The Left Right Divide Is Meaningful Because Our Institutions Reinforce it

From Karl Smith by way of Noah Smith

While you don’t want to get trapped into people thinking that cyclical concerns are liberal concerns … I don’t think it actually helps to offer middle ground.

The problem is that too much of the debate is manufactured. That is, it is debate for debate’s sake. There is no underlying reasoning going on. So, if you move the debate towards a compromise the parameters will simply change because people want to continue having some form of a debate.

This is the fundamental question facing political economy, isn’t it?

And I think you’re wrong.

The inter-temporal or “Long Run” impact of monetary and fiscal policy does in fact exacerbate booms and busts, misallocate human capital, and destroy incentives necessary for the maintenance of the polity precisely because it serves the interests of the left(short) right(long) divide . You argue that ‘there will be problems either way’, but you can’t support that argument, and you deny the existence of the opposing argument. The opposition (conservative political economy in contrast to liberal monetary economy) disagrees. Because conservatives are rightly concerned with the maintenance of unique western norms.

Monetary policy can be used constantly. Fiscal policy can be used in the short term. But they are both dependent upon the use of Trade, Industrial, Education and Social policy, which express the remainder of the temporal spectrum. Monetary and Fiscal policy are BOUNDED BY the longer term constraints, aren’t’ they?

Surely you wouldn’t make the argument that trade, industrial, education and social policy are irrelevant? So if they are relevant, then why so? Surely you wouldn’t make the argument that we could simply ‘print’ money without consequences. WHy not embrace MMT or ‘Social Credit’ then? Would you argue that inflation was the only consequence? But not fragility? Isn’t that Greece’s problem?

How do we coordinate policy across the “production cycle” of an economy? We can’t. Because we have no institutional means of coordinating this inter temporal production cycle as we do with interest rates to coordinate production in the private sector. Or are you arguing that there is no production cycle present in a body politic? If so, then why does education policy matter? Why is social policy meaningful other than as a means of emotional self-gratification?

You’re wrong. It is a left right divide.

It’s a left right divide because the short and the long term are tools of the left and right. While it may not be a THEORETICAL NECESSITY that these tools be biased left and right, it is a PRACTICAL NECESSITY that these tools are biased left and right, because we lack the institutions to prevent inter temporal transfer in government the way that we have institutions for the construction of inter temporal cooperation in the private sector, and therefore these tools are in fact tools of left and right.

It surprises me how the left cannot grasp this, but then, the left is by definition a short term ideology. We cannot expect the color blind to see differences in hue, and we cannot expect the temporally blind to see the production cycle. And we cannot tell the difference between those who are time blind and those who are simply thieves.

What Are The Real Motivations Of Conservatives, Libertarians And Liberals?

What do conservatives, liberals, and libertarians believe is the hidden agenda of the other two political philosophies? From Quora.

Conservatives believe in a meritocratic hierarchical society where a) there are as few ‘cheaters’ living off the efforts of others as is posible, b) that enfranchisement should be earned, c) that government should resolve conflicts not direct society d) that civic duties should be preferred to administrative bureaucracies. e) They believe a good society can best be created by norms, rather than laws. f) They view all property as individual, but wich we must put to collective ends. Jonathan Haidt has shown that conservatives treat all six moral codes equally. (liberty, care-taking, hierarchy, loyalty, purity, fairness)

Libertarians believe in a meritocratic non hierarchical society where there are as few cheaters as possible living off the efforts of others and that enfranchisement should be earned, and that government should be limited to resolving conflicts over property. They believe civic virtues will emerge from this society, and the government bureaucracy (correctly) is the source of all bad government, so that privatization should be used rather than public bureaucracy, whenever possible.

Progressives (Liberals)
Progressives believe in an egalitarian non hierarchical society where people produce what they can and that we redistribute from one another to one another as needed by way of the government. They believe all property is community property and that individuals are just temporary stewards of property in order to achieve what is best for the common good. They believe civic egalitarianism is best achieved through expansionary government that intervenes wherever possible in order to ensure equality of ends and means. Jonathan Haidt has shown that progressives (liberals) care only about two of the moral codes, and ignore the other four: fairness and care-taking.

It’s Gender
What may not be obvious to the average person is that these three groups represent a spectrum that expresses the different reproductive strategies of the genders, and that liberals on one end and conservatives on the other each skew toward gender lines. In fact, if women were not to vote, we would never have had a progressive government in our history. The female reproductive strategy is to give her child every opportunity to rise above his abilities. The male reproductive strategy is to ensure the competitiveness of the group by promoting the strongest. While these are generalizations, when we are talking about genders we are in fact, making very broad generalizations. And the data supports those generalizations.

Our Institutions Could Not Tolerate The Change
Our political sentiments are largely inherited, largely a function of gender and class. Or political system was invented when the church was the authority of all moral teaching, when our voting classes were all some version of protestants, when the state was restricted to the resolution of disputes. And when we were all small business people (farmers and shopkeepers) and so we were all market participants and there were very few ‘leeches’ in the system. The political system was originally structured by social class with the senate appointed from influential people, the house elected from business people (land owners) and the proletariat was uneducated if not illiterate. Our constitution was designed to limit the government to resolution of conflicts and to avoid prescription.

And that political system did not survive the Louisiana purchase, the civil war, the inclusion of women, and the rapid immigration of non-protestants into the country as a means of filling the newly acquired continent, and as new citizens, their inclusion into the voting pool. The industrial revolution and the world wars that threw England’s empire into our hands was an opportunity for profit that we could not pass up .

Each Ideology Fails
So, that is why conservatives fail. Because they are attempting to recreate a political system that is insufficiently complex for the society we live in today.

Liberals fail because the population disagrees with their economic and military program — justifiably so. But more importantly because they do not understand the relationship between the nuclear family, the military requirements of the empire, and the unique property of western civilization: non-corruption.

Libertarians fail because their ethic is antithetical to both conservatives and liberals. WHile libertarians have the best grasp of economics, liberals wil disagree with the libertarian economic program and conservatives will disagree with the libertarian social program.

All people reject cheating. Liberals see individualization of profits as cheating. Libertarians and conservatives see the redistribution of profits as cheating. Conservatives see immorality as cheating. We can try every permutation, but it’s all the same.

In simple terms, liberal=society unified by law, libertarian=society unified by commerce, conservative=society unified by norms. The problem is that we are materially different in our desires and permanently so. So the problem is inventing new institutions that can accomodate the different factions now that we have expanded enfranchisement beyond market-participating males. And we know the lefts economic program is impossible. we know the conservative normative program is impossible. We know the libertarian normative and institutional program is impossible. So we devolve into moralistic banter rather than attempt to solve the problem of creating institutions that allow us to cooperate despite our differences.

The Secret Of Western Civilization
But I will let you in on a secret. This conflict is ancient. And can be answered by one question: why is it that a woman has a right to bear a child that she cannot on her own support? If you can answer that question you can solve the conflict between the conservatives and the liberals. because that one question is what drives it.

The western manorial aristocratic economic system that is our heritage required that men demonstrate their fitness in order to gain access to land, and delayed childbirth so that women could work in the crafts. This process suppresses the breeding rates of the underclasses. The church likewise banned inbreeding which encourages early reproduction. THese two factors led to the advancement of western civilization as much as did the rule of law, science, and the division of powers.

Conservatives are attempting still to restrain the breeding of the lower classes to those who can afford to support their own. Liberals are doing the opposite:they are encouraging all the breeding that is possible. These are just the masculine and feminine reproductive strategies of our distant ancestors writ large. Nothing more.

So when you ask the question, what is it that separates the different political ideologies, almost everything you will hear is an elaborate form of justification: a ruse to distract you from this one underlying difference: should we allow everyone to breed if it means that the middle classes must suppress their breeding so that the lower classes may advance their breeding?

Now if someone told you that this is the single most important factor in raising a civilization out of ignorance and poverty, and that it is impossible to build an egalitarian civil society otherwise, how would that affect your answer?

How you answer that question is how you define your political preference.

It’s really that simple.

Moral Foundations Theory:
1) Care/harm: This foundation is related to our long evolution as mammals with attachment systems and an ability to feel (and dislike) the pain of others. It underlies virtues of kindness, gentleness, and nurturance.
2) Fairness/cheating: This foundation is related to the evolutionary process of reciprocal altruism. It generates ideas of justice, rights, and autonomy. [Note: In our original conception, Fairness included concerns about equality, which are more strongly endorsed by political liberals. However, as we reformulated the theory in 2011 based on new data, we emphasize proportionality, which is endorsed by everyone, but is more strongly endorsed by conservatives]
3) Liberty/oppression: This foundation is about the feelings of reactance and resentment people feel toward those who dominate them and restrict their liberty. Its intuitions are often in tension with those of the authority foundation. The hatred of bullies and dominators motivates people to come together, in solidarity, to oppose or take down the oppressor.
4) Loyalty/betrayal: This foundation is related to our long history as tribal creatures able to form shifting coalitions. It underlies virtues of patriotism and self-sacrifice for the group. It is active anytime people feel that it’s “one for all, and all for one.”
5) Authority/subversion: This foundation was shaped by our long primate history of hierarchical social interactions. It underlies virtues of leadership and followership, including deference to legitimate authority and respect for traditions.
6) Sanctity/degradation: This foundation was shaped by the psychology of disgust and contamination. It underlies religious notions of striving to live in an elevated, less carnal, more noble way. It underlies the widespread idea that the body is a temple which can be desecrated by immoral activities and contaminants (an idea not unique to religious traditions).

Cain And Able On An Island: Justifying Redistribution?

Interesting posts on Modeled Behavior in response to this post by Bryan Caplan on Econlog

Suppose there are ten people on a desert island. One, named Able Abel, is extremely able. With a hard day’s work, Able can produce enough to feed all ten people on the island. Eight islanders are marginally able. With a hard day’s work, each can produce enough to feed one person. The last person, Hapless Harry, is extremely unable. Harry can’t produce any food at all.


1. Do the bottom nine have a right to tax Abel’s surplus to support Harry?

2. Suppose Abel only produces enough food to support himself, and relaxes the rest of the day. Do the bottom nine have a right to force Abel to work more to support Harry?

3. Do the bottom nine have a right to tax Abel’s surplus to raise everyone’s standard of living above subsistence?

4. Suppose Abel only produces enough food to support himself, and relaxes the rest of the day. Do the bottom nine have a right to force Abel to work more to raise everyone’s standard of living above subsistence?

How would most people answer these questions? It’s hard to say. It’s easy to feel sorry for the bottom nine. But #1 and #3 arguably turn Abel into a slave. And #2 and #4 clearly turn Abel into a slave. I suspect that plenty of non-libertarians would share these libertarian moral intuitions. At minimum, many would be conflicted.

Yet bleeding-heart libertarian Jason Brennan doesn’t seem conflicted. At all. He begins by quoting one of his earlier posts:

Imagine that your empirical beliefs about economics have been disconfirmed. Imagine that a bunch of economists provide compelling evidence that life in a strictly libertarian polity would go badly. Imagine that they showed conclusively that if people everywhere were to live in a Nozickian minimal state or a Rothbardian anarcho-capitalist civil society, with everyone strictly observing property right rules, that 10% of people would starve (through no fault of their own), 80% would be near subsistence (through no fault of their own), and only 10% would prosper. However, imagine that they also show that in a liberal social democracy with significant redistribution or social insurance, most people would prosper, just as many people living in such welfare states are doing pretty well right now.

In a followup, Brennan adds:

If you are a hard libertarian, you respond to this thought experiment by saying, “Well, that’s too bad things turned out that way. But, still, everyone did the right thing by observing property rights, and they should continue to do so.”…

If you have at least some concern for social justice, you respond by saying, “If that happened, that would be strong grounds to change the economic regime. In that kind of society, it’s unreasonable to ask people to observe the basic institutions and rules. They have a legitimate complaint that the rules works as if they were rigged against them. Perhaps we’d need to tweak property rights conventions. Perhaps we’d even need some sort of redistribution, if that’s what it took.”

This is a good example of what puzzles me most about bleeding-heart libertarians: At times, they sound less libertarian than the typical non-libertarian.* I’m not claiming that the “hard libertarian” intuition is certainly true. But in a thought experiment with ten people, the hard libertarian intuition is at least somewhat plausible. And once you start questioning the justice of the islanders’ treatment of Able Abel, questions about the justice of the modern welfare state can’t be far behind.

Needless to say, bleeding-heart libertarians usually sound a lot more libertarian than the typical non-libertarian. Yet this just amplifies the puzzle. Unjust treatment of the able may not be the greatest moral issue of our time. (Then again…) But unjust treatment of the able is a serious moral issue. And it’s a serious moral issue that mainstream moral and political philosophy utterly ignores. My question for bleeding-heart libertarians everywhere: Why don’t your hearts bleed for the able slave?

* The most egregious example is Andrew Cohen’s musings on parental licensing.

Lets extend the Parable a bit:

If Able needs to wear a shirt to get into a store, that’s an exchange. Cause and effect. It is a cost of entry.

If Able needs to respect property rights to participate in the local market. That is a price of entry into the market. If Able needs to respect manners, ethics and morals, then that is a price of entry into the group that cooperates — even if their only cooperation is negative: to respect life and property by avoiding theft, fraud and violence. If able wants something that he canot produce, he must exchange something for it.

These are all voluntary exchanges.

If Able works harder than others, and they take from him, that’s involuntary taking. It’s a theft. If Able works harder than others and others exchange something with him for it, It’s not a theft. It’s voluntary exchange. If others are materially unproductive, and have nothing to trade with Able, then what else do they have?

They have status. Status signals increase Able’s opportunity to be even more productive by assisting him in concentrating human capital. With that human capital he can exercise his mind, his abilities and his knowledge further. He can eventually control 80% of the resources simply because he knows best how. And others have voluntarily given that control to him.

Status also improves his access to desirable mates. Desirable mates further increase his status. And with that status people who are not productive like Able, will attempt to imitate him. Since, that is the purpose of status in our evolutionary system: to inform others who to imitate.

Status is our natural compensation. Status has been our compensation since before we had money, and a division of knowledge and labor. Very likely before we had speech. Perhaps before we were sentient.

But wait. Now, what happens in the Parable of the island?

Instead, one of the other nine people specializes not in being productive, but in preaching. In preaching redistribution. His name is Cain. Cain makes the argument that it is a moral duty to support the less productive people. Cain offers Job and Lot jobs if they forcibly take from Able in order to fulfill the moral demands of the non productive that Cain has been preaching. Cain then redistributes half of what he takes from Able, and demonizes Able for his reticence.

Able is deprived of the status, the future productivity he could create with control of his assets, his influence on the others in making them more productive through imitation, and deprived of the mates he could enjoy. And his genetic legacy is even deprived of the better genes he might capture.

Not only is he deprived of these things, but Cain has now stolen that status. Job and Lot have stolen his productivity, and status. This has all been involuntarily transferred (stolen) from Able, in order to profit Cain, for the benefit largely of Job and Lot, and for some symbolic benefit of everyone else.

On the horizon are nine other islands. Eight of those islands succumb to the proces of involuntary transfers. One does not. On that one Island Erik is ten times as productive as all the others, and they herald Erik at the quarterly festivals. Erik organizes the other people on his island in exchange for the product of his efforts. Over time, the people on Erik’s island become increasingly more productive, and genetically more competitive. On the other islands, the opposite happens. Because it’s dysgenic.

Humans object to involuntary transfers and are highly agitated by them. If the taxes are used for purposes that the productive agree with, then this objection usually disappears. But status is the human currency and money and ‘objects’ are just means of obtaining it. Because in the end, we are just gene factories algorithmically searching by trial and error for better solutions than those we have today. And we cannot alter that behavior. We will simply create black markets.

This is the insight of the Propertarians. That human nature is little more than emotions attached to changes in property.

On another much bigger island, the Crusoe tribe develops respect for property, but then, afterward Kevin discovers a hoard of coal that can be used for cooking fires on his property. And simply sells buckets of it at high prices to everyone on the island. The Friday tribe wants it very badly and so the Crusoe tribe must defend it. Furthermore, the Crusoe tribe already pays the cost of respecting property by forgoing opportunities for theft fraud and violence. These are a high cost for any society to develop. So, since they pay to defend the territory, and pay for property rights, they see his high prices as an involuntary transfer. The locals object because the resource is part of the island, the product of Kevin’s labors. They are comfortable paying a high price for his labor, but not for the resource, in which by any and all accounts they are shareholders. He’s not actually adding anything of value. He’s just created a toll booth, and an expensive tool booth, in order to gain access to a precious resource. He’s no different from an extortionist.

This parable can be extended to answer all moral and ethical questions of politics. The reason for that explanatory power, is that human nature is propertarian in origin. We are property calculators, and our emotions reflect changes in the state of our perceived property. THe primary difference between individuals is just which property we categorize as shareholder, and what we see as individual. But emotions are descriptions in changes in state of individuals’ perceptions of property. We could not have evolved as sentient beings otherwise. It would be impossible.

The change in politics over the past century and a half, has been driven largely by the inclusion of women into the work force and the voting system. They have expanded government. They have done so by using the government not to resolve conflicts in priorities, and not to concentrate productive capital, but to redistribute from the productive to the non productive using the artificie of government. The classical liberal model of institutions was designed for farmers heading nuclear families: business owners who participated in the market. But very few people actually participate in the market as business owners today. Most sell effort or skill for wages, or join bureaucracies to seek rents rather than participate in the market and its risk. And the productive class who participates in that market cannot defend itself from the unproductive classes using the institutional model built for egalitarian farmers. So the society polarizes as the factions compete over futures that are diametrically opposed to one another: one which appropriates money without status compensation, and one wich desires status compensation, and control over norms, in exchange for money.

Mediterranean, Russian and Slavic men have abandoned their societies because of endemic corruption. i.e., because of Involuntary transfers. The black market won and the society is not impossible to fix. Status signals in southern italy, spain and greed are anti-social. In ireland they’re anti-productive Luddic signals. In the states, vast numbers of hispanic and african american males have developed alternative masculine signals outside of the market and outside of the nuclear family. These signals are spreading to other males who are disenfranchised. Males over 50 are dropping out of the work force (and not voting over 50 and under 34) out of hopelessness. The wealthy abandoned society in the sixties, and have been out of sight since then. We do not even know their names. Many people do not know that they even exist. Their status has been totally appropriated. And they are only members of society in sense that they reside here.

You can redistribute money, but not status. Status, not money is our motivator. Society is constructed of a web of signals. otherwise it’s just a mechanical process that we each exploit for our individual benefit.