Guest Commentary: Angels, the Rerun

by Mark Dempsey

“If it weren’t for lies, there wouldn’t be any politics” – Will RogersThe smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum—even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there’s free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.” ― Noam Chomsky

The civil discourse of the U.S. has been polluted with lies and misdirection since its inception, but never more than now. One of the latest attempts to limit debate is “Braver Angels”–the name is a variation of Abraham Lincoln’s “Better Angels,” to whom he appealed in his first inaugural speech. The civil war began three months after Lincoln’s appeal.

Conservative christian billionaire Phillip Anschutz provided the initial funding for Braver Angels/Better Angels, and the organization now sponsors seminars and “debates” and supposedly is bipartisan, although I’ve been unable to find any trace of left-of-center organizations providing funding for them.

I’ve written about their seminars before, but not about the “debates” they sponsor. Their latest debate resolution: “Is Socialism a Threat to Freedom?”–a trick questions like “Have you stopped beating your wife?”

Of course any government that regulates the population, never mind one that owns or regulates productive enterprises, is a “Threat to Freedom.” The publicly-owned (socialist) enterprise known as the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) provides electricity 30% cheaper than privately-owned PG&E. And PG&E management was bad enough that its executives had to consult with criminal attorneys since their negligence in maintaining their infrastructure caused serious fires in Northern California, burning to the ground the ironically-named town of Paradise.

Not debated by “Braver Angels”: How bad a threat to freedom, never mind the pocketbooks of the customers, is such private ownership? Could Socialism remedy the abuses of monopoly, at least in some cases?

The “freedom” debate is illegitimate enough that one could say having to drive on the right side of the road within the speed limit limits freedom. A New Year’s resolution to go to the gym, is a threat to freedom. How about debating “Resolved: Getting married is a threat to freedom”?

Even the Libertarians threaten freedom. They do support the freedom to ingest any drugs you want, or the freedom to have legal prostitution, but they also want to enforce draconian property rights that prevent meddling governments from interfering with factories’ freedom to dump their carcinogenic toxic waste into rivers. Are the people downstream “free” to get cancer?

In practice, Libertarian, “free” markets produce a kind of feudalism. The successful Libertarians can persecute the less successful because they have “earned” their success. Those born on third base have even “earned” the right to claim they hit a triple. (see “Dark Leviathan” for one example.)

So the “freedom” debate is just more ideological pollution. How about “Do private monopolies limit freedom”? Nah! That would be outside the spectrum of acceptable debate questions.

Mark Dempsey is a former Realtor and member of a Sacramento County Planning Advisory Council. He runs: It’s Simpler than it Looks

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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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  1. Alan Miller

    I didn’t understand this article . . . Anschutz, Angels, Freedom, PG&E, Socialism, Libertarianism . . . ?  Just seems like a stew vaguely promoting socialism . . . and . . . ?

  2. Jeff Boone

    In practice, Libertarian, “free” markets produce a kind of feudalism. The successful Libertarians can persecute the less successful because they have “earned” their success. Those born on third base have even “earned” the right to claim they hit a triple.


    When I read a screed like this I know it comes from one of three source-perspectives:

    1. Elite looter – Member of the elite political looting class that competes for social hierarchy rank against people that make their success in the private business markets outside of political influence.  Cannot beat em’ so tear them down.  Use classism to drive a wedge.

    2. Fallen angle producer – Once a member of the producing class but got knocked off the horse and gave up to join the rebellion against it.

    3. Unknowing – Likely academia brainwashed young people – that have not yet experienced a life of profound needs fulfillment at the highest levels from growing prosperity and rank from their own self determination, perseverance and efforts.

    The US system as designed is the closest match for human needs fulfillment at the highest levels.  Rags to riches is the plot, not just a miracle.  It is why so many on the globe want to immigrate here.  Socialism and all forms of collectivism are just a mechanism for those lacking the stuff to gain the level of social rank they think they deserve from within the private economy, and instead they would gain their rank through theft of the earnings of others.  And that is collectivism’s fatal flaw.  It cannot produce enough to sustain itself.  It always self-destructs.

    And if you disagree, please point me to an example of where it has not self-destructed or is not currently self-destructing.  And if you support it, I will ask you why you have not moved to such a Utopia.

    1. Edgar Wai

      “The US system as designed is the closest match for human needs fulfillment at the highest levels.”

      What is the meaning of US system “as designed”? Does it include tax? Does it have public health and public education?

      * * *

      I don’t personally know anything about Norway. But according to Freedom House, it has maximum freedom score of 100/100. Wikipedia says Norway has public healthcare and virtually free public education. How do the concepts of “public healthcare” and “public education” sit with Libertarians?

      Norway’s income tax is about 38.2%. United States’s income tax is about 37% max. (?)

      So if Libertarianism proclaims that taxation makes a country “not free”, the Freedom House ranking debunks that. The ranking means a country can have high tax, can have public health and education, and still be the most free country in the world.

      Yes, you may point to a different scoring system. I do not know Norway first hand to confirm any information above.

      1. Jeff Boone

        Thank you for the thoughtful reply Edgar.

        There are several points of clarification for Norway vs the US and vs ideology.  First, Norway’s policies, laws and regulations are highly supportive of capitalism.

        Second, the three actors I listed are a minority in Norway even though they exist in every capitalist Democracy.

        Norway and the US are actually about the same in terms of social policy integrated into a free market capitalist system, but different in that:

        Norway has the size, population and GDP of Wisconsin.

        It is ethnically homogeneous.

        It is very rich in natural resources per capita… especially oil.

        And here is the most important difference… There is not a powerful political faction of Norse that control the media and are hell-bent on destroying the private economy because it presents a competing hierarchy of social rank.  Probably due to their history and their homogeneity the Norse know where their social democracy bread is buttered, and instead of attacking private enterprise and industrialism as a sin, they fully embrace its support as they absolutely know what life would be otherwise… not good.

        1. Edgar Wai

          Again, I don’t know much about Norway.

          One thing interesting from your post is about natural resources. I believe Libertarianism fundamentally opposes the idea of “government owned natural resources”. In Norway, it seems the government owns 67% of the company Equinor.

          So if natural resource (oil) is a reason why Norway is free, it is not because Norway has a free market for this natural resource. Norway does the opposite. Oil is publicly owned.

          Libertarian stance would have to be: “Norway could be more free if the government withdraw its shares from Equinor.” (?)

        2. Jeff Boone

          Norway is similar to Alaska in that it treats certain mineral rights as public property.  From there the government can decide to contract out the services related to production of that resource, or operate the productive business as a government-run entity.   Alaska contracts.  Norway runs its own.  Most countries that hold their mineral rights as public and not private ownership are terrible at running the business of production.  Norway might be an exception although I suspect that it is also racked with inefficiencies compared to private-run mineral production.

          The US also has public-owned business – USPS, etc.   They too are racked with efficiencies.

          Most public-run businesses are significantly more inefficient compared to the private-owned option.  This is why communist China decided to adopt (steal) US industrial and trade secrets and adopt a market economy where individuals would have the right of business ownership.  However, the Chinese communist government has ownership of many industries within China.

          Norway and China both are likely unsustainable models due to the inefficiencies of the public ownership.  They are propped up by the innovation and productive engine of the US.  But Norway does have a great advantage in its homogeneous old culture of Norse people.   That is starting to fray from increased immigration.   The immigrants are will to work for much less and are taking jobs away from the more highly paid low-skilled union workers.

          This identifies that fatal flaw of collectivism of any form.  For the Utopian dream to be protected, the freedom to pursue self interest must be controlled and ultimately reduced.  It is a decision to give up freedom in return for the perception of a more comfortable life… one made more comfortable by the reduction of hierarchical class envy that causes such stress and resentment in people incapable of or unwilling to accept the efforts and risk-taking required to advance.   This fatal flaw is what makes collectivism of all forms unsustainable.   And everything about the US that appears unsustainable today is because of the creep of collectivism into our founding system designed to prevent it.

          One final point.  I do think there is another compromise model that the US can better exploit.  It is the public-private partnership.   This is where certain industries that deliver critical services are licensed to run as franchises that are not-for-profit.  The franchise model would provide for some competition, but not send it into the dog-eat-dog type of competition that focused only on the bottom line.  The reason we would want to constrain this is that the public-private model would need to be mission-based business.   However, to ensure adequate incentive and motivation for these individual businesses to focus on efficiency and service value, they need some competition.  The industry builds its own advocacy to compete with the attempts for outside influence to corrupt its mission for political purpose.

          This type of design also provides for differentiation of service meeting the needs of different communities.  I think the public education system is a good target for this type of approach.  There are other service industries that should also be considered.

        3. Bill Marshall

          The US also has public-owned business – USPS, etc.   They too are racked with efficiencies.

          Typo, or supporting ‘public-owned business’?  Just curious…
          If correct, “racked” and “efficiencies” are strange terms to be used together… I’d surmise that ‘efficiencies’ are a good thing… “racked” is generally a negative term…
          I must be missing something, Jeff…

          Click to Edit – 1 minute and 46 seconds

          Reply Report comment

    1. Edgar Wai

      Since private businesses are in general (or probably always) more efficient, what should society do about the excess workers that result?

      1. We don’t need them as a work force, not even for mundane work. (?)

      2. We don’t want them to work on anything critical, because it would cause delays and wastes.

      3. We don’t want to limit the efficiencies of private business just so that they can stay “competitive”.

      4. We don’t want them to resort to crimes just to survive.

      5. We don’t want them to just starve and die (?)

      What is good to do for them?

      1. Jeff Boone

        Well we can start by admitting that we need to stop bringing in hundreds of thousands of uneducated low skilled immigant workers into the country every year.  Probably also change our education system to better grow skilled workers instead of importing those too.

        Other than that I think your question is reasonable.  What does Norway do?

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