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I’ve Never Known How to Say This


Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – August 25, 2019



    On the question of evil and evil people, there’s this. Someone on another thread, maybe it was Herman, said most people are not evil. Evil, the essence of it, has changed over the history of humanity as the following excellent analysis underscores. It’s required reading. We are part of a system, and as such we do our part to contribute to the synergistic energy of this thing called civilization that is ultimately evil at its core no matter how altruistic we otherwise are, or think we are.


    Here we arrive at a central problem for modern ethics. Evil has never been so omnipresent as it has been over the past century, so perilous to the earth and the very future of humanity. Yet there seem to be very few evil people. It would be difficult for many of us to name any evil people we know personally. The very idea of our society being characterized by masses of evil people seems somewhat comical. All in all, there is a striking paucity of modern Mephistopheleses. And virtually no one identifies oneself as evil. Obviously, few of us relish the thought that our automobile is causing pollution and global warming or laugh fiendishly because refrigerants in our air conditioners are depleting the ozone layer. I have been in many corporate law firms and boardrooms and have yet to see any “high fives” or hear shouts of satisfaction at the deaths, injuries, or crimes against nature these organizations often perpetrate. And as noted, bomber pilots tend to be viewed as heroes, not as mass murderers. We are confronted with an ethical enigma; far from the simple idea of evil we harbored in the past, we now have an evil that apparently does not require evil people to purvey it.

  2. Everyone doing something we might view as evil is doing something good in their own mind. Hitler was helping his countrymen to get the resources they needed, and eliminating ethnic tensions (my grandparents and their friends grew up under him; my grandfather helped develop the V2 rocket). Only from other perspectives — say that of the Jews, Russians, French, or English, was he truly evil.

    So I think evil may in fact really just be the lack of empathy, thus leading to an inability to see or feel from the perspective of others. Strangely enough, corporations are inherently lacking in empathy, which is one of our greatest problems as a society that’s now effectively ruled by them.

  3. Hugh

    Speaking of evil, David Koch of the kooky libertarian, you have the freedom to go and die in a ditch, climate change denying, buy the political system, multi-billionaire Koch brothers is dead. De mortuis nihil nisi bonum, so really nothing more to say.

  4. Chuck Mire

    The 1619 Project

    The Year 1619: The REAL start of the USA as a nation. That’s when the choice was consciously made to place economic gain ahead of human morality.

    A PDF Copy of this issue of The New York Times Magazine is here:

  5. For no particularly good reason, I will post using fake-Haiku non-poetry. This seems strangely consonant with the wealth of fake news sloshing about:

    Macron want discuss
    Amazon fires
    at G7
    Japan at G7
    PM Abe wants 35% increase
    coal fired power plants
    Why no Macron discuss Japan power plants?
    Macron block trade deal with Mercosur
    Amazon-Earth-lung burn!
    Macron no block trade with Japan
    Why Macron no block trade with Japan?

    My brain fry
    My brain burn

  6. bruce wilder

    Kimbrell’s essay struck me as fatuous.

    Not that he doesn’t identify very real and urgent problems but because he proposes responses that are . . . empty and ill-informed.

    The premise that there are few “evil people” would be rejected by anyone who has tried to maintain a public restroom, that’s for sure. Or read the news recently.

  7. Willy

    Virtually all power games are won with techniques which would be considered evil. It’s pretty hard to get ahead in the corporate world by just doing a good job or even being a good manager. It’s common practice for the famous to sin first, beg for forgiveness later. Most modern politicians lie. Bad things are still the other tribes fault, regardless. And the flat earth movement is growing.

    I don’t think there are suddenly more evil people around, just a greater cultural tolerance for evil.


    Kimbrell’s essay struck me as fatuous.

    I find it insightful and validating versus fatuous precisely because he intelligently & cogently makes the case that we can be evil in ways in which we are not even aware of but should be. The “should be” is a large part of the equation. For example, 36,750 people died in traffic-related accidents in 2018. They perished needlessly & preventably, but our current system has declared, unofficially of course, that those who perish in traffic-related accidents are the sacrifice necessary for the system we have, and so, they are rather unwitting & involuntary martyrs in a sense in this system called civilization that requires their coerced compliance as a modern technological blood sacrifice.

  9. nihil obstet

    De mortuis nihil nisi bonum

    David Koch mortuus est. Bonum!!!

  10. bruce wilder

    I find it insightful and validating versus fatuous precisely because he intelligently & cogently makes the case that we can be evil in ways in which we are not even aware of but should be. The “should be” is a large part of the equation.

    I got that that was your reaction. And, I understand that I should have explained in greater detail why I believe his thinking is so wrong-headed, but I just do not have time. All I have time for is a gesture or two.

    I agree that people act individually as cogs in systems, but I do not accept that we are unaware of the fact. A superficial philosophic ethics might overlook it in the manner of a college sophomore. Here in the real world, people are aware of the highway death toll and significant resources and political organizing goes into melioration, including making rules for how autos are designed and built and maintained and driven. Cutting to the chase, ethics are always embedded in an institutional context; every institutionalized system has a set of ethics and norms and people follow or flout them, with moral consequences connected to the outcomes produced by the organized social cooperation we are calling a system.

    A system can and should be judged by standards of morality. Thus, i distinguish between the terms, morality and ethics. That is nothing more than saying we need the perspectives of architects and engineers, visionaries. Most of us are not that very often. (Ian tries to remind us of the need and demonstrates a clear moral voice).

    I object to Kimbrell’s rhetorical method, proposing premises that may be soothing but false while being flippant and careless about expertise on his way to conclusions that are sweeping but vacuous. His vision seems to me to rarely rise above the superficiality of theatre criticism, nor to grapple with the truly problematic nature of systems running toward outcomes beyond our control.

    I think lots of people are rebelling against the systems in which they live and work, slacking or cheating. People drive drunk, or speed or drive erratically, contributing to the highway death toll you mentioned. Denying it is no philosophy. Someone who texts while driving knows perfectly well that he is risking other people’s lives; that is the banality of evil.

  11. “Overstock CEO: “I was hired to set Hillary Clinton up for blackmail- do political espionage on Trump – Obama admin made me do it!”

    Gee, it’s almost like a foreign power held sway inside the Obama Administration. That, or else the Deep State is even more rogue, and out of democratic control, than we thought.

    Let’s go with the foreign power, as a working assumption. What foreign power could that be?

    Maybe this is a clue:

    “UK based spy outs himself as Russiagate hoax unfolds”

  12. bruce wilder

    Tony Wikrent has this precious quotation from Pete Buttigieg in his wrapup:

    “I think you have a lot of smart, well-intentioned people who sometimes view the world in a very innocent way. I wrote my thesis on Graham Greene, who said that innocence is like a dumb leper that has lost his bell, wandering the world, meaning no harm.”

  13. Hugh

    The ex-CEO of Overstock is Patrick Byrne. He had to step down as CEO after the stock tanked when it came out that A) he’s a Deep State Conspiracy nut (He runs a website called Deep Capture.) and B) he had an affair with Maria Butina (He said the FBI made him do it.).

    Sort of reminds me of John Schnatter, the ex-CEO and founder of Papa John’s. He had to go after racist remarks came out. That he was also a loony tunes libertarian didn’t help matters.

    You have these guys who build up a brand and then take an ax to it because they see their success as a validation of their psychopathic nuttery.

  14. ponderer

    Open thread seems to be a victimization party. In the lead is the NYT, “Dividing what’s left of the Left” should be printed on every issue. Describing the country’s very foundation as that of Slavery, the main division is not between poor and rich but between black and white. Of course the section on black Harvard graduates might leave one someone confused, but so would the anti Asian bias of our Ivy league schools.

    Its a tough race, 2nd place is convinced that civilization itself is Evil though whether the solution is genocide or resigned indifference is an exercise left for the reader. Owning a car or apparently “Technology” is Evil. Ironic coming from a lawyer. No the blame lies not with non-egalitarian treatment under the law erroding the basic social contracts, its not corruption or graft by our elites, its because you didn’t think to ask for a environmentally friendly microwave oven that was carbon neutral. Like I don’t know a wood stove. Oh and we can’t expect a Democracy to exist until your main mode of transportation is politically correct, PETA approved, LGBT friendly, and runs on nothing but the righteous force of millions of progressives farting in the wind.

  15. bruce wilder

    Fuest: More crazy and stupid than evil. The evil is just stupid venality on a massive scale.
    Have you tried to have a political discussion with a *typical* American lately? Anymore it’s like talking to a homeless lunatic. You’re lucky if they’re just ignorant. Mostly they are so full of misinformation and disinformation that you end up speechless because you are not familiar with whatever crackpot “facts” they cite like gospel. And Anything you bring up, they’ve got an equally crazy set of facts to refute.

    Hugh: Here we are already over the cliff, into the territory beyond the red lines of climate change and overpopulation, and so much of the thought in these links is permeated by a kind of willful fuzziness and disingenuousness, informed by beliefs in the permanency of a world which soon will not exist.

    Quotations from other threads, but I am actually puzzled by how stupid the discussion in the mass media has become of late.

    I wonder if someone else has some insight.

  16. Alexander Mercouris and Alex Christoforou both believe that Patrick Byrne was led to believe that Clinton, Rubio and Cruze were also targets of surveillance as an act of disinformation, and that linking Trump with Russia was actually the only target. The motive for this is to keep Byrne from realizing that he is being used for what can be viewed as a partisan effort.

  17. It is believed that Byrne’s mentor,Warren Buffett, advised Byrne to come forward.

    “Fox Business contacted representatives for Berkshire Hathaway for comment but did not receive a response.”

    I would have expected an immediate denial, if Byrne was making up this claim of advice from his “rabbi”.

    OTOH, it’s strange that Buffett would advise a moral course of action, but then not step forward, himself, to publicly support Byrne. At best, it would seem hypocritical of Buffett.

  18. ponderer


    I think the objective is chaos. When you over stimulate an animals nervous system they freeze up, shut down. It shuts down rational thought. So probably to paralyze people during the upcoming recession.

    Either that or they have so many psyops going they can’t keep up.

  19. nihil obstet


    I think it’s that the world still works, for the very rich and there’s a growing body of research that indicates that being very high up in the hierarchy makes you stupid. Lear had to be virtually naked in a storm on the wasteland before he cottoned to reality:

    They flattered me like a dog and told me I had white hairs in my beard ere the black ones were there. To say “Ay” and “No” to everything that I said “Ay” and “No” to was no good divinity. When the rain came to wet me once, and the wind to make me chatter, when the thunder would not peace at my bidding—there I found ’em, there I smelt ’em out. Go to, they are not men o’ their words. They told me I was everything. ‘Tis a lie, I am not ague-proof.

    That’s our rulers today, demanding constant flattery. But the whole system is clearly collapsing. To get one of the good courtier jobs, making lots of money doing the flattery and saying everything is OK except for the losers who criticize, you have to embrace the crazy.

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