December 2nd, 2016

Is it greed, envy, or covetousness?

I saw this at Ace’s a long time ago:

sowellgreed

I admire just about everything Thomas Sowell has ever written, and when first saw this I thought “Bingo, touche!” But then I started thinking about it and realized it’s not as good as I’d first imagined.

Many liberals would be likely to dismiss it, answering that greed isn’t what they’re exhibiting when they advocate income redistribution. They would say that they’re just trying to limit the greed of other people, while at the same time asking that the poor and needy receive just enough to get by.

In other words, they would claim that the rich already have “more than their share,” or “more than they need,” and that that is the definition of greed—having or wanting more then you need, whereas the poor just want to be able to live decently.

But for liberals, who defines how much is just enough and how much is way too much? For many people, the definition of “just enough but not too much” tends to be “what I want” or “what I have,” and “too much” tends to be “what the other guy has that is more than what I have.” And of course, some people who want to take some of the money of the rich aren’t greedy, because they’re already rich themselves and want to take some of their own money plus that of another rich guy, and give it to the poor one—and to compel the giving rather than let it be voluntary.

The Christian seven deadly sins are wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. Wrath, sloth, pride, and lust have sort of fallen off the sin wagon these days, at least with a lot of people. But gluttony is often still considered bad (maybe worse than ever). Greed is still bad, but is usually defined as something other rich guys demonstrate. The sin of envy of the material goods that others have—that is, the covetousness forbidden by one of the Ten Commandments—is actually sometimes encouraged by liberal philosophy. And it’s certainly encouraged by society in general.

So for the most part the left retains only two of the sins, one relatively minor (gluttony) and one of enormous importance to the left: greed. The sinful nature of greed is part of their justification for wanting to take away from some people defined as greedy (the rich), in the unspoken advocacy of another formerly deadly sin: envy.

58 Responses to “Is it greed, envy, or covetousness?”

  1. T Says:

    ” . . . they would claim that the rich already have “more than their share,” or “more than they need,” and that that is the definition of greed—having or wanting more then you need, whereas the poor just want to be able to live decently, . . . ” [Neo]

    Neo,

    This, of course, hearkens back to Obama’s “At some point you’ve made enough money.” Of course, it appears that Obama has not yet reached that point himself; let’s watch his post-presidency and see what happenes.

    As you point out, so who gets to decide what one’s share might be and who gets to establish the value of what is equitable or not? Of course, Progressives believe that this is their right (through the govt?), but when coupled with their sense of absolute rectitude and sanctimony it’s a dangerous combination, indeed.

    On the other front, the idea that poor people just want to live decently, is IMO an oversimplification. It’s like saying that no one wants to be poor; that may be true, but everybody is not willing to do what it takes to not be poor. That’s why the attempt to affect a middle class among the poor by subsidizing housing (Community Reinvestment Initiative) or iPhones or the like has failed miserably; many people will not perform as they need to in order to retain those benefits. One can replicate the appearance of a middle class, but values that lead to that existence can not be superimposed.

    I have long cautioned that the implicit Progressive-Leftist-Democrat charge to envy those above us on the economic ladder has its own dirty little secret. While each of us is busy looking in envy at those above us, there are plenty of people below us on the economic ladder looking up at us!

    Finally, I disagree with you assessment of Sowell’s quote. I offer that it is as good as you first imagined. That the left would explain it away as you note is nothing more than another example of twisting the language to, in this case, justify their own sanctimony (e.g., “man-caused disasters”). “Greed” is still greed, “covetousness” is still covetousness and the hypocrisy of wealthy, privileged, limousine-liberals calling anyone else wishing to warehouse their own wealth “greedy” is still hypocrisy.

  2. Richard Aubrey Says:

    It’s common with the left; take something they don’t like and insist it’s part of something everybody is supposed to hate. Like opposing giving one race a break in school discipline. RACIST! That way, everybody’s supposed to be against it.

  3. DNW Says:

    “But for liberals, who defines how much is just enough and how much is way too much? For many people, the definition of “just enough but not too much” tends to be “what I want” or “what I have,” and “too much” tends to be “what the other guy has that is more than what I have.”

    For modern liberals the Marxist formula applies. Wants are socially, not biologically defined. There is no limit to them, no satisfying of them. Therefore in the Marxist version of hell … I mean their version of society … you cannot expect to throw money at the nagging and annoying and expect them to piss off once and for all. It is not part of their “species being” nature to ever be satisfied with some particular quanta, some sufficiency. The aim is “not to be left behind.”

    That psychology is what accounts for the constant modern liberal’s caterwauling over inclusion. In a world of chaos, of meaningless monkeys in a meaningless swirling storm clutching each other … all there is, is the “safety” , or distraction, of the troop. A location in the center of the scrum. All else is the terror of a confrontation with a godless reality that is indifferent to their existence. As in Whatshername getting drunk on a glass and a half of wine as, shattered by Trump’s election victory, she flies to the desert and communes with the boulders.

    Some of course get over it by identifying with the chaos, and by denying the boundary between them and the not them. But that is somewhat more rare than the angle adopted by the average modern liberal.

    It was in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that morality came generally to be understood as offering a solution posed to the problems of human egoism and that the content of morality came to be largely equated with altrusim.

    Alasdai MacIntyre, After Virtue, page 213

    I found and offer this link to those who may have bought a copy of that book, but who do not happen to have it handy. Or for those who will be purchasing an authorized copy.

  4. Vanderleun Says:

    The left is never slow at telling other people to take out their wallets.

  5. Big Maq Says:

    Always thought there ought to be an “eighth” sin: hypocrisy.

    Something about throwing stones and glass houses, echoing John 8: 3-11

    If this election cycle shown us anything, it is that many preached, and several claimed they wanted one thing, but when push comes to shove, they were (and still are) very willing to practice what they condemn in others.

    Red vs Blue.

  6. DirtyJobsGuy Says:

    I hear Europeans often use the words “I don’t want to be greedy” when discussing prices or salaries. I know they want what everyone else wants, but after a lifetime of socialist living (or quasi socialist living) it is fully embedded. What they are doing is using greed not in the sense of a miser hoarding his gold, but in pricing vis a vis others. It fails by Bastiat’s seen and unseen argument. You have to get what you can to cushion you against leaner times or circumstances. If however you are in a cronyist world your downside is limited by side deals thus your upside is expected to be limited as well.

  7. Artfldgr Says:

    in her own words as one of the makers of this culture we keep talking about

    Communist Leader, Dr Bella Dodd, Confesses to Infiltrating the Church & USA
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=37HgRWTsGs0

    she talks in her books about how it was done, and all kinds of things, and it would amaze you and leave you with no doubt as to how these mental games are played

  8. Ann Says:

    “…the idea that poor people just want to live decently, is IMO an oversimplification. It’s like saying that no one wants to be poor; that may be true, but everybody is not willing to do what it takes to not be poor.”

    What about those who are willing but are not capable enough to rise to middle class status? That is, those lacking the intellectual or physical wherewithal to do the jobs necessary to do so.

  9. Esther Says:

    A progressive I argued with on the subject might hold an explanation for the paradox.

    This fellow told me that there is only so much wealth in the world. So, he explained indignantly, if someone in the world has money, that means someone else in the world doesn’t. The people with money are greedy because they’ve taken too much of the pie.

    But wealth, I said (not realizing we were having an argument), is not a zero sum game, it is ever expanding and changing. He looked at me like I had sprouted horns and stomped off.

    Some weeks later, he stomped over and huffed triumphantly, “world is like a pie, it’s round.” (I’m not kidding,)

  10. Artfldgr Says:

    She lays everything we talk about… changing… chaos… pitting groups agianst each other.. (blacks against whites. spanish against blacks, chinese against spanish, children against adults, elte agianst the common, men against women, and more and more… )

    its amazing… but most dont evben remember she existed

    and they certainly forgot all we used to know about what people here are talking about and dont get… mostly because they were told how to think by the very people they refuse to think about.

    they do not know how things work or start, and so they do not know whats possible or how small a number is required.

    when i helped start with other MGTOW, it was just people venting and writing articles… today, MGTOW is in many countries and the japanese government is trying to prevent it!!!!!!!!!

    all the old names, knowlege, memes are almost all gone…
    and what replaces it are good imaginations that people latch on cause it sounds good or sounds right, and in the absense of other information, they just accept it… but thats because they dont want to read the original information!!!!

    the end result is the eventual loss of all that they thought they had… unless they are lucky enough to die before that stage happens… and we are not far from it. we are close to the stage that a war, will finish the job… economically, sociallly, demographicaly, educationally, etc..

    what is the opposite inversion of the boy who cried wolf?
    Cassandra…

  11. Chester Draws Says:

    There is an alternative strand of the Left though. The one that wants to do things, but has to find the money from somewhere.

    Collectively society may decide that every child needs an education, and that schools need to be funded centrally for this to happen. If left to parents, then some parents are so feckless that they won’t send their children to school reliably enough.

    We might decide that the country needs defending, and that requires a centrally funded military.

    We might decide to centralise health care. (While much of the US finds this absurd, it is standard in most of the rich world.)

    But someone has to pay, because education, health and defence are not cheap.

    There are two alternatives — everyone pays the same amount, or people pay relative to means. The first way doesn’t fund very much, so most Western societies go the second route.

    To someone from the US I would be on the Left. I support centalised health and education. I support progressive taxation for that reason. I want society to fund things properly.

    Yet I have no envy of other people’s wealth. I don’t want to be wealthy, and I don’t care if they are. If they can afford to send their kids to private school, then that doesn’t cost me anything (and in fact saves my tax money) so I am happy for them to do that.

    At least where I come from, that is the standard position. My countryfolk support progressive taxation, and no party with any support runs against that position — although we disagree on the margins, obviously.

    Sure there is a fringe of Leftists here who want to tax the rich because they are rich. But we don’t vote for them, and we mostly ignore them. There is no great movement to lose our capitalist economy. We are not Socialists, at least in any sense of moving towards collective ownership of the means of production.

    So please, not everyone on the Left is envious of the wealthy. That some people are doesn’t mean everyone is — any more than that horrible trope that because some on the Right are racist, everyone on the Right must be a racist.

  12. Cap'n Rusty Says:

    Envy is the only one of the seven sins that doesn’t provide a reward.

  13. Ray Says:

    Helmut Schoeck wrote a book on envy and pointed out that egalitarianism is a manifestation of envy. It’s vice masquerading as virtue.
    https://www.amazon.com/ENVY-Theory-Behaviour-Helmut-Schoeck/dp/0865970645/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1480714999&sr=1-1&keywords=envy+helmut+schoeck

  14. Oldflyer Says:

    Obviously, by invoking greed, the left is virtue signalling. If greed is the sin, they attempt to wrap themselves in the virtue of altruism. But, what is altruistic about an outside force deciding who should contribute, who should benefit, and by how much?

    A beneficent society voluntarily provides the proverbial safety net for those elements who are not functional, for either voluntary or involuntary reasons. The level of individual contribution to the societal effort will always be open to debate; but, for charlatans it is easier to invoke pejorative terms.

  15. SteveD Says:

    ‘Many liberals would be likely to dismiss it, answering that greed isn’t what they’re exhibiting when they advocate income redistribution.’

    He isn’t talking about rich liberals who advocate income redistribution he’s talking about poor people who advocate income redistribution.

  16. Ray Says:

    When Romney was running for president the lefties were horrified at his wealth and there was an editorial about wealth in the paper. They explained Romney’s wealth by analogy to a kindergarten where toys are laying around and some kid takes all the toys. So according to the editorial, wealth just magically appears and is just laying around waiting to be picked up. You don’t have to work for it or create it. Romney had 100 million dollars because he had taken more than his fair share of wealth. Since he obviously had more than his fair share, the government should take it and redistribute it like God intended. I laughed when I read the editorial and was thinking it should be titled “Economics for Dummies” or maybe “Economics for low information voters”.

  17. Frog Says:

    Pride, not wrath, is the first of the Seven Deadlies.

    Deadly means mortal; those sins that will send the soul to hell unless fully confessed and repented.

    I submit that Chester Draws suffers from Pride. He prides himself on his moderate Leftism.

  18. JohnGalt47 Says:

    It has always amazed me that the salary for a Congress Critter is always “middle class” whereas that number, currently $174k, is more than what 90% of the country earns.

  19. Cap'n Rusty Says:

    J Galt:
    Not to mention, many of those “middle class” actually do something that normal people would and do pay them money to do.

  20. T Says:

    ” If greed is the sin, they attempt to wrap themselves in the virtue of altruism.” [Oldflyer @ 4:58]

    Yes, they do wrap themselves in it, while conveniently forgetting about the altruistic Clinton Global Initiative or about the many Democrat officeholders fleeing to various private sector positions at salary multiples to their government pay.

    Yeah! <That altruism.

    Keep in mind I deny no one advancement or success. I do however, call BS on their altruism when they would deny others what they take for themselves, and it’s the “altruistic” Progressives that seem to obsess abput acquiring wealth.

    As Glen Reynolds has written many times: “In capitalism, the rich become powerful. In socialism, the powerful become altruisticrich.”

  21. T Says:

    “It has always amazed me that the salary for a Congress Critter is always “middle class” whereas that number, currently $174k, is more than what 90% of the country earns.” [JohnGalt47 @ 5:31]

    Ah! Congress! The most efficient millionaire generating organization known to mankind!

  22. Ann Says:

    I’ve seen references to fairly recent polls of both Americans and Brits that show them picking greed as the deadliest sin, which agrees with the apostle Timothy, who said that the desire for money is the root of all evil.

  23. DNW Says:

    Chester’s comment probably provides enough grist for 20 comment mills, but I will content myself with the following couple of observations.

    “Collectively society may decide that every child needs an education, and that schools need to be funded centrally for this to happen. … We might decide that the country needs defending, and that requires a centrally funded military.

    We might decide to centralise health care…. To someone from the US I would be on the Left. I support centalised health and education. I support progressive taxation for that reason. I want society to fund things properly. “

    Of course “society” could “collectively” decide anything with equal validity, unless you have a moral principle for the differentiation of legitimate or justifiable decisions from ostensibly unjustifiable ones.

    I’m going to ignore the problematical aspects of the implicit hypostatization of “society” as a kind of real entity, and just focus on a couple of logical distinctions and problems.

    “I support centalised health and education.” [and defense]

    Now what is immediately obvious, is that the pretexts which condition or supposedly justify the centralization program, are not in fact based on true parallels.

    National defense for example applies indifferently to and therefore distributively to, any citizen threatened inside the polity from an attack originating outside. All (loyal) persons within the polity are in-principle at equal risk when it comes to confronting a rampaging alien army.

    In the case of “health care” however, the only rough analogy with this, would be in the area of public health, wherein procedures for limiting the effect of contagions on the public would come into play: isolation hospitals, inoculation programs, sanitation efforts, and so forth. These could be justified on the basis of an in-principle shared physical and moral risk.

    However much of what passes for “health care” is for the treatment of conditions for which everyone is not in-principle at equal risk, even in the most approximate sense. Not everyone is at equal risk for alcoholism, drug addiction, “being assaulted by” Type II diabetes, or Tay-Sachs. In these cases some other argument must be posed, some other ostensible distributive benefit must be posited in order to justify the equal distribution of burden despite zero intrinsic exposure to risk.

    Traditionally those types of calculations were considered as falling under private risk and left out of politics in classically liberal theories.

    And this is where the general welfare equivocations leveraged off of an illegitimate rectification of the concept of “society”, comes into play as part of socialist rhetoric.

    Smearing national defense, and “health care”, and education into one ostensible conceptual category is done in order to hide the fact that they are categorically unlike except on the most rickety utilitarian terms, and that a distributive benefit style “moral” argument for one, cannot be automatically applied to the other.

    But “society” and all that crap …

    Now you may say that in classically liberal societies, certain burdens were in fact unequally distributed for the common benefit. But this was in situations wherein the principle of intrinsic inequality and complementarity, rather than a specious ideological [and hypocritical] commitment to social fungibility was granted when formulating moral predications.

    In a society of putatively perfectly equal elements, there is no moral justification for anything but the most rigorously distributive burdens.

    But the left would have it both ways. A socialism in the name of “equality” which invidiously burdens some for the exclusive benefit of others.

    “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.” Which is neither real equality, nor organic complementarity; nor just.

  24. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    There’s a reason why “Liberté, égalité, fraternité” is the motto of France, arguably the first socialist government. There can never be equality in income or assets and so the redistribution can never end. Fraternity implies that the better off have a social obligation to assist the less fortunate and because coercion is necessary to achieve equality, liberty is sacrificed. That motto is a ‘three legged stool’ and in socialism’s necessary destruction of liberty, collapse is ultimately, inescapable.

    Ann,

    “What about those who are willing but are not capable enough to rise to middle class status? That is, those lacking the intellectual or physical wherewithal to do the jobs necessary to do so.”

    Charity is voluntary. Coercion whether through the barrel of a gun or imposed through ‘taxation’ is tyranny.

    Timothy did not say that “the desire for money is the root of all evil”.

    He said that the love of money (above all else) is the root of evil. And IMO what he meant was that the love, i.e. elevation… of anything above the love of God was the root of all evil because it violates the 1st commandment; to have no other ‘gods’ before the source of all that is divinely good.

  25. Ann Says:

    Geoffrey Britain:

    I used the word “desire” because I found it here, in a section of Aquinas’s Summa Theologiae, only he said “desire of money”. That particular section is on “Question 84. The cause of sin, in respect of one sin being the cause of another”. Worth a read. Here’s some of what he had to say:

    According to some, covetousness may be understood in different ways. First, as denoting inordinate desire for riches: and thus it is a special sin. Secondly, as denoting inordinate desire for any temporal good: and thus it is a genus comprising all sins, because every sin includes an inordinate turning to a mutable good, as stated above (I-II:72:2). Thirdly, as denoting an inclination of a corrupt nature to desire corruptible goods inordinately: and they say that in this sense covetousness is the root of all sins, comparing it to the root of a tree, which draws its sustenance from earth, just as every sin grows out of the love of temporal things.

    Now, though all this is true, it does not seem to explain the mind of the Apostle when he states that covetousness is the root of all sins. For in that passage he clearly speaks against those who, because they “will become rich, fall into temptation, and into the snare of the devil . . . for covetousness is the root of all evils.” Hence it is evident that he is speaking of covetousness as denoting the inordinate desire for riches. Accordingly, we must say that covetousness, as denoting a special sin, is called the root of all sins, in likeness to the root of a tree, in furnishing sustenance to the whole tree. For we see that by riches man acquires the means of committing any sin whatever, and of sating his desire for any sin whatever, since money helps man to obtain all manner of temporal goods, according to Ecclesiastes 10:19: “All things obey money”: so that in this desire for riches is the root of all sins.

    Re “coercion whether through the barrel of a gun or imposed through ‘taxation’ is tyranny” — I’m not for it. I simply wanted to point out that not all poor people can be lumped into a group that’s unwilling to do the work necessary to not be poor.

  26. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    Ann,

    Thomas qualifies an “inordinate” desire as the source of covetousness, which he defines as the causal factor in falling into evil. At least in the section you provide, Thomas doesn’t define of what “inordinate” consists.

    I would define an inordinate, i.e. psychologically unhealthy desire, as the difference between a preference and an emotional demand. I would prefer that I were wealthy but I’m not the least bit upset that I’m not. IMO, an emotion backed demand for wealth is putting other gods before you…

    Where did any here imply that ALL poor people are lazy and the source of their poverty? Physical incapacity may well be a barrier and intellectual incapacity certainly is and those are givens. It’s the great majority of the poor, who are neither wherein the issue lies. For that majority, there’s Walter Williams roadmap out of poverty; “Complete high school; get a job, any kind of a job; get married before having children and be a law-abiding citizen. Among both black and white Americans so described, the poverty rate is in the single digits.”

  27. AesopFan Says:

    Big Maq Says:
    December 2nd, 2016 at 3:32 pm
    Always thought there ought to be an “eighth” sin: hypocrisy.

    Something about throwing stones and glass houses, echoing John 8: 3-11
    * * *
    Seems to me that the guy John was writing about had quite a few words to say about hypocrites, none of them complimentary.

  28. David Foster Says:

    Gluttony…C S Lewis suggests that gluttony should be defined more broadly than in Quantity terms…ie, a person who is overly persnickety about what they eat is a glutton every bit as much as one who eats too much.

    By his definition, every Whole Foods store is thronged with Lefty gluttons.

  29. David Foster Says:

    Greed…most career-successful Lefties have no interest at all in true equality. As I said in my post Jousting with a Phantom:

    “Many people in “progressive” leadership positions are graduates of the Harvard Law School. Do you think these people want to see a society in which the career, status, and income prospects for an HLS grad are no better than those for a graduate of a lesser-known, lower-status (but still very good) law school? C’mon.

    Quite a few “progressive” leaders are members of prominent families. Do you think Teddy Kennedy would have liked to see an environment in which he and certain other members of his family would have had to answer for their actions in the criminal courts in the same way that ordinary individuals would, without benefit from connections, media influence, and expensive lawyers?

    The prevalence of “progressivism” among tenured professors is quite high. How many of these professors would be eager to agree to employment conditions in which their job security and employee benefits were no better than those enjoyed by average Americans? How many of them would take a salary cut in order to provide higher incomes for the poorly-paid adjunct professors at their universities? How many would like to see PhD requirements eliminated so that a wider pool of talented and knowledgeable individuals can participate in university teaching?

    There are a lot of “progressives” among the graduates of Ivy League universities. How many of them would be in favor of legally eliminating alumni preferences and the influence of “contributions” and have their children considered for admission–or not–on the same basis as everyone else’s kids? Yet an alumni preference is an intergenerational asset in the same way that a small businessman’s store or factory is.”

    http://chicagoboyz.net/archives/31192.html

  30. Carmen Says:

    When I soon retire, smoke will come out my ears if I Ever hear the word Entitlement when it comes to collecting Social Security, no matter my previous income.

  31. T Says:

    David Foster,

    Well said!

    In your post you evince the fundamental wisdom of my father. He was a machinist with a high school plus night school formal education and an incisive judge of human nature. When I was young and entering college he told me to remember that I was a “crowder.” He explained that by noting that the wealthy families do not tolerate people like that because we threaten to crowd out their family members from the positions and power they are due as a result their own social status.

    He was correct; we are. As you note: Harvard Law wants to be on an equal footing with the minor players? C’mon!

  32. Tim Turner Says:

    Greed = When someone else has more than YOU want them to have.

  33. David Foster Says:

    T,

    Peter Ducker (Austrian, lived in Germany before coming to the US) wrote in 1969 that one of the reasons for American success was that we did NOT have a distinction between ‘schools for leaders’ and ‘schools for followers’.

    “One thing it (modern society) cannot afford in education is the “elite institution” which has a monopoly on social standing, on prestige, and on the command positions in society and economy. Oxford and Cambridge are important reasons for the English brain drain. A main reason for the technology gap is the Grande Ecole such as the Ecole Polytechnique or the Ecole Normale. These elite institutions may do a magnificent job of education, but only their graduates normally get into the command positions. Only their faculties “matter.” This restricts and impoverishes the whole society…The Harvard Law School might like to be a Grande Ecole and to claim for its graduates a preferential position. But American society has never been willing to accept this claim…”

    Unfortunately, that has changed…a lot…since Drucker wrote.

    A selection of Drucker excerpts re education here:

    http://chicagoboyz.net/archives/26133.html

  34. Big Maq Says:

    RE: Hypocrisy – the “eighth deadly sin” – Steven Moore’s conversion to the Red vs Blue missal.

    “You cannot simultaneously spout off about F. A. Hayek, Milton Friedman, and Adam Smith and the superiority of the market economy, limited government, and the Constitution and have no problem whatsoever with what Trump did here.”
    http://neoneocon.com/2016/12/02/the-wall-street-journal/#comment-2008796

  35. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    “I support centralized health and education.” Chester Draws

    “Socialized medicine is the keystone to the arch of the socialized state.” Vladimir Lenin

    “Give me four years to teach the children and the seeds I have sown will never be uprooted.” … Vladimir Lenin

    There’s a reason why Stalin called liberals who still supported Lenin… “useful idiots”.

  36. T Says:

    David Foster,

    Thanks for the response. I did read your linked post at chicagoboyz. I have that site bookmarked but don’t visit as often as I should, so I missed your initial posting of that essay. Thanks for the link—it’s now in my archives.

    I think your arguments are deadly accurate. To put it in more personal terms, so someone is going to spend a third of a million dollars going to Harvard law because they seek parity with Vincent LaGuardia Gambini?

    Those who think e live in a classless society live in a fools’ world. The difference is that in the U.S. one needn’t be born into a particular class, but can rise to it. Obama and Trump are two opposed examples. Obama, not born into particular wealth, is a darling of the I-95 corridor. Trump, by contrast, born into wealth, is seen as a nouveau riche boor.

  37. T Says:

    “You cannot simultaneously spout off about F. A. Hayek, Milton Friedman, and Adam Smith and the superiority of the market economy, limited government, and the Constitution and have no problem whatsoever with what Trump did here.” [see Big Maq @12:57]

    That might be true if one is a rigid absolutist and purist. The problem with that stance was succinctly summed up by that great philosopher Yogi Berra: “In theory, there’s no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.”

  38. Big Maq Says:

    @T – well, it is very far from “absolutist and purist” to see that Steven Moore, and others like him, have made (many) arguments in the past (over many years) to which they now essentially claim are irrelevant.

    What is the difference?

    Basically, it’s the person who is doing the things that they have long argued against.

    For example: $1T deficit spending on infrastructure? obama=bad; trump=good

    Worse, he is arguing like there is some resounding call for all that would be done in the name of trump – a complete (purposeful?) misreading of the election counts.

    Yet, if trump would turn on a dime on his (and Moore’s newly agreed to) policies, it would seem doubtless that Moore would also turn on that same dime and espouse that good too, and declare the immediately prior policy bad.
    .

    It’s not about “purity” at all, it is about following one’s stated principles.

    If the principles are contingent on who is in power at the moment, then they are hardly principles at all!

    In less polite company, they’d be called hypocrites.

    Worse, many of us on the right, correctly excoriate the left for doing this, but somehow think it worthy to turn a blind eye to “our side” doing it.

    That “blind eye” essentially reduces it all to a Blue team vs Read team debate, where policies and positions are merely tools for gaining power, the purpose of which is to exercise it against the other team.

    Who really benefits from that?

    Ah! We feel good that “our team” is ruling!

    Oh! Just great! 🙁

    (Meanwhile, those pulling those levers of power are busy re-“rigging” the system for themselves – all with our apparent “blessing”)

  39. T Says:

    Big Maq,

    First off, comingling infrastructure spending and the national debt is a strawman argument. Infrastructure spending is something that governments should be doing. A great portion of the national debt comes from foreign aid and entitlement spending (I’m excluding social security spending from the designation of entitlements).

    As for the national debt, it a relative issue. Say, for instance, a person makes $50,000/yr and has $50,000 in consumer debt (excluding mortgage). That person is in trouble. Say, however, that person lands a major promotion and suddenly his income skyrockets to $200,000/yr; that $50,000 debt becomes much less of an issue in proportion to that new income.

    While most people don’t have the opportunity of increasing their income so exponentially, the federal government can. It a matter of encouraging the growth of the economy so that the national debt becomes a smaller proportion to the GDP (and the concommittant increased tax revenues it creates) than it currently is. Make no mistake about it, that debt still needs to be serviced and ultimately should be paid down, but the ratio is the issue here.

    The difference between an Obama economy and a healthy economy is that Obama’s administration encouraged the spending and crippled the economy (remember “shovel read” jobs?); exactly the opposite of my scenario above We have yet to see what the Trump administration’s effect on the economy will be. Until that happens your criticism of “Obama=bad, Trump=good” is just nonsense.

    Finally, you write: “It’s not about “purity” at all, it is about following one’s stated principles.” In other words, you write it’s not about “purity” at all, it’s about purity. Theory and practice my friend,—Theory and practice.

  40. OM Says:

    T:

    California example of infrastructure: yes to Bullet Train, no to roads or water projects. Which is infrastructure? Or about roads and bridges; from conversations with a civil engineer friend he noted that infrastructure typically applies to new projects but never to maintenance and upkeep of existing facilities; flashy and new good, then tear it out an build it again. The point is favored cronies and connected companies/unions. Who cares if the work/projects are really necessary or what the priority of needs are? The point is to spend money. Bastiat.

  41. T Says:

    Om,

    That is a different issue; questioning what infrastructure projects are chosen (I would add IMO that citing blue-party California infrastructure strains credibility).

    Again, we do not yet know if Trump administration infrastructure spending will work that way or not. We must wait and see. Biq Maq, on the other hand, is already criticizing and dismissing Trump administration infrastructure spending as if it is a fait accompli.

    As Vanderleun noted over at Neoneocon’s Trump Taiwan Talk thread (@ 1:30): “I see we’ve moved from the failed flamed out crashed and burned beyond recognition #NeverTrump to #TrumpDead-Ender.” That comment is spot on.

  42. OM Says:

    T:

    “Infrastructure” in CA is still “infrastructure” it’s not a bug it’s a feature.

    If promising to spend trillions of dollars or hearing Bannon crow about bringing back the 1930s doesn’t give you some pause, well I have a bridge to sell you.

    Your opinion of Van (the man of little lists) is higher than mine. I’m skeptical, not a convert to Trumpism. It’s hard to dodge every bullet, and Hillary won’t be doing anything, it’s on Donald now.

  43. T Says:

    “Your opinion of Van (the man of little lists) is higher than mine.” [OM @ 11:19]

    You know nothing about me or my opinion of Gerard Vanderleun.

  44. Big Maq Says:

    ” “It’s not about “purity” at all, it is about following one’s stated principles.” In other words, you write it’s not about “purity” at all, it’s about purity. Theory and practice my friend,—Theory and practice.” – T

    Well arguing “theory and practice” as you have, as a response to the issue, because it doesn’t address the core issue, just comes across as a catchall to excuse anything, and to dismiss any objection.

    Sure, you can shrug it off as “purity” to observe a man who has for years said one thing and has suddenly changed his tune. But, perhaps, you have a rather broad sense of what “purity” means in this kind of context.

    IMHO, from Reagan onward, the nominated GOP candidates for POTUS, for Congress, for State Governorship, for State Legislatures, etc., etc., have ALL been FAR from MY ideal conservatives, but were largely within conservative orthodoxy. It doesn’t mean they were perfect administrators either!

    But, I rather think it has been clear and obvious, from his campaign and history, that trump is a whole different animal.

    When people have been pushing a whole set of policies and narratives all those years, but abruptly turn on a dime to support trump, well, what IS one to think of them?

    Seriously?
    .

    The issue is, when one can be so flexible in judging any policy, there effectively is no standard. When what becomes “good” is what one individual says, that is all very Red vs Blue territory.

    You want to make it about me, when it is THEM who have changed!

    The thing is, that is precisely the type of argument the left uses – avoid the issue with a form of ad hominem.
    .

    The “commingling” is on your part, btw.

    Funding for a spending bill does not come out of the air.

    So, unless there is a specific proposal tied to this that uses existing funding, or new taxes (i.e. no debt), then it is deficit spending, prima facie.
    .

    If you are attempting to argue that the economic growth will pay for it, you cannot just assert so with an analogy like that.

    Really! Where’s there the connection from point A to point B??

    To follow your argument, extrapolating it to the economy as a whole, say it has a GDP of $50T, are you saying infrastructure spending will generate a $200T economy, a 400% increase?

    How does that work?

    And, how does the government “increase their income exponentially”?

    If government spending is the way, where does the initial money come from?

    How do you explain the failure of similar ideas / programs / policies in Detroit, Illinois, California, etc. – have they been able to spend their way to growth? What has happened / is happening to them?
    .

    One argument many on the right like to claim is that the states with GOP legislatures have enjoyed superior growth vs dem ones. Haven’t seen you do so (that I’ve seen), but others, here arguing similar, have. Yet, advocates for such, all think that adopting a dem policy is the solution to the similar problems nationally.

    Huh?

    I suspect many understand this point very well. Why? Because “RINO!” seems to have mysteriously disappeared from our lexicon (now that I’ve said this, watch hannity start using it again, redefining it). It is rather difficult to call someone so when one is advocating policies that dems would be all too happy to implement.

  45. T Says:

    Big Maq,

    1) calling into question your points and ideas is not an ad hominem

    2) You write (@ 11:59):

    And, how does the government “increase their income exponentially”?

    If government spending is the way, where does the initial money come from?

    How do you explain the failure of similar ideas / programs / policies in Detroit, Illinois, California, etc. – have they been able to spend their way to growth? What has happened / is happening to them?

    If you think I’m making the argument that the U.S. should “spend its way into prosperity” you just don’t get it. You need to re-read my post not just scan it. The answers to the questions you ask above are right there.

    3) Try this article by Michael Walsh (n.B., although the tone is somewhat condescending–to which I object–it does not invalidate the points he makes).

    https://pjmedia.com/trending/2016/12/03/what-exactly-is-the-nevertrumpumpkins-problem/?singlepage=true

  46. Big Maq Says:

    @T

    1) You did more than call into question – you dismissed it as if it were simply a call for “purity”. Then talk about “theory and practice”, as if that answers the core concern. Be that a form of ad hominem or something else, it is an evasion and a put down.

    2) Then what the heck was your analogy about? You need to explain how you get from point A to point B! – a point I made in that comment.

    I took the next step to guess as to what you might be talking about. Say that is inaccurate, but then answer the question.

    3) Not sure what the heck you want me to pick out of that article. He makes a lot of points. Do you endorse every one of them?

    4) Please address my points from prior posts. If you need me to reiterate them again, let me know.

    Oh, and have you read my links across a few posts re: Steven Moore? – the origination of your response to me.

  47. Big Maq Says:

    @T – how’s this re: “purity”? (the latter half)…

    http://neoneocon.com/2016/12/01/the-showman-president/#comment-2004134

    I am a realist, and don’t expect “purity” out of elected officials.

    BUT, would like to see policies that are effective towards a higher goal that account for all its effects, and not just consider its first order effects (e.g. save some jobs in Carrier’s IN locations) for political expediency.

  48. T Says:

    “BUT, would like to see policies that are effective towards a higher goal that account for all its effects,” [Big Maq @ 10:49]

    Your very criticism disputes this statement. What makes you think that the acts you currently condemn are not exactly those “policies . . . effective towards a higher goal . . . “?

    If you recognized “higher goals” as even a possibility (Rumsfeld’s “unknown unknowns”), then you wouldn’t harp on the supposed current failure of an administration not yet even sworn in to office as though that failure was already baked in the cake.

    One might make a criticism and then profess a wait-and-see attitude, but you’re not doing that. You’ve already labeled this administration-elect a failure, a violation of conservative principles, from the get go

    As Walsh points out, sounds like liberal Democrat wish-fulfillment.

  49. T Says:

    a correction:

    ” You’ve seem to have already labeled this administration-elect a failure, a violation of conservative principles, from the get go”

  50. Big Maq Says:

    @T – You accuse me of being a “purist”, but now make it about my criticizing the future policies of a future administration.

    Huh?

    You accused me of not reading your stuff, but you mustn’t have read what I posted, as you accuse me of “harp(ing) on the supposed current failure of an administration not yet even sworn in”.

    Hardly in these posts since you addressed me.

    Do you not recall, we were talking about Steven Moore?
    http://neoneocon.com/2016/12/02/is-it-greed-envy-or-covetousness/#comment-2008844
    http://neoneocon.com/2016/12/02/is-it-greed-envy-or-covetousness/#comment-2008937

    BTW, it is about Steven Moore that you initially responded to me about.

    Oh, yes, forgot to mention, I was basically referring to how Steven Moore has abruptly changed his tune.

    Hey, did you happen to notice that Steven Moore was long pushing free market ideals, but hasn’t explained why those don’t seem to matter anymore?

    How many ways to you want me to express it, and how many ways to you want to avoid addressing it?
    .

    To address your new point, if I level any concerns about trump:

    Yes, I am a skeptical “wait and see”.

    Why should I automatically accept the positive spin on trump, and on people’s unfounded assertions / beliefs on what trump will do or intends, when he has long campaigned in a way that leaves much open to question?

    Is there something wrong with explaining why I might be so or what I might see from a different point of view?

    I really do hope that trump will make the kinds of decisions to make changes that I believe are good for the country.

    Largely, that would mean a major reduction in the size and scope of the federal government.

    What I fear is that we merely get some of those changes, but simultaneously get a whole new whopping dose of big government, just with different beneficiaries / favorites.

    What allows trump to do so is the backing of the GOP majority in Congress.

    To the degree that these people, and the thought leaders / media voices who remain proponents of the free market ideas they long espoused, it is possible that my hopes come true.

    To the degree that these people have abandoned their previously stated principles in pursuit of power, it will obstruct those hopes from fruition.

    So while I wait and see (and hope) it doesn’t mean I will sit back and shut up.

    Now go ahead and respond to this last bit and ignore the rest.

  51. T Says:

    You’re correct. I do ignore a good part of what you write because it’s not worth my time to respond. You have evinced in your earlier discussions with me that while you claim to be open to information and argumentation /discussion (theory), my experience is that you never find any counterargument by anyone who disagrees with you worthy of acknowledgement much less acceptance and you frequently respond with dismissive tangential arguments (practice). You’re doing the same thing here and one can not have a reasonable discussion with one whose point of view is already inviolably predisposed.

    Michael Walsh referred to a “checklist of conservative principles” and I get the impression that such is how you are proceeding; fail to address just one of those and one’s credibility as a conservative is denounced. You claim to be a “realist” but seem to denounce any Trump action that does not conform to your
    checklist. If so, that’s the simplistic approach of an ideologue not the nuanced approach of a realist.

    You write, “I really do hope that trump [sic] will make the kinds of decisions to make changes that I believe are good for the country,” while simultaneously condemning as a finality his administration-elect for anything you see as a failure to check off a conservative box on your list. Risible.

    From your comments, I draw the conclusion that you seem to have no real sense of the interplay of theory vs. the dynamics of working in the real world as well as a rather blinkered understanding of the economy and the marketplace. Your #NeverTrump stance was marked by a fear that 1) Trump could/would be worse than a Hillary presidency and 2) that Trump wasn’t really a conservative but a closet liberal. Both reasonable assumptions at the time. From your current comments and criticism that latter seems to continue to be your motivating factor in spite of the evidence that has started to appear. Caveat: this evidence isn’t necessarily representative of future actions either, but it is a good start that should be lauded by conservatives not simply dismissed.

    If I am correct, all of this gives you the same mindset as a Progressive liberal while not necessarily the same principles; the Trump administration must either be with the entire program or it’s not conservative at all. My own take is that like the liberal exploding heads, there is much cognitive dissonance here and you live in fear of having to admit to yourself that you were wrong (whether you actually are or not remains to be seen).

    BTW, no one is telling you to sit back and shut up. Just don’t expect much substantive or continuing feedback until you have something valuable to add to the conversation yourself.

    Now, I’ve given you enough material to work with.

    Cue your response telling me how I have just proven myself guilty of exactly the suppositions I have listed in this comment.

  52. Big Maq Says:

    As I predicted, you didn’t bother to respond and evaded the challenge put to you by diverting, yet again, down some other discussion path, then delving into presumptions about me that are far from true (strawman?).

    That is your prerogative.

    But, it is truly sad that you “deem” it is unworthy of responding to them, because, while you claim yourself to be open to debate, re-reading the correspondence (and all can see that) you haven’t really given me much back on the challenges to your initial point.

    So, come now! This is all yet another more elaborate evasion, and suspect you know that full well, given your final line.
    .

    This article was about seven deadly sins.

    I proposed hypocrisy is an “eighth” one, largely because this cycle we have seen many who espoused one set of ideas, consistently, and for a very long time, suddenly change, and with little explanation.

    Steve (really Stephen) Moore is one such example.

    If it were all about “purity” then I would never have been okay with past GOP POTUS candidates, nor several other representatives, past and present, in local, state, and federal chambers. But, somehow, I largely am. “Purist”? Strawman?

    trump has given a variety of conflicting messages during his campaign, a great many are very far afield from what the GOP stood for, and many also are very much what dems would and/or do gladly hold.

    Several GOP leaders, and several conservative thought leaders / media voices, who long held positions very different are now somehow okay with what they opposed and found anathema in the very recent past.

    In particular, a man like Moore who has waxed eloquently and deeply for years on one view, seems to give little explanation as to why his new views are more valid today than all his past ones.

    If it were merely a matter of “theory vs practice”, why wouldn’t all these people have just argued what should be “practiced” rather than debate about the superiority of their “theory”, vs those of the dems, all these years?

    If they are still in favor of limited government, why are they okay with a massive increase?

    Did they ever care about their ideas in the first place, or was that just a marketing brand that they are happy to quickly discard the moment they smell the opportunity to hold power, make money from the situation, or otherwise make some personal gain?

    Ultimately, how can we trust what they have to tell us now?

    If one still wants to talk the “theory” talk then in “practice” does just the opposite, how can we believe their talk?
    .

    All this just devolves political discussion down into Red vs Blue, as neither side has any credibility remaining, since their “practice” looks very much different from their “theory” they’ve long been promoting, and, worse, looks very much like the other team’s “practice”.

    I thought that is what we hated about DC. The GOP were really just “dem lite”, beholding to the crony donor class, and other special interests, etc., etc., rather than delivering on what they “promised”.

    Maybe what we really hated was that our team wasn’t in power, and that they seemed to fumble the ball at critical points.

    Maybe “theory” has nothing to do with it, other than as a marketing gimmick for the useful idiots who believe it.

  53. OM Says:

    T:

    “You know nothing about me or my opinion of Gerard Vanderleun.”

    All that I know of you is based on reading your comments, this comment says nothing about your opinion of Van. Whatever.

  54. Sergey Says:

    Geoffrey, the term “useful idiots” was coined by Lenin himself to describe Bolshevick sympatizers among Western liberal intelligentia.

  55. Nick Says:

    It’s probably too late to get in a neutral comment about all this, but here goes.

    Most people look around at their situation and it seems like it’s tight but they’re getting by. That’s true for the 90% of the population, in terms of earnings. They think it’d be easier if they had a little more money, but they don’t really need a whole lot more money. They think they could maybe get by with a little less, but anyone who has a lot less must need help.

    These are reasonable, decent thoughts for a person to have. They’re not quite as deep as they should be, but there’s no ill intent behind them. The problem is they lead to the thinking that Sowell condemns. If a lot more money than I have is too much, and a lot less money than I have is an emergency, then someone needs to step in and move money from those who are richer than me to those who are poorer than me. And as I said, the intention is decent; it’s the basis for donation. It just gets out of hand when applied broadly.

  56. Big Maq Says:

    @Nick – good observation.

    I believe that it is one of the many Sowell readings I have come across that says that given the relative nature of defining poverty in our nation, we fail to realize that even that is a level of wealth that the vast majority (90% ?) of the world aspires to.

    A specific comparison to “developing nations”:
    https://2.bp.blogspot.com/_otfwl2zc6Qc/TUbsiKw2cFI/AAAAAAAAO4U/7JCxCvhfIFQ/s1600/economix-28milanovic-custom1.jpg

    Some of the most effective charts to demonstrate the dramatic real results of massive redistribution policies:
    http://b-i.forbesimg.com/warrenmeyer/files/2013/12/income_sweden.gif

    http://www.coyoteblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/income_all.gif

    Not much improvement on the low end of the income scale, but major downside on the upper end of the income scale.

  57. Nick Says:

    Maq – I always think of it in terms of history. Like, what percent of American poor people will lose a digit to frostbite? And what were the percentages 50 years ago? But yeah, you can look at it across countries too. How many American poor will die from animal attacks? Versus Zaire? If a British monarch wanted a question answered 100 years ago, he’d have to wait longer than a poor American or middle-class Tunisian with a smart phone. MRI’s exist. Minnesotans can eat grapes in winter. No one’s threatening to kill the people of Austin TX for their political views.

    Wealth provides for (a) needs, then (b) opportunities. Measured that way, the world has never known wealth like we have today, and no one’s ever known wealth like the US does today.

  58. Big Maq Says:

    Nick – right!

    We’ve been blessed in ways that were completely unforeseeable, even only a couple/few decades ago – instant communication world-wide in our pockets, on a device with computing power equivalent to what took warehouses full of machines; knowledge far more vast than an encyclopedia set, near real-time information from around the world, all at our fingertips; shopping online, comparison of multiple retailers, with it’s bargain pricing; logistics that can deliver those products to our door in two days, or within a week if from another part of the world; kickstart crowd source funding for new companies with promising innovative ideas; etc..

    I could go on for days with examples.

    For a lark, one need only look at the old Star Trek reruns to see the laughable version of technological foresight they had of the future – it was mostly a projection of their present on the future.

    If we continue to live in a collective funk about this country, when, in reality, it is still by far the greatest, and attempt to regulate further, by various means, all this “change”, we will eventually kill the “goose” that provides all these “golden eggs”. THEN, we will have real basis for a collective funk.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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