The Clare Spark Blog

January 3, 2015

Cass Sunstein: Nudnik-in-chief

Execmed007014Before you read this blog you might want to consult these sources:

https://clarespark.com/2014/12/29/the-leader-principle/.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/cass-sunstein-top-obama-adviser-on-regulations-to-leave-administration/2012/08/03/5652b6fc-dd6a-11e1-8e43-4a3c4375504a_story.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cass_Sunstein (“libertarian paternalism”)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Behavioral_economics

Harvard Magazine’s first issue of 2015 features an eight page profile of Cass Sunstein, author, Harvard Law professor, and former Obama administration official. Sunstein, who has made enemies on both Right and Left, served as the head of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs from 2009 to 2012. Lauded as “The Legal Olympian,” Sunstein remains a major player in propagandizing for the New Deal and the welfare state it spawned.

Indeed, the author of the piece, the liberal lawyer and journalist Lincoln Caplan, takes care to quote from FDR’s [populist] “Second Bill of Rights” (equated by Sunstein with The Declaration of Independence): “…rights to ‘a useful and remunerative job”; for “every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies”; to “a decent home”; to “adequate medical care”; to “adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment”; and to “a good education.” “For unless there is security here at home, there cannot be lasting peace in the world.”

Caplan assumes that Sunstein quoted from the “Second Bill of Rights” because “no one really opposes government intervention” (quoting Sunstein’s italicized sentence) but the date of Roosevelt’s fireside chat, 1944, suggests that FDR was aware that wartime spending, not New Deal largesse in the spirit of Keynes, was responsible for increased employment during the war years, and that many Americans predicted another Depression when the war was over.

But Harvard’s purpose in featuring the profile of the controversial Sunstein, seems to me to be an affirmation of typical Harvard strategies. Note that the cover photo of Sunstein shows some of his library: many books on social psychology are present. This cover article probably is intended to continue the irrationalist social theories of the Harvard social relations department; one that has been described frequently on this website as proto-fascist. A kinder term would be the continued rule of Ivy League philosopher-kings. For are they not all Olympians in their fields, now annexing the new fields of neuroscience and “choice architecture,” the better to control the masses, strategically placing food choices so that apples will be freely chosen, and not Fritos? Behind this lengthy puff piece that attempts to convince ordinary people that the biggest possible government is desirable in this best of all possible worlds, is the notion, clearly stated in the Jungian pschoanalyst Henry A. Murray’s notes to Melville’s novel White-Jacket, is that the masses are not trained to rule. Indeed, in Carl Jung’s opinion, Hitler was a guttersnipe, the man of the mob who had too much power in the modern world. Here is what Jung had to say about Hitler at the end of World War 2: mass politics had produced the modern wasteland.

[Jung:] “As I said before, the upheaval of mass instincts corresponds to a compensatory move of the unconscious. Such a move became possible because the conscious state of the people had become estranged from the natural laws of human existence. Because of industrialization, large parts of the population became uprooted, and they were herded together in large centres. And because of this new form of existence–with its mass psychology and its social dependence upon the fluctuations of markets and wages, an individual was created who was unstable, insecure, and suggestible…Germany…is by no means the only nation threatened by this dangerous germ. The influence of mass psychology has spread far and wide. It was the individual’s feeling of weakness, and indeed of non-existence, which was compensated by the upheaval of hitherto unknown desires for power…Nothing but materialism was preached by the highest intellectual authority….Hitler…was the most prodigious personification of all human inferiorities. He was a highly incapable, unadapted, irresponsible, psychopathic individual, full of empty childish fantasies, but cursed with the keen intuition of a rat or guttersnipe. He represented the shadow, the inferior part of everybody’s personality, in an overwhelming degree, and this is another reason why they fell for him.” C.G. Jung,”Individual and Mass Psychology,” Essays on Contemporary Events (London: Kegan Paul, 1946): xiii-xv. Originally broadcast on the BBC, Nov. 3, 1946.

And just to make sure that we get the point, the Caplan essay concludes with this adjuration derived from Cass Sunstein: “He argued that the justices of the Supreme Court should resolve questions before them as narrowly as possible, to encourage elected officials to deliberate on decisive issues and test their answers before the voters….It would energize American democracy by making it more deliberative.” Caplan goes on to defend the [living Constitution], now the preferred opponent to “tradition’s constitution.”

And so Harvard Magazine continues to leave the reader in the same old double bind: advocating for both freedom and welfare, ever the “moderate men.” We may not know what is good for us, left to our own flawed devices, but cleverly manipulated environments, arranged by nudniks, will nudge us in the correct direction, choosing apples, not Fritos.

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October 11, 2013

What do liberals want?

power1This question was asked by Roger L. Simon 10-10-13, on Facebook, perhaps flummoxed by the conduct of Congressional Democrats and POTUS. I will try to answer that question, but in no particular order.

First though we must distinguish between anticommunist social democrats and those hard Leftists who have joined the progressive movement and who may formulate many of its political and cultural positions. This separation is not easy to determine, as even the communist historian Eric Hobsbawm wrote like a social democrat in his last books. These are Popular Front tactics, and “liberals” today are more likely to be the “moderate conservatives” of yesterday, or, as I call them, “corporatist liberals.” (See https://clarespark.com/2009/08/09/what-is-a-corporatist-liberal-and-why-should-they-frighten-us/. This is the only link to prior blogs that  I will include in my overview of today’s pseudo-liberals.)

The POTUS appointment of Janet Yellin suggests Keynesian economics will rule the Fed. Even Maynard Keynes would not have approved of the promiscuous use of his demand-stimulus measures today; it was intended for the Great Depression, and many countries indulged in the bureaucratic collectivism that he sponsored during the 1930s. But Lord Keynes was a conservative economist, a point lost on today’s journalists, especially Paul Krugman.

To answer Roger L. Simon most directly, liberals advocate “social justice” through the welfare state. Since American history is a horror story as “liberals” tell it through their command of the textbook industry and school curricula, reparations are in order. Hence the preferential treatment for Green corporations, affirmative action, and separatist cultural studies departments, including “whiteness studies.”

The term cultural studies requires unpacking: Liberals abhor “the melting pot” that ostensibly turned out lookalike robots fashioned by Fordism, but advocate the furtively racialist notion of multiculturalism and the hyphenated American. The intent is to defame classical liberalism as racist, while promoting their racialist discourse as emancipating. Cultural relativism (distorted beyond recognition from its Enlightenment intent) has dissolved empiricism and science along with universally comprehended facts and cultural syncretism.

In practice Liberals have lengthened the Popular Front against Republicans. The Communist Party of the 1930s first abhorred the “social fascists” of the New Deal, but then adopted the Comintern–generated Popular Front against fascism, circa 1934-35. As late as the end of the red decade, CP writers (especially Stalinists) were blaming big business for Nazism, thus appealing to the strong (often anti-Semitic) populism and isolationism that characterized the US after the Great War. Oddly, movement conservatives sympathetic to small business are often equally anti-elitist, giving much needed ammunition to the failed Democratic Party that swears allegiance to the New Deal and the welfare state. Bereft of sound economic arguments (the New Deal failed), many liberals pursue social/cultural issues with as much zeal as movement conservatives. For instance, Democratic pols nail the Right’s supposed “war on women,” and put great energy into abortion rights, gay marriage, and “secularism.” It is my own suspicion that aggressive atheists are either agents provocateurs or convinced leftists seeing all religion as the opiate of the masses.

Many liberals don’t mind Jonah Goldberg’s best-seller Liberal Fascism. But his tirade against “the nanny state” conflates paternalism with maternalism, and in effect makes American Progressives the inspiration for European fascism. This was a mistake on Goldberg’s part, as a few academics noted, but who pays attention to these characters nowadays? The final effect is to make real American proto-fascism invisible.

Fascists opposed the labor movement and the Soviet experiment, and the forms fascism took in Europe were distinctive and historically specific. They were all movements of the Right, even though Hitler and Mussolini shared a populist past above all opposed to “laissez-faire capitalism,” and those aspects of modernity that emancipated the imagination and gave voting rights and free public education to the dreaded lower orders.

What corporatist liberals do NOT want, besides communism: Since the liberal base is composed of incoherent constituencies with widely differing demands, they cannot form a rational set of ameliorative changes. They are trapped in time, beholden to discredited ideas such as Wilsonian internationalism and the organicist rhetoric of the political family/nation.

The ideologies I have described are tackled in depth throughout this website and understood by many authors on the right, and I can only wonder why PJM’s ex- CEO Roger Simon is ever at a loss to explain “what liberals want.” Women may not know what they want in all cases, but as a writer himself, Simon must know that his opponents want to obliterate the very notion of the individual and to substitute collectivist categories for how we think of our unique, irreplaceable selves and the world. The “liberal” “will to power” (often discussed on the internet) is not power for its own sake, but “power” for well-meant, but finally utopian, objectives, as ”…experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny…..” (Thomas Jefferson, http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/v1ch18s11.html) .

power2

April 16, 2011

Index to Ayn Rand blogs

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 2:35 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Note that these blogs are not unqualified endorsements of Ayn Rand. I am trying to understand her social critique in light of her personal experience with Soviet Communism. For a view more consistent with my own, see the writings of legal theorist Richard Epstein, who understands that government regulation is at times appropriate, but must be designed with great caution and constantly tested.  For this reason, I especially recommend the blog on We The Living, which tells you more about the young Rand and the Soviet Union’s “totalitarianism” than any other work of hers. But I have reread all three blogs, and they are well worth your time, if you want to resist collectivist propaganda.

https://clarespark.com/2011/01/12/ayn-rands-we-the-living/

https://clarespark.com/2011/01/04/railroading-ayn-randalissa-rosenbaumdagny-taggart/

https://clarespark.com/2010/12/29/ayn-rands-rational-modernism/.

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