Is and Ought, Description and Prescription

Moralizers that they are, Lefties always confuse correlation with causation, description with prescription.  Because “capitalism” correlates with all kinds of bad stuff, they think it causes all that bad stuff.  Eliminating “capitalism,” they think, will eliminate racism, sexism, etc.

That’s the practical problem with Marxism.*  Marxist analyses of history can be very useful.  For instance, it’s now understood that enclosure started the market revolution in England.  By kicking peasants off waste land, the cities got a large, loose labor force that caused businesses to expand.  Meanwhile, back on the farm, the remaining tenants greatly improved their efficiency while producing for distant markets, injecting a whole bunch of cash into the old feudal system.  Combined with contemporary religious developments like Puritanism, with its emphasis on personal discipline, conditions were ideal for the development of industry, with all the social, political, and cultural changes that entailed.

That’s the standard line, and it’s as Marxist as it gets.  That whole “masterless men jump start business in the cities” bit is, in fact, exactly Marx’s “primitive accumulation of capital,” the precursor to real capitalism in the Industrial Age.  The problem is, Marxists don’t stop there.  Marxism is teleological — because all this stuff must produce Capitalism, which must produce Revolution, Marxists write as if the historical actors they describe are actively, consciously doing things like “the primitive accumulation of capital.”  As if there’s a Capitalist manual out there somewhere, which you get along with your secret decoder ring when you send in five box tops and a self-addressed envelope.

Take the Puritans.  They’re ideal Marxist villains — gross hypocrites who thunder from pulpits against luxury and wealth while piling up cash as fast as their grubby little hands can count.  As Puritanism is a bizarre, harsh creed that nobody could possibly live up to, we normies tend to nod along as the Marxists denounce Puritans as evil proto-Capitalists.  But the Puritans really did try to live by their values, for the most part, and they succeeded in a lot of ways — if you ever fall into a time machine and end up in the 17th century, pray that you encounter some Puritans.  They’ll take you in, where nobody else would.  They’re sharp traders, yes, and not much fun, but the same guys who hung witches at Salem also produced the healthiest, wealthiest, most prosperous society in the Western world at the same time.

And that’s where Marxism really goes off the rails.  Because Puritans are such great villains, and because the “Marxist” analysis of the period is the correct one, it’s very tempting to fall into a kind of historian’s fallacy about what’s really going on behind the scenes.  If colonial Massachusetts seemed to be more prosperous than everywhere else, it must be on the backs of some proletariat somewhere (they were, after all, primitively accumulating capital).  Hmmm…. Indians?  No… oh, wait — women!!!  And along come the Salem Witch Trials, which prove how horrible awful no good really bad their society really was.  And so on down the line, such that before long, history is nothing but the search for sticks to beat them with, regardless of how ahistorical.  E.g. Anne Hutchinson, pretty much a nobody in the grand scheme of things, vs. Cotton Mather — 12,800,000 hits to 520,000.  But Anne Hutchinson should matter, damn it, because feminism, so we’ll make her matter.

It takes discipline and a commitment to the historian’s craft to avoid this, which is why nobody bothers anymore.  Marxist critics of the Puritans — guys like Christopher Hill, who never abandoned their communist faith — could do great historical work on the period, because they could stay close to the sources and, as classically trained scholars, could separate description from prescription.  But that generation started dying off in the Sixties, not coincidentally as our Feelz Before Realz culture really got rolling.  The Sixties generation could dimly see the difference between “is” and “ought,” but were having too much fun to insist on it.  Their descendants — whom the Sixties generation taught to value transgression uber alles — consciously rejected it as politically limiting, and so the current Snowflake generation not only can’t tell the difference, but can’t even define the terms.  So, the Puritans?  CisHetPat gun nuts, eeeevil.  A+.

If you really want to save Western culture, start there.  “Is” is not “ought,” DEscription is not PREscription, and just as there’s no necessary relationship between correlation and causation, the recognition that something is not to your liking does not entail the world’s obligation to change it.



*The philosophical problem, of course, is that it’s muddleheaded Hegelian junk, with Spirit coming down Holy Ghost-style to move History towards the inevitable Revolution, and thence to Utopia.  Free pro tip to any college kids reading this: Any system that requires a whole bunch of Capital Letters to describe is wrong, and usually murderous too.

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2 thoughts on “Is and Ought, Description and Prescription

  1. Anonymous White Male

    “Moralizers that they are, Lefties always confuse correlation with causation, description with prescription. Because “capitalism” correlates with all kinds of bad stuff, they think it causes all that bad stuff. Eliminating “capitalism,” they think, will eliminate racism, sexism, etc.

    That’s the practical problem with Marxism.* Marxist analyses of history can be very useful.”

    The ultimate hypocrisy of the left, in general, is that while they try to make problems out of non-problems and then fix those non-problems, they never actually review the success of their fixes. They have to fix the fix and then fix the fix that didn’t fix the problem. They never, repeat NEVER, actually ask themselves if the change they lobbied for made things better or worse. Several reasons for this. One, they are lemmings. All someone from within their coterie has to do is pontificate about how something is unfair and must be corrected and the lemmings are on board. Lenin called them useful idiots. The bring numbers and money to the cause, not intelligence.

    Two, they actually believe that the problems have been fixed once they implement their poison. They are already flitting to the next “problem” fad. Once they have injected their self righteousness into the cause, their “good intentions” will reach up to God (not that there really is a god) and he will change reality because they have convinced him of their strong “moral” position. Apparently, they never heard the saying, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

    Three, like blacks, liberals can only deal in slogans. They memorize talking points and castigate the opponents of their religion with ad hominems. “You’re a racist” is one of their best. They don’t have to explain why they are right, they just are. They have to be right because no decent or intelligent person would believe something as logical as human bio-diversity. No, diversity is strength. Case closed. By wanting all races to be a member of the “human race” only, they show they don’t believe in diversity.

    I am not really a Trump supporter. I was happy he won, just because the Hildebeest lost. But, I don’t believe that anyone can actually be elected president that is not in the pocket of those that control our currency. So, when Trump does something that violates one of his campaign promises, I don’t make excuses for him. My view is that Trump supporters are better than the left. Not because they are smarter but because they know that changing the fundamental structure of the social contract lead to more problems than it is worth. Liberals believe in a propositional nation that never actually exists because the unstated objective is perfection. And any fool that pursues perfection is not one that should be listened to. I prefer to bait the libtards with facts in their posts, but it never matters. They avoid facts like the plague and they only argue with opinions, but it never occurs to them that they could be wrong. The only reason things they have supported have not worked out is not because they cannot work in the physical universe but because their opponents have opposed their policies. Like Communism. Communism didn’t fail because its basic premises were completely wrong, it failed because the rest of the world was trying to undermine it. But, we have to keep trying because Communism is so much moral than Capitalism. In spite of all the millions it has killed.

    1. Severian

      You nailed it. This is one big reason I keep banging on the Puritans. I’m not the only guy to make this comparison — the Z Man does it a lot, and very well — but it’s worth repeating, as often and as loudly as we can: Marxism, and all Leftism, is one big category error.

      Marx wasn’t an economist, he was a *philosopher.* An old-school Hegelian philosopher, to be specific — he was born in 1818 and grew up in the heydey of Spirit. His “economics” is obviously junk — it’s all that stuff about Spirit producing History and Revolution that turned his disciples’ crank, which is why nobody who has ever held a real job is a Marxist.

      Marxism, in other words, is just economics-flavored Idealism, which, as David Stove points out in devastating detail, was just philosophy-flavored Churchianity. All any of them ever wanted was absolution for their sins, but without the whole incense and prayer bit.

      That’s all the modern Left wants, too, but since there’s no God to give it to them, they’re in the same psychological predicament as the Puritans. Puritans *knew* that almost everyone was damned, which means, logically, they are damned. But that can’t be right — nobody can bear that — so they frantically displaced all their angst by making as much money as they could, and making everybody else as miserable as possible (see what I mean? That’s a one sentence summary of Max Weber, as goofy a Marxist as you’ll find, but he’s right for all that). The Left displaces by yelling “racism” and forcing us to let mentally ill dudes in dresses wee wee in the girls’ room, but that’s just details — it’s all the same, only the names have changed, as I think Socrates once said.

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