Class Warfare Blog

April 11, 2019

Is Capitalism Given Too Much Credit?

Filed under: Economics,History — Steve Ruis @ 8:27 am
Tags: , , ,

Over at Ian Welsh’s website, Mr. Welsh has posted yet another brilliant takedown of our common knowledge/wisdom, aka “everybody knows.” he points out that many of the benefits claimed for capitalism were actually a result of industrialization, something that allowed the nascent Soviet Union to outgrow most other countries for quite some time.

Don’t Confuse Capitalism with Industrialization

Here’s a taste:

“We need to stop being nodes in a shitty resource allocation algorithm, and we need to start actually making sane decisions based on group autonomy and welfare.

“And capitalism, capitalism doesn’t do that.”

A very important perspective.

This is typical of what people do. If they like something they attribute positive properties to it whether or not they are possessed by that thing. I recall a teaching colleague who regularly received high marks for her sense of humor in her mathematics classroom. She points this out because she used no humor whatsoever in her teaching. But she was a very good teacher and was also kind and understanding as the teacher of a topic some find quite difficult, so she received high marks for everything surveyed.

Have we done the same for capitalism? I believe so. In addition to this normal tendency, there are people who have much to gain who propagandize the topic. These people often claim that “capitalism is the greatest economic system ever invented,” but if you query them on their knowledge of other economic systems, they are woefully ignorant. How can one claim A is better than B when they have no real idea what B is?

Read the piece, highly recommended . . . and it is short!


April 8, 2019

Belief in Belief

I am working my way through Breaking the Spell by Daniel Dennett, one of my favorite philosophers. In that book he discusses “belief in belief” meaning that people exhibit the belief that believing in a god is very important but the details (which god, which way, etc.), not as much. (I always answer the question “Do you believe in god?” with “Which one?” The question “Do you believe in God?” is more often Do you believe in my god? or Do you believe in a god?) And Dennett claims that as time has gone on, more religions are requiring less belief and more professing, that is as a member of a church, you are to profess A, B, C, etc. whether you believe them or not (although they prefer you would believe them). They are requiring belief less and behavior more.

I have been thinking about this damned topic for at least 60 years and I am reaching some interesting positions, namely:

  • Since belief in belief is so important and possibly innate, we have therefore created gods by the bushel, to have foci for our beliefs.
    Joseph Campbell, another of my intellectual heroes, states “The gods are personifications of the energies that inform life—the very energies that are building the trees and moving the animals and whipping up the waves in the ocean. The very energies that are in your body are personified as gods. They are alive and well in everybody’s life. Most traditions realize this—that deities are personifications, not facts. They are metaphors. They are not references to anything you can put your finger on, or your eye on.”
  • People profess a belief in god as a social marker to proclaim “I am a good person, you can trust me.”
    This is why if you do not profess to believe in a god, you are proclaiming that you are not trustworthy (and are therefore scary, and eat babies, etc.).
  • Since people are basically confined in religious geographical regions (your religion is determined by where you were born) most people do not encounter “others” in any quantity, we are “normal” and they are not.
  • Religions have no incentive to help people understand other religions, as it might lose them dues paying members.
    In fact, they have an incentive to demonize, vilify, obfuscate, etc. those other religions. There is, therefore, very little understanding of those “other” religions or even denominations of the same religion (Protestant fundamentalists argue that Catholics are not “true Christians.”)
  • A consequence of science contradicting religious claims from antiquity, is that deities are becoming more and more vague/amorphous.
    Some of the religious-minded claim human minds cannot know their god. (How they can know their god and “all people” so well is not discussed.) Some call their god the “ground of all being” . . . WTF? This is not a drawback for the religions as the “mystery” sells well.
  • Arguing over proofs of the existence of a god or gods (one of my past preoccupations) is futile because almost everyone has their own definition and very, very few of them are well defined.
    There are more people who believe in belief than who believe in a god and the number of gods, historically, is immense. The idea of their god is so amorphous it is hard for any believer to accept that any argument you might make would apply to their god.
  • In the U.S. surveys show that American women are more religious than American men, substantially so.
    Since a simple characterization of a god as someone/something who watches over you and protects you (makes rules protecting you, etc.), this seems a logical consequence. Women are subject to more threats than are men.
  • As the science fiction/fantasy tales portray, we give gods power by believing in them.
    When people stop believing, those gods fade from memory and become “myths.” They sure as hell were not myths when people believed in them, serious actions were made at their “direction.”

As Voltaire is claimed to have said “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.” “He” does not, so “we” did . . . over and over and over.

I conclude with another quote from Joseph Campbell “(T)here are only two ways to misunderstand a myth and our civilization has managed to do both. One is to think that the myth refers to a geographical or historical fact—Jesus rose from the dead, Moses got the law at the top of a mountain, that sort of thing. The other is to think that the myth refers to a supernatural fact, or an actual event, that’s going to happen in the future—the resurrection of Jesus, or the second coming. Our whole religious tradition is based upon these two misunderstandings. (. . .) It’s a terrible tragedy. These misunderstandings of our myth have caused us to lose the vocabulary of the spirit.”

I can only add that there is a benefit to this situation to those who wish to enrich themselves alone, to those who think an economic system is a competitive playground, rather than a way to enrich everyone’s lives. People who see trees as something to cut down and sell only or coal as something to dig and burn with no consequences. “It is a terrible tragedy.”

April 5, 2019

AOC Derangement Syndrome

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or AOC as she is referred to, is a new member of the House of Representatives. Since she stands for all things abhorrent to the status-quo loving GOP she is the target of amazing stretches of logic. Take, for example, this cartoon:

In the Great Depression, World War II, and the Cold War, what was the greatest economy mobilizing force? That would be the American government, not capitalism. In the Great Depression, the business types (the Capitalists) insisted that it was a normal “business cycle” and that things would recover by themselves and that we should do nothing to help the struggling people.

This is what Democratic Socialism is all about, the government as representatives of the people, in control of the economy. Control in the sense of setting the rules, not running it as in totalitarian socialism. Currently, the capitalists have captured the government and are running the economy for their benefit and screw the rest of us. That is what capitalism offers unless it is restrained by government by the people … or a divine king if you want to try that again. (Donald Trump has volunteered for the position.)

April 2, 2019

And Forgive Us Our Debts

Michael Hudson is writing a series of books on the topic of debt forgiveness as a necessary component for capitalism to work. This topic evoked in me a memory of a conversation I had with my mother when I was a lad. She commented in church that the original version of the Lord’s Prayer included the phrase “… and forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors” but this was not approved of by the wealthy so it was transformed into “… and forgive us our trespasses as we also have forgiven our trespassers.” (By sixteenth century Anglicans?) There are a number of variations of these “translations,” but whatever was come up with (trespasses, sins, etc.), it was to get debt forgiveness (part of Mosaic law) out of that prayer.

A bit of this history is to be had at Naked Capitalism in the form of:

The Delphic Oracle Was Their Davos: A Four-Part Interview With Michael Hudson About His Forthcoming Book The Collapse of Antiquity (Part 1)

Highly recommended.

Some Enticing Teasers:
• “Rome was turned into an oligarchy, an autocracy of the senatorial families. Their “liberty” was an early example of Orwellian Doublethink. It was to destroy everybody else’s liberty so they could grab whatever they could, enslave the debtors and create the polarized society that Rome became.”
• “That’s why you don’t have any history of economic thought taught anymore in the United States. Because then you’d see that Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill and the “Ricardian socialists” and indeed most of the 19th century had a completely opposite idea of what constituted a free market … (o)pposite from the neoliberal idea that freedom means freedom for the wealthy to indebt and destroy the economy. Opposite from the liberty of Brutus to overthrow the Roman kings and establish an autocratic oligarchy.”

February 26, 2019

For Want of a Word the Meaning Was Lost

An article in The Guardian was entitled “The Grand Canyon turns 100.” Uh, hello? Just what the creationists want to hear. (They believe the Grand Canyon was carved out by the Great Flood!) The headline should have been “Grand Canyon Nat. Park turns 100.” That’s right, the park was signed into existence 100 years ago on the 26th of February. (Thanks, Teddy!)

I know people have short attention spans and they need headlines that grab people attention, but a lot of people only read the headline, so it should be accurate, don’t you think? And it is not as if these articles are fighting over space in a printed newspaper … sheesh!

February 6, 2019

The Mistake of Monotheism

Filed under: History,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:24 am
Tags: ,

Prior to the rise of monotheistic religions, we had polytheism, that is “many gods.” During the early “Pax Romana” all of these gods coexisted reasonably peacefully. As long as one made the appropriate sacrifices to any of these gods, one was considered a theist and not an atheist.

But then the idea of there being but one god came along … and then the trouble began.

In order for there to be but one god, then all of the other gods being worshiped must be false gods, that is no god at all. Coexistence between other god worshippers and the monotheists declined to the point of disappearing completely.

This was not the only problem, that is monotheists v. pagans. When Christianity split off from Judaism, the Christians had actual battles with a great many fatalities over the “trinity.” To preserve the idea that there was but one god, the Christians, who wanted Jesus as their god, decided to fold three gods into one: “the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.” Not three gods, just one. (Talk about belaboring a point.)

If you look at Christian scriptures, you will find a full panoply of gods but which were given other names. The demigods who were God’s helpers were called “angels” as if that disguises their character as something not god-like. One has to ask “Why does an all-knowing and all-powerful god need “helpers” or “messengers”? And, if their powers were god-like, how were they then not demi-gods at least?

So the gauze of monotheism in Christianity is really quite thin.

This brings up the question of “Why monotheism?” In the early Bible passages it is clear that the ancient Israelites were not monotheistic, and that they had to be beaten into submission to the idea, to accept the yoke instead of being “stiff-necked” (all ox herders understand these terms better than we do now). So, why indeed?

Clearly what is involved here is ecclesiastic greed. If one accepts polytheism, one accepts the friendly competition for “alms.” There will be no monopolies and there will be winners and losers. By being audacious and claiming a monopoly in the form of “there is but one god” one is making a claim for wanting it all. Only the worship of our god counts, the rest of you are doomed.

Can you think of any reason beyond the purely pragmatic to claim that there is but one god, all “evidence” to the contrary? (I am using the word “evidence” as theists use it. If you accept their kind of “evidence,” it is clear there are many gods, not just one.)

A classic example against a monotheistic viewpoint in Christianity is the elevation of Hell and Satan under Christianity. Satan in the old testament is shown making prop bets with Yahweh (poor old Job being the target). This doesn’t exactly sound like the Prince of Evil, now does it. Under the influence of Zoroastrians and other Persian cults while in Babylon, the Jews came back to Israel prepared to write weapons grade scripture but actually refrained until the Christians came along and had to distinguish themselves from the Jews (for market share).

What is Satan, other than a god? Satan is claimed to have been created by Yahweh but that is normal. Most gods are created by other gods. Satan is said to have opposed god’s will to the point of rebellion (Now, that’s a sin!) … and survived to tell the tale! Who could survive the wrath of an all-knowing, all-powerful god but anther god? Satan is so powerful, he can actually, according to scripture, hide things from Yahweh (making the claim that Yahweh is “all-knowing” a bit hollow). So, Yahweh doesn’t seem to me who he is claimed to be and Satan is a comparable power, aka god … a lesser god, but still.

So, what do you think? What is so all-fired important about monotheism, other than its marketing aspects?

November 14, 2018

Marks and Con Men in the Religion Con

I just started reading The Evolution of God by Robert Wright and, as is common with accommodationists, he is very kind in his interpretations. For example:

However diverse the forces that shape religion, its early impetus indeed seems to have come largely from people who, like us, were trying to make sense of the world. … But they didn’t have the heritage of modern science to give them a head start, so they reached prescientific conclusions. Then, as understanding of the world grew—especially as it grew via science—religion evolved in reaction.

With regard to “religion evolved in reaction,” I do not think it evolved so much as changed so as to not be subject to ridicule. But that aside, I want to address this part: “… religion, its early impetus indeed seems to have come largely from people who, like us, were trying to make sense of the world.” This seems like quite a benign motivation. And it brings those ancient people and “us” into the same room, but is this a valid supposition? I do not think so.

Allow me to finish quoting from the book, specifically, a couple of descriptions of the relations hunter-gather people have been documented to have with their “gods.”

By Klamath reckoning, the west wind was emitted by a flatulent dwarf woman, about thirty inches tall, who wore a buckskin dress and a basket hat (and who could be seen in the form of a rock on a nearby mountain). The Klamath sometimes asked her to blow mosquitoes away from Pelican Bay.

For example, Karei, thunder god of the Semang hunter-gatherers of Southeast Asia, would get irate if he saw people combing their hair during a storm or watching dogs mate.”

Think about this: what person trying to make “sense of the world” would come up with such bullshit? These sound more like the work of a bullshitter than a contemplative proto-philosopher.

I think a more likely scenario is that these stories were crafted by sly members of a tribe in an effort to acquire status they could not otherwise acquire. Imagine a gamma or even delta male who has been getting the leavings of the stronger males: poorer food, less access to the tribe’s women, what our President would regard as a “loser.” If he tried to grab a women by the pussy, he would find himself roundly cuffed into better manners by a higher status male.

But one day, a solar eclipse occurs (or any other natural phenomenon that you think they would think was rare and threatening). It gets darker and darker and it seems that the sun is being eaten. The tribe is terrified, cowering on the ground. In a moment of inspiration, our delta male jumps up and starts to belittle the spirit that was eating the sun (they were animists, remember) and sure enough, he scares away the eater and the sun comes back. Our bullshit artist becomes a hero, becomes a valued member of the tribe, earns a new title (shaman) and gets better selections of the tribe’s resources from then on.

But the shaman needs more answers. When queried after that point, he can’t just shrug his shoulders, so he has to come up with more stories, and when you read the stories that hunter-gatherer peoples have (the book has quite a few examples) see if they don’t sound to you like they were made up by a drunken frat boy.

Stories are good. They educate and they entertain, and obviously just from the couple of examples provided, they do not have to make much sense (Watch dogs fornicating and the thunder god becomes angry!).

So, while the author of this book addresses the foundations of religion (the hunter-gatherers did not have religions, they had spirits and ghosts as part of their environment) as an intellectual effort to “make sense of the world,” “as we do,” I think that is a sop thrown to the religious. It is far more likely that religion began as part of a con, in instances as described above. My argument is based upon the motivation of the bullshit creators. I think that the sly members of a tribe were far more likely to come up with such stories than any one else.

A con game is short for “confidence game” and is a effort on the part of a con man (or con men) to acquire the confidence of his marks. That confidence enables them to extract wealth from the marks willingly. As far as I am concerned, religion is a Big Con still. The con artists are still spinning stories (I can’t wait for the big Vatican conclave on the sexual predation of its priests; I expect to see big stories created.) and the marks are still believing those stories.

I note that religious apologists pull stories out of their asses in great quantities (e.g. Ever notice how a banana seems designed to fit our hands?), that is they just make things up, often with no support in doctrine or scripture or even reality. They didn’t start the Big Con, but they are going to benefit mightily by keeping it running.



November 7, 2018

#7 of the 10 Reasons to Believe God Exists

A week or so back I covered #1 on this list, so if you need to see where this list was posted and by whom, please consult that post. Here is #7!

  1. Historicity of Jesus’ Resurrection. One of the most historically provable events of ancient history is Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Jesus’ resurrection is quite intriguing because he continuously appealed to God the Father to raise him from the dead. For Jesus to have risen from the dead indicates that the one whom he mentioned did what Jesus claimed he would do. The resurrection of Jesus points to a transcendent reality we call God.

Whoa, I wonder what color the sky is on the planet this guy lives on. The only reports of Jesus’ supposed resurrection are found in the New Testament, a collection of writings that have a vested interest in the resurrection being a real thing. Basically: no resurrection, no Christianity.

One of the first rules for the evaluation of “historical sources” is to determine who wrote the text and what were his/her biases. We do not know who wrote these texts (the four gospels), as the earliest manuscripts available have no authors attributed. Author names were added later by the church, so from the get-go these texts are unreliable. The gospels show clear signs of multiple authors and were written quite spread out over time and well after the events they are claimed to witness (the gospels themselves do not claim to be written by witness, but, well there they go again.). They also show signs of being substantially edited, and the editors are neither identified or their biases made known.

So, Premise #1 (One of the most historically provable events of ancient history is Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.) is a flat out lie. We have no evidence of either event. Neither do we have reliable documents attesting to the events. It is a common tactic in dishonest arguments to sneak a premise in that, if accepted, proves the conclusion. Premises are supposed to be readily accepted facts.

The additional claims regarding the written accounts “he continuously appealed to God the Father to raise him from the dead” conflict with theology that also claims that Jesus and Yahweh, the son and father, are one and the same, parts of the Holy Trinity. So, why would Jesus appeal to himself, out loud, so others could hear him?

Even if we were to grant that Jesus died and was resurrected, it certainly does not “point to a transcendent reality we call God.” For all we know Satan was the resurrector and his motivation was to fuck us up for millennia by believing in a false religion. You would need to find evidence that Yahweh/Jesus himself did the resurrecting.

As “arguments” go, this one is pathetic.

Plus, one could ask: what does sacrificing a “son of god” without knowing He was a son of god, have to do with anything? And, is it by blood magic that we are saved somehow? What is the mechanism of being saved? How does belief in a story (because all it is to anyone who wasn’t there is a story) have any affect on anything?

If you are interested in Christian apologetics, reading some of the “learned” opinions on these questions is quite illuminating. Stuff is made up, stupid stuff, but do check it out for yourself.


November 4, 2018

#5 of the 10 Reasons to Believe God Exists

A few days back I covered #1 on this list, so if you need to see where this list was posted and by whom, please consult that post. Here is #5!

  1. Explanation for Data (Information Argument). Why is there anything at all? Even though the quantum world is a strange place, it still behaves according to certain laws. Why are there quantum particles? Quantum fields? Why do physical processes and procedures exist? One explanation: God. For any data to exist, a programmer must exist. That Programmer must be God himself.

Again, this is an old argument wrapped up in new science. (Quantum, My Precious, we hasss quantum.) This argument is based upon the question “Why is there something rather than nothing? People have been discussing this for millenia, so it is not any newer than most of the other items on this list.

Rather than delve into the specifics one can discuss around this question, such as the question can only exist in universe in which there is something, allow me to address the structure of this argument, and really many of the others.

A logical argument has the following structure:

Premises (premise 1, premise 2, etc.)
Applied logic/argumentation

This argument has the following structure:

Premises (premise 1, premise 2, etc.)

So, the premises are stated:
1. Quantum particles exist
2. Quantum field exist
3. Even these strange particles obey “laws” or rules of behavior
4. physical processes and procedures exist

Then the opinion comes: there can be only one explanation, God

Then the argument follows, out of place in the form of a conclusion: “for any data to exist, there needs to be a programmer,” which is not in any way connected to the premises.

Obviously, “God” means the Abrahamic god, but there is nothing in the argument that says why this god is indicated (There is a hidden premise here “We all know there is but one god.”), so it could be Visnu or the Flying Spaghetti Monster for all we know.

Clearly this “argument” is completely distorted by the presupposed opinion of the arguer. I am reminded of Bertrand Russell’s opinion of Thomas Aquinas as a philosopher (in part):

“He does not, like the Platonic Socrates, set out to follow wherever the argument may lead. He is not engaged in an inquiry, the result of which it is impossible to know in advance. Before he begins to philosophize, he already knows the truth; it is declared in the Catholic faith. If he can find apparently rational arguments for some parts of the faith, so much the better; if he cannot, he need only fall back on revelation. The finding of arguments for a conclusion given in advance is not philosophy, but special pleading.”








November 1, 2018

#3 of the 10 Reasons to Believe God Exists

A few days back I covered #1 on this list, so if you need to see where this list was posted and by whom, please consult that post. Here is #3!

  1. Objective Morality (Moral Argument). Leaving the scientific realm for the philosophical and ethical, objective morality argues for an Objective Lawgiver. God is the best explanation for why objective morality exists. As Brian Manuel, a good friend of mine, said recently, “We can just know certain things to be right and wrong without even being taught.” He is absolutely right! People have an innate sense of morality. That comes from a Moral Lawgiver who we know to be God.

This argument, of course is not new; none of them are, even though the premises refer to things newer. This one is even incoherent. If morals are dictated by gods then they are hardly objective. This is the very definition of subjective (“Behave the way I tell you because I said so … or I will punish you.”)

An obvious argument is there have been so many gods, if the same morals are dictated, then there is some source for those morals higher than the various gods. For those who wish to claim the Abrahamic god as this source, the other gods do not acknowledge that authority, so such a claim is unsubstantiated. We could just as easily claim that morals that evolved naturally from societal structures are that “authority.”

And just what are these vaunted god morals? Many Christians point to the ten commandments, eschewing the other 600 or so from the Old Testament. (There are two lists of the ten to add to the confusion.) And, of course, there are obvious things missing from both lists. Maybe if there had been a commandment forbidding the sexual molestation of children, the Catholic Church might be a less deplorable institution right now. In fact, there are no commandments protecting children and women from molestation. There is no commandment against slavery in scripture. So, where does the general disapproval of slavery now in existence come from? Even if you claim that your god changed his mind about slavery, this is hardly becoming of an entity claimed to be omniscient. Can an omniscient being change its mind, without being perfidious or worse?

This is another argument that has premises and a conclusion, but nothing really connecting them.

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