Why I am a social democrat

There’s a scene in a movie, I think it’s “The In-Laws”, where the heroes are being executed, and to stall for time, they insist they be blindfolded and given a cigarette, and then while their captors are blindfolding them and giving them a smoke, something happens, and they escape. When I saw it, when I was 9 or 10, I liked that even if your enemies were going to kill you, they’d let you have a little dignity, and I was bothered, a little, by the fact that the heroes took advantage of this hospitality to get away.

Today, I had to call a friend of mine who encountered a personal set-back. I should have called a few weeks ago when I found about it, but I’ve had a hard time making myself do it. I know that he won’t be pleasant, that if I call too late, he’ll say I’m a weirdo for calling too late, that if I call too early, he’ll say I woke him up, that if I call during the day he’ll ask why the fuck I’m not working. I’d say stuff like that to everyone who called me if I was depressed, too.

What happened to him could be his fault, the unsympathetic part of me believes that it probably was. But I still think that if I call him and he yells at me for calling too late/during the day/too early, I should just apologize and try to keep the conversation going.

In the back of mind, I know that Bobo/Edmund Burke/Charles Lane/Teh Free Market would tell him to lose weight/change his ways/try harder/not be a dick to people like me that are trying to be nice to him, that the pain he’s going through right now will just make him leaner, meaner, more economically competitive machine down the road, but I believe you can humor people a little bit when they’re down, even if that doesn’t give them the kick in the ass they need to become efficient Galtian machines.

I just don’t think we need to grind people down into nothing all the time, even if we could make them shine shoes or pick berries for a nickel less if we did. I know I’m a hypocrite for saying that because I buy stuff from China that’s cheap because it’s made by prisoners.

That’s a big reason why I’m a social democrat, or whatever we’re supposed to call actual liberals now. Also too, sane Keynesian economic policy, not fighting wars for no reason, equal rights for everybody, but I think those are no-brainers. But I think a big thing is the idea that being an asshole all the time won’t really lead to a perfect free market Galtian paradise, and even if it did, I wouldn’t want to live here.

Sorry this is long.






69 replies
  1. 1
    Linnaeus says:

    Nothing to apologize for, DougJ. People need to say this more often.

  2. 2
    Linnaeus says:

    But I think a big thing is the idea that being an asshole all the time won’t really lead to a perfect free market Galtian paradise, and even if it did, I wouldn’t want to live here.

    Furthermore, no one in the real world actually believes in a free-market paradise.

  3. 3
  4. 4
    Ron says:

    Well said, DougJ

  5. 5
    joel hanes says:

    I’ll bet you often over-tip, too.

  6. 6
    srv says:

    Think of what a paradise it would be if the liberals like you could just get over the guilt and be douchebags all the time.

    Also, Serpentine!

  7. 7
    The Spy Who Loved Me says:

    You need to get off of your front page naval gazing and go back to spoofing. You were a whole lot more interesting then.

  8. 8

    But I think a big thing is the idea that being an asshole all the time won’t really lead to a perfect free market Galtian paradise, and even if it did, I wouldn’t want to live here.

    I don’t think the Bobo/Edmund Burke/Charles Lane/Teh Free Market types are assholes all the time because they really think it will lead to a perfect free market Galtian paradise. That’s just rationalization. They are sociopaths who see acting like an asshole as its own reward.

  9. 9

    I am an anti social reformed druid, that currently caucuses with the democrats.

  10. 10
    Jewish Steel says:

    Your Sermon on the Mount.

  11. 11
    Cat Lady says:

    I like social democrat, and I’m in the exact same place with friends and family, who are all finding themselves screwed in large and small ways by our galtian overlords. “Progressive” now has the taint of the purity idiots. I’m a liberal social democrat. That’s got a little Yurp touch to it, which makes me feel a little jaunty, and makes me want to take up smoking again on occasion. I’ve got the white wine thing down.

  12. 12
    Chris says:

    Everything alright, DougJ? That’s the kind of speech I make to my friends when I’m feeling really down and I’m just happy to have their company.

  13. 13
    JGabriel says:

    DougJ:

    What happened to him could be his fault, the unsympathetic part of me believes that it probably was.
    __
    […]
    __
    I think a big thing is the idea that being an asshole all the time won’t really lead to a perfect free market Galtian paradise, and even if it did, I wouldn’t want to live here.

    Conservatives do. They want to believe that everyone less well off than they are deserves to be less well off. It’s the only way to justify their privileges. The idea that it’s all a matter of chance, rather than hard work and Jesus’ grace, is too terrifying.

    .

  14. 14
    MikeJ says:

    I believe DougJ’s post is the croquet scenes from Heathers strung together. Just because you could send someone’s ball away you don’t have to.

  15. 15
    JGabriel says:

    @Linnaeus:

    Furthermore, no one in the real world actually believes in a free-market paradise.

    You use the word belief as if it’s something people act on.

    .

  16. 16
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    I don’t know why Edmund Burke takes so much crap here. I mean, sure, I don’t agree with him on a lot of things, but comparing him to David Brooks?

  17. 17
    driftglass says:

    Long ain’t bad, DougJ

    From the late Steve Gilliard.

    http://stevegilliard.blogspot......w-ive.html

  18. 18
    Maude says:

    The guy sounds like he puts people in a no win position. I’ve known people like that.
    I would have put off calling and perhaps not called at all.
    I’m not good at that type of thing.

  19. 19
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    Is everyone on this fucking blog wasted?

  20. 20
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    O/T, sorry, but, uh, WISCONSIN?

    ETA: (Cool. A five-word sentence with four properly-placed commas.)

  21. 21
    beltane says:

    I never really liked the term “progressive”. It seems too much like a euphemism for the term “liberal”. How can someone possibly be an effective fighter for liberal ideals if they’re too whipped to even use the world liberal.

    “Social democrat” is actually a good term, better than liberal really, as it is specifically a left-of-center term. A friend of mine refers to himself as a left-wing authoritarian because he has a secret plan to handle teabaggers and libertarians. When you give him a glass of wine, he likes to reveal his secret plan.

  22. 22
    mary says:

    I hope your phone call went well. Life is hard for everyone at some time. And usually the reasons are never as clear cut as they appear. Nothing is lost by treating each other with a little kindness.

  23. 23

    “… I just don’t think we need to grind people down into nothing all the time… too, sane Keynesian economic policy, not fighting wars for no reason, equal rights for everybody, but I think those are no-brainers.”
    In Eisenhower’s day we called that Republican conservative.

  24. 24
    beltane says:

    @JGabriel: They like to say that those less well off suffer from “envy”. Fine, lets say they do. Do the Galtians really want to go through life being a piece of steak dangled in front of starving wolves?

  25. 25
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @Just Some Fuckhead:

    Is everyone on this fucking blog wasted?

    SiubhanDuinne +2 checking in

  26. 26
    Jewish Steel says:

    @SiubhanDuinne: Dingding! The lady wins a kewpie doll!

    Doug, your “friend” isn’t John Cole, is he?

  27. 27
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    When I saw it, when I was 9 or 10, I liked that even if your enemies were going to kill you, they’d let you have a little dignity, and I was bothered, a little, by the fact that the heroes took advantage of this hospitality to get away.

    Huh. I hang out a lot on TVTropes and Cracked and Overthinking It and other sites were deconstructing fiction is often the name of the game, and it occurred to me that when I was younger (and now, mostly), I never really had a moment when I felt that the bad guys in any given story might have a point, or that the good guys weren’t all that good. And it’s just kind of struck me recently how much my peers must have been doing it, because there’s an entire cultural cottage industry based around deconstructing heroes and reconstructing villains. Maybe I was just slow or quick to accept what I was told, or maybe I just took in simplistic fiction. I guess the moral calculus I always used is that the ends are what matter, and if you’re doing something that has bad ends, I don’t really care how honorable you are. In fact, that probably makes it worse, because you’re squandering all your positive traits on the pursuit of something bad. I guess that’s the core of why I’m so fervently anti-objectivist. They can talk to me about their principles until they drop dead, but I’m holding to the belief that their principles, when put in action, will make the world a shittier place, and I’m going to oppose that no matter how ‘logical’ they are.

  28. 28
    jwb says:

    @SiubhanDuinne: Doesn’t look good.

  29. 29
    Bruce S says:

    I have no idea why you’re calling yourself a “Social Democrat” – which refers to a coherent political philosophy – rather than dubbing yourself with an utterly meaningless, value-neutral term like “Progressive.”

  30. 30
    max hats says:

    This general human trait is IDEOLOGY 1. This unrelated general human character flaw is IDEOLOGY 2.

    That is why I am a [member of] IDEOLOGY 1.

    [subscript: deploy meaningless anecdote as required]

  31. 31
    max hats says:

    I mean seriously Doug J, are you trying to win Bobo’s crown?

  32. 32
    Shawn in ShowMe says:

    It’s our patriotic duty as Real ‘Murikans to give ourselves new names every thirty years. Social Democrat is OK but it’s too European. You need a red-blooded American name to combat the so-called Tea Party. A name suitable for competing and winning a dick-waving contest — The Hancocks.

  33. 33
    gex says:

    A couple of things.

    When I was young, my Dad tried to convince me that greediness is good. I never bought it.

    But he’s the kind of Republican who:
    -As a Chinese immigrant to this country who went to state university to get a degree only to go on to work for a defense contractor all his life bitches about how the government wastes money. (How much did we spend on you, asshole? Oh yeah, we made you.)
    -As a Chinese guy walks into the Social Security office after retirement and comes home complaining about “all those foreigners” taking his money. (You’re brown, asshole, and that doesn’t make you a foreigner.)
    -Built enough wealth to own 3 rental properties. And as my parents divorce, my mom is now learning that he never claimed 2/3 of that income over the last 30 years and if the IRS ever found out, they could lose everything. (You mean you complain about the taxes you pay even though you have given yourself a 67% tax cut?)

    I’ve come to believe that the Sotomayor episode wasn’t an aberration. People on that side do not believe in empathy. They do not care about other human beings. They only care about themselves. I don’t know what you do with that. I can’t just hope that about half the country DIAF, but I don’t think you can make these people give a crap about others, no matter how much you try.

    So what to do? Hell if I know. But we’re getting into the territory where shit is going to start affecting them too, and so maybe they will start caring a little bit about systemic issues and less about the individual.

  34. 34

    I know I’m a hypocrite for saying that because I buy stuff from China that’s cheap because it’s made by prisoners.

    I don’t know about that. I try hard not to buy things from China, but there are times when you can’t not buy things from China, since you might need something, and you can’t find whatever it is that’s made anywhere else.

    I recall one time that sticks in my mind. A few years ago, my wife and I went to Chicago for a friend’s wedding. I got a bad cold while we were there, but one morning, I felt a little better, so we went downtown to see the town. While we were there, I began to feel worse, and the sun was killing my eyes and I didn’t have any sunglasses. We looked and looked and there were no sunglasses that weren’t made in China. It pissed me off, but I broke down and bought the fucking sunglasses.

    So it’s only one little thing, and I guess it wasn’t the worst thing that ever happened to me, but it stuck in my mind. How do we deal with this? It’s easy to say, “Just don’t buy things made in China, you hypocrite!” but what do you do when there’s nothing that comes from anywhere else? Sometimes I buy something without thinking where it came from, and later, when I get home, I find out I’m helping keep asshole Chinese slaveowners in business.

    It’s kind of like Walmart. I won’t go there. I don’t even set foot in the wretched places. But there are too many people who happily buy from walmart. What we need os some kind of movement. I think a lot of Americans would be willing to pay a little more, if it meant workers had some shot at decent lives, but we need to make this a bigger deal to most people.

  35. 35
    JGabriel says:

    @beltane:

    Do the Galtians really want to go through life being a piece of steak dangled in front of starving wolves?

    Think of every time you’ve heard some Galtian tell his/her wage slaves, “Of course the system works, look at me. Work hard and you can have everything I have.”

    Apparently the answer is Yes, though they tend to think of themselves as enthroned nobility instead of dangling steaks.

    .

  36. 36
    JGabriel says:

    @Just Some Fuckhead:

    Is everyone on this fucking blog wasted?

    Sober as a deacon’s funeral here, I’m afraid.

    .

  37. 37
    Chris says:

    @gex:

    When I was young, my Dad tried to convince me that greediness is good. I never bought it.

    Greed is fine as long as it doesn’t turn into sociopathy. We all want money and advancement in some form or other. If it’s intelligent greed, and it’s not the be-all and end-all of your life, it needn’t be a bad thing.

    What you’re describing doesn’t sound like greed so much as ego. E.G, yes, I want and I deserve this good money and this comfortable job, but this other person doesn’t deserve the same things, because, something. Or, I want to be properly remunerated for my work in this company, but I think all the other people who make this company work don’t deserve any more than peanuts, cause they’re all deadbeats. Etc, etc, etc.

    Those guys don’t want to climb their way to a position with decent rewards, they want them all handed to them on a silver platter and then sputter with indignation because they think other people want the same thing.

  38. 38
    Peggy says:

    @JGabriel:

    Conservatives … want to believe that everyone less well off than they are deserves to be less well off. It’s the only way to justify their privileges. The idea that it’s all a matter of chance, rather than hard work and Jesus’ grace, is too terrifying.

    What’s terrifying is that they could lose their privileges, very easily nowadays. But not if Jesus is protecting them.

  39. 39
    Lojasmo says:

    I am a socialist.

    +1 Bombay and lemonade.

  40. 40
    Lojasmo says:

    Effing moderation.

    I am a soshullist.

    +1 Bombay and lemonade.

  41. 41
    Chris says:

    @Peggy:

    Conservatives … want to believe that everyone less well off than they are deserves to be less well off. It’s the only way to justify their privileges. The idea that it’s all a matter of chance, rather than hard work and Jesus’ grace, is too terrifying.

    I remember reading this quote by Harrison Ford once, talking about how he’d managed to become such a successful actor:

    “You cannot get where I got without luck. Bags of it. Fucking bags of it. You can be as good as I am or better. You can be incredibly more attractive and charming and capable and still be shit out of luck.”

    He added that the only other thing in his favor was persistence, which is also true. But it was still staggering to me to see a person that rich and famous candidly admit that a lot of it was just a crap shoot and that if the stars had aligned just a little differently, it’d be someone else in his shoes. Such a refreshing change from the drumbeat of “it’s MINE, MINE, MINE and I EARNED every penny of it with the sweat of my Galtian brow!” you hear all the time these days.

    (Astonishingly, turns out he’s a Democrat. Astonishingly, I tell you).

  42. 42
    Sadie says:

    Huzzah! Tell me how to explain this to my boss. When the Dem’s screw up, they’re all socialists and want his money. When the Repub’s screw up, both sides do it. I argued with him today for half an hour We’re both so worried about our country but he thinks it is because Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing and doesn’t know how to lead.

  43. 43
    PeakVT says:

    @Chris: The worst of the MOTU seem to be those that were born into a fair amount of wealth and turned it into a lot more (Murdoch, the Kochs – Gates is one exception but he didn’t go into the same business as his father).

  44. 44
    Sophist(from droid) says:

    @Just Some Fuckhead: Is everyone on this fucking blog wasted?

    And if not, what the hell’s stopping you?

  45. 45
    SFAW says:

    driftglass @ 16

    Sorry for being a dick about it, but Gilliard’s “Fighting Liberal” was an apotheosis of calling bullshit on the right wing’s demonization of liberals, whereas DougJ’s Boboloquy is more of a semi-whiny anecdote with some semi-coherent “my philosophy is dis, sorta” thrown in.

    DougJ –

    “Social democrat”? WTF, is this Europe?

    And screw “progressive” (another pet peeve of mine). Teddy Kennedy wasn’t “progressive”, he was a liberal and proud of it.

    SFAW +0, because I’d be an even-bigger asshole/whatever if I were drinking.

  46. 46
    Donut says:

    I represent the Democratic wing of the Democratic party

    I’m a liberal Democrat. I don’t see any need to equivocate, or qualify it with a new tag. The “social” tack-on seems pointless to me. Your mileage may vary.

  47. 47
    Sophist(from droid) says:

    Oh, as for labels, I’m a Pinko. I mean, why not, it’s not like they don’t think it when they hear the word “liberal”, right? Might as well own it.

  48. 48
    gex says:

    @Chris: Yeah, I get that. But unabashed, unrestrained greed? No. Greed to the point of excluding self-restraint or altruism? No. I get that we use that to make the greater good, but raw unrestrained greed is not good.

  49. 49
    Comrade Luke says:

    Nice post, Doug. I hope everything went ok.

    The comments to this post also prove that people aren’t dicks because they’re mad at progressives, the “professional left”, or Republicans.

    Some of you people are just dicks. Full stop.

  50. 50
    SFAW says:

    Some of you people are just dicks. Full stop.

    The Anti-Sanctimony Squad respectfully submits that you should include yourself in that category. Full stop.

  51. 51
    honus says:

    @JGabriel: that, coupled with the idea that if thing get a little better for anyone else, it will mean they get worse for them.

  52. 52
    eemom says:

    @SFAW:

    srsly. “But I don’t want to live in a world where people are MEAN to each other!” WTF, has every FPer on this blog been magically transformed into a 12 year old?

    +I’m an asshole too

  53. 53
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @eemom: Off the vicodin, huh?

  54. 54
    Brachiator says:

    In the back of mind, I know that Bobo/Edmund Burke/Charles Lane/Teh Free Market would tell him to lose weight/change his ways/try harder/not be a dick to people like me that are trying to be nice to him, that the pain he’s going through right now will just make him leaner, meaner, more economically competitive machine down the road, but I believe you can humor people a little bit when they’re down, even if that doesn’t give them the kick in the ass they need to become efficient Galtian machines.

    I don’t see any connection between political ideology and economics and compassion for a depressed friend.

    None. Nada. Zip. And those libertarians, conservatives and others who might even want to hint at a connection are fools.

    But anybody who asserts some necessary connection between their liberalism and how they approach support and friendship is also on some shaky ground.

    And I’m not sure about the details of your friend’s circumstances, but whatever you choose to do to be supportive the best way you can is a good thing. I don’t really care about the political analogy. I hope things go well for your friend.

  55. 55
    honus says:

    from Frederick Exley:
    …I feel the same way about suicide….negative faith though it be. For what thinking person among us has not…seen the fascists, apes, and thugs among us and not contemplated suicide…ultimately suicide becomes one’s eloquent and dramatic way of announcing one will not live in a world controlled by goons.

  56. 56
    Chris says:

    @Donut:

    I’m a liberal Democrat. I don’t see any need to equivocate, or qualify it with a new tag. The “social” tack-on seems pointless to me. Your mileage may vary.

    In the vocabulary of the world and not just the U.S, it makes sense. Outside the States, “liberal” is often shorthand for “economic liberal,” IOW conservative. “Social Democrat” means the center left.

  57. 57
    eemom says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    you were right — I shouldn’t’ve taken it all at once.

  58. 58
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Chris: I have always seen European liberals as the equivalent of the “socially liberal, fiscally conservative” people in the US.

  59. 59

    Holy shit, that draw’s a bead on what libertarianism and modern conservatism are all about: utopianism through assholery. No wonder they’re always going around all assholier-than-thou.

  60. 60
    Donut says:

    In the vocabulary of the world and not just the U.S, it makes sense. Outside the States, “liberal” is often shorthand for “economic liberal,” IOW conservative. “Social Democrat” means the center left.

    I understand the origin of the term social democrat just fine, Chris.

    But I don’t live in Europe.

    Again, I hail from the Democratic wing of the Democratic party. Obama, Clinton, Carter, Johnson, Kennedy, Truman, Roosevelt: you know, that Democratic party. The one in the United States.

  61. 61
    chrismealy says:

    Why I am a libertarian/conservative:

    If I see someone suffering I think it’s probably their own fault, because if it’s not then I might have an obligation to do something about it. And besides, sadism just makes me feel good. Who doesn’t like to kick a puppy just because you can? To feel your own power over the powerless?

  62. 62
    chrismealy says:

    Why bother being something nice like progressive or liberal when you can be something terrifying and menacing like socialist?

  63. 63
    SFAW says:

    you were right—I shouldn’t’ve taken it all at once.

    Yeah, thanks for not saving me any, One-Way.

    I guess I’ll have to dip into my own stash supply to compensate for your parsimony. And after all I’ve done to for you!

  64. 64
    Fiasco says:

    Guess I’m reading too much into it but, I feel the vast majority of posters missed a key point:

    But I think a big thing is the idea that being an asshole all the time won’t really lead to a perfect free market Galtian paradise, and even if it did, I wouldn’t want to live here

    Our Galtian overlords enjoy the support of their wanna-be Galtian overlords because they believe the above to be true- it will be a “Free Market Paradise. Rid ourselves of every “Welfare Queen/free-loader” et. al. Of course they think this because (spoiler alert), they never consider the downstream consequences. Doubt it? See: Immigration Law, Georgia.

    Once they get their way they’ll be the first to complain about all the homeless people and all the squatters in the ghetto (which just years before was a vibrant sub-division). They’ll be repulsed by the Haiti-like scene outside every hospital as people gather in the hope they’ll get treatment before they die.

    They’ll have “won it all” only to discover the prize is a giant, shit sandwich of their own making.

  65. 65
    Porllock Junior says:

    @Too Many Jimpersons (formerly Jimperson Zibb, Duncan Dönitz, Otto Graf von Pfmidtnöchtler-Pízsmőgy, Mumphrey, et al.):
    Tell it like it is, brother.
    A few years ago I had a splendid idea for a store, or a chain, or at least a Website: Things Not Made In China. It would have been a bit expensive, but worth it, since hardly any consumer goods made in China are intended to work.

    A while later I found there was actually a site Shoes Not Made in China. Or there had been; by the time I found it, it was pretty well defunct, as it simply had nothing to list.

  66. 66
    Tim Connor says:

    Bless you. Keep faith. That and hope are what we have.

  67. 67
    Alwhite says:

    I read a quote a week or so back and I was waiting for the right thread to post it in. Now that the thread has arrived I can’t find the damn thing.

    It was one of the koch whores explaining why the crushing economic adversity was such a good thing. It said we would stop our profligate spending and lead more “moral” lives. Yes, they truly believe we need to be punished for everyone’s ‘excesses’ and this will make us live closer to some moral standard they believe in.

  68. 68
    jake the snake says:

    @Spaghetti Lee:

    i remember watching the old “Untouchables” TV series as a kid, and sort of rooting for Frank Nitti. I was too young to realize what a sociopathic monster he was, and saw him as the underdog that everyone was out to get.

    I have never really understood attaching yourself to, or identifying with the elites, which is one of the basics of
    conservatism.

  69. 69

    Sorry this is long.

    Sorry this is so late.

    But two thumbs up.

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