Sunday, June 29, 2014

Nordic Social Democracy as the Capitalist Welfare State


This is a chart from The Economist showing that by many of the standard measures of social health, the Nordic countries (Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Norway) are at the top.

At the end of the 20th century, many socialists were dispirited by the apparent triumph of neoliberal models of economic development and globalization.  There were debates over whether socialism had failed in its attempt to challenge liberal capitalism.

But now the economic crisis of the Great Recession and the political crisis of liberal democratic states that have lost confidence in their capacity to solve their problems have forced a reconsideration of the achievements of socialism.  Many socialist experiments--and particularly the Marxist regimes--have a dismal record.  But the democratic socialism of social democracy as manifest in the Nordic countries (Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Iceland) seems to have succeeded (see Brandal, Bratberg, and Thorsen, 2013).  They have some of the highest rates of economic growth and lowest rates of poverty and economic inequality in the world.  They have the largest welfare states in Europe, which provide social security and public services universally for all citizens.

Now we have a new book by Lane Kenworthy--Social Democratic America--arguing that the United States should become a social democracy like the Nordic countries, because they "come as close as any nation in history to having a set of institutions and policies conducive to a good society" (137).  And we have a new book by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge--The Fourth Revolution: The Global Race to Reinvent the State--arguing that the Nordic countries show us what the modern state of the future should look like.

Does the success of the Nordic model show that the welfare-state socialism of social democracy is superior to the free-market capitalism of classical liberalism, because social democracy combines the best features of socialism and capitalism?  It all depends, I suggest, on how one ranks the goods of liberty, equality, and prosperity.  If one ranks equality over liberty and prosperity, then Nordic social democracy is superior to classical liberalism.  But if one ranks liberty and prosperity over equality, then classical liberalism is superior.

Of course, the proponents of the Nordic model will respond by pointing out that the Nordic nations actually have high levels of liberty and prosperity as well as equality.  My argument, however, is that the Nordic nations have achieved this in spite of their large welfare state, not because of it, because they have enacted free-market policies that promote individual liberty and economic growth, and these are the free-market policies that have been recommended by classical liberals (like Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman).

The question of whether social democracy can combine the values of socialism and capitalism goes back to the founder of the social democratic tradition--Eduard Bernstein.  He was a leading member of the German Social Democratic Party, which was the most important socialist party in Europe that was heavily influenced by the thought of Marx. In a series of articles published in 1896-1898, and in a book published in 1899 (The Preconditions of Socialism), Bernstein contended that Marx's teaching needed to be revised in the light of recent historical experience.  Marx had predicted that capitalism would inevitably collapse because of its own internal contradictions, and because the growing intensity of the class struggle would lead the proletariat (the working class) to see the necessity of a violent revolutionary overthrow of the bourgeois class and the bourgeois state.  The economic depression of the 1870s and 1880s seemed to confirm this prediction.  But then, the new economic growth and global trade of the 1890s seemed to show that capitalism was not going to collapse anytime soon.  Moreover, the partial success of the labor movement in demanding social reforms favoring the working class suggested that the socialist workers' movement could advance its goals through peaceful reforms rather than violent revolution. 

The political freedom of a liberal democracy could provide the conditions for the evolution of socialism out of capitalism, Bernstein argued.  Socialism could be understood as "organized liberalism" (Preconditions of Socialism, 150).  And, indeed, Rosa Luxemburg in her Marxist critique of Bernstein's revisionism complained that he had transformed socialism into a "variety of liberalism" (Reform or Revolution, 85).  Bernstein thought that "there is actually no really liberal thought which does not also belong to the elements of the ideas of socialism," including the liberal ideas of individual liberty and responsibility (Preconditions of Socialism, 147).  Even those socialist measures that appear coercive must be justified as expanding the range of liberty in a society.

While orthodox Marxists insisted that true socialism required the abolition of private property and of market competition and the public ownership of the means of production, Bernstein thought that "democratic socialization" would not require a complete state management of the economy or abolition of private property, at least in a long transitional period.  He thought that socialism "would be completely mad to burden itself with additional tasks of so complex a nature as the setting up and controlling of comprehensive state production centers on a mass scale--quite apart from the fact that only certain specific branches of production can be run on a national basis . . . Competition would have to be reckoned with, at least in the transitional period" (Marxism and Social Democracy, 218-19).  He also thought that private property was necessary for any social order.  "We do not abolish private property, we limit its rights.  The total abolition of property is impossible" (Steger, 147).

Such social democratic revisionist thinking became dominant in the Swedish Social Democratic Party in the 1920s and 1930s.  Per Albin Hansson, the leader of the party, declared that the party's ideal was "a society of free and equal individuals in democratic cooperation, where common resources are used to ensure security and well being for all.  We Social Democrats do not accept a social order with political, cultural, and economic privileges or one where the privately-owned means of production ae a way for the few to keep the masses of people in dependence."  And yet, "we have no desire to interfere economically in such a way that will hold back or injure production," because "our main interest is in getting the most out of our nation's productive capacity" (Berman, 176).

In 1936, American journalist Marquis Childs' book Sweden: The Middle Way became a bestseller, and he popularized the idea that Sweden had found a "middle way" between the extremes of American capitalist individualism and Russian socialist collectivism.  Childs described Sweden's policies as combining governmental economic planning, market competition, and cooperation between the government, business, and labor unions to achieve a "modification of the capitalist economy" for the common good.  At the 1936 convention of the Democratic Party, President Franklin Roosevelt held a press conference to speak about the importance of Childs' book in showing how capitalism and socialism could be combined; and he announced that he was sending a special commission to Sweden to study this "middle way."

So do Sweden and the other Nordic countries today still offer a model for all the world to imitate?  The Nordic welfare state provides universal publically supported health care and health insurance, generous unemployment benefits, a universal pension system, universal free education, and a system for redistributing wealth from the richest to the poorest.  As a consequence, their levels of economic inequality are lower than in other developed economies.  They also have low rates of crime.  And in international studies of the "happiness index," their people report some of the highest levels of happiness.

Their welfare states are expensive.  Government expenditures as a share of Gross Domestic Product are around 47% for these countries, as contrasted with 37% for the United States.  This requires higher taxes in these countries.  Many Americans assume that such levels of governmental spending and taxing must impede economic growth.  But in fact, the Nordic countries have had high economic growth rates over the past two decades; and their wealth per capita is good compared with other wealthy countries.

Kenworthy (a political scientist at the University of Arizona) infers from this that the United States could easily increase governmental spending to 47% of GDP to pay for new welfare programs without any decrease in economic growth.  He declares: "Freedom, flexibility, and market dynamism have long been hallmarks of America's economy.  These are qualities worth preserving.  The Nordic countries' experience shows us that a nation can successfully embrace both flexibility and security, both competition and social justice.  Modern social democracy can give us the best of both worlds" (9).  Kenworthy has summarized some of his reasoning in an interview. Micklethwait and Wooldridge (editors at The Economist) make the same argument.

But it should be stressed that achieving this "best of both worlds" requires a high level of economic freedom in the Nordic countries (Kenworthy, 8-9, 89, 102-107, 127, 178; Micklethwait and Wooldridge, 169-87).  Contrary to what Kenworthy suggests, Micklethwait and Wooldridge show that the Nordic countries achieved this through a reduction in public social spending, taxation, and governmental regulation of society and business beginning in the mid-1980s.  In doing that, they adopted some of the policies proposed by Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, and other classical liberals for reducing governmental intrusion into social and economic life.

The Social Democratic Party ruled Sweden from 1932 to 1976, and they had steadily increased taxes, government spending, and the restrictions on business.  In 1974, Olof Palme, the party's leader said that "the era of neo-capitalism is drawing to an end," and that "it is some kind of socialism that is the key to the future."  But then the government began to face public protests and financial crises, and free-market ideas began to enter the public debate.  In 1970, Sweden was the fourth richest country in the world as measured by per capita wealth.  But by 1993, it has fallen to 17th.  There were a series of radical reforms, including cuts in public spending.  Public spending as a share of GDP had reached 67% by 1993, but now it's down to 49%.  Public debt as a share of GDP fell from 70% in 1993 to 37% in 2010.  Sweden has cut the marginal tax rate by 27% since 1983 to 57%, and it has cut the corporate tax rate to 22%, much lower than in the United States.

Denmark and Norway allow private firms to run public hospitals.  Denmark has a system of "flexicurity," which makes it easier for employers to fire people, but with programs for supporting and training the unemployed.  Sweden has reformed it's pension system to make it affordable by replacing a defined-benefit system with a defined-contribution system and making automatic adjustments in benefits to reflect longer life expectancy.  Sweden also has a universal system of school vouchers, so that private for-profit schools can compete with the public schools.  Micklethwait and Wooldridge observe: "The Swedes have done more than anyone else in the world--certainly more than the cautious Americans--to embrace Milton Friedman's idea of educational vouchers" (171).

Friedman helped the Frazer Institute--a classical liberal think tank in Canada--to develop a method for measuring and ranking "economic freedom" in countries around the world.  In the Fraser Institute Report on Economic Freedom for 2013, the variables for this rating are summarized:

"The index published in Economic Freedom of the World 2013 measures the degree to which the policies and institutions of countries are supportive of economic freedom. The cornerstones of economic freedom are personal choice, voluntary exchange, freedom to compete, and security of privately owned property. Forty-two variables are used to construct a summary index and to measure the degree of economic freedom in five broad areas: (1) size of government; (2) legal system and property rights; (3) sound money; (4) freedom to trade internationally; and (5) regulation."  
They now have ratings for 152 nations.  All of the Nordic countries have high rankings.  Finland is #7, and Denmark is #14.  Thus, they rank higher than the United States, which is #17.  Sweden is #29.  Norway is #31.  Iceland is #41.

The Heritage Foundation--another classical liberal think tank--has a similar "Index of Economic Freedom."  Denmark ranks at #10, ahead of the United States at #12.  The other Nordic countries rank high once again--Finland at #19, Sweden at #20, Iceland at #23, and Norway at #32.

Swedish economist Andreas Bergh argues that Sweden became rich because of its capitalist institutions, and that Sweden's high level of income equality is not a result of its welfare state, because inequality was low before the expansion of the welfare state.  (Bergh has summarized his argument in a video interview with Reason.TV.)

In a forthcoming article, Bergh offers some general conclusions about the history of Sweden as a capitalist welfare state (pp. 34-36).  From 1870 to 1970, Sweden moved from being one of the poorest countries in the world to being one of the richest, while also showing a relatively equal distribution of income.  Explaining this, he concludes: "Well-functioning capitalist institutions, especially property rights and a non-corrupt state sector, promotes prosperity.  Primary schooling, risk spreading social insurance schemes and labor unions contribute to a more equal distribution of income."  From 1970 to 1995, Sweden's economic growth slowed.  He explains:  "the combination of unsuccessful macro-economic policies and a very generous welfare state caused big problems for Sweden. . . . For a universal welfare state like Sweden, it is crucial to achieve a balance between people who work and pay taxes, and people who do not.  Clearly, the trend in Sweden from 1970 to 1995 was not sustainable.  The share of adults not working more than doubled, from about 10 percent to above 20 percent after the crisis of the 1990s."  The economic revival of Sweden over the past 20 years, he argues, is due to reforms that increased economic freedom (see the chronology of reforms in his Appendix).  This all supports his final conclusion: "The welfare state seems to survive because it co-exists with high levels of economic freedom and well-functioning capitalist institutions."

This suggests that the economic success of the Nordic countries has been due not just to their welfare state policies but crucially to their economic freedom.  And we can explain this natural human desire for freedom as rooted in evolved human nature (Rubin 2012).  This explains why many socialists reject the Nordic model of social democracy as a capitulation to neo-liberal capitalism (see also here and here).

Actually, there is evidence that increases in government spending as a share of GDP bring decreases in wealth per capita (Bergh and Henrekson 2010).  An average person in a Nordic country has only 65% of the disposable income of the average American (Mitchell 2007).  Kenworthy passes over this fact in only one sentence (124).  In fact, there is plenty of statistical evidence that Americans on average are wealthier than Europeans, that the American population has a lower proportion of its people in poverty than is the case in Europe, and that those who are poor in America are wealthier than the poor in Europe.  The one European country that comes closest to the United States in average wealth is Switzerland, in which government spending in proportion to GDP is lower than in the United States.  Kenworthy never mentions this, although it shows up in some of his graphs (11, 103-104, 122).

There is a tradeoff, however, between liberty, prosperity, and equality.  The Nordic countries have less economic inequality--disparity between the very rich and the very poor--than does the United States.  The economic pie for the Nordic countries is a little smaller than that for the United States, but the Nordic pie is cut a little more equally, although the richest still get bigger pieces than the poorest.  Nevertheless, in recent decades, the level of inequality has been growing even in the Nordic countries.  In Sweden, the richest 1% of the people hold 20% of the wealth, and the richest 10% hold 60% of the wealth.  If we wanted to move towards absolute equality, we would have to accept less liberty and less prosperity for all.

Deciding how much liberty and prosperity one would trade off for more equality is a matter of individual preference, and so there will always be a lot of disagreement about this.  A classical liberal society is a pluralist society in which people can express their preferences about this.  For example, they can form socialist communes and cooperative enterprises in which the wealth is shared equally, but no one can be compelled to join.  In a liberal civil society, people are free to enter or exit groups as they wish, which allows for the maximum expression of communitarian diversity.

Nordic social democracy confirms the classical liberal argument for individual liberty as a condition for the good society, but it also confirms that classical liberal liberty cannot produce equality.

Of course, the classical liberal ideal would require a minimal government with no welfare state at all.  For the classical liberal, goods such as poverty relief, education, and health care can be best provided by free markets and the voluntary associations of civil society through economic growth, mutual aid associations, and philanthropic activity.  There is historical evidence that this worked well in the Anglo-American world prior to the emergence of the welfare state in the 20th century.  The classical liberal will argue that if the welfare state were abolished, free markets and civil society would do a better job of performing the functions that have been assigned to the welfare state (Murray 1997; Pennington 2011, 151-90).

But if most citizens in the liberal democracies today want a welfare state, classical liberals can recommend the sort of capitalist welfare state that is manifest in the Nordic social democracies and in the United States, although the American model is better because Americans are richer and freer than those in the Nordic countries.

So Rosa Luxemburg was right--social democracy is "a variety of liberalism."  Much of what one sees in the Nordic social democracies today looks a lot like what Hayek recommended in Part 3 of The Constitution of Liberty, which is entitled "Freedom in the Welfare State."  He distinguished the welfare state from socialism, and he argued that a properly designed welfare state could be compatible with individual liberty.  This seems to be what Micklethwait and Wooldridge propose as the "fourth revolution."  They identify themselves as classical liberals, but not libertarians, because they think the state needs to be more than a nightwatchman state.  They echo Hayek's reasoning in suggesting ways that a limited welfare state can promote rather than impede individual liberty (21, 221-48).


Andreas Bergh, "What Are the Policy Lessons from Sweden? On the Rise, Fall, and Revival of a Capitalist Welfare State," New Political Economy (forthcoming).  Available online.

Andreas Bergh, Sweden and the Revival of the Capitalist Welfare State (Edward Elgar Publishing, forthcoming in 2014).

Andreas Bergh and Magnus Henrekson, Government Size and Implications for Economic Growth (AEI Press, 2010)

Fredrik Bergstrom and Robert Gidehag, EU Versus USA (Stockholm: Timbro, 2004).  Available online.

Sheri Berman, The Primacy of Politics: Social Democracy and the Making of Europe's Twentieth Century (Cambridge University Press, 2006)

Eduard Bernstein, The Preconditions of Socialism, edited and translated by Henry Tudor (Cambridge University Press, 1993)

Nik Brandal, Oivind Bratberg, and Dag Einar Thorsen, The Nordic Model of Social Democracy (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013).

Fraser Institute, Economic Freedom of the World: 2013 Annual Report.  Available online.

Heritage Foundation, 2014 Index of Economic Freedom.  Available online.

Lane Kenworth, Social Democratic America (Oxford University Press, 2014).

Rosa Luxemburg, Reform or Revolution, in Mary-Alice Waters, ed., Rosa Luxemburg Speaks (Pathfinder Press, 1970).

John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, The Fourth Revolution: The Global Race to Reinvent the State (Penguin Press, 2014)

Daniel J. Mitchell, "What Can the United States Learn from the Nordic Model," Policy Analysis, Cato Institute, November 5, 2007.  Available online.

Charles Murray, What It Means To Be a Libertarian (Broadway Books, 1997).

Mark Pennington, Robust Political Economy: Classical Liberalism and the Future of Public Policy (Edward Elgar, 2011)

Paul Rubin, "Evolution and Freedom," in Fred McMahon, ed., Towards a Worldwide Index of Human Freedom (Fraser Institute, 2012), 173-88.  Available online.

Manfred B. Steger, The Quest for Evolutionary Socialism: Eduard Bernstein and Social Democracy (Cambridge University Press, 1997)

Henry Tudor and J. M. Tudor, eds., Marxism and Social Democracy: The Revisionist Debate 1896-1898 (Cambridge University Press, 1988)     

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Marxist Critique of Socialist Anarchism

Having surveyed the anarchist critique of Marxism in my previous post, I turn here to the Marxist side of this debate.  Then, in a third post, I will lay out my classical liberal critique of both Bakuninist and Marxist anarchism.

Thinking through this debate over the modern state and whether and how it could be abolished should be part of the current debate over the global crisis of the modern state and the call for "reinventing the state" (as in the new book by Micklethwait and Wooldridge).

This should be part of a Darwinian political science because it's all about the Darwinian evolution of government from the Paleolithic era to the present.

All the major texts of Marx, Engels, and Lenin on anarchism and socialism are collected in a book edited by N. Y. Kolpinsky.  A good summary of the Marxist critique of anarchism is an essay by Paul D'Amato.  (See the References below.)

This debate can be confusing if one does not distinguish the points of agreement and disagreement.  The Marxists and their anarchist critics agree that the end of the socialist revolution is anarchy.  They disagree about the means to that end.  For the anti-Marxist anarchists, the only proper means to anarchy is the immediate abolition of the state; and therefore the Marxist teaching about the need for a dictatorship of the proletariat through the rule of the communist party is simply a new form of statist oppression.  The Marxist anarchists contend, however, that the proletarian state is only the temporary but necessary means to eventually achieve the abolition of the state.

In The State and Revolution, V. I. Lenin explained:
"The proletariat needs the state only temporarily.  We do not at all differ with the anarchists on the question of the abolition of the state as the aim.  We maintain that, to achieve this aim, we must temporarily make use of the instruments, resources and methods of state power against the exploiters, just as the temporary dictatorship of the oppressed class is necessary for the abolition of classes.  Marx chooses the sharpest and clearest way of stating his case against the anarchists:  After overthrowing the yoke of the capitalists, should the workers 'lay down their arms,' or use them against the capitalists in order to crush their resistance?  But what is the systematic use of arms by one class against another if not a 'transient form' of state?" (Kolpinsky, 275-76)
Marxists and anarchists agree in aiming towards the classless and stateless society in which human beings will cooperate freely without governmental coercion and centralized bureaucratic power.  According to the anarchists, the means to achieve this must prefigure the end result; and so we must immediately begin organizing social life as a voluntary association free from any coercion.  According to the Marxists, this is a foolishly utopian idea that ignores the harsh necessity of socialist revolution today as the only means to achieve a future society of anarchy.

To eventually achieve a classless society, the Marxists insist, we need a revolutionary transformation in which the oppressed proletarian class becomes the ruling class and suppresses the class that has exploited them.  To eventually achieve a stateless society, we need a political revolution in which the communist party, leading a workers' democracy, can use highly centralized and dictatorial state power to crush all the opponents of the proletarian revolution.

Marxists see revolutionary anarchism as both theoretically incoherent and practically impotent.  It is theoretically incoherent, because the anarchist theory that all authority must be rejected makes revolution impossible.  It is practically impotent, because the anarchist practice of refusing to exercise political authority makes it impossible for anarchists to challenge the established state authority.

The theoretical incoherence of anarchism was identified by Engels:
"All Socialists are agreed that the political state, and with it political authority, will disappear as a result of the coming social revolution, that is, that public functions will lose their political character and be transformed into the simple administrative functions of watching over the true interests of society.  But the anti-authoritarians demand that the authoritarian political state be abolished at one stroke, even before the social conditions  that gave birth to it have been destroyed.  They demand that the first act of the social revolution shall be the abolition of authority.  Have these gentlemen ever seen a revolution?  A revolution is certainly the most authoritarian thing there is; it is the act whereby one part of the population imposes its will upon the other part by means of rifles, bayonets and cannon--authoritarian means, if such there be at all; and if the victorious party does not want to have fought in vain, it must maintain this rule by  means of the terror which its arms inspire in the reactionaries.  Would the Paris Commune have lasted a single day if it had not made use of this authority of the armed people against the bourgeois?  Should we not, on the contrary, reproach it for not having used it freely enough?" (Kolpinsky, 103-104)
The anarchist theory of a revolutionary abolition of all authority is self-contradictory, because revolution itself is an exercise of authority, and a successful revolution must exercise the authority that comes from terrorizing its opponents.  So, for example, when anarchists like Emma Goldman condemned Lenin and Trotsky for smashing the Kronstadt revolt in 1921, they ignored the fact that this came after three years of civil war in which the Bolshevik Revolution was threatened with defeat, and the counterrevolutionaries were prepared to use the Kronstadt revolt to weaken the position of the communist government.  Years later, Trotsky explained this in his defense of the repression of the Kronstadt revolt (Trotsky, 1938).  And he pointed out the confusion in the minds of his anarchist critics, who professed to be revolutionaries, but who refused to accept the dictatorial means required for any successful revolution.

Trotsky also pointed to the practical impotence of anarchism as illustrated by the failure of the anarchist revolution in the Spanish Civil War.  In February of 1936, a new government, called the Popular Front, was elected.  This had been preceded by workers' strikes and peasant rebellions, and most workers and peasants saw the Popular Front as advancing their cause.  On July 17, a coalition of army officers, monarchists, and fascists initiated a military coup led by General Francisco Franco.  The Popular Front government attempted to avoid confrontation, but the workers and peasants acted on their own.  Workers took over factories and organized them through committees of workers.  Workers formed militias to fight against the fascists.  Peasants took control of the land, expropriating big landowners, and putting much of the land into the collective management of communal organizations. 

The Confederacion Nacional del Trabajo (CNT)--the National Confederation of Workers--was an anarchist trade union organization with more than a million members dedicated to the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism.  The CNT gained control of much of anti-fascist Spain.  The Catalonian Popular Front governor Luis Companys called the CNT leaders into his office in Barcelona.  He told them that since they had the support of the people, they could decide whether he was to remain in power, or they could take over.  The CNT decided that they would have to leave him in office, because if they replaced him with a workers' government, this would be a dictatorship, which would contradict their anarchist principle of never exercising state power.  But then having renounced any overthrowing of the state, they later decided to collaborate with the Popular Front government for the sake of fighting against the fascists.  As the communists gained power in the Popular Front, they turned against the anarchists.  In May of 1937, the communists attacked the anarchists in Barcelona and defeated them.  Then, on January 26, 1938, Franco's troops conquered Barcelona.

Socialist anarchists have never been as close to leading an anarchist revolution as they were in Spain in 1936.  They failed, the Marxists would say, because an anarchist revolution is inherently self-contradictory:  any revolution requires the exercise of coercive authority, but that denies the anti-authoritarian principles of anarchism.  Either the anarchists remain true to their principles by refusing to engage in revolutionary politics, and thus they become impotent; or they engage in revolutionary politics, and thus they give up their principles.


Bailey, Geoff, "Anarchists in the Spanish Civil War," International Socialist Review, 24 (July-August 2002).  Available online.

D'Amato, Paul, "Anarchism: How Not to Make a Revolution," International Socialist Review, (Winter, 1997).  Available online.

Kolpinsky, N. Y., ed., Marx, Engels, Lenin: Anarchism and Anarcho-Syndicalism (New York: International Publishers, 1972).

Micklethwait, John, and Adrian Wooldridge, The Fourth Revolution: The Global Race to Reinvent the State (New York: Penguin Press, 2014).

Selfa, Lance, "Emma Goldman: A Life of Controversy," International Socialist Review, 34 (March-April, 2004).  Available online.

Trotsky, Leon, "Hue and Cry Over Kronstadt," The New International, 4 (April 1938): 103-106.  Available online.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The New Communism and Socialist Anarchism

The Haymarket Martyrs Monument with the Black and Red Flag of Anarchy in Forest Home Cemetery in Forest Park, Illinois

Emma Goldman's Grave in Forest Home Cemetery

Recently, the Communist Party USA was meeting in Chicago, where it was founded in 1919.  The CPUSA has liked to meet in Chicago to commemorate the Haymarket Riot of 1886 and the execution of some socialist anarchists who were falsely convicted of throwing a bomb into the Haymarket crowd of union strikers and policemen.  The communists visited the Haymarket monument, on Desplaines Street between Randolph and Lake streets, to show their solidarity with the Haymarket martyrs.  The anarchists who were executed were buried in Forest Home Cemetery.  Out of respect for them, other anarchists--including Emma Goldman--chose to be buried there.

This suggests two questions.  Is communism still defensible today, despite the history of communist regimes that have failed?  And what is the relationship between communism and anarchism?

Since the collapse of Soviet Communism and of the Maoist communist regime in China, it has been common to assume that Marxist communism no longer has any popular appeal, which has led Frank Fukuyama to declare the "end of history" with the triumph of liberal democracy over its illiberal adversaries.  And yet, over the past ten years, some people have argued that as liberal democracy faces new crises, we are seeing the "return of history," and we need to look for a "new communism."

One sign of this new thinking was the conference on "The Idea of Communism," organized by the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities in London in March of 2009.  The organizers--Costas Douzinas and Slavoj Zizek--were expecting only a small audience.  When over a thousand people registered for the event, they had to move to larger rooms to handle the overflow crowd.  The keynote lecture was Alain Badiou's "The Idea of Communism."  The conference papers were published as a book--The Idea of Communism (Verso, 2010)--and Badiou elaborated his reasoning in another book--The Communist Hypothesis (Verso, 2010)--bound as a little red book, evoking memories of Mao.  Badiou identifies himself as a Platonic philosopher who has translated Plato's Republic, and for him communism is an eternal Platonic Idea (5, 66-67, 229-30, 254).

Badiou's book develops two lines of reasoning--a mathematical analogy and a historical argument.  To show how the "communist hypothesis" has not ended in complete failure, because its failure "simply proves that it was not the right way to resolve the initial problem," Badiou compares the hypothetical truth of communism with "Fermat's theorem":
"Countless attempts were made to prove this, from Fermat, who formulated the hypothesis . . . to Wiles, the English mathematician, who really did prove it a few years ago.  Many of these attempts became the starting point for mathematical developments of great import, even though they did not succeed in solving the problem itself.  It was therefore vital not to abandon the hypothesis for the three hundred years during which it was impossible to prove it.  The lessons of all the failures, and the process of examining them and their implications, were the lifeblood of mathematics.  In that sense, failure is nothing more than the history of the proof of the hypothesis, provided that the hypothesis is not abandoned.  As Mao puts it, the logic of imperialists and all reactionaries the world over is 'make trouble, fail, make trouble again,' but the logic of the people is 'fight, fail, fail again, fight again . . . until their victory." (6-7)
There are two reasons why this is a bad analogy.  First, while Badiou is right that a failure to prove a hypothesis is not a proof of its falsity, there's a good argument that socialism has been proven to be false by Ludwig von Mises, who showed that socialism could not solve the problem of economic calculation.  Pure socialism, as Marx indicated, would have to abolish money and all buying and selling.  If this were done, it would be impossible to organize any large industrialized economy, because no one would be able to calculate economic value without prices.  Lenin discovered this when the Russian socialist economy of 1917-1921 collapsed, and he had to reintroduce limited markets as the "New Economic Policy."  Socialist planners in modern economies can limit but they cannot completely abolish market pricing, which shows that Mises was right.  Badiou makes no attempt to refute Mises's reasoning.

The other reason why Badiou's mathematical analogy is bad is that the many failed attempts to prove Fermat's theorem did not kill anyone!  By contrast, the many failed attempts to prove the communist hypothesis have killed many people in some of the greatest atrocities of human history.  In fact, Badiou casually mentions that some historians estimate that Mao killed seventy million people, and Badiou is not bothered by this at all (265).  Badiou and Zizek have been identified by one French writer as "philosophers of Terror."  Badiou accepts the label.

Badiou's second line of reasoning is the historical argument that the idea of communism has been clarified through three historical episodes--the Paris Commune of 1871, the Cultural Revolution in China (1965-1976), and the general strike of students and workers in France in May of 1968.  What Badiou sees here are three attempts to move away from the centralized power of the "party-state" towards a mass mobilization of the people for decentralized self-management by which the State is abolished.  This suggests that the true idea of communism would be fulfilled in socialist anarchy (23, 69-71, 87-88, 108, 113-56, 177-228, 240, 248, 253, 275).  Badiou is confusing about this, however, because in referring to the "ineffective anarchy" of the Paris Commune, he implies that he cannot embrace anarchism (134, 180-81).

Remarkably, except for a couple of references to Proudhon, Badiou never mentions any of the anarchist thinkers, and he is completely silent about the debates between anarchists and communists, including the debate between Marx and Mikhail Bakunin that broke up the First International (the International Working Men's Association) in 1872.  And thus Badiou refuses to face the fact that Bakunin and other socialist anarchists correctly predicted that Marxist communism would establish a new form of centralized State power that would exploit the proletariat.  Badiou repeatedly quotes Mao's remark that in a communist society, the bourgeoisie can be found hiding "right inside the Communist Party itself" (70, 113-14, 263).  But Badiou does not acknowledge that this is exactly what Bakunin predicted--that the "Worker's State" of communism would actually become rule by the "red bourgeoisie."

Marx agreed with Bakunin that the fulfillment of socialist society would eventually require the "withering away of the state," and thus Marx was an anarchist as well as Bakunin.  But Marx also insisted that the socialist revolution could not immediately abolish the State, as Bakunin argued, because there would have to be first a centralization of State power in the "dictatorship of the proletariat" under the leadership of the communist party, which would have the power to abolish the rule of the bourgeois class as preparation for the final stage of socialist anarchy.

In 1874, when Marx was reading Bakunin's Statism and Anarchy, he copied passages from the pamphlet and then wrote his rebuttal.  In one passage, Bakunin predicts that in a communist party-state, where the rulers are elected by the workers, these rulers will become a new ruling class: "And they'll start looking down on all ordinary workers from the heights of the state: they will now represent not the people but themselves and their claims to govern the people.  He who doubts this simply doesn't know human nature."  To which Marx responded: "If Herr Bakunin knew even one thing about the situation of the manager of a workers' cooperative factory, all his hallucinations about domination would go to the devil.  He would have to ask himself what form the functions of administration can assume on the basis of such a worker state, if it pleases him to call it that" (The Marx-Engels Reader, ed. Robert Tucker, 546).

Peter Singer opens his Darwinian Left by quoting this and then arguing that the history of the Marxist regimes shows that Bakunin was right and Marx wrong, because it is a tendency of human nature that when people have unchecked centralized power over others, they will abuse that power.  Singer then uses this as an illustration of how the left's utopian expectations have been frustrated by human nature, and then he proposes that a Darwinian science of human nature would provide the left with a scientific understanding of evolved human nature and the constraints that it puts on human social life.

We might wonder whether that evolved human nature permits a socialist anarchy.  How do human beings organize their social life without a government or State?  Anarchists have answered that in fact most of human evolutionary history has been anarchistic, in that our hunter-gatherer ancestors lived in stateless societies that organized social life without a centralized government or State exercising coercive authority over them. 

But then we might wonder whether this is possible in the large industrialized societies that dominate the world today.  Bakunin contended that this was possible if farmers and workers organized themselves into local self-governing communal groups that could organize themselves into federations of communes cooperating for common purposes.  Instead of working for employers, workers would cooperatively manage their own workplaces.  Although individuals would own personal property, the land and the means of production would be held as common property for all, and wage labor would be abolished.  Thus, social order would emerge from the bottom up, and at each level of social organization, decisions would be made by social consensus or majority-rule.  There would be no professional bureaucrats or politicians.  And thus there would be no centralized government or State ruling over all.

Bakunin thought that the Paris Commune of 1871 was moving in this direction.  After France was defeated by Prussia in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, the French Empire of Napoleon III fell, and a new French Republic was established.  But then the working class population of Paris resisted the authority of the new government and demanded that Paris should be self-governing with its own elected council.  Paris was the home of various radical groups, including socialists and anarchists.  The largest armed force in Paris was the National Guard, composed of men with little training who were organized by neighborhoods, who resisted the French troops who entered Paris to attempt to take the cannon claimed by the National Guard.  By March 18 of 1871, the French troops were forced to withdraw, and the National Guard assumed control of Paris.

The National Guard created a Central Committee of thirty-eight members that took over the functions of government and called elections for March 23.  A Commune council of 92 members was elected, one member for each twenty thousand residents in a city of two million.  There was no president, mayor, or commander-in-chief.  Most of the council were radical republicans, and some were anarchists and socialists.  The council declared that Paris was an independent commune and that all of France should be organized as a confederation of independent communes.  All council members could be recalled at any moment by the voters.  They were paid a wage equal to an average worker's wage.  The council initiated proposals to turn workplaces into worker self-managed cooperatives.  Every able-bodied man was considered a member of the National Guard.  The officers of the National Guard were elected by the soldiers.

The Commune was under constant military threat.  On May 21, troops of the French government entered the city.  After seven days of savage street fighting, the Communards were defeated, and many were massacred.  The Commune had lasted for only a short time, from March 18 to May 28.

In "The Paris Commune and the Idea of the State," written in 1871 shortly after the collapse of the Commune, Bakunin saw the Commune as the first demonstration of socialist anarchism in which the State could be abolished, and the people could spontaneously rule themselves cooperatively without government.  He admitted, however, that the majority of the Parisians were Jacobin republicans who still believed in the need for government, and that the socialist anarchists were a small minority. 

He thought the Commune had gone far enough towards anarchism to show that Marx was wrong to believe that a socialist revolution would have to first go through a period of proletarian dictatorship under the rule of the communist party.  Marx's dictatorship of the proletariat, Bakunin argued, would create a new State with a ruling party elite that exploit the people under the pretext of serving the common welfare.

On May 30, Marx drafted a statement on the Paris Commune on behalf of the General Council of the First International.  At this time, the International included both Marxists and Bakuninists, and Marx was trying to reconcile these two currents of thought in the International. 

Contrary to what Bakunin said about the Commune as the abolition of government, Marx correctly saw that this was a democratic republic based on universal suffrage that was designed to replace the old repressive government with a "working men's government" that would emancipate labor and organize an economy based on cooperative production.  Rather than abolishing the state power, the communards were trying to appropriate state power for the interests of a working men's society.

In the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels had said that the "first step in the revolution by the working class, is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class, to win the battle of democracy" (Marx-Engels Reader, 490).  In the Preface to the German edition of 1872, they identified the Paris Commune as illustrating the first step of the revolution, because "the proletariat for the first time held political power for two whole months" (470).  Later, Engels declared that we now know what the Dictatorship of the Proletariat looks like.  "Look at the Paris Commune.  That was the Dictatorship of the Proletariat" (629).

Although Marx had a more accurate view of the Paris Commune than did Bakunin, the anarchists might still insist that Bakunin had a more accurate view of the tyrannical propensities of a Marxist dictatorship under communist party rule.  After all, Bakunin's predictions were born out by the rule of Lenin's party in Russia.  Following Marx's teaching, Lenin insisted that the dictatorial rule of the communist party would have to precede any "withering away of the state."

When Emma Goldman was deported from the United States to Russia in 1919, she saw confirmation of her anarchist suspicions of Marxist government.  She saw that workers who tried to strike were crushed.  In a dictatorship of the proletariat, she was told, workers cannot strike because they would be going on strike against themselves.  She saw that anyone who criticized the brutality of the Party was imprisoned. 

And, then, in 1921, she saw the ultimate expression of Leninist tyranny.  Workers in Petrograd attempted to go on strike.  The sailors on Kronstadt (a naval fortress in the harbor of Petrograd) expressed their solidarity with the strikers.  The Kronstadt sailors were famous for their support of the Bolshevik revolution.  But in response to their support of the strikers, the Party leaders authorized Leon Trotsky to launch a ten-day bombardment of Kronstadt.  Then, on March 18, the 50th anniversary of the Paris Commune, Kronstadt fell to communist troops, and thousands of the sailors were massacred.

After leaving Russia, Goldman wrote My Disillusionment in Russia (1923) and My Further Disillusionment in Russia (1924); and thus she became one of the first people on the left to recognize that Soviet Russia had betrayed the promise of socialist revolution to emancipate the workers and the peasants, and that, on the contrary, it had become a new form of statist tyranny with the Communist Party as the ruling class.

But even if one is persuaded by the attack on Marxist socialism coming from anarchists like Bakunin and Goldman, one might then wonder whether the anarchists have any positive alternative of their own.  How exactly can they bring about a socialist revolution that immediately abolishes the state without any need for a revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat?

For Goldman and other anarchists, the answer came in the Spanish Civil War, particularly during the ten months (from July of 1936 to May of 1937) when the anarchist union movement controlled the Catalonian region of Spain.  Based on the principle that "the emancipation of the workers must be the work of the workers themselves," workers took control of the factories and workplaces, and peasants took control of their land, with workers and peasants organizing their lives cooperatively.  And instead of armies and police forces, the enforcement of order was turned over to worker militias.  This great anarchist experiment was finally crushed by Communists backed by the Soviet Union.  This conflict between the Communists and the anarchists contributed to the final defeat of the republican forces by Francisco Franco's fascists.

And yet, although the socialist anarchists have been good critics of Marxist dictatorship, the Marxists have rightly pointed to the incoherence of anarchist theory and the impotence of anarchist practice, which will be the subject of my next post.

The best history of socialist anarchism is Peter Marshall, Demanding the Imposssible: A History of Anarchism (Oakland, CA: PM Press, 2010).  The best collection of socialist anarchist writing is Daniel Guerin's edited anthology, No Gods, No Masters: An Anthology of Anarchism (Oakland, CA: AK Press, 2005).

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Darwin, Lincoln, and the Lost Cause of the American South

John Barr has written a fascinating essay for the "U.S. Intellectual History Blog."  He suggests that proponents of the "Lost Cause" of the Southern Confederacy have loathed both Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin, because both challenged the "cozy cosmos" of the antebellum South in which the Biblical moral cosmology of a Great Chain of Being supported a hierarchical class society.  This fits with much of what I have said about the common themes uniting Darwin and Lincoln.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Does the Moral Flynn Effect Support Flynn's Democratic Socialism or Murray's Classical Liberalism?

I have written previously (here, here, here, and here) about what Steven Pinker in The Better Angels of Our Nature calls the "moral Flynn effect."  One of the "better angels" that favor declining violence is reason, because our capacity for abstract reasoning allows us to recognize the costs of violence and the benefits of nonviolence.  The fact that IQ has been rising over the past century in the United States and other industrialized developed nations--the "Flynn effect"--suggests that we are getting smarter; and if so, then we might be getting better at avoiding violence because we are getting smarter.  James Flynn thinks these gains in IQ started during the industrial revolution and have continued in modern societies, because people have been taught to engage in the sort of abstract and hypothetical reasoning required for modern societies that are scientifically and technologically advanced.  Pinker thinks this improvement in intelligence has brought improvement in morality, as manifested in our modern commitment to a liberal social order based on nonviolence, toleration, peaceful coexistence, and voluntary cooperation.  These are the principles of classical liberalism or libertarianism.  Pinker contends: "the escalator of reason predicts only that intelligence should be correlated with classical liberalism, which values the autonomy and well-being of individuals over the constraints of tribe, authority, and tradition.  Intelligence is expected to correlate with classical liberalism because classical liberalism is itself a consequence of the interchangeability of perspectives that is inherent to reason itself.  Intelligence need not correlate with other ideologies that get lumped into contemporary left-of-center political coalitions, such as populism, socialism, political correctness, identity politics, and the Green movement" (662).

Flynn has stated his agreement with Pinker, in agreeing that the greater rationality of modern scientific societies has brought moral progress, including declining violence.   Flynn has stated this in his book, Intelligence and Human Progress: The Story of What was Hidden in Our Genes (Academic Press, 2013), pages 59-74, 108-111; and he even dedicates this book to Pinker.

Flynn is silent, however, about Pinker's argument for linking intelligence and declining violence to classical liberalism.  This is a strange silence, because Flynn is fervent in rejecting classical liberalism and advocating Social Democracy or Democratic Socialism, particularly in his book, Where Have All the Liberals Gone? Race, Class, and Ideals in America (Cambridge University Press, 2008).  Flynn insists that for America to fulfill its Jeffersonian ideals of equal rights in the pursuit of happiness for everyone, America will have to have a "robust welfare state," one far more robust than America has ever had.  The alternative that he rejects is the classical liberalism of people like Thomas Sowell and Charles Murray (296-97).

Remarkably, both Flynn and Murray see themselves as defending the principles of Thomas Jefferson.  According to Flynn, those Americans who have been unlucky in being shaped by either bad genes or bad environments cannot have an equal chance in the pursuit of happiness without a "robust welfare state" to provide them with the resources they need to live a decent life.  Flynn admits that Jefferson had no conception of a welfare state (16).  But that's only because he did not anticipate how wage laborers in an industrialized society would need a welfare state to secure their dignity.  And that's why Jefferson's teachings needed to be supplemented by the socialist teachings of Eugene V. Debs.

By contrast, Murray sees Jefferson as defending a classical liberal conception of limited government that secures individual freedom and responsibility.  In What It Means to Be a Libertarian (Broadway Books, 1997), Murray quotes from Jefferson's First Inaugural Address, in which he describes "the sum of good government" as "a wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned" (ix).  Such a conception of limited government is contradictory to the welfare state, which does not leave people free to live their lives as they please, so long as they do not injure one another.

Flynn believes that only socialism can provide the equality necessary for everyone to have a chance at living a decent life.  Everyone needs to have equal access to health care, education, employment, stimulating leisure-time activities, and economic resources to keep them out of poverty.  Flynn admits that pure socialism doesn't work, because abolishing markets and private property is disastrous.  But he does believe that a moderately socialist welfare state can "tame the market" by redistributing wealth from the rich to the poor and by providing social services to the poor that would never be provided by the market.  He believes that such democratic socialism is ethical because it expresses moral concern, social justice, and civic virtue (148-53).

Flynn's argument makes two fundamental assumptions.  First, he assumes that a welfare state really does make big improvements in human life that make it easier for people to secure their life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.  Second, he assumes that a classical liberal society with a limited government cannot do this, because human beings in a free society are incapable of solving their social problems through voluntary cooperation without using governmental force.  He offers no empirical evidence to support either of these assumptions.

By contrast, Murray offers historical evidence that both of these assumptions are false.  For his evidence, he points to historical trendlines.  For any governmental intervention, we can draw a trendline showing what was happening before and after the intervention.  If the trendline improved after the governmental intervention, then the intervention was successful.  If not, then it was a failure (What It Means to Be a Libertarian, 47-56).

So, for example, we can plot the proportion of Americans below the official poverty line from World War II to the present.  Then we can plot the amount of money spent by the government to help the poor over that same time period, and we can mark the trendline with the dates of major legislation designed to help the poor.  What we then see is that there was a steady drop in poverty from World War II to the 1960s, with the steepest drop occurring in the 1950s.  Beginning in the mid-1960s, Lyndon Johnson's Great Society programs did not improve the trendline.  In many respects, the trendline test would show that governmental welfare-state interventions made things worse rather than better.  Although Flynn urges his readers to read Murray, Flynn does not respond to Murray's trendline argument.

Murray hopes that someday the welfare state will be abolished, and then America can return to the classical liberal conception of limited government promoted by Jefferson and the other American Founders.  Flynn assumes that this could not be done without throwing millions of Americans into economically and spiritually impoverished lives, because a classical liberal society cannot alleviate the suffering of the poor, the sick, the disabled, the lonely, and the homeless, who cannot help themselves.

In response to this objection, Murray's answer is that the historical evidence of the trendlines shows that a limited government without a welfare state can work to deal with these problems, because it did work.  From the American Revolution to the 1920s, Americans had the freedom and responsibility to solve their social problems for themselves, and they did so through a rich social network of families, churches, clubs, schools, fraternal organizations, friendly societies, and all kinds of philanthropic institutions.  This is what Alexis de Tocqueville saw in the 1830s when he described his amazement with the tendency of Americans to form voluntary associations for handling every social problem. 

Yes, there were slums and grinding poverty.  But throughout all of human history up to the 18th century, most human beings lived impoverished lives.  What was new was that by the end of the 19th century, the capitalist industrial revolution created more wealth for more people than had ever before been possible.  Moreover, those who were disadvantaged because they were "helpless, luckless, or feckless" (as Murray puts it) were aided by the charity of their families and fellow citizens, who did the best they could with the resources available to them. 

Significantly, Flynn says nothing about this except to dismiss the importance of private charity in two or three sentences.  He also says nothing about the tendency of welfare-state programs to displace private charity in ways that exacerbate the very problems that the welfare state is supposed to solve.

Murray observes:
"And so we moved much of what I refer to as the stuff of life--being engaged with those around you in the core social roles of spouse, parent, son or daughter, friend, and neighbor--downtown, to the bureaucracies.  This was the most important change in social policy during the last thirty years.  Not the amount of money government spent.  Not how much was wasted.  Not even the ways in which government hurt those it intended to help.  Ultimately the most important effect of government's metastasizing role was to strip daily life of much of the stuff of life.  We turned over to the bureaucracies a large portion of the responsibility for feeding the hungry, succoring the sick, comforting the sad, nurturing the children, tending the elderly, and chastising the sinners." (163)
Flynn seems to assume that it is good to turn these social responsibilities over to governmental bureaucracies exercising coercive force, because human beings are so narrowly selfish that they will never voluntarily fulfill their social responsibilities as spouses, parents, children, friends, and neighbors.

Here is the fundamental disagreement between Flynn's socialism and Murray's classical liberalism.  Flynn's socialism assumes that human beings must be forced by governmental coercion to solve social problems.  Murray's classical liberalism assumes that force is bad, and cooperation is good, and that if people are prohibited from using force, they will tend to cooperate voluntarily.  As Murray indicates, classical liberals like Adam Smith (particularly in The Theory of Moral Sentiments) have seen human beings as naturally social animals, and as long as they cannot use force to advance their self-interest, they will obey and enforce social norms of love, generosity, tolerance, mutual aid, and sympathy for the victims of injustice.

Murray explains:
"If I cannot use force, everything I get has to be given voluntarily.  To satisfy my material needs, I must persuade other people to trade with me.  To satisfy my needs for companionship, I must behave in ways that make others want me to be part of their community.  In both cases, I must offer something to others that they value at least as much as the thing that they give me."
"The link between freedom and tolerance does not depend on people's perfectibility.  It does not even require that human beings have a moral sense.  It recognizes that, given the opportunity, human beings will exploit each other.  Libertarians make this one simple claim, which can be successfully matched against mankind's long empirical record: Deprived of the use of force, human beings tend to cooperate.  Literally and figuratively, they live and let live." (80-81)
So, again, it's a question of empirical evidence. When government is limited to deterring and punishing the initiation of force, to enforcing laws of contract and private property, and to providing those few public goods that cannot be provided by the market, will human beings cooperate voluntarily to solve their social problems, as Murray believes?  Or will human beings have to be forced by government bureaucracies to solve their problems, as Flynn believes? 

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Does The American Black/White IQ Gap Refute Human Equality?

For someone who is willing to risk provoking hostile reactions to his defense of the reality of race and the importance of racial differences, it is surprising that Nicholas Wade passes over the most emotionally charged racial topic--the American black/white IQ gap--in only a page and a half, and then concludes: "That issue needn't be resolved here" (A Troublesome Inheritance, 189-91).

This issue has deep moral and political implications.  If we conclude that some human racial groups are on average more intelligent than others because of their evolved genetic nature, does that deny the moral and political principle of equality of rights?  Or can we affirm the equal dignity of all human beings as a moral and political principle that has nothing to do with the scientific question of whether human beings are in fact equal or unequal in their genetic nature, and particularly in the genetics of intelligence?  Or does our belief in equal human dignity require a belief in the genetic equality of human beings in their cognitive capacities?

As I have indicated in a previous post, Wade is confusing, if not contradictory, in his answer to these questions.  On the one hand, he says that because of the fact/value dichotomy, there is no connection at all between scientific facts and moral values, and so we can affirm that racism is wrong "as a matter of principle, not science" (7).  On the other hand, he argues that "people being so similar, no one has the right or reason to assert superiority over a person of a different race," which seems to ground a moral claim on the scientific fact of human similarity (9).

There should be general agreement on the fact of racial differences in IQ scores in the United States.  Asian Americans score on average 105, European Americans score 100, and African Americans score 85 to 90.  There also should be general agreement that IQ arises both from genetic causes and from environmental causes.  But as is so often the case in nature/nurture issues, some people stress the genetic side, and others stress the environmental side.  The disagreement comes in explaining the causes of the IQ gap between African Americans and others--with hereditarians saying that the cause is mostly genetic and environmentalists saying it's mostly environmental.  If it's mostly genetic, the IQ gap cannot be closed anytime soon, and social policies to do this--such as special educational programs for black children--probably won't work.  If it's mostly environmental, the gap might be closed by social policies that change the environment for black children in ways that make it more conducive to cognitive development.

In principle, we should be able to resolve this debate by looking at the evidence.  But so far, the evidence is indecisive.  There are two reasons for this.  The first is that the shaping of intelligence through the interaction of genes, brains, individual differences, and social environment is so complex that it is extremely hard to study; and, as Wade repeatedly emphasizes, we simply don't know much about the precise mechanisms by which genes and environment influence intelligence and social behavior.

The second reason why this debate has not yet been resolved is that few academic researchers are willing to study this issue, because it has become taboo to discuss it.  Few universities even have courses on the scientific study of intelligence, because professors are afraid to teach such courses for fear that they will be branded as racists.  I must admit that I am one of those.  For many years, I have wanted to teach a course on the IQ debate.  But I have not, because I cannot imagine how I could do it without being accused of racism.

James Flynn is one of the leading academic researchers studying IQ and intelligence, and he argues for the environmentalist position--against hereditarians like Arthur Jensen and Charles Murray.  But Flynn chides his academic colleagues for refusing to engage in the research necessary to clarify this debate.  He identifies himself as a Social Democrat or Democratic Socialist, and so he's a man of the left.  But he accuses his leftist colleagues of suppressing all free inquiry into the causes of the black/white IQ gap, because they secretly suspect that the gap is genetic rather than environmental, and they fear that this would refute their belief in human equality.  Even if the black/white IQ gap turns out to be purely environmental, because it's a product of a black subculture that does not develop the skills for solving cognitively complex problems, which is Flynn's position--even this environmentalist explanation would be condemned by the left as racist stereotyping.

I admire Flynn because he openly admits that any conclusions about how to explain the racial IQ gap must be tentative, because the evidence so far is indecisive.  And, therefore, anyone who claims that this debate has been clearly decided has not seriously thought through the issue.  For this reason, he respects those like Jensen and Murray who disagree with him in a fair-minded way.  He has even dedicated his book Are We Getting Smarter? "To Arthur Jensen, Whose integrity never failed."  And while he has vigorously disagreed with the argument of Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray's The Bell Curve, he insists that any serious thinker about this debate must respect the intellectual weight of that book.

I also admire Flynn because despite this uncertainty, he's willing to make the most plausible case he can for his position that the black/white IQ gap is mostly environmental rather than genetic.  He makes such a good argument that I am now leaning in his direction.

The best summary of his argument that I have seen is in his book Where Have All the Liberals Gone? Race, Class, and Ideals in America (Cambridge University Press, 2008), pages 68-111.  (A good overview of the science of intelligence and intelligence testing is Ian J. Deary's Intelligence: A Very Short Introduction [Oxford University Press, 2001].)

Flynn's conclusion is that black and white Americans are equal at conception in their genetic propensity for IQ, and therefore the entire black-white IQ gap is environmental; and the most important environmental cause is that the American black subculture from infancy to adulthood is less cognitively demanding than is the American white subculture.

He offers five lines of evidence and reasoning for this conclusion.  First, Flynn stresses the importance of a study by Klaus Eyferth of German children born after World War II whose mothers were German and fathers were American servicemen.  He compared 170 children whose fathers were black, and 69 whose fathers were white.  He matched the groups so that the social economic status of the mothers was similar.  The half-black and white children were almost equal in IQ and in their scoring for "general intelligence" (g) or GQ.  The tendency of a wide variety of cognitive skills to intercorrelate is measured as g, which many researchers regard as the cognitive complexity that is best identified with intelligence.  In America, black children tend to score lower in both IQ and GQ.  In Germany, it seems, this gap disappears.  Flynn's explanation is that when black genes are transmitted through white German women, the children become Germans with darker skins than other Germans; and although they might suffer some discriminatory treatment, they grow up without the black subculture of America.

It is possible that the black American soldiers in Europe were a more elite group than the white soldiers, if the low-IQ blacks were eliminated.  But if the racial IQ gap in America were genetic, we would expect that eliminating low-IQ blacks would reduce but not obliterate the gap.  That the gap in both IQ and GQ seen in America disappeared completely in Germany suggests that the American gap is not genetic but environmental, because it's created by the American environment of black subculture.

The problem, however, is that this is only one study involving a small number of cases; and so it's weighty but not conclusive.

Flynn's second line of argument is that studies of American black subculture have identified factors that make that subculture less cognitively complex than the American white subculture.  Flynn sees a succession of environments from birth to childhood to adulthood that impede the cognitive development of black Americans.  Black mothers tend to talk less and use smaller vocabularies around their infants than do white mothers.  Black children are more likely to hear commands and criticisms rather than encouraging praise from their mothers than are white children.  When mothers are helping their children with a cognitive test, black mothers tend to simply give the answers to their children, while white mothers ask questions or suggest strategies for the children to find the answers for themselves.

Elsie Moore compared two groups of adopted black children, 23 adopted by white middle-class families and 23 adopted by black middle-class families.  The adoptive mothers and fathers were similar in their years of schooling.  When the children were tested at ages 7 to 10, the black children adopted into the black families had an average IQ of 103.6, while those adopted into the white families had an average IQ of 117.1.  When Moore studied how the mothers interacted with their children while they were being tested, she saw that the black mothers were harshly critical in ways that discouraged their children, while the white mothers smiled and gave positive encouragement that invited the children to ask for help.

Flynn also traces the movement of black Americans through the teenage black subculture and then young adulthood in which entry into cognitively demanding leisure and occupational activities is discouraged.

Flynn's third line of argument is that the black/white IQ gap increases with age, which suggests a series of cumulative environmental pressures that discourage the cognitive development of blacks.  Blacks at age 4 have an average IQ of 95.4.  By age 24, this average has dropped to somewhere around 85.

Flynn's fourth line of argument is that there is now evidence that in recent decades about one third of the traditional black-white IQ gap has disappeared--from 15 to 10 points.  This indicates some improvement in American black life to make it more conducive to cognitive development.

Finally, Flynn's fifth line of argument is that for which he is famous--the "Flynn effect."  Average IQ scores in the United States went up at least 30 points in the twentieth century.  Flynn surmises that this massive IQ gain began in the industrial revolution and has continued in scientifically and technologically advanced developed nations, because the social environment in modern societies is much more cognitively demanding than in premodern societies.

If American blacks of 2002 are normed on American whites of 1947-48, the black IQ is 104.31.  This by itself does not prove that the black-white IQ gap is purely environmental, but it certainly shows that this is possible.  Similarly, the lowest average IQ scores in the world are in the developing societies of sub-Saharan Africa.  But these scores today are about the same as those for Americans in 1900.  So as modernization spreads to the developing societies, they could experience the same massive gains in IQ that have occurred in the United States and other developed nations.

If all of these arguments are plausible, then they support a persuasive but not demonstrative conclusion that black and white Americans begin at conception with roughly equal genetic propensities for the high cognitive functioning required to be successful in modern industrialized societies, and that the IQ gap has arisen from the environmental effects of a black subculture that hinders cognitive development.

What difference does it make morally and politically if we take the side of the environmentalists like Flynn or the side of the hereditarians like Jensen and Murray?  Flynn suggests that it might make little difference:
"If there is a genetic component in the racial IQ gap, blacks as a group will always have less favorable statistics compared to whites for academic achievement, occupation, income, and mortality.  However, the intense feelings that surround this question are largely a product of human misery.  If America afforded access to a good life to all of its citizens, blacks would have about as much interest in why there are fewer black than Irish doctors as Irish have about why there are fewer Irish than Chinese accountants." (111)
If I understand correctly what Flynn is saying here, he is agreeing with Murray that genetically based racial differences in average intelligence and social behavior should be "no big deal" in a free society with equality of opportunity in which there's a chance for all to find valued places for themselves in society.  In such a society, we would judge people as individuals and not as people determined by the average traits of their groups.  I noted this in my post last summer on Murray's lecture at the Mont Pelerin Society conference in the Galapagos Islands. 

But notice that while Murray sees this as supporting classical liberalism or libertarianism, Flynn thinks we need Social Democracy or Democratic Socialism that enforces welfare state policies and a redistribution of income to create truly equal opportunities.   For Flynn, it seems, we need the coercive intervention of the state to correct the unfair and undeserved disadvantages that come either from bad genes or bad environments.

Some of these points are developed in other posts here and here.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

George Anastaplo and Hugo Black: Is the Right to Revolution Unconstitutional?

In a few days, I will be participating in the Memorial Service for George Anastaplo.  Here's the program:

Memorial Service for George Anastaplo

November 7, 1925 – February 14, 2014

Bond Chapel, The University of Chicago

June 6, 2014, 4 pm

Prelude, “Simple Gifts”
The Spektral Quartet

Welcome and Introductions
Michaelangelo Allocca

Reading of Excerpts for Justice Hugo Black's Dissenting Opinion in In re Anastaplo (1961)
Larry Arnhart
 Largo, “Winter,” Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons”
The Spektral Quartet

Keith Cleveland

Christopher Colmo

Francis Wolfe

Second Movement, Beethoven’s Sonata No. 8 Daniel Cheng


David Bevington

William Braithwaite

Harry Mark Petrakis
Largo, Handel’s “Xerxes” The Spektral Quartet

Michaelangelo Allocca

The Spektral Quartet

I will be reading the last five paragraphs of Justice Hugo Black's dissenting opinion in In re Anastaplo.  Anastaplo argued his bar admission case before the Supreme Court in December of 1960.  In April of 1961, the Court ruled against him in a 5-4 opinion.  Justice Black wrote the dissenting opinion, with the concurrence of Chief Justice Earl Warren and Justices William Brennan and William O. Douglas.

In September of 1971, Justice Black died.  His funeral at Washington National Cathedral drew of crowd of over 1,000 people, including most of the most prominent political and legal leaders in Washington.  For one part of the service, Black's son selected excerpts from five of Black's most eloquent opinions to be read.  One of those was his opinion in the Anastaplo case.

I have just been reading over some of the material related to this case--much of which appears in Anastaplo's The Constitutionalist: Notes on the First Amendment (SMU Press, 1971), pages 331-418.  What is most remarkable about this case is the intellectual depth of the philosophical questions that it raises.  The primary question concerns the wisdom of invoking a right to revolution and whether such a right is compatible with constitutional government.

Anastaplo graduated at the top of his class at the University of Chicago Law School in 1950, and he passed his bar examination.  When he appeared before the Committee on Character and Fitness, he was asked whether he thought members of the Communist Party should be eligible for admission to the Illinois bar.  He answered that he saw no reason why they should be considered ineligible.  One member of the Committee responded by observing that Communists believe in revolution.  To which Anastaplo responded that Americans generally should believe in the right to revolution as stated in the Declaration of Independence.  That then became the point that most bothered the Committee.

In The Constitutionalist, Anastaplo observes:

"It was my defense of the revolutionary principles of the Declaration of Independence that most fiercely aroused the Illinois bar authorities against me a generation ago.  It was difficult to make them recognize that the Declaration reminds us of the old-fashioned proposition that there are standards outside and above the agreements and teachings of men, government, and era, standards superior even to what 'the people' might at any moment believe or choose.  That is, the right to revolution implies an insistence upon the supremacy of man's reason in the conduct of human affairs.  It is as a reminder of political truths, and indeed of the nature of man, that the Declaration of Independence remains our founding instrument: to defend it is, as Lincoln knew, to be patriotic in the deepest sense." (332)
This was rejected by the Supreme Court, however, in Dennis v. United States (1951).  (The Committee on Character and Fitness announced its decision against Anastaplo shortly after the decision in the Dennis case was announced.)  In the Smith Act of 1940, the Congress had made it a crime to teach the desirability "of overthrowing or destroying any government in the United States by force or violence."  And thus, it seemed that teaching the right to revolution could be a crime.  Members of the American Communist Party were arrested for peacefully teaching Marxism, which includes the doctrine that capitalism must someday be overthrown in a socialist revolution.  When they appealed their case to the Supreme Court, they lost.  In the Dennis decision, the Court upheld the constitutionality of the Smith Act, and Chief Justice Vinson in effect declared the right to revolution to be unconstitutional and adopted the reasoning of Thomas Hobbes that all government must necessarily reject such a right:

"That it is within the power of the Congress to protect the government of the United States from armed rebellion is a proposition which requires little discussion.  Whatever theoretical merit there may be to the argument that thee is a 'right' to rebellion against dictatorial governments is without force where the existing structure of the government provides for peaceful and orderly change.  We reject any principle of governmental helplessness in the face of preparation for revolution, which principle, carried to its logical conclusion, must lead to anarchy."
Even Hobbes admits, however, that although there is no natural right to rebel against government, rebellion is the "natural punishment" for "negligent government of princes" (Lev., chap. 31).  It is natural for human beings to resist oppressive government, and so revolution is natural insofar as it is rooted in human nature. 

And yet, as the Declaration of Independence teaches, "prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly, all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed."

Here are the two great themes running through Anastaplo's thought--nature and prudence.  We need to look to standards of natural right rooted in human nature.  But we also need prudence to judge how those standards are to be applied in ways that do not unreasonably disrupt the governmental forms to which we are accustomed.  And although the Constitution does not specifically mention the Declaration of Independence or the right to revolution, Anastaplo argued, the Constitution does implicitly rest on the philosophical principles of nature and prudence stated by the Declaration.  The implicit constitutional affirmation of natural right and the right to revolution is clearest in the Ninth and Tenth amendments, while the advocacy of the right to revolution is protected by the First Amendment (see Anastaplo, The Amendments to the Constitution: A Commentary [1995], 93-102). 

In making this argument, Anastaplo was following the political thought of Lincoln, while also following the political thought of Socrates in the appeal to natural right.  Freedom of speech was the constitutional right by which citizens could invoke these principles of the Declaration of Independence in political debate.

That Justice Black saw this in Anastaplo's case is eloquently indicated in the last five paragraphs of his dissenting opinion:

The effect of the Court's 'balancing' here is that any State may now reject an applicant for admission to the Bar if he believes in the Declaration of Independence as strongly as Anastaplo and if he is willing to sacrifice his career and his means of livelihood in defense of the freedoms of the First Amendment. But the men who founded this country and wrote our Bill of Rights were strangers neither to a belief in the 'right of revolution' nor to the urgency of the need to be free from the control of government with regard to political beliefs and associations. Thomas Jefferson was not disclaiming a belief in the 'right of revolution' when he wrote the Declaration of Independence. And Patrick Henry was certainly not disclaiming such a belief when he declared in impassioned words that have come on down through the years: 'Give me liberty or give me death.' This country's freedom was won by men who, whether they believed in it or not, certainly practiced revolution in the Revolutionary War.

Since the beginning of history there have been governments that have engaged in practices against the people so bad, so cruel, so unjust and so destructive of the individual dignity of men and women that the 'right of revolution' was all the people had left to free themselves. As simple illustrations, one government almost 2,000 years ago burned Christians upon fiery crosses and another government, during this very century, burned Jews in crematories. I venture the suggestion that there are countless multitudes in this country, and all over the world, who would join Anastaplo's belief in the right of the people to resist by force tyrannical governments like those.

In saying what I have, it is to be borne in mind that Anastaplo has not indicated, even remotely, a belief that this country is an oppressive one in which the 'right of revolution' should be exercised.  Quite the contrary, the entire course of his life, as disclosed by the record, has been one of devotion and service to his country-first, in his willingness to defend its security at the risk of his own life in time of war and, later, in his willingness to defend its freedoms at the risk of his professional career in time of peace. The one and only time in which he has come into conflict with the Government is when he refused to answer the questions put to him by the Committee about his beliefs and associations. And I think the record clearly shows that conflict resulted, not from any fear on Anastaplo's part to divulge his own political activities, but from a sincere, and in my judgment correct, conviction that the preservation of this country's freedom depends upon adherence to our Bill of Rights. The very most that can fairly be said against Anastaplo's position in this entire matter is that he took too much of the responsibility of preserving that freedom upon himself.

This case illustrates to me the serious consequences to the Bar itself of not affording the full protections of the First Amendment to its applicants for admission. For this record shows that Anastaplo has many of the qualities that are needed in the American Bar.  It shows, not only that Anastaplo has followed a high moral, ethical and patriotic course in all of the activities of his life, but also that he combines these more common virtues with the uncommon virtue of courage to stand by his principles at any cost. It is such men as these who have most greatly honored the profession of the law-men like Malsherbes, who, at the cost of his own life and the lives of his family, sprang unafraid to the defense of Louis XVI against the fanatical leaders of the Revolutionary government of France – men like Charles Evans Hughes, Sr., later Mr. Chief Justice Hughes, who stood up for the constitutional rights of socialists to be socialists and public officials despite the threats and clamorous protests of self-proclaimed superpatriots – men like Charles Evans Hughes, Jr., and John W. Davis, who, while against everything for which the Communists stood, strongly advised the Congress in 1948 that it would be unconstitutional to pass the law then proposed to outlaw the Communist Party  -- men like Lord Erskine, James Otis, Clarence Darrow, and the multitude of others who have dared to speak in defense of causes and clients without regard to personal danger to themselves. The legal profession will lose much of its nobility and its glory if it is not constantly replenished with lawyers like these. To force the Bar to become a group of thoroughly orthodox, time-serving, government-fearing individuals is to humiliate and degrade it.

But that is the present trend, not only in the legal profession but in almost every walk of life. Too many men are being driven to become government-fearing and time-serving because the Government is being permitted to strike out at those who are fearless enough to think as they please and say what they think.  This trend must be halted if we are to keep faith with the Founders of our Nation and pass on to future generations of Americans the great heritage of freedom which they sacrificed so much to leave to us. The choice is clear to me. If we are to pass on that great heritage of freedom, we must return to the original language of the Bill of Rights. We must not be afraid to be free.

I do have one question about the relationship between Black's constitutional reasoning and Anastaplo's.  Did Anastaplo agree with Black's general incorporation interpretation of the 14th Amendment--the claim that the 14th Amendment applied the first eight amendments of the Constitution to the States?  In his bar admission case, Anastaplo seemed to agree with Black that the First Amendment protection of freedom of speech from congressional abridgment now applies to the states, because he argued that being required by the Illinois bar to answer questions about his political beliefs was a violation of his constitutionally protected freedom of speech.  But later, in The Constitutionalist (35-49, 710-13), Anastaplo argued that the First Amendment was directed only to the Congress ("Congress shall make no law"), that this left the states free to abridge freedom of speech, and that the incorporation interpretation of the 14th Amendment (beginning with the Gitlow decision in 1925) was mistaken.  This argument contradicts Black's position, and even Anastaplo's earlier position in his bar admission case.

George Anastaplo's Tombstone in Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis, With the Last Sentence of Justice Black's Opinion: "We Must Not Be Afraid to Be Free."

Here is my post on Anastaplo's death.