‘Communist’ isn’t the cat call it used to be

I see Kiwiblog cat calling the Labour party as Communist, because it wants to have a bunch of policy settings that are seen as either common or at least admissible nowadays – but were revolutionary in the mid-nineteenth century.

I honestly don’t see the point in doing this.  The Cold War is over now, and both social and physical scientists are finally getting free of the constraints inherited from that period.  To say that the Cold War constrained and influenced the debate on what to research, and the rhetoric to use, would be an understatement.  Just read a biography on scientists during the period (eg Lakatos), or listen to an interview where Piketty talks about his willingness to discuss trends in capital to output ratios – with the Cold War open we can have a more open and honest discussion on trade-offs.

Honestly, calling someone out as Communist nowadays means as much as calling them Nazi, I can’t help but ignore whatever is being said.  This is a pity, as inherent in the extremes of Nazism and Communism were negative attributes that can easily be underplayed in policy – ignoring the agency, and value, of the individual.  Instead of cat calling, it is probably better to make arguments along this line 😉

Here  I am not trying to say we can’t disagree with social policies, I’m just saying it is possible to do so on merit.  This is why the discussions about trade-offs, and the limits to knowledge, are what matters.  Furthermore, collectivist thinking is not solely the domain of obvious social policy, but other views that may seem right of centre.  Thinking about trade-offs makes this clearer.

Now, my impression is that social scientists and economists had it a bit better than physical scientists – a lot of economists had Communist sympathies, and fell in love with the managerialist command and control nature of policy.  Furthermore, they saw themselves as these (high status) managers.  This would be a trend that is of genuine concern as it would involve managerialism and valuing the individual as a unit (or production or health), rather than through their capability to live a good life.  These arguments deserve thought, not cheeky political gamesmanship!

4 replies
  1. deepred
    deepred says:

    Too right. Reductio ad Hitlerum and Reductio ad Stalinum have been done to death.

  2. Sam Murray
    Sam Murray says:

    Going a step further, the concepts of left and right wing may be becoming increasingly irrelevant, but do not tell the Internet. When you focus on trade-offs, the limits of knowledge, and coming up with policy options that actually work, chest thumping ideology tends to become a liability.

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