No wonder is thogh that he were astoned

Indeed, Professor, Fed 10 and the Madisonian system in general very much favor constraints on “democracy,” especially as the term was understood at the time. As you observe below, one by-product of the democratic adoption of a system partly hostile to democracy itself is terminological confusion, since we call our system “democracy” and speak unreflectively about promoting democracy or democratic values, when what we are really about is better understood as a “mixed regime,” on the model of the classical “polity” but under radically transformed material circumstances.

As for the Konczal piece, of course it produces just the kind of symptomatically intemperate remarks from ideologues that you have been kind or at least inadvertently helpful enough to produce for us. We can, as the doctors say, “appreciate” the symptomology you exhibit. You blame Konczal – or call his work “astoundingly stupid” – for taking a major libertarian thinker at his word, and for following that thinker’s premises and incidental assertions logically to their illogical or self-contradictory, self-reversing, paradoxical necessary conclusions in the absurd forms of the libertarian feudal state and of freely chosen self-enslavement. You apparently cannot accept, or even rationally consider, the to you highly improper thought that libertarianism may be just as vulnerable as democratism to voting itself out of power, but according to its own mode of operation: not as a majority vote against democracy (e.g., to vote to install the tyrant, to vote to murder the free thinker, to vote democratically to restrict the voting franchise undemocratically, to vote for oligarchy disguised as liberty, etc.), but as a free decision to surrender free decisionmaking (the substance of every contract).

These are inescapable conceptual problems, Professor. I’d urge you to look into them, but, as you frequently remind me, you cannot stand philosophy. The philosophical framing of the concept is for you like the gaze of Medusa. It turns your intellect to stone: Its stupidity astonishes you. The etymology is interestingly roundabout, but the “stone” is right there in front of us. You have volunteered it, informed us that you are struck, as we used to say, “stone deaf,” deaf as a stone or as though hit in the head by a stone, or as though silenced by overawing thunder (thunderstruck). If you were vulnerable to the concept, to philosophy, you would not be astonished.

Precisely because you are deafened, however, you cannot hear anyone explaining the fact to you, or trying to direct you to shelter: Philosophy says to you, “You can’t hear me – let’s go somewhere quiet,” but you of course cannot make out the words, nor will you read its lips (perhaps you are also blinded by the lightning flashes). You would need to be vulnerable to philosophy to understand that philosophy is just a mirror reflecting you as you are, or a well echoing your words back to you, merely revealing or having already revealed your state of astonishment, your having turned to stone, your stoney silence, your stupefaction before the reflection or discovery of your own… well, I’d use the word you used, but, unlike many others, I respect the Commenting Policy at the LOOG, and wouldn’t want to be thought to have indulged in a gratuitous insult.


At this point we must cease addressing the Professor directly, rather than waste more time squeezing words from a stone. What he sometimes has described as a headache or the onset of a mental fog will likely, or so he has asked us to expect, have hit or descended upon him well before the end of our comments to him, probably closer to their beginning, rendering him insusceptible to further verbal interaction, for our purposes insensate. He is, to say the least, and as explained above, well-defensed, professionally and professedly well-defensed, against the conceptual disruption of his ideological premises, therefore against any disruption of the self-identity of libertarianism professing professional professor that they produce and re-produce.

Lacking a license to practice, I will refrain from applying a clinical psychologist’s terms, and instead simply observe that anyone realistic about human nature cannot expect the Professor to stop loving what he depends on, and, for the same reasons, we should not necessarily expect him to respond to this diagnosis directly or to understand or admit understanding it either to us or to himself.1

Still, if our past treatments have built up the Professor’s tolerances, some part of him may have been listening. If so, he may respond as others do, perhaps by calling me names or impugning my character or insulting me or my writing style or my manner or otherwise lashing out, perhaps by further pursuing his new tack of imagining some secret set of “proper” qualifications for anyone who presumes to address his personal truths. It may be difficult for us to accept emotionally, and it may be difficult not to respond in kind (it may even be taken as presumptuously self-superior, or uncongenial, not to respond in kind), but such ploys can often be taken as signs of progress despite themselves, at least as signs of something more vital than astonished stupefaction, even if we must also keep in mind that progress is not the same as recovery.


  1. “Diagnosis” is good Greek that the professionals should not be allowed to monopolize, in my opinion: It is precisely what the Professor and ideologues in general resist. The diagnosis “ideologue” is the diagnosis of pre-emptive refusal to be treated. []

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  1. I don’t think it’s possible to misunderstand political philosophy ot economy to a greater extent, now he might be closer with mercantilism, or a rentier class, but that was quite nearly as daft as Robin’s recent offering,

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  1. […] expected, the Professor’s reply to my analysis of his avoidant tendencies is also avoidant, taking the form of a condescending remark that indirectly manifests his  […]


Noted & Quoted

TV pundits and op-ed writers of every major newspaper epitomize how the Democratic establishment has already reached a consensus: the 2020 nominee must be a centrist, a Joe Biden, Cory Booker or Kamala Harris–type, preferably. They say that Joe Biden should "run because [his] populist image fits the Democrats’ most successful political strategy of the past generation" (David Leonhardt, New York Times), and though Biden "would be far from an ideal president," he "looks most like the person who could beat Trump" (David Ignatius, Washington Post). Likewise, the same elite pundit class is working overtime to torpedo left-Democratic candidates like Sanders.

For someone who was not acquainted with Piketty's paper, the argument for a centrist Democrat might sound compelling. If the country has tilted to the right, should we elect a candidate closer to the middle than the fringe? If the electorate resembles a left-to-right line, and each voter has a bracketed range of acceptability in which they vote, this would make perfect sense. The only problem is that it doesn't work like that, as Piketty shows.

The reason is that nominating centrist Democrats who don't speak to class issues will result in a great swathe of voters simply not voting. Conversely, right-wing candidates who speak to class issues, but who do so by harnessing a false consciousness — i.e. blaming immigrants and minorities for capitalism's ills, rather than capitalists — will win those same voters who would have voted for a more class-conscious left candidate. Piketty calls this a "bifurcated" voting situation, meaning many voters will connect either with far-right xenophobic nationalists or left-egalitarian internationalists, but perhaps nothing in-between.

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Understanding Trump’s charisma offers important clues to understanding the problems that the Democrats need to address. Most important, the Democratic candidate must convey a sense that he or she will fulfil the promise of 2008: not piecemeal reform but a genuine, full-scale change in America’s way of thinking. It’s also crucial to recognise that, like Britain, America is at a turning point and must go in one direction or another. Finally, the candidate must speak to Americans’ sense of self-respect linked to social justice and inclusion. While Weber’s analysis of charisma arose from the German situation, it has special relevance to the United States of America, the first mass democracy, whose Constitution invented the institution of the presidency as a recognition of the indispensable role that unique individuals play in history.

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[E]ven Fox didn’t tout Bartiromo’s big scoops on Trump’s legislative agenda, because 10 months into the Trump presidency, nobody is so foolish as to believe that him saying, “We’re doing a big infrastructure bill,” means that the Trump administration is, in fact, doing a big infrastructure bill. The president just mouths off at turns ignorantly and dishonestly, and nobody pays much attention to it unless he says something unusually inflammatory.On some level, it’s a little bit funny. On another level, Puerto Rico is still languishing in the dark without power (and in many cases without safe drinking water) with no end in sight. Trump is less popular at this point in his administration than any previous president despite a generally benign economic climate, and shows no sign of changing course. Perhaps it will all work out for the best, and someday we’ll look back and chuckle about the time when we had a president who didn’t know anything about anything that was happening and could never be counted on to make coherent, factual statements on any subject. But traditionally, we haven’t elected presidents like that — for what have always seemed like pretty good reasons — and the risks of compounding disaster are still very much out there.

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