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← Arguably: Essays by Christopher Hitchens

Arguably: Essays by Christopher Hitchens - Comments

Peter L's Avatar Comment 1 by Peter L

Ordered. Can't wait but will have to for a little while anyway

Sat, 20 Aug 2011 18:56:33 UTC | #862794

Red Dog's Avatar Comment 2 by Red Dog

"Hitchens even looks at the recent financial crisis and argues for arthe enduring relevance of Karl Marx."

First, note there is a typo in that sentence: "for arthe".

I would be interested to read what he says on this (and on everything else, I don't always agree with Hitchens but he has an amazing mind and ability with words that I envy).

IMO Marx was clearly wrong in many ways, for example thinking what he was doing was science without really applying the scientific method. And he has been misinterpreted and abused by plenty of tyrants. But he also had some very interesting things to say that people at least in the US virtually ignore because to ever quote Marx brands you instantly as a far left loon. His description of the cyclical nature of capitalism and how corporations will tend toward more and more mergers with fewer, bigger ones dominating the world seems pretty accurate to me.

Sat, 20 Aug 2011 19:41:44 UTC | #862811

jmaycock's Avatar Comment 3 by jmaycock

Great to see this new publication from the great man. Can't wait to read it.

Sat, 20 Aug 2011 20:30:07 UTC | #862823

msbav8r's Avatar Comment 4 by msbav8r

Comment 2 by Red Dog :

"Hitchens even looks at the recent financial crisis and argues for arthe enduring relevance of Karl Marx."

First, note there is a typo in that sentence: "for arthe".

I would be interested to read what he says on this (and on everything else, I don't always agree with Hitchens but he has an amazing mind and ability with words that I envy).

IMO Marx was clearly wrong in many ways, for example thinking what he was doing was science without really applying the scientific method. And he has been misinterpreted and abused by plenty of tyrants. But he also had some very interesting things to say that people at least in the US virtually ignore because to ever quote Marx brands you instantly as a far left loon. His description of the cyclical nature of capitalism and how corporations will tend toward more and more mergers with fewer, bigger ones dominating the world seems pretty accurate to me.

Yet, the exponential growth of government and the absolute destruction of the economy, by it's insatiable appetite for taxpayer money and incestuous relationships that foster the very conditions you mention, is never brought up by those who laud Marx.

The domination of large companies, is SOLELY the result of bribery of elected officials, who trade favorable tax code and legislation for campaign contributions.

The big difference between the government and the corporations is that corporations don't have the power to deprive you of liberty and freedom if you don't purchase their products.

Remember, corporations can't affect laws without corrupt, complicit politicians.

Sat, 20 Aug 2011 20:35:57 UTC | #862826

AtheistEgbert's Avatar Comment 5 by AtheistEgbert

I love Hitchens, unfortunately, I have too many books (several years worth) to read at the moment. He does looks incredibly mean on the cover, but I know the man has mellowed recently. I always viewed him as a bit of an intellectual bulldog, a quality that is intolerable in many, however Hitchens always seems to be on the right side of justice (with a few controversial exceptions), and is therefore a much needed hero.

Sat, 20 Aug 2011 20:44:11 UTC | #862831

ergaster's Avatar Comment 6 by ergaster

Ordered.

Hitch is also supposed to be working on a book about the Ten Commandments. I haven't heard any news on this for some while, but I do hope he will finalise the manuscript.

I must admit that evertytime I see a headline with Hitchens in it I fear the worst... Hang in there Hitch.

Sat, 20 Aug 2011 21:15:15 UTC | #862837

MAJORPAIN's Avatar Comment 7 by MAJORPAIN

Yea, a new Hitchens book! Off to the bookstore I am.

Sat, 20 Aug 2011 21:17:05 UTC | #862840

Red Dog's Avatar Comment 8 by Red Dog

Comment 4 by msbav8r :

Comment 2 by Red Dog :

"Hitchens even looks at the recent financial crisis and argues for arthe enduring relevance of Karl Marx."

The domination of large companies, is SOLELY the result of bribery of elected officials, who trade favorable tax code and legislation for campaign contributions.

The big difference between the government and the corporations is that corporations don't have the power to deprive you of liberty and freedom if you don't purchase their products.

Remember, corporations can't affect laws without corrupt, complicit politicians.

I share your disdain for corrupt politicians. But I don't agree that its the ONLY reason. For example, why do we as citizens still elect politicians that are obviously corrupt? Its not hard to see which ones are corrupt, and yes its most of them but IMO its certainly not all of them. In the US Russ Feingold was quite clearly one of the good ones but he lost in the last election. So there must be other reasons. And I think one other big reason is that corporations also dominate the major media. And what's worse is that most people -- even fairly intelligent well educated people -- don't really understand how much the corporations dominate the media. In the US its common to hear people talk about CNN and the New York Times as the "liberal media" ignoring their glaring and obvious corporate bias.

Sat, 20 Aug 2011 23:03:02 UTC | #862861

crusader234's Avatar Comment 9 by crusader234

Good man is that Hitch

Sun, 21 Aug 2011 01:39:34 UTC | #862880

Crazycharlie's Avatar Comment 10 by Crazycharlie

One can read Hitch's books, go back, read them again and always learn some new insight into history, politics, literature, culture, language, religion, you name it. Always interesting, never boring. Although I know I've already read many of the essays in this book, I'm ordering it at Amazon.com anyway, asap.

Sun, 21 Aug 2011 01:43:41 UTC | #862882

dilated_in_disbelief's Avatar Comment 11 by dilated_in_disbelief

Comment 4 by msbav8r :

Yet, the exponential growth of government and the absolute destruction of the economy, by it's insatiable appetite for taxpayer money and incestuous relationships that foster the very conditions you mention, is never brought up by those who laud Marx.

The domination of large companies, is SOLELY the result of bribery of elected officials, who trade favorable tax code and legislation for campaign contributions.

The big difference between the government and the corporations is that corporations don't have the power to deprive you of liberty and freedom if you don't purchase their products.

Remember, corporations can't affect laws without corrupt, complicit politicians.

Hey, how are you doing? I want to be polite at the onset.

It is obvious that the government AND the market played a role in the destruction of the global economy, which naturally affected the United States economy. To get more specific, investment firms and specific companies, who "play" in the market, had a major influence. The government definitely has an appetite for taxpayer's dollars. However, some people have a lower tax percentage than their secretaries. Obviously not everyone is getting the bad end of the tax deal, and those people who aren't have support from the corporate world for remarkably noticeable reasons. Don't forget that limited regulations of a free-market play a role in the power of corporations (Some people don't think there are enough regulations, some think there are too many). Legal legislature by lobbyists happens to influence nicely as well. There are more lobbyists for corporate autonomy than any other issue or special interest group. Candidates only stand a chance at successfully getting their voice heard with contributions from the ultra-wealthy and those who work in corporations.

Considering how many jobs have been lost in the government and how much defense-related work is outsourced to corporations, I doubt there has been an exponential growth in the United States government recently. We may have different definitions of "government," although the United States government has pretty much expanded under every president over the last fifty years, especially under Bush Jr., if I remember correctly.

The bizarre reasoning that corporate domination is only due to the bribing politicians is a patent dismissal of what you've implicated; the ill intentions of those who seek to bribe. It's okay, it turns out there are a few more bad guys than you originally thought. However, they want you to point the finger in only one direction.

Corporations may not take away freedom but they certainly don't provide it. They limit what you can read, watch, eat, use, etc. They limit your options. The freedom then comes from being able to seek out an alternative, but not everyone knows of that possibility.

There's a lot of frustration on all sides these days and the truth is we're all mad at the same people. I'm trying to learn more about our problems every day and, not to sound like a "hippy," I honestly hope more people can come together and agree on a reasonable way to fix our dire situation.

Sun, 21 Aug 2011 07:43:56 UTC | #862919

Reginald's Avatar Comment 12 by Reginald

Majorpain

"The big difference between the government and the corporations is that corporations don't have the power to deprive you of liberty and freedom if you don't purchase their products".

But couldn't they act as independent quasi-politicians ? I think it has happened; eg the Dutch and British corporations in India and the far east. There was nothing to stop them raising amies and imposing their political and economic will. I think the Chinese in Africa may act similarly. It is only natural that they would protect their interests locally, by force if necessary.

Sun, 21 Aug 2011 08:37:20 UTC | #862926

Stevezar's Avatar Comment 13 by Stevezar

Comment 11 by dilated_in_disbelief :

Comment 4 by msbav8r :

The bizarre reasoning that corporate domination is only due to the bribing politicians is a patent dismissal of what you've implicated; the ill intentions of those who seek to bribe. It's okay, it turns out there are a few more bad guys than you originally thought. However, they want you to point the finger in only one direction.

Thats true, its a team up and you can't just blame one. Many err on the side of blaming only the government or only the corporations.

Corporations may not take away freedom but they certainly don't provide it. They limit what you can read, watch, eat, use, etc. They limit your options. The freedom then comes from being able to seek out an alternative, but not everyone knows of that possibility.

You lost me here. How do corporations limit those things you mention?

Sun, 21 Aug 2011 10:06:45 UTC | #862935

josephor's Avatar Comment 14 by josephor

Hitch is what God would like to be: Real, honest and likable.

Sun, 21 Aug 2011 15:47:49 UTC | #862993

KenChimp's Avatar Comment 15 by KenChimp

Comment 4 by msbav8r :

Comment 2 by Red Dog :

Yet, the exponential growth of government and the absolute destruction of the economy, by it's insatiable appetite for taxpayer money and incestuous relationships that foster the very conditions you mention, is never brought up by those who laud Marx.

Right on, man! You've outlined exactly what the problem is in America between business and government.

The domination of large companies, is SOLELY the result of bribery of elected officials, who trade favorable tax code and legislation for campaign contributions.

And here's the methodology put pretty succinctly.

The big difference between the government and the corporations is that corporations don't have the power to deprive you of liberty and freedom if you don't purchase their products.

At least not yet. ;-}

But the RomneyCare swindle is a step in that direction, isn't it?

Remember, corporations can't affect laws without corrupt, complicit politicians.

Of whom there are more than enough to get that illegal and patently un-American job done.

Sun, 21 Aug 2011 17:10:29 UTC | #863007

Red Dog's Avatar Comment 16 by Red Dog

Comment 4 by msbav8r :

Comment 2 by Red Dog :

The big difference between the government and the corporations is that corporations don't have the power to deprive you of liberty and freedom if you don't purchase their products.

Sort of a late reply but one more thought: corporations are definitely going in that direction. Read Jeremy Skahill's book on Blackwater. Its a private corporate theocratic army with deep ties to the US government and CIA. Its one really f*ing scary book. Not just the things that Blackwater has done in Iraq where they used to routinely shoot civilians with no consequences and "use their guns like auto horns" But even in the US during the Katrina disaster Blackwater came in and turned the New Orleans area into the equivalent of a little corporate police state under Blackwater martial law.

Sun, 21 Aug 2011 17:44:12 UTC | #863014

Stafford Gordon's Avatar Comment 17 by Stafford Gordon

Done.

Sun, 21 Aug 2011 18:20:16 UTC | #863025

Mr DArcy's Avatar Comment 18 by Mr DArcy

Of course Marx is still relevant. We still live in a capitalist world divided into workers and owners. Most people are workers. The brutal exploitation of workers in places like "communist" China just shows that you must always look at the reality and not just accept that "communism" exists in such places as China. Or that "communism" suddenly ceased to exist in eastern Europe when the Berlin wall came down. These places were / are throughly capitalist in nature with the majority having to work on behalf of an owning class who don't have to work because they own. Governments by and large, represent the interests of their respective owning class.

Anyone who has spent 5 minutes reading Marx will know that he would have been vehemently opposed to any form of capitalism, whether outwardly capitalist as in say the USA or with a "socialist" lable as in eastern Europe, China Cuba etc.

Sun, 21 Aug 2011 19:10:10 UTC | #863043

Red Dog's Avatar Comment 19 by Red Dog

Comment 18 by Mr DArcy :

Of course Marx is still relevant. We still live in a capitalist world divided into workers and owners. Most people are workers. The brutal exploitation of workers in places like "communist" China just shows that you must always look at the reality and not just accept that "communism" exists in such places as China. Or that "communism" suddenly ceased to exist in eastern Europe when the Berlin wall came down. These places were / are throughly capitalist in nature with the majority having to work on behalf of an owning class who don't have to work because they own. Governments by and large, represent the interests of their respective owning class.

Anyone who has spent 5 minutes reading Marx will know that he would have been vehemently opposed to any form of capitalism, whether outwardly capitalist as in say the USA or with a "socialist" lable as in eastern Europe, China Cuba etc.

I agree with all you said but I just want to point out how similar Marxist/Atheist arguments and Theist arguments can be. For both sides if you point out "X did terrible things in the name of Y" Where X can be Stalin, Mao, the pope, the Inquisition, Al Queda and Y can be Marxism/Atheism, Christianity, Islam the argument is always "X does not really represent the true values of Y".

Sun, 21 Aug 2011 22:34:13 UTC | #863089

Rich Wiltshir's Avatar Comment 20 by Rich Wiltshir

I'm looking forward to reading some of Christopher's stuff that I may not agree with; it's great to test your instincts and opinions against such a potent thinker and communicator.

It's on my wish list, "Arguably".

Thanks to the man, once again.

Sun, 21 Aug 2011 22:40:21 UTC | #863092

robotaholic's Avatar Comment 21 by robotaholic

I think my favorite thing he's written (that I've read) is the beginning of The Portable Atheist. His way with words gives me chills sometimes. I can't wait to get this! salivating

Mon, 22 Aug 2011 05:22:51 UTC | #863130

justinesaracen's Avatar Comment 22 by justinesaracen

A compendium of past essays is wonderful, but also a sign that the man is not currently writing any new ones. A book like this can be produced by his editor with minimal input from Hitchens (essentially only approval of which essays are chosen and which order they come in.)

This makes me sad because I think it is a sign that he is very very sick and not able to produce.

I'll buy the book of course, but I have an uneasy feeling it may be the last we get from him.

(Hitch, if you're reading this, please know that there are thousands of us out here that care and worry at what seem to be the 'bad signs.')

Mon, 22 Aug 2011 06:36:29 UTC | #863133

Graxan's Avatar Comment 23 by Graxan

Comment 4 by msbav8r :

Comment 2 by Red Dog :

"Hitchens even looks at the recent financial crisis and argues for arthe enduring relevance of Karl Marx."

First, note there is a typo in that sentence: "for arthe". I would be interested to read what he says on this (and on everything else, I don't always agree with Hitchens but he has an amazing mind and ability with words that I envy).

IMO Marx was clearly wrong in many ways, for example thinking what he was doing was science without really applying the scientific method. And he has been misinterpreted and abused by plenty of tyrants. But he also had some very interesting things to say that people at least in the US virtually ignore because to ever quote Marx brands you instantly as a far left loon. His description of the cyclical nature of capitalism and how corporations will tend toward more and more mergers with fewer, bigger ones dominating the world seems pretty accurate to me. Yet, the exponential growth of government and the absolute destruction of the economy, by it's insatiable appetite for taxpayer money and incestuous relationships that foster the very conditions you mention, is never brought up by those who laud Marx.

The domination of large companies, is SOLELY the result of bribery of elected officials, who trade favorable tax code and legislation for campaign contributions.

The big difference between the government and the corporations is that corporations don't have the power to deprive you of liberty and freedom if you don't purchase their products. Remember, corporations can't affect laws without corrupt, complicit politicians.

This is bad urgument. What about meteoric rises by companies who just had the right product? I'm thinking particularly of IT companies. Facebook, Google. etc. While they are no doubt well established now, I very much doubt they became dominant through bribing public officials.

Your argument is true but only discusses one facet of the picture in the business world.

Mon, 22 Aug 2011 11:45:30 UTC | #863171

Graxan's Avatar Comment 24 by Graxan

Oh yes looking forward to this book also. Hitchens is like a 'Word Chef'. You constantly come across unusual delicacies you've never savoured before in his work.

Mon, 22 Aug 2011 11:47:42 UTC | #863172

Red Dog's Avatar Comment 25 by Red Dog

Comment 23 by Graxan :

Comment 4 by msbav8r :

Comment 2 by Red Dog :

"Hitchens even looks at the recent financial crisis and argues for arthe enduring relevance of Karl Marx."

First, note there is a typo in that sentence: "for arthe". I would be interested to read what he says on this (and on everything else, I don't always agree with Hitchens but he has an amazing mind and ability with words that I envy).

IMO Marx was clearly wrong in many ways, for example thinking what he was doing was science without really applying the scientific method. And he has been misinterpreted and abused by plenty of tyrants. But he also had some very interesting things to say that people at least in the US virtually ignore because to ever quote Marx brands you instantly as a far left loon. His description of the cyclical nature of capitalism and how corporations will tend toward more and more mergers with fewer, bigger ones dominating the world seems pretty accurate to me. Yet, the exponential growth of government and the absolute destruction of the economy, by it's insatiable appetite for taxpayer money and incestuous relationships that foster the very conditions you mention, is never brought up by those who laud Marx.

The domination of large companies, is SOLELY the result of bribery of elected officials, who trade favorable tax code and legislation for campaign contributions.

The big difference between the government and the corporations is that corporations don't have the power to deprive you of liberty and freedom if you don't purchase their products. Remember, corporations can't affect laws without corrupt, complicit politicians.

This is bad urgument. What about meteoric rises by companies who just had the right product? I'm thinking particularly of IT companies. Facebook, Google. etc. While they are no doubt well established now, I very much doubt they became dominant through bribing public officials.

Your argument is true but only discusses one facet of the picture in the business world.

Not sure if that was addressed to me or not but I just want to make it clear I wasn't the one that said companies only expand by bribing (to my knowledge Marx didn't say that either).

Even though I think Marx got some things right I don't agree with the Marxist ideology that corporations have no redeeming feature. In fact its interesting that you mention IT because I worked most of my life in IT often for big corporations (I was a consultant so had all sorts of clients) and I'm very proud of the work that I did and the people that I worked with. Most of my experience doesn't fit with the view that many have of the corporate world that they are all just greedy selfish SOB's like the financial services companies.

And I agree that in IT especially companies rise primarily due to the quality of their ideas and work. There is of course some help from the government, the Internet after all started out as a DOD research project but I don't see that as bad either (although in my opinion it does show the hypocrisy of the standard right wing free market dogma).

I didn't get into it with the person who said its "solely about bribing" but in fact to me what is interesting is that I think there may be something at work that we could consider a scientific observation. That companies do tend to get bigger due to market forces that could be measured over time. And I think when you look at IT companies they reinforce that notion. Because even with these companies (and here I could give you several specific examples: Documentum, ATG, Sun Microsystems, Siebel, many more) there is a pressure for companies that have excellent, often the best, technology to eventually get swallowed up by bigger companies and it has little or nothing to do with bribery.

Mon, 22 Aug 2011 13:46:12 UTC | #863202

kraut's Avatar Comment 26 by kraut

Regarding "Even though I think Marx got some things right I don't agree with the Marxist ideology that corporations have no redeeming feature" ...Marx was very clear about the fact that only Capitalism freed people from feudalism and a chance towards economic and political freedom. Marx clearly said that "communism", the common ownership of the means of production can can only be achieved when Capitalism is at it's peak, when the ownership of the means of productions is in very few hands and the realm of the economy cannot be distinguished from the realm of politics.

What Marx understood is that real democracy can only be achieved when the economy is also democratized. And that is the crucial point in Marxist thinking, nothing else. There is no political democracy possible when the economy is privatized. And the recent history alone has clearly shown how true that is.

Mon, 22 Aug 2011 15:45:38 UTC | #863218

Red Dog's Avatar Comment 27 by Red Dog

Comment 26 by kraut :

Regarding "Even though I think Marx got some things right I don't agree with the Marxist ideology that corporations have no redeeming feature" ...Marx was very clear about the fact that only Capitalism freed people from feudalism and a chance towards economic and political freedom. Marx clearly said that "communism", the common ownership of the means of production can can only be achieved when Capitalism is at it's peak, when the ownership of the means of productions is in very few hands and the realm of the economy cannot be distinguished from the realm of politics.

What Marx understood is that real democracy can only be achieved when the economy is also democratized. And that is the crucial point in Marxist thinking, nothing else. There is no political democracy possible when the economy is privatized. And the recent history alone has clearly shown how true that is.

I'm no Marxist (as I guess is obvious) but didn't he also support the notion of the "dictatorship of the proletariat"? Or was that a later evolution from people like Lenin? Because whoever came up with that idea, for me that is the single biggest mistake. Its the idea that somehow once you put power into the hands of a new group that you won't get the same corruption that you get with any other group that has unchecked power.

As bad as capitalist democracy is, the checks and balances it has and the power given to everyone via elections are essential to any system. Without them sooner or later (and usually sooner) some strongman will emerge who is more ruthless at working the bureacracy and will subvert it for his own power.

Also, I don't completely agree with the idea that the economy can or should be "completely democratized". I think there is a lot of good about the competition in the capitalist system. The main thing is to keep capitalism in check via laws on environment, business, the ability of corporations to subvert democracy, etc.

Mon, 22 Aug 2011 16:11:30 UTC | #863224

Mr DArcy's Avatar Comment 28 by Mr DArcy

Re the "dictatorship of the proletariat", it's a phrase in which Marx was referring to when the workers had gained political power OVER the capitalist class. Already in the Communist Manifesto of 1848 Marx had called for the workers to win the battle of democracy and gain political supremacy over the capitalists. It's obvious from Marx's writings that he was never in favour of dictatorship as we now know it. Lenin twisted Marx's ideas to provide so-called justification for his own dictatorship OVER the workers, having already grabbed power by violent minority action.

I understand Red Dog's wish for a capitalism which is closely regulated, but unfortunately, the whole nature of the system is driven by the profit motive, not the need to satisfy most peoples' needs. If profits are not to be made production is curtailed or stopped with workers being put on short time or sacked. No amount of regulation will stop the cycle of "boom and bust", as Gordon Brown, British PM, thought it would. Essentially capitalism is anarchic and of course international. The capitalists are the most unpatriotic of people. They are happy to ship the productive process around the world, - to wherever production costs are lower, thereby giving them an advantage against their competitors.

Mon, 22 Aug 2011 19:46:48 UTC | #863272

jbyrd's Avatar Comment 29 by jbyrd

Unregulated capitalism is akin to anarchy, and eventually all the wealth is controlled by a very small percentage of the population. Of course this outcome remains the same even when capitalism is regulated, just at a slightly slower pace.

Wed, 24 Aug 2011 03:41:48 UTC | #863621

Functional Atheist's Avatar Comment 30 by Functional Atheist

Surprising to see so much support for Marxism on this thread.

Isn't there considerable evidence that market forces give powerful and useful incentives to risk-takers and innovators? Isn't respect for private property, when taxed and regulated as appropriate, associated with the most humane and just societies in history?

On the other side, isn't there consensus that efforts at radical egalitarianism--the Khmer Rouge, China under The Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, Jonestown, the forced collectivization of agriculture under Stalin--almost inevitably result in massive death and human misery?

In short, isn't there general consensus (on the Left) that the Scandinavian model, which combine robust social services and highly progressive taxation with respect for individual property and enterprise, provides the greatest happiness to the greatest number of people?

Wed, 24 Aug 2011 05:07:04 UTC | #863632