An apology to ...Re history of word "idiot"

Michael Cohen mike at
Wed Oct 14 16:58:43 PDT 1998

Carrol Cox wrote:

> Doyle Saylor wrote:
> So while I agree with Doyle in connecting the everyday use of "moron" and
> "idiot" with the social treatment of disability, I would suggest that if one
> attends to the history of "idiot," one could justify Carl using that term in
> reference to Max, for Max's fundamental principle, as exemplified in his
> posts on this list, is his refusal to subordinate the pseudo-politics of
> representative "democracy" to the discourse of public action grounded in
> public discourse among the *demos*. Of course Carl used *moron* (as had
> Max), and I know of no justification, historical or otherwise, for the use
> of that term.
> Carrol
> [Max, there is no insult here, or there is only if you confuse my specific
> and historically grounded use of "idiot" with any of the popular or current
> usages of the term.]

Carol, I think there is an empirical question here, one that can be settled by essentiallysophisticated beancounting. Obviously if the US had an even distribution of wealth and income one could not establish socialism by expropriating the wealthy. If one man owned all the wealth it would be an extremely simple question. The question really is a quantitative one although the answer may be conceivably unknowable at present. However, I doubt it. I suspect Max is right that workable social democracy requires payments from everybody although disproportionately from the wealthy. A more egalitarian society with a less sharp distribution of wealth is a worthwile goal independent of whether socialism can be established. In fact, even very Bourgeoise theorists are not in favor of highly unequal distributions of wealth, you can even see echos of this in Alan Greenspan.

Myself, I find this style of abusive discourse troubling. Apparently Lenin was willing to totally humiliate party members in public and this was his method of party discipline. Stalin's further move was to terrorize including excute individuals which he so humiliated. Then Generally the abuse is directed toward person one mostly agreed with having what seems to me some small disagreement. Max is obviously no "moron", "idiot" or "imbecile". If you look at the EPI Web site he spends a good part of his time trying to defend social democracy. As I understand it whatever social democracies which exist so far have much higher tax rates on the middle class as well as on the wealthy. On the other hand the government provides much more service to the lower and middle classes in such a state. Since Max is professionally involved he seems to know the literature on this score fairly reliably. This is not to say that he is not in error. The only other place other than politics, especially sectarian leftist politics that I am aware of that you see this type of humiliating, bullshit, insulting garbage is in fundamentalist religion. I feel its very right of Carl to apologize

As far is his refusal to subordinate the "pseudo-politics of representative democracy to the discourse of public action grounded in public discourse among the *demos*, whats your proposal". It seems he is close to your maxim here which I agree with, in my words only propose reforms you have some possibility of enacting or ones you use as a bargaining ploy to obtain a useful compromise. This of course doesn't mean doesn't understanding the socio--economic situation as scientifically as possible so as to be able to propose something which makes sense and might result in a victory. Because the "science" is none too good here, and politics are not identical, there is to be expected a wide range of different opinions.

--mike -- Michael Cohen mike at Work: 677 Beacon, Street, Rm313 Boston, Mass 02115 Home: 25 Stearns Rd, #3 Brookline, Mass 02146 Tel-Work: 617-353-9484 Tel-Home:617-734-8828 Tel-FAX:617-353-7755

More information about the lbo-talk mailing list