The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

The Core Social Principles of Ideologies

Every ideology has a few core principles: guiding lights, or pole-stars, which believers should use to guide themselves.

The fundamental proposition; the IDEAL, of Confucian government, is that the rulers should govern as if they are benevolent parents. If they do not do so, they are not legitimate, but tyrants.

The fundamental proposition of feudalism and related ideologies is that some bloodlines are better than others, and those from those bloodlines deserve to rule.

The fundamental proposition of capitalism is that money is earned by providing “utility” and that those who have money have it because they have done the most good. This easily turns into oligarchy, “those with the most money are the most virtuous & should rule.”

The fundamental proposition of democracy is that all legitimacy comes from the citizenry (people) and that they should rule, sometimes by selecting others; sometimes directly.

The fundamental proposition of Westminster style democracy (parliamentary) is that “Parliament is Supreme!” It can do whatever it wants, and one Parliament cannot tie the hands of another one. (Treaties have been used to try to get around this, doing so is illegitimate.)

The fundamental proposition of American enlightenment democracy is that everyone is equal. It was originally phrased as “all men”, but that is an error requiring correction, and much of American history is about the attempt to properly live up to the proposition.

The fundamental social teaching of Jesus, was that we should help the least of us, and that great wealth is an evil.

Buddhism, to my knowledge, doesn’t have a great deal of governing philosophy, but the proposition is that life always involves suffering and that we should try and end or reduce suffering as much as possible, including in animals.

Communism’s core proposition is that the means of production should be controlled by the masses: that power should not be a consequence of wealth or property.

Once you’ve identified the core proposition of an ideology, you use that as your pole star, moving ever towards it. You’re not a communist if you allow private concentration of wealth to control the economy or don’t keep control of economic activity in the hands of the workers in specific and the people in general.

All founders make mistakes and their disciples and heirs make more. It is your duty, if you follow a great ideology, to correct those errors. In Confucianism this includes Confucius’s treatment of women. In American democracy, systematic inequality and disenfranchisement.

In Buddhism this would be indifference to suffering because, hey, there’s no self anyway, amiright? In parliamentary democracy, it is believing the supremacy of Parliament either can be used against the people’s interest OR trying to bind Parliament and thus the democratic will.

If you have an individual philosophy or code of conduct/honor, it too may have a polestar. Mine is truth. In matters of public import, I try not to lie, because I believe we can’t make good decisions if we believe wrong things.

I also try to correct. I try to be open to being wrong, without being so open-minded I accept nonsense. Just had a long conversation with a friend that convinced me I had misunderstood some important things about the modern left. I was grateful to learn where I had been wrong.

Use this post as a spur for thought. What are the polestars for various ideologies? What are your polestars in various parts of your life.

Bonus: if there’s more than one polestar, where do they conflict or help each other and when?

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Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – February 21, 2021


The Betrayal At The Heart of Sanders, AOC and Corbyn’s Refusal To Use Power


  1. bruce wilder

    I do not know much and am uncertain of the rest. Seeking factual and moral truth ought to be critical to those in doubt.

    But, some people adopt an ideology or philosophy to erase doubt with the ideology’s answers. Their “truth” is more important than the objective truth.

  2. C.L.

    The treatment of women in Confucian societies is a feature, not a bug. Women, children, and foreigners are subjects — not citizens. Full stop.

    It is important to remember that, in modern Confucian political theory, the masses are seen as children and are therefore merely subjects. The only true citizens are members of the CCP and/or Politiburo. Because of the constitutional changes imposed in the late 1970s, the government’s legitimacy stems from its “paternal” ability to increase economic opportunities for its “children” via its control of state-owned companies.

    Incidentally, there seems to be a huge push to make American democracy Confucian. I don’t think anyone’s buying it, but I’d be curious to find out where the money’s coming from. In particular, I’d be curious to see if it’s the same people funding “Me Too” and BLM campaigns and if they’re funneling it through the same think tanks/law firms/etc. (If you have any experience in Asian or Eastern European studies, those movements’ tactics are straight from Mao’s Cultural Revolution playbook, which itself was based on Stalin’s Great Terror.)

    See, e.g., Tondong Bai, Against Political Equality: The Confucian Case
    Jian Qing, A Confucian constitutional order: how China’s ancient past can shape its political future

  3. Chris

    You skipped right over Daoism. But no one knows about Doaism because at this time it is deeply hidden.

    I have heard of letting the world be, and exercising forbearance; I have not heard of governing the world. Letting be is from the fear that men, (when interfered with), will carry their nature beyond its normal condition; exercising forbearance is from the fear that men, (when not so dealt with), will alter the characteristics of their nature. When all men do not carry their nature beyond its normal condition, nor alter its characteristics, the good government of the world is secured.

  4. Astrid

    Mine is Benthamite Utilitarianism – greatest good for greatest number. Not sure what it translates to practically, since good and for who are so fluid. Mostly, I’ve settles into a Buddhist acceptance that sentient life is suffering and there’s no way to escape it except through nirvana. Yet I live (and eat meat, and enjoy international vacations, and probably have a slightly above average energy footprint) because I’m here and might as well enjoy it as long as I’m not causing too much harm, and because my extinguishing would cause some people pain. I try to be kind in my interactions with people, but I’m not sure how successful I’m at it.

    Note on Confucianism – Confucianism isn’t specifically exclusive of women, children, foreigners. It’s strictly hierarchical from top to bottom. It’s just a variant of Feudalism with more organizing principles and a more pacifist bent (really, everything except for Anarchism is Feudalism with more organizational principles). The Zhou Emperor is at the top, followed by kings, followed by their ministers, followed by gentlemen, followed by their retainers, followed by children and women, and foreigners (and religious figures and oddballs) are outside of this hierarchy because they don’t belong. The positions do change over time, but the idea is that there’s structure and roles and everyone must play their role properly for the system to work.

    Individualism is acceptable in harmless ways such as Taoist who take themselves completely out of society. It made an accommodation with Buddhism after a shaky start in the Sui and Tang dynasty, but is very clear that Buddhism too is outside of the Confucian hierarchy and does not question it. Mass religious movements are extremely dangerous and the basis for numerous highly destructive civil wars – that’s why the CCP regime absolutely freaked about Falunggong when it started to look like a mass religious movement.

    I’m not sure it’s a bad strategy. It’s ideal for a stable society. Even when it’s stressed by outside invaders or civil war, the new ruler (as often as not are not ethnically Han Chinese) always picks up Confucianism and are assimilated into the Chinese culture. Mao is certainly in that tradition and he clearly saw himself as the founding emperor of a new regime and his actions mirror ruthless behaviors you see at the start of the Han, Tang, Song, Ming, and Qing Dynasties (just the biggies, I’ve not bothered with the intricacies of the various minor regimes at times when the country is splintered). He’s happy to take any strategy that gets him what he wants and everyone else is just instrumentalities to him. There were innovations and additional thoughts built on Confucianism by later adepts, but overall it’s very much focused on stable society at the cost of innovation, presumably due to the early trauma of the Warring States period.

    I don’t think what the US and the West are moving towards is Confucianism, because there is a seriously toxic streak of individualism and capitalism that would not be acceptable to Confucians (who always thought very poorly of merchants and soldiers). I’d say it’s just straight out Feudalism – billionaires at the top, their multi-millionaire enablers in MSM/politics/corporate management undeath, the PMC servants beneath, and the great unwashed underneath. Race and gender and national origins doesn’t matter.

  5. Hugh

    I suppose the first question is: is the good an ideology promises actually good? The second question is: does that good show up in and inform the lives of the ideology’s adherents? And of people generally?

    The truth about most ideologies is that they are about power and wealth. The good, or often goods, are just window dressing. Adherents are allowed to mistreat and disempower non-adherents. And of course, some adherents are more equal than others. So these adherents get to enrich and empower themselves at the expense of everyone else, adherents and non-adherents alike.

  6. scruff

    Just had a long conversation with a friend that convinced me I had misunderstood some important things about the modern left

    I’d be really interested in hearing about what you feel you were wrong about, and what you are correcting your perspectives to.

    Also, I’m sure you weren’t intending to aim for perfection here, but I think that there is something about capitalism I’d like to offer a different perspective on:

    The fundamental proposition of capitalism is that money is earned by providing “utility” and that those who have money have it because they have done the most good

    I think the fundamental proposition of capitalism is actually that (in principle) ethical “worth” and (in practice) control of labor behavior and allocation of profits should be held by those who own the capital. I read what you are saying its fundamental proposition is as a post-hoc rationalization. The proposition I’m proposing is followed in capitalistic societies even when enterprises fail, produce less profit, or damage their workers/customers/the environment. It also helps to delineate capitalism from ideological frameworks which deliberately tried to distinguish themselves from capitalism, such as market socialism, which would propose that control of labor behavior and allocation of profits should be held collectively by the group of workers in the enterprise. That doesn’t necessarily challenge the idea that money is earned by providing “utility” or the ethical rationalization. Just a thought.

  7. Mary Bennett

    Ian Welch: I would like to know what you think are the core principles of Islam and Judaism. Rather disingenuous on your part not to include those two, considering that both are having a major impact on our world today.

    Now that members of the Hindu, and Jain and Sikh diaspora are becoming prominent and influential in our society, I would like to hear from some member or expert what are the core beliefs of that group.

    European feudalism, as I understand the system which flourished in Northern France and Southern England was a system of reciprocal obligation, at least in theory. Service, the terms of which were carefully spelled out, in return for protection and the lord’s justice.

    I also think geography can’t be ignored, no matter how much our internationalist managerial aristocracy would like to ignore it. Confucianism arose on a large floodplain, very fertile land in which all could be fed if all worked together.

  8. S Brennan

    Interesting Post Ian. Events of the last thirty years bring me to ask.

    Assuming and this is quite an assumption, that most humans have a true guiding philosophy, a philosophy that is more than just a mask to hide primordial desire; at what point are these adherents morally allowed to drop their philosophy because of …well…[insert world, country, family, friends, personal here] existential demise? I may be wrong but, my observation indicates almost no human believes any philosophy is so germane to an adherents being that it becomes, essentially, a suicide pact.

    Of there are EXTREME exceptions celebrated in lore, but those are outliers, well outside the overwhelming number of people’s experience.

    I ask this question because it’s germane; in the past three presidencies, the president and most assuredly his followers claimed existential exemptions to all philosophies:

    Clinton claimed Slobodan Milosevic was Hitler, thusly a threat to the entire world, an existential threat and worthy of preemptive war. A war that would end up killing far more that that particular “Hitler”ever did.

    Bush II claimed Saddam Hussein was Hitler, thusly a threat to the entire world, an existential threat and worthy of preemptive war. A war that would end up killing far more that that particular “Hitler”ever did.

    Obama claimed Gaddafi was Hitler, thusly a threat to the entire world, an existential threat and worthy of preemptive war. A war that would end up killing far more that that particular “Hitler”ever did.

    Obama claimed Assad was Hitler, thusly a threat to the entire world, an existential threat and worthy of preemptive war. A war that would end up killing far more that that particular “Hitler”ever did.

    Hillary/her followers claimed Trump was,, Putin’s puppet..whatever, a threat to the entire world, an existential threat and worthy of civil war. Now that he’s gone, just as the US Constitution provided for, the bullshit conjectures have been shown to be wild rhetoric that

    In the upcoming days a pretext will is planned to provide Biden with a “Hitler” a threat to the entire world, an existential threat and worthy of preemptive war. A war that will end up killing far more that that particular “Hitler”ever could.

    In short, when you have a “philosophy” that has an escape clause that can be used whenever one becomes tired of the pretense, is that not what I inferred above, just a mask to hide reptilian desire?

  9. someofparts

    When I was young a friend took me to the local Quaker meeting. It has been my local faith community ever since.

    As to what makes sense to me subjectively, that would be Taoism. As I experience it, the focus is on maintaining clarity about the appropriate amount of space for me as a human to occupy in the world. It feels like a good check on the delusional flights of ego that our libertarian culture urges upon us.

  10. sbt42

    Just this past weekend I saw the documentary, “In Defense of Food.” I’m now questioning the foundations of my vegetarian-sometimes-vegan diet for the past 20+ years, and I wonder.

    Learning about the Great Chain of Being at almost the same time was a big surprise, as that seems to be a dietary justification for many vegetarians and vegans. The fact that it enforces a hierarchy – a fully-fleshed-out one thanks to medieval Christians – throws a lot of cognitive dissonance my way, in terms of coming up with justifications for adhering to a completely plant-based diet.

    For the time being I assume I adhere (?) to a Buddhist mindset in regards to reducing the amount of suffering I inflict upon others – though I’m no student of Buddhism. I also have personally ascribed to “philosophical Taoism” (as opposed to a spiritual or religious type of Taoism) for many, many years.

    Politically, I know I am anti-capitalist, anti-neoliberal, and I think I am pro-socialist and pro-worker.

  11. Willy

    I’d like to think that my ideology is science. Cold hard science. The kind of science that states that if a ten mile wide asteroid hits the earth at 50,000 miles per hour, then we’d all be fucked. No matter what your religion or Dear Leader de jour has otherwise tweeted.

    Sadly, the good name of science is often captured for grotesque usage by non-scientific entities, such as Scientology and Christian Science. There’s that guy who claimed that “she blinded me with science”, where upon closer examination one finds that song has far more to do with sex than any science. There’s always that other guy who claims that his science is better than your science for the non-scientific reason of ad hominem. And then there are those who believe that scientists are hoaxers, only in it for the fame and grant money so they can proudly march around with their science merit badges. I usually find that those kinds of people are believers in their own ideology which has nothing to do with science. And finally and of course, there are those who believe that real science should be used for their own personal goal of global domination. I call them “evil scientists”.

    I’m the guy who says that there’s even a science behind all of that.

  12. Hugh

    Willy, Hannah Arendt called the hijacking of science “scientificality.”

  13. BC Nurse Prof

    There is no ideology that does not result in the extinction of our species eventually. All rest on the foundation of agriculture, our first and worst mistake. Having enough food to enable some to survive without hunting or gathering sets it all in motion, making leaders, priests and soldiers. In order to survive, we would need to return to hunting and gathering in an environment severe enough to cause extensive and repeated starvation, infant death and disease due to droughts, floods, extreme weather, and predation. They would have to stay as very small bands of 125 or less, and have no technology whatsoever, and worship, say, the sun or some trees or something. Even then, there would be someone who asserts that to placate the sun and bring an end to the drought, one of their number must be killed (probably someone who the speaker doesn’t like). Human beings are inherently evil and this evil is demonstrated in every culture, religion, government, ideology and living arrangement ever tried. No way out. Nature will rid herself of these parasites. Soon.

  14. Astrid

    BC Nurse Prof,

    I would argue that utilitarianism gets you to voluntary human extinction, once you derive that human existence is a net negative on happiness and “good”. But this is a philosophy of a movie supervillain, so I keep it to myself and I do not act on it, being volunteering to take myself out of the gene pool after this round.

    I don’t think humans are inherently evil. More that they are prone to select for destructiveness and psychopathy when given the chance. The peaceful and sustainable loses out to the violent and unsustainable. But same difference. We can’t help ourselves and there lies the seeds of our destruction.

  15. BC Nurse Prof


    That’s an excellent way of saying it: human existence is a net negative on happiness and good on this planet.

    I also agree with you that we cannot help ourselves. We know it. We see it. We theorize about it, but we cannot stop doing it. It’s in the genes and we will never change.

    The only reason I don’t off myself is a promise I made to my dog. I told her I would give her the best life I could possibly manage to create for her. So far that’s been difficult and very expensive, but I will honour that as long as I am able. I probably have about 7 years left, considering her lifespan. After that, I’m out of here. In the meantime, my retirement money keeps coming in, and I keep sending it out again to organizations that defend animals.

  16. Ché Pasa

    I’m not sure Buddhism provides an adequate framework for government/rule beyond the sangha, and I’m not sure even then that Buddhism or Buddhist thought is the underlying ideology, as the harshness of some of that rule is quite in contrast to the idea of limiting/alleviating suffering.

    Prior to the Chinese takeover, Tibet (ostensibly under the rule of kindly Buddhist lamas — but in fact ruled by a cruel and often very brutal feudal aristocracy) was no Shangri-la. Far from it.

    The perpetual problem in much of the West — and too often in its colonial extensions — is capitalist-“democracy” which has amalgamated with a furious form of Christianist extremism and dominionism. It’s a con-game to exploit the rubes, and sadly, it continues to work. An example of Power corrupted absolutely. Of course, as we are often reminded, it could and likely will be worse.

    Yet “exploitation” — particularly of one another and the increasingly fragile earth — in all imaginable forms is the polestar and guiding ideology of a vast and powerful swath of humanity. Even the worst exploited follow along. It leads to very warped governance. I’ve said for decades it can’t be sustained, and yet still it abides, seemingly immune to improvement or replacement.

    We need something else again.

  17. anon

    There is a lot more wrong with Confucianism than its treatment of women. To be generous, people, mainly old men in power, have corrupted Confucianism as they do with every ideology over centuries. Live in any Asian country for a while or speak to Asian children who grow up in Western societies and have strained relationships with their parents, and you will understand. As others have stated above, Confucianism is strictly hierarchical. It works for those in power both in the public and private sphere because it gives them the right to abuse their children, workers, wives, and anyone who is younger or less powerful than they are. This has even worked its way into some Asian languages, such as Japanese and Korean, that use honorifics to establish hierarchy between speakers.

  18. wuffster

    Thanks for this thread. I have no idea.

  19. Ivory Bill Woodpecker

    Without civilization, we would never develop the means to get off the planet, en masse–which some day we must do.

    Even if we can fix the Earth back to pristine condition, the plain fact remains that neither it nor the Sun will last forever. Once the Sun begins expanding into a red giant star, it will eventually boil the oceans and atmosphere off the Earth.

    We may manage to destroy ourselves anyway, but at least this way, there is some hope for the indefinite survival of our species through prudent use of science and technology. If we had remained hunter-gatherers and never developed civilization, we would be doomed certainly.

  20. elissa3

    Ideologies, like religions purport to use a system or structure to explain life, and, with some, an afterlife. If one belongs or subscribes to that ideology or religion, it implies an identity. As an “identified” individual, one sees those not adhering to a given ideology as “the other”. The result can be conflict, war, in short, evil. Why? Because even if one subscribes to the golden rule–which in itself is an excellent idea–those not of one’s identity are seen in some way less aware of “the truth” that members of the ideology implicitly “know”.

    My personal solution is to divest myself, to the degree possible, of any identity other than those rooted in physicality. For example: sexual being and the locality where one lives.

    So, how to cope with life and the world? Question everything. Use PROCESS instead of ideology/religion. For the practical purpose of everyday living, try out various social, economic, and political structures, but always with the idea that they are temporary experiments, always subject to questioning and change in view to making life more humane. Ah, and that is the core: what is a good, human life. For each of us to decide.

  21. Hugh

    The sun will become a red giant in 5 1/2 billion years. I just realized I haven’t bought my ticket yet to get off in time. Is there a line?

  22. js

    “My personal solution is to divest myself, to the degree possible, of any identity other than those rooted in physicality. For example: sexual being and the locality where one lives.”

    do you mean gendered being? (at the risk of controversy). Some may much more identify as assexual beings, but that’s an identity right?

  23. Mary Bennett

    BC Nurse Prof: Have whatever beliefs seem convincing to you, but please don’t ground them in a misreading of history. Neolithic village cultures lasted for literally millennia. For example, Catal Huyuk was inhabited from c.7100-c.5700 with no temples or citadels yet found after extensive excavation. From wiki:

    Çatalhöyük has strong evidence of an egalitarian society, as no houses with distinctive features (belonging to royalty or religious hierarchy, for example) have been found so far. The most recent investigations also reveal little social distinction based on gender, with men and women receiving equivalent nutrition and seeming to have equal social status…

    The legendary “Golden Age” refers to the world of the peaceful neolithic village, not precarious hunter gatherer life.

  24. C.L.

    Personally, I just try to live by the “Doctor Who” principle: the fairest negotiation (or best action) is one where you don’t know what position you’ll have afterward. It’s not an ideology in the Arendtian sense of the term, but it’s the closest thing to a pole star I’ve been able to come up with.

    I also want to second what anon said. The euphemism I heard again and again was “the air is better” in the West. They were *not* just talking about smog. And the “better air” is the reason why brain drain in China, Ukraine, and Russia was nowhere near where the models said they should be, which predicted a leveling off as they stabilized and became “middle-income countries.”

    It’s also why I’m curious to see where the funding for Me Too and BLM really came from, as well as how the PR firms who put it together put it together. Those two movements, more than anything else, have given my former coworkers pause about working here. Not the insane American healthcare system, not the education system, not even Trump — they’ve turned down the partnership track because their parents raised them with horror stories about the Cultural Revolution and they don’t want to see it for themselves.

    Astrid and Chris,

    I skipped over Taoism because in the three years I lived and worked in China, no one mentioned it to me. Oddly, it also never came up in any of my Chinese classes. It seems to be something religious/spiritual Westerners study, not something those of us in China for business reasons learn about.

    I’m also not sure where I used the word “exclusive.” I completely agree that Confucianism is a strict hierarchy. I’m just saying that, as that hierarchy is applied in its modern Chinese form, that means pretty much everyone in China is a subject — not a citizen. Subjects still have to follow laws, pay taxes, etc. In most societies, they have rights, although not as many as citizens. The big differences is the ways in which citizens are obligated to assist their community, the ways the community is obligated to help them, and the ways/degree they’re able to influence their community.

    I also don’t think I said that “Democratic Confucianism” is gaining ground in democratic societies, and I apologize if it sounded that way. I’m just pointing out that there is a concerted effort to try to *create* one. It feels very artificial to me, largely because the books I’ve seen operate completely ignore Western social and political history (i.e., Jim Crow, Victorian work houses, etc.). It feels a bit like the University of Chicago and George Mason University’s Economics Departments’ attempts to develop pro-monopolist/libertarian ideologies and rhetoric in the 1960s and 1970s. I hope some journalist somewhere looks into where the funding is coming from because I don’t think the Chinese government is completely behind this one — I have a feeling you’ll find a couple of Chinese billionaires who want to be the next Koch brothers.

    It makes me wonder a few things. First, in what ways and to what extent do you need legitimacy from your subjects to function as a global empire state? How does it differ from the legitimacy you need from your citizens? How does citizenship/subjecthood relate to the society’s economic structure? Those things seem to change together, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence.

    Second, did the USA make a similar constitutional change between either the Patriot Act and/or Citizens United? Are we now a state where the true citizens are transnational corporate persons while the rest of us are merely subjects? Is the role of the state now solely to create/distribute market opportunities to its “citizens” (i.e., corporations), with the lions share of opportunities going to those who donated to the winning campaign? It would explain a lot about the choices Democrats made with Obamacare, the 2008 bailout, etc.

    More importantly, are the UK and the rest of the ex-Commonwealth states just beginning the same process?

    But that’s a bit off-topic. My point is that China is adhering to its stated ideology of “Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics.” Sadly, America may be too. It all depends on who a “citizen” really is and what states should do for them.

  25. Willoweed

    @ Hugh

    “Good” is a bit of a subjective term but I agree it is important to discuss if what an ideology terms as good is actually something worthwhile. A problem I see occurring with having this discussion is that typically an ideology is associated with qualities that aren’t inherent in that ideology but are assumed to be so. I see this with many medical/science debates where anyone opposing the status quo is labeled “anti-science” regardless of what they say and what evidence they have. Addressing the topic can fail if a false underlying assumption prevents the other person from being objective.

    @ Marry Bennett

    I’ve read Jain, Buddhist and some other more eastern religions, though as an American I have zero personal experience with anyone born and living identified with these religions. The Jain ideology in my mind is “ahisma” which is loosely translated into “total non-violence”. Jains are extreme vegetarians. In traditional Jain practice you are not supposed to eat certain plants such as root vegetables because it causes too much violence.

    @ Elissa3

    I agree identify with a ideology or group has negative effects because it causes anyone not in that group to be seen as less worthy, and moral. It results in failure to be objective because the emotional attachment to the identity gets in the way. This is why I like the Buddhist teachings that everyone is a fallible human and that all you know you don’t really know.

  26. Trinity

    Just say NO to Confucianism. Even Confucius called Lao-Tzu a “dragon”, the highest compliment you can pay. Confucianism considers everyone to be a child who needs to be told what to do, and does so by utilizing a hierarchy at every level, from the family hierarchy (guess who is in charge?) on up. I cannot stress enough that hierarchies are unnatural (against nature). Nature survives, hierarchies do not last very long, relatively speaking. We are about to see that in living Technicolor. It’s a model that needs to be banned. These systems require “endless growth in a finite system”, which has been pointed out as also a major bug in these systems. Nature seeks to maintain balance, and Taoism also stresses balance.

    Taoism also stresses (assumes) that people who have enough to meet their needs will do the right thing without being told or forced. Leadership under Taoism is suggested as being a follower of the people. The best leaders aren’t even visible because they are doing such a good job, no one notices them. Leaders work to make sure the people have enough, and the rest follows. Pretty simple.

    Taoism (Daoism) is much more in agreement with the highly successful Native American tribes (the non-hierarchical versions) who controlled their population levels AND made sure resources were used/shared appropriately by also considering the needs of future generations (imagine that). And these tribes existed in roughly the same form for many thousands of years. They did unimaginable (to us) things, such as learning what works and what doesn’t over the long term.

    Their cultures were (are, in the case of the Hopi) rich in providing meaning to their lives, unless you prefer being mesmerized and tracked by expensive, resource wasting “technology” with designed obsolescence to keep you obedient and impoverished and afraid to express yourself fully. In their cultures, everyone is encouraged/assisted in finding their place in it, finding a way to contribute that suited them, their interests, and their abilities, and with the social support system to do so built in. How now, brown cow?

    Argue all you want about which dead white man was smarter, or “correct”, or had “better ideas”. I’ve got news for you: every single one of them was wrong, one way or another. The evidence is right in front of us. It’s time we listened to other voices, other types of wisdom, ones with a better track record.

  27. Jason

    Every in-group requires needs an out-group to exist. This is the coincidence of opposites. If you are all tied up in your proud white identity, you absolutely depend on the non-white identity for your existence. And vice versa.

    Consider that as you’re reading this you’re attention is most fixed on the black characters. That’s what’s important. That’s how we’re communicating. Yet we wouldn’t recognize the black characters without the white background, thus making the white background every bit as important to our process of communicating and understanding as the black characters we fix the majority of our attention on.

    This is one way to break the inanity of the binary narrative that controls us. elissa3’s process over ideology speaks to this, and Trinity’s words on the wisdom of indigenous ways is also “where it’s at.”

  28. Jason

    I apologize for the grammatical errors.

    As to the space aficionados, consider that we have to travel with a containerized version of the earth environment in order to go anywhere, else we die. We are meant to be here.

  29. Ché Pasa

    Buddhism may not provide much of a useful or successful foundation for a governing ideology in part because it is mostly concerned with the self/non-self and extinguishing desire… leading (or not) to Enlightenment.

    You have to be attached to governing or the ideology underlying government in order to be effective, and attachment is anathema to Buddhism.

    On the other hand, a vital precept to being/becoming a Bodhisattva is service. What you do on behalf of your fellow beings as you are following the dharma makes a difference in your own life and the lives of the beings you encounter and serve.

    Not to flog Upaya Zen Center too much, but the following link is to an hour-long podcast featuring former Senator Tom Udall talking about his lifetime of public service (one form of service) and how meditation (zazen, sitting meditation, is at the core of Zen Buddhism — but not all of it) has supported his public service career.

  30. Astrid


    Thanks for your discussion, very interesting and certainly explored some perspectives that I had not previously considered. Yes, I agree that the shift to the oligarchy of the transnational corporations has occurred in the US, is occurring in the Anglophone world, and certainly attempted elsewhere with varying levels of success. I am beginning to think oligarchy is pretty much inevitable in any large society, though the current iteration seems particularly predatory, shortsighted, and unwilling to course correct. I am constantly reminded of similarity to the reign of Czar Nicholas II. For now, the citizens are in symbiosis with the reactionaries as well as the conservatives, but I suspect that partnership will break down soon and the corporate Republicans will join the corporate Democrats, with everyone else marginalized for a while. It’s the iron fist of the deep state and neofeudalism wrapped up in woke/antiwoke/patriotism/racism/antiracism PR.

    For your Chinese former coworkers, I think it goes to people always fighting the last war. For them that’s the Cultural Revolution. This is doubly so since your former coworkers would likely come from the Intelligensia and professional classes, so their family may have had a harder time than most through the Cultural Revolution. The horror of disorder isn’t coming from Confucian doctrine (PRC isn’t really a Confucian society, the population dynamics caused by the one-child policy pretty much assures that) but from lived experience. I would say South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore are all much more Confucian than Mainland China.

    I am not surprised that your former coworkers are indifferent to US’s terrible education and healthcare systems. They’re used to it as Mainland China has a pretty terrible medical system, so they would not mind that especially since your coworkers are likely young, healthy, and well insured by their foreign employer. Mainland China’s education system is similarly appalling and absolute misery for the children who have to go through it, so the US’s comparatively relaxed system would be an upgrade, especially for people who are able to get their kids into good school districts or magnet schools. If they’re in China, they can probably afford international schools and foreign universities for their children.

    Daoism isn’t a religion or even a well practiced philosophy in China. How many Stoics do you meet in the West? There’s a lot of folk religion and magical practices attached to Daoism and people do vaguely believe that when they visit temples. But religious Daoism doesn’t have much to do with philosophical Daoism, and it’s not a lived in religion the way that Buddhism, Hinduism, or the monotheistic religions are. Vast majority of people in China seem to get by with a mishmash of ideas that help them get on with life, without much reflection on higher principles. For the Chinese, they further have to deal with the vagaries of translation and access. Classical Chinese is readable by the well educated but it’s not easy or fun. I always suspect that contemporary Mainlanders pick up far more about Daoism and Buddhism from wuxia TV series than they ever do from the actual texts. If any religious or spiritual movement has any real power over the masses, it would be ruthlessly suppressed just like falunggong.

  31. Astrid

    Mankind had a shot of going to space permanently 50 years ago. They sold it out for McMansions and tax cuts. Now they want to foreclose the option of even unmanned future space missions by polluting the orbit with Elon Musk’s latest 5G satellite scheme, which means we may well lose GPS and effective weather forecasting sometime in the next 30 years.

  32. trinity: “Argue all you want about which dead white man was smarter…” Uh, Confucius, the Buddha, Jesus et al. weren’t white. And it’s always funny to see usually white Westerners confecting their own westernized versions of non-Western religions. Pure cultural appropriation, and bogus at that.

    Ian’s take is just as ignorant and reductive, but you’re no improvement.

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