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Apr-07-2009 08:34printcomments

Conservative Dilemma 2

The story so far…

Adam Smith
Adam Smith was a Scottish moral philosopher and a pioneer of political economy. One of the key figures of the Scottish Enlightenment, Smith is the author of The Theory of Moral Sentiments and An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. Courtesy:

(CALGARY, Alberta) - The conclusion from Part 1, for those who understood the argument and did not get sidetracked with the emotion of ideology, is: Conservatism is an opinion, based on assumptions. For liberalism it is the same. (see: The Conservative Dilemma - Political Perspective by Daniel Johnson

The ideological conflict between the two worldviews and the source of partisanship arises from one single assumption—a belief in absolutes. In such a psychological situation, for one side to be right everyone else must be wrong.

One commenter wrote:

‘It's all about individual liberty and economics man. Conservatives don't believe in the collective. The bible says thou shalt not kill. (there is no disclaimer for fetuses or overseas brown people) The problem with "liberals" is that they have an intense hatred and disregard for our God given freedoms and the Constitution.”

Several assumptions here. “God given freedoms”. Not everyone believes in the God to whom the commenter refers. If there is no “God” then where to freedoms come from? “Individual liberty and economics” are also matters of opinion. I’ll discuss economics now, and other assumptions in subsequent pieces.

So, prove that there is a god, and the conservative opinion becomes a fact; this is a sensitive point with conservatives.

When Einstein became an American citizen in 1940, there were those who were vigorously against it. In a book titled The Fifth Column in our Schools a contributor said: “If Albert Einstein is right and there is no personal God, then America is founded on fable and falsehood. If there is no God then the citizen has no God-given rights. Then all the rights set forth in the Constitution are sham and delusion. If man has no Creator, then our fathers fought for a lie; then the rights of citizenship are based on a lie. Then Professor Einstein has subscribed to a lie, in the very act of pledging allegiance to a form of government which—according to his philosophy—is founded on a lie.”

And, incidentally, conservatives do believe in a collective. They just give it another name.

But, to proceed…

If conservatives have a common hero, it’s the 18th century moral philosopher and political economist, Adam Smith. He wrote one of the most famous, unread books in the world, Wealth of Nations, published in 1776. Smith is also considered by most to be the father of modern capitalism.

Smith is also misread and misunderstood. Everyone knows that his idea of the Invisible Hand is at the basis of so-called free market economics. This is behind the idea of homo economicus—economic man. Part of his idea is correct. We are guided in our choices by self-interest. But self-interest goes far beyond pecuniary matters. In your own life, recall how many times you have been motivated by other emotions or, if money was involved, you chose less money based on other considerations.

In the US only about 13% of workers are union members—down from a high of 20% in 1983. But there is a significant skew, in that 38% of government employees are union members compared to only 9% in the private sector.

In 2001, full-time wage and salary union members in the US had median weekly earnings of $718, compared with a median of $575 for wage and salary workers not represented by unions—25% higher! Half of the 16.3 million union members in the U.S. lived in six states—California, New York, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania; these states accounting for only 35 percent of wage and salary employment nationally. North Carolina and South Carolina had the lowest union participation rates—both below 5%

If people can earn 25% more by being in a union, why isn’t there more union membership? This is where ideology comes into play. People are willing to make less money but feel independent and free. The joke is on them.

Of course, with the current economic meltdown, these numbers will change; and for workers, not for the good.

Jared Bernstein, a former Clinton advisor wrote in the preface to his book, Crunch: Why Do I Feel So Squeezed? (And Other Unsolved Economic Mysteries): “Economics has been hijacked by the rich and powerful, and it has been forged into a tool that is being used against the rest of us.”

This was something Smith was well aware of.

Adam Smith: “All for ourselves, and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind. As soon, therefore, as they could find a method of consuming the whole value of their rents themselves, they had no disposition to share them with any other persons…as soon as the land of any country has all become private property, the landlords, like all other men, love to reap where they never sowed.”

The Gini index is a measure economists use to gauge income distribution over a society. A value of 0 means income is equally distributed in a society; a value of 1 means all the income goes to one person. In Smith’s day, the Gini Index would have been very high. In the 1801 census, Great Britain had a population of about nine million people. At the very top, the 287 peers of the realm (representing a few thousand people) received 29% of the national income.

In the U.S. over the last half century the Index was at a low of .348 in 1967. It rose moderately over the next decade and in the early 1980s (the Reagan Revolution) began a more rapid rise, hitting .426 in 1994 and continued to rise to .450 in 2007. Contrary to what the brainwashed believe, the Reagan Revolution was on behalf of the rich, not the conservative working class.

In 1961, Mercury astronaut Gus Grissom was interviewed on the radio and asked how he felt as the rocket was launched. He said: “How would you feel, taking off, sitting up there on top of fifty thousand parts, knowing that every one had been let to the lowest bidder?” The interview was broadcast only once before NASA arrived and confiscated the tape. The astronauts were forbidden, in future, to speak so candidly in public. Like the old Western ballad—“and nary was heard, a discouraging word.”

Archie commented, in part: “Unions are not the creators of the middleclass. Many occupy that class financially, but they are now part of the problem that is destroying the economy, for example the auto industry. Why should members of the UAW get taxpayer bailout funds…”

Good question, Archie. From a particular point of view, the UAW can be seen as part of the problem, but it’s a false perspective. The workers bear no responsibility for the automaker’s plight as they had no role in auto industry decision making since the oil shocks of the early 1970s. In a free enterprise system (you believe in free enterprise, don’t you Archie?) it was expected that they would always bargain for the highest wages. But, as Adam Smith noticed:

“Our merchants and master-manufacturers complain much of the bad effects of high wages in raising the price, and thereby lessening the sale of their goods both at home and abroad. They say nothing concerning the bad effects of high profits. They are silent with regard to the pernicious effects of their own gains. They complain only of those of other people.”

Unions give some measure of power to workers in the marketplace. The 20th century history of unionism in America is one of violence, bloodshed and death. Many lives were destroyed, figuratively and actually, to give unions recognition in modern society. Still, conservatism has brainwashed mainly people into believing that unions are anti-American and somehow linked to communism. How the lower ranks of conservatism have been persuaded to act against, not only society, but their own best interests is a sad story in itself.

Smith: “The master can choose his man, but most men cannot choose their master. The master can afford to wait, he is not dependent on this man or that. But, the man must have his job—he cannot wait. In the long run the workman may be as necessary to his master as his master is to him, but the necessity is not so obvious.”

“The masters, being fewer in number, can combine much more easily; and the law, besides, authorizes, or at least does not prohibit their combinations, while it prohibits those of the workmen.”

Adam Smith, were he alive today, would not be a conservative.

Daniel Johnson was born near the midpoint of the twentieth century in Calgary, Alberta. In his teens he knew he was going to be a writer, which is why he was one of only a handful of boys in his high school typing class—a skill he knew was going to be necessary. He defines himself as a social reformer, not a left winger, the latter being an ideological label which, he says, is why he is not an ideologue. From 1975 to 1981 he was reporter, photographer, then editor of the weekly Airdrie Echo. For more than ten years after that he worked with Peter C. Newman, Canada’s top business writer (notably a series of books, The Canadian Establishment). Through this period Daniel also did some national radio and TV broadcasting. He gave up journalism in the early 1980s because he had no interest in being a hack writer for the mainstream media and became a software developer and programmer. He retired from computers last year and is now back to doing what he loves—writing and trying to make the world a better place

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Daniel Johnson April 13, 2009 9:11 pm (Pacific time)

Daniel: You've lost me. I have no idea what point you're trying to make. This series is about the univeral harmfulness of conservatism as a philosophy and nothing to do with whether Einstein was an atheist or not.

Daniel April 13, 2009 8:37 pm (Pacific time)

It is clear Einstein saw thru the limits of dogma . It is also clear he saw an intelligence to the cosmos concluding it " reveals an intelligence of such superiority that compared with it all systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignficant reflection " . The great Carl Sagan stated vedic cosmology is the only one in which the time scales correspond to those of modern scientific cosmology .

Daniel April 13, 2009 7:28 pm (Pacific time)

Daniel J Einstein meet with vedic mystic Rabindranth tagore four times in Berlin in 1930-31 please read . Julius Robert Oppenheimer acquired a deeper knowledge of the vedas when he studed sanskrit at Berkley , he gave gitas to his friends as gifts . In 1963 he listed the gita and satakatrayam as two of the most influential books on his life . In 1896 Swami Vivekanda wrote about his exchange with Tesla . He writes Mr tesla was charmed to hear about the vedantic prana and akasha and the kalpas which according to him , Tesla , are the only theories modern science can entertain . The Swami also meet with Lord Kelvin and professor Helmholtz .

Daniel April 13, 2009 6:10 pm (Pacific time)

Daniel J you like many confuse Einsteins rejection of dogma as being an Atheist .Another Einstein quote from april 1955 , from James B Simpson ,My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to percieve with our frail and feeble minds . Daniel J please read Srimad Bhagavatam with a open mind and heart to have a better understanding .Daniel J your statement that you can assure me that Einstein never heard of the vedeas is pure nonscence , you have no knowledge on this please research .

Daniel Johnson April 13, 2009 4:43 pm (Pacific time)

Daniel: I'm staying with what Einstein wrote in 1954 a few weeks before his death, to Gutkind in my Apr 11, 947pm comment. Your quotes, with which I am familiar, are taken out of context and misinterpreted.

Daniel April 13, 2009 8:25 am (Pacific time)

Daniel J two Einstein quotes , The common idea i would be an atheist is based upon a great error. who reads it out of my scientific theories has hardly understood them . Science without religion is lame , religion without science is blind .

Henry Ruark April 12, 2009 8:36 am (Pacific time)

To all: Classic economists follow precisely the pattern laid out both neatly and nicely by D.J. Solid background easily found in Heilbroner's The Worldly Philosophers, famed book updated constantly from creation decades ago, widely used in Econ 101 ever since its initial appearance. Cognitive science has far outsped economics re human behavior,learning process, all levels, kinds, types,modes and applications of motivating factors. See Peter Drucker for commonsense reduction to basic management principles winning him fame for inventing management as we now know it. Re economics: Standing joke is "Ask economist how to open a can of soup, and he will reply: "First assume a can-opener." We delude ourselves to use economics for more than it can bear; it is highly useful way to assume some information, but the knowledge we must have MUST come from human behaviors --as current once-in-century worldwide economic crisis now proving for all economies, vulnerable to many unknown anomalies undiscovered as the world turns, twists, develops and spins --no pun ! Example: ECONOMIST, famed worldwide journal, estimates TWO BILLION new families now joining middle-class in their own economies, delayed by this crisis but continuing. THAT fact alone changes the entire "assumed" ball-game, esp. for "classic" economists working from 80-year-old theories-then, disproven by world events ever since.

Daniel Johnson April 11, 2009 11:30 pm (Pacific time)

WhyDoes:If you think that economics is a "science", you have a bit of catching up to do. Most social scientists believe that human behavior is complex, contradictory, imperfect and unpredictable. Economists, however, use a model of human behavior called Homo economicus, who is endowed with perfect (or abnormally high) rationality, self-interest and knowledge. Besides the obvious fact that humans aren't perfect, the model suffers from other basic problems. Humans are ultimately driven by their emotions, not their logic, and emotions are often irrational. Nor are humans 100 percent self-interested. They perform altruistic acts like charity, volunteerism, lending a helping hand, parenting and even giving one's life for one's country. They also perform self-destructive acts like substance abuse, negative addiction, negative risk-taking, procrastination, inability to complete projects, masochism, and suicide. Nor are people highly knowledgeable about all their affairs; they can be expert in only a few topics at a time. The reasons why economists use such a flawed model as Homo economicus is because it makes their economic analysis simpler and allows them to generate results that confirm their pet prejudices. Such methodology, however, leads to inaccurate conclusions.

Daniel Johnson April 11, 2009 9:47 pm (Pacific time)

Daniel: Let me assure you that Einstein had never heard of Bagavatum. How Einstein developed his theories is well documented. I recommend Walter Isaacson’s excellent 2007 biography “Einstein: His life and universe” Einstein did not believe in a higher intelligence and you have misinterpreted his “dice” quote. “God” is a term that physicists use to refer to the cosmic order they studied and it has no reference to a supernatural deity of any type. Einstein was an atheist. In a letter to the Jewish philosopher Eric Gutkind he states: "The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this." On being Jewish he wrote: "For me the Jewish religion like all others is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything 'chosen' about them."

WhyDoes April 11, 2009 2:25 pm (Pacific time)

Everyone in the universe have to be involved? Can we just focus on planet earth for now? Everyone's off topic jumping back and forth between cosmic science and philosophy and social policy at your argument's convenience. I think you are not thoroughly "gormed" enough in the science of economics to intellectually cash the checks your mouth write re: economics. If this wasn't the case, you would understand that our monetary system is at fault for our financial instability and basic individual lack of wealth for all. Fractional reserve banking isn't helping either. To let you tell it, all of our problems stem from those evil things called "profits". You are simply promoting class warfare at it's most primitive levels, not gorming the real problem.

TheSunWillRise April 11, 2009 2:01 pm (Pacific time)

In the east tomorrow morning. That is not an absolute? What about all living creatures in the world will ingest H2O in the next month. Why aren't these absolutes?

Mosher (Combat vet) April 11, 2009 12:18 pm (Pacific time)

Einstein and gravity? Were these Americans?  I never heard of Mr. Gravity, but the other guy was amazing.

Daniel April 10, 2009 5:04 pm (Pacific time)

Make that srimad Bagavatam third canto chapter 11 on atomic time on 5th canto

Daniel April 10, 2009 4:50 pm (Pacific time)

Daniel J the 1905 understanding was based upon Alberts reading and understanding of srimad bagavatum 5th canto on atomic time , please read and research to understand this wisdom .My understanding is Albert E believed in a higher intellegence controling the known and unknown . his statement that god did not throw the dice supports this .Your presentation do not in any way support your statement ,we have known from Einstein there are no absolutes nor does it prove in any way there is no god .It may prove it to your mind but not to mine . This makes your presentation only personal opinion .

Daniel Johnson April 10, 2009 4:17 pm (Pacific time)

Dan Brindel: "All of what Einstein proffered was theory" Few people understand what Einstein actually did. His two theories of relativity are verified every day through your GPS. The GPS (Global Positioning System) works because equations from both relativity theories are built into the satellites’ positioning calculations to determine Earth-based positions. GPS satellites are the primary elements of a system that must be accurate to within 50 billionths of a second/day to be of practical use. Without relativistic corrections, GPS positioning would exceed its allowable error in less than two minutes. Relativistically uncorrected, earth-based positions, would be off by ten kms after only one day.

Henry Ruark April 10, 2009 3:57 pm (Pacific time)

Dan B: Sir, do you presume to attempt any negation of the Einstein findings ? If so, better be prepared for worldwide probing reports sure to come your way. Re absolute vs semantics, the difference seems entirely clear. We can play word-games back and forth for weeks, but reality re gravity is that it works as Einstein indicated, so we may find his foundation more solid and sure than anything else here...

Dan Brindel April 10, 2009 1:56 pm (Pacific time)

All of what Einstein proffered was theory, and even like gravity, that is not an absolute. Those who engage in faith, now is that an absolute act? Semantics...going nowhere fast.

Daniel Johnson April 10, 2009 12:29 pm (Pacific time)

So, Daniel, you're getting it, too. "There are no absolutes" is an absolute statement, but it is not an absolute. An absolute is a reference point to which everything in the universe is related. Can I prove there are no absolutes? Easily done. We've known this since Einstein in 1905.

Daniel April 9, 2009 10:11 am (Pacific time)

Daniel J you state there are no absolutes , that statement is an absolute ! Can you prove there are no absolutes ? Is not the concept of an absolute like that of God . Can you prove there is no god ! If you can not prove your statement is your arguement irrelevant as you state Johns is ? Nice article but it is only an opinion

Daniel Johnson April 9, 2009 3:38 am (Pacific time)

John Lofton: Thanks for your detailed comment. Conservatism is an opinion, valid only if you subscribe to the underlying assumptions. In your case you are assuming there is a god. Not everyone does. If there is no god, then your conservatism is, indeed, irrelevant.

John Lofton, Recovering Republican April 8, 2009 8:30 pm (Pacific time)

Forget, please, "conservatism." It has been, operationally, de facto, Godless and therefore irrelevant. Secular conservatism will not defeat secular liberalism because to God both are two atheistic peas-in-a-pod and thus predestined to failure. As Stonewall Jackson's Chief of Staff R.L. Dabney said of such a humanistic belief more than 100 years ago: "[Secular conservatism] is a party which never conserves anything. Its history has been that it demurs to each aggression of the progressive party, and aims to save its credit by a respectable amount of growling, but always acquiesces at last in the innovation. What was the resisted novelty of yesterday is today .one of the accepted principles of conservatism; it is now conservative only in affecting to resist the next innovation, which will tomorrow be forced upon its timidity and will be succeeded by some third revolution; to be denounced and then adopted in its turn. American conservatism is merely the shadow that follows Radicalism as it moves forward towards perdition. It remains behind it, but never retards it, and always advances near its leader. This pretended salt bath utterly lost its savor: wherewith shall it be salted? Its impotency is not hard, indeed, to explain. It is worthless because it is the conservatism of expediency only, and not of sturdy principle. It intends to risk nothing serious for the sake of the truth." Our country is collapsing because we have turned our back on God (Psalm 9:17) and refused to kiss His Son (Psalm 2). John Lofton, Editor, Recovering Republican PS – And “Mr. Worldly Wiseman” Rush Limbaugh never made a bigger ass of himself than at CPAC where he told that blasphemous “joke” about himself and God.

Daniel Johnson April 7, 2009 11:02 am (Pacific time)

To YouAreCorrect: Now someone is starting to get the argument. It's not about the details.

YourAreCorrect April 7, 2009 10:19 am (Pacific time)

It is true that people can look at the same thing and see it in completely different way. Case in point: Policies that the last administration had, which were totally unacceptable, are now acceptable with the "opposite" party following them. IE: Phoney war on terror, Domestic Spying, Globalization (north american union), Unsustainable deficit spending, Executive orders illegally claiming dictatorial powers (not repealed with new admin)and on and on.

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