388 Comments
Comment deleted
Expand full comment

We lost Russia, Vietnam, Cuba, North Korea and soon, China/Taiwan, Hungary, Turkey, India. Africa?Mideast? Brazil.

Thanks for your service.

Expand full comment

I know I'm going to infuriate absolutely everyone with this, but: the Chinese are much closer to fascism than anything anyone ever called communism, even if they still call themselves communist. If you've got private property and billionaires and no Gosplan, then for all the very real faults of Soviet communism, sorry, you're not a communist state. Your Marxism-Leninism is residual at best.

Expand full comment

Really too bad that apparently all the Marxists who seized the means of production were anti-capitalists instead of post-capitalists.

Expand full comment

Revealed preferences for hating the rich vs. actually helping the disadvantaged continue to proliferate on the Left. Focus on relativity of status instead of absolute of suffering is a big tell.

Expand full comment

Idk, man. When I see stories about investment firms buying up homes and apartments, then jacking up rents, I start to see an actual relationship between the *interests* of the rich and the *number* of disadvantaged.

"Focus on relativity of status instead of absolute of suffering is a big tell."

Big tell of what? FWIW, I think we can address both with a tax on wealth. And that way you can keep your market economy.

Expand full comment

YIMBY solves this. If something is too expensive, build more of it.

Rinse, wash, repeat.

Whining about businesses doing business in a market economy is a total red herring. Prices won't go up if no one will pay them because alternatives exist.

Taxes on wealth are mostly terrible ideas for reasons you can research because I'm not going to expound on them here.

The big tell is that it's actually about jealousy and status anxiety/competition instead of actually giving a shit about how to improve the material conditions of society.

Expand full comment
Feb 5, 2022·edited Feb 5, 2022

"YIMBY solves this. If something is too expensive, build more of it."

What if the side that needs to say "Y" is invested in saying "N"? Like they don't want to see the value of their assets fall? And they have the political power? I think you like theory more than you understand practice.

"Whining about businesses doing business in a market economy is a total red herring. Prices won't go up if no one will pay them because alternatives exist."

I guess homelessness is an alternative, sure.

"Taxes on wealth are mostly terrible ideas for reasons you can research because I'm not going to expound on them here."

Oh, I have researched. When the capital/income ratio in a country gets too high, and return on capital exceeds economic growth for a long time, you get high concentration of capital, much of it unproductive. So you tax it.

Expand full comment

Lefties tend to be on the NIMBY side so I'm not sure what you're trying to argue here.

Homelessness increases when prices are too high because supply is restricted, yes.

How.in.the.fuck.does.an.excess.of.capital.lead.to.INCREASED.returns.on.UNPRODUCTIVE.capital????????????????????????????????????????????????

Whatever research you're doing, do something different.

If you're confused by Piketty because he doesn't distinguish between property and other forms of capital (and the differences really, really matter), then you can research this: https://ejpe.org/journal/article/view/170

Expand full comment

How.in.the.fuck.does.an.excess.of.capital.lead.to.INCREASED.returns.on.UNPRODUCTIVE.capital

to "returns" part:

My post said: "you get high CONCENTRATION of capital". Take it easy.

Expand full comment

Obsession with overbroad political labels is a big tell.

Expand full comment

Obsession about a valid generalization is a big tell.

Expand full comment

"Of course, the fact that no countries have followed advanced capitalism with communism might suggest that capitalism is good enough that people don’t want to switch."

Unironically, yes.

Another thing to grapple with is that the "global poor" are far, far poorer than the poor in any advanced industrial country (what's more nationalistic than a social program helping the poor in one country?). So unless you want to jump straight to global communism, somehow, implementing full on socialism in any rich country very well might hurt economic growth in impoverished countries.

Capitalism + safety net can be done without wrecking market mechanisms, misaligning incentives, or killing the Golden Goose of technological progress, increased productivity, and economic growth. Web3, er, I mean neoliberalism solves this. Be growth-focused, not redistribution-focused, and you tend to get the (realistically) best of both.

If you haven't read it, Tyler Cowen's Stubborn Attachments is probably the best explanation of this I'm aware of.

Expand full comment
author

People suffer terribly in our system. They don't have to. That people like you don't even mention them - that this immense suffering doesn't even pass your mind - is all the indictment of capitalism I need.

Expand full comment

The poor in the US suffer in different ways than the poor in a place like Manila. In terms of doing the most good for the most people the first priority should be increasing the standard of living of the third world until it matches Europe and the United States. And is there a better mechanism for that than international investment of the kind that's pulled countries like China and India into the mainstream of the world's economy?

Expand full comment
Feb 5, 2022·edited Feb 5, 2022

The fact that you think that something hasn't even passed my mind in one single internet comment to write off my entire point is all the indictment I need of your special brand of communism no one else seems to believe in.

People have suffered terribly in any system. (Ours does quite well compared to the average, now and historically.) How much does that suffering have to do with any particular system? There's another comment about "deserved suffering" as well that needs to be considered.

Empirically, societies getting richer to avoid material suffering has most happened under adopting the Washington Consensus--and it's not even close. You seem to recognize this, which is a good first step to enlightenment.

You have what seems to be the same kind of attachment to communism as someone raised in a religion might have to it, despite intellectually being able to recognize it doesn't actually work very well. You'd almost certainly do more good for the world if you switched from advocating tenants' rights to advocating for YIMBY policies (not that you can't do both where they don't directly conflict). We solve systematic material problems by increasing abundance, not by fighting via scarcity mindset.

Expand full comment

It doesn't matter how much you increase abundance if that increase is matched by increased inequality. The kind we are seeing today.

Expand full comment

It doesn't matter in what sense precisely?

Expand full comment

Relative inequality is very, very different from absolute poverty.

Inequality is in fact good if innovators are profiting from their innovations that benefit society at large. Incentives matter.

Expand full comment

Do they? And need they?

Present some non-Randian evidence.

The Danes have a "Don't brag" cultural element.

They seem to think social cues can

increase innovation.

Does capitalism with defective citizens equal

cancer-like growth?

How many planets do you postulate?

Expand full comment

True. The guy down the street with the bigger fancier house does not impact your prosperity, but he can inflame your envy.

Expand full comment
Comment deleted
Expand full comment

Benefiting society isn't an incentive enough on its own?

Expand full comment

Obviously it isn’t because it doesn’t scale.

Expand full comment

This is a thought-terminating cliche that avoids confronting the empirical evidence. There's a difference between wealth-creation and rent-seeking, and most of the time when we talk about inequality today we're talking about the latter. It's just baked into the structures of neoliberalism (as opposed to postwar capitalism, which deliberately "euthanized the rentier" to valorize the productive wealth-creator).

Expand full comment

The only area of the economy where rent seeking is a major problem is, appropriately enough, real estate/housing. Medicine probably as well I suppose, possibly also education.

Neoliberals are YIMBYs so we are on it, and Neolibs have reform ideas for education and medicine as well.

Expand full comment

yeah, the most fascinating thing about Freddie to me is that he has carefully thought through most topics he writes about . . . except for Communism, which is a religious belief adopted in his childhood (from his father, iirc?)

Expand full comment

SOME people suffer. Why? Is it always the system?

Evolution of societies has to depend on evolution of

the people, doesn't it?

If some critical mass of people are defective, society

starts failing, and the correctives for that are never

mentionable. The "Freedom Convoy" for example.

Ukraine. North Korea. Indiana. Mask mandate riots.

We're lucky we've avoided MAD with nukes or biowarfare.

Unless, of course, Covid is a test case, where China

figured they have sufficient surveillance to keep the

populace under control: US ~3000 China ~3 deaths

per million

Expand full comment

The human animal has evolved having suffered for most of its life. Suffering and persevering is the needed human development cycle. Eliminate suffering and you end up with a dysfunctional human that cannot cope when there is suffering... and there will always be suffering, because the world is filled with malevolence and death.

I think it is very wrong to believe that people do not have to suffer. I also think it is wrong to believe that some can intervene to stop others from suffering... without causing more suffering.

The path to life satisfaction comes from learning how to cope with the inevitable suffering and the individual human growth that comes from it.

Expand full comment

How beautifully tailored your morality is to your political economics.

Kudos.

Expand full comment

That is the problem with objective truth and the rational world. Morality will align with it.

Expand full comment

Cool, I read a lot of Ayn Rand when I was 15, too!

Of course, I grew out of it.

Expand full comment

Based on the comment, it appears you never really grew.

Expand full comment

Marx would say the same thing right back at you.

Expand full comment

Sure, there will always be suffering, but it's just plain callous to say to the suffering, "Tough nuts, there's nothing I can do [shrug]." Even Ayn Rand says it's virtuous to help others, provided they did not bring their suffering on themselves.

Expand full comment

So the decision on who brought suffering goes to the helper.

That's the catch.

Expand full comment

That is not what the "shrugging" represents. Shrugging is what the producers do when the looters and moochers collude to take too much from the producers. This is also covered with the Lauffer Curve.

And there is a very difficult line with this assessment of responsibility for suffering. Really, you are going to draw it at not bringing the suffering on themselves? I believe in a hand up, not a handout. My benchmark is the person acknowledging their mistakes and demonstrating a commitment to growing into a self-sufficient human being.

Expand full comment

"I think it is very wrong to believe that people do not have to suffer. I also think it is wrong to believe that some can intervene to stop others from suffering... without causing more suffering."

Are you against medical care, then? After all, doctors don't just save lives, they're paid to intervene to reduce others' suffering.

Plus, sometimes the lives doctors save are pretty miserable ones. It is very hard in this country to effectively refuse lifesaving care, meaning people that the good ol' days simply would have killed off are "unfortunately" still with us. What are we supposed to do with them?

Expand full comment

This is a wildly uncharitable response. Doesn't even pass his mind? How do you know? You don't mention the hundreds of millions who have suffered under communism every time you bring up the topic.

Given that Lance mentions concern for the global poor, a far more charitable interpretation of what he's saying is that people over time have suffered *less* under capitalism and thus that capitalism is what will help these people. And you don't even seem to disagree with that idea based on this essay.

Expand full comment

Web3 doesn't solve anything. It's just another video game with gambling thrown in that some people will pretend is real life. Web3 is better referred to as Third Life, the sequel to Second Life.

Expand full comment

I was making a joke my friend. I am very bearish on Web3, particularly the utopian strain of it.

Expand full comment

As a pro-capitalist, I'd say that capitalism's successes argue for a robust social welfare state, including UBI.

Expand full comment

I'm heartened by this. Seems like a lot of pro-capitalists who are pro because they've done well themselves seem to think that a UBI would allow the lazy poors to party hard. I think there's a disconnect about how much money we're talking and how much things cost. Like when some pundits claimed food inflation wasn't that bad. And I'm like, dude. When food is your biggest line item after rent/mortage, yeah it fucking is.

Expand full comment

NO to UBI.

https://www.aei.org/articles/what-do-prime-age-nilf-men-do-all-day/

Yes to Volunteer Service Corps - job offer for all. Subsidized if needed. (State or National).

Adults need to EARN self respect - in their own eyes. It can't be given.

Forrest Gump, without stocks, should be offered a job that allows an honest worker who shows up and work to live a decent life.

Freedom allows people the choice to have poverty lifestyles - which make them "deserve" poverty. Until they change their lifestyle and Get A Job.

Expand full comment

I appreciate a lot of what you’re saying.

One of the challenges I don’t hear discussed enough is the way management can drain almost all the dignity out of work. The honest worker, the good job - and the boss who humiliates. There’s a huge portal hole in the middle of every town, fed by the energy each worker’s heart releases when it breaks again. And that portal devours every glimmering grain of normalcy. In its place, kids find dignity and enterprise in the narcotrafficking industry, and their myriad victims rot in the streets picking their sores.

The bosses are not the arbiter of dignity. Adults can earn dignity in their own eyes by paying their light bill with money from selling drugs, or selling cars. The self-sufficiency creates the dignity, not that it came from A Good Job.

People sat still waiting for their neighbors to become moral enough to deserve food by working. The narco traffickers saw an opportunity and took it. Those neighbors are now clients of a different morality. Some come back to your side. Some never do and die out there. “Why are these assholes dropping dead all around me, why can’t they just do it my way?” Hmm. Someone is monetizing your rejection of them. The dealers are making bank. They’re the revolutionaries right now.

Expand full comment

I think Mark Fisher made this about the managerial classes very well in Capitalist Realism

Expand full comment

I think the issue is relative versus absolute measures of poverty. Yes, there is a bottom 20% in the United States. But that bottom quintile still owns color televisions, mobile phones, Play Stations and XBoxes, etc. And it is a 20% that doesn't have to worry about starving to death, although hunger can still be a concern.

The United States and the rest of the modern world is already Star Trek in terms of abundance. And I think you can argue, as Freddie seems to suggest, that once you reach the level where everybody has an Android or iPhone that people are comfortable enough that real change becomes very difficult.

Expand full comment

It amazes me how this bullshit argument never seems to die. I've been seeing it for more than two decades at this point. "They're not poor! They have a refrigerator and a television!"

Expand full comment

They're not poor in my book. You're not really poor unless you're at the point where not having a job means you starve to death.

By that definition there really isn't anyone in the entire United States who is truly poor. Again, it's the difference between relative and absolute poverty.

Expand full comment

What a convenient definition of poverty you happen to have

Expand full comment

Maybe because I've actually travelled outside of the country?

Expand full comment
Comment deleted
Expand full comment

This comment is pretty worthless.

Expand full comment

I agree that "they have appliances" is not in itself a very good argument that things are fine for the bottom quintile (though I think that's kind of an uncharitable reading of Slaw's comment, and maybe the "bullshit argument doesn't die" because you're mocking it instead of engaging with it). But I'm not sure what your objection is. I can think of:

1. "Refrigerator and television" is a poor indicator of material wealth

2. "Refrigerator and television" is an okay indicator, but it's an unacceptable minimum

3. The point isn't absolute wealth at all, it's wealth inequality

4. Something else, like non-material inequality is the issue

If it's 1 or 2, what is a good indicator that someone has an acceptable level of wealth? If it's 3, what's an acceptable level of inequality? Does it depend on absolute wealth? If it's 4, I'm interested in hearing what it is.

[This is kind of impossible to convey in a comment thread, but: I'm being sincere, and I really am interested in good answers to this, because I'm actually not clear on what the "win" condition is for fighting poverty/inequality.]

Expand full comment

To a degree I get it. I’ve commented on here in other posts that most people are comfortable *enough* that revolutionary change is probably not going to happen.

But it’s worth discussing relative poverty and considering it a valid metric. Because we’re looking at *our* specific community (Americans) it doesn’t help Jane McSortapoor to tell her affording a $50 cell phone bill makes her rich. It means she’s prioritized it as a social and technological necessity. And not having a phone isn’t going to yield enough money to pay rent, or a car payment, or possibly even a grocery bill for that matter.

Expand full comment

Just use the phone to download food NFTs, dummy

Expand full comment

That's a really good point but I want you to be honest with me: what is an NFT and is it spicy

Expand full comment

Yes. If you define poverty relatively, you will always have poverty, no matter how rich in absolute terms everyone gets.

Expand full comment

" Why would we let anyone go hungry or cold when we have this kind of productive capacity?"

This is indeed the important question, which is partly answered by another question:

Is there any lifestyle one can choose to live such that one deserves to be poor?

Drinking, taking drugs, gambling, giving away all of one's money, and not being willing to work, for example?

There are "deserving poor", who deserve help.

Are there undeserving poor, who don't deserve so much help?

How much should society give to those who choose to live in a way that anything given to them is either consumed or given away, such they they always remain lazy, non-working, video-game playing or drug taking, dirt poor?

I think we should be offering a job, like a national service job, to all. And food. But not a middle class life.

Expand full comment

I think you could make the argument that for the worst off, i.e. the homeless, the issue isn't economics but a) that it's impossible to commit them against their will and b) even if you could there are no longer any sanitariums to commit them to.

Expand full comment

That "will" thing needs exploration.

Expand full comment

Those "choices" only have the effects they do because the people making them lack privilege and resources to begin with. I've spent vast sums of money and time doing all sorts of drugs, from the common vices to ones you've never even heard of. I simply started from a place of privilege and wealth so vast that massive amounts of drugs, sloth, and hedonism couldn't overcome it and ruin me. There are definitely others who've had similar experiences.

On the other hand, there are people who spend way less time and money on drugs/hedonism/etc and have their lives ruined over it because they don't have enough breathing room in their circumstances to withstand the damage. It's easy for such folks to succumb to the belief that they could never better their lives the normal way, so being comfortably numb is the best option available.

This second group of people would be far less numerous under the kind of socialism Freddie is talking about. The number of "undeserving poor" would decrease over time until virtually none would remain.

Expand full comment

I don't think this follows. How much wealth are we talking about? Because it is trivially easy to completely fall out of the middle class due to heroin, crack or just good old fashioned alcohol.

Expand full comment

"Middle class" these days means working paycheck-to-paycheck for most. Of course it's not hard to fail when you have such little breathing room.

Increase their resources and quality of life and they'd have the runway to recover on their own instead of falling out completely. Mental health would also be improved because people wouldn't be working all the time, allowing them to actually socialize and build bonds with others. That's the kind of thing that keeps people from becoming "undeserving poors."

Expand full comment

Somebody sitting in their own filth while shooting up is outside the boundaries of any type of economic rescue, unless you're talking about Howard Hughes levels of wealth. Plus I am skeptical that modern alienation can simply be reversed by giving everybody more time off. Workers in developed economies work fewer hours than their counterparts during the time of the industrial revolution, for example, and yet they probably suffer greater levels of alienation and loneliness.

Expand full comment

There will always be people on the bottom rung.

By definition. Solve that without suffering.

Expand full comment

Brave New World - "Deltas are best!" << but I don't like it.

Most First World suffering starts with suffering in their heads .

Meaning - goals in life. Comes from self-respect.

Expand full comment

"This second group of people would be far less numerous under the kind of socialism Freddie is talking about. ... comfortably numb "

FALSE. There would be far more.

https://www.aei.org/articles/what-do-prime-age-nilf-men-do-all-day/

Which is why Jobs, subsidized jobs, and a job guarantee are better than UBI.

Self Respect - thru doing work.

Expand full comment

This is exact Marxism.

Expand full comment

I have a background as a corporate IT executive. I remember driving home from work one day depressed after a meeting with a division head that wanted a new multi-million dollar computer system that would be funded by the savings it would derive in a reduction in workforce. I was literally working in a discipline to reduce the number of jobs in corporate America.

Currently I own and run a couple of small businesses. One of them is a non-profit that provides financing to small business with a mission to grow jobs in the communities we serve (a tonic to my previous professional job-destruction role). Both of my businesses have seen personnel costs and other costs rise, primarily because of the constant increase in regulatory compliance, fee and taxes and dumb policy moves... with the fees and taxes going to government... government that keeps expanding and with government employees that are all paid significantly more than their private sector peers in total compensation.

In the other business, which is a food product manufacturing operation, we needed a piece of equipment to support a task that was significantly difficult manual labor. The equipment was only made in China and Canada... even though the design of the equipment was originally made in the US and produced in the US. The Canadian version of the equipment was not a good fit for our application (they were targeting larger operations). So I had to purchase a Chinese version. The installed equipment freed up my employees to do more valuable labor.

I would have paid 2x or 3x the cost of the Chinese equipment to purchase USA-made equipment.

However, it is not made here. It is not made here for several reasons.

1. It requires welders, and welders are in short supply in the US.

2. The business to make the equipment is industrial and the US regulations for starting an industrial business are complex, costly and restrictive.

3. The energy costs for an industrial equipment manufacturer are extreme in many parts of the US.

4. US parents have sent their kids to expensive liberal arts schools and the kids don't want to work at any physical labor.

5. The parts of the country where these jobs would be welcome are a mess with drug problems and crime. And the education system sucks so bad that there the number of people that can be trained to do the jobs required to manufacture the equipment are too few.

Today there are millions of unfilled jobs, and plenty of opportunity to start and grow small businesses that would provide more jobs. However, the Marxists know that they are better served to push these narratives of automation causing the need to approve Universal Basic Income.

One last point. Collectivism does not work. It sucks in any form. You cannot pay people to not work and expect human needs will be met. We are better off subsidizing work as needed to get more humans doing productive things. We are entering an anti-work cultural shift that is terrible and will be the end of us if it continues.

Expand full comment

Collectivism absolutely works. China is demonstrating this as we speak. Such a mindset is alien to our culture, so of course you dismiss it out of hand because you don't understand it.

Expand full comment

Is widespread bribery and corruption a hallmark of collectivism? Or the worst kind of crony capitalism?

Expand full comment

Yes. People is the problem, and genetic technology will solve it.

Expand full comment

You see... this is the problem with you people... you failed to take enough Economics classes and thus develop opinions like this that are simply false.

China only became economically strong because of the democratic capitalism success of the US that it looted from. If the US had been a collectivist system, China would still be a 3rd world country today. Over 50% of the products produced in China today, were invented in and made in the US. The US educated almost all of China's engineers and scientists.

You simply cannot make this case that China is an example of how collectivism works if the collectivist system cannot grow and thrive itself.

Expand full comment

Utter nonsense.

Expand full comment

What that I wrote is nonsense? You just seem to be upset that your worldview isn't being supported by facts and reality.

Expand full comment

"You see... this is the problem with you people... you failed to take enough Economics classes and thus develop opinions like this that are simply false."

I know University of Chicago econ people. I'm married to a libertarian who literally used to teach price theory. I'm unsure he'd recognize your economic opinions (for example, on "productivity") as free-market, either.

The free market and the prosperity gospel aren't the same thing. While it's common for American political rhetoric to invoke the spirit of Joel Osteen when it thinks it's invoking the spirit of Milton Friedman, that doesn't mean it's right.

Expand full comment

National Socialism = fascism = "private" businesses using market prices and nominal owners to allocate resources. But ALSO doing a lot of what the gov't wants.

Hitler gave fascism a bad name; Insane Jew hate racism is not part of fascism.

REAL fascism has never been tried.

Until "Communist" China. The successful "capitalists" are allowed to get rich, as long as they stay on the good side of those currently in power.

China has built many huge, great things - and brought more millions out of poverty, more quickly, than ever before in history. Using fascist gov't + business + market prices.

Lots of great stuff; but also lots of crap. Recently they had to demolish many housing skyscrapers because of shoddy work.

Jewish collectivist Kibbutzim "worked" at maintaining subsistence level existence, but only after the '67 6 day war did Israel give up their Zionist collectivist dream - and become an economic powerhouse in the ME despite almost no oil nor other salable natural resources.

Expand full comment

LOL and how would your costs be if higher education was free to your employees and healthcare was free for *you* to provide to your employees because it wouldn't be you providing it, but rather the government?

Expand full comment

The idiocy of this comment is astounding but common. Define "free". You mean we can just harvest dollars from the money trees you collectivist are convinced that grow in the gardens of CEOs?

Otherwise who will you take from to provide that "free" education and healthcare?

Let me answer for you. You would take from those that would otherwise start, own and grow business that would provide the jobs that people would claim they don't want to do because they have free education and free healthcare.

Expand full comment

No, dipshit. By "free" I mean that the costs are not on YOUR books. How "we" can "harvest" dollars doesn't seem to be a concern to your type so long as it's being harvested to fund the military industrial surveillance complex or the NSA spying on Americans or the CIA fomenting war with nuclear armed powers. IOW, "we" can divert a shit load of that money from the socialist-capitalist MIC toward things like education and universal healthcare (which also brings with it better negotiating powers hence lowering prices).

Expand full comment

Sure, I am the dipshit. This is the effing broke mindset that just ignores that EVERYTHING derives from the productive economy that produces. By increasing benefits to people the cost of that has to be born by taking from the productive economy. The better solution is to allow people to earn what they need in the productive economy and pay for what they need themselves. Redistribution through government is the most inefficient method. And if you don't believe that, let me introduce you to my leftcoast neighbors all retired in their 50s from the government jobs.

Expand full comment

Yeah because they paid a larger than typical percentage of their paychecks into a pension and retired after 30 years.

Expand full comment

LOL. No. That is a myth and a half.

My neighbor is a retired gubmt worker at 58 (retired at 60 but had two years worth of sick leave accrued that he was credited with). He is now 74. Will likely live until 90+. He gets a six figure pension. Healthcare covered for life. He retired as a mid level manager. He started working for the government at age 20. His pension was 3% @ 30... so after 30 years on the job he retired with 90% of his pay for the rest of his life. Inflation adjusted of course.

So he put in 28 years on the job, and will likely be retired for 42 or more years. The present value of that pension and his healthcare benefits are over $5 million.

Sure he paid $5 million into his retirement benefits over those 28 years.

His story repeats all over the country.

Expand full comment

Idiocy. And you totally ignored one of the main tenets of my argument: the socialist MIC, not to mention all the free money given to the billionaire/investor classes for the past 14 years. You don't care much about your money being taken from you to fund those activities.

"Allowing people to earn what they need" exactly describes the systems in various other countries that you would call socialist and "inefficient" (at what? Social mobility? Access to education or health care?) - No thanks to your system - it's just more Ayn Rand wild west laissez faire gangster capitalism with even fewer regulations.

Why are you so concerned that your neighbors (about whom you provide and likely know zero context) look like they're retired after 35-40 years of working for a lower paycheck than they could have received in the private sector and taking advantage of their pensions dating back to a time when pensions were actually protected and respected rather than auctioned off to some hedge fund?

Expand full comment

Please point to a country that models your favored system. And why are you not living there and still living here taking up space?

I ask this in all seriousness.

Expand full comment

https://jboone.substack.com/p/unhinged-hate-of-left

Unironically titled piece basically calling anyone that the author defines as "the left" something other than human. Just a milder version of Qanon, Pizzagate, "Save our Children" and the Wayfair conspiracy theories and plenty of reasons why I won't bother engaging with you again. You're encouraging more than just contempt of your fellow American; you're edging on calling us Satanists, evil and subhuman, thus worthy of being shot and killed without a second thought.

Expand full comment

Maybe if you weren’t so lazy and made good financial decisions you could retire at 50 too. Sounds like you’re jealous.

Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

Expand full comment

I'd love to see the look on your face if anyone ever actually educated you about the corporate nanny state.

But back to "free" - no quotes needed when talking about the (interest) free money that the Fed and Congress have pumped into the coffers of multi-millionaires and billionaires since 2008 when the REST OF US have to pay...you guessed it..."market based" interest rates on the money WE borrow.

Expand full comment

Well for one thing, you don’t just tax the rich more; you also tax the upper middle class. Give me 1 year of paternity leave, a 32 hour work week, and the good feeling of knowing the poor are fed and have good healthcare, and I’ll gladly vote for paying 50-60% of my salary in taxes.

Expand full comment

Let's also keep in mind that most of our pay/salary is but a construct or offshoot of our employers' ability to trust in a well regulated business environment and a highly policed socio-economic climate where they are absolved of certain liabilities (LLC), where they have means and fora to address grievances (courts), that any criminality among their competitors will be rooted and stomped out (FBI, SEC, FCC, other three letter A's), decent (albeit crumbling) infrastructure with which both C-suite and call center employees alike can safely get to work, police to keep them safe on their way to work, firemen and EMTs to come to the rescue (often at great expense to the individual) and very lax greenhouse emissions laws that mean most companies are usually net-externalizing environmental negatives onto the rest of us. Throw in a decent K-12 education system that ensures at least a baseline functional capability of potential employees and their ability to at least communicate in standard English and a bunch of non-profit or mom 'n pop 'village' service providers (babysitting, food banks, temporary shelters, etc.) and so on...

Take away any two of those things and keep everything else the same (salary and taxes) and suddenly the salary gets you a lot less in real world terms.

Our salaries in this type of ostensibly well regulated and policed business climate with are really just an arbitrary figure based on what other people with similar skills, experience and ability are allegedly getting paid by other employers in the same 'market' or region

Expand full comment

That is lazy looser stuff. You need that other 8 hours a week to watch porn?

Expand full comment

You must have no loved ones and no hobbies if all you can think to do with 8 extra hours of free time is to watch porn.

Expand full comment

8 extra hours to work and be productive.

Expand full comment

In the age of the internet, education technique needs rethinking. Try that.

The case for single payer is so solid I won't discuss it.

Expand full comment

Are you saying that subsidized work differs from paying people a UBI?

Who gets the subsidy, business owners like yourself?

What's the upper limits on riches that goes with these subsidies?

Expand full comment

I would rather subsidize a job-producing business than subsidized lazy ass people that don't want to work.

Expand full comment
Comment deleted
Expand full comment

They need to hear from people outside of their bubble. Otherwise they are getting their wrong validated.

Expand full comment

Pro-capital, anti-welfare discourse has dominated this country for decades. Let’s not pretend you’re here to represent some intellectual vanguard.

Expand full comment

You're just full of Reagan era tropes and sniveling condescension for the working class aren't you...

Expand full comment
Removed (Banned)Feb 5, 2022
Comment removed
Expand full comment

The non-working class meaning the capitalist/managerial class or reference to the mostly exaggerated in numbers people who allegedly refuse to do productive work if given an alternative?

Expand full comment
Removed (Banned)Feb 5, 2022
Comment removed
Expand full comment
Comment deleted
Expand full comment

I didn't. Unfortunately for would-be hall monitors such as yourself, Substack's comment platform doesn't display HH:MM:SS time stamps so you're just going to have to take peoples' words for things in the future I guess.

Expand full comment
Comment deleted
Expand full comment

“ Both of my businesses have seen personnel costs and other costs rise, primarily because of the constant increase in regulatory compliance, fee and taxes and dumb policy moves”

Such as?

Expand full comment

You need me to list all the increased government regulations, fees and taxes? Or just the dumb policy moves?

Expand full comment

All? Certainly not. Just a few regs, fees and taxes.

Expand full comment

My spouse manages a public safety network for a midsize city and gets paid waaaay less than he would in the private sector. Which government jobs are the ones that have bloated pay?

Expand full comment

Are you considering total compensation or just salary? The value of public sector benefits including retirement benefits makes millionaires out of many even rank and file government employees.

Expand full comment

LOL. Maybe if you're talking about congresscritters.

Expand full comment

Remind me how much you have to save to have $1 million at 65. Oh right if you start at 22 and retire at 65 it’s $166/month.

Expand full comment

Not only that, but he needs to get real and drop this disingenuous act of his. Many of the people in his age group who have retired from government positions as "millionaires" also bought property back when it was affordable only to see it balloon in "value" hence making them "millionaires" on the basis of their homes (and in some cases second properties) as well. Today, government workers will not have those same options as they are priced out of the housing market by the FIRE sector dominated rentier capitalists. So yeah, a decent savings plan or retirement account/pension and a 30-year old house and you're a millionaire. A million bucks sure doesn't buy what it did when Reagan was the senile guy in the White House...

Expand full comment

He’s not talking about houses.

There are a number of issues with the 401k and IRA system. How do we know? Because people find the idea of someone having $1 million at retirement something to comment upon. When I’m reality, if you start saving when you get your first adult job - it’s not amazing at all.

Expand full comment

Which makes it even more odious if true. The reason I brought up the home value aspect of millionaire-dom is that is a frequent cudgel used by the corporate right to bash pols like Bernie Sanders who happens to own a few homes with his wife.

That said, he didn't say "$1 million" he said "millionaires" which I take to mean tens of millions in today's economic climate.

Expand full comment

Remind me what the annual investment return needs to be for that.

Oh right it's 9.5%.

Please point me to the investment that is guaranteed to earn 9.5% per year for the next 42 years. Thanks, I'll wait.

Expand full comment

No one is taking about guarantees. And of course the S&P 500’s return since 1980 is actually 11.945% so if someone who got their first job on 2/4/1980 and saved $83/month and retired today they would have a million dollars.

Expand full comment

DOW. No one beats the Dow Jones Industrial Average on a consistent basis. The average for the past 10 years is 11.29%.

Expand full comment

Even factoring in benefits, I don’t consider a million bucks after a working lifetime of public service to be inappropriate. Just the opposite. I’m all for eliminating bloat, but fair compensation is something else entirely. Anyone who gets a job in public service and actually sticks it out until retirement has earned their benefits.

Expand full comment

And I'm going on record by betting that he's also got no problem whatsoever with members of the military retiring as millionaires, most frequently by way of the revolving door w/ "defense" contractors after they leave the service. Or maybe he does, who knows?

Expand full comment

I get irritated by the characterization of average public servants (and teachers for that matter) as money grubbers. It’s actually comic. Working for the community for your entire life without pin-balling from job to job I search of higher salary, then retiring comfortably—meaning maintaining a middle class life—well my god isn’t that what the goal is of every economic system? At least ostensibly? So what the hell is the problem, amiright? There are those exposes that show cops, for instance, in big cities who have gamed the system and make these big ol salaries (usually with overtime and side hussles included) and people point and say look!! How dare they! And ok fine, let’s not let that minuscule percent of the population work the overtime beat. Whatever. But the belief that average government/public employees in a system of tens of thousands (hundreds of thousands?) of people are retiring as multimillionaires is 1) ludicrous and 2) parsimonious toward people who make the world go round.

Expand full comment

Head football coaches at state universities?

Expand full comment

I’ll co-sign that, for sure.

Expand full comment

Computer programmers, project managers, HR, IT, ... I can't work for the state, I can't stand to see people walking-working in slow-motion, burning the clock.

Expand full comment

Me neither. I had a consulting company and did high level technical project management work for some agencies. One contract I would come in and sit in a cubicle all day for six weeks of a six month contract because they could not provision a computer for me, and I could not use my own.

But those employees were all paid as well as their private sector peers, but their real golden ring was to just keep their buts in their seats for 30-35 years so they could retire with a 90% pension and full health care. The value of that is millions. The unfunded government pension liability is a multi trillion dollar whole that government "business" is hiding from the rest of the country.

Expand full comment

Apparently y’all have never worked for a public safety agency. It’s the opposite of sleepwalking and burning the clock.

Expand full comment

I have law enforcement in my family. They generally earn their pension. I have fire fighters in my family, their total compensation exceeds the value of their labor. We could pay 2/3 what we are paying for fire fighters in our community and still have a line of applicants two blocks long for the positions that open. I have friends and neighbors who are government workers. Their regular pay commensurate with their responsibilities and level of performance compared to the private sector is generally always equal to or exceeds that of the general job market; however, when adding the value of their benefits including their pension, their compensation is significantly greater than is the general labor market.

One problem is that government employees get to retire early. Another is that their pension is too high as a percentage of their pay at retirement. They also do things like pack on OT at the end of their career to inflate that final pension amount.

The multi trillion dollar unfunded government pension liability is one of the country's biggest problems.

Expand full comment

" We are better off subsidizing work as needed to get more humans doing productive things."

How productive is a thing if people need a subsidy in order to do it? What definition of "productive" are you using? It does not sound like the standard economic one.

Is it your personal moral sense of what is "productive" and what isn't?

(Based on your comments elsewhere, your personal sense of what's productive might be awfully specific:

https://gfile.thedispatch.com/p/it-takes-two-sides-to-fight-a-war/comment/4891645

)

Expand full comment

It's so strange to me that someone with what looks like the old standard Reaganite-evangelical Anti-Communist (proper hyphenated noun describing the specific propaganda and policies that lead to Vietnam, Korea, etc.) viewpoints would even be interested in subscribing to a self labeled socialist's Substack, but to each his own I guess. Probably better to have it all out there rather than hidden away.

Expand full comment

I'm pro-capitalist because it works in reality. I like Freddie because he's a (dreaming) idealist Socialist who has really good critiques of clearly false and/or non-working policies of the Left/ Democrats, AND he writes so well it's a pleasure to read him even when I disagree.

Expand full comment

That's cool. But you're not the one espousing the bat shit crazy Reaganite stuff that the OP is.

Expand full comment

I should also note that "pro-capitalist" is pretty darn vague and all encompassing. Pure capitalism is at odds with true democracy, for example, and the style of capitalism that exists in the Western world today requires a LOT of public blood, sweat, tears and taxpayer money to keep propped up when it explodes every 8 years.

Expand full comment
Removed (Banned)Feb 6, 2022
Comment removed
Expand full comment

LOL, what makes you think I don't consider each of those terms equally vague? "Socialist" is misused as or more often than "pro-capitalist" - by both detractors and supporters.

Expand full comment

Market Capitalism = "Private property, freely made contracts, freedom to buy and sell. Fraud prohibited, contracts enforced." Depends on anti-fraud & contract & private property enforcement = essentially a gov't. (Could be Home Owners Association security).

Certainly NOT "public (=gov't) ownership". All regulations reduce freedom, including the freedom to harm or excessively risk harm.

I'm glad drunk driving is illegal (tho I wish there were more private roads), because I understand the risk is "high" that drunks cause accidents.

Most people want Freedom. And Security. It's an inevitable tradeoff on the Pareto optimal curve that more freedom means less security. BUT, there are actually 330 million (+-) different trade-off curves in the USA, so many millions can want more of either, and even more of both.

General changes to increase security almost always reduce freedom.

Even my proposal for subsidizing jobs, and having a National (or State) Service corps to employ "everybody", needs to be paid for by taxes and reduces the freedom to not pay those taxes.

Expand full comment

You can’t have freedoms without liberties, or else at some point someone’s freedom will impose itself on another’s, which can become irreconcilable. This necessitates a balance between the two in the form of regulations of some sort, which is why laws even exist at all.

Laws are, unfortunately, prone to manipulation and corruption when left to the devices of narcissistic people who do not recognize the importance of others needs, and where they intersect with their own.

Expand full comment

Yes, I get it. You're a rabid laissez faire free market anti-regulation libertarian market capitalist. I already know everything you could possibly write on the matter and have for more than 35 years.

On regulations, why don't you ask some of the people in India, South America or Africa whether they're in favor of stricter environmental regulations, or whether they would have been prior to their environments being destroyed?

What's next, completely repeal the Clean Water Act because it stifles innovative ways of diverting toxic chemicals into our kids' drinking water?

Expand full comment

Yes, but considering that the top 10% of the people pay 90% of all the taxes, it kind of evens out.

Expand full comment

Meaningless 'distinction' when all the numbers are considered: population, amount "earned" by the top 10% (really only concerned with the top 2 or 3$ though) and how much as a percentage is taken out of the actual middle class's paychecks. The top 2-3% should be paying a hell of a lot more, and the top 1% -0.1% even more than that. Well, I guess as an alternative we can drastically reduce "defense" spending (upon which I base my livelihood and would happily switch to another sector).

Expand full comment

Yes, Reading Freddie is like reading Trotsky. Completely wrong solutions, great rhetoric.

Expand full comment

I'm sure you've read a ton of Trotsky too. Question for the knowledgeable: Did Trotsky ever actually write anything?

Expand full comment

Go checkout Marxists.org. They have a great online library.

Expand full comment

No gov't free benefits can give "self respect". One must earn it, in one's own eyes. Work and production does that. Even subsidized work like raking leaves or picking up litter, worth only $5/hr, subsidized to be $10/hr, such work is worthy of dignity and self respect.

Forrest Gump-like low IQ folk, willing and able to do simple work, deserve respect AND job offers.

I read, and like, Atlas Shrugged - but the Bible is better, and both should be optional, not required, in schools.

Expand full comment

In cases where Atlas Shrugged is provided as an optional reading assignment in schools, should the teachers also be obligated to inform the class that Ayn Rand was herself a welfare queen?

Expand full comment

It would be stupid to be forced to pay for SS and not accept benefits - she wasn't dumb. Nor on welfare.

"Ayn Rand was not on welfare when she died. She was, however, receiving Social Security payments. "

https://www.quora.com/Is-it-true-that-Ayn-Rand-died-on-welfare-and-in-fact-was-on-it-a-few-years?share=1

But good art can be made by bad people - didn't you read Freddie about that in the last couple weeks?

Expand full comment

Sorry, but you don't get to rewrite history like that. Ayn Rand was a devout, rabid even, anti-government, anti-welfare-state author whose readers and acolytes are steadfastly against social security, which she viewed as government THEFT from her.

https://www.openculture.com/2016/12/when-ayn-rand-collected-social-security-medicare.html

"In the simplest terms, Rand discovered at the end of her life that she was only human and in need of help. Rather than starve or drop dead—as she would have let so many others do—she took the help on offer. Rand died in 1982, as her admirer Alan Greenspan had begun putting her ideas into practice in Reagan’s administration, making sure, writes Weiss, that the system was “more favorable to the creators and entrepreneurs who were more valuable to society,” in his Randian estimation, “than people lower down the ladder of success.” After well over three decades of such policies, we can draw our own conclusions about the results."

BUT...thanks for acknowledging the main underlying point here: Ayn rand produced ART not actionable philosophy or realistic political policy. In that sense she and her writings should be viewed from the same lens as Alex Jones.

Expand full comment

I prefer the Chile style "forced savings" retirement, which a person owns. Such a system, put in with Pinochet and Chicago Boys, has allowed Chile to become the richest S.A. country in 2022 after being one of the poorest in 1973.

Chileans recently voted in a socialist - so I expect the, not Voldemorting, but Venezuelization and reduced or negative growth in Chile.

Anybody forced to be in a system that includes payments and benefits, can be against the system but accept the benefits after paying in the payments. Without the SS, Rand wouldn't have starved. But her system's not worth arguing about.

Expand full comment

Funny, Wrong, but funny. Another form of art called unknowing satire.

Expand full comment

So, for you, "productive" means "productive of 'self-respect'" — productive of a sense of having "earn[ed] it, in one's own eyes"?

I do have moral intuitions about the dignity of work, and I suspect they overlap with yours. I am less optimistic, though, about it being workable to define "productivity" that way. For example:

https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/08/16/burdens/

"I had one patient who worked for GM, very smart guy, invented a lot of safety features for cars. He was probably actively saving a bunch of people’s lives every time he checked in at the office, and he still felt like he was worthless, a burden, that he was just draining resources that could better be used for someone else."

I think it's fine for you to have a spiritual notion of "productive" that works for the average person, but not tough edge cases. After all, most people are average. On the other hand, we're no longer so keen on letting tough edge cases just curl up and die anymore, either (seriously, even when someone is Officially In Hospice Now, our system is set up to make this tough).

Expand full comment

Scott now writes at Astral Codex 10. He's talking about "imposter syndrome" of worthy folk feeling unworthy.

"Productive" for me is doing work that has value for others. Nobody I know thinks less litter is not better than more litter.

But the "market value" of such work might be so low that few choose to do that work, when there are other alternatives. Including getting gov't benefits, like food stamps, for doing nothing. UBI makes more folk do nothing, which will be terrible for many, probably most, who need more self respect.

Avg IQ =100; almost nobody is exactly average; some 34+34 = 68% of the people are within one 15 point standard deviation of 100: 85-115, which are all sort-of average.

You really think staying home playing video games and watching porn and masturbating all day leads to self respect?

Or maybe you think respect doesn't matter?

Expand full comment
Feb 5, 2022·edited Feb 5, 2022

I know Scott's new place, but old classics are still old classics.

"'Productive' for me is doing work that has value for others."

Yes, but how do you *know* it does, unless they're willing to pay you? "Don't play dumb, Midge," I can imagine you saying — because that's exactly what I'm telling myself right now.

But I've also been in volunteer situations where the volunteers took on unusually unpleasant work to make life more pleasant for everyone else involved — and were ultimately treated as "losers" and "parasites" for volunteering, with overt appeals to the reasoning that, if the work were truly worth anything, it would be paid, not volunteer!:

Work does not *have* to be paid for in a free market in order to be "worth something", but the sad fact is that, in a pluralistic society, it's hard to *prove* it's worth anything unless it is.

"You really think staying home playing video games and watching porn and masturbating all day leads to self respect?"

No, *not typically on the margins*. (Indeed, I belong to a tradition that still sees masturbation as a sin: nonetheless, if someone were wanking as a distraction from drug cravings or active suicidal ideation, what kind of shriveled heart would I have to have to not consider that the lesser of evils?) But I also know it's common enough for some people to behave like that and somehow still end up thinking higher of themselves than others who've earnestly beavered away through all the traditional advice about self-improvement.

"The heart is deceitful above all else."

Expand full comment

This is not the economic or Marxist definition of production, there are two different concepts being discussed here.

However, there should absolutely be value seen in productivity and work, yes. I think most Marxists would agree that self worth and dignity is manifest by the generative power of an individual to create change in the world around themselves.

Also, social security is a form of welfare, so there’s that.

Expand full comment

SS is both welfare for poor folk, and forced savings for all workers. And a huge benefit of (Christian) capitalist society. It's good to take care that older people, too old to work, have enough for food & clothes & a place to live. Maybe not full "middle class", but not absolute poverty.

Tho those getting it had to work at least 10 years, paying taxes, so they've "earned" it, even those who get more than was taken from them.

Expand full comment

Mhmm. So if Ayn Rand was on social security, the welfare system you just described (which doesn’t address the issue of what causes poverty at all), that’s in contradiction with what you claimed her to have not done…

SS isn’t an “earning”. It’s a redistribution-subsidization tax. This is, as you said, not a bad thing. Dunno why Rand would be against that either.

Christian ideology is often spurious correlated to producing capitalism. Check out Max Weber’s “Capitalism and the Protestant Work Ethic” and it’s criticisms. There’s reason to believe that religion can enhance, enable and influence capitalist ideology, but it is not the cause.

Expand full comment

Working people pay into SS. But given the abuse and misuse of the funds, it would better for many people to just have that money to invest themselves.

Expand full comment

That’s an interesting way of ignoring how that would affect the impoverished.

Expand full comment

Why are people impoverished?

Expand full comment

My law firm pays learning disabled adults to perform a variety of tasks, some of which have modest utility, most of which we simply wouldn't do but for our desire to employ them. We get some government subsidy for employing them that offsets some portion of the cost, but we all understand that there is still a net cost to us in excess of the benefit of their work. Is it productive? No, not as you and I understand that term. Are we going to keep doing it? Yes, we are. It's charity, but unlike most charity, it isn't degrading. It enhances these people's sense of independence, it makes them more responsible. The things Ben Franklin said about work and idleness are true, regardless whether millennials would call it all cringe. We have citizens that suffer from severe mental health problems and/or drug addiction. I don't have any easy, compelling solutions to those problems, but if there are any, some form of fulfilling make-work is likely to be part of it.

Expand full comment

Can't really say anything negative about that. I'm glad that some companies such as yours are doing those things. However, I will disagree about "most charity" being degrading. That's a stereotype I've never personally witnessed in many years of different types of public service/volunteering I've done.

Expand full comment

Really? You've never met someone that finds it degrading to buy their groceries with a SNAP EBT card? Never met a child embarrassed by using their free school lunch benefit?

Expand full comment

Is that charity? I've heard plenty of people say government benefits aren't charity.

Expand full comment

1) Those aren't charity. 2) No, never encountered an adult who states it's degrading to use SNAP or other food assistance and 3) I don't push for or give a fuck about policies on the basis of what kids think of them.

Expand full comment

Bingo. Thank you for what you do there.

I would add that there are probably a number of jobs that could be done by adults with learning disabilities that would be productive. However, you are absolutely correct, IMO, that work enhances people's sense of independence. It also increases self-worth, self-confidence and sense of purpose.

I agree with Jordan Peterson that the west is having a crisis in people failing to fine enough life meaning. He describes it as having three primary ingredients: love (loving and being loved), spirituality (belief in something bigger than self), and meaningful work. However, he says, and I agree, that work is meaningful even when there is a feeling that it is not meaningful work.

We should not only crush any no-work narratives being promulgated today, but we should both strive to make sure work opportunities are plentiful for everyone, and to encourage people to work and discourage them from accepting a life without work.

Expand full comment

Would sex work and the disability fraud I described in reply to ih8edjfkjr count as better than "a life without work"?

Who decides what's work?

(For example, as a fairly traditionally-religious woman, I sometimes run into traditionalist men who have more difficulty than they realize reconciling the "sacred" unpaid work of women in the home with supposing that modern women who only do this work aren't really working at all.)

Expand full comment

Disability fraud is disgusting and very common.

Expand full comment

That does not answer my questions, though.

For one thing, I asked about a specific scenario ("the disability fraud I described in reply to ih8edjfkjr") that I doubt should morally count as fraud, but instead ought to count as something by your own rhetoric you might approve of: maximizing useful work in an intermittently-able person who may lose what intermittent ability he has without steady benefits.

Expand full comment

Yes, in Hayward, California, I saw these signs offering to buy diabetic test strips, what's that about?

Expand full comment
Feb 6, 2022·edited Feb 6, 2022

That's very sweet, and I'm glad you do it, though I'm likewise unsure why most charity should be degrading, or what kind of make-work would be generally fulfilling — or whether exemption from minimum-wage so more people wouldn't have to do make-work but could do real work at their own pace would be better.

Granted, the disabled people I know tend not to be stupid, but skilled people with relapsing mental or physical problems for whom some form of disability fraud (getting paid for their skills when they can, but not reporting it if they can't get by without disability benefits) might serve their dignity (pride in using real skills to provide someone else a net benefit rewarded with pay) better than "honest" make-work would. It does seems reasonable to suppose, though, that others might benefit more from the steadiness a more "make-work-y" job might provide.

I know of landlords whose own experience caring for disabled family means they look the other way when their building managers hire the intermittently-sane to help them commit disability fraud — a chance to use real skills for real pay during their lucid months, knowing psychiatric care would disappear altogether if steady benefits did. I've heard of 14(c) exemptions both exploiting the disabled and greatly enriching their lives.

I have an instinctive horror of multiplying carve-out which themselves may be abused, and pessimism that supposed safeguards against idleness, fraud, and malingering, will succeed in punishing enough wrongdoing that they justify punishing those whose "wrong" is suffering ill-suited to carve-outs.

Expand full comment

Good for you guys. I used to work for HP. They contracted with PRIDE Industries to bring in the handicapped, and put them to work. Also I spent many years at Intel, again PRIDE Industries did the janitorial work. I was very glad to see the participation, and work alongside the handicapped.

Expand full comment

"government employees that are all paid significantly more than their private sector peers in total compensation"

That's the fault of the private sector, not government.

"Collectivism does not work."

Agreed, but consider that corporations are collectives.

Expand full comment

That is a funny twist. Government employees are generally overpaid as per the actual labor market. You are referring to corporatism not collectivism. And neither work for the long-term.

Expand full comment

In a capital city like Austin, where I live, there are tons of government jobs. My mother was a state employee for 35 years. I’ve had countless friends work for the Texas Education Agency, the TX Workforce Commission, Transportation, Railroads, DPS, TABC, and on and on. Never in all these years have I seen one person’s salary or a job listing salary (as I searched for gigs) that came close to market rate. The reason people work government jobs is SECURITY and ironclad benefits (ie secure), not high salary. And none of them had it easy. Quite the opposite, some jobs were soul-crushingly difficult. Like my mom’s job at the Dept. of Insurance, where there was a 30% workforce turnover rate because her days were filled with viewing grisly car accident photos and rejecting valid claims against the state to enraged people. I believe the emotional toll of that work contributed to her cancer. But as an older woman in a young tech city, even with a college degree (which she got while working full-time in her late forties), her options were severely limited. Yes, this is one anecdote, but among dozens. Please don’t let ideology blind you to realities on the ground.

Expand full comment

Maybe Texas is different, but I live on the left coast and have been directly involved with community budget difficulties from the crushing expense of government employees. A senior city fire fighter used to be able to retire after 30 years of service (at age 50) at 90% of his pay which would be $135,000 on average and 100% of his he and his family health care covered for life. And all of it would be inflation adjusted.

I have friends that have worked for the federal government. Would have all their relocation expenses covered, retired in their late 50s. Same type of situation. And no, these government workers do not have any more difficult jobs than do their peers in the private sector. They benefit from job security and for this reason they have to work with a bunch of low energy losers... and that makes the job more difficult. However, there is much more competition for jobs and positions in the private sector and employees have to hustle more.

The primary issue is that private sector workers are having to rely on their own savings from their own pay to retire on other than maybe 25% of their retirement expenses being covered by SS that they paid into. Because private sector workers have to fund their own healthcare too. And inflation eats up their savings unlike the government pensioner who even if Biden and the Democrats fuck up the economy, will see their pension payments increased.

Expand full comment

The problem with this type of critique, and one I was once very much in favor of, is the valorization of production and/or productive work. A book that really helped me to understand this issue is Martin Hagglund's "This Life" (side note I'd love to see Freddie review this book). The main take away that I had is that all we have in life is our actual time. In a capitalist society, or in whatever society that you appear to desire, your time is valued entirely in terms of your productive capacity. Therefore, working is basically the only way for you to have value. I think underlying your critique is that unstated belief that in order to have value to society you must work. I know for myself I've heavily internalized that value and I work 50+ hours a week at the expense of my free time because I actually enjoy my IT job. However, as Freddie shows in the Cult of Smart there will be likely a majority of people who are not going to want to work overtime cleaning toilets. For those people work is just a means to an end.

So if we have so much abundance why do we still only valorize people who are productive? Additionally, what about all the valuable things people can do but are not valued by capitalism? Child care, elder care, etc.

People should be allowed to pursue their own desires without having to be productive in order to be truly free.

Expand full comment

"will be likely a majority of people who are not going to want to work overtime cleaning toilets. "

Tell that to immigrants that come here and want all the OT they can get to save money to buy a house, start a business, etc.

I am a CEO of two companies. A one percenter. I worked as a janitor for a year while attending college. It was a perfect job for that as I worked at night. I did so well that the owner of the company gave me a crew and additional locations. I learned a great number of things that are part of my knowledge and skills climb that enable me to handle the job of corporate CEO.

Yes there are some people that will be stuck cleaning toilets because they lack the language skills or other innate capabilities to advance. But for most people their failure to advance is explained by their "not wanting to work" mindset.

Certainly there is a problem with single mothers and the challenges of child care. There is a solution for that problem but it starts with a simple lesson in self control in unprotected sexual activity. Other than that there is no reason that anyone should not be working, and if low wage, working to gain skills and experience that allow them to advance to a higher paying job.

Expand full comment

I think it's great that you have risen to the 1% but you realize everything you are discussing about your story is an example of survivorship bias? The 1% exists because of the 99% who helped you get there. Not everyone can be you.

I think that not wanting to work is definitely not going to be a key to success in our current society. However, I'd like to see a society where you didn't have to work in the sense that you didn't have to spend your time being productive in the current definition of the term.

Expand full comment

Lol. You do realize that attributing the 99% as being responsible for my success is the epitome of the mindset of a collectivist looter. It is this biggest crock of shit dished out by the over educated under producing social and economic malcontents.. that not only did not help, are consumed with resentful energy to block, check, stall and destroy those that do succeed by their own efforts because that demonstration is inconvenient to the victim narrative and makes the malcontents feel even worse about their whiney miserable lives.

Expand full comment

Yeah, you seem REALLY happy. Not miserable or whiny at all.

Expand full comment

"in whatever society that you appear to desire, your time is valued entirely in terms of your productive capacity. Therefore, working is basically the only way for you to have value... / So if we have so much abundance why do we still only valorize people who are productive? Additionally, what about all the valuable things people can do but are not valued by capitalism? Child care, elder care, etc."

I've been giving our "Social Misfit" a hard time, but my impression is that he, and others such as Tom Grey, do sincerely cherish a notion of productivity-as-virtue that isn't measured by pay alone, and includes unpaid labor like child and elder care.

Having done both unpaid elder and childcare myself now, as in-kind payment for moral debts I owed to others, I get the impression that nostalgia for a simpler time, when notions of Christian virtue (and division of labor by sex) were more widely shared, can blind traditionalists who sincerely cherish productivity-as-virtue to how contradictory social expectations respecting unpaid labor can be, including the expectations of traditionalists themselves!

On the on hand, "work is prayer", and any piously-undertaken occupation that's not actively vicious could be virtuous. Grow a garden. Write a motet. Mind your children. On the other hand, gardening and artistic pursuits are also seen as "only recreation" unless you're one of the few making bank on them, and so, in that sense, a frivolous waste of time, compared to whatever more "useful", remunerative ways bystanders judge you could be using your time instead. Caregiving can also be belittled as frivolous unless it's "done right".

Even cleaning toilets, which virtuously sacrifices your own pleasure for the hygiene and enjoyment of others, can be belittled as "menial", as the sort of occupation proving your unworth if you're never promoted to something "better". That, too, diminishes the rewards of toilet-cleaning, and people's motivation to work overtime doing it.

Expand full comment

Jordan Peterson covers a lot of ground in his work to explain the human dominance hierarchy (the lobster thing). When I first heard him talk about that it resonated and connected the dots for almost everything we experience in human behavior in advanced society. It explains why immigrants will do work that citizens will not do. The immigrant sees the work as advancing their perceived social status. The citizen sees the work as below their perceived social status.

However, the citizen that perceives the work as below their perceived social status is correct only if social status is provided for demonstrated social hierarchy value other than productive returns. And this is what we have done with generations that have a college degree, no useful job skills and a bucket of student debt. They FEEL that their degree has advanced their social status and refuse work beneath that social status. But what the fail to understand is that their social status compared to someone without a college degree who is working their way to greater prosperity is actually lower and will continue to decline unless they get their ass in gear and focus on working and a career.

Expand full comment

Two things:

First, humans are not lobsters, and while our chicken-hearted (poultry pecking orders are brutal!) drive to be top bird and peck those beneath us may be natural, it's one of those natural things that isn't good. I'm not calling for the abolition of hierarchy: hierarchy can be an efficient means of organizing information and effort. But status as an end in itself is Satanic. Your impatience with status-seeking that strikes you as obviously unworthy (that of YouTube influencer, for example) suggests you recognize this yourself in some cases.

(That said, when I was stuck in focused protection figuring out how to cut my kids' own hair, I did benefit from tutorials by YouTube influencers showing off their DIY haircut how-tos. The status-heavy attention economy they've entered may be Satanic, but their work be more useful than you'd suppose.)

Second, regarding college degree and status, you might overlook how much obligation to others, rather than vain self-importance, might motivate youth to turn down "honest work" to complete a credentialing process that they've been taught from the cradle to regard as a "success sequence".

I worked so hard temping for a landscaping crew one summer the owner offered to make me partner — provided I quit college. In some respects, the offer was tempting: I liked the work and, since I'd already accumulated some medical debt, I could use the cash. On the other hand, I felt obligated to my family and future to complete my degree, which was in a demanding subject with higher expected returns than landscaping. And, in hindsight, I would have made an unreliable landscaper anyhow, since, unbeknownst to me at the time, underlying connective-tissue disease meant I couldn't sustain my summer's pace of work year in and out, year after year.

I did not, personally, feel landscaping was "beneath" me. But I certainly faced the social expectation — including costs already sunk into a degree — that it would be!

As it happened, while the landscaper I worked for was honest, the temp company responsible for paying me was not, and would end up preferring bankruptcy over actually paying workers like me. So there I was at the end of summer, the hardworking sucker with mounting medical debt, who'd also "foolishly" turned down paying work for degree prospects — but not, I think, out of personal snobbery.

Simply put, I'd had the kind of experience that teaches that rewards for hard work cannot be counted on. There's evidence that children who "fail" the "marshmallow test" accumulate such experiences from an early age:

https://ricochet.com/228454/archives/un-teaching-grit-the-marshmallow-test-revisited/

At any rate, people can learn through experience that hard work won't be rewarded. In the revisited marshmallow experiment, this was done by experimenters repeatedly promising children a reward and then reneging. It wasn't done by teaching the kids the hard stuff was "beneath them".

As Eve Tushnet points out, the "bloodless moralism" of conflating virtue with the success sequence has problems!:

https://ifstudies.org/blog/whats-wrong-with-the-success-sequence

Expand full comment

Just from the standpoint of human nature I have to wonder: wouldn't a "worker's revolution" be driven not by abstract concepts of fairness but rather by deep discontent with one's own station in life and/or some substantial level of privation?

If capitalism has made everyone fat and lazy then doesn't that mean such a revolution is impossible? In fact what would cause the masses to rise up is anger when economic conditions take a downturn and the standard of living decreases.

Expand full comment

"And I have zero problem with ascribing that growth to capitalism, as long as people get on board with a more humane stage to come."

Very well put!

Expand full comment

Generally greed wins, and the poor suffer.

Expand full comment

"But I will say this: I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t agree with the system of universal abundance in Star Trek, given the conditions in Star Trek. This isn’t a joke: I mean that, if you present people with a society where technological progress is so advanced that abundance for everyone is possible, even the most ardent capitalist will concede that it would be immoral to perpetuate a system that did not allow for the distribution of abundance to everyone."

I have. I don't disbelieve you. But I've met people who believe humanity needs the threat of misery and death hanging over individuals if they don't shape up in order for civilization to survive. There are only ever the gods of the copybook headings, these people believe, even if they're self-identified Christians:

https://www.kiplingsociety.co.uk/poem/poems_copybook.htm

Back in 2019, Matt McManus published a short piece on why some self-identified libertarians / classical liberals were attracted to the alt-right and why some weren't. He pointed out that for some, the attraction of free markets was less the freedom than the competition, competition to reward the superior and punish the inferior: both carrots and sticks.

https://merionwest.com/2019/05/26/conflating-classical-liberals-and-the-alt-right/

Many libertarians acknowledge that generally free market paired with a modest, simple welfare state would still offer plenty of carrots to reward superior performance. Others, though, worry that not enough stick will be the death of us all. They might, if forced to choose between more freedom and more stick, choose more stick.

Forget just libertarians. That people need the pinch of scarcity for good moral development still seems a pretty common opinion in general. Societies that can afford otherwise risk "decadence".

Expand full comment

Unfortunately the decadence myth is pervasive in Western culture, going back at least to ancient Rome. It's been used as propaganda so long I feel like it must be tapping into some instinct humans have.

(There's no real historical reason to think that "decadent" cultures collapse in on themselves, and rather more reason to think the opposite is true--the rich get richer, as it were. Roman writers complaining about the "decadence" in their empire keep getting brought in as evidence even when those writers were "predicting" a collapse that wouldn't come for another 500 years, and even then only in the western half of the empire...)

Expand full comment

See, its when the PEASANTS get decadent that the problems emerge!

Expand full comment

Well yes, because of the sheer numbers. In a village of 100 souls, 99 field hands/blacksmiths can support one rich layabout. One field hand/blacksmith cannot support 98 poor layabouts.

Expand full comment

John Nerst at "Everything Studies" elaborated on Scott Alexander's thrive-vs-survive mentality:

https://everythingstudies.com/2019/03/25/the-tilted-political-compass-part-2-up-and-down/

"The 'thrive' end are values suitable for safe, rich and comfortable societies where we don’t need to focus so much on making our living and can afford to be generous towards others, the weak, the irresponsible and the unproductive. Self-actualization is the ideal. The 'survive' end are values suitable for rough, precarious situations where we do need everybody to be productive, orderly and well-behaved in order for everything to work out. Discipline is the ideal, while personal feelings and wants take a back seat."

What if we can materially achieve "thrive" conditions, but the human heart needs a "survive" mindset to achieve "greatness"? This is not something I, personally, worry much about, for many reasons, including what you mention. But it seems genuinely hard for others to *stop* worrying about this.

Expand full comment

I'd imagine is there is some instinct to hate decadence from our hunter gatherer days

Expand full comment

Given how often "decadence" seems to follow a misogynistic story in which the men in *our* society are all soft like women, while the men *over there* eat meat and live in the mud and chop down trees with their bare hands, I do wonder if the decadence story is not tapping into some fundamental male fear of not being manly enough to defend their wive(s) from other men.

Once we get to the birth of civilization, technology--which "decadent" societies overall produce more of--has been the best way to keep the barbarians off your back (and away from your women). But for many animals, and presumably for humans throughout much of our existence, the best way to protect your partner/harem is to be bigger, stronger, tougher, and crueler, which happens to pattern neatly onto the "virtues" of "hard men".

Expand full comment

Capitalism is going great, therefore we need to change to an economic system that has only produced starvation and misery. Because equity. Pass

Expand full comment

LOL externalization of costs personified. Ask the indigenous peoples of Africa or South America where the capitalist class is chopping down trees, polluting the environment with petroleum or lithium mines, or corrupting their governments and/or hiring right-wing death squads to keep operating costs low for the capitalists how capitalism is going great.

Besides, did you read the part about the Scandinavian countries? They're more productive than the USA and they practice what (ignorant) Americans call "socialism."

Expand full comment
Comment removed
Expand full comment

Are you pretending to be ignorant of them? I mean literally the first Google search that I ran yielded the following:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_squads_in_El_Salvador

Here's one at your level: https://laii.unm.edu/info/k-12-educators/assets/documents/retanet_social_studies/human-rights-in-latin-america.pdf

https://www.jstor.org/stable/20671988

That's just Central/South America

I trust you can Google for the Asian and Pacific Islands versions.

Expand full comment

The counter argument is that the US also had a phase of miserable inner city tenements and robber barons and that the third world just needs to continue developing to get to the next stage.

Expand full comment

The US **still does** have miserable inner city tenements (plus even more homelessness than ever) and robber barons. Those things are all fundamental elements of a first industrialized then financialized capitalist society. With socialism of course for the rich.

Expand full comment

Yeah, but the percentage of the population living in those tenements has plummeted since the bad old days. The US sports a fully developed middle class now. And as I posted below I think you could make the argument that what's really driving homelessness in this country is not economics but rather addiction and mental health issues.

And even in an economy with Bill Gates and Elon Musk the poor still manage to hold wealth that is unimaginable to the poor in the third world. In India for example there is a push to get everybody onto the electrical grid because too many people are being assaulted leaving their homes at night to use the latrine.

Expand full comment