Category: Economics

(W)Right Confusion

ChildCatcher

Not John C Wright trying to sniff out social justice narratives.

There is a very odd review of Bat Girl Year One on Hugo Award Nominated* John C Wright’s blog here http://www.scifiwright.com/2015/07/how-to-ruin-batgirl/ Did I say odd? I meant to say predictable. He dislikes it because he smells feminism – who’d have thought feminism might turn up in a story about young woman who decided to fight crime dressed as bat? Well I am confident that anybody paying attention can spot most of the flaws in what Wright wrote.

My attention was drawn to this interesting paragraph though:

The difference between the Leftist and the Conservative worldview is that we Conservatives think the world is imperfect, and that all choice have sacrifices, all purchases have prices, and (this side of the grave) there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. Conservatives believe in economics, that is, prioritizing scarce resources. Leftists believe in heaven on Earth, when can be controlled as soon as man is perfected by education, eugenics, an modern science. Like Cargo Cultists, the Leftists believe endless wealth pours from nature without limit or let, except that the evil rich blockade the outpouring of free goods into their own coffers, and prosper from the poverty of the masses. They believe in the opposite of economics.

Which, as with much of Wright’s output causes me to pause and consider how it is possible to be a professional writer with such little insight.

  • Is the difference between Conservatives and Leftists that Conservatives think the world is imperfect and Leftists don’t? No, indeed obviously not. In general leftists are looking for social and economic change which is absurd if they think the world is currently perfect. Leftists don’t think the world is perfect and indeed spend a large amount of their time pointing out what they find wrong with it. Conservatives can have a radical side too, so I’ll grant that despite their tendency to want to keep things how they think they might have once been is not neccesarily based on the notion of the world being perfect as it is.
  • Wright recovers a bit by shifting to the notion that leftists believe in Heaven on Earth – i.e. what he is actually trying to say is that Leftists believe the world (or people) are perfectible. That is a much better point and it is a shame he led with such an obvious misstep. It is true that idealism and utopianism are common among the left but even then a more pragmatic current has historically been present on the left – essentially aiming for an optimal society rather than a perfect one. Hence most of the modern left believes in some kind of egalitarian compromise with market economics and even the Marxist thinking that held sway over much of the left during the 20th century in one form or another tended to reject utopianism.
  • The other point is a doozy: “Conservatives believe in economics, that is, prioritizing scarce resources” Seriously? Many on the right in Western society believe in free-market economics to some degree but that isn’t universal (e.g. Wright’s freind and publisher Vox Day is a critic of free market economics). However even if we accept that somehow Conservatives are the ones who believe in economics (despite some very odd economic theories gaining traction in the US right from a confused version of supply-side economics to an infatuation with the gold standard), this belief is very much predicated on precisely IGNORING that some resources are effectively finite.
  • Most importantly the lesson from economics that conservatives seem to keep ignoring precisely because it is inconvenient is the issue of the Tragedy of the Commons and the problem that a supposed free market has when dealing with externalities. There is a reason why many economists favor a Carbon Tax as the most efficient way of reducing emissions of greenhouse gases and there is a reason why many conservatives oppose it. When faced with this dilemma of reality getting in the way of the pursuit of money it is noticeable that conservatives have developed an amazing power to ignore reality, physics, chemistry, the temperature record and economics.

Sigh.

[*courtesy of the puppies]