Very good sentences

In my view, the focus of left-wing attention on trade restrictions is due not to the importance of international trade flows in altering income distribution, but rather springs from different motives: from attempts to hook up some of the energy that for two centuries now has been abundantly focused on nation and cross-connect it to class. As Ernst Gellner wrote, leftists have been faced with what they regard as a historical anomaly in the rise of nationalism, and have reacted by embracing:

[Gellner]: The Wrong Address Theory…. Just as extreme Shi’ite Muslims hold that Archangel Gabriel made a mistake, delivering the Message to Mohamed when it was intended for Ali, so Marxists basically like to think that the spirit of history of human consciousness made terrible boob. The awakening message was intended for classes, but by some terrible postal error was delivered to nations. It is now necessary for revolutionary activists to persuade the wrongful recipient to hand over the message, and the zeal it engenders, to the rightful and intended recipient. The unwillingness of both the rightful and the usurping recipient to fall in with this requirement causes the activist great irritation…

That is from Brad DeLong.


Wouldn't the exact same thing hold for free market types? Substitute Econ 101 for Marxism 101, and the argument is the same: if only they would understand that clinging to an outdated belief in national interest they would realise that outsourcing/TTIP/whatever is what's really in their interest. The lack of understanding on this causes the economist great irritation...

The thing I wish both would get is that, for any activity that affects either a) a large portion of the population or b) a large portion of wealth, political intervention is inevitable.

So instead of waxing poetic about (pick your favorite) lower regulation or higher taxes on the wealthy, they would spend more time analyzing how political opposition forms and co-opts the process.

This is silly.

The question at hand is what poltical action to support, and your answer is "polical action is inevitable".

For the vast majority of economics, the default answer for all problems save a handful around public goods is, "the government should not be involved."

But we know the government will be involved because there are other proximate interests beyond economic growth.

Rather than try to understand these other proximate interests. the profession's general response is "they're wrong."

Confusing. What free market types don't think that outsourcing and trade is in their interest?
it's the economic nationalist like Trump, who are against trade, not the libertarians.

That's what makes the comparison apt. Marxists have their economic orthodoxy anathema to mercantilism, while Capitalists have their own.

I've never met a Marxist who was against merchantilism. Some of the most virulent Marxists I know are completely into the "anti-globalization movement" and were adamant supporters of the 1999 Seattle WTO protests. Occasionally, they will argue that they aren't against free trade, they just think the trade deals are biased in favor of big corporations, but even then, they never propose a better agreement, they just want to kill the trade deals and go back to local national markets. A big part of the reason seems to be they feel those are easier to control.

Part of Communism is an aggressive push for globalization. Workers of the world unite is part of seeing things in terms of classes globally.

As discussed elsewhere this is a theoretical left that exists only in academia. In practice, actual leftists involved in actual politics have always ended up being economic nationalists.
They might be internationalist when it comes to war, but when it comes down to economics, they defend the interests of their national working class.

Not really. The Law of Comparative Advantage is one of the most counter-intuitive concepts in intellectual history. (Along with Special Relativity, the Monty Hall problem, and Godel's Incompleteness Theorem.) Political "consciousness" is nearly always emotionally driven. No mob's going to the barricades for a highly abstract idea that requires a minimum of +1Sigma intelligence and has zero loading on any traditional tribal divisions. The best hope for good economic policies is to make the man on the street less interested, not more.

Good free market policies are best enacted the same way that good Internet protocol policies are enacted. We don't have demagogue politicians riling up hicks in West Virginia and ghetto-dwellers in South Chicago over the relative merits of IPv6 technical standards. These decisions affect everyone who uses the Internet, but the vast majority are no more capable of forming a competent opinion than my dog is about his kidney medicine. Instead we have a body of experts, IETF, that is heavily isolated from the chaos of democracy. Its members are held to rigorously high standards of competence and non-corruptibility. But they have broad leeway to make sweeping decisions without having to justify themselves to blowhard politicians or hysterical mobs.

You just seem to be promoting government by the elite. Which invariably becomes government for the elite, if there's no checks and balances.

The interests of the elites are not whole disjointed to the masses. Nearly everyone wants a peaceful, prosperous and dynamic society. On some margin benefit of giving everyone a seat at the table is outweighed by lowering the intelligence and education of conversation. Everyone pretty much accepts this maxim when it comes to children, lunatics, and the cuddly animals. We still want society to look out for their interests, but recognize that they have nothing to contribute themselves. To a certain degree we also recognize this principle when it comes to certain complex topics far beyond the grasp of the common man. Monetary policy and Constitutional jurisprudence is simply too complex to be decided by popular elections. So we give central banks and the judiciary tremendous leeway and insulation from the normal democratic process.

But as we move further away from the era of hunger, conscript wars, and revolutions, how much do elites really need the masses? If you are a billionaire, why not practice divide-and-rule politics emphasizing issues like transgender rights?

From the New York Times on 2/13/16:

"“If we broke up the big banks tomorrow,” Mrs. Clinton asked the audience of black, white and Hispanic union members, “would that end racism? Would that end sexism? Would that end discrimination against the L.G.B.T. community?,” she said, using an abbreviation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. “Would that make people feel more welcoming to immigrants overnight?”

"At each question, the crowd called back with a resounding no."

One could say that anti-trade politics exists to hide charity and taxes. A wage subsidy is better and probably less costly than limits on competition through trade tariffs and trade barriers and minimum wages but wage subsidy make people feel that they are on charity. A tariff is a tax but it is hidden view and people think it is a tax on foreigners so people support it. Minimum wage, if it succeeds is a tax on consumers of services produced by low wage workers and maybe employers of the same but people do not see that.

You could have just said "technocracy."

"The best hope for good economic policies is to make the man on the street less interested, not more."

Your comment is very interesting, thought provoking, and correct in a lot of ways. But this part I think is incredibly naive. Why would the elite dedicate themselves to trading relations for the benefit of all instead of trying to stack the deck in their own favour?

The man on the street needs to be more informed. He knows his own interest, but perhaps not the best way to represent it. Elites do not suffer from this problem. They know their interest and can (often as small collectives of people with lots of resources) hire teams of lawyers, accountants, lobbyists, advertisers, etc., to represent them in the political process.

How is it counter intuitive when billions of people, almost all of whom are untrained in economics, when left to their own devices, routinely engage in specialization and trade across borders?

No, comparative advantage is not counter intuitive. It is common sense. The models of comparative advantage and the term were devised to overcome the faux intellectualism of self-interested parties whose income was adversely affected by expanded trade.

Economics is common sense made difficult.

That's the hidden hand, not understanding of comparative advantage.

Find me one person who has NOT formally learned comparative advantage and can explain the logic of it. The idea of specialization is obvious. But not the idea that the person who is better in all things can trade with the person who is better in no things and both end up better of as a result of trade.

Isn't it because there are only so many hours in the day?

I also think comparative advantage is "less unintuitive" than most people claim. What am I missing?

I believe it is not intuitive in the sense that you probably don't realize it unless someone exposes you to the idea. It's really not that hard to explain, but it took us nearly the entire history of humanity until someone made the idea explicit. It was so revolutionary that most people who are familiar with the idea even explicitly attribute it to the man who penned it down.

Billions don't engage in trade across borders. The bosses of billions do. The remaining billions focus on the task right in front of them and don't think much about what's happening across the border, or even how the product gets across the border.

If you think standards bodies are "held to rigorously high standards of competence and non-corruptibility", then you were not paying attention to what was going on when, for instance, Microsoft's Open Document Format was put through.

Sorry, but standards bodies, IETF included, are just as prone to politics, incompetence, and corruption as everything else. This isn't even a new thing (read some of Radia Perlman's stories).

Only if one is completely and thoroughly clueless of Econ 101 and Marxism 101. But otherwise, yes, why not. lol

1) Econ is not normative. It's positivist. Marxism is normative. Econ isn't concerned with telling you that if only we do.

2) Econ to be true. Marxism can't show anything to be true, since Marxism is itself grounded on a theoretical foundations that is a) not concerned with demonstrating its validity and b) is demonstrably not valid.

What is Marxism? Some people treat is more as a way of understanding history, the self, society. Some view it as a body of work to support prescriptions for how society should be run. In that sense, "Marxist thought" can be in very strong disagreement with "Marxist political ideology".

Say, study David Hume and Hegel, and then read Marx as an effort to understand how cognition, understanding of self, etc., is related to how we relate to and understand society. In this sense "Marxist thought" doesn't need to be at all related to political ideology. Clearly I'm not talking about the Communist Manifesto, which personally I consider to be a rather unimportant work, a political pamphlet at best along the lines of "I have a dream...". Albeit, historically that is not true because it influenced a lot of people. It is important to bear in mind the political and economic context in which it was written. Things were not good for workers then. There may indeed have been cause for revolution, or at the very least threat of it. Not so in the welfare state, at least most certainly not for the reasons Marx was on to.

Wow. Just when I thought you couldn't get more you are.

Have you

Obviously you haven't. Or maybe you did and just went "mumbo jumbo jimbo jumbo, just like gramma always said...".

I haven't read Das Kapital though, or rather the parts of it he completed. I understand it was quite groundbreaking in a lot of areas of understanding the macroeconomy.

Strange, I too think the idea of a Nation State is going to eventually go away, but I don't at all support the idea or execution of Marxism. I'm waiting on some post-national non-marxist idea to latch onto.

Isn't that idea global open borders free trade capitalism?

I could see something like that happening In the near term (defined as the next 2-300 hundred years), but there are still huge portions of the global population that need to go through their version of the enlightenment, and until that happens and probably long after, it will be necessary to define and police strong borders.

And in the meantime, there are those who are willing to take up the sword against those who promote any such "enlightenment" in their societies.

In understanding the violence in some Muslim countries, for example, even ignoring that foreign intrusions into their domestic politics are unlikely to help most of the time, I see it as a sort of civil war going on in Islam, perhaps not altogether unlike the hundreds of years of war in Europe which saw many parts of the continent free themselves from implicit rule by the Vatican. (And eventually the general ejection of the church from political power.)

"The Singularity is Near!"

Or, perhaps you had something else in mind...

Yeah, how's that "no nation states" idea working out in practice in Europe? Good I hear?

It seems to me that a lot of the anti-EU is not so much an issue of looking beyond nationalism, but disagreement with the human rights and regulatory aspects of the EU.

My guess is that a relevant share of anti-EU people would be quite content to replace it with an even stronger union based on exclusion of non-European people and continentalist trade restriction. What bothers them about the EU is not that it goes beyond the nation, but that it imposes things that they disagree with and think they are more likely to be able to oppose those things at the national level than when up against the entire EU at the same time.

Whether racism or concerns about cultural preservation (i.e., of the specific segment that they belong to, including trying to impose it on others) is the ACTUAL motivating factor, is up for debate and will differ from one individual to the next.

"What bothers them about the EU is not that it goes beyond the nation, but that it imposes things that they disagree with and think they are more likely to be able to oppose those things at the national level than when up against the entire EU at the same time."

Wow. So insightful. Did you hurt yourself thinking of this sentence?

BTW, do you always throw out the racism card on your first move, or do you at least wait to hear out your opponent first? Ahh, who am I kidding.

Anyway, tell me more about the need to expropriate whites in Zim. Cause that wasn't racist at all.

Sorry. I forgot. Racism isn't real. It's just that those other people are inferior. And when they flee war the real motive is a demographic invasion.

I suggest it is "relevant" and offer a non-racism reason for holding similar policy positions. The way you chase shadows ... I recommend not speaking about such things with the people in white coats.

The level of import taxes (tariffs) is not big enough to stem the tide.

Be a good swimmer. Have an infrastructure that makes others you will rely upon be good swimmers too.

To switch the metaphor, we are all in the same boat.

I would say that the summary of all this is basically free trading. If it is not based on income and just trying to gain a profit, then those specific motives allow an individual or group of individuals to revert to bartering or just trading items for items, like how they did before some sort of tender (money) existed.

"Just as extreme Shi’ite Muslims hold that Archangel Gabriel made a mistake, delivering the Message to Mohamed when it was intended for Ali"

That's interesting. Is this an old belief? Is it even true?

is it true that people believe it, not is the belief true.

Why no one fired Archangel Gabriel? Maybe it is really true that "Socialism only works in two places: Heaven where they don't need it and hell where they already have it."

Both Marx and Mohammed concocted mass movements which have wrought unimagined evils. Both men's names begin with "M." Coincidence?

Do you blame Jesus for the Crusades?

Whatever ill might have come from the appropriation of communist propaganda by various general and revolutionaries, Marx's "mass movement" involved all of several hundred people and was basically over before it started.

I'm almost certain, almost, that Marx said something about taking stuff from others and wiping them out in bloody revolutions.

I can't fathom how his words might have been twisted around by those that followed him.

Do you blame Jesus for the Crusades?

You do realize that Jesus was not actually ALIVE at the time of the crusades, right?

He was also an eternally broke nobody at the time he wrote that, with a circulation running in the hundreds.

I get more traffic on my blog in a week than Marx probably got in his whole life. If he knew how things would pan out, I'm sure he would have chosen his words a little more carefully.

I blame Lenin for what Lenin did, Stalin for what Stalin did, and on and on we go. If there had been no Marx, they would have found something else to justify themselves.

Yes Hazel, that's precisely my point. Jesus was not alive at the time of the Crusades. And Marx was not alive at the time of any communist revolution.

The crusades were mostly a pretty reasonable and just enterprise.

This is a myth. Shia do not believe this.

It's not true.

There were, several hundred years ago, a couple of splinter sects of Shiite Islam which believed that. It is not, at all, however, Shiite belief. Extremist or otherwise.

It's like saying "extremist Christians believe that David Koresh is the reincarnation of Jesus". If the Branch Dividians lived 600 years ago. So yes, 100 people believed that.

International trade reduces inequality across countries but raises inequality within countries; absent the very high level of inequality in China (much higher than here), would there be a Singapore. International trade increases inequality within both developed and developing countries, but reduces inequality across developed and developing countries, something few seem to be able to get their head around. It's like the immigration wars considered here last week: sure, there's an immigration surplus, but it inures to the benefit of those who use immigrant labor (lower wages). International trade like immigration shifts wealth upward, a nice result if you already enjoy the high elevations.

I do not believe it is really true that international trade shifts wealth upward, or necessarily leads to increasing inequality within countries. This seems to me to be a very temporary result of having started from a position where you have some very developed countries trading with some undeveloped countries. But what happens when the developed and developing countries begin to converge? What happens when living standards in China begin to approach those in N. America?

Of course, you are stating the ideal. I'm okay with the convergence (not a political popular view) but I'm highly skeptical. China didn't steal manufacturing from America, American companies shifted production to China to take advantage of the cheap labor (and, among other things, loose environmental laws that reduce manufacturing costs). Bad trade deals is, well, BS. What I've learned from living in a union-free, low labor cost state is that there's always someplace else with lower costs. Always. Whether it's the southeast US or China. The operations that were first moved from the northeast to the Southest have long since been shifted to India and China, and will be shifted to places with even lower costs. In other words, convergence is ever elusive. .

Of course, "inequality" is also irrelevant if we're producing everything so efficiently that even the poorest workers can afford a 20th century middle-class lifestyle. Eventually robots will be the cheapest labor, and the actual humans all have white collar jobs.

Rayward, there is an American chauvanism at work behind your statements which you might be aware of.

Asia produces a bigger portion of the worlds goods compared to Ameria than it used. But upi claim that this was somehow a choice made by American companies. In truth, the driving factor is that Asians are now more capable of doing useful stuff than they were in colonial times.

I also can't understand what you mean by "convergence is ever elusive" other than a claim that Asians are forever condemned to be inferior to Americans. Or if you don't mean that, I don't understand how it helps refute Hazel's original point.

Doh! Comment editing!

I meant to say that you might *not* be aware of the American chauvanism. But then then again, you might be.

Convergence will never happen, or more accurately if it happens it won't come from American's staying put and the whole rest of the world being lifted up. Rather, we will sink down to their level.

The % of the population that is above the US poverty line barely moved during 2001-2011. Importantly, the major source of growth over the last several decades have come from high IQ groups/countries that were mired in communism joining the global economy. They've been able to experience catch up growth. China especially is a major source, though the vast majority still live in conditions we would not find acceptable for our own children. This is to a great extent a one time benefit. Most of Asia has terrible TFRs, and much of the West is no better. Meanwhile, the only areas with growing populations are low IQ ones that haven't seen much of any growth in people living at the US poverty rate, let alone a middle class first world living.

Even a country like India, often hailed as a growth story similar to China, has had a whopping 3% of its population reach the US poverty rate. What few seem to realize about India is that while the high caste Indians are high human capital, the vast majority of the country is lower caste and doomed.

It remains an open question if we would ever be able to absorb a country as big as China, but you could at least envision it maybe working out in the long run, the way it worked out with Japan. When you look at the global picture though it seems clear to me that its impossible to lift everyone up to a standard of living anyone in the first world would find acceptable. The human capital just isn't there, and all the low hanging fruit has been picked. If convergence happens, it will happen downward, hence Tyler Cowen saying that the future is Barrios and Beans.

Unless we find a way to replace people with robots. Keep the population from growing. Replace unskilled labor with robots ( I mean gradually over time, not through a mass purge). Technological improvements will eventually catch up and living standards will rise.
We can't do it if we keep generating a never-ending supply of cheap labor via population growth.

Maybe it's temporary. And I think theoretically it's easy to predict because movers and shakers are best positioned to capture much of the gains, especially in the immediate increase in market access. But it is nor clear to me that they would give up such privileges in a way that would complete the theoretical trickle down in an absence of political organization on the part of members of society with fewer economic resources or political connections - are elections enough? Probably not, if the masses are passive.

Did he not get the memo? Leftists abandoned class when it was clear the white working class/union members would not accept communism. It's neither nation nor class now, but race. Otherwise the SWPL hatred of lower class whites makes no sense, nor the celebration of barbarians no matter their class or nationality.

Blacks can even vote, right? Those damn leftists...

Exactly. Leftism is not about class anymore. They figured that out as far back as WW1, actually.

But being a religion of victim-hood, they have found fresh new victims in the gender segregated bathroom stalls of America's universities.

"The 'trannies', Blacks and feminazis are oppressing me," said the guy who is not a believer of the "religion of victim-hood"


It is a hard life, being criticized for lack of respect or outright hate.

Better than being stupid, I suppose.

I get it.

"The entire world is stupid except for me. Also, the whole world is delusional except for me. Basically, I'm a God. I don't even need to open up a book to know I'm right. And I have extensive knowledge about the personality traits across numerous cultures without even ever meeting people from those cultures. As I said, I'm a God."

As I said. I do not recommend speaking to the people in white coats about these things.

Oppressing me? lol

No I'm oppressing them.

The Obama any sex any bathroom anywhere 'guidance' violates title IX as the very introduction of a visibly recognizable man to a woman's bathroom creates a hostile environment. The left is a mash of contradictions and no one has ever accused John L. Of thinking deeply.

I don't agree with DeLong's analysis.

At a practical level, I see no evidence that any significant subset of the left (politicians, activists, think-tankers, academic intellectuals) is thinking in these terms. For going on 100 years now, the framework of nation-states is to political thought like water is to fish: the assumed and rarely noted matrix within which everything plays out.

At a theoretical level, I don't see how disrupting this framework would be conducive to what he vast majority of leftists (in the developed world) want to accomplish. Extending redistributionist principles to a world scale would mean a massive transfer of resources from those leftism's clients (the bottom half of the developed world) to the actually poor (the bottom half of the whole world).

As far as I can tell, both the left and the conservative right are pretty comfortable with the basic nationalist framework. The only political school of thought that could consistently be extended to a world scale is a highly federalist sort of libertarianism.

As someone who has long been aware of the dilemma, his framing does seem weird. If fact, it is weird. We should not frame problems by how the extremes relate to them. That is the meta-problem.

"For going on 100 years now, the framework of nation-states is to political thought like water is to fish:"

The problem is that elites are getting bored with a system that is now working well: thus John Kerry promised new graduates this month a "borderless world," while Bill Clinton told Melbourne business leaders on 9/10/2001 that he believed "in the ultimate wisdom of a borderless world."

Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got
Till it's gone

That's just rich people wishing private jets would clear faster.

An important thing to keep in mind in understanding our inherited ideological categories, which UC Berkeley history professor Yuri Slezkine's 2004 book "The Jewish Century," is illuminating, upon is that around 1900 was the only period in the last 1000 years when there was a large Jewish working class in Europe. So a lot of our handed-down political thought stems from that unusual era when a huge Jewish population boom forced many Jews out of traditional white collar occupations and down into the working class, where many took up socialism. Since then, with the expansion of the economy, Jews in the West have generally bounced back to the economic strata of their distant ancestors, while maintaining an economic self-image and a number of ideological tendencies from the anomalous era of their great-grandparents.

So those darn Jews have somehow been able to cancel out the Yankee Puritan hegemony that gave birth to the American Revolution, the War Between the States, the US version of capitalism and the entry of the US into two world wars.

It's not a mystery to me at all why the left is against free trade. They aren't really internationalist. Their main mode of organization has always been via labor unions which are bound to domestic markets. The labor unions of course oppose trade because it directly threatens their economic interests. Also, the left has always opposed things that increase economic efficiency and eliminate jobs, and competition for jobs, and thus lower wages. Their interest is increasing job security and wages for working class laborers, and they've always opted for trade offs the benefit the working class at the expense of other economic groups.


This seems to be a much simpler explanation than Brad DeLong's explanation. Furthermore, Hazel's explanation has more obvious historical examples to draw from than DeLong's does.

You are probably right about leftists in general, but I suspect De Long is right about Marx, and thus about many Marxists.

Remember that Marx' mission was to bring the "science" of post- Adam Smith economics to the left (and to correct what he fancied were it's Bougeois errors). And Marx was a solid internationalist. I expect he would have approved of Smith's free-traderism, insofar as he could stomach the overal philosopical framework.

Marx thought of captialism as an atavistic precursor to truly organised industry. Thus free trade would have been the (welcome!) capitalist approximation to *globally* organised industry.

Perhaps, but it didn't take long for Marxists to figure out that international trade increased competition between low-wage workers across borders and thus lowered the wages of the proletariat. They have been anti-trade since at least the 1930s.

Right. Trade unions don't work well across cultural lines. Cosmopolitanism correlates closely with wealth and status, so globalism tends naturally to turn into a status marker of the striving.

Right, and besides that, the poor tend to have a natural provincialism. They don't get to travel much, so they are inclined to favor people from their own region and/or nation.

"It’s not a mystery to me at all why the left is against free trade. They aren’t really internationalist."

Yep, the ILO is a right-wing conservative institution...

"The ILO was created in 1919, as part of the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I, to reflect the belief that universal and lasting peace can be accomplished only if it is based on social justice.

The Constitution was drafted between January and April, 1919, by the Labour Commission set up by the Peace Conference, which first met in Paris and then in Versailles. The Commission, chaired by Samuel Gompers, head of the American Federation of Labour (AFL) in the United States, was composed of representatives from nine countries: Belgium, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, France, Italy, Japan, Poland, the United Kingdom and the United States. It resulted in a tripartite organization, the only one of its kind bringing together representatives of governments, employers and workers in its executive bodies.

The Constitution contained ideas tested within the International Association for Labour Legislation, founded in Basel in 1901. Advocacy for an international organization dealing with labour issues began in the nineteenth century, led by two industrialists, Robert Owen (1771-1853) of Wales and Daniel Legrand (1783-1859) of France.

The driving forces for ILO's creation arose from security, humanitarian, political and economic considerations. Summarizing them, the ILO Constitution's Preamble says the High Contracting Parties were 'moved by sentiments of justice and humanity as well as by the desire to secure the permanent peace of the world...'
: "

The reason trade has a bad reputation is conservative economists took the position that
1. Labor is evil because workers take money from the rich and burn it
2. Trade means importing stuff made by starving people and sending back IOUS
3. Pillage and plundering the capital assets of other nations and giving the dictators pieces of paper saying they are extremely wealthy because they own bits of corporations they can't control.
4. Government must print money to fund the ever increasing foriegn illusion of ownership and wealth

Imagine the US and EU destroying all that wealth by nationalizing all assets like the OPEC nations did, or by destroying the economy by eliminating all consumers by finally eliminating all those evil labor costs. That would make the past 50 years almost free to the West by just refudiation of 50 years of promises.

That seems to be the Trump solution.

From the perspective of organized labour, the main function of the ILO is a source of credibility in picking definitions of terms, data relating to their situation, and a point of reference in arguing for labour rights. But those debates as put forward by organized labour almost always happen within national or subnational contexts.

This is like being a discussion about the reformation, in which someone jumps in to discuss the importance of the Independent Order of the Odd Fellows, gives a detailed overview of it's history, asserts that it's existence is a counterpoint to some argument, and then rambles off into some conspiracy theory about how the Free masons were out to get them and suppress their influence.

In other words, what the fuck does the ILO have to do with anything? Only the tiniest fraction of the US left knows or cares about it's existance, certainly not anyone with any actual political influence.

Simple as that.


Marxists basically like to think that the spirit of history of human consciousness made terrible boob -

Uh... I have zero idea what this is supposed to mean

You obviously haven't read enough Hegel.

Heh. This is really annoying though. I went back to Gellner's original, and the incoherent wording is there. Didn't stop DeLong from slapping it in his post, or Tyler either. One would think that when excerpting a specific passage, the excerpter is drawing attention to a specific and important point being made.

Or maybe the spirit of history of human consciousness really did make terrible boob.

I thought it should have been booboo, which makes the Really Good Sentences a lot more enjoyable. I think Gellner was writing a parody of academic argle-bargle.

I thought it was "make terrible boob" in a kind of comedic way, as if the spirit of history of human consciousness was like a cat in a LOL cat's meme standing above the world divided into nations going "lulz, I make boob".

[boob] Slang.

1. a stupid person; fool; dunce.
2. British. a blunder; mistake.

verb (used without object)
3. British. to blunder.

Gellner was Anglo-Jewish-Czech, rather like Tom Stoppard. In fact, Gellner was a fan of Stoppard and if you told me the second paragraph above was from Stoppard's play putting down Lenin, "Travesties," I'd probably believe you.

Here's one of the monologues from Stoppard's "Travesties:"

Fine. Under the most charitable view I can muster, we have:

"Marxists basically like to think that the spirit of history of human consciousness made terrible blunder".

See? This doesn't do much for me in terms of coherence. Still not seeing this as anything remotely like a "very good sentence", let alone on the same plane as Stoppard, who, while difficult at times, really did write lots of very good sentences. Pretty sure Gellner is trying to operate in conventional prose here anyway, rather than one of Stoppard's literary flights.

H.L. Mencken notably mentioned the booboisie.

Seems very unlikely. Trade issues are awkward for the internationalist left, because the easiest way to frame them is as a competition between workers in different countries. How the internationalist left would really prefer to discuss the issue is as the workers in all of these countries being united against the global capitalist class, but we don't see that framing much because the internationalist left is pretty marginal. What has a lot more power (if still fairly marginal in the scheme of things) is the national based left, which is just speaking up for the interests of its constituents in whatever country. American labor unions like trade restrictions not because of some cross-national class consciousness, but because they accurately see them as being a bad deal for their members, regardless of any other positive or negative consequences, and that's what they care about.


The sense in which it can be very consistent is in the view that if they can promote improved rights of labour in poorer countries, then there is less ability of "global capitalists" to undermine labour positions in wealthier countries. It should be expected that most capitalists will have a strong interest to discredit or otherwise oppose this.

Whether one line of thinking or promotion of interests is a good thing or not is, I think, an altogether different question.

But that's really all so much rationalization, because the left never actually advocates adding labor rights to trade deals. They merely oppose trade deals. They are happy to just NOT have trade with foreign competitors. Agitating about the labor rights in poorer countries merely serves as an excuse to be against trade, which is what they really care about.

Hard to say. Labour is never invited to trade talks and media rarely reports on what they say. I think you're correct about rank and file, but I think if you got top union folks at the table they would be very big on expanding labour rights in other countries as their main demand (in addition to longer phase-in periods and exclusions for certain sectors, but since the unions who represent those large industries have the same interests as the American producers, e.g. GM, I don't think that's hugely relevant).

"The awakening message was intended for classes, but by some terrible postal error was delivered to nations."

Accepting this, rather than fighting it, is exactly how Mussolini lead the Italian Socialists to Fascism.

And you will notice that Bernie Sanders has one of the most nationalistic flavors of 'socialism' out there ...

Don't we get some credit for discussing the trade-off fairly early at MR?

Of course my recollection is that (even here) the reality of "good for them, bad for our middle class" hit home after it happened, and that morality was invented somewhat after the fact.

I definitely was not packaged in the way it turned out. It was marketed as "aggregate gains" with an assumption that trickle down or expanded market access would improve everyone's situation. Or in cases where it was acknowledged that there would be some losers, the theoretical ability to redistribute gains towards losers was proposed in theory, completely absent from any significant actual plan to do so.

I haven't yet scan the the OP for full stops. But if any TWO paragraphs of such length can be a sentence, then it cannot be a *good* sentence.

Ernst Gellner's point doesn't really make a whole lot of sense to me. Marxists have been, at least since Lenin, putting the nation-state and nationalism at the center of their analysis, which should hardly be a surprise given that it was the competing nationalisms of World War I that broke the Second International. Nationalism is seen as a by-product of both global capitalism (via its drive to divide the working class and thus enable increased rates of exploitation and decreased rates of labor organizing) *and* the right-wing reaction to capitalism's disruptive tendencies.

But in terms of how American leftists think of trade and protectionism, we should bear in mind that there isn't much of a real Marxist American left; like somebody above pointed out, much of the organized "left" is largely composed of mainstream trade unions who are pursuing their own rational self-interest.

"In my card-carrying neoliberal view, policies in the Global North to restrict trade (or restrict immigration either below or at rates not far above current ones!) would do relatively little to improve the domestic distribution of income and impose great harm on development prospects in emerging markets. "

If the US and EU banned all fossil fuel imports while allowing any exports that can be made to happen, this would greatly reduce income inequality inside the US and would not cause any greater harm to global pillage and plundered nations than oil falling from $80 to $20 a barrel, and the US and EU not importing would make job killing energy cheater for the developing world where millions are unemployed and cheap imported oil will allow them to live narginally better on welfare from the US and EU for job killing cheap oil producing billions of varies of cheap grains shipped into developing markets to kill the incomes of small farmers.

If the high cost of energy in the US and EU made exported food twice as expensive, developing nation farmers might be able to make some money selling crops they grow. That would be even better if the higher priced food commodities led to China et al paying developing nations a bit less to sell them food.

In addition to banning oil imports, we should also ban exports of food and manufactured goods. This will really enable developing nations farmers and manufacturers to make money and create jobs for developing nations workers.

Cute but I disagree. Big liberalism wants substantial national control over markets and they can't do that in the face of competition. Can't have wages being bid down, but if you restrict competition in exchange for higher wage levels and agree to use national resources to buy up what is now internationally non competitive, you will have a Rooseveltian nirvana. Or something. Point is, they want to control wealth generating and allocating institutions through some kind of something that smells more like democracy. Hence all the "unaccountable business" this and that.

Exactly. Since when as the left favored free trade? Not for around 100 years.
They want national control over markets, which free trade prevents
They want to restrict competition for unskilled labor, which free trade increases.
They've been paranoid about "multi-national" corporations and how terrible it is that they transcend national boundaries and escape government control for at least 40 years.

He's about as wrong as it gets. While there are many reasons why he is wrong, besides the fact that Leftism is not class-based and hasn't been class-based since about 1920...he's wrong simply on the grounds of evidence.

1) Some of the most nationalistic defenders of nation states etc...are Leftist. They're not the Leftists Brad runs into in the bathroom stalls of UC Berkeley...but then he should have limited his definition to them. They're the Leftists of the Stalin, Mao, Kim The First, Second and Third, Marshall Broz Tito, Enver Hoxha, Pol Pot, Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez etc.

All the historical sense of the word...not the American progressive definition of the term...are hyper-nationalists and base their identify on the existence of the nation state.

Experimentation with trying to tie identity to the "proletariat class" ended somewhere around the Summer of 1941 ;) , when the leaders of the Soviet Union and the ComIntern figured out that they weren't going to motivate Russian muzhiks to kill German soldiers by appealing to their class origins, sine the German soldiers were also of the same class origin.

Motherland...become the rallying cry of the ComIntern.

We saw the fierce nationalism and squashing of...minority ethnic the driving force of communism in the 20th century. The whole point of Tito's Yugoslavia was to impose a new nation-state identity on ethnic groups which did not want to belong to it. Appeals to class didn't work...since there was no proletariat class to begin with. There were peasants, and monarchies.

We saw the nation-state, and the self-reliance of the main ideological driver for most communist dictatorships in the 20th century. Hoxha's Albania, Ceausescu's Romania, Kim's North Korea, Mao's China, Castro's Cuba, Chavez's Venezuela, Mugabe's Zimbabwe...etc etc. They certainly had no class appeal, since there was no proletariat class in any of these places. They whole appeal was the nation state.

2) Even in the cases where Leftists claim otherwise, such as when we expand the definition of "Leftist" to include the American progressive types and not simply the Marxist types...the focus is still on nation-state, and at the lowest level...ethnicity and race.

Anti-Imperialism, by definition, is based on the concept of a nation-state. Otherwise there's no point in opposing American involvement in Vietnam, if in fact the unit of "Vietnam" did not hold a meaning.

And of course this extends to the race and ethnicity levels of analysis, which become the main levels of analysis of the Western Leftists (American progressives, Eurocommunism etc.)

3) Leftists, of the American Progressive and Eurocommunist type, may indeed appear to be opposed to the notion of nation-state. But in reality they are only opposed to the existence of...America and European countries. They're certainly not opposed to the notion that Mugabe ought to ethnically cleanse whites and create a black nation-state in Africa, free and clear from any foreign interference.

They are certainly not opposed to the notion that one of their fellow Leftists, Slobodan Milosevic...ought to be free and clear to carry out ethnic cleansing and genocide within his own country, free from external influence, due to the fact that Serbia is a nation state. If it's a Leftist nation state, then it's a good nation state. :)

So Brad, is just plain wrong.

One of the many interesting gems in Anthony Beevor's WWII was - with the Germans racing toward Moscow - Stalin's rapid switch from class warrior to fervent nationalist who evoked the memory of pre-communist heroes.

He also had little interest in nurturing communist revolutions in post-war Western Europe, and was planning instead a Soviet invasion into France, Denmark and Italy with 400 divisions. The invasion was canceled when the US detonated their first nukes.

Drifting further and further away here, but Stalin also reportedly told Beria that he could have had all of Europe if the gullible Roosevelt hadn't died.

I don't know how anyone can look at the evidence of 20th century communism/socialism/leftism and not think that these are movements which are primarily concerned with the existence of the nation state, or focused on ethnic/racial divisions.

Brad, and observers like him, have only experienced the dips**tery of UC Berkeley, and think that that represents Leftism. Those are just dips**ts, not Leftists.

It's stunning really how a movement that's responsible for the most death and destitution in human history still manages to remain popular. But here it is, even now in America, with Sanders getting the support of half of Americans at the same time Venezuelans are starting to eat rats and pigeons.

We're always one minor asteroid - or several elections - away from erasing 1000 years of progress.

The default state of humanity is Bernie Sanders.

"away from erasing 1000 years of progress"

Oh I'm pretty sure we've gone beyond that point. Your 1,000 years of progress is universally reviled as 1,000 years of western imperialism, chauvinism and the precious prancing flowers of UC Berkeley.

It's not clear to me at which point universal health care and free university leads directly to Gulags, mass starvation and widespread killings. It certainly didn't go that way in Europe or Canada.

Did I miss the part where Sanders proposed a command and control economy with a central planning board and a Stasi/Gestapo supported by the ready and willing NSA, CIA and FBI (who are sure to be compliant in following orders from left wingers)?

Canada does not have free university.

Many European countries formerly had free university. I was not completely explicit in all the permuations and combinations among the dozens of countries in the group I referred to, none of which descended into Stalinism.

It's the road to serfdom, Troll. The gulags come after people establish black markets dealing in trade without the 'common sense' regulations or are subversive to the government. Imagine a drug war in which the individuals involved are politically despised.

40 divisions.

Not 400.

"The Soviet Union possessed 400 experienced divisions, ready to bound forward like tigers. It was calculated that the whole operation would take no more than a month."
- The Second World War, Antony Beevor, p.765.

Re: Zimbabwe. Speaking with former white landowners (and I was there at the time that pressures for redistribution were heating up enormously), you would find that there was a rational and ethical understanding that it simply wasn't fair that white colonists owned large amounts of land, and the best land at that, and that some means of redress and land redistribution was in fact necessary. However, they were trying to do things slowly in a way to find how not to lose too much, and Mugabe was in a rush to just intimidate them all out of the country.

In the process, they lost basically anyone with experience in managing farm and business operations. The non-whites would say "we farmed the land before, so clearly we can farm the land now". Which is true, but they had no experience in modern agricultural operations or management techniques of any sort.

I do not think that, if you give some reflection of the situation, that you can sincerely argue that any leftist ideologues would have supported the (violence-prone but not very deathly) cleansing of whites from Zimbabwe. Rather, that at least a degree of land redistribution was needed.

"I do not think that, if you give some reflection of the situation, that you can sincerely argue that any leftist ideologues would have supported the (violence-prone but not very deathly) cleansing of whites from Zimbabwe"

Uhhh...nice troll guy.

What time was that. This shits been going on since the 1970s in Zimbabwe.
They distributed land from the while colonists to the black farmers. The blacks proceeded to mismanage it, leaving the soil quality destroyed, and leaving the remaining productive land in the hands of the while colonists. Repeat ad nauseum until there weren't any white colonists left.

Yield was low because they don't know modern farm management techniques.

The productive land was in the hand of the colonists because that was the land they took for themselves. In conversations with white farmers in Zim in 2001, this was the basis upon which they understood that further redistribution was fair. But the political context was one where genuine negotiation was not possible, and they were all checking the family history books for ties to Europe to make sure they had a getaway backup plan - not all were so lucky.

Mugabe was elected in 1987. They had already been through a couple of rounds of redistribution by 2001. Mostly to Mugabe's cronies. Mugabe's people just moved the goal posts and said that the remaining good land also had to be redistributed because, lo and behold, the white farmers were still being more productive so therefore "obviously" the best land was still in their hands.

My view comes straight from the mouth of the white farmers who still held that land. Reluctantly, they understood the situation in 2001 to be a relic of unfair colonial history. I doubt they were self censoring in a discussion with a nobody Canadian. They didn't want more redistribution, but understood that the demands were not without merit.

However, the way things transpired were not fair for anyone involved, especially considering that it basically amounted to the removal of an experienced managerial class (which had extremely little political clout, and so could hardly be accused of being "the elite who screw everyone" or any such thing).

I agree that Mugabe moved goal posts. But my experience is that the new goal posts were deemed as having merit by the people who would be negatively affected by them, no matter that they did not like them at all.

What was clear, however, was that the actual goal was to completely remove the white colonists, with no consideration for what this would mean for the economy. The farmers I spoke with at that time accurately predicted that it would all end up .. more or less as it did. Some were definitely racist and believed that no black man in any situation could ever successfully manage anything, but others were more along the lines of "these people are uneducated and have no experience in these operations - famine is a certain outcome".

What is most commonly missing from the story is the Shona/Ndebele dimension to the conflict. Shona are from the north, and are more in control of government. Ndebele got it worse than the whites. Whites got beat up, otherwise intimidated, etc. Ndebele suffered some documented major massacres.

You could have written your last sentence first, and then stopped there. :)

George Orwell wrote an excellent essay on nationalism and leftism in 1945:

Thiatis a superb link. Thanks for sharing. Chock full of very good sentences.

By my reading, what Orwell calls 'nationalism' corresponds to the definition of 'tribalism' in current discourse. Does that sound right to you?

"They are certainly not opposed to the notion that one of their fellow Leftists, Slobodan Milosevic…ought to be free and clear to carry out ethnic cleansing and genocide within his own country"

This is a pretty good example of the No True Scotsman fallacy. It is a matter of public record that Bernie Sanders, for instance, supported military action against Milosevic at the time. The "Leftists" you talk about don't include Bernie Sanders, the hippies of Berkeley and certainly not a large number of mainstream liberals and human rights activists who are on record opposing the things you ascribe to leftists. You are left with an arbitrary group that perhaps includes members of the Communist Party plus a few contributors to the New Statesman and... not very many others.

Hence...Leftism is everywhere, in practice...a nationalism and racism based religion.

Is that a sincere argument? I thought the big hate on for the left was that they are OK with non-white people immigrating.

Occam's Razor: leftists desire total control. They oppose anything that threatens total control. They embrace anything that facilitates total control.

No egg-headed red herrings from a third-way economist /ideologue are necessary.

Purity of Essence, Willitts. Purity of Essence.

And that's how we all know that leftists control the NSA, CIA, FBI and US Army. Who routinely support left-wing governments worldwide and promote left-wing revolutions and coups.

Not only does the left want total control. It already has it. COINTELPRO was a false flag against leftists to make it look like a right wing conspiracy to destroy the left when, surely, the precise opposite was happening from the inside, no? Surely, nothing has changed since those days.

Not a completely sincere argument. But I actually believe that this is basically what's up with at least some share of well-emedded people in hidden places of high influence. Of the sort who are basically Nazi socialists, but whose hate on for the poor, the homeless, etc., in the present political climate leads them to automatically be classified with the extreme right, whereas some such types may in fact be Nazi communists, for all intents and purposes, striving towards a command and control corporate fascist economy where absolute surveillance is used as a means of achieving that command and control. And because they want to use eugenics against the poor, we stupidly classify them on the right.

Which might seem a rather credible concern if you knew about "Operation Paperclip", which brought over a large number of Nazi psychiatrists, doctors, scientists, under full protection after WWII: (And meanwhile, some guy who was a guard at Aushwitz, the lowest of the low in the ranks, at 90 years of age was sent to prison ... while the worst of the worst were offered full protection, good jobs, etc., and moreover almost certainly were allowed (encouraged?) to continue on with their Nazi research).

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