Obscured Tautology and the Persistence of SocialismThursday, 28 January 2021
Since sometime in my childhood, I have repeatedly encountered arguments of the form
enough makes this claim a tautology; it really just unpacks to
But the tautology is vacuous and useless in cases in which
is not possible, as in
It is true that
It just isn't true that
Outside of pædogogic exercises, when someone makes a declaration of form
he or she is presuming or insinuating that
but this proposition may not be true, and certainly ought to be examined before accepting
as part of an argument that
The reason that I write about this issue of logic now is that is seems to me that a great many people essentially believe that
Some critics would perhaps want to ask the genuinely important question of to just whom this
us refer, but for my purpose here they can be left as a variable to be assigned whatever value the political left might want. My objection is that lurking in the argument is
And, in this context, even a genuine failure of socialism will not be seen as a reason to quit trying. The socialists can always tell themselves
We can succeed next time, or at least fail better.
The typical opponent of socialism argues that socialism will fail because people will not be motivated to expend sufficient effort. Not only can this been seen as a problem of virtue by the political left; it has been seen as a problem of virtue by the political right, who sometimes ascribe the impossibility of well functioning socialism to Original Sin.
But a motivation to work with sufficient intensity is not the deepest practical problem of socialism. The problem of knowing at what to work — the Problem of Economic Calculation — is the deepest problem. We can presume that, somehow, everyone conforms utterly to a left-wing notion of virtue, and still the Problem of Economic Calculation will abide.
But, hidden behind an obscured and misapplied tautology, the presumption that such a level exists can keep socialists banging their heads against the wall indefinitely and putting other people against the wall indefinitely.