[ExI] Be nice to leftists

Ben Goertzel ben at goertzel.org
Sat May 24 06:22:13 UTC 2014

Hi Rafal,

On Fri, May 16, 2014 at 12:48 PM, Rafal Smigrodzki
<rafal.smigrodzki at gmail.com> wrote:
> Some time ago I posted here about what my understanding of "leftism" - that
> it is a current manifestation of the age-old human obsession with status. A
> leftist is a status-obsessed (i.e. envious) hypocrite, predictably attracted
> to the hierarchies of government bureaucracy, academia and mainstream
> journalism.

I don't normally read this list but this caught my eye for some reason..

I guess I qualify as a "leftist" if I have to be projected onto the
left/right axis.  Certainly I'm 100x more leftist than rightist...

I hate bureaucracy; I quit academia because I got sick of the
bureacracy and the status-seeking BS; and I don't care for mainstream
media much either...

However, I come from many generations of leftists, even plenty of
Marxists among my grandparents etc. (though my parents abandoned any
form of strict Marxism in the late 70s on observing the reality of the
Soviet Union, they remain fairly leftist...)

To me leftism is about compassion and fairness more than anything
else.   It's about believing the social contract should, normatively,
include a responsibility for society to provide everyone some minimal
level of help and opportunity.   It's about feeling it's morally wrong
for a small elite, with power and wealth that is mainly inherited, to
control nearly everything and take most of the goodies for themselves.

Anyway I have a low estimate of the ultimate value to be gotten from
in-depth discussion of politics on this list.  I just wanted to
briefly speak out against your caricature of leftist politics...

If anyone on the list is interested in some thoughtful writing in the
leftist direction I'd suggest

-- George Lakoff's various writings on the topic, e.g. Moral Politics

-- Piketty's recent master work "Capital in the 21st Century" (which
is flawed in ignoring exponential technological acceleration, but is
an excellent, thoroughly data-driven summary of the economics of the
last few hundred years.  Turns out the data is way more supportive of
leftist than rightist thinking...)

Rafal, it goes w/o saying I have great respect for your scientific
work and your general stature as a creative, proactive human being.
But I can't agree w/ your view on leftism.  IMO in a world without
leftist activiism throughout the 20th century, but with other
political factors roughly the same, the Western nations would now be
far more extremely owned by small egocentric elites, and science and
tech progress would be much less than they have been, as well as total
human happiness being much lower.   (Of course, I can also envision
other systems of gov't far better than anything current left or right
politicos imagine.  But that's a different story.) .... Similarly,
going forward toward Singularity, if we subtracted leftist
thinking/attitudes and left other sociopolitical factors roughly the
same, we'd end up with a pre-Singularity period in which small selfish
elites simply owned everything and manipulated the Singularity path
for their own personal good.  This would lead to all sorts of dangers
and problems beyond the intrinsic moral aspects of uncompassion and

-- Ben G


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