[FoRK] Is Balkanization really a problem?

J. Andrew Rogers <andrew at ceruleansystems.com> on Mon May 28 12:22:33 PDT 2007

On May 28, 2007, at 10:39 AM, Jeff Bone wrote:
> Entitlement's another thing entirely.  I agree completely that we  
> have a growing and very serious problem in that regard;  when  
> selfishness is coupled with special interest and government  
> mandate, almost everyone loses.  (Who's the most entitled?   
> Boomers, anyone?)  But the growth in both sense of entitlement and  
> *actual* entitlements has been slow and steady, if increasing  
> somewhat over the course of this decade, so that doesn't explain  
> the almost surreal about-face America has made during that time.

Well that is really the practical problem with socialism, isn't it?   
It is not the policy of using community resources to solve problems  
per se, but the calcification of program or policy into  
entitlements.  These things accrete layer upon layer until  
governments and society lose all the elasticity that allows them to  
adapt to changes in the environment.  There is little evidence that  
people have figured out a system for government-based socialism  
without endemic calcification into unqualified entitlements, which  
makes liberal application of it of questionable judgement.  A system  
that generates entitlements will slowly kill itself, if not by  
suicide then by self-inflicted non-competitiveness in the global  
market.  I think in most cases it is not the socialism per se (since  
there is an opportunity to create efficiencies in markets where  
people would spend money in any case) that makes an economy non- 
competitive, but the creation of entitlements that slowly destroy  
flexibility in the economy.

Government services are not inherently entitlement based, but they do  
have a tendency to move in that direction, particularly social programs.

> To explain that, you have to look beyond the usual suspects and  
> beyond (just) the slow-moving trends.  The thing that seems to most  
> clearly correlate to the "unreasoning" of America is the incredible  
> growth and success of the right-wing propaganda machine in this  
> country since the late 90s.  (Yes, I know it existed before then,  
> but it really came into its own during the Clinton witch hunts.)

The "unreasoning" has always been there, people only notice it when  
it is a different kind of unreasoning than they are used to.  The  
topics of the day simply highlight the "unreasoning" of a particular  
group that no one paid attention to when no one cared about the  
topic.  Both right-wing and left-wing propaganda (whatever this  
really means) are episodic and have existed for as long as the US has  
been a country, being no worse today than it has been in past history  
of the US.  In fact, in most ways the "right-wing" populists have  
less influence this time around than in past times of political  
influence.  This is no different than William Jennings Bryan and his  
popular movement or even figures like Randolph Hearst.  The social  
conservatives are often literally WJB Democrats by heritage, so there  
is some demographic as well as ideological continuity here.   
Politically they differ from union Democrats today primarily by  

This is not a new problem.  Most people on both the left-wing and  
right-wing, urban, suburban, and rural, are provincial, ignorant, and  
poorly reasoned, albeit about different things in many cases.  The  
populists you are referring to are an obnoxious group with a long  
history of waxing and waning in American politics, along with other  
obnoxious groups like the Malthusians.  If it is not one kind of  
short-sighted foolishness, it will be another.  Right-wing propaganda  
is mostly nonsense filled with the occasional important truth that  
the left-wing would rather not acknowledge.  Left-wing propaganda is  
mostly nonsense filled with the occasional important truth that the  
right-wing would rather not acknowledge.

I have yet to find a region of the US that I find to be enlightened  
or well-reasoned in any kind of general sense, nor has there been a  
time in its history that I am aware of where the broader population  
was more reasonable and clueful than it is now.  This is no more a  
danger or a problem than it has always been.


J. Andrew Rogers

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