New York to scrap literacy test for teachers. Guess why. « Hot Air

Source: New York to scrap literacy test for teachers. Guess why. « Hot Air

You may find yourself wondering how a test which is given to all applicants (and mind you, were talking about the same test being given to everyone) can be discriminatory. That’s actually not as crazy as it might sound in some cases because there have been examples in the past which clearly provided an advantage to some people based at least on their economic background if not directly on their race. Early SAT exams included questions in the English portion such as challenges to complete a phrase like “cup and blank.” The choices which were offered included the “correct” answer of “saucer” as well as other choices like plate, spoon or table. That’s problematic in the modern era because the majority of people in lower to middle class households no longer engage in the tradition of High Tea and don’t actually put cups on saucers.

But that’s not what were dealing with here. The ASLT is, as I mentioned above, a reading comprehension test. Applicants are asked to read a passage of text and then answer questions about it. The sample tests provided include examples such as passages from a speech by John F. Kennedy, the biography of Gertrude Stein or an article about ethanol production. None of these require you to be an expert historian, biographer or energy industry expert. You simply need to read the words in the passage and then answer a question or questions about different aspects of the text. How that works out to be “racist” is a mystery.

The aspiring teachers do seem to have at least one valid complaint however. This test is not free and those seeking positions as teachers are regularly required to pay more than $100 to simply take the exam. That doesn’t sound “illegal” to me, but it’s certainly a fairly stiff barrier for those coming from more economically challenged backgrounds. So perhaps there are some improvements that could be made in the system, but scrapping the test entirely makes the idea of accountability a joke. This isn’t a question of what color your skin is. If you can’t pass a reading comprehension test, should you really be teaching students how to read?

Comparative Advantage: The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics | Library of Economics and Liberty

Source: Comparative Advantage: The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics | Library of Economics and Liberty

When asked by mathematician Stanislaw Ulam whether he could name an idea in economics that was both universally true and not obvious, economist Paul Samuelson’s example was the principle of comparative advantage. That principle was derived by David Ricardo in his 1817 book, Principles of Political Economy and Taxation. Ricardo’s result, which still holds up today, is that what matters is not absolute production ability but ability in producing one good relative to another.


This increase in total output is not the result of any of the factors Adam Smith identified. It is the result exclusively of Ann specializing more in fishing and Bob specializing more in gathering bananas. This happy outcome occurs because in this society (here, just two people), each person concentrates more fully on producing those goods that each produces comparatively efficiently—that is, efficiently compared with others.

For each fish she catches, Ann sacrifices one-half of a banana; that is, for each fish she catches, she produces one-half fewer bananas than otherwise. For each banana she gathers, she sacrifices two fish. Standing alone, these numbers are meaningless. But when compared with the analogous numbers for Bob, the results tell where each person’s comparative advantage exists.


For each fish Bob catches, he sacrifices one banana. So Ann’s cost of producing fish is lower than Bob’s—one half of a banana per fish for Ann compared with one banana per fish for Bob. Ann should specialize in fishing.

But if Ann catches fish at a lower cost than does Bob, then Bob produces bananas at a lower cost than does Ann. While Ann’s cost of producing a banana is two fish, Bob’s cost is only one fish. Bob should specialize in gathering bananas.

Viewed from each individual’s perspective, Ann knows that each fish she catches costs her half a banana; so she is willing to sell each of her fish at any price higher than one-half of a banana. (In our example, she sold thirty-seven fish to Bob at a price of roughly two-thirds of a banana per fish.) Bob knows that each banana costs him one fish to produce, so he will sell bananas at any price higher than one fish per banana. (In our example, he sold twenty-five bananas at a price of about one and one-half fish per banana.)

There is nothing special about this particular price. Any price of fish between half a banana and one full banana will generate gains from trade for both Ann and Bob. What is important is the existence of at least one price that is mutually advantageous for both persons. And such a price (or range of prices) will exist if comparative advantage exists—which is to say, if each person has a different cost of producing each good.

When the lower-cost fisherman (Ann) produces more fish than she herself plans to consume—that is, catches fish that she intends to trade—Bob taps in to her greater efficiency at fishing. He cannot produce fish himself at a cost lower than one banana per fish, but by trading with Ann he acquires fish at a cost of two-thirds of a banana. Likewise, by trading with Bob, Ann taps in to Bob’s greater efficiency at gathering bananas.

The above example, though simple, reveals comparative advantage’s essential feature. Making the example more realistic by adding millions of people and millions of goods and services only increases the applicability and power of the principle, because larger numbers of people and products mean greater scope for mutually advantageous specialization and exchange.

Also, while the principle of comparative advantage is typically introduced to explain international trade, this principle is the root reason for all specialization and trade. Nothing about the presence or absence of a geopolitical border separating two trading parties is essential. But study of this principle does make clear that foreigners are willing to export only because they want to import. It is the desire for profitable exchange of goods and services that motivates all specialization and exchange.

How labeling my organization a hate group shuts down public debate – The Washington Post

Source: How labeling my organization a hate group shuts down public debate – The Washington Post

Are you now, or have you ever been, a “hate group”?

This is the question at the heart of an attempt to delegitimize and suppress views regarding immigration held by a large share of the American public.

Since 2007, the Southern Poverty Law Center has methodically added mainstream organizations critical of current immigration policy to its blacklist of “hate groups,” including the Federation for American Immigration Reform, the Immigration Reform Law Institute and Californians for Population Stabilization, among others. In February, my own organization, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), got its turn.

The wickedness of the SPLC’s blacklist lies in the fact that it conflates groups that really do preach hatred, such as the Ku Klux Klan and Nation of Islam, with ones that simply do not share the SPLC’s political preferences. The obvious goal is to marginalize the organizations in this second category by bullying reporters into avoiding them, scaring away writers and researchers from working for them, and limiting invitations for them to discuss their work.

The rationale offered for CIS’s inclusion on the blacklist is implausible even for those predisposed to support blacklists. The SPLC long ago made a hate figure of John Tanton, a controversial Michigan eye doctor it breathlessly describes as the “puppeteer” of various groups skeptical of current immigration policy, including CIS. But whatever his vices and virtues, they are irrelevant to CIS; as he himself has written, “I also helped raise a grant in 1985 for the Center for Immigration Studies, but I have played no role in the Center’s growth or development.”

Why CIS should only now qualify for the blacklist is something the SPLC offered no explanation for. Only in a blog post by America’s Voice, an allied group, were SPLC spokesmen quoted explaining how CIS meets their “rigorous criteria for designating organizations as hate groups.” Judge the rigor for yourself. Reason one: CIS has published work by independent researcher Jason Richwine, who wrote a contentious Harvard University dissertation on IQ a decade ago. (His work since has been on other subjects.) If this is evidence of “hate,” then the SPLC is going to need a bigger blacklist; other places that have published Richwine’s work include Forbes, Politico, RealClearPolicy and National Review, and his co-authors have included fellows at the American Enterprise Institute and New America.

Reasons two and three are almost too trivial to believe: CIS’s weekly email roundup of immigration commentary (from all sides) has occasionally included pieces by writers who turned out to be cranks; and a nonresident CIS fellow attended the Christmas party of a group the SPLC dislikes. Seriously, that’s it.

Against these silly objections is CIS’s central role in the immigration policy debate. I offer the following not to boast, or even as evidence that our perspective is correct, but merely to demonstrate the absurdity of the blacklist effort. CIS has testified before Congress more than 100 times over the past 20 years. We’ve also testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and our work has been cited by the Supreme Court and the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General. We’ve done contract work for the Census Bureau and the Justice Department. Our director of research was selected by the National Academies of Sciences as an outside reviewer for last year’s magisterial study of the fiscal and economic impacts of immigration. Our authors include scholars at Harvard, Cornell University, Colorado State University, the University of Maryland and elsewhere. We are one of the most frequently cited sources on immigration in the media (including in The Post).

Equating a group that has such a track record of engagement in the public policy debate with, for instance, the Holy Nation of Odin has nothing to do with warning the public of “hate.” The SPLC’s true purpose can only be to deprive the American people of points of view they need to hear to make informed and intelligent collective decisions.

Of course, political combatants call each other names all the time; I’ve succumbed myself on occasion. But the SPLC stands apart; it’s backed by a quarter-billion-dollar war chest, successful branding by SPLC co-founder and direct-marketing impresario Morris Dees, and a pose of disinterestedness and neutrality that has gained it credibility with many in the media and law enforcement.

Yet the SPLC’s protestations of neutrality are false. It is an integral part of the immigration-expansion coalition, as even the briefest look at the “Immigrant Justice” page on its website will confirm. Regardless, the SPLC’s smearing of political opponents continues to be reported as news; hours after publication of the latest SPLC blacklist, the New Yorker retailed the “hate group” charge against CIS.

My goal is not to plead to be taken off the SPLC’s blacklist, but to condemn the blacklist itself and the willingness of news organizations to participate in this silencing campaign by using the blacklist label in their stories. This attempt to narrow public debate is harmful to our civic life. Widely held concerns among the citizenry don’t just go away because gatekeepers of public debate decide not to allow them to be aired. As the cliche has it, this is why you have President Trump. And further attempts at suppression will yield worse.

Relax: Gutting the EPA Won’t Make Your Air Dirtier and Water More Polluted – Hit & Run :

Source: Relax: Gutting the EPA Won’t Make Your Air Dirtier and Water More Polluted – Hit & Run :

But would such steep EPA budget cuts really unleash polluters to pump out more smoke and sewage? To get a handle on this question, let’s take an amble down memory lane to assess the evolution of pollution trends in the United States since President Richard Nixon cobbled together the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970.

First, with regard to air pollution, air pollution in most American cities had been declining over the course of the 20th century. Why? Many American cities had recognized the problem of air pollution in the late 19th century. Consequently they passed ordinances that aimed to abate and control the clouds of smoke emitted from burning coal in industry, heating, and cooking. For example, Chicago and Cincinnati adopted smoke abatement ordinances in 1881.

American Enterprise Institute scholars Joel Schwartz and Steven Hayward document in their 2007 book, Air Quality in America, that emissions of smoke, soot, ozone and sulfur dioxide had been falling for decades before the creation the EPA and the adoption of the Clean Air Act. For example, ambient sulfur dioxide had fallen by 58 percent in New York City during the seven years preceding the adoption of the Clean Air Act. “Air quality has indeed improved since the 1970 passage of the [Clean Air Act] CAA,” they claim. “But it was improving at about the same pace for decades before the act was passed, and without the unnecessary collateral damage caused by our modern regulatory system.”

They attribute a lot of the pre-EPA improvement in air quality to market-driven technological progress and increases in wealth that enabled households to switch from coal to cleaner natural gas for heating and cooking; railroads to replace coal-fired locomotives with diesels; more efficient industrial combustion that reduced the emissions of particulates; and improvements in the electrical grid that allowed power plants to be situated closer to coal mines and further from cities.

Even if the Clean Air Act did not noticeably speed up the rate of air pollution abatement, the air is nevertheless much cleaner than it used to be. How clean? Since 1980 the index for six major pollutants, carbon monoxide, ozone, particulates, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and lead has dropped by 65 percent since 1980. In the meantime, the economy grew more than 150 percent, vehicle miles increased by more 100 percent, population grew by more than 40 percent and energy consumption rose by 25 percent. And yet, a 2016 Gallup poll found that 43 percent of Americans say that they worry about air pollution a great deal.

Childcare idea straight out of science fiction

Source: Advice Goddess Blog

Two Scientifically Clueless Professors Float The Idea Of Genetic Communism: Babies Randomly Assigned To Couples At Birth
At first, you wonder if this is a Swiftian “Modest Proposal.” But, no, these are actual professors writing this and they seem to be doing a genuine muse on — yes, get this: the notion that babies be randomly allocated as a way to end racism.

Of course, this is not going to happen — not without an authoritarian state — but with the erosion of our freedoms on so many angles, and the general lack of interest and lack of interest in doing anything about it, we are at least more pointed in that direction than we’ve ever been.


Rachlin and Franklin wank off thusly at Aeon on the notion of randomly assigned babies as a way to end racism:

You may argue that genetic bias is indelible in human nature. Social mixing would not only disturb the comfort of this fatalistic attitude, but also use genetic chauvinism for ends beyond mere economic equality, providing grounds for a compassion that goes beyond the wellbeing of our immediate families. Since any man might be your biological brother, any woman your biological sister, concern for them would have to be expressed by a concern for a common good.

A second effect of social mixing would be to generate a strong interest in the health and wellbeing of expectant mothers, which would ultimately translate into an interest in the social and biological welfare of everyone. Since any child might end up our own, we would provide the social and educational environments that would best enhance their development. Ghettos and slums would be an eyesore for us all. Poverty, drug, and alcohol addiction are already everyone’s problem, but this fact would be more meaningful than it is now. The child of that addict might be our biological child. Every victim of a drive-by shooting might be a member of our genetic family. Each of us would see the link between our fate and the fate of others.

Third, the superficial connection between colour and culture would be severed. Racism would be wiped out. Racial ghettos would disappear; children of all races would live in all neighbourhoods. Any white child could have black parents and any black child could have white parents. Imagine the US president flanked by his or her black, white, Asian and Hispanic children. Imagine if social mixing had been in effect 100 years ago in Germany, Bosnia, Palestine or the Congo. Racial, religious, and social genocide would not have happened. [Emphasis added – KL]

Fourth, the plan accords with John Rawls’s concept of justice, introducing a welcome element of randomness into the advantages that each child can expect. At the present time, if you are a child of Bill Gates, you will have not only a genetic advantage but also a material one. Under a regime of social mixing, any baby could find herself the child of Bill Gates and enjoy the opportunity of optimally exercising whatever her genetic gifts might be. As for Bill Gates’s biological child, he might find himself the son of a barber, but with his natural genetic gifts he might make the most of a less than optimal educational environment.

There are, of course, many natural objections to this idea. It will be said that one of the joys of marriage is for lovers to see the product of their love. To this we say that the product of one’s love lies not in the genetic production of a human being but in the mutual cultivation of the life of a child. But isn’t it true that either the genetic match between parent and child or a bond formed between mother and child in the womb makes each parent uniquely fit to raise his or her own child and less fit to raise another child? The evidence for such idiosyncrasy is slight. True, adopted children tend to have more mental and physical problems than non-adopted ones. But children are often adopted at relatively advanced ages, after they have formed close attachments with caregivers. Children adopted during their first year are at no disadvantage relative to non-adopted children.

It will be objected that in defusing genetic chauvinism we will be giving up our only secular moral constraint – which translates into the fear that under social mixing people will be as indifferent to their own real children as they are now to the biological children of others. But there are no grounds for such deep pessimism. Look at the behaviour of adoptive parents now, or look at the practice of surrogate motherhood. The many apparently infertile parents who adopt a baby only to have a biological child subsequently do not tend to reject the first child.

It may be objected that under social mixing cultural diversity would disappear. But this would only be true for diversity that depends on the shape of your features and the colour of your skin. This is the kind of diversity that racists wish to maintain. The cultural diversity we care about – of language, food, dress, religion, music, speech – would be preserved no less than it is now.

It may be objected that parents’ desire to have their own biological children is so strong that they would be blind to the public good, that they would have babies and bring them up in secret. But those babies would not have birth certificates, they would not be citizens, they could not vote, serve in public office and so forth. If discovered, the children might be taken away after the strong bonds of psychological (as opposed to biological) parenthood had been formed. Few Americans would risk these penalties.

Note: “Imagine the US president flanked by his or her black, white, Asian and Hispanic children. Imagine if social mixing had been in effect 100 years ago in Germany, Bosnia, Palestine or the Congo. Racial, religious, and social genocide would not have happened.

Dennis Prager has declared John Lennon’s “Imagine” to be the de facto anthem of the left.

Now, this idea has some popularity. Heinlein wrote a couple of novels were babies were raised in “creches”, presumably by experts. The Star Force series imagines that a benevolent leader has been able to persuade the entire human race to give up babies at birth to be raised in “maturias”. There are even real-world examples such as “boarding schools” and fostering out. And of course, there are intentional dystopias such as Brave New World.

The problem is, parents tend to bond to their children very quickly, and anyone attempting to implement such a plan is going to run afoul of a lot of that. A small percentage of people would be sufficiently detached from their children, or desperate enough, to part with their babies, but the rest would object, quite strenuously.

More on the General Effect of Welfare on Wages – Cafe Hayek

Source: More on the General Effect of Welfare on Wages – Cafe Hayek

An answer to the “Walmart Welfare Subsidy” argument.

Here’s a follow-up letter to a correspondent who continues to insist that welfare payments reduce the wages of low-income workers:

Mr. Chris Indovino

Mr. Indovino:

You’re unconvinced by the argument that government welfare payments generally reduce the supply of labor and, thus, cause the wages paid to low-income workers to rise. You write that “if taxpayers are footing a portion of the bill for poor workers to feed and clothe their families employers can get by by paying less to workers on welfare.”

Before I try again to convince you that you’re mistaken, let me acknowledge that there is one form of government welfare in the U.S. that does reduce poor-workers’ wages. That’s the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Because one must work to be eligible to receive the EITC, this program increases the supply of labor and, thus, causes wages to fall. But the typical government welfare program, for which non-workers as well as workers are eligible, reduces the supply of labor and, thus, causes wages to rise.

Here’s why. Suppose you win a billion dollars in a lottery. What happens to your willingness to continue working at your current job? According to the logic expressed in your e-mail, you should now be willing to work for nothing, given that your lottery winnings are now sufficient to pay all of your expenses. But of course you will instead almost surely quit your current job. And if your employer wants to persuade you not to quit, he’ll have to offer you a much higher wage in order to make it worth your while to continue working. (Imagine how you’d react if your employer said to you “I want you to keep working and accept a pay cut to $0 per hour. I don’t have to pay you anything now because your lottery winnings cover all of your expenses.”) Winning the lottery, by reducing the supply of your labor, raises the wage that you must be paid in order to work.

Please don’t mistake me as equating government welfare payments for lottery winnings. They’re obviously different. But they both do reduce the supply of labor and, therefore, they both put upward pressure on the wages that employers must pay to recipient workers. The lottery example is a way of showing that workers do not reduce their wage demands simply because some of their expenses are covered out of non-wage income.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics

This is a follow-up to a previous letter:

Mr. Chris Indovino

Mr. Indovino:

I did indeed read Scot Phelps’s Wall Street Journal letter in which he argues that government subsidization of low-skilled workers’ “housing, food, medical care, and transportation” enables employers of such workers to pay them less than their “true” value. I didn’t respond to it because I had nothing to say about such an economically unmoored argument that I’ve not said in the past. (See also this EconLog post by my colleague Bryan Caplan.) The central economic point is this: the welfare programs to which Mr. Phelps alludes (with the possible exception of transportation subsidies) reduce the supply of labor and, thus, push wages up. Far from employers being subsidized by such welfare programs, employers of workers who receive these government benefits are obliged, as a result, to pay wages that are made artificially high.

But to show just how deeply confused this Mr. Phelps is, let’s pretend that he’s correct to insist that welfare programs artificially reduce wages. Mr. Phelps then asserts that “Failure to pay a living wage gives consumers artificially low prices and increases corporate profits.” Because nearly all employers of low-skilled workers operate in intensely competitive industries such as retail and food service, workers’ artificially low wages would indeed result in artificially low prices for consumer goods, but not in increased corporate profits. The ability to hire workers at artificially low wages would attract new entrants into these markets, as well as cause existing firms to expand their outputs, until the rate of profit earned by employers of these workers is no higher than it would be if wages were higher. That Mr. Phelps is oblivious to this reality is sufficient reason to dismiss his economic analysis.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics

As a commenter noted, welfare doesn’t subsidize work, it competes with it.

The Great Left-Wing Hissy-Fit of 2017

Source: Dissecting Leftism

The article is gated, but this appears to be the full text.

Brendan O’Neill

Has there ever been a tantrum as tinny and irritating as the one thrown by the chattering classes in response to Brexit and Donald Trump? It’s the mother of all meltdowns. The huff heard round the world. A hissy fit of historic proportions.

Children who don’t get their way normally foot-stomp and wail “I hate you” for three or four minutes before collapsing into a knackered heap. The liberal elite has been at it for nine months, ever since Brexit last June pricked the sealed, self-satisfied bubble they live in and reminded them that — brace yourself — there are people out there who think differently.

Brexit and Trump signal the demise of Western liberal civilisation, they sob. Fascism is staggering back to life, they cry. “Boy does this age remind me of the 1930s,” said British politician and historical illiterate Paddy Ashdown about Brexit.

Russia planted Trump in the White House, they yelp, like neo-McCarthyists convinced the Kremlin has commandeered Washington with an evil eye for steering it towards destruction.

Their arguments grow more unhinged every day. Their contempt for ordinary voters intensifies. Their toddler-like search for some evil thing to blame their political troubles on gathers pace.

What we’re witnessing is the rage of the entitled, the fury of a technocratic elite that had come to see itself as the rightful, most expert overseer of politics. They really cannot believe that everyday people, millions of the idiots, have had the brass neck to say: “We don’t like how you do politics. We’re going to try a different approach.”

As with all tantrum throwers, their first instinct is to deflect blame from themselves. “I didn’t do it!” is the cry of the child who did do it, and so it is with the melting old oligarchy.

Seemingly incapable of reasoned self-reflection, unwilling to accept that lots of people are simply rejecting their politics, the chattering class goes on the hunt for some naughty force on which to pin the blame.

It was Russian meddling that swung the election for Trump, they say. Trump is “Putin’s puppet”, apparently. A YouGov survey of Democratic voters in the US found that 50 per cent of them believe Russia “tampered” with vote counts. There’s no proof whatsoever for this. It’s an “election-day conspiracy theory”, in YouGov’s words.

Some even claim that we 17.4 million Brits who voted for Brexit were somehow got at by Putinite masterminds, though they never explain how. British Labour MP Ben Bradshaw says it’s “highly probable” Russia interfered in the EU referendum last June. He’s offered not one shred of evidence for this. But then, we’re no longer in the realm of reason — we’re in a world of tantrums.

As Masha Gessen argues in The New York Review of Books, the “unrelenting focus” on Russia of Western liberals has become a way of avoiding self-analysis. It’s become “a crutch for the American imagination”, a catch-all explanation for “how Trump could have happened to us”. So the problem isn’t that Hillary Clinton and her myriad media cheerleaders failed. It’s that powerful foreign forces meddled with American minds and warped the American political fabric.

The chattering-class tantrum is fuelled by an urge to dodge self-reckoning; by an absolute terror of asking what the old politics was getting wrong.

Some in the meltdown lobby are blaming “bots” — computer programs that pump out pro-Trump or pro-Brexit messages on social media. These sinister machines “changed the conversation”, says Britain’s The Observer newspaper. EU aficionado and one-time rationalist Richard Dawkins goes further, saying “sinister social media bots read minds and manipulate votes”, and apparently this “explains the mystery of Trump and Brexit”. They really are losing it. Another ingredient of temper tantrums is the use of heated language that’s way over the top to the situation at hand. The chattering class meltdown has plenty of this.

Witness the growing reliance on Nazi talk. Protesters against Trump wave placards of him wearing a Hitler moustache next to the words “we know how this ends”. The Archbishop of Canterbury says Brexit and Trump are part of the “fascist tradition of politics”. Prince Charles says the Brexit era brings to mind “the dark days of the 1930s”. Calm down, Charlie.

This casual marshalling of Nazi horrors to demonise Brexit and those Americans who voted for Trump is pretty outrageous. It drains the word Nazi of its historic meaning and turns it into an all-purpose insult, to be hurled at anyone we don’t like. Again, it’s tantrum-like when these people shout “Hitler!” — what they’re really saying is “I’m so angry I could cry”. They’ve turned the Holocaust into an exclamation mark to their fury — an unforgivable abuse of history.

And, of course, all tantrums involve lashing out, as this one does. The levels of antipathy aimed at voters, and at democracy itself, has been extraordinary.

We have failed to “keep the mob from the gates”, says Brexit-fearing columnist Matthew Parris. American writer Jason Brennan has become a favourite of liberal publications in the tantrum era because he wrote a book called Against Democracy and says “low-information white people” should not be trusted to make big political decisions.

American-British conservative Andrew Sullivan frets that the “passions of the mob” have been unleashed. A writer for The Observer says it’s time to smash the “taboo” against saying that ordinary people are often very stupid, and “there are times when their stupidity combines to produce gross, self-harming acts of national stupidity”.

Don’t worry, mate: that taboo has been well and truly demolished, if it ever existed. Post-Brexit and post-Trump, the chattering classes have not been shy in wondering if the masses are too daft for politics.

This is the frenzy of entitlement. The “third way”, pro-EU, Clinton-style technocratic classes that have dominated public life for a couple of decades came to think of themselves as the only people properly cut out for politics.

They insulated the business of politics from popular opinion. They made it all about expertise, not public engagement. Through bureaucratic institutions like the EU, and by giving greater decision-making powers to quangos and the judiciary, they sought to elevate politics far above us, the plebs.

They really convinced themselves that politics was for people like them, for the cool-headed and clever, not for us; not for the poor; not for the ill-educated or those driven by conviction rather than science.

And that’s why Brexit, Trump and other quakes have devastated them so, propelling them into a permanent state of tantrum: because they’d become so aloof and so arrogant, that they started believing no one except their set, their friends, their institutions, could be trusted with deciding the fate of nations.

And guess what? That’s why so many are voting against them. We’re witnessing a revolt of the demos against a political class that thought it could get away with governing from on high and treating people as problems to be fixed rather than as political citizens to be taken seriously. In a beautiful irony, the fact that their response to this revolt has been “Waaaah! How dare you?!” proves the revolt was long overdue.

Socialism Requires a Dictator | Foundation for Economic Education

Source: Socialism Requires a Dictator | Foundation for Economic Education

The idea of communism – the common sharing of productive property and its resulting output – is as old as the ancient Greeks and Plato’s conception of the ideal Republic in which the guardians all live and work in common under the presumption that a radical change in the social institutional setting will transform men from self-interested beings into altruistic servers to some defined needs of society as a whole.

This highlights a fundamental difference in the conception of man in the classical liberal versus socialist worldviews. Does man have a basic and invariant human nature that may be multi-sided and complex, but no less fixed in certain qualities and characteristics? Or is human nature a malleable substance that can be remolded like clay in the sculptor’s hands by placing human beings into radically different social arrangements and settings?

Classical liberals have argued for the former, that human beings are basically what they are: fairly reasonable, self-interested beings, guided by goals of personal improvement and betterment as the individual comes to define those for himself. The social dilemma for a humane, just, and widely prosperous society is how to foster a political and economic institutional order to harness that invariant quality in human nature so that it advances human betterment in general rather than becoming a tool of plunder. The classical liberal answer is basically Adam Smith’s system of natural liberty with its open, competitive, free market order.

Members of what was emerging as the socialist movement in the late eighteenth century and into the nineteenth century argued the opposite. They insisted that if men were selfish, greedy, uncaring and insensitive to the circumstances of their fellow men it was due to the institution of private property and its related market-based system of human association. Change the institutional order in which human beings live and work and you will create a “new man.”

Indeed, they raised to the ultimate human societal ideal, a world in which the individual would live and work for the collective, the society as a whole, rather than only for his own bettered circumstances, presumably at the expense of others in society. Socialism heralded the ethics of altruism.


Changing Human Nature Needs a “Dictatorship of the Proletariat”

But the core conception of the coming paradise-on-earth is that man’s nature could and should be made to change. There are few places in Karl Marx’s writings in which he actually speaks of the institutions and workings of the socialist society that will come after the downfall of capitalism. One is in his 1875 work, Critique of the Gotha Program, the policy agenda of a rival socialist group that Marx strongly disagreed with.

The dilemma, Marx explains, is that even after the overthrow of the capitalist system, residues of the previous system would permeate the new socialist society. First, there would be the human remnants of the now discarded capitalist system. Among them would be those who want to restore the system of worker exploitation for their own ill-gotten profit gains. Equally a problem would be the fact that the “working class,” although freed from the “false consciousness” that the capitalist system under which they had been exploited was just, would still bear the mark of the capitalist psychology of self-interest and personal gain.

Thus, there had to be in place and in power a “revolutionary vanguard” of dedicated and clear seeing socialists who would lead “the masses” into the bright, beautiful future of communism. The institutional means of doing this, said Marx, is the “dictatorship of the proletariat.”

In other words, until the masses, the workers, are freed from the individualist and capitalist mindset that they had been born into and mentally made to act within, they needed to be “reeducated” by a self-appointed political elite that has liberated their minds, already, from the capitalist false consciousness of the past. In the name of the new socialist-era freedom-to-come, there must the reign of a dictatorship made up of those who know how humanity should think, act, and associate in preparation for the full communism awaiting mankind.

At the same time, the dictatorship is necessary to suppress not only any attempts by the former capitalist exploiters to restore their power over the, now, socialized property they used to own. These voices from the capitalist past also must be prevented from speaking their self-serving lies and deceptions about why individual, self-interested liberty is morally right, or that private property serves the betterment of all in society including workers, or that freedom means those “bourgeois” liberties of freedom of the press, or speech or religion or democratic voting. The masses must be brought to, and indoctrinated in, the “true” consciousness that freedom means the collective ownership and direction of the means of production and the selfless serving of society that the socialist revolutionary vanguard in charge knows to be true.

This also explains why the socialist phase of the “dictatorship of the proletariat” could never end in any of the Marxist-inspired revolutionary regimes over the last one hundred years. Human nature is not waiting to be remolded like wax into a new human form and content. Human beings seem generally not be hardwired to be altruistic, selfless eunuchs. Thus, self-interest always rises to the surface in people’s conduct, and if it is to be ethically denied, there must be political force to keep repressing it and trying to constantly extinguish it.

In addition, as long as there were capitalist enemies anywhere in the world, the dictatorship of the proletariat had to be preserved in the socialist countries to assure that the reeducated minds of the workers already lucky enough to live under socialism were not re-infected by capitalist ideas coming in from outside the people’s collectivist paradise. Hence, the “iron curtain” of censorship and thought control in the Marxist parts of the world, in the name of the people over whom the revolutionary vanguard ruled.

Socialist Economic Planning Equals Commanding People

Also, once private enterprise was abolished through the socialization of the means of production and brought under the control and direction of the socialist government, a central economic plan was now essential. If not the profit-motived individual entrepreneurs in directing the private enterprises under their ownership to satisfy consumer demands guided by the competitive price system, then someone must determine what gets produced, where, when and for which purpose and use.

The direction of “the people’s” collectivized means of production requires a centralized plan concerned with designing, implementing and imposing it on everyone for the good of the society as a whole. This means not only lumber and steel must be assigned a use in a particular place in the socialist society, but so must people. Hence, in the communist economies of the twentieth century the state’s central planning agencies determined who would be educated for what skills or expertise, where they would be employed and the work they would do.

Since the state educated you, assigned you work and served as your only employer in that job, the state also determined where you would live; not only in what city, town or village, but what apartment in which government-owned residential building would be made your abode. Recreational facilities, places for rest and vacations, the types of consumer goods to be produced and distributed where and for whom: these, too, were all centrally determined by the socialist planning agencies following the orders of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Not one corner of everyday life – its form, content, quality, or characteristics – was free from the control and determination of the all powerful and all-encompassing socialist state. Its design and attempted implementation was truly “totalitarian.” It may have been Benito Mussolini, the father of fascism, who coined the term, “totalitarianism” as meaning “everything in the State, nothing against the State, nothing outside the State.” But nowhere over the last century was this more insistently, pervasively, and coercively imposed than in the communist countries molded on the model of the Soviet Union as created by Vladimir Lenin and horrifyingly institutionalized by Josef Stalin and their successors.