• Member Since 11th Apr, 2012
  • offline last seen Last Friday

Bad Horse


You shall love your crooked neighbor with your crooked heart. -- W. H. Auden

More Blog Posts690

Nov
23rd
2015

Pop Ideology and Why it's Easy to Write for MLP · 6:39am Nov 23rd, 2015

[The final section that used to be here is now in my next blog post instead.]

I spent some time going over lists of other TV shows, trying to find ones that I could write scripts for. I found it was very hard for me to think of script ideas for most TV shows. The characters just didn’t suggest stories to me.

I felt my problem was that the characters were designed to react to things. If I threw them into a random situation, I could imagine how they’d react; but I couldn’t imagine what kind of eventful situation they would create. If nothing external happened to them, they’d keep watching TV, attending school, or doing whatever they’d been doing.

To test this idea, I went through all the Wikipedia plot summaries for the first season of several shows, and counted how many episodes had plots about one of the main characters trying to get something he/she wanted, but not counting cases where they were trying to get something back that they'd previously had, or trying to prevent something they had from being taken away, or responding to a problem.

(I did not count: Main characters responding to random events, main characters doing something random or making trouble for themselves, antagonistic characters antagonizing the main characters, main characters spurred to action by problems, or main characters trying to return to a desired previous state.)

Mad Men: 9/16, sort of; really hard to say

My Little Pony: 9/26

The Simpsons: 3/13

South Park: 3/13

SpongeBob: 15/40

Supernatural: 0/20

Books on how to write often emphasize that each character in a story must want something, “even if it is only a glass of water” (Kurt Vonnegut). Yet our TV shows (and movies) aren’t about characters who want something. They’re usually about characters who want to get rid of something, to go back to “normal”.

Most of our movies, TV shows, and commercial novels are conservative. The protagonist’s life is good at the start of the story. Then something bad happens. The bad thing must be fixed and normality restored. [1]

As I’ve pointed out before, there is another kind of hero, one who makes plans to change things and then carries them out. We call them super-villains.

In that list above, Mad Men has the most stories with people who are trying not just to restore normality, but to improve their lives. But that’s because those people are bad. They’re desperate and slimy. So it’s not a break from the pattern. The breaks from the pattern are My Little Pony and Sponge Bob.

Here are the first four goals characters have in Sponge Bob:

- SpongeBob SquarePants attempts to get a job at the local restaurant called the Krusty Krab.

- SpongeBob builds and opens a bubble-blowing stand, to his neighbor Squidward's dismay.

- SpongeBob and Patrick take Squidward jellyfishing.

- SpongeBob has to go to boating school but keeps failing his driving test.

None of these activities were ever seen in the show before the episode about them. Even though SpongeBob does stuff instead of just reacting to stuff, knowing the world and the characters doesn’t suggest what SpongeBob wants to do next. He has no long-term goals (that I’m aware of) other than to keep on doing what he’s doing.

Here are the first four goals in My Little Pony’s first season:

- Princess Celestia sends Twilight Sparkle two tickets for the upcoming exclusive Grand Galloping Gala. Upon learning of the tickets, each of Twilight's new friends insists they should be the one to go with Twilight, and start giving her special treatment to earn her favor.

- Twilight Sparkle is eager to participate in Ponyville's "Winter Wrap-Up", where the citizens help prepare the land for spring without using magic. Twilight tries to help out where she can but finds herself struggling without magic.

- Apple Bloom starts striving to find her own talent and get her own mark.

- Applejack and Rainbow Dash have a series of "Iron Pony" challenges to determine who is the better athlete.

The Gala is a new event, but each of Twilight’s friends wants to go to the Gala to advance their individual ambitions, which we saw in the previous episodes. Apple Bloom’s quest for her cutie mark follows an earlier episode in which she tried to prove that she was a big pony. All of these episodes' plots are ones that could be inspired by knowing the characters.

My Little Pony doesn’t stick to pop-culture ideology, which says that change is bad, and that characters are best distinguished from each other by their flaws. I call that a submissive ideology, for reasons I’ll explain in later posts [3]. Instead, MLP has characters who want things, and have different talents, abilities, and long-term goals. And that’s why it’s easier to write for My Little Pony than for other shows.


[1] Stephen King has written or talked several times about the conservative ideology of horror. In Danse Macabre, his analysis of horror, he wrote that "The writer of horror fiction is neither more nor less than an agent of the status quo." I think this same argument applies to many genres--certainly to action stories, crime fiction, and a great deal of fantasy. People write fantasies about restoring the rightful king, not about overthrowing him. [2]

[2] Of course, for every genre, there are now books and movies subverting that genre. Those are literally the exceptions that prove the rule.

[3] This relates to Hegel and Nietzsche’s “slave ideology”, but isn’t strictly negative. I think that the grand sweep of the history of art supports this terminology better than either Hegel or Nietzsche support theirs. I say art has a “submissive ideology” when it’s designed to prop up the current social system. The hero of a submissive ideology story is someone like Hector, Beowulf, or Superman, who doesn’t change. Change is bad. A submissive ideology, or at least the ones this world has seen so far, submits to a planned social order which assigns everyone to some cookie-cutter role, and virtue is the extent to which you fit your role. Characters, therefore, are thought of as their role minus their personal flaws.

Report Bad Horse · 1,045 views · #writing #culture #character
Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!
Comments ( 69 )

Hmm. Makes me think about what kind of ideologies my characters have.

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is one of the few pop-cultural bastions of classical liberalism: the concept that individuals have inalienable rights, may exercise their liberties and should take responsibility for their own choices and actions. This is often today perceived as "conservative" because America was explicitly founded on such principles, but it is in fact the only dynamically-stable version of liberalism, because it allows for change as a natural economic process rather than something to be politically-negotiated step by step, with the possibility of a political choice forestalling progress.

Part and parcel of this is the character-driven story, where the key conflict comes from the character wanting to change her life in a specific way and struggling against the inertia of the universe, and whatever obstacles chance or foes may place in her way. This is the way that almost all Rarity episodes have worked, for instance -- Rarity's major character arc is her effort to build her business, in the course of which she encounters and overcome obstacles (demanding clients, the test of a major fashion show, a willful subordinate, and so on) to her goal.

This gets into another point: MLP:FIM is one of the few shows to be sympathetic to businesspeople. Two of the Mane Six (Applejack and Rarity) have as their normal job running a business (Sweet Apple Acres is a large farm which produces primarily for the market; Rarity's love of fashion design takes the form of building her own fashion house) and this is shown as a worthy and noble endeavor, rather than a manifestation of destructive greed. When we combine this with the fact that the most socialistic thing we've seen on the show is the Season Five major villain, Starlight Glimmer, it's obvious that in economic terms, the show is on the right rather than the left.

Which is to say, "liberal" in the classical sense of the word.

I feel like the overarching plot in MLP is even weaker than I'd like, although it's miles better than many American cartoons.

Characters that don't grow and change bug me no end, too. I read some Raymond E. Feist once, and followed a character from childhood to being an old magician, more powerful than anyone else... but he didn't change one thing about how he acted or thought. Ever since then, it's been one of my biggest annoyances and goals in stories. I got to the end, and was severely disappointed.

If you want a good book about a super-villain, I highly recommend "Soon I Will Be Invincible", by Austin Grossman. Besides being a loving deconstruction of the superhero genre, and a cleverly structured story in and of itself, it follows an actual super-villain, and does it very well. It's one of my favorites in quite a while, and probably my favorite super-hero novel ever.

Interesting stuff here, Bad Horse. Thanks for posting.

3562976

Dr. Horrible's Video Blog shows just how tragic things can become when genuine skill is allied with a desire for positive change with the changes desired being very poorly thought out.

like the show, but its setup--a blind teleport into an unknown new world and problem every episode--makes it impossible to write such stories! [4]

Pretty clearly not, given that the show keeps putting out episodes. Unless you just mean impossible for you personally, I suppose.

3563022 I think he meant that specific type of character development driven stories.

3562965 but I would argue that the message of that episode wasn't that socialism is bad, but rather two separate messages: losing your individuality is bad, and dictators are bad. What's her name's muffins don't suck because she shares them with everyone; they suck because she's a shitty baker who should stick to her talents. You know, the whole mantra of "Give according to your ability ("special talent"), take according to your need." free market capitalism suffers just as much when you force people to do stuff they aren't good at.

The show does however paint a positive portrait of socialism through the hearthwarming pageant: the three tribes must work together and share their gifts in order to survive.

Furthermore, the show rewards honest and authentic business ponies. The Flim Flam Brothers are shown to be a sham and figuratively ridden out on a rail. (That episode still has a lot of idiot ball and wonky economics going around, but the song is one of the best in the show). Industrialization is painted as evil in one of the recent overly simplistic nature-vs-manminotaur comic arcs. Rarity's marketing savy saves a mom-and-pop hippie commune from Walmart Barnyard Bargains in the rarity Microcomic.

What is the meaning behind '1.b: Learn how subtle you can't be' in the Advanced Writing document?

JoE

3563055 Bad Horse is of the opinion you should learn the boundaries of your readers so you can not stretch them.

I'm with him as far as 'can't', but prefer to use the same information so I can tell what's happening when I prance off merrily reader-stretching (bulging?) and knowing in advance that I'm flinging some of them over the side :pinkiecrazy:

It's all a matter of degree. IIRC, Short Skirts and Explosions wrote a 'riffing on James Joyce' story that was so Ulysses that it was incomprehensible and largely hated. I snuck at least one obvious Joyce riff into a working story that nobody got unless they were familiar with the stuff, and Bad Horse is more likely to write a blogpost about Joyce and Ponies that everybody will get (i.e. understand the context, Horse's relationship to what he's saying, and that Bad Horse is a very erudite fellow that you shouldn't cross or he will make you his mare)

All variations on how you handle your readership and the level of comprehension you can reasonably expect…

3563069

Thanks! That's helpful!

JoE

3563064
3562965
3563054
Starlight Glimmer reminds me more strongly of some of the cults/communes that have sprung up in isolated rural areas from time to time than of actual socialist ideology, which I think is what the show intended, given that she's running a small cult in an isolated town.

Starlight Glimmer and her minions are essentially more Jonestown than political party.

3563037
3563064
Ah, I was linking it back to the original subject of the blog, that Bad Horse cannot write scripts for most cartoons. Bad Horse is finding his preconceived notions of what a story should be prevent him from writing for series that use other styles of story. And ultimately, that's fine. Bad Horse writes good stories in the style he prefers and there's no need for him to embrace another.

Nonetheless, I maintain that it's still not impossible to write a 'randomly transported to new place' story where what the people find at the new place and how they respond to it ties back in to their character and its development. Even the original travel can be connected to a character element.

3563087

Samurai Jack is an interesting example. Clearly he has a goal. But it does look to me as a reactive goal. He is trying to restore his status quo. Beyond that, maybe its just been too long but I dont remember him growing as a character all that often. Still a very enjoyable show on its own merits, but I think its premise does mean it wasnt best suited to those particular type of stories.

3563054
3562965
3563084

Think that the show's economic system and social mores are kept deliberately vague so it can maintain it's 'All things to everyone' vibe. Not that that is a bad thing, its purpose, beyond toy selling, is to show that there is no wrong way to be a girl and that 'friendship is magic', goals that are best served by not alienating unnecessarily. Its why they never discuss healthcare when the go to the hospital. Beyond just being boring story telling, making RD pay for her visits or saying the state covers it is just going to tick someone off and will not help reach that ever larger audience. Would it be nice if the show would take more stands on issues? Sure (if they are stances I agree with), but thats not going to happen, and thats not the point of the show. Maybe that job is what some of us are here for.

3563069 I think that was actually Darf who did that, unless they both did that.

3563064 you said this more elegantly than I did, so thank you.

3563084 what about the whole regal Diarchy thing they have going? That seems pretty ( to use a term–possibly incorrectly– that libertarians throw about a lot) Statist to me. Furthermore, Celestia and Luna are viewed favorably by the populace and their rule is painted in a positive light by the show; I don't really see any anarchist uprising undertones anywhere.

Would Twilight/Fifty Shades count as non-conservative ideology? Since most of the struggle seems to lean towards entering a new world rather than remaining in the old.

Disclaimer: I've read neither and don't know too well the intricacies of their plots.

3563097 No, you're right, Darf did it particularly hard and is the better example of it. I'm pretty sure Skirts also has done it.

3563064
I disagree that that episode could be used as a comment on capitalism. It could be used as a comment on fascisim-- capitalism under the power of government. Socialism and fascism are the political ideologies that involve state or collective control of job opportunities rather than the market. Whether the state wants diversification or not, that will lead to people being denied things that they want to work towards or literally (rather than economically) forced into positions they don't want.

Additionally, Starlight Glimmer emphasizes that winning is bad, something no capitalist cult would do. Capitalism thrives on the idea that anyone (or everyone) can win if they try-- the biggest argument of its critics is that this is a lie, or ignores that fact that when someone wins, someone loses-- but competition is promoted in the system. The idea that winning is bad because it makes you better than someone else is a directly anti-capitalist idea.

Which leads me to:
3563095
As someone who watches a lot of kids shows, I have to say that 3562965 point is correct in that most other kids shows these days de-emphasize economics and competition to the point where they are much more vague than MLP. Money is never mentioned, whether as a goal or a setback. Jobs are things characters do because... people do jobs, and they like them. No one ever has to do work that they wish they didn't have to do.

Basically, the simple fact that the characters sometimes need money to do things, and have to earn that money through work, or want to earn more money in the future and this is a worthy goal, is actually a big deal in terms of promoting capitalism the worlds of kids shows. It might seem vague in comparison to adult fictional worlds, but it's one of the most capitalist-friendly shows on TV for kids.

3563238 This is the only thing I watch with any regularity so I'll have to claim ignorance and defer to you on that one. I suppose it would have been too much to hope for the depiction of a post-scarcity economy in a kid's tv show. Then again, you are starting to open my eyes to the value of money as a story element.

3563364
The giving up of cutie marks would work as anti-capitalist propaganda, I totally agree. But everything else about that situation is about communally enforced sacrifice for the "greater good"-- in fact, it's undone when it's revealed that Starlight Glimmer faked her credentials as 'equal" to the other members of the community. That's why people read it as a comment on socialism, specifically, because it's sold as being "everyone's" sacrifice (except that it's not) for "everyone's" benefit (which does seem to be Starlight's motive-- unless future episodes give us another one.)

I have trouble believing that socialists think that capitalists care about building equal communities, or asking people to sacrifice for the greater good. While it's always been my understanding that that's a point of socialism. Starlight might be a strawmare, but she's pretty clearly a collectivist strawmare.

I thought Scooby Doo was the opposite, the kids drive around in a van and go looking for the next spooky mystery in a new location. at least they did that in the ones I remember.

not sure if I get the part about Animation tradition causing these types of stories. "no character arc" doesn't seem unique only to animation.

Where is the damn upvote button for this blog entry?

I should note Steven Universe has a lot of these episodes too (often about background characters).

3563589 I think you're right about Scooby Doo. At least they always were in that van.

Lots of kinds of stories deliberately have no character arc. But animation has a special visual focus. Notice that few if any fan animators use writers. Animators think very visually. Think of the Fluffle Puff tales: one simple character relationship, shown visually in many different ways, with no words.

3563791
I understand the visual focus, and it took me a little while to figure what (I assume) you mean by "developed" (as in, artists designed the characters and world first, then writers are brought on board afterward to make episode scripts)

but I'm still a little confused that it seems like a different conclusion from the rest of the post. much is about this ideology and the genres that thrive on it, and you gave many examples of non-animated shows (or books or movies) that follow the exact same pattern...

3563022
3563037
Yes to GullibleCynic. "such stories" refers not to "its setup" but back to the paragraph before. I could make that more clear.

3563969

but I'm still a little confused that it seems like a different conclusion from the rest of the post. much is about this ideology and the genres that thrive on it, and you gave many examples of non-animated shows (or books or movies) that follow the exact same pattern...

Yes. It's a second cause of the same result. That is confusing, and I worried about it before posting. And I'd have gotten away with it, if it weren't for you and your pesky pony! :trixieshiftleft:

I didn't want to say just one or the other, though. That would be misleading. Things are never that simple.

I'm gonna rewrite the post and make the additional point that actors think like animators. They also think of characters first as a bundle of speech patterns, gaits, tics, habits, et cetera, less than as a coherent individual with a character arc.

3563087

Nonetheless, I maintain that it's still not impossible to write a 'randomly transported to new place' story where what the people find at the new place and how they respond to it ties back in to their character and its development. Even the original travel can be connected to a character element.

You can tie it back in to their character, like the couple of Penn Zero episodes I mentioned in a footnote. It's easy to tie the solution of the plot problem back to the character. But it's nice to have the plot hook tied to the character as well, and that's just about impossible in a Quantum Leap plot. (Though the show Quantum Leap did it several times--by having Sam leap into someone from his own life, or Al's.)

Take "Scare Master". The initial plot complication is that Fluttershy is terrified of Nightmare Night and shuts herself in her cottage, but Demon Bunny demands a blood sacrifice carrots, and sends her out. The plot resolution is Fluttershy working up the courage to scare her friends good.

Imagine the show had been a Quantum Leap or Penn Zero episode, and Fluttershy had leapt into the body of somepony very fearful, on a planet called Earth where they had this strange holiday called Halloween on which people scared each other, which was completely unlike anything in Equestria. Fluttershy could still be a scaredy pony who works up the courage to do what she needs to do in this alien holiday, then goes home to Equestria.

But the show couldn't have that ending, where she then ties that back to the initial plot complication, her fear of Nightmare Night. She says she's not afraid of Nightmare Night anymore, but she's not going to participate again, because she doesn't like it. This is really cool--ordinarily a story would just have the character resolution (Fluttershy overcomes her fear) solve the plot problem (Fluttershy can't take part in Nightmare Night). But "Scare Master" does more. The plot problem is solved, but because the plot problem is itself taken from Fluttershy's life, we can then ask how this solution to the plot problem affects her. Then we get a second level of character development, when she can re-evaluate Nightmare Night honestly, and reject it, not out of fear, but because she understands it, has taken part in it, and now has both the authority and the courage to say that she doesn't like it.

3563055
3563069

Bad Horse is of the opinion you should learn the boundaries of your readers so you can not stretch them.

Applejinx, you wound me. No, I want to stretch, shake, rattle and roll my readers. I want reading my stories to be like drinking a Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster: like having your brains knocked out with a brick wrapped in a slice of lemon.

But I don't want to lose them. I meant that you shouldn't be subtle about things that the reader has to understand in order to understand the story, or (worse yet) just to know what happened. Writers and critics consistently think that readers understand much, much more than they do.

I have a hilarious example from Eudora Welty that I'll write up in a blog post sometime. She wrote a story called "No Place for You, my Love" that, near the end, said out of nowhere, "Something that must have been with them all along suddenly, then, was not. In a moment, tall as panic, it rose, cried like a human, and dropped back." It was a mysterious sudden injection of mysticism into a realistic story. It was obviously meant to have some meaning, but did not for me.

Later, explaining how she wrote the story, she wrote: "The cry that rose up at the story's end was, I hope unmistakably, the cry of a fading relationship--personal, individual, psychic--admitted in order to be denied, a cry that the characters were first able (and prone) to listen to, and then able in part to ignore. The cry was authentic to my story and so I didn't care if it did seem a little odd: the end of a journey can set up a cry, the shallowest provocation to sympathy and loves does hate to give up the ghost. A relationship of the most fleeting kind has the power inherent to loom like a genie--to become vocative at the last, as it has already become present and taken up room; as it has spread out as a destination however makeshift; as it has, more faintly, more sparsely, glimmered and rushed by in the dark and dust outside."

That paragraph of strained, metaphoric explanation was a point the reader had to understand to make sense of the story. She tried to communicate it in 2 sentences which seemed to have fallen in from another story, some gothic fantasy perhaps, and even though it took her an entire paragraph when she tried to explain it outright, she felt that those two sentences made it "unmistakably" clear in the story, when I think their obscurity and stylistic mismatch made it just a red herring that made her desired interpretation even less clear. That's a perfect example of what not to do.

3563105 I thought about romance while writing the post, & couldn't decide what to say about it. Romance heroes & heroines are proactive, but they usually reinforce social norms about masculine & feminine behavior (as they do in those stories, sort of). I'll hazard a guess that romance is so personal and intensely emotional that it's harder for ideology to hold it captive.

3564482 Ah, I see: noted.

In that case, I agree wholeheartedly, I just think about it in a different way. I don't think about the limitations of my readers (such as they are, and I'm sure they'd vouch for this unthinkingness! :raritydespair: )

What I think about is setting up, always setting up. It's from my lifelong fascination with mysteries: you're dropping constant hints and clues and red herrings, with the assumption that the big reveal is sure to lose EVERYBODY unless properly primed and set.

I think you can be subtle, though, because it's best when the reader doesn't understand they're being set up. The best thing is when you can drop a thunderbolt, but the character or situation has been dropping subtle and incomprehensible hints the whole time, none of which are understood. It's tricky, but huge fun :raritywink:

3564482 Romance can either be about forbidden love (breaking the status quo) or the expected outcome (cheerleader gets with the captain of the school team) so I don't think you can easily declare which box it belongs in.

Also, these blog posts are worth the Patreon. Even if I don't engage with them as much as I should, I read them all.

3562976 I love that book. Malevolent Hyper-Cognition, Lex Luthor's Disease!

This is a fascinating observation that explains quite a bit. It just seems so obvious it is easy to overlook.

3562965
If you live in a liberal society, then there's nothing that makes it so you couldn't be a conservative liberal - i.e. someone who is for protecting and safeguarding the liberal institutions of the country, which are already extant.

The problem is that in real life, societies have become increasingly liberal over time, which makes being a "conservative liberal" a bit strange, as we tend to have an increasing number of rights over time. Thus, being a conservative liberal at this point is a kind of strange idea.

I suppose one could argue that a "conservative liberal" is arguing that enumerated personal liberties should be upheld based on the Constitution, but... it just seems like an odd way of putting it when you're pushing for legalizing gay marriage based on the 14th Amendment.

This gets into another point: MLP:FIM is one of the few shows to be sympathetic to businesspeople. Two of the Mane Six (Applejack and Rarity) have as their normal job running a business (Sweet Apple Acres is a large farm which produces primarily for the market; Rarity's love of fashion design takes the form of building her own fashion house) and this is shown as a worthy and noble endeavor, rather than a manifestation of destructive greed. When we combine this with the fact that the most socialistic thing we've seen on the show is the Season Five major villain, Starlight Glimmer, it's obvious that in economic terms, the show is on the right rather than the left.

Economic terms?

Starlight Glimmer is a communal authoritarian, but there's no indication that the show is against collectivist economic practices - we do see what appears to be a public school, public infrastructure, and we've never seen anyone pay for medical care.

That being said, it is clearly a capitalist society (of which I approve).

3563064
Starlight Glimmer was obviously a reference to communes, with more than a hint of Harrison Bergeron. It points out that everyone is not the same, and criticizes that idea.

3563064

You're mixing up your liberalism axes. Historical liberalism was mostly about social liberties. The idea of economic liberties is quite new and the ideals you are talking about were not the founding ideas for America but rather thought up by Milton Friedman.

This isn't actually true, FYI. The original conception of "liberty" was that you were a man free of government interference, including in economic and social matters. Indeed, if you are familiar with the entire concept of property rights of Colonial America, you'd understand that - they saw property rights as intrinsically tied to social liberties, as they are, because being free economically makes you free socially. If you aren't free economically, then your social liberties are curtailed by the fact that you cannot exercise your rights as you see fit.

Or to put it another way - if the government can take away your livelihood, or your house, you aren't really free.

3564063
That doesn't seem true. There's nothing preventing you from taking whatever they learned in the random place and tying it into their life once they leave, the same way Fluttershy's resolution affects her life going forward.

Maybe most of those shows don't do that, but there's no reason you can't.

3563054

The show does however paint a positive portrait of socialism through the hearthwarming pageant: the three tribes must work together and share their gifts in order to survive.

That has nothing at all to do with socialism. That has to do with overcoming racism. The Three Tribes were very obviously originally hostile to each other, and had formed a loose alliance in the Old Homeland which broke down under the stress of the Coming of the Windigoes (which had a positive feedback effect where increasing hostilities made the Windigoes stronger, which made things colder, which made the Windigoes stronger, etc.)

If you ask me to guess, the Earth Ponies were a mercantile confederation, the Pegasi a military republic, and the Unicorns an aristocratic feudal state at the time of the Coming of the Windigoes. The most plausibly socialist one of these would probably have been the Pegasi -- but of the national-socialist (fascist) flavor of socialism.

3565429

The problem is that in real life, societies have become increasingly liberal over time, which makes being a "conservative liberal" a bit strange, as we tend to have an increasing number of rights over time. Thus, being a conservative liberal at this point is a kind of strange idea.

What would you call someone who wants to preserve the rights we have against challenge from the Left, then?

3563064

You're mixing up your liberalism axes. Historical liberalism was mostly about social liberties. The idea of economic liberties is quite new and the ideals you are talking about were not the founding ideas for America but rather thought up by Milton Friedman.

John Locke, "Life, liberty, property" (1690)
American founders: "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" (1776)
French revolutionaries: "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" (1789)

Liberty, in ancient Greece, ancient Rome, the medieval world, and the 18th century, was mostly about legal, economic, and political rights. I don't know what "social liberties" means. Society is a set of legal, economic, and political relationships; economic liberties are social liberties. I associate the phrase with Marx's notion of liberty. The distinction there is that classic liberty was about "freedom to": freedom of movement, freedom to own property, freedom of speech, etc., while Marxist liberty is "freedom from": freedom from hunger, freedom from unemployment.

3565429

Starlight Glimmer is a communal authoritarian, but there's no indication that the show is against collectivist economic practices - we do see what appears to be a public school, public infrastructure, and we've never seen anyone pay for medical care.

That being said, it is clearly a capitalist society (of which I approve).

I never said that Equestria had no public sector. Merely that it was run mostly on classical-liberal principles. Public schools began in America in the 1820's, at a time when we were extremely classical liberal, and we built public roads and canals at that time as well. Not sure when public hospitals were founded.

3565464

That doesn't seem true. There's nothing preventing you from taking whatever they learned in the random place and tying it into their life once they leave, the same way Fluttershy's resolution affects her life going forward.

We aren't talking about "preventing". We're talking about how easy or difficult something is to do. It is much harder for a plot problem in a random place that necessarily has nothing to do with Fluttershy to have implications for Fluttershy's life, than a plot problem in Ponyville that can be caused by Fluttershy.

3565429 3566894

What would you call someone who wants to preserve the rights we have against challenge from the Left, then?

The idea that liberals are in favor of more rights just... isn't right. The idea that we've gotten more rights over time also isn't right.

Conservatives have taken away our right to control what recreational drugs we put into our own bodies.
Liberals have taken away our right to control what medicinal drugs we put into our own bodies.
Conservatives have taken away our right to privacy.
Liberals have taken away our right to defend ourselves.
Conservatives have taken away our ability to overthrow our government by taking away our ability to meet or travel secretly.
Liberals have taken away our ability to overthrow our government by taking away our ability to own weapons.
Everyone has cooperated in taking away our right to legal representation and a fair trial by creating a legal system so complicated that whoever hires the most lawyers wins.

3563282

I don't believe that a "post-scarcity" economy is possible, especially not from the POV of those who arrange or perform productive labor, because ultimately all economies are limited by their ability to obtain and apply energy, while desires are unlimited. Having said that, why on Earth would Equestria be "post-scarcity?" It's a free society (so Ponies can desire anything and attempt to trade for it) and at a roughly AD 1900 tech level (so it's actually less wealthy than modern America or Britain).

I've already made the Pony version of the most famous attempt at writing a post-scarcity society in science fiction, in my Poniternity -- the Paradise Culture. I understand economics and psychology a little better than did Iain Banks, though, so it's not really "post-scarcity" -- just very, very very wealthy.

3566922 Im not saying Equestria is a post-scarcity economy only that, at my most idealistic, I think its a goal we should aim for and so it would be interesting to see fantasy version of the idea.

3566940

Dude, you have no idea what you just said.

Yes. I know exactly what I said. I state categorically and explicitly that Mussolini's Fascism and Hitler's National Socialism are variants of socialism.

I mean, every person that supposedly gains most from socialism – you know, people who are unable to be very productive – where actively killed under the rule of National Socialism. You know, not for being dissenting, but really for just being unable to work.

I'm not sure why you imagine that treating the disabled well is a necessary characteristic of socialism. Numerous societies which identified as socialism, including ones considered to be left-wing by the Left, have slaughtered or otherwise abused categories of the disabled. A partial list of such would include the Soviet Union, the People's Republic of China, and the People's Democratic Republic of Kampuchea -- I could lengthen this and give you specific examples if you like.

The manner in which both Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy were "socialist" is that, under both regimes, the owners of businesses were treated as merely their managers under the superior authority of the State. They had no rights which the State was bound to respect, and the State could (and did) punish them for failing to run their businesses as the State desired. Both regimes were ideologically-hostile to free enterprise.

The fact that Communists and Fascists hate each other does not mean that only one can be "socialist," any more than the Thirty Years War means that Catholics and Protestans could not both be "Christian." The greatest hostility is always to heretics of the same faith, rather than to pagans.

3567001

Well, I think that as economies grow more and more prosperous, there is less scarcity, in that any particular thing tends to require less person-hours of work to obtain. I can buy a decent shirt today for an hour or two of my labor, and if I was a normal size I could do it for a half-hour or less of my labor. Compare with pre-industrial times when it would take days of my labor to accomplish the same end.

There is always "scarcity," however, because the capacity for desire is infinite. If we suppose an economy, for instance, that can provide everyone with a 50' cabin cruiser free of charge, then someone may want a 100' cabin cruiser, or a 200' foot nuclear-powered yacht, or whatever. No matter how rich a society, it will only command a finite amount of energy and matter, and yet those within it may desire more than the total of what it commands.

Consider this: by the standards of a Neolithic village, our society is "post-scarcity." And yet there is still scarcity.

3566900
If it was really random, I imagine it would be very hard but since it's a story it's not. It's entirely set up by the author. Strange parallels between what they find at the place and their own life are entirely within one's reach. Though, since I'm not an author, I can't speak to ease of performance, only that I've seen it done.

it might be harder to keep doing it over and over in new places, at least without breaking verisimilitude, in a long running series, now that I think of it.

3567026 Oh I agree, there will always be scarcity of some type or another, thats what makes post-scarcity an interesting goal. Its like science, you'll never finish, never understand everything, that just means you can always learn more, have new problems to solve.

3566909
One problem is with labelling. Consider the ACLU; I would consider them to be a fairly archetypical "liberal organization". We frequently label politicians on the left in the US as being liberal, even if the label doesn't exactly apply to them. The so-called SJW movement is undoubtedly leftist, but I wouldn't call it liberal; it is pretty authoritarian.

I mean, consider the commonality between the SJW idea that you shouldn't say bad thing about religions or say bad things about people based on their religion, and the very conservative idea of blasphemy. Many conservative Muslims think that you shouldn't be able to criticize religions.

The ACLU stands against that position. Yet people would probably align the SJWs with the ACLU as "liberal".

Harrison Bergeron does not present us with a liberal society, and yet a lot of folks look at the SJWs, and see Harrison Bergeron.

I dunno. I get that a lot of people use these terms in variable ways, but at some point our use of these labels becomes meaningless because we're no longer capable of reliably identifying things. We refer to religious fundamentalists as being conservatives, but people who are in favor of theocracy are radicals, as that would be a massive departure from modern civilization. Indeed, many people in the Republican party are in favor of very radical ideas, and yet we call them conservative. They're really more reactionary, and indeed, are reactionary in favor of a status quo which never existed in the first place.

The whole "take away guns and drugs" thing is present on the left and the right; it is a sort of paternal protectionist authoritarianism, the idea that mother (or the Motherland) knows best.

And in all fairness, some of these things are about balancing rights, rather than about authoritarianism. Humans form pyramids; a state free of government will not remain that way long, because people will murder each other until someone ends up in charge and stops it. Some infringement on rights is necessary to maintain a stable and orderly society in which rights have any meaning; if it isn't safe to speak your mind, you don't really have freedom of speech. Freedom of speech is really saying that certain negative consequences won't happen for speaking your mind. After all, you can say whatever you want in China, but they might arrest you for it. In the US, the worst that can legally happen to you is shunning and losing your job. But that really means we're restricting the right of others to use violence.

Indeed, you could view civilization ultimately as a system of rules which exist to prevent violence and to restrict the use of violence to very narrow purposes.

Liberals have taken away our ability to overthrow our government by taking away our ability to own weapons.

In all fairness, reality took away our ability to overthrow the US government; most private individuals aren't capable of affording the sort of technology necessary to fight the US military. Saddam Hussein had tanks and jets and got utterly crushed. If the US military went bad, it could easily murder a bunch of idiots running around in camo with AR-15s; it is primarily because the US military isn't willing to commit genocide that guerillas are successful. The thing that prevents us from eradicating the Taliban isn't the fact that we can't, but the fact that we aren't willing to murder 15 million people to do it.

Everyone has cooperated in taking away our right to legal representation and a fair trial by creating a legal system so complicated that whoever hires the most lawyers wins.

In all fairness, this is actually the lawyers' doing, because it creates employment for them. It isn't just the laywers, either; imagine if we radically simplified the tax code by removing all tax exemptions and simply taxed everyone and everything on a progressive income tax system. Suddenly, personal accountants become vastly less valuable.

3563054

Free market capitalism doesn't force anyone to do anything in particular. That's the essence of a "free market" -- you find what you want to do and can trade for money or goods from others for doing, and then you do it. If an economy contains elements of coercion by others (rather than by base biological necessity) those elements are not "free market."

3567400 I think you supported 3567004 rather than refuting him. The Nazi government (representing society) told companies what to produce and how much. That's what social ownership means.

The article you're citing is biased, trying to distance real-life socialism from Marxism, and save the name "socialism" for Marxism. That's wrong, because they're different words, and because socialism can be used for things that can exist in real life, while Marxism cannot. "State capitalism" = socialism. A democratic state telling companies what to make = socialism.

A better argument to make to say that the Nazis and the Soviets weren't socialist would be that they weren't democratic. Which they weren't. But that would have bearing only on arguments about what sort of things socialist governments are likely to do, and not on how effective they are.

Login or register to comment
Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!