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deletedJul 4, 2022·edited Jul 18, 2022
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If borders are "an illegitimate fiction," as Freddie writes in this piece, then the distinction between "our country" and "other countries" disappears. Hence, no need for foreign or domestic policy. All policy is foreign policy is domestic policy. QED.

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Or worse, you get something like a No True Scotsman argument, where someone advocates something that has already failed spectacularly multiple times, but they insist that those weren't really the same thing. You might think after the catastrophes of the USSR, China, Cuba, Nicaragua, and literally every single country that has tried to adopt Communism, that anyone with any sense would give up on the idea, but instead we get, "But those weren't REAL Communism"... And the funny thing is that in a way that's actually correct; what was done in those countries was not what Communism is supposed to be. It's just that it seems to be what Communism always turns into, because Communism as an ideal is in conflict with human nature.

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He's not saying we should all shift to the left, he's saying we should hold politicians accountable. It DOES assume that the reader does not agree with everything Joe Biden wants, or fights for, or fails to fight for. But yeah, if you don't like the Dem agenda or performance, and you want to change them, of course you'll have to organize/mobilize blah blah blah. Just being more radical, whatever that is, doesn't do it.

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I'm fine with people saying "that wasn't real communism" (or socialism or whatever), as long as they then tell me what the rules for "real communism" actually are.

For example, what are the rules for allocating housing?

What are the rules for disciplining people who refuse to do their fair share of the collective work?

Etc etc etc.

AFAIK, no one has ever attempted to write any such rules down, not even in the most basic outline form, much less reached any sort of consensus on what they should be.

The utopians (like Freddie) just assume that the rules will magically appear, and that they will be good and true and wonderful, and that everyone will happily abide by them forever more.

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Check out anarcho-syndicalism. I doubt it’s Freddie’s position but it bridges from libertarianism quite nicely.

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Not a libertarian, but I would love to see Freddie's answer to this question also!

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deletedJul 4, 2022·edited Jul 4, 2022
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In practice, there really is no such thing as a society without poverty, because there are always some with more than others, and the condition of those at the bottom in any society is always called "poverty" no matter what it looks like, and someone always wrings their hands over it and says how awful it is that people have to live in such appalling conditions, even if, objectively speaking, those conditions are better than those of at least half the world's population.

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I mean, that’s up to us, though, isn’t it? We can choose to define poverty in a subjective way, or we can choose to define it objectively. And we can set our objective limits where we like.

But I also think we have to be careful about what we define as the goal. If more of the American poor (or the poor of any other rich society) have refrigerators than the global poor, but they have a higher murder rate or suicide rate or drug overdose rate, or if in general they are more disconnected from community and the natural bonds of family and kin, how do we judge that?

I do not object to capitalism on material grounds. As you imply, it generally provides very well for basic material needs and has raised the living standards floor for billions. My objections to capitalism, such as they are, focus more on its tendency to alienate people — to impoverish their spirits. I am not in favor of state communism — which if anything strikes me as MORE alienating and dehumanizing — but I also think globalism and modernism, as enabled by capitalism, have some downsides. And I try to maintain hope that there is some other way of living, not yet developed, that maintains the basic needs of the body without crippling the spirit.

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Amen to this. But the problem is, how do you know the impoverishment of spirit you're referring to is necessarily the result of capitalism as such, rather than other qualities of our society?

It's empirically obvious that capitalism generates terrible material inequality (though with big and perhaps net-positive tradeoffs, as you acknowledge). It also seems clear to me we live in a society that makes most of its inhabitants unhappy, alienated, dehumanized, whatever. And, I also feel on a visceral level there's a causal link between the two -- but the question I wrestle with a lot is whether that's really true or whether the source of our non-material misery lies elsewhere.

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I'm not sure it really is "up to us" in any meaningful sense. These things seem to be decided on some sort of mass level, as a sort of shared awareness that individuals can disagree with, but which is difficult to influence. In practice, the definition of poverty changes over time, and not just to track inflation. Things are considered "essential" that a century or so ago didn't even exist, or were strictly the province of the well-to-do (electricity, hot running water, etc.). I don't even really disagree with this. It does sort of make sense that as more technology is developed and becomes available to most people, we begin to think of it as an essential part of modern life, and therefore consider it a problem that some people (defined as being in poverty) can't get it. But that only shows that the definition of poverty is a moving target, and therefore poverty can never be eliminated as long as some people have more than others -- which they always will.

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Removed (Banned)Jul 4, 2022
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If we aren't there yet, it probably won't be long.

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I know, I know, I know - there's no point to doing this, they'll just say what they want to anyway, it seems defensive, etc. Which is always easier to say when you're not the one who is constantly accused of wanting to put trans children in camps or whatever.

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Comment of the week material

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Counterpoint: I won't give a fuck when I'm dead, why start now

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When you're dead you don't give ANY fucks. Do give some fucks, just not to this. Although this assumes that you want life to become better.

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I've found this kind of thing – apart from any effectiveness it might have for uncharitable critics/scolds, let alone 'enemies' – to be pretty helpful! Repetition is pretty useful :)

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Main surprises for me are affirmative action and hate crimes. Have you written about these at all? Would love to see what you have to say.

Affirmative action based on race seems like it only benefits those already doing well, and hate crimes are something I've never understood. I get the concept, but it seems like the justice system should be cold/impartial, it shouldn't matter if I bash your face in because I hate your race/sex/gender, or I'm just having a bad day.

Also, one term I have a hard time wrapping my head around is sexual coercion. It seems broad and often denies any agency to the woman. Straight quid pro quo or blackmail type stuff is obviously wrong, but someone begging for sex or generally being a pest, well if you're an adult not being held captive then I believe its your responsibility to say no regardless of how hard it may be; you can't expect anyone else to help you. Obviously any threat of violence changes the entire equation, but that goes beyond "coercion".

Anyway, cool to see your beliefs laid out this way. I think beyond your enormous skill as a writer, I value your honesty most of all. Its seems to be in short supply these days.

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Removed (Banned)Jul 4, 2022·edited Jul 4, 2022
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Nothing you say convinces me that hate crimes are a good idea.

Throwing a snowball and shouting ANYTHING should not be a felony, period.

And if it is, it should not depend on the specific word that was used.

And if it does, we need a list of the forbidden words, so that the law can be applied uniformly.

Which, of course, has not been provided by the text of any of these laws.

Conclusion: attempts to police thought crime are bad. "Hate crime" is thought crime. Attempting to police it is bad.

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Agree. We need to be very clear about laws, and introducing these subjective criteria make it impossible to provide equal protection.

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I am against the idea of 'hate crime' as a modifier of already criminal activity, but it does need to be clear that eg cross burning is a threat and should be treated much more seriously than just trespassing.

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Oxford says coercion is "persuading someone to do something by using force or threats", so I think that goes well beyond begging or being a pest.

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Isn’t that rape? I guess I thought they were talking about situations where someone was being emotionally manipulative, like begging or maybe saying they would leave. A high stakes emotional situation, not threatening safety or financial well-being.

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I'm not comfortable with hate crimes either. Cross burning is more than trespass, it's overt terrorism, a calculated threat.

I believe things set in legal code should be defined very clearly, no ambiguity. Hate crimes are more like, I know it when I see it.

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JFYI - I believe that you used cut/paste to assemble some of this (I certainly would have) and that in doing so you missed two intended replacements: LGBTQ/women and Muslim/disabled. I assume you don't actually mean that all LGBTQ are women, or that all Muslims are disabled. Might want to correct those to avoid giving your intellectually dishonest detractors something more to scream about on Twitter. Typos obviously aren't beliefs, but...

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But this is why I love your writing. Thank you.

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“I am one of those rubes who still believe in passionate disagreement that does not close your heart to the other.”

In a democracy, this is the only principle I care about. Happy 4th, friend.

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“The sad and inevitable next step is that I will eventually write something that they deeply disagree with, and the intensity of their love for the other stuff will make this unexpected disagreement hurt much more. It’s a privilege to make people feel so deeply. But we all must take care to not invent each other.”

Applies as much to life as it does to writing imo. We must take care not to invent each other.

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Well, I can’t say you didn’t warn me that it would be boring. Happy Fourth Freddie!

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Not boring! And I – one of your 'libertarian' readers – learned basically nothing new reading this :)

I think you've done a great job 'making yourself', and in my mind too!

> I am one of those rubes who still believe in passionate disagreement that does not close your heart to the other.

I think this is what I love and appreciate most about you. (It doesn't hurt that you're smart and a great writer either tho!)

> I am uninterested in convincing others to adopt atheism.

I don't think people that knew me even a decade ago would believe it, but I've settled (very comfortably) into this myself :)

> Far from a bourgeois or capitalist concern, the pursuit of personal freedom is as Marx argued a natural and beneficial endeavor that reflects straightforward human desires to live without coercion.

I like Ayn Rand's version of this: "Civilization is the process of setting man free from men." or, in contemporary terminology 'Civilization is the process of setting people free from other people.'.

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deletedJul 4, 2022·edited Jul 4, 2022
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I still do think 'agnostics' are basically just (intellectual) 'cowards' :)

Practically, thinking in probabilities seems like a great way to just avoid the silly debates about atheism versus agnosticism. There's no consistent and coherent set of beliefs whereby every religion (or even just the 'major' ones) are somehow all 50% likely/probable!

I've found myself becoming more and more of a Platonist myself over the years/decades! And yet I still describe myself as an 'atheist' with respect to basically all other religious belief. (And yet I _also_ still like theology as an intellectual exercise!)

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Nice summary. There's a fair amount I agree with and a fair amount that I don't, but I see no need to scream abuse at you about any of it. This isn't really the thread to get into detail about any of those things, but there may be others where we can discuss some of them.

The one thing I will say here is that I would have simply put a period after the words "I believe that achieving a just society cannot happen". Capitalism is not the problem, and there's no evidence to date that socialism can do any better. Civilization of any kind is basically an attempt to construct a set of rules to make it possible for people to live together more or less peacefully, but it can never be perfect. It's always going to be messy, because it's full of people. This is not to say we shouldn't try to address specific injustices, but it would be foolish to think that the result will ever be "a just society".

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Yes, "perfect" economic justice is unobtainable, but so is perfect democracy, a perfectly fair legal system, etc. Doesn't mean those things aren't worth striving for. The question is whether a particular ideal -- in this case, material equality -- is a thing worth chasing, not whether it's literally possible to achieve.

I'd say it is, which is the thing that ultimately keeps me tethered to the Left despite years of drifting away in various ways. I understand there are big questions around the potential tradeoffs (how much does redistributing individual wealth impede collective economic growth? what do we do about property rights? etc) but imo economic justice is an ideal on a par with democracy, freedom of religion and speech, and so on. I just can't accept that a society can be good when it has such astronomical disparities in material living situations as ours.

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Jul 4, 2022·edited Jul 5, 2022

Sure, but part of the problem is that most people (including most politicians) don't think these issues through as much as you seem to be doing when you mention "potential tradeoffs". The general trend on both left and right these days is to define everything as a moral absolute, which means you can't debate it. Potential tradeoffs or side-effects are therefore not considered, because only bad people, it seems, would even imagine that something that is a moral necessity could possibly have unintended consequences.

It worries me when people talk as if they seriously think a truly just society is possible, because it makes me wonder what extremes they'll be willing to go to in their continual pursuit of it, and what harms they will cause in their ever-increasing desperation to achieve it. I actually think the early Bolsheviks seriously believed they could make things better for the average Russian. But once they got into power and found that the average Russian didn't want to go along with their program, they resorted to arrests, executions, intentional famines, etc., and the result was millions dead and a tyranny worse than the Czars -- another road to hell paved with (initially) good intentions.

Again, this is not to say we can't try to improve the injustices we see around us, but we shouldn't expect that we can ever achieve perfection, or think that there's something wrong with our society if we haven't achieved it already (which is a big problem on the left these days).

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I wonder how socialists respond to the universal evidence that socialist economies cannot generate the surplus needed to provide the good things that socialists want to give to all people as human rights. Really existing socialist societies have always stagnated or imploded economically. Sometimes it’s Really, Really Bad - like Venezuela. Sometimes it’s just Not So Great - like Britain in the Seventies. I can’t think of a single one that has been able to satisfy its citizens’ desire for a better life. Am I missing something?

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I often think about the evocative remark by Anatole France (as quoted by George Orwell): “The world will get the same relief from the coming of Socialism that a sick man gets from turning over in bed”.

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Hmmm... exactly what I expected. I subscribe (and happily pay) for your scrivenings to get a thoughtful view of topics opposed to my own.

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Jul 4, 2022·edited Jul 4, 2022

How will these policies be enforced if we don’t deal with the interpersonal aspects of various types of bigotry?

I’ve been beat up and had people

Yelling fairy at me and was counseled to not flirt with boys at school instead of protected. I know too many women who’ve been slut shamed by law enforcement to count.

If you don’t get to pretty universal acceptance of the weird then all the laws and policies seem more like wishes than help. All these need to be carried out by people whose just basic biases mean that there just can’t be that much help without really sincerely being seen as a human who doesn’t deserve abuse.

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Jul 4, 2022·edited Jul 4, 2022Liked by Freddie deBoer

Is Freddie saying it shouldn't be dealt with or just that attempts to manage interpersonal relations by policy will always be ineffective. I read him saying the second ("you can't regulate thoughts or feelings" and no regulation could perfectly suppress all expressions of someone's feelings) and that seems true to me

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I feel like I agree with that but it flips its on it's head. The policy is the side show and the liberal obsession stuff is the meat of the issue. The like what does the government say or do about it is at best something to spur the laggards on.

I think it's also true that liberals are bad at fighting these culture wars but like if I'd grown up surrounded by people who thought my bi-ness was as banal a detail about me as my brown hair I wouldn't feel a sort of constant sense of fear all the time.

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I'm only part-way through this but there is an editing error in the email version mixing the muslim paragraph with the disability one. Maybe you already corrected it?

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No, sorry, that was an attempt to shoehorn in two other versions of bigotries in a short space without droning on and on and on.....

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Well, I basically agree with you on most points. I wonder if I can get my mom to read this!

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Also, well done (obviously). My favorite patreon/substack atm.

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Jul 4, 2022·edited Jul 4, 2022

In the second paragraph on LGTBQ rights:

> I believe that only muscular government intervention can end sexual and gender inequality. I believe that, since we can never regulate thoughts or feelings, our focus must be on ending the material inequalities and injustices that afflict women, such as income gaps and sexual assault.

I think the word "women" there may be accidentally included from the previous paragraphs on sexism, and should probably be "LGTBQ people" or similar. (You may also have intended to list different issues that particular effect LGTBQ people.)

Similarly, the paragraph on people with disabilities and muslims includes:

> I believe that the interests of Muslims are frequently marginalized in contemporary society in a way that compels us to collective and government action to protect their rights and interests, such that they may live lives of equal material security and abundance as those who are not disabled.

I don't think you meant to imply that being Muslim is a disability.

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The lede (was buried): "Integrity," and "I believe that there are *pre-political commitments to fairness and decency* that are too often dismissed as a fetish for civility in our contemporary media. I am one of those rubes who still believe in passionate disagreement that *does not close your heart to the other.* Also, while I am a very weird person I would like to think that I *avoid* the bipartisan tendency in contemporary politics to talk like a complete lunatic." There you have it. Best of the July 4 posts in my inbox, which is no surprise. Never stop never stopping, Freddie.

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It's good to see in print, and reinforces my thought that when push comes to shove, the left has much more in common than not. I mean, I could change "I believe" to "In this house we" and stick it on a sign in my yard, if the text weren't so long (ha ha). It also sounds like a chunk of the DSA platform, and I don't mean that as an insult, just that we are fighting for the same stuff, albeit incoherently at times.

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Not that I learned anything new really, being a somewhat longtime reader, but it's still refreshing to see how you frame your thoughts and positions on things that are sometimes hard to put into words. I often find you materializing what is abstract in my head. So, once again, thanks!

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