Wrongly conflating socialism with generosity

I read someone today who said that Jesus must have been a socialist, because he didn’t seek profit, which is the hallmark of capitalism.  Instead, gave away his time, energy and skills to those who could not pay.  Since he didn’t have a profit motive, he must have been a capitalist.  QED.  It was a classic case of conflating socialism with generosity.

Socialism is, in fact, the opposite of generosity because it removes human morality and decency from the equation.  There’s a reason study after study shows that liberals donate less to charity than conservatives do.  The liberals have placed themselves entirely in government’s hands:  the problem of the poor has become someone else’s problem.  The fact that we all pay taxes, which the government uses to fund the poor, isn’t charity, it’s central planning predicated on wealth redistribution.

The Victorians, who were wellsprings of one sentence wisdom, used to say “charity begins at home.”  The giving impulse of charity must start within us, as it did within Jesus.  In a totalitarian, or even semi-totalitarian (i.e., socialist) state, nothing is allowed to come from within.  All goes to and flows from the government.

In a capitalist society, people have the wherewithal to give.  And in a healthy capitalist society, they have the moral impulse to give.  Jesus wasn’t a socialist.  When he said “render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s,” he fully understood the separation between our spiritual and moral impulses on the one hand, and the dictates of a state on the other hand.  Ideally, the people’s adherence to both Caesar and God is a mutually beneficially system, with a humane state allowing humans to go about their business, and a social and moral structure that encourages those with the most to reach out, without state coercion, to help those with the least.

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  • http://zachriel.blogspot.com/2005/07/liberal-v-conservative.html Zachriel

    ZachrielThe problem with central planning is that the planners become detached from the everyday concerns of the people.

    Danny Lemieux: No. While true, the main problem with Central Planning is that economies and the human nature that drives them are far too complex to be managed through any central authority(ies).

    What you probably mean is “Yes. While true, the main problem …” They are actually related problems in complex systems. The information is diffused at lower levels and has to filter up to the higher levels. If decision-making is concentrated at the top, there are logjams to the information flow, and as you point out, the system is too complex to be understood by any single entity in any case.
    Danny Lemieux: Here’s a more recent example from China’s centrally managed high-speed rail plan, a plan that Obama wants to emulated (published in that rabidly right-wing rag, the Washington Post)

    Of course, half the money is wasted. That’s typical. You act as if there’s no corruption in business, just after the U.S. experienced a huge financial catastrophe fueled by the sale of toxic assets. In any case, the project is somewhat overblown, but has allowed China to import important technologies, while also helping knit the country more closely together. Interestingly, the opinion-writer compared it to the largely successful “moon shot” program in the U.S. 

    Your larger point is correct, though. Without robust public debate, there is a greater likelihood of waste, both on the local and on the global scale.
    Danny Lemieux: There was nothing “structural” in the budgets put together during the latter years of the Clinton Administration. Three major factors contributing to budget “surplus” were a) a booming tech economy generating record tax revenues, b) Republican congressional intransigence in confronting Clinton’s budget proposals and c) big slashes to military spending.

    Of course it was structural passed with the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993 without a single Republican vote, but it was specifically undone by the Bush “deficits don’t matter” Administration.

    By the way, the booming tech economy can be traced to deregulation of the Internet by Gore and his Congressional allies. 

    “As far back as the 1970s Congressman Gore promoted the idea of high-speed telecommunications as an engine for both economic growth and the improvement of our educational system. He was the first elected official to grasp the potential of computer communications to have a broader impact than just improving the conduct of science and scholarship … the Internet, as we know it today, was not deployed until 1983. When the Internet was still in the early stages of its deployment, Congressman Gore provided intellectual leadership by helping create the vision of the potential benefits of high speed computing and communication.” — Robert Kahn and Vinton Cerf
    Danny Lemieux: By the last year of the Clinton Administration,  the tech boom was collapsing and military cuts has to be reversed in the wake of 9/11. 

    No, they didn’t. Much of the U.S. spending on the military has provided very little in terms of security. They still can’t even control entire regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan, which are still havens for terrorist conspirators. The Iraq War, by any reasonable estimation, was a huge strategic disaster. As you can’t destroy all places terrorism can fester, you have to interdict them. That means international cooperation and old-fashioned law enforcement shoe leather.
    Danny Lemieux: Unfortunately, under Bush, the Republican Congress also reversed its commitment to fiscal discipline and showed themselves equally adept at gorging themselves at the public trough. But, that’s another story.

    No. It’s *the* story. They cut taxes and increased spending, even while the economy was growing, leading to structural deficits, and adding fuel to the bubble.  
    Danny Lemieux: Booms and bubble busts are part of the normal “creative destruction” of capitalist economies (as Austrian school economist Joseph Schumpeter, who noted that: “Economic progress, in capitalist society, means turmoil”). Bubbles are self-correcting and, left alone, economies recover quickly.

    Markets rise and fall, businesses are born and die, but you find very few people who think that a complete collapse of the financial markets is healthy for the economy. (It’s like comparing stressing the heart through exercise with a heart attack.) The financial meltdown and ensuing recession punished people who worked hard and played by the rules, while rewarding those who drove the system to collapse. 
    Danny Lemieux: This, of course, is highly objectionable to those with central-planning totalitarian mindsets that loathe the very idea that some things (human nature, climate, economies, good and evil, etc.) cannot be controlled…by them.

    As we reject central-planning and totalitarian mindsets, you seem to be talking to someone else. 

  • http://zachriel.blogspot.com/2005/07/liberal-v-conservative.html Zachriel

    Don Quixote: Z, you have a lovely grasp of how things are supposed to work in a perfect world with honest politicians. 

    Constitutional democracy doesn’t depend on honest politicians, but on a balance of power. 
    Don Quixote: In the real world, the last President to balance the budget before Clinton was Nixon and the last time we did not have a national debt was the Jefferson administration. 

    Debt itself is not necessarily bad, such as money invested on infrastructure. But it’s deleterioius if debt is merely used to cover ongoing expense (other than short-term stimulus). 
    Ymarsakar: The only way to stop spending is to amend the Constitution and force the government to never spend more the total tax income for that fiscal year.

    That would be disastrous. Every time the economy turned down, government receipts would fall , the government would have to cut back, which would cause the economy to drop even further, which would cause government receipts to fall some more, leading to more cut backs, and so on. The classic downward spiral. 
    Ymarsakar: But those who don’t like the authority of the COnstitution are forever stealing power from it and redistributing it to their own cronies, so that plan is very unpopular with them.

    The authority of the Constitution allows the government to borrow money.

  • BrianE

    And now for a little reality check.

    “…And 1993 — the year of the giant Clinton tax hike — was not the turning point in the deficit wars, either. In fact, in 1995, two years after that tax hike, the budget baseline submitted by the president’s own Office of Management and Budget and the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predicted $200 billion deficits for as far as the eye could see. The figure shows the Clinton deficit baseline. What changed this bleak outlook?


    Newt Gingrich and company — for all their faults — have received virtually no credit for balancing the budget. Yet today’s surplus is, in part, a byproduct of the GOP’s single-minded crusade to end 30 years of red ink. Arguably, Gingrich’s finest hour as Speaker came in March 1995 when he rallied the entire Republican House caucus behind the idea of eliminating the deficit within seven years. Skeptics said it could not be done in seven years. The GOP did it in four.

    Now let us contrast this with the Clinton fiscal record. Recall that it was the Clinton White House that fought Republicans every inch of the way in balancing the budget in 1995. When Republicans proposed their own balanced-budget plan, the White House waged a shameless Mediscare campaign to torpedo the plan — a campaign that the Washington Post slammed as “pure demagoguery.” It was Bill Clinton who, during the big budget fight in 1995, had to submit not one, not two, but five budgets until he begrudgingly matched the GOP’s balanced-budget plan. In fact, during the height of the budget wars in the summer of 1995, the Clinton administration admitted that “balancing the budget is not one of our top priorities.””


    Having posted this, our problems are way past blaming the other guy, and defending our guy. Liberals and conservatives need to recognize that neither side will be serious about applying the brakes as we get ever closer to the looming cliff ahead, until we demand it.

    There is no austerity program that will get us out of this mess– we’re way beyond that. There are two solutions— real honest growth of the economy by moving the eco-facists to the sidelines, or inflation (OK, that’s really not a solution, but a by-product of reckless Fed ‘central planning’.

    Developing REAL energy– natural gas, oil, nuclear. It’s not going to come from those phantom energy sources. Folks in California have reason to be afraid, very afraid with their new energy program.

    I was reading about thorium nuclear reactors as the new-way for nuclear. Let us hope we can get environmentalists on board. 

    I see that Zachriel the Contrarian is apparently working this shift.

  • http://ruminationsroom.wordpress.com Don Quixote

    Brian, I think that just as we are way past blaming the other guy and crediting our guy (though I think you have the better of the argument with Z; facts are powerful things), we are also past limiting ourselves to REAL energy solutions.  We should be exploring EVERY possible solution with equal vigor. 

    Z, balance of power only works when the power is actually balanced (see Brian’s discussion of the balance between Republicans and Clinton) and still doesn’t work at all if all of the politicans in the balance are dishonest.

  • Danny Lemieux

    BrianE offers two solutions: “There are two solutions— real honest growth of the economy by moving the eco-facists to the sidelines, or inflation (OK, that’s really not a solution, but a by-product of reckless Fed ‘central planning’.”

    And, on cue, comes this New York Sun editorial highlighting another great moment in state-based economic planning. The sentiments of this piece express what many of us already knew: that Ben Bernanke’s QE-2 was destined to fail because it did not address the critical underpinnings of this crisis, which is massive, uncontrollable government debt brought about by economic stimuli that served only to put money into the pockets of favored constituencies with no economic returns.

    What makes this particularly delicious is that this was called out long ago by none other than Sarah Palin, upon which mention Lefty/Liberal heads go into total radioactive meltdown. We’ll be cleaning up their pollution for a long time to come.


  • Danny Lemieux

    Gaia weeps as another great dreamland vision of centralized government planning runs smack into that 2×4 called “reality”.


    Maybe it’s time to start worrying how we plan to stay warm next winter.

  • BrianE

    Don Quixote– I’m a fan of solar and wind as much as the next guy (I use passive solar in my house).

    But we need an energy solution that recognizes we can’t survive without oil and works to promote fossil fuel energy production for the next 50 years or until we discover a solution to the intractable problem of the alternative sources (which is the storage of energy). Until we get over that hump, the other solutions aren’t really solutions.

    We can super-insulate our homes, turn down our thermostats, use solar and wind where possible, encourage co-generation and the like, but we are just nibbling around the edges.

  • http://zachriel.blogspot.com/2005/07/liberal-v-conservative.html Zachriel

    BrianE: Newt Gingrich and company — for all their faults — have received virtually no credit for balancing the budget.

    They do deserve credit for helping balance the budget, in particular, with regards to welfare reform. Clinton had campaigned on welfare reform, but had attempted health care reform first. The Republicans helped keep the pressure on. But also keep in mind that Clinton signed the bill after having vetoed two previous, more conservative versions. The key for Clinton was that people weren’t just thrown out in the streets, but were provided the help they need in terms of training and jobs, to make the transition to the workforce. 
    BrianE: I was reading about thorium nuclear reactors as the new-way for nuclear.

    Thorium seems to have a number of advantages. Ironically, China’s centrally managed high-speed trainwreck brittle totalitarian regime that isn’t paralyzed with regulations is investing in thorium research.

  • http://zachriel.blogspot.com/2005/07/liberal-v-conservative.html Zachriel

    Danny Lemieux: And, on cue, comes this New York Sun editorial highlighting another great moment in state-based economic planning.

    Let’s return to the original source.

    “The Federal Reserve’s experimental effort to spur a recovery by purchasing vast quantities of federal debt has pumped up the stock market, reduced the cost of American exports and allowed companies to borrow money at lower interest rates.”

    The QE2 accomplished what could reasonable be expected. Effective interest rates are near zero, so lowering rates is not an option. It probably averted a double-dip recession, but isn’t capable of inducing growth in the economy. 
    Danny Lemieux: Gaia weeps as another great dreamland vision of centralized government planning runs smack into that 2×4 called “reality”.

    Yes, and investments in thorium reactors still require government subsidies. And the money may be wasted in the end, depending on what they discover, and other technological developments. You do understand that governments often fund basic research?


  • Danny Lemieux

    BrianE…if I can offer the following perspective, we have only been on a gas and oil economy for a little over 100 years. We have more than enough gas and oil resources in North America to last us another 100 years while simultaneously crashing the world price of oil and gas (which would probably do more to promote world peace than any other economic act that I can think of).

    I am really confident that we should be able to identify new and better sources of energy within the next 100 years…as long as we maintain a dynamic economy able to afford in R&D. Any new source of energy, however, has to make economic sense.

    Brian E and Z….What are the advantages of thorium-based nuclear energy? Just asking.

  • Danny Lemieux

    Z offers…”The QE2 accomplished what could reasonable be expected. Effective interest rates are near zero, so lowering rates is not an option. It probably averted a double-dip recession, but isn’t capable of inducing growth in the economy.”

    You may be right, Z, but lets wait and see how this plays out. My sources in the finance industry tell me that should know the full effects of QE-2 around June-Aug, good or bad. It is very worrisome that the Chinese are signaling that they may unload $2t of our dollars on world currency markets, both in term of what this does to our dollar value and to the international market’s willingness to buy U.S. bonds.

  • http://ruminationsroom.wordpress.com Don Quixote

    Brian, my point is that it’s not either/or.  We can do both the solutions the left proposes and those the right proposes.  For the life of me, I can’t figure out why the two sides are arguing with each other as if the solutions are mutually exclusive.  They aren’t.  Why can’t we work together for a change?

  • http://zachriel.blogspot.com/2005/07/liberal-v-conservative.html Zachriel

    Danny Lemieux: We have more than enough gas and oil resources in North America to last us another 100 years while simultaneously crashing the world price of oil and gas (which would probably do more to promote world peace than any other economic act that I can think of).

    Do you have a source for that? 
    Danny Lemieux: It is very worrisome that the Chinese are signaling that they may unload $2t of our dollars on world currency markets, both in term of what this does to our dollar value and to the international market’s willingness to buy U.S. bonds.

    They’ve spent $0.5 trillion to finance their own stimulus program. They will presumably avoid any sudden change in their holdings as it would devalue those holdings, and ruin the trade relationships they have carefully built up over time. They will probably start to import more consumer goods, and that will help rectify the imbalance. 


  • BrianE

    “…Thirdly, the green-utopian goal of using the very non-dense forms of energy derived from solar and wind cannot, and have not, replaced baseload fossil fuels anywhere in the world. It is way to expensive, requiring massive full price subsidies to exist presently to stay “in business”. The Green capitalist solution of wind and solar is an economic failure and a waste of research and development monies better spent on advanced nuclear energy. Wind energy, for example, takes up to 8 times the amount of concrete and steel for unit of energy produced than nuclear! Which is really the ‘cleaner’ energy generator with this in mind?…”

    “…The basis of understanding the development of the productive forces of the political-economy of society, most notably capitalism, but is true for socialism as well, is that these forces were developed in large part because of the advance of scientific technique, organized for capitalism, for the purpose of better appropriating surplus value from the working class and the peasantry. We all know this as students of Marx, but something is often missed in the minutiae of examining Political Economy, and that is how the physical economy of capitalism, of humanity in fact, has applied science to achieve the aims of development of the productive forces. It is my belief that the material physical basis of the socialist mode of production will require yet another quantum leap in the physical economy of a collectivized society.

    Nothing shows this more than in energy. Historically, it is the ever more abundance, availability and usage of energy that has allowed the productive forces under any mode of production to advance. Indeed…if one can sum this up, it is the human ability to tap the density of energy forms that has allowed humanity to advance from human and animal power to wind power, to water power, to steam, to electric energy generated by yet more increasing dense forms of energy: from wood, to coal and then diesel & gasoline, to atomic power. At each step of the way we find the density of energy to be a determining importance as to the efficiency, cheapness, and accessibility of utilizing that energy. Every historical leap in the development of the productive forces has utilized this technique to propel the forces of production ever faster, and ever wider. Denser, more efficient, more abundant….”


    Don Quixote, this comes from a marxist pro-nuclear website (maybe this is the beginning of us all getting along).  Pretty good stuff, other than the “war-mongering capitalist pig” rhetoric.

  • Charles Martel

    BrianE, you are a better man than I to subject yourself to plowing through Marxist swill. Nevertheless, just as Zach and broken clocks are occasionally correct, even Marxists can get it right at times.

  • BrianE


    Don’t know much about thorium reactors, but it’s my understanding they produce less waste and thorium is fairly abundant.


  • http://zachriel.blogspot.com/2005/07/liberal-v-conservative.html Zachriel

    Danny Lemieux: What are the advantages of thorium-based nuclear energy?

    As BrianE points out, thorium is more abundant, doesn’t require complex refinement, produces less waste, even burns up old waste. In addition, it is not readily made into weapons, so it is safer in terms of controlling nuclear proliferation. 

  • Danny Lemieux

    z – for natural gas:

    EIA current estimates of “proven reserves” for natural gas increased from 255 trillion cubic feet(tcf) to 285 tcf from 2008 to 2009 and to  , against consumption levels of roughly 25 tcf per annum. As you can see from the 2nd link provided, the amount of proven reserves is currently on an exponential growth curve, as new technologies and gas fields are identified.


    “Proven reserves” are defined by the U.S. EIA  as “those volumes of oil and natural gas that geologic and engineering data demonstrate with reasonable certainty to be recoverable in future years from known reservoirs under existing economic and operating condition”. However, “existing economic and operating conditions” have been changing very quickly. 

    However, the EIA also recognizes that many gas fields exist that have yet to be developed. Thus, it projects total reserves (currently developed plus yet to be discovered and developed) at 2,586 tcf (or about 100 years-worth of natural gas at current consumption levels) – see link below. Other estimates put together by energy industry organizations come in a bit lower, at 1,400 to 1,800 tcf. It should be re-emphasized that the word “unproven” in this context does not mean “speculative”.

    Moreover, since this last report was published in 2008, there have huge increases in natural gas reserve estimates worldwide, including in tiny Israel [ http://oilprice.com/Energy/Natural-Gas/Massive-Natural-Gas-Field-Found-of-Israels-Coast.html ]


    I need to get back to work, so I can only deal with crude oil reserves in a peremptory level. See Figures 7-8 in this link:

    It references total petroleum reserves at only 22.4 billion barrels, against consumption of about 6.8 bbl per year.

    However, if you look at Figure 8, you notice that very little is contributed by new drilling (which would establish the value of these reserves). 

    According to this 2007 publication, total proven North American petroleum reserves are 211 bbl., or about 35 years worth of current U.S. annual consumption.


    This 2006 EIA publication regarding the Bakken Fields development demonstrates how quickly “proven oil reserves” can increase with new discoveries (which are currently prevented by the Obama administration. “Proven Reserves”. To quote from the report: “Comparing 2005 to 1999 crude oil proved reserves volumes, the proved reserves of Montana have increased 106 percent, and the proved reserves of North Dakota have increased 59 percent (Figure 8).” 

    There are many other Bakken-like reserves in our country waiting to be developed and “proven”. For example, preliminary USGS estimates of the Arctic estimate potential oil and gas reserves at 77 to 154 billion bbls and natural gas reserves at 300 to 770 tcf, most of it off of Alaska. 


    To these numbers, add “unconventional” oil sources, such as “heavy oil in place” (w/ very preliminary
    est. at 100 billion bbls, in the 2006 link to a U.S. DOE report ) and liquified coal, of which the U.S. has huge resources (but which the Obama administration promised to “bankrupt”).


    The bottom line with “proven” petroleum reserves is that the potential for the discovery and potential reserves of new petroleum resources have barely been tapped. Funny thing is that every time people start predicting the end of our oil reserves being in sight (i.e., “peak oil), new reserves and new extraction technologies are found.

    There is much exploration and development work that could be done to make us energy independent…if the U.S. had the will to do it.


  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    For the life of me, I can’t figure out why the two sides are arguing with each other as if the solutions are mutually exclusive.  They aren’t.  Why can’t we work together for a change?

    Since when did you expect Oakland criminals to work with the police? 

    There’s theory and then there’s actual delineations of turf and human factions.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    There were plenty of the Keys walking amongst the socialists.

    Pinochet’s coup resulted in an economic recovery and restructuring, resulting in the peaceful transfer of power and even the election of former Allende cronies and socialists. Funny how Pinochet missed them while they were in prison.

    The rich socialists got dumber and the poor socialists got richer.

    Pinochet will forever be known as someone that did what socialists, Key boyos, and Totalitarian Leftists could not. GIve up power for the greater good.

    It’s something the Left cannot even comprehend as being possible.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    By the Left, I am including Z here.

  • BrianE

    BrianE: Many can pay increased premiums and co-pays. It’s time to think of Medicare part B as welfare and means test, since that’s what it is.
    Zachriel: That’s an option, but it will tend to undermine the program, and seems like a wedge for many conservatives who have tried to kill the program many times in the past.
    How will making the Medicaire sustainable undermine the program? You’re not going to stabilize Medicare by cost-containment. It promotes cost-shifting. As as for price controls, how did price controls work out for Nixon?

  • http://zachriel.blogspot.com/2005/07/liberal-v-conservative.html Zachriel

    BrianE: How will making the Medicaire sustainable undermine the program?

    Making it sustainable doesn’t in itself undermine the program, unless it results in undercutting public support by turning it into a means-tested program. This isn’t an inevitable result, but the Right has been attempting to kill Medicare since its inception.
    BrianE: You’re not going to stabilize Medicare by cost-containment. It promotes cost-shifting.

    Other developed nations are not immune to the problem of medical inflation and an aging population, but they manage to provide health care for much less money, and provide it universally. Each country has a different system, some through insurance, some by single-source pay, some with government run medicine, so there are a variety of models to choose from, and to adapt as required to the U.S. system and culture. 

  • BrianE

    Megan McCardle dissects the statists never ending desire for more control and taking Krugman to task for being– well, Krugman.

    Check out the stat on which countries have highest out of pocket expenses for healthcare. Intersting that many EU countries, even Canada, have higher out of pocket expenses.

    “Nor do I think the possibility of reducing costs through individual discretion is quite as impossible as Krugman makes things sound.  Sure, a lot of decisions are life-or-death last minute things.  But a lot of them aren’t.  They’re questions like, “Do we send grandma to a nursing home, or try to keep her in the spare bedroom with the help of a home health-care aide?” Or “I’ve got stage four breast cancer with bone metastes; should I really mortgage the house to try another round of chemo?”

    It’s all very well to say that people shouldn’t have to make those decisions on the basis of money.  But that’s all the government is going to do.  Sure, there are some procedures that people just shouldn’t have (like a lot of back surgery). But a lot of this is value judgements: hip replacements for elderly patients, expensive chemotherapy that may extend life by a few months, more convenient dosing schedules or better side-effect profiles for brand name drugs.  Unless we simply rely on across-the-board reimbursement cuts–which would be moronic on every level–the government is mostly not going to be deciding which treatments are effective; it’s going to be deciding which treatments are cost-effective.  We haven’t taken doctors out of the business of selling health care to patients; we’ve just added a middleman.

    Now, maybe you think that the government is smarter than the consumers it’s speaking for.  But how does the government know what you value most: an extra three months of life when you have cancer, or an extra five years of walking after age 89, or an extra $4,000 right now?

    I think that people who favor a central board probably put more faith in technocrats than I do, but also, that they are horrified by the specificity of the choices.  They’re comfortable making decisions about who lives or who dies when the people in those decisions are just decimal points in an aggregate statistic.  But they find it horrifying that anyone–particularly the patient–should have to make that decision about a specific person.”