Monday, July 17, 2006

Superb work Cactus

Cactus Kate today has an excellent post on envy, wealth and politics that I could not leave unsung. It is a long post but I would highly recommend people to read it through - regardless which side of the political divide you sit.  It can help to open some neurons for all supporters (and that goes for non-NZer's as well).  Just be aware that Cactus Kate can be abrasive in nature and suffers no fools...

She is spot on in her underlying message about that which most Socialist / left wing political supporters cannot grasp:
That the only greedy, envious messages and policies are coming from your side of the table.
And that there are no *rich* in New Zealand on which to practice your redistribution policies - all you are doing is taking from those without a lot to give to others without a lot.

What is most important to take from her vitriolic discharge however is the point that the myth of powerful rich people only being rich through exploitation of others and particularly old money is absolute BS.  Although this scares most Socialists and poor (in 1st / 2nd world countries) because they cannot handle the fact that the reason they are in the situation(s) they are is their own fault.  Not because they weren't "born into money".

Against that final point argue to me how many families you know that the current generation is truly rich because they were rich 5 generations ago.  And if there has been any bankruptcy along that chain of 5 generations then it (obviously) doesn't count.  Although I wager many of you haven't thought about that part before.
C'mon I'm waiting...

( For those complete dimwits out there who just had the thought "I know one", you better post it here and hope for a lot more - because the point is if there is considerably less than what there was truly rich people 75 years ago my point is proven)


backin15 said...

IIQ, niether this post, nor Kate's convince me of anything other than both of you indulge in broad characterisations of political ideology. There's no argument here, just an attack on a group of people spuriously called socialists. I think you're quite wrong to think that the noise in the blogosphere, from either "side", is in representative of anything in particular. Not least of all because most of it is anonymous.

Cactus Kate said...


Perhaps you should try reading it again as you obviously did not understand my post the first time around.

Everyone else seems to understand perfectly well what I was discussing.

I know it is long but if you try really hard I am sure you will manage just fine.

backin15 said...

Cactus/IIQ, I read it and understand it fine.

Two of your comments form the basis of my contribution.

First, the comment that the left "has successfully cornered the market in this regard [envy] and it is the reason that after three terms in power they look more like getting a fourth every day passing".

Secondly, "The politics of envy is about making everyone feel they are poor and to envy and despise the "rich". This is the cornerstone of left wing politics."

What have I misunderstood? You've clearly said that the "left" uses envy as the cornerstone of its politics. This is a very broad statement that is not backed up by any real argument.

I've read both posts, I disagree with them both. That you go on to talk about other matters isn't what I objected to.

iiq374 said...

backin15 -
My views on left wing / socialist supporters arguments comes from the verbal exchanges, the material they distribute, the public discussions / forums that are held and the blog posts / comments that I read.

These all tend to converge towards particular ideas and arguments, just as those of the Capitalist right tend to converge in another sphere, the Libertarian in another etc.

I suppose from your post that you are one of the categorically challenged and cannot refer to a "car" because hey its actually a Ford / Honda, but beyond that it's a Commodore / Jazz, but not only that this one has chromes, and don't forget the numberplate / rego etc!

I tend to call those people Socialist who have Socialist ideals and follow the redistributionist thinking of Socialist politics. Whether they call themselves Socialists or differ slightly on one or two points is actually irrelevant to the point.

iiq374 said...

"That you go on to talk about other matters isn't what I objected to."

Funnily enough though the rest of the post is the important part. That you have a problem with two sentences and therefore dismiss the rest of the post is not a great sign of critical analysis.

Also if you think the main thrust of the post was an attack on Socialists then you *don't* understand the post or the point.

When you realise that it is attacking the people (regardless of political spectrum) who cannot relate risk and reward, or who through being risk adverse themselves cannot appreciate the efforts of the less risk adverse then you are starting to get closer.

When you realise that there is even more in the arguments showing the contrast of envy as a destructive and constructive force, as well as the arguments to do with self-determination, then there is hope that you might get the post soon.

backin15 said...

IIQ: Calling people socialists is just a way of discounting them and/or their views. Reducing socialism, a broad political philosophy, to simple enviousness is just a non-too-clever syllogism. Claiming that the term/argument is valid becuase it has currency in blogosphere, come on.

I've no idea what you're on about with the car analogy by the way.

Finally, any redistribution is socialism - again, that's a bit of a stretch, with a few notable exceptions, that's every government in the Western world (including the Nats)!

Remember Labour sold, not socialised, the means of production, distribution and exchange.

I read Kate's full post without (moving my lips) and I think she makes some fair points, if she approves my comments on her blog you'll see this for yourself, I just think she loses credibility by damning the left in its entirety as being "masters of the politics of envy". Not only is it gratuitous, it's a false premise.

But hey, it's a blog.

iiq374 said...

Backin15 -
In your earlier posting you objected to the term Socialist. It seemed your primary objection to this was the categorization of a whole lot of slighly disparate political views into a single categorization. The car analogy was pointing out this is an expediency that occurs in all parts of our lives. Without grouping like things together, that may not be in all aspects alike we would never be able to finish a sentance - let alone a conversation.

iiq374 said...

Yes, you are right that many people incorrectly use the term Socialism as a derogatory term rather than to actually explain the "broad political philosophy". I was not intending that, when I refer to Socialism and Socialists the philosophy is exactly what I am referring to.

I do find it interesting that Socialists tend to be one of the sole groups that see their own label as derogatory yet tend to offer no other cohesive term to describe their philosophy.

Remember Labour sold, not socialised, the means of production, distribution and exchange. You of course refer to that point in history where the Labour party was closer to being of a capitalist nature. Nothing like what they are now. I have no issue with the fact that both Labour and National have both been Capitalist and Socialist at various points in their history.
Of course it is interesting to note that Labour has actually been closer to being Facist (again referring to the philosophy - which really has *nothing* to do with the Nazi's despite public perception) than truely Socialist. But bringing that up was intended to be a future topic and is actually tangental to the point.

Again for your final point, Cactus never indicts the "whole left" just "the left" which refers to the majority, not all. Again - refer my car analogy. Stereotypes and Categorization are useful constructs for those intellegent enough to actually use them without prejudice.

backin15 said...

IIQ: I'm a little over this discussion since you seem unable to engage beyond simple rhetoric (with occassional hominem).

Capitalism and socialism broad categories for political activity why force fit parties into exclusively one category or the other? Labour wasn't "capitalist" between 84 - 90, it's not not now. Have you any evidence for your claims? Is forcing the split of Telcom socialism? What about signing free trade agreements with Singapore?

I don't think of socialism as a derogatory term, but I'm clear when it's used as such. Labour is, and has been for some time, a centre left socially progressive party.

Cactus's post and your comment attempt to equate left with envy in order to argue for tax cuts to middle income families. Both peices are full of simplifications, false premises and unproven links; it's just not a good post or argument but keep banging away if you wish, I'm happy to let you have the last word, it's your blog.

iiq374 said...

Backin15 - I never specifically referenced the Labour party, you are the one that tried to make the linkage between the party and my critiscm of Socialist ideal supporters.

I have no problem with saying that a party is a mix of ideals - as I referred in my previous comment I happen to see the current policies of Labour to mainly be a mix of Socialist redistribution and Fascist intervention / control of private assets. The split of Telecom shows this nicely, while the free trade agreement isn't really indicative of much other than the fact they are not isolationist, totalitarian and probably not Communist.

I (and I don't think Cactus) were not trying to equate left with envy so much as show that it seems to be a primary motivator for all sides of the political divide, but especially in some of the policy support for left based politics.

backin15 said...

Oh come on, who were you referring to the Spanish Republicans? Rubbish.

The implication was clear, lets not bother with this side issue, the main issue is simply whether or not envy is exclusively a quality of the left - Kate said this quite clearly (some reference to "masters of" blah blah blah). It was purile, it's wrong, and it's a hopelessly rhetorical statement.

Neither you not Kate said that envy was a vice of both sides of the increasingly burred divide; you both said, either explicitly or in roundabout terms, that the left indulged in the politics of envy...

Kate then used this as a platform to argue for tax reform hence my comment that it was a false premise.

Cactus Kate said...


There can be a delay in comments sometimes as I am not at the computer all day. I pretty much accept any comment other than those that reveal my identity (ie. idiots), or dangerously defamatory ones (ie. idiot that commented about Bob Jones).

I think my piece spoke for itself as did the comments after by others. You have put your position as well which I have published now. We simply disagree. Which is the whole purpose of blogs that you should never underestimate. They do not have to be balanced because the sheer numbers of bloggers and comments balance any opinion out for you. Bloggers who try to give balanced opinion are bloody boring in my view and if I was a reader I would much rather read my own blog for instance and then a total contrast and make up my own mind on an issue rather than have some kind of passionless middle of the road piece of nothing thrust on the screen at me on a "balanced blog".

I think I make it very clear I don't like and can see absolutely nothing worthy in the politics of the left, socialism, Labour, Alliance, Greens etc.... People appreciate my honesty. Hopefully you do as well.

burt said...

It is the left that indulge in the policies of envy, why would IIQ or cactus kate state anything else. Labour beamed about introducing the rich tax in 1999. The country went through a little honeymoon of punish the tall poppies fever.

The right would never engage in this kind of crude vote buying. This fact is simple and true.

The right would however flatten the playing field which would gain loud cries of unfair, unfair can you believe, from the left. Unfair, why - because the policies of greed have not been allowed to prevail.

iiq374 said...

Backin15 -
If you re-read virtually everything I wrote you will see that I am mainly referring to supporters of parties, not the parties themselves. Dont get my and cactus kates messages completely intertwined. It's probably part of the problem you have had with most of your comments on this thread. In that vein I was not limiting my observations to the Labour party, nor actually only to those supporters of left wing parties but those of left wing redistributionist policies.

Yes Cactus Kate moderates her blog. And like those others of us that work (and for her live in a different timezone) this means lags in her comments appearing. Get over it.

I also think Cactus indicated quite clearly that she thought everyone to one degree or another is motivated by envy - she then went on to indicate that the parties of the left are better at appealing to this envy to attract voters.

You also confuse the "blurred divide" as you assume that we think of National as being a right wing party. Or indeed that we think of "right wing" as being a good thing. I agree that National also appeals to a certain degree of envy. Not as effectively as Labour but that is partially because it doesn't go as far into the redistributionist policies as Labour. Please realise that just because we are pointing out the inadequecies of something doesn't mean we are arguing for what you may see as the inverse. Something NZers in particular need to wake up to is that it is not easy to find an inverse in politics as it is not actually a left/right spectrum. Finding the inverse on a plane is much more difficult. (Which is still not completely representative but at least covers most of the current political landscape and theory.)

backin15 said...

Couple of things. First, good that this is becoming a more moderate conversation (though you really ought to quit the distracting attempts to patronise).

Kate's blog is fearlessly frank which is good and I appreciate it for what it is, not what it's not. I only mentioned my comment so that you knew to look for it - I've no problem with her moderating comments (though I don't think she needs to worry about defaming people, it is a far less proximate risk than many realise). I too work (and live in a different country to you both) though perhaps my work is a little different to both of yours.

Secondly, I'm not in anyway confused by any of your, or Kate's comments. I wonder if you saying this isn't just a little head-fake?

Finally, as Kate says, we do disagree. I think it's entirely wrong to characterise Labour/left politics as simply envious; redistributive policies are designed to improve social equity - some work better than others - that does not make them socialism.

iiq374 said...

Backin15 -
If you think my tone is patronising it is usually just a misread of the tone. Generally occurs about half the time in email so probably just as frequently on blogs :D

Confused is probably the wrong word to use - but it often pays to make sure we are working from the same understandings on some of the points. The clarification around the use of socialism being a case in point.

Finally; of course I realise we disagree ;-) Although I would say it is a simplification characterise Labour/left politics as simply envious. And the final part redundant as it is primarily aimed at if I was using socialism as a derogatory term - which we've already covered I wasn't.

backin15 said...

You say "simplification" I say simpleton... let's call the whole thing off...

iiq374 said...

And the final word is to resort to ad hominem? Somehow I thought you were better than that....

My previous response may not have been perfect in prose given it was rapidly fired out before departing to Dunedin for the week; to rephrase a couple of points (although the comment still stands somewhat):

I do not see left wing policies as *only* being envious - more that the way they are frequently *sold* to the public is by appealing to envy and greed. The motivations / ideas behind the original policy direction can be completely different. I also tried to allude in the original post that it is also interesting for people to look at their own motivations in desiring particular policies / parties "regardless which side of the political divide you sit"

redistributive policies are designed to improve social equity - with this I agree entirely. What I disagree with is that many redistributive policies, and particularly socialist redistributive policies, treat equality as an equivalent to equity. A key differentiation between the progression of centre left --> left --> socialist --> communist policies in that regard is the extreme to which that is believed, how much the Government is seen in the role of bringing about that moderation, and the public/private ownership/control mix.

backin15 said...

Fair cop on the ad hominem, apologies.

I think we're about as close as we can get on this. I agree that the politics of envy can be a play made by both parties and maybe Labour's more exposed to that criticism because it will generally tend to redistribute more than centre-right governments.

Caskman said...

"What I disagree with is that many redistributive policies, and particularly socialist redistributive policies, treat equality as an equivalent to equity."

How do you define each of 'equity' and 'equality' here? I haven't heard much about the term social 'equity' and am interested in what it means (well, to you anyway).

iiq374 said...

Caskman -
Equity is related to the fairness of a resulting outcome; basically within this context it is concerned with defining what participants should be allocated on the basis of their situation and actions.

Equality is one view of an "equitable outcome", especially within Communist or Socialist philosophies. The argument there is that it is fair for people to be allocated an equal share regardless (or because of) any other factors.

For me an equitable social outcome can never be directly related to the concept of equality. It must be related at least to the efforts and outputs of the individuals involved.

Unfortunatly as you indicate the concept of equity is not often adressed directly in terms of explanations of social policy - even though it should be the primary driver behind any policies implemented.

Caskman said...

OK - that's useful - thanks.

Going by that definition then I would assume Labour are implicitly assuming equality is equity.

iiq374 said...

caskman - yes, that tends to be the implicit direction of most of Labours policies.