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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The intellectual costs of Calvinism

It is really rather remarkable how many historical and intellectual crimes can be quite reasonably be traced back to Calvinist thought and be considered the natural consequences of Calvinism:
It was, indeed, Adam Smith who was almost solely responsible for the injection into economics of the labour theory of value. And hence it was Smith who may plausibly be held responsible for the emergence and the momentous consequences of Marxism....

Paul Douglas properly and with rare insight noted that Marx was, in this matter, simply a Smithian-Ricardian trying to work out the theory of his masters:

"Marx has been berated by two generations of orthodox economists for his value theory. The most charitable of the critics have called him a fool and the most severe have called him a knave for what they deem to be transparent contradictions of his theory. Curiously enough these very critics generally commend Ricardo and Adam Smith very highly. Yet the sober facts are that Marx saw more clearly than any English economist the differences between the labor-cost and the labor-command theories and tried more earnestly than anyone else to solve the contradictions which the adoption of a labor-cost theory inevitably entailed. He failed, of course: but with him Ricardo and Smith failed as well... The failure was a failure not of one man but of a philosophy of value, and the roots of the ultimate contradiction made manifest, in the third volume of Das Kapital, lie imbedded in the first volume of the Wealth of Nations."

Adam Smith also gave hostage to the later emergence of socialism by his repeatedly stated view that rent and profit are deductions from the produce of labour. In the primitive world, he opined, ‘the whole produce of labour belongs to the labourer’. But as soon as ‘stock’ (capital) is accumulated, some will employ industrious people in order to make a profit by the sale of the materials. Smith indicates that the capitalist (the ‘undertaker’) reaps profits in return for the risk, and for interest on the investment for maintaining the workers until the product is sold – so that the capitalist earns profit for important functions. He adds, however, that ‘In this state of things the whole produce of labour does not always belong to the labourer. He must in most cases share it with the owner of the stock who employs him’. By using such phrases, and by not making clear why labourers might be happy to pay capitalists for their services, Smith left the door open for later socialists who would call for restructuring institutions so as to enable workers to capture their ‘whole product’. This hostage to socialism was aggravated by the fact that Smith, unlike the later Austrian School, did not demonstrate logically and step by step how industrious and thrifty people accumulate capital out of savings. He was content simply to begin with the alleged reality of a minority of wealthy capitalists in society, a reality which later socialists were of course not ready to endorse.....

Modern writers have tried to salvage the unsalvageable labour theory of value of Adam Smith by asserting that, in a sense he did not really mean what he was saying but was instead seeking to find an invariable standard by which he could measure value and wealth over time. But, to the extent that this search was true, Smith simply added another fallacy on top of all the others. For since value is subjective to each individual, there is no invariant measure or yardstick of value, and any attempts to discover them can at best distort the enterprise of economic theory and send it off chasing an impossible chimera. At worst, the entire structure of economic theory is permeated with fallacy and error.... There is a more fundamental and convincing reason for Adam Smith's throwing over centuries of sound economic analysis, his abandonment of utility and scarcity, and his turn to the erroneous and pernicious labour theory of value. This is the same reason that Smith dwelled on the fallacious doctrine of productive versus unproductive labour. It is the explanation stressed by Emil Kauder, and partially by Paul Douglas: Adam Smith's dour Calvinism.

It is Calvinism that scorns man's consumption and pleasure, and stresses the importance of labour virtually for its own sake. It is the dour Calvinist who made the extravagant statement that diamonds had ‘scarce any value in use’. And perhaps it is also the dour Calvinist who scorned, in the words of Robertson and Taylor, real-world ‘market values which depended on monetary whims and fashions on the market’, and turned his attention instead to the long-run price where such fripperies played no part, and the grim eternal verities of labour toil seemingly played the decisive economic role. Surely this is a far more realistic view of Adam Smith than the Quixotic romantic in quest of the impossible dream of an invariable measure of value. And while Smith's most famous follower, David Ricardo, was not a Calvinist, his leading immediate disciple, Dugald Stewart, was a Scottish Presbyterian, and the leading Ricardians – John R. McCulloch and James Mill – were both Scottish and educated in Dugald Stewart's University of Edinburgh. The Calvinist connection continued to dominate British – and hence classical – economics.
- Murray Rothbard, An Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought, 16.5: "The Theory of Value"
While one cannot conclusively ascertain the truth or falsehood of Calvinist theology except through its various departures from scripture, I do find it more than a little informative that the mental gymnastics and contorted interpretations that we have witnessed on numerous occasions here in the past can also be observed in the approach of various notable Calvinists to non-theological matters such as economics.

I am not entirely convinced that Smith's Calvinism is entirely to blame; I don't see that a contradiction between the search for an invariable measure of value and a dour Calvinistic tendency to exalt Man's toil is either necessary or intrinsic.  After all, even after witnessing centuries of futility in attempting to not only define objective value, but make substantive policy decisions on the basis of objective price, leading economists still insist on ignoring the basic concept of subjective value and its inevitable consequences.

Nevertheless, when contemplating the vagaries of Calvinism, one cannot ignore the "fruits" test to which all Christian theologies merit comparison.  After all, if it is reasonable to view my libertarianism as a natural intellectual consequence of my aprevistan free will theology, then surely it is every bit as reasonable to suppose that fatalism, irresponsibility, socialism are at least a possible consequence of a omniderigent Calvinistic theology.

One of the fascinating things about Rothbard's magnum opus is the way in which the atheist Rothbard came to see the importance of the religious perspective, both overt and implicit, in the formulation of economic theory, past and present.  Indeed, it would not be exaggerating matters to regard economics to be less a science or a philosophy than a series of competing theologies masked by a thin pseudo-scientific layer of statistics and mathematical equations.

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227 Comments:

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Anonymous Peter Garstig February 19, 2013 5:00 AM  

Rothbard is undervalued as an economist, historian and intellectual.

Also, while his 'Ethics of liberty' is a failure, it's still a brilliant effort and the closest anyone every came to establish a case for atheistic ethics.

Anonymous Roundtine February 19, 2013 5:12 AM  

One error is taking the personal and making it universal. What works/fails at the individual level can fail/succeed at the higher level of society. At the practical political level, this is why we see people assume that CEOs and Warren Buffett know how the economy works. They know how to make money for themselves, not how the overall economy works. As far as the economy is concerned, their failure may be better than their success (such as Buffett and his banks).

Anonymous Anonymous February 19, 2013 5:26 AM  

Www.carm.org...... Christian apologetics research ministry...
Decent enough site, head of it is Calvinist... I don't buy into Calvinism myself, yet Matt, the head of it would be a great debate opponent with Vox....

Just a thought

Anonymous Kyle In Japan February 19, 2013 6:21 AM  

"After all, if it is reasonable to view my libertarianism as a natural intellectual consequence of my aprevistan free will theology..."

Actually I figured it was the other way around. I suspect many of the political/economic views you held before becoming a Christian strongly influenced your theology. But hey, we're all guilty of that to some extent.

I can't comment on whether I think your post is on target or not (being not a Calvinist myself.) The economics posts are, like, the 500 yen drink ticket you have to get to enter the concert venue of this blog (posts on Game, fiction, McRapey, etc.)

Blogger mmaier2112 February 19, 2013 6:32 AM  

Kyle, how would that be if the economics views came first? Unless you're saying that "what you feel is true" affects both.

I hated being dragged into both libertarianism / non-aggression / Austrianism as well as Christianity.

I was "happy" being a Republican cheerleader just fine... then I happened across a mohawked-weirdo on WND.com.

Anonymous VD February 19, 2013 6:36 AM  

Actually I figured it was the other way around. I suspect many of the political/economic views you held before becoming a Christian strongly influenced your theology.

Or, alternatively, both could be the consequence of prideful personal independence. It doesn't matter. The point is that the motivational interpretation can be applied to everyone. It may be relevant in some cases, or even in most cases.

It gets even more interesting when one considers the known link between Smith and Darwin. There is a direct and traceable intellectual link between John Calvin and Richard Dawkins, with Adam Smith being the key connection.

Anonymous Krul February 19, 2013 6:51 AM  

One of the fascinating things about Rothbard's magnum opus is the way in which the atheist Rothbard came to see the importance of the religious perspective, both overt and implicit, in the formulation of economic theory, past and present.

One of the most impressive things about Rothbard - one of the most impressive minds of the modern era in many ways - was his almost unheard of ability to write about religion in a sincerely objective way in spite of his atheism. How many atheists have ever been able to do this in all their history? Off hand, I can think of none.

Anonymous VD February 19, 2013 7:00 AM  

The economics posts are, like, the 500 yen drink ticket you have to get to enter the concert venue of this blog (posts on Game, fiction, McRapey, etc.)

Do hold that thought. I have no doubt the rival view will be communicated today as well.

Anonymous DrTorch February 19, 2013 7:04 AM  

Blaming Smith for Marx's insanity b/c Smith was unclear? That's a bit of a stretch.

Anonymous VD February 19, 2013 7:08 AM  

Blaming Smith for Marx's insanity b/c Smith was unclear?

He wasn't unclear. He was self-contradictory. There is a big difference there. Smith knowingly abandoned subjective value theory in favor of an obviously flawed and self-contradictory labor theory of value, for reasons that are still debated. Marx was a follower of Smith who provided one of the more intellectually credible means of attempting to resolve Smith's contradictions. That Marx failed, as he was bound to, doesn't absolve Smith for his own intellectual sins.

Anonymous Charles February 19, 2013 7:32 AM  

Interesting thoughts. People's ideas about economics are generally formed, I think, by what they see "working" in their lives; whether this be collecting the dole or busting their asses to do work under the table, or going to college like dad did, or whatever have you. My take on all this: Assuming we do have a hyperinflationary blow off and the governments go broke, people's "theology" if you will about money may steer the question of which small - s states are more "free" and which are more "non-free" -- though people's religion, race, or even their theories or understanding of freedom themselves may not even be recognized as relevant, whether people in fact can make a living may drive Statism boat onto the rocks. We need the ilk to come up with theories about how to thrive in the black market as a kind of post-crash foundational goal.

Anonymous ODG February 19, 2013 7:32 AM  

I can certainly agree with economics being competing theologies with a thin veneer of math. I am in the middle of an online econ course at The Christian Scholar. It pulls heavily from Christian sources for economics articles, as you can imagine. Rather than taking the von Mises approach of simply observing and recording the consequences of economics decisions, they assign values judgments to those decisions. Once you do that, it’s a short step to enacting legislation to force “right” decisions and punish the “wrong” ones.

PS: I came here for the econ posts, and stayed for the AWCA fun!

Blogger Chris February 19, 2013 7:39 AM  

"There is a direct and traceable intellectual link between John Calvin and Richard Dawkins, with Adam Smith being the key connection."

Apologies if you discussed this before but could you elaborate on the direct link between them? A paragraph or two would probably suffice.

Blogger Markku February 19, 2013 7:44 AM  

Sounds like a bunch of hand-waving to me. The only stated connection to Calvinism in the hypothesis is that it is "scorning man's consumption and pleasure" (I wonder what he is referring to with "consumption" in specific). Very loose connection, I'd say.

Your turn; Says the...

Blogger Nate February 19, 2013 7:53 AM  

The point about the value of diamonds rings true to me. But I confess... anyone that wants to blame calvinists for anything at all will find my ear sympathetic.

Anonymous VD February 19, 2013 7:54 AM  

It's not handwaving. The lack of a case is because Rothbard isn't making the case here in his massive overview, he is simply referring to the cases made by Kauder and Douglas.

Anonymous Josh February 19, 2013 7:55 AM  

Does Smith's argument hinge on some variant of A!=A? If so, the calvinist mindset may be responsible.

Blogger Nate February 19, 2013 7:58 AM  

"Does Smith's argument hinge on some variant of A!=A? If so, the calvinist mindset may be responsible."

Fallacy piled on top of more fallacy...

If that's not calvinist I don't know what is.

Anonymous FUBAR Nation Ben February 19, 2013 7:59 AM  

It's the other way around, Kyle. You have to sift through the petty posts in order to get to the gems like these.

It's interesting to note that Mises, Rothbard, and other Austrians didn't have much of a favorable view of Smith. Smith, for example, was a believer in government intervention in certain cases.

Unlike Ricardo, I don't think Smith was as politically involved. Ricardo's trade theories, for example, were and are today used to justified free trade. The only time Smith is cited is in economics class to mention to everyone that he wrote Wealth of Nations in 1776 and to cite the factory example.

As to the religious nature of economic doctrine, it's a slipper slope. The Bible or Torah in my case can be used to promote just about any economic doctrine. Many Jews for instance, cite the Torah to justify their socialism. Cathlics are another example.

Anonymous Josh February 19, 2013 8:02 AM  

It is Calvinism that scorns man's consumption and pleasure, and stresses the importance of labour virtually for its own sake.

There is, of course, a significant jump to be made from "the importance of labor virtually for its own sake" to assuming that all labor has intrinsic economic value.

I'm wondering if Rothbard's atheism is the cause of this assumption that the proper way to value things is through economics, that because something is worth doing it is economically worth doing. Man is not a creature ruled by cost benefit analysis, after all.

Blogger Nate February 19, 2013 8:06 AM  

"I'm wondering if Rothbard's atheism is the cause of this assumption that the proper way to value things is through economics, that because something is worth doing it is economically worth doing."

More likely he was an aspy of epic magnitude.

Anonymous Josh February 19, 2013 8:13 AM  

More likely he was an aspy of epic magnitude.

Or, if you're an economist, and an atheist, you're in some measure a materialist, and the only means by which the value of things can be measured is by economic utility.

It's like Roepke, Mises, and the little Swiss gardens.

Anonymous jack February 19, 2013 8:18 AM  

@Charles:
We need the ilk to come up with theories about how to thrive in the black market as a kind of post-crash foundational goal.

I would second this. A series of monographs, as posts perhaps, by Vox would be interesting. Better, a book, a manual if you will, of how to keep yours and your families butts supplied with beans, jeans, and dreams through a 'black market' world. The market scene near the start of the movie Beyond Thunderball comes to a fearful mind's eye.

Anonymous Toby Temple February 19, 2013 8:21 AM  

So sex is worth doing because of it is economically worth doing?

So my boner can teach me economics!!!

Blogger Nate February 19, 2013 8:24 AM  

"We need the ilk to come up with theories about how to thrive in the black market as a kind of post-crash foundational goal."

...

You need a manual to tell you how to trade without a government involved? Really?

Look.. i works like this... You have beans. You want jeans. Your neighbor has jeans. You trade.

That's that.

Anonymous Orville February 19, 2013 8:25 AM  

I third that. It would turn out to be very practical if/when the dollar goes tits up.

I also appreciate the use of words like frippery and aprevistan. It's like reading Wodehouse on economics!

Anonymous HotDog February 19, 2013 8:28 AM  

Vox I'm disappointed in you. Rothbard's piece on Smith is the most idiotic thing he ever wrote. It's like an opinion piece by a dumb left-wing columnist.

A collection of the basic mistakes and misunderstandings he made are talked about here:

http://www.adamsmithslostlegacy.com/Articles_05.htm

Blogger Joshua_D February 19, 2013 8:34 AM  

Charles February 19, 2013 7:32 AM

People's ideas about economics are generally formed, I think, by what they see "working" in their lives;


People form ideas about economics the same way they form ideas about calculus, i.e. most people don't. Most people act solely out of personal self interest most of the time, and they don't give any thought to any economic theory to explain their actions or the actions of others.

Economic theory simply tries to explain why people act the way they do; it does not aim to guide people's actions.

Blogger Nate February 19, 2013 8:35 AM  

oh dear...

It apears poor hotdog's sacred cow has been lampooned.

Behold! The Vapors!

Blogger tz February 19, 2013 8:38 AM  

It depends on your theory of "man". Rerum novarum and the decennial encyclicals rejected socialism while upholding the dignity of man. Labor differs because it comes from a subject, not an object. There is dignity (apart from any economic value). They are good reads even if you ultimately disagree with them. The Catholic church has a social and economic teaching, but go to the source.


Anonymous VD February 19, 2013 8:40 AM  

Vox I'm disappointed in you. Rothbard's piece on Smith is the most idiotic thing he ever wrote. It's like an opinion piece by a dumb left-wing columnist.

I think you completely missed the point. I draw this bit to your attention.

I have read, so far, a few of Rothbard’s contributions (I am working my way through von Mises’ “Human Action”[4] amidst other duties[5]) and should not comment at this time on Austrian economics in general until I am familiar with the Austrian approach, which strikes me, from recent acquaintance with the Mises Institute Blog, as formidable, at least in its certitudes about everything. However, I am familiar with the life and works of Adam Smith and spend a deal of time correcting obvious errors broadcast about him.

Translation: "I have absolutely no idea what Rothbard is talking about with regards to subjective value, but I'm going to defend Smith's labor theory of value anyhow and focus on some errors of detail that make Smith look bad and ignore the salient point."

Note that I haven't mentioned most of the things that this guy is criticizing Rothbard over, such as the plagiarism and so forth. I'm primarily interested in one thing, the labor theory of value and its consequences.

Blogger Nate February 19, 2013 8:41 AM  

" Most people act solely out of personal self interest most of the time, and they don't give any thought to any economic theory to explain their actions or the actions of others."

I would argue they don't act on self-interest at all. Most are far to idiotic or undisciplined to act in actual self-interest. They act on whim.

Anonymous VD February 19, 2013 8:44 AM  

I'm wondering if Rothbard's atheism is the cause of this assumption that the proper way to value things is through economics, that because something is worth doing it is economically worth doing. Man is not a creature ruled by cost benefit analysis, after all.

No. See subjective value. The idea of "a proper way to value things" is intrinsically non-Austrian.

Blogger Nate February 19, 2013 8:46 AM  

"The idea of "a proper way to value things" is intrinsically non-Austrian."

Preach.

people seem to accept today that something's value is "whatever you can get someone to pay for it." But hardly any of them realize that the principle is Austrian.

Anonymous Raggededge February 19, 2013 8:47 AM  

VD: I'm primarily interested in one thing, the labor theory of value and its consequences.

That's not they way your post comes across. It's basically, I'm primarily interested in showing how the doctrine of Calvanism gave rise to the labor theory of value. And since the labor theory of value is bunk therefore so is Calvanism.

Anonymous Peter Garstig February 19, 2013 8:50 AM  

Josh wrote: Or, if you're an economist, and an atheist, you're in some measure a materialist, and the only means by which the value of things can be measured is by economic utility.

I think both you and Nate make the mistake to deduce the private Rothbard and Mises from their public (or I should say most known) works. Just because they avoid to touch other values systems outside of their economic value system doesn't mean that they didn't have any other means to value things in their life than the economic one. Is see both of them simply being intellectually honest in that they keep their believes out of their academic work.

It's little know about Rothbard and von Mises privately, but what little known there is seems to indicate that both men were charitable, giving and warm.

Also, I think that's the mistake alot of people make with this blog.

Blogger Nate February 19, 2013 8:53 AM  

"That's not they way your post comes across. It's basically, I'm primarily interested in showing how the doctrine of Calvanism gave rise to the labor theory of value. And since the labor theory of value is bunk therefore so is Calvanism."

...

Did you really just employ A /= A in a complaint about an attack on Calvinism?


Blogger Nate February 19, 2013 9:00 AM  

"Also, I think that's the mistake alot of people make with this blog."

Another common failing... is the inability to determine jest from serious commentary.

Anonymous Raggededge February 19, 2013 9:01 AM  

Nate: Did you really just employ A /= A in a complaint about an attack on Calvinism?

Yes.

Anonymous VD February 19, 2013 9:12 AM  

Another common failing... is the inability to determine jest from serious commentary.

Are you... victimized?

Blogger Nate February 19, 2013 9:14 AM  

'Are you... victimized?'

dude... i have tears in my eyes... like... blazing saddles tears.

Anonymous Josh February 19, 2013 9:19 AM  

That's not they way your post comes across. It's basically, I'm primarily interested in showing how the doctrine of Calvanism gave rise to the labor theory of value. And since the labor theory of value is bunk therefore so is Calvanism.

Or...it's just recognizing that calvinists have certain thought patterns in intellectual area a,and wwondering if that thought pattern leads to conclusion x in intellectual area b.

It's much more of a commentary on the ist than on the ism.

Anonymous MendoScot February 19, 2013 9:25 AM  

Man is not a creature ruled by cost benefit analysis, after all.

Actually, there is considerable evidence that our brains are pretty much ruled by cost-benefit analysis, we just aren't necessarily aware of the components that go into the calculator.

For those who enjoy economics and AWCA - Argentina instituted price controls last week, leading to staples immediately disappearing from supermarket shelves (despite >90% non-compliance with the freeze). Our delectable Presidenta's response? Extend the controls from 2 months to 7 months - after the midterm elections in October.

Now, how is this going to end?

Anonymous Raggededge February 19, 2013 9:25 AM  

Josh: Or...it's just recognizing that calvinists have certain thought patterns in intellectual area a,and wwondering if that thought pattern leads to conclusion x in intellectual area b.

It's much more of a commentary on the ist than on the ism.


Yes and I'm perfectly fine with that. But that is not what Vox stated, he said, "I'm primarily interested in one thing, the labor theory of value and its consequences.". Fine, if that's the case who cares if Adam Smith was a Calvanist or an Atheist? The consequences of his theory are the same either way.

Anonymous Peter Garstig February 19, 2013 9:45 AM  

saddles? like on horses?

Anyway, I intended no harm. I'm nice.

Anonymous Josh February 19, 2013 9:56 AM  

But that is not what Vox stated, he said, "I'm primarily interested in one thing, the labor theory of value and its consequences."

That was in reference to Rothbard's critique of Smith. Not Smith's calvinism.

Anonymous Asher February 19, 2013 9:59 AM  

@ vd

since value is subjective to each individual, there is no invariant measure or yardstick of value,

What the term "subjective" tends to imply is that what is valued is freely chosen. The problem is that 'valuing' is just a human behavior and labeling it as subjective is placing it beyond analysis. There are all kinds of human behaviors that I'm sure you do not consider beyond analysis so you're going to have to justify why you think 'valuing' is not subject to the laws of cause and effect that you apply to other areas of human behavior.

it is reasonable to view my libertarianism as a natural intellectual consequence of my aprevistan free will theology

When we examine things rationally we are presuming that they have are explicable and caused. But when we say that some particular behavior is the product of free will that places it outside the realm of explanation and cause and effect, outside the realm of reason and rational explanation.

If you're going to attribute some human behavior to free will why just go the whole way and attribute all human behavior to free will? The obvious reason you don't is that you want to attribute causes to some human behaviors, but the problem with doing that is that you need to establish a demarcating criterion to distinguished behaviors that are caused from those that are not caused.

Anonymous Asher February 19, 2013 10:01 AM  

@ Krul

How many atheists have ever been able to do this in all their history? Off hand, I can think of none.

Myself, for one. Max Weber, for another, and we was very much in the Calvinist lineage.

Anonymous Asher February 19, 2013 10:05 AM  

@ VD

abandoned subjective value theory in favor of an obviously flawed and self-contradictory labor theory of value, for reasons that are still debated.

Hmm, they may be debated but they seem pretty clear. Smith wanted a causal explanation for the concrete human function of 'valuing' and he wanted to establish a general theory for it. Why not just label all human behaviors subjective and place all human functioning beyond rational analysis?

Blogger jamsco February 19, 2013 10:09 AM  

"it is every bit as reasonable to suppose that fatalism, irresponsibility, socialism are at least a possible consequence of a omniderigent Calvinistic theology."

Now if you could show that Calvinists act in fatalistic, irresponsible, or socialistic ways, then you'd have something.

Anonymous Asher February 19, 2013 10:09 AM  

@ Nate

More likely he was an aspy of epic magnitude.

The problem with free will is that once you admit even one behavior to the realm of freedom then you're going to have to explain why every other behavior doesn't belong there.

Is Asperger's the product of cause and effect or is it also freely chosen? It's a serious question.

Blogger Nate February 19, 2013 10:10 AM  

" Why not just label all human behaviors subjective and place all human functioning beyond rational analysis?"

Given that humans are not rational... it seems that there is a very good reason to do that very thing.

Anonymous Josh February 19, 2013 10:13 AM  

No. See subjective value. The idea of "a proper way to value things" is intrinsically non-Austrian.

I'm not saying that Rothbard is saying that this is the one way to value things. I'm saying that, because the logical conclusion of atheism is materialism, and morality is nothing but utilitarianism for the atheist, the atheist is left with valuing things in terms of their economic value, since that is the yardstick that the atheist, especially the atheist who is an economist, uses.

And yes, that sentence is utterly marxian in its grammar and syntax.

Rothbard can use a yardstick without saying that everyone else has to use the same yardstick.

In summary
Calvinist: "work has value" (by this he means there is a certain intrinsic value in hard work for its own sake, regardless of the economic production generated by such work)

Atheist economist: "he must be saying that work has economic value!"

Anonymous RedJack February 19, 2013 10:16 AM  

Economic theory simply tries to explain why people act the way they do; it does not aim to guide people's actions.

Yet many take such theories as holy writ and go about trying to reorder the world to match their dogma. All men worship and have faith in something. Be it economics, religion, or the whims of weather. The danger is that such faith, if not recognized as such, leads to actions that are a detriment to the rest of society. Much of economic theory has been that way. Princes, elected or not, put their faith in Marx or Rothbard, and try to rebuild the world in that vision.

Anonymous paradox February 19, 2013 10:16 AM  

I see the errors of Calvianism, but just what is the definition for free will here? I see free will set within constraints. People are more predisposed for certain sins than other sins. They can still choose, but say... an alcoholic would have a more difficult time to choose not to drink than someone who doesn't drink.

Is there free will when God creates people? Do the mother and father really choose to have a baby or is it predetermined, because God wishes to create a human?

Anonymous Asher February 19, 2013 10:16 AM  

@ Nate

Given that humans are not rational... it seems that there is a very good reason to do that very thing.

This is a ridiculous comment. Insects are not rational creatures, either. By that standard all insect behavior cannot be studied rationally.

Nate, you do realize that when you say "aspy" you are attributing rational, i.e. causality, to various behaviors, right?

Anonymous Josh February 19, 2013 10:18 AM  

Now if you could show that Calvinists act in fatalistic, irresponsible, or socialistic ways, then you'd have something.

Read Rothbard's analysis of puritan progressives.

Anonymous Asher February 19, 2013 10:19 AM  

@ Josh

and morality is nothing but utilitarianism for the atheist,

No, it's not. The term "utilitarianism" has a very specific meaning in the history of western thought. The word you're looking for is "instrumentalist".

For an atheist morality is an instrument involved in the functioning of human life.

Anonymous Peter Garstig February 19, 2013 10:21 AM  

What kind of can did I open there?

Anonymous Some Enchanted Stranger Who Is Randomly Passing By, In Passing February 19, 2013 10:21 AM  

"At worst, the entire structure of economic theory is permeated with fallacy and error...."

^^^^^ DING DING DING!! Hey!! Somebody finally guessed Groucho's secret word!

"Why is it funny, Julie?" -- Margaret Dumont to Groucho (whose real name was Julius), the second-greatest straight-[wo]man of all time (Gracie Allen wins first place, Bud Abbott ranks third), Margaret really knew how to play a part, bless her pointed little head.

Phool Beale:

"it would not be exaggerating matters to regard economics to be less a science or a philosophy than a series of competing theologies masked by a thin pseudo-scientific layer of statistics and mathematical equations."

Now that you've figured it out, good bloke,
You've got to tell us a joke.

CROWD: A JOKE!!! A JOKE!!!



Anonymous Agent Asper February 19, 2013 10:22 AM  

THE TRAIN IS FINE

Blogger Nate February 19, 2013 10:22 AM  

'This is a ridiculous comment. Insects are not rational creatures, either. By that standard all insect behavior cannot be studied rationally.'

Push aspy button... watch aspy jump.

Anonymous Asher February 19, 2013 10:23 AM  

@ Josh

Which of these statements do you think better describes the functioning of morality in human life:

A) Morality exists to serve life
B) Life exists to serve morality

If we say that "X is predicated on Y" then we are saying that Y is prior to X. Therefore, if you think option B is the better description of the two above then you're also implying that morality exists independent of life but that the existence of life is dependent on morality - in other words, that morality would still exist even if life did not.

Anonymous Peter Garstig February 19, 2013 10:27 AM  

Asheer: define morality as it's used in your statements.

Anonymous Asher February 19, 2013 10:33 AM  

@ Peter Garstig

I didn't initiate the discussion of morality in this thread. "Morality" as a category is simply the rules for behavior that cultures and societies devise for their particular time and place; it comes from the Latin "mores" meaning "customs".

Anonymous Josh February 19, 2013 10:35 AM  

Well Asher, since, as a Christian, my morality is defined by God, morality would still exist even if human life did not.

And now you're going to launch into a missive about my improper use of the word "morality" when I should actually have used "gobsmactallywad"

Anonymous Peter Garstig February 19, 2013 10:38 AM  

@ Asher: so if it is the custom in a society to kill albinos to heal other people, then that is moral? Or contains morality?

Anonymous Peter Garstig February 19, 2013 10:41 AM  

Rothbard rejected Utilitarianism (from The Ethics of Liberty) while also rejecting the idea that praxeological economics (are any economics) could be the sole base for an objective ethic:

Thus, while praxeological economic theory is extremely useful for providing data and knowledge for framing economic policy, it cannot be sufficient by itself to enable the economist to make any value pronouncements or to advocate any public policy whatsoever. More specifically, Ludwig von Mises to the contrary notwithstanding, neither praxeological economics nor Mises's utilitarian liberalism is sufficient to make the case for laissez faire and the free-market economy.

To make such a case, one must go beyond economics and utilitarianism to establish an objective ethics which affirms the overriding value of liberty, and morally condemns all forms of statism, from egalitarianism to "the murder of redheads," as well as such goals as the lust for power and the satisfaction of envy.

To make the full case for liberty, one cannot be a methodological slave to every goal that the majority of the public might happen to cherish.

Anonymous Asher February 19, 2013 10:45 AM  

@ Josh

Well Asher, since, as a Christian, my morality is defined by God, morality would still exist even if human life did not.

God says that His ways are not our ways and his thoughts not our thoughts. You are conflating God's law and human morality. Where in the Bible do you find support for the position that morality is defined by God? I've read the Bible cover to cover countless times and I don't find any support for that position.

Yes, we as individuals are liable to obey God's commands but what does that have to do with human morality?

Anonymous Toby Temple February 19, 2013 10:45 AM  

it comes from the Latin "mores" meaning "customs".

I did not know that the customs officials are officials of morality...

Anonymous Asher February 19, 2013 10:46 AM  

@ Peter Garstig

@ Asher: so if it is the custom in a society to kill albinos to heal other people, then that is moral? Or contains morality?

Yes, that is a paarticular manifestation of a particular morality. Certainly not my morality but one, nonetheless.

Nazism and Communism were also both moral systems.

Blogger jamsco February 19, 2013 10:47 AM  

Josh: "Read Rothbard's analysis of puritan progressives."

I searched and couldn't find it. Is there a link? Does it actually say something about Calvinists?

Anonymous Peter Garstig February 19, 2013 10:47 AM  

@ Asher: by that definition, B) is illogical.

Why ask a question with one possible answer?

Anonymous Peter Garstig February 19, 2013 10:50 AM  

@ Asher: On what grounds can you say that Nazism or Communism is a wrong moral system?

Blogger Nate February 19, 2013 10:53 AM  

Peter.. you realize you're now participating in a public masterbation fest with Agent Aspy right?

Just back away.

There is no end to the circle jerk you just stepped into.

Anonymous Toby Temple February 19, 2013 10:54 AM  

Yes, we as individuals are liable to obey God's commands but what does that have to do with human morality?

Are you claiming that morality is human morality?

Anonymous RedJack February 19, 2013 10:54 AM  

Peter Garstig February 19, 2013 10:50 AM @ Asher: On what grounds can you say that Nazism or Communism is a wrong moral system?


That's the rub isn't it. For Christians (and honestly others) there is as concept known as "Natural Law". Most people have a core belief that it is wrong to kill their own kind. Kind being the key word here. The Other there is often a lesser stop to kill.

That imprint is so strong that programing a solidier to fire on other humans is difficult.

So what is the base assumptions that make something wrong or right?

Anonymous Peter Garstig February 19, 2013 10:56 AM  

No worries. Just doing some push-ups.

Anonymous Toby Temple February 19, 2013 10:56 AM  

So what is the base assumptions that make something wrong or right?

I'm pretty sure its not how something makes us feel.

Anonymous Peter Garstig February 19, 2013 10:58 AM  

@ RedJack: So what is the base assumptions that make something wrong or right?

You're asking that a Christian?

Blogger Justus Hommes February 19, 2013 11:02 AM  

Vox, best post in quite some time. I am willing to suffer through the SciFi, game, and gun stuff to get quality food for thought such as this. I do hope this is the beginning of more economic and/or theological topics resurfacing to your more regular writing rotation...

My theological views run open theory & free will also. I find your use of the term "prideful personal independence" in the comment above very interesting in light of my current parallel study of Genesis and 2 Corinthians in separate groups.

Something along the lines of "prideful personal independence" may be my leading contender as a definition of sin.

My current summary of theological thought is that the nature of our relationship to God is that we are called to recognize our individual liberty and free will, and yet choose to be "fully dependent" on God. It is through this lens that every story of the Bible seems to tell the same story over and over again, of how the strongest individuals and peoples fall when they choose "prideful personal independence", and the weakest are lifted up when they choose righteous dependance. From Moses in the bulrushes to Christ in the manger, and also the early Church, God's Holy Spirit is made available to those who freely choose to depend on Him instead of our their independent strength, power, intelligence, money, looks, or privilege.

I think it is impossible to match the above with coherent economic thought for the modern economy, as it would run in complete opposition. Rational value and benefit would not be the primary driver of our economic choices for those dependent on God. It would look completely irrational, actually. As irrational as a woman "wasting" expensive perfume anointing Jesus instead of selling it to maximize its potential economic and social benefits. We are challenged in the core of our beings to risk our financial (among other forms of) independence in how we choose to live our lives, and not to make an idol of ourselves.

Anonymous VD February 19, 2013 11:11 AM  

What the term "subjective" tends to imply is that what is valued is freely chosen.

Asher, every time you use words like "imply" and "seems", you assign an erroneous interpretation and wind up attacking a strawmen of your own construction. Every time. Just a friendly little help there for you.

Otherwise, carry on.

Anonymous Josh February 19, 2013 11:14 AM  

Jamsco:

https://mises.org/daily/2225

Blogger jamsco February 19, 2013 11:25 AM  

Josh: https://mises.org/daily/2225

It looks like this says that the Welfare state didn't happen as a result of Calvinism, but as a result to an over-reaction against Calvinism.

Anonymous scoobius dubious February 19, 2013 11:31 AM  

I think you're ignoring the sociology here. Theories can run a mile deep and have integrity, or not, and never catch on; one wonders, why did this particular idea bubble to the surface and not that one? Does a Calvinist link to Marxism really matter, or was something more elemental in play? I think the latter.

The nineteenth century had more zany socialist and social-reform theories than a dog has fleas: Fourier, Proudhon, various crackpot Russians, you name it, they had it. But Marxism was the one that caught on, and Marx was the guy who burned the twentieth century to the ground, not Fourier. Why? Why Marx and not Fourier?

1) The claims of bogus but intellectually dignified "scientific" and "inevitable" strategies, as opposed to mere bien-pensant utopian wishful thinking,

but more importantly...

2) The theorizing of the need for a non-proletariat "vanguard" of intellectuals who would be part of the Movement, but who wouldn't have to actually be Workers, so they could instead, as an intellectual Vanguard, spend their time disputing the arcane points of the "scientific" theory and telling the Workers what to do next...

So in other words, Marx created a system in which there's an enemy to attack (Capitalists! The evil bourgeoisie!), and also a force of righteous army ants to do the attacking (the Proletariat!), but ALSO, in between them, there's this special class of people who don't have to work and don't have to get their hands dirty, who can sit around all day in libraries and cafes arguing about the best theoretical strategy for how the noble Proletariat can fight the evil Bourgeoisie, but this Vanguard class doesn't have to work, and it doesn't have to fight, either. All it has to do to justify itself, is sit around and think all day, and issue commands to others. Hmmm... who, I wonder, would be attracted to such a position?

POLICE RADIO DISPATCHER: Calling all Jews! Calling all Jews! Report at once to the Marxist Vanguard Meeting Hall! Repeat, all Jews report at once to the Marxist Vanguard Meeting Hall for your assigned seats in libraries and cafes. Begin telling the goyim what to do at once! Repeat! Do NOT go to the Fourierist Meeting Hall, because they will require you to work, just like the goyim. Repeat, report at ONCE to the MARXIST meeting hall, because there you will not have to work, you can sit around and argue, and the goyim will work, and if they don't, you can put them in gulags and kill them, and then lie about it later.

Sigh. Nothing ever changes. We don't have a proletariat here in America any more, but we sure do have an intellectual vanguard class, don't we. But sorry, all the seats are already taken. (BRECHTIAN WORLD-WEARY CHANTEUSE): Oh, you know why, oh, you know why...



Anonymous Josh February 19, 2013 11:31 AM  

You didn't say "because of calvinism", you said "calvinists doing socialist things".

The Yankee women progressives were puritan, and the puritans were calvinist.

Anonymous Josh February 19, 2013 11:32 AM  

The best quote from that essay:

Of all the Yankee activists in behalf of statist "reform," perhaps the most formidable force was the legion of Yankee women, in particular those of middle- or upper-class background, and especially spinsters whose busybody inclinations were not fettered by the responsibilities of home and hearth.

Blogger Nate February 19, 2013 11:35 AM  

"It looks like this says that the Welfare state didn't happen as a result of Calvinism, but as a result to an over-reaction against Calvinism."

Oh look.. Team Calvin can't connect dots in a logically sound pattern.

what a shock.

Anonymous Josh February 19, 2013 11:40 AM  

For their next act, team Calvin will argue that the puritans were not calvinists

Blogger jamsco February 19, 2013 12:08 PM  

I will stipulate that one small faction of Calvinism did something which caused other groups to do something which caused yet other groups to do something that was, in turn, one of the hundreds of factors which caused the potential for what is today known as the Welfare State.

Big Whoop.

Anonymous JartStar February 19, 2013 12:12 PM  

Josh, I have no love for Calvinists, but you are off track with your interpretation of the article you linked. "The Yankee women were Second Great Awakening conquered and remolded the Protestant churches, leaving such older forms as Calvinism far behind. ... and equally scornful of the formalisms of Calvinist creed or church organization. Hence, denominationalism, God's Law, and church organization were no longer important. Say what you want about Calvinists, God's Law is very important to them.

The Yankee women were not Calvinists, or at the very least were not like the old Calvinists in any way and rejected it:

The early suffragette leaders began as ardent prohibitionists, the major political concern of the postmillennial Protestants. They were all Yankees, centering their early activities in the Yankee heartland of upstate New York.


The Social Gospel movement was certainly not fueled by Johnathan Edwards Calvinists, but instead was fomented by revivalists like the... Methodists and Baptists.

Anonymous Josh February 19, 2013 12:13 PM  

Jamsco,

Were the Yankee progressives Rothbard talks about calvinist?

Blogger jamsco February 19, 2013 12:20 PM  

I cannot claim to have read it well enough to answer that question with certainty.

Now ask me a question about the Bible and I can give you a different kind of answer.

Blogger Nate February 19, 2013 12:20 PM  

"I will stipulate that one small faction of Calvinism did something which caused other groups to do something which caused yet other groups to do something that was, in turn, one of the hundreds of factors which caused the potential for what is today known as the Welfare State."

one small faction?


Where was Calvinism practiced where it did NOT lead to tyranny?

Anonymous Josh February 19, 2013 12:23 PM  

From the essay:

The propensity of the Yankees, in particular, to take so quickly to the coercive, crusading aspect of the new Protestant pietism was a heritage of the values, mores, and world outlook of their Puritan ancestors, and of the community they had established in New England.

The puritans (who were calvinists) came to America in order to perfect society. The post millennial progressives were tapping into a very old well.

Anonymous Josh February 19, 2013 12:26 PM  

Where was Calvinism practiced where it did NOT lead to tyranny?

The Scottish presbyterians, who basically started the revolutionary war after the highland clearances following the rising of 45.

Although that might have been because they were Scots, not because they were calvinists.

Anonymous scoobius dubious February 19, 2013 12:29 PM  

"that might have been because they were Scots, not because they were calvinists"

Bingo.

You might go further and say not because they were Scots (strictly as such), but because they were Gaels.

Scotia is a word with a long and peculiar history.



Blogger Nate February 19, 2013 12:29 PM  

Scots weren't calvinists... calvinists don't drink.

Anonymous Raggededge February 19, 2013 12:30 PM  

Nate: Where was Calvinism practiced where it did NOT lead to tyranny?

Where was anything practiced that did not lead to tyranny? I don't think Obama is a Calvanist.

Blogger Nate February 19, 2013 12:37 PM  

" I don't think Obama is a Calvanist."

sigh...

you're having a hard time with set and sub-set confusion today. All calvinists are tyrants. That doesn't mean all tyrants are calvinists.

Anonymous Anonymous February 19, 2013 12:38 PM  

Scots weren't calvinists... calvinists don't drink.

This may be the funniest comment in recent history.

Anonymous Josh February 19, 2013 12:39 PM  

Okay, so the Universal Field Theory of Calvinism and Tyrant (Revised): calvinism leads to tyranny, unless it is practiced by a bunch of drunk unruly Scots whose natural inclination for freedom inoculated them against the calvinist impulse to tyranny.

Anonymous Mr. Nightstick February 19, 2013 12:41 PM  

I'm not sure why anyone even takes a Unitarian's criticisms against Calvinism seriously because, hey, he's a Unitarian.

Anonymous Josh February 19, 2013 12:44 PM  

Vox is a unitarian?

Anonymous Mr. Nightstick February 19, 2013 12:45 PM  

Isn't that what you call a non-trinitarian monotheist?

Anonymous civilServant February 19, 2013 12:49 PM  

Most people act solely out of personal self interest most of the time, and they don't give any thought to any economic theory to explain their actions or the actions of others.

I would argue they don't act on self-interest at all. Most are far to idiotic or undisciplined to act in actual self-interest.


If someone were acting against their self-interest and you could take advantage of them to benefit yourself would you take advantage of them?

Why not just label all human behaviors subjective and place all human functioning beyond rational analysis?

Given that humans are not rational... it seems that there is a very good reason to do that very thing.


Are you rational?

Anonymous Raggededge February 19, 2013 12:52 PM  

Nate: sigh...

you're having a hard time with set and sub-set confusion today. All calvinists are tyrants. That doesn't mean all tyrants are calvinists.


History tells us that tyranny is a reality of human nature. If the Puritans had not been calvanists, they still would have been tyrants.

Anonymous Josh February 19, 2013 12:52 PM  

Isn't that what you call a non-trinitarian monotheist?

Vox isn't a monotheist.

Anonymous scoobius dubious February 19, 2013 12:55 PM  

"Isn't that [a Unitarian] what you call a non-trinitarian monotheist?"

No, those are Moslems and Jews.

Unitarians are the people who spend the day playing in the Nice Garden Outside Where No Scissors Are Allowed.

Anonymous Jack Amok February 19, 2013 12:55 PM  

Marx was a follower of Smith who provided one of the more intellectually credible means of attempting to resolve Smith's contradictions.

Hmm, I think the only sense you could say Marx was a "follower" of Smith is in that he "came after". Beyond that, it's more accurate to say Marx tried to use Smith's contradictions to undermine Smith's basic arguments. Otherwise, I think you're missing the forest for the tree of Labor Theory of Value.

I know, I know, it's such a large tree. Draws so much attention. But it's angels dancing on pins stuff because it tries to make theory subservient to practice (something economists are prone to do). The far more significant delta between Smith and Marx is the difference between centralization and dispersion. Marx may or may not have "tried more earnestly" to resolve contradictions than Smith, but his efforts inarguably led him farther away from functional answers.

As to why any economist rejects a subjective theory of value? Elementary - they wish to argue from a position of authority. They want a benchmark to point to and claim "see, that say's I'm right." Subjective value undermines that. How can someone appeal to a higher authority if authority is scattered in small pieces across the entire population?

Smith my have made that mistake in theory, but ultimately came down on the side of subjective value in practice, making the individual's attempt to maximize his own benefit the moral force of economics. Smith didn't argue for using the labor theory of value to regulate economies, Marx did. I mean, what is the "invisible hand" if not a description of subjective value theory?



Blogger tz February 19, 2013 12:56 PM  

Rothbard is pushing it blaming Adam Smith for every crime of the 20th century communists. It was the late 18th century and Calvinists didn't have the intellectual tradition from the Roman Catholic church (Tom Woods notes in England the monks almost started steel production, then came Hank8). I think Smith really desired to create a theory of value based on labor, but it was even clear in his writings that he failed, i.e. if you read what he said and don't try to impose it, he did not understand (as the late Spanish Scholastics began to) how value works - it is market value and subjective, including wages. Things have (monetary) value not because somebody creates or provides it (supply does not create demand), things have value because somebody wants it. A price says nothing about the ethical value of the object, its use, production, or consumption. Withholding wages from workers cries to heaven for justice (James), but withholding payment for commodities, rent, interest, or capital does not. But that is because "Labor" are human beings, subjects. The latter are objects. But that is an entirely different category than economic value.

Something which can be said about such (at least earlier as my post at AG noted) is that selling virtue or honor for money was considered contemptible - prostitutes and mercenaries. The former have been displaced by "free love" since the 1960s, and the latter are how we fight our wars now - I forget what Blackwater was renamed to after renaming itself to Xe - and we are "privatizing" many of the rest of such functions like prisons.

Calvanistic virtues are yet virtues - when they lead to control of the self. The temptation for all is to want to control others - impose myriads of rules - when they are not disturbing you or your property, or they are consenting with full will and knowledge and will accept the consequences of their actions. If almsgiving is not a virtue when done in public (the hypocrites already have their reward), it is probably an actual sin when such are imposed at gunpoint. But because they are virtues, Calvinists will prosper to the extent they practice them (much as Muslims are prospering today because they aren't sluts and pornmongers). Meekness is not weakness, it is power under control. And such shall inherit the earth.

Going back to Rothbard for a moment, he could reason very well, but was not very good at checking his premises. If there is even a small error in the beginning, by the end of a chapter of extrapolation you end up spouting nonsense, although the logic past the first paragraph is perfect. The libertarian rabbit warrens I've encountered were mostly Rothbardian, though there were a few Randian - but you could quickly tell they were quoting the talking points without understanding the foundation, so when I pointed to a crack in the foundation it would cause confusion on their part and the ad hominem would start.

@Asher, have you read the short "Abolition of Man" by C. S. Lewis (available complete online) - he is not talking about God but the Natural Law and morality as it applies across the human race. If so, do you understand his argument(s)?

Anonymous Josh February 19, 2013 12:56 PM  

History tells us that tyranny is a reality of human nature. If the Puritans had not been calvanists, they still would have been tyrants.

Look dude. No one has yet suggested that calvinism causes tyranny. However, I did provide an example of calvinists who did socialist things, per jamsco's request.

Now...onto the calvinism causes tyranny matter...is it really that difficult to grasp that if someone believes that God controls absolutely everything, that the government is thus controlled by God, and it does God's purposes, and thus to increase the power of the government is to increase its capacity to do God's work?

Anonymous Mr. Nightstick February 19, 2013 12:58 PM  

Or a non-trinitarian henotheist or he's a polytheist. Call it what you will but it totally discredits him.

It's like Nate and his girl/gay priests or pastors or whatever.

Anonymous JartStar February 19, 2013 1:02 PM  

Or a non-trinitarian henotheist or he's a polytheist. Call it what you will but it totally discredits him.

He could be a gay atheist and his arguments against Calvinism could still be valid.

Blogger tz February 19, 2013 1:03 PM  

I'm waiting for someone to say "No True Scotsman..."

Anonymous Raggededge February 19, 2013 1:06 PM  

Josh: Now...onto the calvinism causes tyranny matter...is it really that difficult to grasp that if someone believes that God controls absolutely everything, that the government is thus controlled by God, and it does God's purposes, and thus to increase the power of the government is to increase its capacity to do God's work?

Christianity struggles with this no matter if you are a Calvanist or a free-willer. So lets help God by outlawing sin. This is hardly thinking that is exclusive to Calvanists.

Anonymous scoobius dubious February 19, 2013 1:06 PM  

Here's sort of what I think of the whole Calvinists-vs.-Unitarians thing...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CPy3gPKU3PE

Napoleon Murphy Brock shoulda been a star. I wonder what happened to that guy.



Anonymous Jack Amok February 19, 2013 1:08 PM  

I'm waiting for someone to say "No True Scotsman..."

I believe Nate already said no true Scotsman is a tea-totaler.

Anonymous Josh February 19, 2013 1:09 PM  

Christianity struggles with this no matter if you are a Calvanist or a free-willer. So lets help God by outlawing sin. This is hardly thinking that is exclusive to Calvanists.

They tend to be amongst the worst offenders.

Anonymous Josh February 19, 2013 1:10 PM  

I believe Nate already said no true Scotsman is a tea-totaler.

That is a scientific fact. With peer review and everything.

Blogger tz February 19, 2013 1:10 PM  

@Josh, but with Calvin's double-predestination, he may be creating government to damn that very same government and the members in it for doing exactly what they are doing.

As I noted the last time this kind of thing came up, why is it those who preach this never think that God has created themselves as the evil ones destined for hell? That is hubris. Pride. The great sin. The sin against the Holy Spirit of presumption (even with their protests that they aren't really sure to the contrary). It becomes malignant when they assume evidence of election is to build the City of God - themselves, i.e. men and not God create it - here on earth.

The puritans were tyrants, at least if you were a member living among them. But usually the alternative in the colonies were the native Americans or starvation. They weren't stupid though and could learn to moderate or mitigate the tyranny, so gave up socialism early so as not to starve.

Blogger Nate February 19, 2013 1:13 PM  

"Christianity struggles with this no matter if you are a Calvanist or a free-willer. So lets help God by outlawing sin. This is hardly thinking that is exclusive to Calvanists."

What the fuck is a calvanist???

Anonymous rrm February 19, 2013 1:13 PM  

Wow. I'm a committed Calvinist (well, Augustinian) who's been lurking for about two months. I'd saw hints of it, but never expected the ilk to come off their rockers like this at the mention of Calvinism. Oh well. Good thing I didn't come here for theology! Though I have to admit, the argument "All Calvinists are tyrants" is almost convincing . . . except that I'm a Calvinist and a pretty hard-core libertarian. Maybe that's went Nate meant about team Calvin (I missed the tryouts; can I still play?).

rrm

Anonymous scoobius dubious February 19, 2013 1:15 PM  

"Marx may or may not have "tried more earnestly" to resolve contradictions than Smith, but his efforts inarguably led him farther away from functional answers."

Once Marx said (and he did say it), "the point is to change it [meaning the world]", then he instantly forfeited his status as a thinker and an analyst, and became an activist and a firebrand. Well, he knew what he was doing, he made his choices and lived with them, as did the rest of us, malheureusement. It is at this exact point that Marx dismisses himself from genuine intellectual seriousness in favor of preferred hobby-horses, in the same way one can pinpoint the moment that the mediaeval Arabic philosophers cut themselves off from doing real philosophy when they declared in orthodoxy that "fire burns because Allah wills that it does so."

Same difference. Human progress once again set back by centuries of ludicrous bloodshed. Shrug. What else is new.


Blogger Nate February 19, 2013 1:16 PM  

"Or a non-trinitarian henotheist or he's a polytheist. Call it what you will but it totally discredits him.'

Wait...

You can't use a dictionary... so that discredits Vox???

And what the hell are you talkind about girl/gay ministers???

Anonymous Josh February 19, 2013 1:18 PM  

except that I'm a Calvinist and a pretty hard-core libertarian.

Are you by chance Scottish?

Anonymous Full Fledged Fiasco February 19, 2013 1:18 PM  

"The intellectual costs of Calvinism."

Vox, you should read this book.

Blogger tz February 19, 2013 1:20 PM  

Christianity struggles with this no matter if you are a Calvanist or a free-willer. So lets help God by outlawing sin. This is hardly thinking that is exclusive to Calvanists.

That is also the Muslim and (biblical israel) Jewish position. Not merely helping God, but we are required to look and act against sin as God would, perhaps as a test.

Aquinas predated all this and had a section on civil law in the Summa, and from my reading it is libertarian, but not anarchist. The state is like a final backstop against those evils that destroy culture and society - fraud, theft, vandalism, violence. Other things can be added but even things like adultery are "fraud". Augustine also discussed this indirectly. The Catholic church's doctrine was that you could not convert anyone by the sword, it had to be of their free will. The morality followed, but it was equally abhorrent to impose the other elements (e.g. the sabbath observation) by the sword.

It was the Pharisees that loved the rules and worshiped and obeyed them perfectly but held God - and his only begotten son - in contempt.

1. Love God with all your being. 2. God says to love (his creation, your) neighbor as yourself, so if you are doing #1, this will follow.

Election means acting more like Blessed Theresa of Calcutta, not like a tyrant. Who saved more souls? Who looks more like Christ?

Blogger Nate February 19, 2013 1:21 PM  

"I'd saw hints of it, but never expected the ilk to come off their rockers like this at the mention of Calvinism."

Obviously you're new here. There is a small cadre of Calvinists we refer to here as Team Calvin.

the rest of the Ilk pretty much despise calvinism with a passion otherwise reserved for Massachusetts democrats.

Anonymous Mr. Nightstick February 19, 2013 1:21 PM  

Valid they may be, but there a plenty more credible sources for those arguments than him. He's just busting balls and I don't get it why he does it or anybody cares. The main reason I am Calvinist is that my church is Calvinist and when my mom was dying of cancer they were there to help providing meals, free nursing care and just general moral support including Calvinist interpretations of scripture that helped encourage me. Sorry but Vox's your on your own and God doesn't care isn't really a winning theology no matter how logically correct Vox or some of the Ilk thinks it is.

Blogger Nate February 19, 2013 1:24 PM  

" Though I have to admit, the argument "All Calvinists are tyrants" is almost convincing . . ."

that's pretty odd that you found an argument that no one made convincing.

Calvism leads to tyranny. That claim is totally different from claiming individual calvinism will make you a tyrant yourself.

though... I can certainly see how the process is possible. After all... if God makes you do everything you do... why bother feeling guilty about any of it?

Anonymous Josh February 19, 2013 1:26 PM  

Sorry but Vox's your on your own and God doesn't care isn't really a winning theology no matter how logically correct Vox or some of the Ilk thinks it is.

Dude...no one has said that...

You're like "there is calvinism and anything that is not calvinism is deism with a disinterested deity"

Blogger Nate February 19, 2013 1:27 PM  

" The main reason I am Calvinist is that my church is Calvinist and when my mom was dying of cancer they were there to help providing meals, free nursing care and just general moral support including Calvinist interpretations of scripture that helped encourage me."

Really?

Did they encourage you by telling you that God gave your mom cancer?

Did they encourage you by tellingyou that God killed her? For His glory?



you're a calvinist because your church is calvinist? meaning you have no idea what the hell you are talking about?


Anonymous Josh February 19, 2013 1:29 PM  

The main reason I am Calvinist is that my church is Calvinist and when my mom was dying of cancer they were there to help providing meals, free nursing care and just general moral support including Calvinist interpretations of scripture that helped encourage me.

Those are all, with the exception of the last one, very good reasons to be part of a church.

However, the truth is that God did not want your mom to die of cancer. That was not his plan. To suggest that God caused her to die of cancer is evil.

Anonymous Mr. Nightstick February 19, 2013 1:30 PM  

"Wait...

You can't use a dictionary... so that discredits Vox???"

The dictionary ain't got nothing to do with it. I'm just too disinterested to go through all the old posts to find they exact label that describes Vox. THe point is he is non-trinitarian so that makes him some wierd offshoot.


"And what the hell are you talkind about girl/gay ministers???"

Back in the old cocomments I remember you stating that you went to some gay/girl pastor/preacher/priest church but that may have been before you moved to Alabama. If I was wrong about your denomination, thanks for awaring me but if not, that's where I got it.

Blogger Nate February 19, 2013 1:32 PM  

"Back in the old cocomments I remember you stating that you went to some gay/girl pastor/preacher/priest church but that may have been before you moved to Alabama."

awaring you???

Anonymous Mr. Nightstick February 19, 2013 1:34 PM  

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

I have no problem believing that God causes or allows all things as Calvinism teaches because of this verse. It's not like He can't raise people from the dead.

Blogger tz February 19, 2013 1:34 PM  

I keep thinking of the old Brooke Shield's jeans ad. What comes between her and her Calvins?

@Mr. Nightstick: This is the paradox of Calvinism. Many of the most merciful, staunches, strongest Christians attend churches that originated with Calvin. Yet if you read what Calvin said and taught, this is at best ancillary or at worst irrelevant. The split comes because they love God, not Calvin.

However if someone really loves God, they will get the Grace to see through any error to the truth - what God actually commands and wants of us. Things you cannot do out of intellect and reason you will do out of love and grace.

Anonymous rrm February 19, 2013 1:35 PM  

"Obviously you're new here. There is a small cadre of Calvinists we refer to here as Team Calvin.

the rest of the Ilk pretty much despise calvinism with a passion otherwise reserved for Massachusetts democrats."

As I said, two months. Learned a ton, laughed at a lot. Not going anywhere because I'm an outlier.

The same as Mass. dems? Oh, that cuts deep. Real deep. Though if Mass. dems can be traced back to the same Puritans that settled Mass. and Puritans were Calvinists, I see the connection. But it sill cuts me deep. I hope, in my heart of hearts, I'm not a Mass. dem. Time to do some soul searching . . .

Anonymous Mr. Nightstick February 19, 2013 1:37 PM  

"awaring you???"

Did you or did you not belong to a denomination that allowed gay/girl pastor/preacher/priests? Please stop being coy.

Blogger Nate February 19, 2013 1:38 PM  

RRm...

I have to ask... does it give you pause when you see those defending calvinism using words like "awaring" and making ridiculous category errors?

or perhaps... spelling it calvanism???

Anonymous Josh February 19, 2013 1:39 PM  

Though if Mass. dems can be traced back to the same Puritans that settled Mass. and Puritans were Calvinists, I see the connection. But it sill cuts me deep. I hope, in my heart of hearts, I'm not a Mass. dem. Time to do some soul searching . . .

Hey look, a calvinist who understands logic...

The bad news is that your ability to understand logic disqualifies you from team Calvin.

Blogger Nate February 19, 2013 1:41 PM  

"Did you or did you not belong to a denomination that allowed gay/girl pastor/preacher/priests? Please stop being coy."

Listen carefully mate... try very hard to understand. I'll type slow.

I belong to the United Methodist Church... which does in fact allow women to be ministers. I've never gone to a church with a female pastor... nor do I agree with the doctrine. But see... unlike you I do not blame any of my beliefs on a church. I believe what I believe because those positions are my own and my own to defend.

While you clearly have no idea what calvinism even is.

But hey... unlike your buddy... at least you appear to be "awaring" of its spelled.

Anonymous Josh February 19, 2013 1:43 PM  

I have no problem believing that God causes or allows all things as Calvinism teaches because of this verse. It's not like He can't raise people from the dead.
Congratulations, you're worshipping a God that looks suspiciously like the devil. Or Allah.

Blogger tz February 19, 2013 1:43 PM  

The distinction is subtle but important - God permitted the evil of a mother dying of cancer, he did not intend from the foundation of the world that such happen. Because there is evil, we must fight it alongside our Lord, and trust him that no matter what happens a greater good will emerge. It may be in eternity, but at some level the world here too. As Paul said: "Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church". The crucifixion is not just a historical fact, it is something we participate in. That isn't found in Calvinism, but in Catholicism we help redeem the world by uniting our sufferings, those which God permits us to have though we would not will it for ourselves (Father, nothing is impossible for you ... Let this cup pass from me), to the passion of Christ. During the first centuries it was more direct martyrdom. Today it takes different forms but is no less a witness in glorifying God.

Blogger Nate February 19, 2013 1:46 PM  

"God permitted the evil of a mother dying of cancer, he did not intend from the foundation of the world that such happen."

no NO!!! no TZ!! Nothing happens that God didn't intend! God invented Cancer! Its God's WILL!!

Anonymous Josh February 19, 2013 1:48 PM  

The mindset of the calvinists is very similar to the mindset of both leftists and rabbits. It's a deliberate rejection of responsibility for one's actions and a fear of freedom because freedom is scary.

Blogger Nate February 19, 2013 1:48 PM  

"I have no problem believing that God causes or allows all things as Calvinism teaches because of this verse. It's not like He can't raise people from the dead."

Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! - Isaiah 5:20

Anonymous Mr. Nightstick February 19, 2013 1:49 PM  

I belong to the Nazi Party... which does in fact promote genocide. I've never gone to a concentration camp practicing genocide... nor do I agree with the doctrine. But see... unlike you I do not blame any of my beliefs on my political party. I believe what I believe because those positions are my own and my own to defend.

Anonymous Mr. Nightstick February 19, 2013 1:51 PM  

But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand. Isaiah 53.10

Anonymous Jack Amok February 19, 2013 1:53 PM  

aaaaand there are the dancing angels, right on cue...

Curious, does it matter what they're dancing? I mean, can you fit more on if it's the Charleston than the Boogaloo? Maybe a Waltz is stately enough they don't jostle each other.

Blogger Nate February 19, 2013 1:53 PM  

The main reason I am Nazi is that my Party is Nazi and when my mom was dying of cancer they were there to help providing meals, free nursing care and just general moral support including Nazi interpretations of utopia that helped encourage me.



There. Now don't you feel smart? You could be a mormon... or a pentacostal... or a jew... or anything. your theology is based on someone being nice to your mom and you.

In other words... you have no idea what you're talking about.

So piss off.

Anonymous Josh February 19, 2013 1:53 PM  

Nate is going to write a blog post:

"Mr Nightstick is a Nazi"

Mr night stick will counter by setting up a team Calvin pledge drive to donate money to John piper.

Anonymous Josh February 19, 2013 1:55 PM  

Curious, does it matter what they're dancing?

Only if they're baptist angels.

Blogger Nate February 19, 2013 1:58 PM  

"Isaiah 53.10"

This is why Calvinists shouldn't try to use scripture to support their positions. All they end up doing is proving how little they know about it.

Anonymous Mr. Nightstick February 19, 2013 1:59 PM  

"your theology is based on someone being nice to your mom and you."

Everyone's theology is base upon someone being nice to them. Someone had to share the gospel with you and if that's not nice, nothing is.

"So piss off."
I think I heard your voice crack as you typed that.

Anonymous Jack Amok February 19, 2013 1:59 PM  

Personally, I always thought Irish dancing (like Riverdance) was an attempt at Irish Catholics to fit the most angels on the pin. What else can explain the straight up and down posture?

Anonymous Josh February 19, 2013 2:01 PM  

When the damned catholics are making moresense than the calvinists...might the calvinists want to re examine their arguments?

Blogger Nate February 19, 2013 2:01 PM  

"I think I heard your voice crack as you typed that."

Oh?

Are you "awaring" of that?

Anonymous Mr. Nightstick February 19, 2013 2:03 PM  

"Oh?

Are you "awaring" of that?"

I see that I have gotten you to use proper grammar for once. Dance little puppet, dance.

Anonymous Josh February 19, 2013 2:05 PM  

Everyone's theology is base upon someone being nice to them. Someone had to share the gospel with you and if that's not nice, nothing is.

Um...do you understand theology?

So...if the bloody mormons had been nice to you, you would be wearing magic underoos and baptizing your dead relatives?

Anonymous Mr. Nightstick February 19, 2013 2:07 PM  

"So...if the bloody mormons had been nice to you, you would be wearing magic underoos and baptizing your dead relatives?"

Mormons don't have the gospel so no, they cannot be nice to you in that way.

Anonymous Raggededge February 19, 2013 2:09 PM  

Nate: What the fuck is a calvanist???

Ahhh, shit. Of course it's rich that Nate is the one calling me out on misspelling.

Anonymous Josh February 19, 2013 2:11 PM  

The main reason I am Mormon is that my church is Mormon and when my mom was dying of cancer they were there to help providing meals, free nursing care and just general moral support including Mormon interpretations of scripture that helped encourage me.

Hey, look what I did...

Mormons don't have the gospel so no, they cannot be nice to you in that way.

They can't bring meals and all that stuff?

Blogger Nate February 19, 2013 2:13 PM  

'Mormons don't have the gospel so no, they cannot be nice to you in that way."

yes. yes they do you blithering idiot. though granted... they are roughly as ignorant of biblical principles as you are. Just last week a mormon was siting the Gospels of John and Mark extensively.

And like you... he had no freaking clue.

Anonymous Josh February 19, 2013 2:13 PM  

Ahhh, shit. Of course it's rich that Nate is the one calling me out on misspelling.

No...it's God...Nate is just the vessel by which He is calling you out...

Blogger Nate February 19, 2013 2:14 PM  

"I see that I have gotten you to use proper grammar for once. Dance little puppet, dance."


oh... the sweet sweet irony...

Anonymous Mr. Nightstick February 19, 2013 2:18 PM  

"yes. yes they do you blithering idiot. though granted... they are roughly as ignorant of biblical principles as you are. Just last week a mormon was siting the Gospels of John and Mark extensively.

And like you... he had no freaking clue."

Figure out the difference between the word gospel and Gospel and get back to me.

Anonymous Mr. Nightstick February 19, 2013 2:22 PM  

"oh... the sweet sweet irony..."

Pun intended.

Blogger Nate February 19, 2013 2:35 PM  

"Figure out the difference between the word gospel and Gospel and get back to me."

Wow.

Took you this long to get around to the A /= A defense.


At this point I am starting to think you're really not a calvinist at all.. you're just doing some kind of parody of them.

Anonymous Mr. Nightstick February 19, 2013 2:42 PM  

"Wow.

Took you this long to get around to the A /= A defense.


At this point I am starting to think you're really not a calvinist at all.. you're just doing some kind of parody of them."

I said a!=A and you misrepresent it as A!=A. Are you retarded, daft or just intellectually dishonest?

Anonymous JartStar February 19, 2013 2:43 PM  

Since there's variation in Calvinism perhaps there should be a 1-5 scale of Omniderigence in which 5 is complete control of every atom and spiritual thing, to 1 being limited to spiritual matters ex: double predestination.

Anonymous Stilicho February 19, 2013 2:58 PM  

Vox Popoli: come for the dirty, sexy economics talk, stay for Nate's creative spelling.

Anonymous Asher February 19, 2013 3:55 PM  

@ Peter Garstig

@ Asher: by that definition, B) is illogical.

Why ask a question with one possible answer?


How is "B" illogical? Explain. If morality is just a description of the various rules for behavior that exist at different times and places then morality is something that exists to serve life, "B", btw, is the obvious answer. Morality evolves to serve life and different types of life produce different types of morality, in the long run.

@ Asher: On what grounds can you say that Nazism or Communism is a wrong moral system?

Why do I need to say they're "wrong"? I oppose their 'otherness' if they're around me. What more do I need? There is no such thing as a "wrong" moral system, just an "other" moral system.

For a few years now I have been advocating an Armed Forces Afghani Culture Celebration Day where the US armed forces go around indiscriminately killing Afghanis. Why? Because part of Afghani culture seems involve Afghanis going around killing Afghanis, therefore, indiscriminately killing Afghanis would be celebrating their culture.

Anyways, the point is that Afghani culture isn't "wrong" but "other".

Anonymous Asher February 19, 2013 3:59 PM  

@ RedJack

Most people have a core belief that it is wrong to kill their own kind

And, yet, the history of our species is one of horrendous bloodshed so, obviously, humans as a category aren't some sort of analytic "kind".

That imprint is so strong that programing a solidier to fire on other humans is difficult.

Yet a fifteen year old black kid with an IQ of 80 seems pretty reflexive indiscriminately opening fire on a crowd of mostly stranger because he was dissed. What's more likely is that our civilization drills its functional members for eighteen years that it is wrong to kill and the armed forces have to reverse that taught reflex.

Anonymous Peter Garstig February 19, 2013 4:04 PM  

wow.

B is illogical because nothing can serve anything, if anything does not exist without nothing.

Boy, you're dense. Ok. On what grounds do you oppose the 'otherness' of Nazism, Communism and (I assume) Afghanism?

Does everything you oppose gets labeled 'other'?

Anonymous Asher February 19, 2013 4:06 PM  

@ VD

Asher, every time you use words like "imply" and "seems", you assign an erroneous interpretation and wind up attacking a strawmen of your own construction.

When I used the word "seems" it was an attempt to start a dialogue and to ask for clarification. In intellectual circles outside of your blog the category of "subjective" denotes things that are not governed by cause and effect but by free will or freedom. If you were to take a hundred randomly sampled philosophers and asked them what a "subjective theory of value" means they would say it's a contradiction in terms.

This is because subjectivity is associated with freely willed things and not subject to causal constraints, at all. You really seem to be using the concept of subjective in a manner that has nothing to do with how anyone else uses it, today. Two hundred years ago? Possibly. Four hundred years ago? Probably. but not today.

Anonymous RedJack February 19, 2013 4:08 PM  

Asher.
What nations and peoples define as "themselves" and "the Other" are not what we would call "human".

In many Indian tribes, the tribal name meant roughly "people/human". Any other group was "not human".

Look at old WWII propoganda films. The Japanese and Germans were shown as something Other than us. Once you make a group of people the Other, they are not as human as the core group. Once you reach that point, it is easier to kill them

Even then, it is very hard for most people to kill another person. Read "Men Against Fire" by S.L.A Marshel and "On killing" by Dave Grossman. Until the advent of modern training methods, only 15% of infrantry (not artillery or crew served units) fired on the enemy.

Do so reading.

Anonymous Anonymous February 19, 2013 4:09 PM  

My conjecture is that Calvinism's failures have less to do with soteriology (the study of salvation/atonement) than with eschatology, in particular Post-millenialism.

If the Church is building the Kingdom of God, then it implies this end is within man's power to achieve. But if man cannot achieve his own salvation, how can he create a heaven on earth?

Post-millenialism is at odds with Calvinism.

Rothbard's criticism of post-mill busy bodies is incisive and is highly recommended.

MALTHUS

Anonymous Asher February 19, 2013 4:19 PM  

@ Peter Garstig

B is illogical because nothing can serve anything, if anything does not exist without nothing.

You're going to have to explain what all the "nothings" and "anythings" refer to in this sentence.

The point is that morality exists to serve life and develops out of life - morality is a function of life. Morality is predicated on life but life is not predicated on morality. Birds have life but they do not have morality. A hundred thousand years ago our species probably had nothing that we would consider morality and yet they lived and ended up producing us, who do have morality.

Does everything you oppose gets labeled 'other'?

This question gets things backwards in that it implies the priority of ideas over action. Otherness is not something that I decide based upon my will. I come from a particular time and place and am an inheritor of an entire cultural and moral legacy. When I encounter something that, over time, is sufficiently at odds with that legacy I come to realize it as "other".

If there is something around me that is "other", of which I don't have absolute freedom in determining that, then I oppose it. If it's half way around the world or fifty years back in history then I don't give a shit one way or the other.

Anonymous Asher February 19, 2013 4:26 PM  

@ RedJack

Until the advent of modern training methods, only 15% of infrantry (not artillery or crew served units) fired on the enemy.

Yet, I've seen estimates that in archaic times as many as 40 percent of all deaths were from violence. Several years ago I read about the early invaders of the Indus Valley from north of the Himalayas. Their word for "war" simply meant "getting more cattle". No pretense about justice or right and wrong, just getting more cattle.

As I said before the reluctance to kill is likely, at least partially, a product of modernity. How many of those infantrymen had ever even seen on person killing another, much less done so themselves? Further, how much inculcation in biblical teaching had they received?

BTW, I was aware of the human/people distinction of tribal cultures and that the us human/other human distinction is a recent development.

Anonymous Raggededge February 19, 2013 4:26 PM  

Asher: @ Asher: On what grounds can you say that Nazism or Communism is a wrong moral system?

Why do I need to say they're "wrong"? I oppose their 'otherness' if they're around me. What more do I need? There is no such thing as a "wrong" moral system, just an "other" moral system.


What about this "other" moral system would cause you to oppose it? Nazis shoving Jews into an oven isn't "wrong", it's just "other"?

For a few years now I have been advocating an Armed Forces Afghani Culture Celebration Day where the US armed forces go around indiscriminately killing Afghanis. Why? Because part of Afghani culture seems involve Afghanis going around killing Afghanis, therefore, indiscriminately killing Afghanis would be celebrating their culture.

I guess during WWII we could have had our GIs shove Jews into the ovens for a day. You know to help celebrate Nazi culture. It wouldn't have been wrong, just other.

Anonymous Asher February 19, 2013 4:32 PM  

@ RaggedEdge

I guess during WWII we could have had our GIs shove Jews into the ovens for a day. You know to help celebrate Nazi culture. It wouldn't have been wrong, just other.

First off, I meant to mention that it was a joke and that I'm just tweaking leftwing, hypocritical postmodernists. Secondly, that the Nazis, not Jews, were shoving Jews into ovens and the point of my joke is to demonstrate the hypocrisy of leftwing postmodernists. If the Holocaust were solely perpetrated by Jews on Jews then shoving Jews into ovens *would* be celebrating Jewish culture. Postmodernists want to say that all cultures are equally valid for that particular culture BUT that western culture is bad on some absolute set of criteria.

Blogger tz February 19, 2013 4:35 PM  

@Stilicho
Vox Popoli: come for the dirty, sexy economics talk, stay for Nate's creative spelling.
Well and succinctly put. Now I have to dry my keyboard as I was drinking a beer at the time.

@Asher - go back and try to read and understand (take whatever is required to prevent your head from exploding) C. S. Lewis Abolition of Man. It is short. On what basis can you advocate ANYTHING including the celebration you list? Why not do "other" mathematics, so when you insist on paying $8 for a $20 tab, say that you don't believe that mathematics is any more objective than the commandment saying "Don't Steal", so you really are paying enough and that reality is subjective. Print out a copy of AoM so you can read it while awaiting the bailbondsman.

Blogger tz February 19, 2013 4:38 PM  

@Asher:
When I used the word "seems" it was an attempt to start a dialogue and to ask for clarification.

Why are you unable to simply directly ask for a clarification and start a dialog instead of obfuscation and going the indirect route?

Blogger tz February 19, 2013 4:45 PM  

@Anonymous/Malthus

At least do use the courtesy of picking some persistent pseudonym, if it is Malthus, do bother about using it in the box.

Second, the pre/mid/post mil is an interesting topic. You might look back to Vox v.s. Gary North.

Blogger tz February 19, 2013 4:47 PM  

Josh:When the damned catholics are making more sense than the calvinists...might the calvinists want to reexamine their arguments?

This assumes the Catholics are damned and the Calvinists aren't. The Calvinists are predestined regardless of their arguments. The Catholics have to work at it.

Anonymous Asher February 19, 2013 4:56 PM  

@ tz

Why are you unable to simply directly ask for a clarification and start a dialog instead of obfuscation and going the indirect route?

First, if you take even an intro philosophy class that's the customary phrasing. Some of the students get very engaged and express an idea that's been around for centuries or that is closely related to it. The reason for that particular phrasing is that Vox is not discussing a topic that has never been considered within the history of ideas - he did not come up with the notion of subjective.

It's not reasonable to just ask him what he means by subjective when he is clearly using it in a completely idiosyncratic manner and at odds with customary usage. What I said is what he seems to mean regardless of what he, himself thinks, and this is because language is interpersonal and not private.

Let me lay things out: Vox seems woefully unfamiliar with the overall history of western philosophy, at least past Aquinas and his peculiar use of subjective is an excellent example. It's not that he's stupid, he clearly isn't, or that he isn't interested in the subjects of philosophy, he clearly is, but the problem is that he doesn't seem to be familiar with much that's occurred within the past 150 years, or so.

Let me ask you a question: would you rather get an opinion on the philosopher WVO Quine from someone with an IQ of 130 or from someone with an IQ of 160 who'd never heard of Quine?

Vox uses lots of terms that have very precise philosophical meaning as if he were a talented novelist who hasn't read one word of philosophy written since Kant. I'm not saying that he hasn't read it but that his word usage would indicate that. He uses them like a very smart but ham-fisted amateur.

Blogger tz February 19, 2013 5:08 PM  

@Asher:

You did not specify if the person with an IQ of 130 has heard of Quine or not.

My IQ exceeds 160 and I have never heard of Quine.

This blog is neither a philosophy course, seminar, or lecture.

Desiring to narrow definitions of words or clarify semantics is laudable but becoming an Assherole is not. If you cannot distinguish the difference between the classroom where precision is welcome and required and the Areopagus where the actual and imprecise discussion is going on, and clarification and precision is to be asked for politely with a spirit to advance such discussion, you are a fool.

I will leave it to the other Ilk to shred your errors, imprecisions, and the rest, Vox has already done so.

If you do not wish to be polite in polite company, but be picayune only when it benefits you, the label of troll applies.

If you wish to teach and learn, then the first thing you must do is to not urinate on the carpet even when the natural urge is to do so and even if you do so in your own abode. Even dogs can be housebroken.

It is reasonable to ask a reasonable question in a polite manner if you respect the truth and expect a discussion or answer.

Anonymous rrm February 19, 2013 5:11 PM  

"I have to ask... does it give you pause when you see those defending calvinism using words like "awaring" and making ridiculous category errors?"

If I gave a flying flip about ad hominem arguments, I just might. Am I supposed to base my theology--or even pause--on the effectiveness of how someone who purportedly holds my position argues it in a blog post?

Anonymous Peter Garstig February 19, 2013 5:13 PM  

Otherness is not something that I decide based upon my will. I come from a particular time and place and am an inheritor of an entire cultural and moral legacy. When I encounter something that, over time, is sufficiently at odds with that legacy I come to realize it as "other"

I Understand. You Are extremely lucid and to the point.

Would You Agree That The Moral Legacy Of A Country Is Enshrined In Its laws And Jurisdiction?

Anonymous Asher February 19, 2013 5:16 PM  

@ tz

go back and try to read and understand (take whatever is required to prevent your head from exploding) C. S. Lewis Abolition of Man. It is short

I have. Not impressed. It's banal, not mind-blowing.

On what basis can you advocate ANYTHING including the celebration you list?

See, this is the problem with privileging human reason as the governor of all human functions. I don't have an absolute, foundational, reason-based basis, yet, I still manage to advocate things. Obviously, human beings don't require some foundational, indisputable basis for acting. It's a simple IF-THEN.

Why not do "other" mathematics, so when you insist on paying $8 for a $20 tab, say that you don't believe that mathematics is any more objective than the commandment saying "Don't Steal"

*sigh*

Look, let's say that you have an IQ of 150. There are probably some theoretical physicists who have the same IQ, Feynman was reputed to have an IQ under 130. In this conversation you are simply displaying a gross ignorance of the entire history of western philosophy. "Objective" relates tot he category of "objects", things that are measurable, cause and effect, etc. In philosophy, that's all that "objective" means. Recently, believers in the Bible as the divine word of God seem to have picked up the odd notion that humans are subjective and that, therefore, what is not human is objective. That is not how the term has been used in western history.

I'm sure you've heard of mind/body or spirit/body dualism, right? It's, more generally, subject/object dualism. When philosophers talk about "objective morality" they are talking about a morality that is derived from the realm of physical objects, including human biology. Outside of very recent christianity God has never been considered a corporeal object but, on the contrary, as subject par excellence.

This is not just me but the entire history of western thought. A great deal of term usage on VP is very idiosyncratic with the entire history of western thought. For example, Vox claimed that the distinction between rhetoric and dialectic is analytic. I seriously doubt there's even one living philosopher, of any school of thought, who would agree with him, but he just brushed me off with a "you obviously don't understand dialectic".

Fine. Obviously, vox is using an entirely idiosyncratic understanding of the term "analytic" and it not really appropriate to label it as "wrong", but it is completely different from how anyone else uses it.

Anyways, consider the following statement: the price of coffee is objective. Is that statement correct? Well, today I paid $2.46 for a 20 oz at Starbucks. But what if the price tomorrow is $2.51? Is that the objective price of coffee? Your fundamental confusion lies in your misunderstanding of how the category of "objective"has functioned in the entire history of western thought. Hint: it has very little to do with the notion of "absolute".

Anonymous civilServant February 19, 2013 5:28 PM  

Once you make a group of people the Other, they are not as human as the core group. Once you reach that point, it is easier to kill them

Us vs Terrorists. Parasites vs Producers. Ilk vs Most People.

Anonymous Asher February 19, 2013 5:29 PM  

@ tz

My IQ exceeds 160 and I have never heard of Quine.

This blog is neither a philosophy course, seminar, or lecture.


The problem is that the commenting on this blog directly relates to subjects that have been discussed in philosophy for centuries, if not millenia. Much of the discussion that occurs at this site is horribly idiosyncratic and just mangles fine distinctions that have been sifted out over centuries.

Quine is one of the foremost post-analytic philosophers of the 20th century and probably rivals the late Wittgenstein. He is probably regarded as the prime executioner of what is called logical positivism via his essay The Two Dogmas of Empiricism.

Yeah, I meant an IQ of 130 who'd thoroughly studied Quine.

clarification and precision is to be asked for politely

At some point of ham-fistedness any request for clarification will be regarded as assholery. I cannot stress to you how staggeringly idiosyncratic the discussion gets in these comment sections - it's almost like reading another language

I will leave it to the other Ilk to shred your errors, imprecisions, and the rest, Vox has already done so.

This makes me question whether or not you're really in the 160 range as you claim. I have been around a fair number of people in that 150-160 range and they just don't talk with such braggadocio. Vox has not done so. I challenged him once to show where and he directed me to a comment exchange with Mudz where he ended up admitting that I really gave him somethign to think about in language that it was heavier thinking than customary.

It's bizarre to claim that the ilk "shred" me when most of the way they discuss ideas is completely alien to how those same topics are discussed anywhere else.

It is reasonable to ask a reasonable question in a polite manner

Again, I would offer that I noted the distinction between rhetoric and dialectic to be synthetic and not analytic. Vox responded by snorting that of course it was analytic and that I just must not understand dialectic. Sure, he's welcome to claim that but I'd give you ten to one odds that not one living philosopher agrees with him. When someone brashly makes a claim in opposition to every single other person knowledgeable in that field then my response is probably the most respectful they're going to get.

Anonymous Asher February 19, 2013 5:31 PM  

@ Peter Garstig

Would You Agree That The Moral Legacy Of A Country Is Enshrined In Its laws And Jurisdiction?

Ah, there is a trick here - not that it's of your doing - and it has to do with what you mean by "country". If you replace the term country with people then I'd agree. America is not a country but an empire, ruling many people and many nations.

Anonymous Peter Garstig February 19, 2013 5:33 PM  

Asher, get your head out of that jar.

The topic of the post is economics and the term 'subjective theory of value' is well established in the history of ecobomic thought.

Put it back in And Babble On.

Anonymous Asher February 19, 2013 5:41 PM  

@ Peter Garstig

Just because it's well-established doesn't mean that it isn't mistaken, as an entire category. Supply and demand equilibria is a theory about prices not about value. What gets called a subjective theory of value simply takes subjective valuations as a given and then models them using demand curves, therefore, not a theory of value, at all.

If you're just going to assume that different people value different things differently then it's nonsense to say that some theory that uses that as an assumption is a theory about that assumption.

Supply and demand equilibria is a theory about prices not value.

Blogger tz February 19, 2013 5:45 PM  

@Asher:

If you don't want to address the contraction which applies in Abolition of Man, your mind is already blown so there is no point in even attempting a discussion. If there are no absolutes, then there is no basis for evaluation against an absolute standard.

Worms, for that matter unicellular organisms act. Apparently with an equal amount of reason

More than half, perhaps 80% of modern western philosophy is utter nonsense. Merely making the nonsense more precise is a waste of time and effort.

You refer to the history as opposed to the actual content. They are very different and the qualifications and abilities of a historian are different from that of a philosopher, yet you cannot seem to make the distinction. I will not make claim to be an expert in either.

I am an expert at software, however if I spend my time throwing out technical terms that only makes my client's eyes glaze over and destroy as opposed to facilitate communication I have failed.

Were this a trivia contest about philosophical terms, or the history of philosophy, you would very likely win. That you cannot realize that this blog is not such is your error.

I am not, nor do I doubt anyone else here is impressed by your detailed technical knowledge. That is not a substitute for the ability to argue - either formally or informally.

You are right that I don't know all your fancy technical terms, history, or whatever you are emitting as a product of digestion.

Fine. Obviously, vox is using an entirely idiosyncratic understanding of the term "analytic" and it not really appropriate to label it as "wrong", but it is completely different from how anyone else uses it.

"Anyone else" = "you"?

Yet you aren't convincing anyone. If your point is that you won't even attempt to present a coherent, much less convincing argument unless your interlocutor uses the precise technical terms, knows a lot of background, then fine. But realize that by doing so you aren't presenting an argument nor attempting to convince anyone, you are staying in your comfortable meta-argument world. Where you always win, but because you are the one who makes - or changes - the rules.

Anonymous Daniel February 19, 2013 5:49 PM  

Oh, I'd like very much to bring Christianismi Restitutio into all of this, but, as I have not finished it, I can't do it justice. I think it provides a missing, but necessary foil to Smith and Marx and to Calvinist and Catholic.

If (by way of example) the Jesuits founded the Freemasons as a false opponent, after all, what entity were the two groups attempting to hide? I don't believe it was another group.

I believe it was a man.

Anonymous Peter Garstig February 19, 2013 5:52 PM  

If you replace the term country with people then I'd agree.

so if these people would propose to change the constitution and laws in order to make murdering albinos not punishablel, would you oppose that proposal?

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