Saturday, July 25, 2015

Nations within Nations. Is it true?

Which of the 11 American nations do you live in?
Red states and blue states? Flyover country and the coasts? How simplistic. Colin Woodard, a reporter at the Portland Press Herald and author of several books, says North America can be broken neatly into 11 separate nation-states, where dominant cultures explain our voting behaviors and attitudes toward everything from social issues to the role of government.

“The borders of my eleven American nations are reflected in many different types of maps — including maps showing the distribution of linguistic dialects, the spread of cultural artifacts, the prevalence of different religious denominations, and the county-by-county breakdown of voting in virtually every hotly contested presidential race in our history,” Woodard writes in the Fall 2013 issue of Tufts University’s alumni magazine. “Our continent’s famed mobility has been reinforcing, not dissolving, regional differences, as people increasingly sort themselves into like-minded communities.” [...]
See the whole article for a larger map, embedded links, and descriptions of each of the individual "nations" on the map.

This reminds me a lot of a similar map I blogged about in 2007. The older map broke up areas into even smaller areas. So which is better? Have things changed much? Or is it just a matter of perspective?

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Are their different "flavors" of capitalism and socialism? What should we choose?

Is the pope stirring the pot for the communists?

In Fiery Speeches, Francis Excoriates Global Capitalism
[...] Having returned to his native Latin America, Francis has renewed his left-leaning critiques on the inequalities of capitalism, describing it as an underlying cause of global injustice, and a prime cause of climate change. Francis escalated that line last week when he made a historic apology for the crimes of the Roman Catholic Church during the period of Spanish colonialism — even as he called for a global movement against a “new colonialism” rooted in an inequitable economic order.

The Argentine pope seemed to be asking for a social revolution.


Francis has defined the economic challenge of this era as the failure of global capitalism to create fairness, equity and dignified livelihoods for the poor — a social and religious agenda that coincides with a resurgence of the leftist thinking marginalized in the days of John Paul II. Francis’ increasingly sharp critique comes as much of humanity has never been so wealthy or well fed — yet rising inequality and repeated financial crises have unsettled voters, policy makers and economists.

Left-wing populism is surging in countries immersed in economic turmoil, such as Spain, and, most notably, Greece. But even in the United States, where the economy has rebounded, widespread concern about inequality and corporate power are propelling the rise of liberals like Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who, in turn, have pushed the Democratic Party presidential front-runner, Hillary Rodham Clinton, to the left.


Even as he meets regularly with heads of state, Francis has often said that change must come from the grass roots, whether from poor people or the community organizers who work with them. To Francis, the poor have earned knowledge that is useful and redeeming, even as a “throwaway culture” tosses them aside. He sees them as being at the front edge of economic and environmental crises around the world.

In Bolivia, Francis praised cooperatives and other localized organizations that he said provide productive economies for the poor. “How different this is than the situation that results when those left behind by the formal market are exploited like slaves!” he said on Wednesday night.

It is this Old Testament-like rhetoric that some finding jarring, perhaps especially so in the United States, where Francis will visit in September. His environmental encyclical, “Laudato Si’,” released last month, drew loud criticism from some American conservatives and from others who found his language deeply pessimistic. His right-leaning critics also argued that he was overreaching and straying dangerously beyond religion — while condemning capitalism with too broad a brush.

“I wish Francis would focus on positives, on how a free-market economy guided by an ethical framework, and the rule of law, can be a part of the solution for the poor — rather than just jumping from the reality of people’s misery to the analysis that a market economy is the problem,” said the Rev. Robert A. Sirico, president of the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, which advocates free-market economics.

Francis’ sharpest critics have accused him of being a Marxist or a Latin American communist, even as he opposed communism during his time in Argentina. His tour last week of Latin America began in Ecuador and Bolivia, two countries with far-left governments. President Evo Morales of Bolivia, who wore a Che Guevara patch on his jacket during Francis’ speech, claimed the pope as a kindred spirit — even as Francis seemed startled when Mr. Morales gave him a wooden crucifix shaped like a hammer and sickle as a gift.


The French economist Thomas Piketty argued last year in a surprising best-seller, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” that rising wealth inequality is a natural result of free-market policies, a direct challenge to the conventional view that economic inequalities shrink over time. The controversial implication drawn by Mr. Piketty is that governments should raise taxes on the wealthy.

Mr. Piketty roiled the debate among mainstream economists, yet Francis’ critique is more unnerving to some because he is not reframing inequality and poverty around a new economic theory but instead defining it in moral terms. “Working for a just distribution of the fruits of the earth and human labor is not mere philanthropy,” he said on Wednesday. “It is a moral obligation. For Christians, the responsibility is even greater: It is a commandment.”

Nick Hanauer, a Seattle venture capitalist, said he believed Francis was making a nuanced point about capitalism, embodied by his coinage of a “social mortgage” on accumulated wealth — a debt to the society that made its accumulation possible. Mr. Hanauer said that economic elites should embrace the need for change both for moral and pragmatic reasons.

“I’m a believer in capitalism but it comes in as many flavors as pie, and we have a choice about the kind of capitalist system that we have,” said Mr. Hanauer, now an outspoken proponent of redistributive government policies like a higher minimum wage.

Yet what remains unclear is whether Francis has a clear vision for a systemic alternative to the status quo that he and others criticize. “All these critiques point toward the incoherence of the simple idea of free market economics, but they don’t prescribe a remedy,” said Mr. Johnson, of the Institute for New Economic Thinking.

Francis acknowledged as much, conceding on Wednesday that he had no new “recipe” to quickly change the world. Instead, he spoke about a “process of change” undertaken at the grass-roots level. [...]
This pope has a strong history of being an advocate for the poor. I get it, and don't think anything is wrong with that. It's just that he seems out of touch with the modern world and how it works. He has spend so much time working with the poor, that it's all he sees; with out a more balanced understanding of the larger whole, and no clear plan for change... what is he doing?

Stirring up revolution against people who create wealth, calling for the redistribution of wealth, without any sort of plan as to how that should be done... how is that any different from the Communism of the past, that has wrought so much death and destruction? And when will the Vatican put it's money where it's mouth is, and return all the gold and priceless treasures they've ripped off from around the world?

Instead of cursing the darkness, why not light a candle? Why not focus on the more positive aspects of capitalism and how it can be used to lift people out of poverty, be used wisely and compassionately, steer the conversation in more constructive ways, rather than just painting all capitalists with a tar-brush and stirring the pot for communist revolutionaries? I think perhaps this pope, however well-meaning, doesn't have the broader perspective or the brain-power to be able to do that.

Here at home, we have Bernie Sanders and followers, wanting us to drink his flavor of Kool-Aid:

How Bernie Sanders plans to win, and change Washington
[...] In an interview on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday, Sanders said that the president ran "one of the great campaigns in the history of the United States of America" in 2008, but he also made a mistake by trying to negotiate fair compromises with Republicans and their leadership in Congress.

"The truth is Republicans never wanted to negotiate, all they wanted to do is obstruct," Sanders said. "What I have said throughout this campaign is electing Bernie Sanders as president is not enough. Not going to do it. We need a mass grassroots movement that looks the Republicans in the eye and says, 'If you don't vote to demand that your wealthy people start paying their fair share of taxes, if you don't vote for jobs, raising the minimum wage and expanding Social Security, we know what's going on, we're involved, we're organized, you are outta here if you don't do the right thing.'"

He plans to build that grassroots coalition by bringing more people into the political process and focusing heavily on poverty and income inequality.

"I'm going to be going around the country not only to blue states...but to red states, conservative states. We're going to go to Alabama, we're going to go to Mississippi," Sanders said. "I think the message that we have is resonating. People are going to get involved in the political process, we're going to drive turnout up and when we do that we win." [...]
He sounds like he's the one that doesn't want to negotiate anything. I'm always amazed when Democrats become outraged that the Republicans don't just roll over and play dead. As if it's a crime to disagree with them.

I agree with one of the comments below the article; we don't need any ONE group of people telling us all what to do and how to live.

Also in the comments, someone holds up Denmark and Germany as examples of socialism that "works"; should we, could we not follow them as examples of the way civilized people should live?

That's the progressive dream. It's tempting to say yes. If it works, why not?

Those particular countries have been very careful to maintain a balance between wealth re-distribution and fostering the conditions for the creation of wealth. And perhaps that IS the civilized thing to do. I just have doubts that the pope or Bernie really understand that balance. It's easy to advocate the redistribution of wealth. But if the people who create wealth no longer have the motivation to do so, the redistributed funds dry up, and when there are no more, then everyone ends up poorer.

Most of the nations around the world have overspent more than they have created. Until they demonstrate that they understand the balance between spending and wealth creation, I would not encourage their redistribution efforts. It will only end badly. Such stupidity CAN only end badly.

I've posted previously about the likely future of world economics and the needed flexibility of the new economic reality of the global economy in the Brave New World we are becoming. A good deal of "workable" socialism or socialist ideas may be built into it. If it works, then so be it. Perhaps it will be true progress. It's just that, where will it lead us, unless we are VERY careful?

Every communist I've ever known (and I've known quite a few) has told me that socialism is not an end goal in itself; it's merely a stepping-stone to communism. Socialism gets people used to the idea that the government has the right to redistribute wealth and control people's lives for "the greater good". Once the people become dependent on the government for their needs, then democracy and capitalism and be abolished as "unnecessary", and the government can own and run everything. Which is essentially, one group of people telling everyone else what to do and how to live.

But, people could get "stuck" on socialism that "works"; they get too comfortable, and stop "progressing". The communist's answer to that is to overload the system till it no longer works; destroy the balance, keep spending until the system collapses. Capitalism can then be declared "dead", and replaced with communism. By then the people will be so dependent on the government and so fearful that they will gladly trade freedom for security. And if history is any indication, they will end up with neither.

Communists are fond of saying that "real" communism has never been tried. But that's not true, it has been tried, many times, and every time it's killed a lot of people. That kind of control goes against human nature, and the only way to enforce it is to kill lots of people. If we don't learn that lesson from history, we may be destined to continue repeating it. There may be different "flavors" of capitalism and socialism. But there is only one flavor of communism, and it's always deadly.

Perhaps we are destined for some flavor of socialism to dominate the Brave New Word our future is becoming. I can only say, it's a slippery slope. Perhaps it can be managed, but it would mean being forever vigilant of the dangers. Are we, the human race, up for it? Time will tell.