RE: virus: Re: Memes and Jello

Mark Hornberger (
Fri, 23 May 1997 22:19:09 -0500 (CDT)

On Thu, 22 May 1997, Gifford, Nate F wrote:

> >I wouldn't say they built him, so much as he saw that their platform
> >struck a chord with the voters, so he just copied all of their rhetoric.
> >Now he's the anti-big-govt budget-balancer. Presto-chango!
> >
> Exactly! The conservatives I know rabidly hate Clinton ... even more than
> I resented Reagan. What is so strange is how the rhetoric from
> Reagan/Bush/Clinton has so little to do with their actions. Reagan spent
> eight years talking about cutting government spending ... and ran the debt
> up like a drunken sailor <he cut revenue without cutting spendinG>.

I would say that Reagan chickened out on Social Security and other social
spending, and failed to live up to his rhetoric. But I think he did so
as a compromise with a predominantly Democratic congress, because he felt
that re-building the military was more important, and that giving them
the social spending they wanted was the only way to get them to go along
with his plans for the military. I'm not a big Reagan fan, but the vast
majority of spending increases, that I'm aware of, came in social
spending, entitlements, whatnot. I think the military has remained more
or less a constant percentage of GDP (or is it GNP) for over 40 years,
while social spending has increased by several thousand percent. Some
obviously consider that a spiffy idea (or else it wouldn't have happened,
obviously) but I do not. I go along with Hayek's _The Road to Serfdom_.
If you and I disagree over this (the desirability of a extensive welfare
state) it is going to be from differing value judgements and political
worldviews, not niggling over statistics. I'm not saying that you *are*
niggling, only that we should avoid that. No point in it.

> > Can someone help me out with some literature references here? I would
> > argue that it is narcissistic intellectual exhibitionism tendencies <two
> > beamers and an MBA> that cause them not to feel right....
> I admit that $$ won't buy happiness, but I don't think it's inimical to
> it, either. If I won the lottery tomorrow, would I suddenly become
> miserable and unstable?

> You personally ... or you as a statistical entity? A couple of years ago I
> read a book on the spiritual aspects of money that pointed out that sudden
> increases in wealth can lead to unhappiness. It would be like putting an 8
> year old behind the wheel of a car ... they just aren't ready to handle the
> choices.

Yes, sudden increases in wealth *can* lead to unhappiness - any change
whatsoever in our living arrangements, our circumstances, anything, can
concievably lead to unhappiness - just as being stuck in any set of
circumstances can. If you honestly believe that more dollars in a
person's pocket increases the likelihood that they'll be sullen and
miserable, why are you so amicable to the idea of taking from the
accursed, unhappy rich to give the the blessed, escatic poor? Why do you
wish to disturb the poors' blissful existence with filthy lucre? Not very
nice of you. Being the humanitarian that I am, I volunteer to accept
money from any and all on this list, in the interests of increasing the
sum total of happiness in your lives and shouldering the horrors and
uncertainties myself. I'm just like that.

And as for the idea that 'they' just aren't 'ready' to handle the choices,
I'm going to have to slide into an ad hominem allusion here, much as I try
to avoid them. This is typical of
collectivists/liberals/statists -whatever- because they always know that
they and their brethren know far better than the unwashed masses what the
unwashed masses need. Nice to know we have someone who knows how to take
care of us. And if Joe Schmoe wins the lottery and then discovers, much
to his lowbrow dismay, that tons of money won't buy happiness after all,
what of it? Is this to say that we should intervene to keep him where he
was, save him from his own problems? Is this paternalism we're aiming

> Pardon my bias here. My father was a therapist at the County Jail in
> Missouri. He encouraged me to go to some of his group therapy sessions so
> I could see how people screwed up their lives. The key was that if you
> could accept whatever warped premise they started from <Bad memes> then
> they really didn't belong in jail ... So the whole point of his
> group/individual therapy was to modify the individuals premise just enough
> so they didn't end up staying with the county again. I suspect that middle
> class therapy is pretty much like jail therapy. I see middle class people
> act non-rationally <but legally> and often think that therapy would help
> them out. Examples are bad spending habits, ineffective child raising
> strategies, compulsions of various types. I think you are way off the mark
> on how therapy works and why people go to it.

If people are helped by therapy, fine, just as if they are helped by
Christianity, or for that matter Satanism. Whatever gives you what you
need. But do I have a lot of respect for it? Honestly, no. But I've
never felt the need for it, never really felt lost or disjointed for more
than an hour or so at a time, so... I guess the world takes all kinds.

> >Now if you can call one and half trillion dollars 'no basis in fact,'
> >fine, but for me it is soundly tethered to reality.
> What part of the above is not a civilized necessity? My parents and
> in-laws are dependent on medicare for medical insurance. If medicare
> hadn't existed in the seventies they might have made different career
> choices. Their lifestyle would be diminished without social security. Not
> only that, but they did pay into it ... We HAVE to pay interest on the
> national debt ... and well defense .... So how are the above symptoms of a
> self-indulgent nanny state? To keep this focused on memes ... I contend
> that you are infected by "the capitalist - conservative" meme that really
> flourished in the eighties. Ultimately this discussion should devolve into
> "what is just" ...but on the way we may discover assumptions about what is
> real that aren't backed up by the statistics in the World Almanac.
> >
I call it the nanny state (as do many others) because it is founded on the
notion that the state is here to take care of us, much like a nanny. Not
a very hard-to-see analogy here. If we can't manage to save for our own
retirement and old age (as if we didn't know we were going to age) then
the govt will tax everyone else to subsidize our poor decisions. The govt
will tax everyone else to pay for our medical care, etc etc. It isn't
that I object to someone paying -out of the goodness of their own heart-
into a fund that does some or all of what the welfare state tries
(unsuccessfully) to do. I object to it being funded by compulsory
taxation. That people depend on government largess is no shock - if you
stand on the corner and give away money you took from someone else,
telling people all the while that you'll continue taking from others to
give to them, people will in time come to depend on you and your
contributions, regardless of where you got the money. They will make
lifestyle choices based on the assumption that you will continue taking
from others to subsidize their own lifestyle and future. None of this
changes the nature of what is happening. It isn't their money, pure and
simple. If you wish to 'help the poor' then cut their taxes to nothing,
including not only income tax but SS and Medicare as well. I have no
problem with the poor keeping thier money even if the rest of us have to
pay for defense, infrastructure, whatever... but I do object to the govt
taxing Peter to pay Paul, and then Paul bitching when that 'gift' is
threatened on down the line. It ain't Paul's money, regardless of how
long we've been taxing Peter to give Paul the check every month.

> >I disagree with that. I am disgussted with how much I pay, and more
> >specifically with how much of what I pay is collected for the sole
> purpose
> >of giving to someone else.
> Why do you care? Do you think that the people the government "supports"
> are living better lives than you?

Not my point. It isn't their money. If they wish to ask for it, or to
form a charity organization that tries to manipulate my conscience, fine.
I have no problem with voluntary income 'redistribution' (translation:
charity) but when you finance welfare via compulsory taxation, it isn't
charity or humanitariansim, but extortion.

> >Taxing corporations is taxing their customers and the investors.
> No its not ... how much of how corporate profits are spent benefits
> humanity? The economic system is a means for allocating resources ...
> taxes are a feedback mechanism for ensuring equal distribution of those
> resources.

Corporate profits motivate investors to reinvest, or if they've already
sold out it entices others to invest. Capital goes to building more
factories, facilities, whatever. Not every dollar, but enough. The
system is not a 'means for allocating resources' but the model (or meme,
if you will) we use to describe what happens when people exchange goods,
services, time, labor, capital, etc. There is no great omniscient
'allocator' except in socialist economies, where the state tries to govern
and guide all conceivable interactions - and that's been a roaring success
overall, hasn't it? I have x number of dollars and decide I want a pair
of jeans, while Levi and other jean companies are salivating over the
prospect of getting my $$. They want to trade their jeans for my money,
and vice versa. There is no 'allocation' or anything of the sort. You
trade what you have for what you want. If you don't have enough $$ to get
what you want, you try to get a better job to draw a higher price for your
labor, or you try to win the lottery, or knock off your rich uncle,
whatever. It isn't exacly a complicated system, except for those who try
to make it seem so, because they are trying to obfuscate the role of
freedom in capitalism, or the lack of compulsion. They are trying to
build a meme (okay, so I'll cave in and use the word lol) that says we
would be 'freer' under socialism or some other state-run economy.
Predictably, I think they're loony.
> Fine. So if every GM stockholder dumps their stock on the market,
> Have you looked at the historical value of the market? Why did it take
> such a massive leap in the eighties? Who has benefited from this leap?

Who cares? Is it a sin for the rich to earn a return on the money they
invested? That is presumably why they invested.

> the value plummets, the compamy slides into bankruptcy
> How much does stock price have to do with economic viability? If GMs stock
> went to zero tomorrow wouldn't GM still be making a profit?

Hmmm maybe some corporate bigwig, if there's one on the list, would
explain to me how GM would be as healthy as ever if their stock price
fell by, say, 95%. I think dumping of the stock does has an effect on the
viability of the company, but I'm no MBA. Input?

> and all -not some, all- of the factories close
> Why have GM factories been closing lately?
> , who volunteers to tell the former workers that they don't need the
> investors to preserve their jobs?
> The point of this is not to argue politics ... its to try to predict the
> future based on simplified economic models. I contend that your assumption
> that a company's viability is directly correlated with its stock price is
> confusing cause and effect.

Classical free-market economics (Mises et al) is as simple as it gets. It
only gets complicated when Keynsians or others try to show that free
markets are inferior to socialistic planning.
> I'm unaware of this ... could you give me dates so I can put it in
> historical perspective?

Historical perspective? How do you put 50 million corpses or 40% of the
Cambodian population into historical perspective? Unless you're going by
Lenin's witty retort that you can't make an omelet without breaking a few
eggs. This was when he was having in excess of 10 thousand people a month
shot. Reference Paul Johnson's _Modern Times_.

> I don't wish to defend Stalin ... but the people he killed were Kulaks ...
> peasants. He killed them by starvation to solidify his govt. This is a
> rational third world policy ... see P.J. O'Rourkes All The Trouble in The
> World. Famine is a result of govt. policy, and the famine benefits the
> govt. To see how capitalism can be as bad as communism look at East Timor
> <thank you Mr. Chomsky>.

Pointer: P.J. O'Rourke is a comedian. A politically astute comedian, but
a comedian. I've read of East Timor (it's the Left's only retort to
Russia, China and Cambodia, so I've heard it fairly often)... but where is
the scale? How many people died there? Give me a ballpark figure.
> Can you justify this? "Racing" is a pretty strong verb.

Hmmm perhaps the word was too strong. Not the heart of my point, anyway,
so I'll concede that this was a bit of overenthusiastic hyperbole.

> >that have managed to preserve a bloated welfare state and high taxes
> >without concentration camps. I did not say it happened *every* time,
> only
> >that there was a correlation. How is it people see sinister things in
> >corporate power, yet consider government our benevolent protectors, when
> >it is the government that has the army?
> I'm sorry if I am giving you this impression. I distrust government and
> corporations. A government with good PR doesn't need the army to rule.
> See North Korea, Cuba, Iran ... Compare to Turkey, Israel, South Korea.
A company doesn't 'rule' because it does not have legal recourse to force
and compulsion to achieve it's ends. Those cases where companies are
involved in coups and other nasty little things have one salient factor -
the company was in bed with the government\every time. Companies do evil
things only with the complicity or at the very least the blessing of
government, because governments have pesky things like tanks and
battleships, which out-argue even the best corporate attourney. People
see govt helping corporations doing nasty things and they rush to say
"Look! Capitalism is just as bad, if not worse!" Government-assisted
capitalism is not free-market capitalism, and should not be confused.

> >Show me a corporation that has done what Hitler, Stalin, Mao Zedong,
> Mussolini, >Lenin, Mobutu, Amin have done.
> Shell Oil. The Union Pacific Railroad. United Fruit. How many fortunes
> were built on the golden triangle of Rum-Slaves-Sugar?

I didn't say that no company has ever done *anything* - I referred to
specific people who, as heads of state, presided over massaccres and
oppression of their own citizens on a scale that cannot be approached by
the likes of Shell Oil. To liken United Fruit to what Hitler pulled off
shows an appalling lack of perspective.

> I'm sorry I gave you this impression. It is not my meme ...

But everthing you write indicates that it is. You deplore the excesses of
capitalism, and propose government as the logical solution. You are, by
and large, a statist. That you don't consider yourself a statist, but
instead an objective seeker of rational solutions, yet again and again the
state is the only rational solution you can percieve, only cements it for
me. Now if you can show me how I'm wrong...

> > >Government is force, my friend.
> I agree. But all that force does not come from the barrel of a gun. Look
> at how Daley ran Chicago to see how powerful memes can be ... Look at how
> the Kennedy's control the Massachusetts electorate.

Perhaps because of Kennedy's long-time defense of the welfare state?
People love big government, moreso in some places than others. He's
buying the poor vote by sticking up for welfare, and the middle-class vote
by defending other middle-class entitlements. It's far from shocking that
people will vote for someone as long as he promises to give them someone
else's money.
> >To say that government should take from A and give to B is to say that
> >someone should, by force if necessary,
> Force is only necessary to maintain the meme "Rule of law". Government
> exists to administer the "Rule of law". Systems of government determine
> WHERE the law comes from.

My point is that your focus is not on persuading people to give
voluntarily to charity, but on perpetuating state-run welfare, which is
financed by compulsory taxation. If the "rule of law" says that all money
and property actually belongs to the govt, which can do with it what it
pleases, then we have bad law.
> I don't remember saying that. I will say that if you want to industrialize
> your third world country sometimes its easier to kill the peasants instead
> of educating them.

Then why don't we kill the nonproductive poor rather than subsidize them
with welfare? Their absence will help both the working poor in that their
neighborhoods will be safer, and push up property values. This is

> That's the difference between Russian communism and
> Indian socialism. I contend that I am less worried about government
> control then corporate control because I have more input to government ...
> although corporations certainly are trying to limit the impact I do have.

I'd bet good money that the NEA and AARP have more infuence that Microsoft
or Home Depot.

> >, are negated because it hasn't happened in
> >Switzerland or Canada yet. Who has the meme that is inapable of
> >modification?
> Please explain to me how communism/socialism leads to death and destruction
> again ...I'm afraid I still don't see a cause and effect.

Time restraints prevent me from posting the entirety of Hayek's _The Road
to Serfdom_ or similar works. Honestly, it's unlikely that you would
care anyway. I have a personality that likes to be left alone, and I have
a problem with people telling me what to do unless it's clear that I'll
hurt or endanger someone by my actions, so I am by nature of a libertarian
bent. Some have a preoccupation with order, or can't stand the fact that
people don't do as they want them to do, so they end up as statists,
scoffing at the warnings of libertarians, who see seeds of totalitarianism
in every little encroachment. Or perhaps it's that the statists desire
totalitarianism (though a benign, soft-and-fuzzy variety, of course) in
their heart of hearts. Telling others what they will do with their time
and money (or conversely, what they won't do) has always had an
irresistable allure for much of humanity. So
I don't think the differences we've discovered are attributable to a lack
of understanding, or can be cured by a clarified point or a refined
argument. We're just different animals, methinks.

> >Here we part ways. Those who say "Gosh, we don't even know what freedom
> >really *means*...." are invariably doing so as a segue to a proposition
> for
> >more government power and authority. I believe in the Bill of Rights, as
> >in the common-sense, 'this-is-what-it-obviously-says' version. I believe
> >in the fairly simple notion that you should be able to do pretty much as
> >you please, so long as you don't harm someone else in the process.
> I am sorry that I tried to convince you that the Bill of Rights is a
> conflicting set of principles. You obviously have a deeper understanding
> than I do.

Please don't patronize me. I do rant at times, but I was only
illustrating my point.

> How do you feel about school prayer <Ammendment 1>

There is no spiritual reason behind school prayer, only the political one
that Christians want their religion vindicated and legitimized by schools.
If a child is a Christian, nothing can or will prevent them from praying
silently to God, who, from what they tell me, hears even what you say in
your heart. For the teacher or principal to lead the school or class in
prayer therefore has no spiritual utility whatsoever. It is only a
hamhanded attempt to get teacher to indoctrinate our kids with Christian

> ... or does
> that conflict with states rights <Ammendment 10>? Should the south been
> allowed to secede under Ammendment 10?

If it wins popular vote, yes. Should we intervene to stop slavery, even
in another soverign nation? Yes, if we believe in absolute values such as
human freedom.

> Ammendment 2 says "the right of the
> people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." Shouldn't I be
> allowed to own nuclear weapons if I can build 'em?

Hmmm that's a touchy one, but of course I have an opinion. I stick with
the basic libertarian premise that people have a right to self-defense,
and by extention weapons used for that purpose. But since nuclear weapons
have no function in that capacity, no you can't have one. A compromise, I
know. I'm guessing that either you or someone else out there is rubbing
their hands together, thinking they've 'got' me. Fine, whatever. But
eristic hair-splitting aside, it doesn't follow that handguns and
semi-automatics should be collected tomorroww by the National Guard. As I
said, I believe in the right to self-defense, and that includes
self-defense against government tyranny, which is what the forefathers had
in mind anyway when they wrote it. Will this argument satisfy those who
want everyone disarmed? No. As others on this list have pointed out,
logic does not influence most people's opinions, anyway. While I concede
that, grudgingly, I'll stick to it as much as I can, because it's,
frankly, all we have.

> How do you feel
> RICO and the weakening of Miranda <Ammendment 4>?

Hate it hate it hate it. From the way the war on drugs is progressing,
you could plausibly conclude that the 4th Amendment was null and void.
Don't GET me started on the war on drugs, please. Oh, man, my pulse is
racing just thinking about it! :)

> You talk about a waste
> of government money ... how much do we pay for the supreme court anyway?
Too much, or not enough. Sad case as they are, they are the last
guardians of our civil liberties. The legislature is racing (yes,
racing!) to do away with them, and the Executive branch is dead even with
them. Sad as it sounds, the judiciary is all we have to hope for. Think
of the Community Decency Act? Spawned by a legislature, signed off on by
the Presidnent, and stopped only by the Judiciary. Thank you!

> >And while I do love philosophy and a little hair-splitting once in a
> while, I
> >don't extend the definition of 'harm' to include secondary or dirivative
> >effects, such as "Well if you do marijuana you are in a way hurting the
> >rest of us, because we're deprived of your productivity, plus you're
> being
> >a bad example to kids, so we're going to lock you in jail, since you're
> so
> >harmful..." or "you owning a gun is harmful to the rest of us, even if
> >you're not a criminal and have never harmed or threatened someone with a
> >gun, because even the knowledge that there's a gun around is 'harmful' to
> >my wife's peace of mind, so we're confiscating your firearm." or "Even
> >though you're viewing that pornography in the privacy of your own home,
> >the very presence of such prurient material in our community is harmful
> to
> >our children and the entire social fabric, so we're taking you're books
> >and giving you a citation..."
> That's cool. I want to open a porn shop 100 feet from your kid's school.

That's okay. Do I get a discount, since I'm a local? I'm not of the
belief that the sight of a bare breast or buttock is going to make either
of my kids into serial killers. It's my job to raise them, not the
government's. And since we're on it, did I or didn't I say " the
privacy of your own home..."?? I'm talking about them wanting to ban it
altogether, and you start talking about where the storefront should be.
Is that a red herring in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?

> > Have you ever read 1984?
> Do you think you can control a populace by manipulating language? Have you
> clearly defined the terms and objectively checked the facts of your
> position?

Methinks I have. I wasn't calling you Orwellian, but I do notice a latent
tendency to fudge the meaning of words like "freedom." It bugs me;
perhaps I overreacted, or misinterpreted.

> really depends on your agenda. The government is the largest <only?>
> impediment to the second amendment. But, I'm not sure of the rest.

Yes, I am. IBM isn't likely to lock me in jail or seize my home, bank
acct, etc. But if a cop finds a bit of cocaine in my trunk, that's a
different story. Corporations want your $$, and will lie and steal to
get it. So yes, I believe in the necessity of a strong, vigilant govt,
only one with a smaller scope and function than we now have.

> How do we 'distribute' resources? So it's 'our' money now? You speak as
> if there is no such thing as rightful ownership - that everything should
> Perhaps not everything ... but maybe the Tsongas forest in Alaska, the
> offshore oil reserves, the forest in Oregon and Washington.
> by right go into the communal pot, to be divided up by the wise, sagacious
> government officials. I'm not a socialist, sorry. You may consider
> free-market capitalism a 'pathological meme' but it is far superior (IMHO)
> than any socialist country I have thus seen or heard about. Granted, the
> world would perhaps (!) be a better place
> Again relative to what ... I'm not socialist and I'm not capitalist ...
> because to claim you are one or the other is to in a sense deny your free
> will <such as it is ...>

No, the term 'libertarian' is not a shackle around my ankle, preventing me
from thinking critically or asking questions. It is a description, fairly
accurate, of which political school my beliefs lie closest to. To say
that you belong to no school of thought is (IMHO) an attempt (perhaps
subconscious) to try to avoid responsibility, standing up for, the things
you say. You are, by my estimate, a semi-statist. You don't start out as
a champion for pervasive government, but your musings about world problems
always seem to end up in the same place when you arrive at your best
solution - more government involvement. Hence, statist. I have yet to
hear you indicate that your preference would be to leave people the hell
alone - you want to help, guide, assist, nudge, whatever - with government
as your tool. Am I wrong? You may say that I am now, but I'm only going
by the tone of what you've already written.

> And neither is govt. run capitalism ... look at the history of the labor
> movement.

The more violent elements of which always relied on government
complicity, a bribed police chief looking the other way. I am no
advocate of government-assisted capitalism. I believe in a govt that has
the police, the courts, jails, etc, to prohibit and punish murder, rape,
robbery, and other violence, and to try to abritrate contracts and
business disputes, and deter fraud, via the civil courts. Not much else,
though. I think it should just stay out of the way most of the time.
Just my opinion.

Mark Hornberger