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Anti-Concepts

Posted by conscious1978 6 years, 9 months ago to Philosophy
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In Rand's _Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal_, she exposes the ploy of using "anti-concepts" in the essay, "Extremism," or The Art of Smearing.

"It consists of creating an artificial, unnecessary, and (rationally) unusable term, designed to replace and obliterate some legitimate concepts—a term which sounds like a concept, but stands for a "package-deal" of disparate, incongruous, contradictory elements taken out of any logical conceptual order or context, a "package-deal" whose (approximately) defining characteristic is always a non-essential. This last is the essence of the trick."

Also, she states:

"The purpose of 'anti-concepts' is to obliterate certain concepts without public discussion; and, as a means to that end, to make public discussion unintelligible, and to induce the same disintegration in the mind of any man who accepts them, rendering him incapable of clear thinking or rational judgment. No mind is better than the precision of its concepts."

She wrote that in 1965, but the technique has been perfected and widely used since. It is difficult to hear and see so many excellent words that have been the target of this type of dishonesty. Some concepts have been disconnected from their labels via unwarranted negative connotations, or their labels (words) have been co-opted by the smearing use of anti-concepts.

As a few examples, consider how these concepts have been abused and how they are generally interpreted by most people today:

Capitalism
Business
Free markets
Profits
Objectivism
Love
Patriot
Theory

There are many more to add to the list. For starters, could we please try to refrain from corrupting "capitalism" any longer with the anti-concept of "crony capitalism"? :) Let's call it cronyism, political cronyism, or corruption - and try to expose both ends of that unethical equation.


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  • Posted by johnpe1 6 years, 9 months ago
    could we add:
    tea party (for racist klan people)
    immigration (for invasion)
    reform (for amnesty)
    music (for rap)
    talk radio ( for right-wing lies)
    healthcare (for health insurance)
    settled science (for east anglia dry-lab)
    smidgen (for vast majority)
    climate change (for global warming)
    economics (for targeted bribery)
    social justice (for progressivism)
    dogwhistle (for leper's bell of an approaching looter)
    etc.
    -- j

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  • Posted by salta 6 years, 9 months ago
    Does anybody find most political labels cause a barrier to communication?
    They should provide a shorthand to the meaning being communicated, but unless I'm talking with my friends who I know have similar politics I try to just talk about specific issues rather than using labels. "Socialism" is the most problematic, as soon as that word is mentioned somebody is always eager to define it for everyone, and the conversation degrades with the actual issue getting ignored.
    "But that's not what socialism means..." (oh no, here we go again!)
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    • Posted by $ blarman 6 years, 9 months ago
      It is very true that any logical discussion begins with definitions. I suggest keeping a dictionary on hand or being prepared to defend your particular definition.

      All this assumes, of course, that the other parties are in it for the truth, or just to argue.
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      • Posted by salta 6 years, 9 months ago
        Agreement on definitions is obviously an advantage. Although even if we can eventually agree on a definition of some label, we still have not achieved any progress on the specific moral or philosophical issue at hand.
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        • Posted by IndianaGary 6 years, 9 months ago
          Agreement on definitions is mandatory for any meaningful discussion to occur. What, otherwise, could you possibly be able to debate?
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          • Posted by salta 6 years, 9 months ago
            IndianaGary, an example topic would be discussion of tax funded healthcare. If I once use the word "socialism" or even "socialized healthcare", then someone is likely to try to tell me what the REAL definition of socialism is, and the main topic gets lost. Just saying thats why I try to avoid using certain hot-button labels, and stick to economic principles instead.
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            • Posted by IndianaGary 6 years, 9 months ago
              Then you are not objecting to tax-funded healthcare on MORAL grounds, which is the proper approach. Objecting on economic grounds leaves the moral high ground to your opponent.
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              • Posted by salta 6 years, 9 months ago
                ...and by digressing into defining some label, we would be doing neither (even if we win the definition battle!)
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                • Posted by IndianaGary 6 years, 9 months ago
                  ...and if you don't agree on what words mean, you and your opponent are essentially speaking different languages. But, then, you'll never know, will you? You'll just feel frustrated because you can't understand why you can't get your concepts across. I'm not just being pedantic; there is no other way to successfully communicate. Words are the tools of knowledge and without agreement on the meaning of words, no knowledge can be transferred. As Blarman noted above, dictionaries (and, I'll add, thesauri) are there to aid the process of discourse.
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      • Posted by shivas 6 years, 9 months ago
        At some point you may also have to be prepared to defend your dictionary. One of the consequences of human advancement is that word usage is evolving much faster than nature.
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    • Posted by livefreely 6 years, 9 months ago
      It is only a barrier if you allow it. I for one take it as an opportunity to point out that it is just a metaphor for not knowing what the hell they are talking about.
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  • Posted by NealS 6 years, 9 months ago
    I just sent the ACLU a whole bunch of my recently dead father-in-laws winning letters of millions of dollars. He's receive 80 plus since he died a month ago. ACLU sent him a letter telling how the right was trying to suppress voter rights by requiring ID to vote, and they wanted a donation. I gave them one, stuffing a bunch of those "you just won millions of dollars" letters in their "No Postage Necessary" envelope. It came out quite heavy. Maybe they can collect some of his "winnings" and use the money to support their effort to continue to deceive the people. ACLU, does that qualify as an Anti-Concept today?
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  • Posted by salta 6 years, 9 months ago
    Adding the adjective "crony" definitely corrupts the concept, because people who do not know much about it (most people unfortunately today!) accept it is simply a property of capitalism. I like your word "cronyism".
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  • Posted by $ jbrenner 6 years, 9 months ago
    Crony socialism is more accurate.
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    • Posted by $ Abaco 6 years, 9 months ago
      Absolutely. I recently heard the term given to it, "crapitalism". I use that now.
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      • Posted by 6 years, 9 months ago
        I think I understand your sentiment, but "crapitalism" is something that just further degrades the meaning of capitalism, so becoming another anti-concept. ;)

        I would like to think the word "capitalism" still has a chance to survive while attached to the concept. If not, we'll have to create a new one that is scrubbed of recent generations of dirt.
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        • Posted by $ jbrenner 6 years, 9 months ago
          Wasn't the term "capitalism" a construct of Karl Marx? Let's stick to free enterprise, or just enterprise, especially given the positive Star Trek connotation.
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      • Posted by $ jbrenner 6 years, 9 months ago

        Thanks. Maybe you heard "crapitalism" from me, since I use it routinely in the Gulch
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        • Posted by 6 years, 9 months ago
          I saw Stossel's show on "crapitalism" last night. It was disappointing to see the term used. Although, "we" get the joke of its usage, I would suggest that most people just hear it as a commentary _on_ capitalism. He mentioned, at some point, that is was when "capitalists" collude with politicians for favors. And again, I winced as the concept of a capitalist was associated with corruption. I'm certainly not the 'word police', but this demonstrates a lack of precision needed when describing this kind of corruption. When you decide to collude with someone in government to gain an unfair advantage, you just moved from capitalist to criminal (or unethical, at the least.) Rescuing capitalism is already an uphill battle - handle with care.

          Rand offered a clear understanding of why capitalism is so important in her 1965 essay, _What Is Capitalism?_

          She wrote:

          "Capitalism is a social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned."
          ....
          "The _moral_ justification of capitalism does not lie in the altruist claim that it represents the best way to achieve "the common good." It is true that capitalism does---if that catch-phrase has any meaning---but this is merely a secondary consequence. The moral justification of capitalism lies in the fact that it is the only system consonant with man's rational nature, that it protects man's survival _qua_ man, and that its ruling principle is: _justice._"
          ....
          "Of all the social systems in mankind's history, _capitalism is the only system based on an objective theory of values._"
          ....
          "The objective theory of values is the only moral theory incompatible with rule by force. Capitalism is the only system based implicitly on an objective theory of values---and the historic tragedy is that this has never been made explicit."
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          • Posted by $ jbrenner 6 years, 9 months ago
            I still think that crapitalism is a valid term. I would modify Stossel's definition, however, to when business owners (as opposed to capitalists) collude with politicians for favors.
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            • Posted by salta 6 years, 9 months ago
              There is a problem with the word "crapitalism" in written text. When reading fast it is easy to miss one extra letter, and then the meaning and intent of the sentence could be reversed.
              That can be dangerous. The writer always knows what they meant, but cannot tell what meaning the reader walks away with.
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              • Posted by $ jbrenner 6 years, 9 months ago
                I don't mean any offense, but if people can't read carefully enough, they aren't worth worrying about. They don't belong in the Gulch. If you someone misreads "crapitalism" as capitalism, then likely they are going to be moochers anyway.
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                • Posted by 6 years, 9 months ago
                  JB, you raise a good point, but I don't worry too much about folks in the Gulch misunderstanding. A better case could be made that moochers already think of capitalism as crapitalism - for different reasons....

                  Still, there are those out there that are just becoming "conscious" of the importance of philosophy in their lives; they have been raised in a 'sound bite' world that has stunted their hearing. They can 'sense' things are screwed up today on many levels and are trying to figure things out. It's easy for them to get disillusioned. I owe it to myself to communicate with them in as clear a manner as possible. In your profession, I'm sure you meet people like this all the time.

                  With all due respect, I'm not trying to contest you personally - just explaining my rationale. ;)
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                  • Posted by $ jbrenner 6 years, 9 months ago
                    I totally get your point, conscious1978 and salta, that we ought to be as clear as possible in our communications with outsiders. If we really want to be clear, we need to avoid the Marxist term "capitalism" altogether and stick to free enterprise.
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  • Posted by FlukeMan2 6 years, 9 months ago
    Great quotes. Thanks. It all kind of sounds like an abstract description of strawman arguments and the fallacy of equivocation explaining the harm they do. I run into those a lot in LDS apologetics.
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  • Posted by CircuitGuy 6 years, 9 months ago
    How have each of these words been changed? For example, you say capitalism is associated with cronyism by saying crony capitalism. I can see the downside of this, but I wonder if it also implies cronyism is the exception to the rule. This is similar to saying compassionate conservative, implying that usually conservatives are not compassionate. Maybe the phrase crony capitalism is good b/c it implies capitalism is an honest way of dealing with one another, and cronyism is an exception.
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    • Posted by 6 years, 9 months ago
      CG, it seems that any time there is a popularized combination of a negative concept describing / introducing a positive one, then the positive concept 'loses' in the long run. That's why I think it is easy for us to see the "downside".
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  • Posted by Herb7734 6 years, 9 months ago
    I like to define the "isms" in terms of stuff, which is illustrated as the way in which it is produced. In other words, the means of production.
    Socialism is when the means of production are controlled by the government.
    Fascism is when the means of production are privately held but controlled by the government.
    Capitalism is when the means of production are privately held.
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  • Posted by LITTLERED1977 6 years, 9 months ago
    Very good topic. Going forward, I will make sure not to use the term "crony capitalism." I'm not confident in using "free market" either. Unless we have the same ability to send goods as well as receive, it's not a "free market".
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  • Posted by RGrimes1987 6 years, 9 months ago
    I like the term "free markets" that's a good idea. I think that as "the mob" or "the masses" take over more and more we should be finding the term for a fake/crony republic as we are producing more and more children who think this nation is a democracy. Maybe "forged republic" or "pseudo republic" for some terms to start off with. What do you guys think we should call it?
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      Posted by XenokRoy 6 years, 9 months ago
      First two definitions:
      Democracy: government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system.

      Republic: a state in which the supreme power rests in the body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by representatives chosen directly or indirectly by them.

      To me the key difference is that in the democracy the power rests in all the people while in a republic is a body of the people entitled to vote.

      This creates a problem with the idea that we are a republic. Let me first discuss the original way our federal officials were elected and the relationship each office had with the states as a result of the election process.

      The president represented the state governors not the people. That was why the governors appointed men/women to the electoral collage who then voted on the president. Ultimately the president answered to the governors. If he wanted his job again it would be largely up to the governors if he got it or not. The governors are specific body of people.

      The Senate represented the states, evenly regardless of size. Thus the reason why the senate was appointed by the state legislators. The senators did not answer to the people but rather to the state legislator. Once again it was a specific body of people that were able to get a senator in to office or out of office.

      The house represented the land owners. As only a land owner could vote. This was the closest thing to a representative democracy in the federal government.

      Now women could not vote. I am ignoring that as opening the vote to women did not really change us from a republic to a democracy. If all else had been left alone all three of those bodies would still be republic bodies.

      Each has had its election model changed, and in all case - one could argue the president otherwise, but I would not agree with it - we have through constitutional amendment effectively changed our government from a republic to a democracy.

      Its not a fake republic, the US became a democracy and if it had not we would not have most (and possibly any) of the issues we have today.

      If the president had to get in front of a relatively small group of well educated people on the current issues that were hand picked by governors based on issues of the time could a man with no understanding of economics get in the white house when the economy was a major issue? Could a man with no diplomatic skills get in when foreign affairs were a major issue?

      With the senate answering to the states rather than the people could programs that would remove power form the state, or put additional burden on the state ever get into law? Could a program like welfare ever come to be? I do not think so. The house may pass such a bill but the senate would never let it fly.

      The house, if only land owners voted, would it allow for a giveaway program? Even if that condition was dropped but voting was a privilege to be earned in some other way rather than a right would such programs be likely to every even be brought up? I think it unlikely.

      Now at a state level I am sure some states would attempt to have free health care, and free retirement... as states are democracies, and always have been largely democracies. However they would have to compete with states that had no such public programs. The commerce would flee the state and the state would have to change due to the free market competition between states.

      We have effectively change all three to a representative democracy rather than a republic. I would like to understand in what way our government is a republic today. It was set up as a republic.

      We changed our country to a democracy through constitutional amendment and that is at the center of everything that has gone wrong with it. It is not the only factor but it is a major factor.

      The question is what words do you use to get people to understand that having everyone vote is not a good idea. Having no representation at the federal level that answers to states is a bad idea and having a president elected by popular opinion is about the worst thing ever. What are the words you use to convey that without a long post like this one?
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      • Posted by Genez 6 years, 9 months ago
        An excellent description of the original republic ideal and how it has been transformed. I don't know that I've seen it described as clearly and succinctly anywhere else. Hope you don't mind if I pass this along as an example of understanding how the country has changed.
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        • Posted by XenokRoy 6 years, 9 months ago
          Not at all. Feel free, and it may be a good idea to find the actually amendments and laws that changed it all.

          Senate is easy as it was the 17th amendment, the president was a law change that occurred just after the civil war and the land owner change was berried in the women's suffrage bill that gave women the right to vote if I remember correctly.
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      • Posted by RGrimes1987 6 years, 9 months ago
        Could the body of citizens that you define as a republic actually be those we elected to congress though? I do like how you describe the transformation of our country.
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        • Posted by XenokRoy 6 years, 9 months ago
          If the body of citizens that make up the republic is those we elect to congress then what the difference between a republic and representative democracy? That body would exist in both forms of government.

          You can read some of Montesqieu's work if you want to dig into it more deeply. He was a significant influence on our founders as many referenced his writings about government in there own letters and writings. A decade ago when I was doing a lot of reading on different government types I read a few of his esseys. They are rather dry and translated from 18th century french which makes them even harder reading. :). I cant say I made it though very much of his work. It was far more interesting to read things from Jefferson that referenced his work. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montesquieu...
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          • Posted by RGrimes1987 6 years, 9 months ago
            Do you have any links to his original works?
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            • Posted by XenokRoy 6 years, 9 months ago
              http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/etcbin/toc...

              Did a quick search and turned one up, more will be out there. This shows my age a bit, but I had to go to libraries to find the articles, books and essays when I was reading some of his work. Its been a long time.

              Edit: Also if your interested Cicero from the Greek empire had a significant influence and was quoted by many of our founders (Thomas Payne and Jefferson in particular). Cicero felt democracy the worst form of government because at some point a majority figured out they could get whatever they wanted from a minority and that principle was guaranteed to bring about its destruction. Cicero saw many different styles of governments in the Greek city states which I think gave him an understanding of different governments well ahead of his time.
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              • Posted by RGrimes1987 6 years, 9 months ago
                So from what I read it sounds like we had a mix of different things. If our founders were influenced by Montesqieu's work. In the forms of government that he presents you have a republic which is either democracy or aristocracy, and monarchy and despotism.
                I can see a little bit of all except for despotism in the framing of our country.

                Out of everything the right to vote by all citizens has been progressively gained, I do think that every citizen should have a right to vote it is important that they have a stake and a knowledge of or about what they are voting on though. According to montisqieu's writings we were originally closer to an aristocracy since only white protestant males could vote in some states. I do believe that it is important for everyone to gain the ability to vote, but to gain that ability they should have a stake in what they are voting for and a good knowledge and understanding, in other words a good education. The only problem with that is by who standards is a good education? So if you only allow those who have a stake in what is voted on they will hopefully have a goodly knowledge about those things that effect them when they vote.

                I do think a good way would be to allow those who have a stake in the laws and regulations that may or may not be imposed on them the ability to vote.

                In the end by montesqieu's writings we have at least got a democratic republic which is still in essence a republic none the less.

                Montesqieu's writings are actually pretty good reads and look forward to more. I will look into Cicero from the Greek empire as well. Let me know if I am not understanding something correctly.

                Edit: I would also like to add that Montesqieu adds at the end of his The Spirit of the Laws: "As all human things have an end, the state we are speaking of will lose its liberty, it will perish. Have not Rome, Sparta, and Carthage perished? It will perish when the legislative power shall be more corrupted than the executive." So it may be an inevitability that the United States that the framers made will pass on. The thing we can hope for is that something else will be filled with another freedom loving people and country.
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                • Posted by XenokRoy 6 years, 9 months ago
                  Both Montesqieu and Cicero basically felt that all forms of government would only govern a society until corruption set in and then it will perish.

                  I think part of what the founders were attempting to do to make our government last was combine various elements of multiple forms of government together to create a form of check and balances to keep the united states from eventually failing. They attempted to have different groups self interest act as a check and balance against the corruption.

                  My post was an attempt to show how we have systematically removed those elements towards a single form of government and single body (the people) being represented. I would argue that to represent even 1 million people in such a way would allow for corruption as majorities can be played against minorities by a person or group to get what they want. The conflicting interests are needed to keep us from going the way of Rome, Sparta and Carthage. I do not think it was inevitable, I think the founders set it up so that it would not be. It became inevitable with the changes we made which removed the checks and balances of self interest from the system.


                  As far as everyone voting, I think everyone should be able to have the privilege to vote, but not the right. I think it very important its viewed as a privilege and not a right. That little psychological change helps the people of society from moving towards an entitlement based society.

                  It does not have to be land ownership, or some value in stock... i do think that is likely a good simple measure of if a person is likely to have the knowledge needed to be a responsible voter. Another system that would also be good, but much less restrictive is to have people have to take a certification test to show they have the needed knowledge to vote intelligently.

                  I do think if you are going to avoid the eventual doom that corruption will lead to in any society you must have conflicting interests of differing groups represented in your government so that unless (in our case) the states and the people both like something it wont get through.

                  Enjoy reading more Montesqieu and Cicero. If you want to read about the framers/founders there is a book I would highly recommend over any other book I have found.

                  http://www.amazon.com/The-Making-America...

                  Its by far the best I have found. I do have on suggestion when reading it. I tried to get through it several times and failed, then I approached it a bit differently.

                  The first section of the book is a couple of paragraphs on each of the participants in the convention (federal and state). Reading this first is a very good way to go to sleep. skip this, but refer back to it when you are trying to piece together who is who as you read the rest of the book. Treat it as an index or an appendix. Start the book on the introduction, freedom - an idea whose time has come. Then enjoy, based upon your comments about Montesqieu I think you will like "The Making of America" a great deal.

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      • Posted by shivas 6 years, 9 months ago
        Okay...I found the 17th Amendment that changed the way senators are elected. I can't find an Amendment that changes the voting eligibility from land owners to citizen or the change in presidential elections from electoral collage to popular vote. Can anyone point me in the right direction here?

        I love the land owner concept, as those who own land really do have a stake the country, although we'd subdividing land into square feet to get a vote.
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        • Posted by XenokRoy 6 years, 9 months ago
          I would actually change the land owner slightly. Its the right idea but you bring up the reason I would change it.

          Rather than simply being a land owner (becuase we would have people owning one square foot of land and some one like George Soros (spelling likely wrong) would give away square inch plots to get the masses voting. I would change it to land or stock in a US based company equal to the value that of the average entry level home in the country.

          Basically maintains the idea that you need to have some ownership of the country before you gain the right to vote.

          Edit: Oh and I posted to another with what I remember each of the changes to be. Its been a while since I looked them up, but the other two are line items inside other laws that were passed.
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        • Posted by RGrimes1987 6 years, 9 months ago
          The only thing I can really find is that in all reality the electoral collage is all that matters since a president can lose an election even if he has the popular vote. My question to that asks. Why isn't there more of an emphasis on the electoral collage and getting people in that? I think that they do have some state or federal rules, not amendments, that say if you win a certain percentage of votes than you get all of the electoral votes.
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          • Posted by XenokRoy 6 years, 9 months ago
            You are correct, I cannot remember the law where they changed it from the electoral collage actually being a group of people to being a number of votes each state had for the president, but it was shortly after the civil war.
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  • Posted by ISank 6 years, 9 months ago
    Great idea, as I have been consistent about saying this is not capitalism but it is crony capitalism. To the listener it's still capitalism. Think I'll go with the "political cronyism" suggestion. Corruption comes across as more accurate though.
    Thanks for sharing that!
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  • Posted by $ CBJ 6 years, 9 months ago
    As far as I can tell, the phrase "free markets" is still viewed positively by most of the public, and retains its historical meaning. When I explain my economic beliefs, I almost always use the term "free market" rather than "capitalism", which has lost much of its original meaning in everyday usage.
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    • Posted by 6 years, 9 months ago
      I hope it is still viewed positively. Maybe I've just run into more of those that see it as meaning "monopolies" and "anarchy".
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      • Posted by ewv 6 years, 9 months ago
        The progressives have been using "free market" to describe Obamacare. Obamacare was never intended to work; they have from the beginning intended it as a means towards full socialized medicine, entrenching as much power as they could get and establishing precedents. They intended it to destroy what is left of the insurance market and cause such disaster that people beg in desperation for the government to take over completely. Obamacare has been such a mess from the beginning that the plan backfired but they are claiming that Obamacare "exchanges" are the "free market", in part to gain sympathy for Obamacare and in part to blame the problems on capitalism. They are stealing and corrupting "free market" the way they misuse "contribution" to mean taxes and "investment" to mean government spending (this one started long ago with Keynes).
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