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07/31/2010

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Jim S.

Hmmm. It seems to me that a lot of poor leftists are more in favor of RPL than PPL. Plenty of them don't want employment opportunities as such, they want the financial discrepancies in society to be fixed by the government. How do you explain the poor people who are in favor of a more socialized government? (That's not a challenge, I'm sincerely asking.)

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Where are the calls from the rabbid dog left for withdrawal? Where are their calls for am exit strategy? Where are their calls for a timeline?

mtraven

PPL sounds remarkably like -- no, exactly like -- boilerplate right-wing talking points. And I notice that all of the blogs you in your blogroll are right-wing cranks. So what, pray tell, makes you a leftist of any stripe? You sound like just another wingnut to me, albeit one with a strange obsession about soccer.

John Pepple

mtraven: That's a fair question. Here goes:

1. My basic orientation is egalitarian, which puts me on the left.

2. However, this blog is about being a leftist in a self-critical way. When I switched from ordinary leftism to self-critical leftism, I found myself agreeing with the right on occasion. As a self-critical leftist, this doesn't bother me, though I know it will bother leftists who aren't self-critical.

3. The reason that occasionally agreeing with the right on issues doesn't bother me is that I know that I ended up where I am by deriving those positions from an egalitarian orientation.

4. I turned to self-critical leftism because I kept seeing leftists do things that seemed utterly wrong, such as the following:

a. I thought that only leftists would be open-minded enough to accept soccer when it first came along, but instead leftists didn't accept it and frat boys did.

b. Today in academia, there's a crisis with many academics either unemployed or exploited as adjuncts. Yet tenured leftists don't care at all and do nothing about it.

c. Plus, it seems that leftists who are employed at the best schools come from wealthy backgrounds, while the unemployed seem to come from more modest backgrounds. Again, no one on the left wants to deal with this situation.

d. With respect to Islam, the left is siding with the most reactionary Muslims while eschewing liberal Muslims.

And so on. Leftism just didn't seem to be working very well, so I went off in a new direction.

5. The liberals and leftists I like don't seem to have blogs. These are Paul Berman, Christopher Hitchens, and Nick Cohen on Islam, and Alexander Cockburn on global warming, especially on the foundation of global warming, which is peer review.

I also link to thoughtful people on the right, because I think that it's useful for gaining insight on the left. Plus, I see them as allies on certain issues that are important to me, while disagreeing with them on other issues that aren't so important.

I should add that I see today's leftists as only about 30% of the way to full progressiveness, while the right is about 25% of the way, so I don't see a lot of difference between them.

6. No one who reads my book on soccer would think I'm a conservative. I go way beyond just espousing soccer, for I also denounce the emphasis in our schools on football and basketball, the reason being that they privilege the big and the tall and thus exclude people of average size. People on the right don't talk that way.

7. With respect to being green, every leftist today has to make a choice between whether they want to give greater priority to the poor or to the environment. I am almost alone in choosing the poor over the environment, though Alexander Cockburn seems to agree with me on this.

8. If you want me to criticize libertarianism, here goes. Libertarians talk about freedom, but freedom to do what? To vote? If people have the freedom to vote, then they can vote for people who aren't libertarian and will establish a government that is not libertarian. And if they don't have the freedom to vote, then they don't have as much freedom as they could have.

If you want me to criticize conservatives, I'm perfectly happy to accept the standard leftist criticism that conservatives ignore social injustices that are encapsulated in the traditions that they revere.

My problem is that leftists do the same. When I've pointed out problems that I thought leftists ought to be addressing, I was blown off. For example, #4c above. Shouldn't some effort be made to help academics from poorer backgrounds? But there is little interest in doing so.

And when I complain about what I call "institutional sizism" -- see #6 above -- that our schools aren't being fair to people who are of average size, what am I told? "That's not important." But that answer shows that leftists, too, are willing to put up with some sorts of social injustice.

9. There is much less racism than leftists think there is on the right. I've been reading the Wall Street Journal and the National Review for years without seeing much of anything.

Still, I don't like the occasional conservative who thinks that blacks have lower IQs. But at the same time, I don't like the view held by nearly every leftist elite that people who didn't go to elite schools aren't very smart.

10. People on the right are angry at Bill Ayers because of his terrorist past. I'm angry at him because he's just another academic from a wealthy background who's taking a job away from poorer people who need a job more than he does.

Let me conclude by saying that I was once a socialist, but watching the way that leftists run academia changed my mind. Academia should be a domain where socialism could be tried and shown to be wonderful. Instead, socialists in academia don't want to push for socialism within academia. Why not? The leftists at the top just seem very stingy to me. And that led me to start thinking critical about socialism.

I hope this helps, though I suspect it won't.

Jeffrey Ellis

Wow, a great post and a great comment there, John. I really think you have hit the nail on the head with your distinction between rich people's leftism and poor people's.

John Pepple

Jim S.:

How do I explain the poor people who are in favor of socialism? That’s pretty easy, because socialists seem so idealistic, in comparison with capitalists, who seem so hard-hearted and greedy.

I come from a lower-middle class background, and I was a socialist at one time. What changed my mind was seeing that in academia, the people who seemed to be getting the best jobs were the wealthier leftists, while the poorer leftists were getting lesser jobs or being exploited as adjuncts or were just plain unemployed. That in itself wouldn’t have mattered so much, except that when I tried to get people to realize that academia was not a kind place for poor people, they didn’t want to listen.

For example, at one point, I wrote a letter to every academic who had put out a book on socialism asking them if they were willing to apply socialist principles within academia. Only one even bothered to reply, and he was honest enough to say that he wasn’t willing.

At that point, I gave up on socialism. I went from hating rich conservatives, because they weren’t paying their fair share of taxes, to hating rich liberals, because they were hogging all the best jobs.

Naturally, lots of poor people haven’t had the experiences I’ve had, so socialism still seems like an idealistic system to them. And even academics who are poor and are exploited as adjuncts are still willing to give socialism the benefit of the doubt. I’ve already gone through that stage and am on to the next stage, being critical of leftism.

Borepatch

I remember the saying back in the 1980s, about the children of the African elites. If the parents wanted their kids to become socialists, they sent them to school in Paris. If they wanted them to become capitalists, they sent them to school in Moscow.

John Pepple

That's pretty funny! Thanks, I hadn't heard that before.

william

dear sir,
we are barging if you can help us to eat even to go to school i come for a very poor family even to pay our hospital bill is difficult to us,please sir do help us we net your help.
thanks we await your respond

John Pepple

Dear william:

That is the plight of the people who live next door to us. We have given them thousands of dollars over the last few months just to keep them from going under, and we are not exactly rolling in the dough ourselves.

I'd suggest you appeal to Bill Gates. Good luck.

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And good point, in that viral does have a simple definition about pass-along that seems to nonetheless confuse people (primarily because some are looking to make it the next "brand-building," perhaps a useful term but one that people want to write all their failures off as successes by putting them under that category).

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My article on Empedocles was eventually published in the Journal of Value Inquiry for 1996. The rest I self-published. I put an article on Plato and Speusippus on the Internet:

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