This election is shaping up to be a game-changer. It's amazing how quiet the Trump supporters are and how shrill the Hillary supporters are being. I use my facebook account mostly for business purposes, but I've had more than one friend on my personal page threaten to block anyone who says anything negative about Hillary. Um...what happened to freedom of speech? And tolerance? Meanwhile, everyone else is just...silent.

@JMG, thank you...we've already had family ask us why we're not drugging (or beating) her into submission. Sigh.

@WB Jorgenson: It was a family situation, one of those where you put on your big girl britches and do what needs to be done, even if it wasn't a part of your plan. It turns out she's the best thing that's ever happened to me. :)

Patricia Mathews said...

@JMG about your forthcoming Asperger's character: to quote Lois McMaster Bujold's hero Miles, when faced with a techhead with a Crazy Cunning plot, "He's not a mad scientist; merely a very upset engineer." Methinks the Upset Engineer is far more prevalent and more fun to deal with - I'm met a few in real life, as opposed to comics. Because when they go off the rails, it's as you said - totally logical and, like Asimov's robots, never reasonable.

But on another statement, "Slavery only makes economic sense when you have an export-based economy and a labor shortage -- that's why it was so important in the Roman world and the antebellum South, for example. We won't be facing that combination of circumstances for many centuries to come...", I give you one word from the very Dark Ages barbarian early Anglo-Saxon culture: "Thrall." With "Welsh" used as a synonym." A slave by any other name... it's the plantation economy they won't have.

Also - in ancient Rome - a huge number of the slaves in Rome itself were not plantation workers at all. Many were the maids-of-all-work for the poor prole who could only afford one slave, and therefore bought a young woman - often, if the owner was male, instead of taking a wife. Or a shop assistant for the craftsman in the Subura, sleep on the floor of the shop and eat the master's leftovers.

But ask anybody if they don't need more kitchen help and/or a guaranteed bedmate, feed them a truth potion, and see how fast the positive answers roll in. Doubled if you actually need physical help in everyday tasks. It's so silly to go to the beauty shop just to get your toenails trimmed, when a good lady's maid would be of enormous help! Now add in an economy without money, where running away to find paid work would be difficult. [And no, I hope I would hire a maid on decent terms with the option to leave and a good dowry upon leaving. But then I was born into a set of values now rapidly fading, not a hard-pressed barbarian steading where the work is never done.]

Phil Knight said...

Worth keeping an eye on:

Yucca Glauca said...

Thinking about this, it seems like a values-centered political is based on abstract categories, and pushes towards further abstractions, while an interest-centered approach is rooted in concrete specific cases. This makes me wonder about a Vichian interpretation.

Do you think Liberalism is a unique phenomenon, or do you think it's common for interests to be at the heart of politics during the first phase of a civilization, with a mixture of interests and values coming into play during the second phase, and values pushing interests out in the third phase until politicians living in a world of abstractions leads to a barbarism of reflection?

Vince Busch said...

Another exquisite post - thanks very much!

. said...

Thanks JMG,

"laws to their proper sphere, which is the prevention and punishment of those behaviors that undermine the basic agreements that make civilized life possible."

The content of those basic agreements depend on the civilization don't they. But in multicultural societies there can be fundamental disagreements about what those agreements should be because minority cultures can stem from different civilizations.

So, for example, Europe has no idea what to do about that minority of Muslims - something like 25% -40% in the UK - who wish to be governed by sharia law and more specifically the minority within that who would also seek to apply it to non-muslims.

What's the role of government or law in that conflict? Where there are fundamental and intractable differences of opinion about what the basic agreements underlying a civilization should be in the first place? Or maybe more accurately, which civilization should be preeminent in a given part of the world.

The nationalists across Europe tend to focus on banning what they perceive to be symbols of that conflict like minarets and burkinis. As I see it, that's because no one knows how to actually resolve the conflict in a way that a majority can live with - so they engage in symbolic battles. It seems to me like a predicament that has no solution.


W. B. Jorgenson said...


If I came across sounding like I was trying to play a victim, that was not my intention. I have a lot of support, always have, however official support from almost any institution usually focuses on getting people testing well, sometimes to the detriment of the person. All I wanted to do was point out that this happens fairly often.

Patricia Mathews said...

Off topic, but good for the Long Descent. From Bob Waldrop:

"Medieval advice from a father to sons going away for university: Boil your water, water your wine, if you can't get outside to walk twice a day, go up and down your stairs numerous times and wield a big heavy stick as though you were in a fight, avoid raw onions that cloud the intellect, clean the floors with vinegar, don't get a flat by a ditch, enjoy yourself happily with friends, and avoid bad influences."

Justin said...

Jorgenson, no, sorry if I went on a rant. I have a cousin who, although moreso than me is also on the spectrum, and was never really pushed into social settings by his parents. The end result is that he's now over thirty, hasn't held a job for more than a year and lives in his parents basement. Very sad.

Sleisz Ádám said...

Several comments have mentioned the Hungarian referendum tomorrow (on Sunday). I am eligible to vote but will not participate.

This is a quite interesting issue... It seems that most of the critics of the current Western political establishment support the Hungarian government in the migration question. You look at the news about my country as if it was yours. I think I comprehend your reasons: you would like to see similar measures and popular decisions at home.

However, I see this question as a nearly meaningless political distraction in my country. Hungary is not a destination for immigrants. Yes, the transit of predominantly Asian migrants in the last two years became a significantly larger burden than before. Any denial of that fact is futile. However, this matter is hardly comparable to the problems of destination countries. Eastern EU governments give the toughest protesting shows and speeches about immigration because they have very little at stake, and voters here are quite susceptible to xenophobic propaganda.

I would be very happy and sort of proud if Hungary would be really rebellious against the Western establishment. I just don't see it that way. Eastern EU governments attack Brussels for their short-term benefit in popularity and international prestige. In the meantime, their current arguments are tearing apart the very power structure their status depends on. The political/economic/intellectual elites of these countries are largely sustained by the West and they are quite unaware that essential changes are coming.

Hungary is very much prone to the dangers of mass migration but the actual troubles are not even mentioned in the context of this referendum. We have a process of serious mass emigration under way. To the West. People are talking about moving out of the country all the time, and hundreds of thousands have done it already. Most of them young, strong and ambitious. The loss of these people is awful to Hungary. Ironically, the demonizing of migrants can easily turn against them in the future and there will be nothing we can do about it then.

I hope you excuse me for this little rant. I thought some of you might find it interesting and may even remember when the result of the referendum comes in. It will be a landslide "No". Technically, that is the right answer. In the real world, the question is terribly wrong, therefore I will watch the participation rate.

Bill Pulliam said...

JMG - Oh, I think ANY attempt to actually forecast what might happen in 2020 is little more than fantasy now. Who in 2012 predicted that in 2016 Trump would sweep the GOP primaries or that Clinton would face serious opposition from Bernie Sanders who would win something like 40% of the elected delegates ("Who? That goofy old Socialist from a leftist fringe state? Yeah, in your dreams!")

bicosse said...


I am trying to draw together threads from some other comments here. Do you think that the revival of a politics of interests rather than values reflects our western societies' reaching the limits to growth? If the pie is growing steadily, I may not mind too much if part of what I consider my share is shaved off to give to someone else in the name of this or that value. If the pie is static or actually shrinking, I am likely to defend my share much more fiercely.

Cherokee Organics said...


Yes, I read recently that the average CEO over in the US is paid the equivalent of 353 average workers income. Over here the number was 94 and in the UK it was 83. Those are very disturbing. I once knew of someone (no relation to myself or my business) that dropped many hundreds of thousands of dollars into a renovation for a cafe. I said to him that you have to sell a lot of coffees to cover the costs of that renovation... The problem with the executive salaries is pretty much the same problem and it is unsustainable in any downturn.

Reading Michael Lewis's most excellent book "Liar's Poker" has given me an insight into how short term the various financial institutions think. Generally it is not much further than the next deal. And that lot have a very strong grip on our economies, so it is little wonder that culture seems to have infested the imagination...



Hi Unknown Joel,

Dude, did I read your thoughts correctly when you wrote: "Everywhere I look from a middle-class vantage point the pay is gender-blind and only based on skill or experience"? Are you suggesting that we live in some sort of meritocracy?

Mate, I have seen payrolls for the last two and half decades and I can assure you that as a white male, if my job was replaced by anyone other than a white male (say a white female for example), they would get a lower salary. Seriously dude! Mate, you need to get out more from your bubble world. It is a beautiful place full of unicorns and elves etc, but it doesn't exist in the real world that we have to live in. Just sayin...



M Smith said...

JMG wrote: "Latefall, and if you have a lot of oil revenue to throw around, things like that are options."

A very harsh and pitiless system of laws with frightening and irreversible punishments for thieves, cheats, layabouts, liars and fraudsters helps, I'd wager.

Ozark Chinquapin said...

I don't personally see the decline of public trust in science as being as bad a thing as many others do, and I wonder if it may be a much needed reality check. I have a lot of respect for science as a tool and definitely would not want to see it lost, but I also see all the cries of "anti-science" and "war on science" as being overblown, although it's quite possible they will be come a self-fulfilling prophecy in the future. For now, I see no coordinated anti-science movement, merely more questioning of establishment views on things. There are plenty of people with no strong interest in anything scientific, but I don't see that as anything different than its always been. The difference that I'm seeing is an increase in skepticism, ironically its skepticism of a sort that most of the self-proclaimed "skeptics" can't stand, skepticism of the establishment views. And, since the establishment is increasingly corrupt and using their prestige and people's trust to frame laws and policy, I personally see this increases skepticism as being a good thing at this point in time, though not without its drawbacks.

When I hear news of this or that discovery in medical science, I know I'm far from the only one who's first reaction is "What are they going to try to push on us now?" This doesn't apply to science as a whole, I can read about, for example, extrasolar planet discoveries, and still feel a little bit that sense of wonder that attracts so many to science in the first place. That's because nothing about extrasolar planets are being used by corporations and governments to control our lives more and more. I welcome a drop in the prestige of science not because I want science to disappear, far from it, I'd just like to see science lose some if its power as a political tool, and to see more humility about what we actually know.

Increasing distrust in the "scientific community" doesn't mean society will revert to medieval social norms, or those of the 1600s like some seem to fear. So much of science, especially science that's been around for a while, has affected our culture deeply enough that it won't change too quickly. Science could still play a significant role, it just would be more focused on producing tangible results that would then win people over, and keep the studies and the theoretical stuff within the scientific world. An example is weather forecasting, I suspect that science-based short term weather forecasts would still have a similar following as long as their accuracy remains better than anything else. People grumble when the weather forecast is wrong but if the weather is important to them, still usually pay attention to it because they don't have a more accurate alternative, whatever their views on science in the abstract are. Weather forecasters will end up in trouble when their satellites and superrcomputers aren't working anymore, but that's a completely different issue.

If science loses much of its political and social clout, I imagine the corruption and co-opting of science by various interests will dwindle as well, as there won't be enough money and power in it to be worth their while. That could be good for science in the long run, science could get back to its roots and focus on answering questions rather than forcing people to the will of various interests. I'd personally be overjoyed to see modern "scientific" medicine be on the same playing field as other forms (which may involve some science as well). If, as the defenders of scientism like to insist, it is superior to the others, why are they so afraid of it competing on equal terms with other sorts?

Ozark Chinquapin said...

A final note on why I see the claims of a "war on science" and an anti-science movement as hyperbole (at the present time at least), is, if you look at the examples of what they say constitutes this movement, they still use the language of science a lot. I'll use young-earth creationism as an example, since I don't agree with it and thus don't think I'm biased in favor of it at all. I can't consider YEC to be part of a war on science, though, because so many of its proponents come up with theories that attempt to make a scientific theory that fits the biblical narrative. A YEC that's truly anti-science would just say something to the effect that they trust that the Bible is literally true more than they trust in information gained through the scientific method. Some do leave it at that, but the fact that so much effort has been put into YEC theories (including a $27 million museum in Kentucky) that attempt to make YEC scientific says to me that there's still a good amount of respect for science in the YEC community, enough to put a lot of effort into attempting to reconcile a literal belief in the Bible with science.

Karel said...

Anglo-Saxon political tradition is very specific, of course. And American liberalism is something very different from essentially pragmatic tradition of continental European liberalism.

So I prefer to talk about incoming end of European left (and my friends see even British Labour primarily as European left wing party). That way I can escape any confusion concerning "illiberal democracy" of Hungarian prime minister Victor Orban, with his fifty shades of fascist brown. Also it isn`t necessary to speak about such themes as "neoliberalism" etc. - debate which can be almost always very emotional and confusing.

End of reformist left was already foretold by late German sociologist Ralf Dahrendorf in 1990. He applied as model the end of major European liberal democratic parties in thirtees, when they exhausted realistic part of their political programme.

A little bit strange, however, is the reaction of far left, because they feel that the end of center-left reformism somehow "validates" their more radical sectarian position. If blairism is dead, they think, surely we can expect something really big, Apocal..., sorry, Revolution. Leftists political base - as a whole - shrinks, "proletarians" act as conservatives or even xenophobes, but far leftists still hope to convert enough citizens to their political religion.

European politics was about values all the time. It`s heritage of feudal past and religious wars. But there existed wide politically neutral and so called value-free field in the last sixty years, European unification proces. Even this may end, with radical shrinking of trust horizon and renaissance of nationalism.

There is really nothing constructive at sight, this is probably "political dark night" moment of entire West.

Maybe one certitude is, if only in philosophical sense: We still live in the cosmopolis of Stoics - no matter how fractured the human world will become.

. said...


The EU is threatening to fine Hungary huge amounts of money for failing to take in migrants that the Germans wish to redistribute – against the migrants will also of course but Merkel doesn’t care about that. That’s hardly a meaningless threat. So I don’t see how the fact that Hungary is not a target destination is relevant. The referendum is specifically about Merkels pointless forced redistribution plan.

I don’t understand this common argument that A is not the ‘real’ problem, B is. Is it not perfectly normal that there are many real problems, all of which deserve attention? The redistribution of migrants problem can be resolved with a referendum and a No message to the EU.

The brain drain from central Europe has no such clear solution. It’s just what happens in a world of increasing freedom of movement and increasing wealth gaps globally.

Of course there is xenophobia in Hungary. But, to take one example – Orbans campaign is running ads saying ‘did you know that migrants carried out the Paris (Bataclan) attacks?’ Now, technically that’s false. They were European citizens.

But those decrying him as stoking xenophobia to distract from domestic failures use that kind of inaccuracy as evidence. While they studiously ignore the fact that two of the Bataclan attackers did arrive in Europe from IS territory through the refugee route presenting themselves as refugees with false passports therefore allowing them to evade security checks. Others from the same group got stalled in Vienna and have since been charged there with their part in that plot.

Several other people living in refugee centres, claiming asylum, have been found to be IS operatives. The German train axe attacker was another, an Afghan, and another 16 year old, an Iraqi, was arrested a couple of days ago. Those have all been asylum claimants/migrants.

So while Orban is technically incorrect, the actual point he’s making – that jihadists have, as predicted, used the mass migration to travel to Europe to carry out terrorist attacks, is correct. That’s not xenophobia, it’s what any sensible jihadist group would do. Political messages that fit on posters are always simplifications. As I see it, central and eastern Europe have simply observed the state of multiculturalism as it exists in western Europe and decided that the benefits are not worth the costs. That’s not xenophobia.


Unknown said...

Siliconguy, re base load and industrial efficiency.

some 25 years ago I was slightly involved in an energy audit at a GMH casting works at Port Melbourne. From memory the figures you are quoting are certainly not out of order. Just removing all the excess KW capacity from the system by correctly sizing the motors to the load made a huge difference. Mind you, its no longer in business, so there is a chunk of base load capacity freed up -:)

eagle eye

Synthase said...

Ozark: Nonscience like "The bible said it, I believe it, that settles it." isn't antiscience as such. Antiscience is all about making up truthy-sciency-sounding-stuff in direct, deliberate contradiction to what the body of evidence has to say about physical reality. Where science is about organising and clarifying evidence to reveal facts about nature, antiscience is about muddling and obfuscating evidence to hide perceived inconvenient truths about nature.

Antiscience is currently running rampant, and will make the coming dark age ever so much deeper and darker. That $27 million "museum" is a literal $27 million temple of doom.

Synthase said...

As an addendum, antiscience isn't exclusive to the outside. Antiscience plays a big role in that institutional corruption JMG mentioned.

K Sc said...

Thanks for the responses to my comment JMG, Ozark Chinquapin, Brigyn, and John Roth.

I'd like to expand on my thoughts of my last paragraph as it seems to have got some response;
"As for vaccines, when the 'vaccines are safe' bubble does break, and I strongly believe it will, it'll shatter not only that industry but alot of faith in science itself. Which will be a very sad day indeed."

Firstly I used to have the same world-view on this subject as John Roth, Vaccines are safe and only crazy/ignorant people don't vaccinate.
However, as my child was on the way, I did as I tend to in these scenarios, not only listen to everybody, but also asked myself the uncomfortable questions, read up opposing views and - god forbid - end up with my own thoughts on the matter.
And I have to say, like many things, once you give this subject a serious look, it's amazing how much 'conventional wisdom' is nothing more than very effective marketing.
This lead me to a little crisis of belief. I believe is science, but we're told science says they're safe, when clearly that has not only not been adequately studied, but anyone who tries to report an adverse effect gets shouted down.
It took me a while to come to the view that a lot of what we're told is science is not actually science.

I really appreciate what @Brigyn has said. It furthers flesh to the bones of my belief that what we are told is 'the science' or the 'scientific community' is not actually science itself.
I don't blame the scientists, especially as I've noticed in the last few years a growing fight from within science where sets of scientific papers are being analysed and found to be wanting. whether 'ghost papers', summary completely mismatching the findings, or whatever.
Also listening to podcasts from editors of major medical journals talking about how half the studies are fraudulent, or the way lobbying government has changed the way big business have changed the rules to suit themselves.

In today's world (unlike 30+ years ago) big business decides which studies to do, designs the studies, conducts the studies, reports and markets the studies accordingly, of not report at all if found to be inconvenient.
While we will get the occasional independent scientists (like Dr Seralini) they don't have the financial or political clout against these behemoths.

It's my fear that what the 'scientific community' believes as it's marketed, will be shown to be false in a dramatic way. Where what's actually been shown to be false is what big pharma has marketed.
I can't think of anything that comes close to vaccines that can strike this blow.
With this in mind, it's been fascinating to watch the progression of the CDC Whilst-blowers (Dr William Thompson) allegations.

But it's not just effective marketing, but also a bullying culture (marketing strategy) which have very effectively kept many people in line. I know a nurse who after her daughter had a bad reaction and stopped vaccinating her children, will be very careful not to have any hint of anti-vax views on her Facebook page for fear of her bosses knowing. Also the doctor she goes to who accepts the reaction will only give her a medical exemption from the one vaccine not the whole lot, because it'll put her career in jeopardy.

The 'religion' of Scientism or as I like to call it pseudo-scepticism is a part of this bullying culture with it's inbred group-think and is especially strong in Australia

Patricia Mathews said...

@M Smith, who said "A very harsh and pitiless system of laws with frightening and irreversible punishments for thieves, cheats, layabouts, liars and fraudsters helps, I'd wager."

However ... think who your laws would mostly impact, please!

"The law doth punish man or woman, who steals a goose from off the common. But lets the greater felon loose, who steals the common from the goose."

We're already operating in a society where zero-tolerance law mean "one mistake or run of hard luck and you're effectively outlawed for life." One eviction and you'll never find a place to live again, and so on. On a sliding scale, of course; the kid threatened with jail for taking a $0.65 carton of milk he might have been entitled to was in poverty, of course; the only upper-class kids so scrutinized are the children of people running for public office.

NZ said...

When considering interests and values in human societies, one is immediately confronted by the prevailing power structure that determines the range of possibilities achievable in that society. One is either a member of the power structure or is a subject to it. This in turn, places different groups into opposition and potential conflict. Managing groups and combinations is what society is all about. I am reminded of Margaret Thatcher's famous quote,"there is no such thing as society... only individual men and women, and there are families" If you buy into that view, what will hold you back from looting the entire world? Nothing, and that was the point and continues to be the point.

I find it hopeful that our politics, at least in America, is slowly returning to notions of political economy. Broader connections must be made and discussed if any meaningful social policy is to be adopted in the near future. Broader, and honest views must be brought into the public space. Ironically, this will become easier as things get tougher. The end of abundance will compel change. The trick will be to prevent the elite from reinventing themselves and passing themselves off as a sages deserving the allegiance of the masses, while the most forward seeing and prescient individuals, yourself included, are sure to be marginalized.

Will humanity ever learn the right lessons?

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