Log in

Communists are the ultimate conservatives - The Revolution of the Moon
Links WikiWikiWeb / Harvard School of Public Health / KPIG -- my sation / Smith -- my former(!!!) college
Thu, Feb. 3rd, 2011 07:12 pm
Communists are the ultimate conservatives

I was reading an article exploring how Libertarians and Communists are in one camp, while Socialists and Fiscal Conservatives are in a second. The first camp interprets economics and society, then throws up its hands proclaiming that the only solution is to throw it out: Libertarians for anarchy, Communists for a queuing state. The second believes in the moral validity of things like taxes, government spending, private ownership and kludges like intellectual property rights. Basically, all the things that work around externalities and the underproduction of goods with a marginal cost of production of near-zero. They don't have a moral problem with patching an economic system rather than replacing it.

I rather like this split of revolutionary vs participant, since it divides conversations about the current state of affairs nicely into "pointless" and "potentially productive" (whereas left versus right only has minor predictive value). If I am talking to a Libertarian or a Communist, as soon as they say "taxes are coercion" or "labor's rightful ownership of the means of production" I know I shouldn't bother; it would be like discussing damnation with an Atheist.

If instead I am talking with a Fiscal Conservative, we can discuss what point we are at on the Laffer curve and they will accept evidence and data, or else offer concrete, correctable criticisms of the methods used to obtain it. They may propose radical reforms (like Scott Sumner's NGDP targeting), but we ultimately share a number of assumptions about the world including the legitimacy of government.

The problem is that the revolutionary left has disappeared from conversations, while the revolutionary right has been accepted as mainstream, which makes all the non-anarchists appear to be left-wing even if they are Milton Friedman. We now have an entire party devoted to the abolition of taxation and government spending, when a party devoted to the abolition of profit would be laughed off the national stage. The Laffer curve is no longer a curve, but rather a code word for "the revolution is coming", the same way "surplus value" is. As long as the political world is divided by binaries, left and right, we will continue to confound Friedman with Ayn Rand, though he has more in common with Keynes.

But to the title of this piece! All this got me thinking about Communism again and how to describe it to people who have no intention of reading the Communist Manifesto, much less any history of Eastern Europe. And then, I discovered an analogy.

What we now call "conservatives" are actually regressives, wishing to return to an earlier era. The Regan era is popular for some reason (evidence of a lack of empirical thought: low growth, widening inequality, fear-based foreign policy and aggravated race relations doesn't sound like my idea of good governance), while others cast back further, watching Mad Men nostalgically or flying the Confederate Flag. Notably, they may not actually wish to return to the Antebellum South or drive middle class women from the work force. Often it is based on perception, not reality (the 1950s and 80s both had higher taxes than we do now, for example.)

Communists wish to return to life before the rise of commerce, except with modern knowledge and products. They want people to work for the good of the tribe, and refrain from over-eating out of the good of the tribe. They are all over the taboos against eating your own kill, breaking down or eliminating gender roles (hypothesized by some to be the origin of commerce), and consensus building in place of hierarchies of power.
It is notable that the people currently living in Communist communities, NY squatters or religious groups in particular, look less like the Communist ideal and more like pre-agrarian societies. Often I think the appeal of Communism was never so much about economics as it was about the loneliness and alienation of lives reduced to dollars and cents, divided by class into the guilty and the destitute. Then the implementations of Communism reemphasized rather than diminishing that lack of tribe or individuality.

Anyway, that is why Communists are more conservative than conservatives: they want to go back at least 7,000 years and not a measly three decades.

Next week, if I get around to it, I'll talk about the Tea Party and how racism leads to revolution.


Shadow Flying In Daylight
Fri, Feb. 4th, 2011 02:37 am (UTC)

The problem is that the revolutionary left has disappeared from conversations, while the revolutionary right has been accepted as mainstream, which makes all the non-anarchists appear to be left-wing even if they are Milton Friedman.


warren j. dew
Sat, Feb. 5th, 2011 03:23 am (UTC)

The Reagan era is popular because of the end of the Cold War, which rather reduced everyday fear, and economic policies that resulted in sustained strong real per capita income growth with low inflation. The actual numbers for annual real per capita income growth are 2.14% in the 1970s (plus high inflation), 2.30% in the 1980s, 2.17% in the 1990s, and a miserable 0.69% since 2000. Source:


Milton Friedman considered himself a libertarian. He and Nozick will give you a better handle on actual libertarian views than Rand. Not all libertarians believe in ignoring reality, though the "newly converted" often do. This may be true of Communism as well.