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If by a true Scotsman’s whiskey, you mean

I’ve got such a “no true Scotsman” and “if by whiskey” relationship to the word “communism” that I do better by never ever using the word. Word utterly devoid of meaning at this point.


I see capitalism’s problems. Capitalism isn’t an unknown ideal, it’s a known nightmare.

I rack my brain day and night trying to come up with solutions. Most of them aren’t any good. The solution needs to be better than what we have. It sounds hard to believe when everything sucks so much, but some of the solutions proposed, even attempted, have been really awful. I’m not eager to go to any killing fields any time soon.

Capitalism’s advocates will say “Capitalism the least bad system that’s ever been tried in practice”. To which I’ll say a couple of things.

Every bird and bee in the jungle too

If capitalism ends up destroying life on Earth through climate collapse, it’s obviously the worst system that’s ever been tried in practice. Even animals have a better system than that.

The Nature of the Firm

Inside corporations they don’t use market capitalism. They don’t eat their own dogfood in that regard. They don’t say “Alice, I want that report in by midnight, I’ll start a Dutch auction for it in the lunchroom so if you want in on that, be there.” They don’t say “Oh, Carol, you need another pencil to fill in those TPS reports? You’d better buy a new one down at the pencil-seller’s market.”

They reserve capitalism for their enemies, not for their internal workings. Which, as an aside, should tell you something about how gig economies, like ride-hailing services, treat their workers.

Forgotten Transactions

Capitalism’s advocates tend to ignore all the non-market, non–quid-pro-quo transaction that happen on the daily. Probably better known as gifts. The Economics of Mittens and Socks. That’s how FOSS software could grow so quickly and how piracy could help distribute media so widely and cheaply. People help each other and that’s more efficient in the digital context, to the point that the free market can’t keep up unless it slathers on a bunch of network monopolies.

Also, It’s Bad

Those three things don’t touch on capitalism’s problems (externalities & exploitation). I’ve written more about that in the past and will more in the future. Those three are just to point out that it’s def not the least bad system that’s ever been tried in practice.


Communism’s advocates are perhaps a step short of “fallacious reification”, which means when you treat an abstract concept into a concrete thing, but not by much.

Treating anti-something as if it was a complete and coherent other something is… I can see the appeal, and even Marx wrote (in his third letter to Ruge):

Not only has universal anarchy broken out among the reformers, but also everyone must admit that they have no precise idea about what ought to happen. However, this defect is to the advantage of the new movement, because that means that we do not anticipate the world with our dogmas but instead attempt to discover the new world through the critique of the old.

It’s not what I want though. I want concrete proposals on the table, please. I don’t wanna rally and cheer for an awful proposal just because it made by my own team—team of my enemy’s enemies—I wanna rally and cheer for proposals that are actually good.

Please don’t use this text to slag on, for example, Green New Deal proposals. That kind of thing is exactly what I am asking for. Concrete proposals. Awesome.


I’ve got such a “no true Scotsman” and “if by whiskey” relationship to the word “Christianity” that the same thing goes for it as for communism. I’m better off just never using it in any context.

I really like praying and singing hymns to the lamb and reading the Bible and other religious texts and going to communion (I started doing those things in my thirties, I grew up in an atheist family) but I don’t think the answers are in Genesis.

I agree with the atheist perspective on pretty much anything from how the world was made to what makes sense for human morality. I’d even go beyond just vanilla atheism and embrace absurdism or existensialism or even nihilism.

I don’t believe in a “Superman”, “Santa Claus” style figure. I know the story goes that God said “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” but it’s easy to overstate that. To reduce God to some kind of puny superhero. I have more of a Spinozan pantheist view.

We humans have lots of things growing inside of us. The microbiome, our cells, our proteins, it’s a weirdo little city inside there. That’s fine. We still… “are” those cells even though they are also things on their own. Synthesis between reductionism and holism please.♥︎ It becomes just semantics really quickly. Which is why I brought up the “If by whiskey…” fallacy. That’s really how I think about it. If by God you mean the God of social conservatism, the small puny God of fearing each other, then I’m not onboard.

E pur si muove. And by si I mean my heart and by muove I mean beating gratefully and trustingly.