The Homo Economicus is “The Body” of the Agent

The model of the decision-making agent known as homo economicus is a trivial truth, but not a misconception. All agents are supposed to maximize the utility of their resources – that is true in every geography and in every age. But because it is a tautology, it is a mistake to give to the deductions brought about from this sole model the value of a description of a particular reality. As Wittgenstein had pointed out in his Tractatus, the tautologies do not convey any relevant information of any particular world, but of every possible world. The error consists on qualifying a common note to every possible situation as a distinctive characteristic of a particular set of events. To say that every agent acts to maximize his utility is true, but to state that this observation tells us something of a particular world that distinguishes it from every other possible world is the most extended misconception about the use of the model of the rational agent.

In another post, I mentioned the importance of having a body in order to develop a personal identity. In the same line as Hayek’s Sensory Order, the body enables us with the most elementary system of classification that makes our perceptions possible, or – to express it in a more radical empiricist strain – that brings the experience to happen. Upon this system of classification will sediment more abstract layers, or degrees, of systems of classification. Our knowledge is expressed at a level of abstraction that our mind can handle, whereas the law, the market, and the language are examples of phenomena that might achieve increasing degrees of complexity that mark blurred boundaries to our knowledge. The former are named “simple phenomena” and the latter “complex phenomena” in the Hayekian terminology. Our personal identity is continuously developing on that stratus set between the simple and the complex phenomena.

In this sense, we need the conclusions brought about by the rational agent model as the stem upon which lay further strata of increasingly complex analysis. Paradoxically, the more particular the social reality we seek to describe, the more abstract has to be our layer of analysis. Notwithstanding, it would be impossible to us to conceive any image of the social experience if we lack of the fixed point of the rational agent model.

Max Weber’s ideal types could be interpreted as instances of social arrangements based on the rational agent model, which incorporate particular – and abstract – characteristics depending on the historical circumstances under scrutiny. At the bottom of both adventurous capitalism and traditional society, beneath successive strata of different social and institutional designs, we will find an agent who maximizes utility. Perhaps that is why the term “rational capitalism” is so controversial. If rationality concerns subjective reason, then rational capitalism encloses a circular definition.

In this line of ideas, I hope this quick reflection might shed some light upon the old discussion about instrumental rationality and substantive reason. Since the instrumental rationality is common to every possible world, we might look for the substantive reason that gives order to this actual world in the increasing layers of complexity that reach degrees of abstraction that are superior to the subjective reason. Although that does not mean that we will ever be able to find it.

What sort of discipline is women’s studies?

The tenets of women’s studies – and gender or multicultural studies – of patriarchy, intersectional oppression and social constructionism are, as noticed by Toni Airaksinen, unprovable and unfalsifiable. (We’ve had some discussion of Popperian falsifiability elsewhere; maybe this is another opportunity.) Social constructionism, I would argue, stands as a legitimate scientific theory: it can be either confirmed or refuted by biological evidence (Cf. John Dupré, Ian Hacking, Nancy Cartwright, etc.). The other two tenets, however, cannot hold the esteem of science, and don’t fit nicely as philosophical, sociological or political theories either. If they are considered philosophical theories, it has to be recognized that they began with their conclusions as premises; ergo, they are circular, and only confirmed by circularity. Neither conjecture has even the loose falsifiability to belong to a social science like sociology, and their refutation (were it possible) would mean the closing of their scientific branch, so they cannot be (relevant) sociological theories. Finally, very few theories that fall under the branch of “political” are fundamentally political; usually, they begin in another, more atomic field and are only secondarily responsive to the political realm. So, calling them political theories begs the question. It makes the most sense to classify theories of “patriarchy” and “intersectional oppression” as theological conjectures instead of philosophical, sociological or political.

To demonstrate the point: firstly, they posit an original sin: some of us are born with privilege, and only through reparations or race/gender-denunciations can we overcome it. They also, again like Christianity, possess a disdain for the current, real state of things: where Christians posit a celestial heaven for the afterlife, progressive idealists embrace utopian visions materially impossible to accomplish, or at least humanly unrealistic. To fuel the utopianism, historicism or a disregard for enlightened economic, historical or sociological analysis comes with the politics. Another tenet of religion is its typical weak exclusivism (van Inwagen, 2010): religions take themselves to be logically inconsistent with other sects (that is, if two belief systems are logically consistent, one is not a religion), and hold that, for people in the typical epistemic state of its adherents, it is rational to accept that religion. This mild exclusivism is very obvious for movements like modern feminism; it is also easy to see that stronger exclusivism not only follows from weak, but is applicable to the leftist ideologies as well: proponents of a religion must find opponents that possess the same epistemic certifications to be irrational. Also, the same exceptionalism, and infiltration into politics, is familiar to religions (like Christianity and Islam) as well as feminist theorists that seek to distort the law into beneficial means, beyond its legitimate jurisdiction.

Finally, Ludwig Feuerbach wrote in the 1840’s that theology was truly anthropology: Christianity was an appraisal of man, and the story of mankind. Gender studies sees this reversed: what might euphemistically be termed social science or anthropology, sociology, etc. is discovered to be instead a new sort of theology. Facts are subordinate to blind belief and obedience, and the probing essence of reason is dismissed for the docile, hospitable nature of faith. It seeks to see God, or masculine oppression, in everything. This is another instance of its discontent for anything formerly satisfying; until the tenets of women’s studies are taught exclusively in the classroom, its students will consider themselves forever oppressed. Creationism’s proponents wrestled fruitlessly as evolution replaced their faith in American middle schools. Feminists will try tirelessly to invade grade school as well, until faith can again triumph over critique.

From the Comments: Lenin knew what he was doing when he picked Stalin

Barry and William had an interesting discussion in the ‘comments’ threads of Dr Rosi‘s post about Lenin. At the heart of the dialogue is whether or not Lenin thought Stalin was an incompetent fool. Here is Dr Stocker’s final response:

This all depends on accepting that a text written by Krupskaya was Lenin’s own view. Leaving that aside, Kotkin is very against the idea that Stalin was stupid and I don’t think we should equate Stalin’s crassness with stupidity. Even leaving aside Kotkin, it is clear that Stalin did intellectually demanding things over many years, with regard to political organisation, political journalism and writing on Marxist doctrine (particularly the national question and this was before the Revolution long before issues of Stalin getting people to write things for him).

General Secretary of the Party was a very influential job, which meant selecting the people to run the party and therefore the country along with a complex range of other tasks which require some intellectual capacity. If Lenin appointed Stalin believing that Stalin was not very bright and could therefore be given an unimportant job, he was bizarrely mistaken about the demands and influence of the party secretary, the head of the Party in a party-state. Lenin did not need this title as he was the undoubted leader and instigator of the October Revolution. After he was off the scene, the party secretary would inevitably be the most powerful person in Russia. Stalin was at all times crude, brutal, cunning, calculating and dishonest in his behaviour, but this is not same as intellectual lack.

As Robert Service, amongst others, have pointed out Trotsky portrayed himself as the great intellectual with the right to inherit Lenin’s mantle and needed to portray Stalin as stupid and maybe needed to believe that someone lacking in his formal education, knowledge of foreign languages and manners associated with intelligentsia culture really was stupid. Well Stalin won the power struggle and I think it had something to do with intelligence behind the crassness.

Lenin and Trotsky themselves have been exaggerated as Great Thinkers by their followers. Clearly they had some scholarship and intellectual capacity, but what did they write which anyone would care about if they hadn’t come to power in 1917? Interest in Lenin’s writings has dropped off in a quite extreme way since Leninism stopped being the official ideology of what used to be the USSR, allied regimes and some large allied political parties outside the socialist bloc. Sort of equalises the intellectual legacy of Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin.

Read the whole thing.

Gogol Bordello and Multiculturalism

Donald Trump is about to be President of the United States. Trump’s victory is the result of a great plethora of political and cultural attitudes. It is not a “white-lash” (both candidates failed to attract the hispanic and black audience); it is not because America is, beneath the diverse veneer, intrinsically racist, sexist, xenophobic, islamophobic, homophobic, etc., etc.; it’s not simply that Bernie might have won had the DNC not been skewed in Hillary’s favor, nor is Trump’s unexpected win simply a retaliation from general conservatives after a double Democratic term. One of the largest elements in Trump’s victory is the cultural shift toward political correctness, and the backlash from not only conservatives but apolitical entities as well. People on the left won’t understand (except maybe accelerationist Marxists), but the infiltration of academia by progressive ideas, the shifting of institutions into liberal political pandering, and the emerging call for the repression of free speech has bent a great migration of non-Republican and nonpartisan minds into the Trump vote.

Establishment-left politicians are effectively finished after the failed Clinton campaign, just like the old-school GOP is finished following the election of their ugly duckling. What emerges from the left wing will most likely be more radical and extreme than Donald was to his political label. The movements all function under one shared umbrella, one unlikely to back down now that its worst nightmare is in charge for four years. Moving on from these facts, and recognizing that political correctness is a feature of the direction of left politics in general, I’ll comment on my first real experience with the anti-neoliberal left.

As a freshman in college, I took an introduction to Multicultural and Gender Studies course (the sheer fact that cultural, ethnic studies and gender/sex studies are combined implies the sort of ideological commitments necessary to teach these classes). My professor, unlike many in the major, let us be led into her viewpoints, rather than beginning sharply from her own and forcing us to abruptly commit or retaliate (as happens in Political Scienc classes). This approach is more gentle, more clandestine, leading to a greater deal of brainwashing. A few weeks in, she asked, “What is race?” I answered promptly, “a social construction.” MCGS155 was, in a sense, the first class I became utterly submissive to my teacher, and participated at any opportunity. When asked, “What is gender?” I vocally distinguished between the genitalia (sex) between our legs, and the identity in our heads. Thus far, the beliefs I was committed to then are the same I possess now.

Over the semester, however, I was taught lessons that were more sinister, more nefarious, and at times wholly offensive to the reality of the world. When my professor explained that she needed a male professor to negotiate her wages at my university (because women are not taught how to negotiate or argue, while men are tacitly trained to be argumentative and authoritative), I thought it made perfect sense, and it does. Then I was asked, gradually, to believe all women’s experiences were like this, all the time. Gender and racial monoliths began a glacial formation. Through the acceptance of small-scale experiences, a larger picture began to manifest in my mind: that of systematic discrimination and, eventually, oppression.

Prior to taking the multicultural and gender studies course, the word “oppression” was rare to encounter, especially when applied to a contemporary setting. Oppression was what the victims of Transatlantic slavery faced, for me. Indeed, outside of academia and far-left politics, that’s what oppression is: forced servitude. When leftist vocalizations of “oppression” take to the social field, the primary apolitical connotation is slavery, and so slapping the label on our government or culture can only arouse the most sincere feelings of empathy and rage. “Oppression” was used in my class to describe the conditions under which any and all minorities live in the United States. Using such an authoritative word, I began to understand American society as functioning modern-day slavery. Toni Airaksinen points out that women’s studies classes are built on the conjectures of “patriarchy, intersectional oppression, and social constructionism.” To note that “oppression” does not realistically describe any specific group’s position in American society would be to upset my professor, the major, and an entire national field of study.

The epitome and eventual product of my brainwashing was an extended argumentative essay, in which I concluded that Gogol Bordello was, among other things, cultural appropriation, offensive to diasporadical cultures, faux-ethnically inclusive, and, in some mystical sense, racist. I argued that Funkadesi (a South African-styled, funk/hip hop group liked by Obama) was the true gender and cultural warrior. As a teenager I used to enjoy Gogol Bordello as fun, raunchy music; within three months, however, I’d called them “insincere,” “promoting global fornication” with a “condescending attitude of hemispherical and cultural superiority.” My class, effectively, destroyed the fun in life.

Even as I wrote the anti-Bordello essay (calling Eugene Hütz a “homogenizer”), I felt that what I was arguing was somehow off. When I hung out with friends, friends who enjoyed Gogol Bordello, my conscience nagged that I ought to confront its problematic elements and put an end to their uninformed participation in oppression; another part of me, more internal and sensible, told me uninformed participation is a staple of human aesthetic enjoyment, and launching into a leftist tirade was not only off-kilter but immoral and misanthropic. After I passed the class I learned to reneg the Anglo-Saxon hatred and reinterpret Gogol Bordello not as cultural offensive, but culturally celebratory, inclusive, and self-aware. 

An element, one that I now consider essential to far-leftist politics, that dominated the course was its utter lack of appreciation for any actual social progress throughout history. This is done singularly and topically. In the beginning of class, we discussed the image of America as a “melting pot”; this ideal was rejected in the 1980s as assimilative: the Western Caucasian template would dominate the pot, as minority groups lost their identities (i.e., globalization). The great celebration of the census bureau that we might all mix together our distinctions and emerge more wholesome was decimated by my professor’s politics. Then, we discussed multiculturalism: instead of the stew of the melting pot, American immigrancy and citizenship would come together as a mosaic or kaleidoscope, with our distinctions still celebrated even as we learned to function together. Multiculturalism, for the second third of my semester, seemed enlightened: different groups would no longer be processed into a Western canon. However, this too was to fail as equally problematic. (Those of you outside of culture and gender studies who might think multiculturalism is still upheld as the ideal, guess again.) My teacher proposed that our society must enter something like a post-multicultural state. Multiculturalism was too tokenizing, too uninformed, too patronizing; somehow, the Caucasians had won again, and we had to move on to new philosophical horizons.

This tradition of dissatisfaction with formerely satisfying solutions is across the board with modern leftist movements. Just lately, a (brilliantly un-self aware) Guardian writer Zoe Oja Tucker wrote about college-aged men being severely punished for a sexist sheet of paper, all while desperately holding on to an ideology that says this sort of punishment is culturally nonexistent. The far-left has been eating itself alive for a while, like when Canadian Black Lives Matter protesters shut down a Gay Pride parade. One might suspect that post-multiculturalism will be answered by a sort of apartheid, and indeed, that seems to be the case with new segregationist options offered for minorities. (The pre-Civil Rights are back, but the positions have switched.) Meanwhile, by squabbling over increasing theoretical accuracy, legitimate gains that have been made are seen as neutral events, or political façades for continued oppression. Thus, the entrenched Marxist doctrine (which informs much of the left’s perception of politics nowadays) that society is composed of only two groups, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, at once twists into the cultural Marxism of “oppressor” and “oppressed,” and simultaneously loses its secondary category to internal disputes over minute aspects of the ideology itself, enlarging at once the first, privilege-possessing class. Progress in women’s rights, gay rights, etc. are even seen as PR-masks for the real tyranny – that of capitalism – by Marxists. So when law is passed specifically to aid the working class, not even this can satisfy the theory of endless, eternal oppression. The dissatisfaction with solutions is also seen with Marxists’ continued rejection of campaign voting: even though an increase in the third-party vote would alter American politics for the next campaign, Marxists across the board have rejected participation, dismissing the entirety of presidential elections as a corporate charade. (In essence, never doing anything for their own progression. Yet this dead philosophy hangs on.)

Leftist political scientists don’t care about legitimate social progress, because the great bureaucracy of professionalized philosophy requires tedious publishing year after year, and if ever theoretical perfection (or genuine satisfaction) were reached, the opportunity for tenure is lost. Thus, utter shit is churned out, like studies on online drinking photos promoting “regimes of gendered power,” dildos as tools of oppression, critical analyses on testicles, or studies on how to convince young women they are systematically oppressed. Freud would probably have castrated himself before he saw his methodology used for such off-base and imbecilic purposes today.

Feminism fought and won victories: in its first wave for voting rights, in its second for sexual freedom and abortion rights. It is not fighting for equally protecting legislation anymore. It is now fighting a culture war, and the only way to fight a culture is by seeking to replace it with a new ideology, and there is no immediate reason to assume the new one will be better than the old one. Third-wave feminism might best be described with a quip occasionally offered by its constituents: “if you’re not offended, you’re not paying attention.” (Or: “if you’re not finding oppression: look harder.”) Thus, the quality of “uninformity,” i.e. ignorance, discussed earlier, so despised by leftists and attributed to any of their opponents, is reckoned as the price to pay for not being enraged all the time. We must be offended constantly, or risk ignorance; this sort of position, of course, propels the lack of satisfaction with actual social progress, disturbs the sense of civil mobility, and leads to a rejection of enjoyment of almost anything.


Lifehacks: How to use Facebook better

Despite disagreeing with many (most?) of my friends on political issues I don’t think I’ve lost any Facebook friends this election. Let me share my secrets.

Step 1: Empathize. Life is hard, and few of us are trained for political life.

Step 2: Listen. We all have the same goal… getting other people to agree with us. You’re not going to be successful by telling people their stupid. You’ll get lots of Internet points… but only from people who already agree with you. You’re actually making things worse because fewer people will listen to people who are apparently incapable of treating them like a decent human being (and most people outside the Beltway are, in fact, decent and human).

Step 3: Filter. (This is the big one.) You’re not going to convince everyone. For good or ill, morality isn’t about rationality for most people. So click that little “V” in the top right of your idiot friend’s post and tell Facebook to hide it.

Step 4: Relax. This stuff works by osmosis. You’re not going to change anyone’s mind over night (certainly not anyone over the age of 25). Be like the Colorado river. You don’t get a Grand Canyon of tolerance by refusing to trickle over land that doesn’t already agree with you.

Step 5: Step back. The government is about 20% of the economy. Try not to let it be more than 20% of your life. Your attention is scarce. Political life matters, but don’t let it get out of proportion. The Internet isn’t just for getting angry, it’s also for adorable gifs and pictures of pigs wearing boots.

Meta-intolerance doesn’t work. Take the worst case scenario: you’re Facebook friends with actual Hitler. You’ve got three options: A) Argue with him constantly. B) Unfriend him. C) Ignore his hateful posts and like his posts about his art. Which will do the most good for the world? Alright, potential employers and friends would probably prefer to avoid Hitler’s friends. But they’ll be more tolerant of your crazy uncle Rudy and you’ll do more good by being an occasional voice of reason in his feed than by stepping out of his Internet bubble entirely.

Most people are basically good even if they’ve got silly opinions about how to be good. And communication is hard. We speak different languages when we talk about politics and few of us have the tools to properly express ourselves. When people support politicians or policies you dislike, it might just be that they think that’s the lesser of two evils. (I’ve got opinions on why it’s sad that people think they’re “wasting” their vote by voting with their conscience, but I can hardly be mad at them for learning the fallacious reasoning that’s been foisted on them since high school civics. Let me add that if Vermonters had voted Stein and New Hampshirtonians had voted Johnson, then maybe next cycle we’ll get better options and we might push out of this two party system so many people dislike.)

I promised you Facebook lifehacks. They all boil down to this: tend your Internet bubble. You can do this with three easy steps:

  1. Like more non-controversial stuff than controversial stuff.
  2. Ignore and hide infuriating posts from people you’d rather respect (and imagine that you live in a world of respectable but flawed people instead of a world of evil charlatans).
  3. excellent

Great quotes by Vladimir Lenin

Last week I posted some quotes by Joseph Stalin. I’m afraid too many people are still misguided by the myth that Lenin was a good leader whose plans were somehow distorted by Stalin. Nothing could be further from the truth. Joseph Stalin had a great teacher, Vladimir Lenin, and brought the plans of his teacher to perfection. Here are some quotes by Lenin, so that we can learn more about international Marxism. Notice that he sounded very reasonable and pacific before 1917, and not so much so when revolution actually came.

On terror:
The Congress decisively rejects terrorism, i.e., the system of individual political assassinations, as being a method of political struggle which is most inexpedient at the present time, diverting the best forces from the urgent and imperatively necessary work of organisation and agitation, destroying contact between the revolutionaries and the masses of the revolutionary classes of the population, and spreading both among the revolutionaries themselves and the population in general utterly distorted ideas of the aims and methods of struggle against the autocracy.
Lenin, Vladimir Ilich (July–August) [1903], “Second Congress of the RSDLP: Drafts of Minor Resolutions”, Collected Works, 6, Marxists.

It is necessary — secretly and urgently to prepare the terror. And on Tuesday we will decide whether it will be through SNK or otherwise.
Memorandum to Nikolay Nikolayevich Krestinsky (3 or 4 September 1918) while recovering from an assassination attempt by Socialist-Revolutionary Fanni Kaplan on 30 August 1918; published in The Mitrokhin Archive: The KGB in Europe and the West (1999) Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin, p. 34.

On democracy:
Whoever wants to reach socialism by any other path than that of political democracy will inevitably arrive at conclusions that are absurd and reactionary both in the economic and the political sense.
Lenin, Vladimir Ilich (Summer) [1905], “Two Tactics of Social Democracy in the Democratic Revolution”, Collected Works, 9, Marxists, p. 29.

You cannot do anything without rousing the masses to action. A plenary meeting of the Soviet must be called to decide on mass searches in Petrograd and the goods stations. To carry out these searches, each factory and company must form contingents, not on a voluntary basis: it must be the duty of everyone to take part in these searches under the threat of being deprived of his bread card. We can’t expect to get anywhere unless we resort to terrorism: speculators must be shot on the spot. Moreover, bandits must be dealt with just as resolutely: they must be shot on the spot.
“Meeting of the Presidium of the Petrograd Soviet With Delegates From the Food Supply Organisations” (27 January 1918) Collected Works, Vol. 26, p. 501.

On individual liberty:
Everyone is free to write and say whatever he likes, without any restrictions. But every voluntary association (including the party) is also free to expel members who use the name of the party to advocate anti-party views. Freedom of speech and the press must be complete. But then freedom of association must be complete too.
Lenin, Vladimir Ilich (13 November 1905), “Party Organisation and Party Literature”, Novaya Zhizn (Marxists) (12).

We set ourselves the ultimate aim of abolishing the state, i.e., all organized and systematic violence, all use of violence against people in general. We do not expect the advent of a system of society in which the principle of subordination of the minority to the majority will not be observed.

In striving for socialism, however, we are convinced that it will develop into communism and, therefore, that the need for violence against people in general, for the subordination of one man to another, and of one section of the population to another, will vanish altogether since people will become accustomed to observing the elementary conditions of social life without violence and without subordination.
Lenin, Vladimir Ilich, The State and Revolution, Ch. 4: “Supplementary Explanations by Engels”

On violence:
No Bolshevik, no Communist, no intelligent socialist has ever entertained the idea of violence against the middle peasants. All socialists have always spoken of agreement with them and of their gradual and voluntary transition to socialism.
“Reply to a Peasant’s Question” (15 February 1919); Collected Works, Vol. 36, p. 501.

When violence is exercised by the working people, by the mass of exploited against the exploiters — then we are for it!
“Report on the Activities of the Council of People’s Commissars” (24 January 1918); Collected Works, Vol. 26, pp. 459-61.

Great quotes by Joseph Stalin

Sometimes I like to read quotes by famous intellectuals and leaders. I believe it is a great way to learn one thing or two about several subjects, and specially the thought of said people. I suddenly became curious about Joseph Stalin, and to my surprise he was at times a very reasonable (albeit terribly evil) person. Here are some quotes by Joseph Stalin I subjectively find interesting:

On Social Democracy:
Social democracy is objectively the moderate wing of fascism…. These organisations (ie Fascism and social democracy) are not antipodes, they are twins.
Joseph Stalin, “Concerning the International Situation,” Works, Vol. 6, January-November, 1924, pp. 293-314.

On Anarchism:
We are not the kind of people who, when the word “anarchism” is mentioned, turn away contemptuously and say with a supercilious wave of the hand: “Why waste time on that, it’s not worth talking about!” We think that such cheap “criticism” is undignified and useless.
We believe that the Anarchists are real enemies of Marxism. Accordingly, we also hold that a real struggle must be waged against real enemies.
Anarchism or Socialism (1906)

On differences within the communist movement:
We think that a powerful and vigorous movement is impossible without differences — “true conformity” is possible only in the cemetery.
Stalin’s article “Our purposes” Pravda #1, (22 January 1912)
He did make a lot of people conform to his ideas.

On diplomacy:
A sincere diplomat is like dry water or wooden iron.
Speech “The Elections in St. Petersburg” (January 1913)

On the press:
The press must grow day in and day out — it is our Party’s sharpest and most powerful weapon.
Speech at The Twelfth Congress of the R.C.P.(B.) (19 April 1923)

On elections:
I consider it completely unimportant who in the party will vote, or how; but what is extraordinarily important is this—who will count the votes, and how.
Said in 1923, as quoted in The Memoirs of Stalin’s Former Secretary (1992) by Boris Bazhanov [Saint Petersburg]

On education:
Education is a weapon whose effects depend on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed.
Interview with H. G. Wells (September 1937)

On Hitler:
So the bastard’s dead? Too bad we didn’t capture him alive!
Said in April 1945 — On hearing of Hitler’s suicide, as quoted in The Memoirs of Georgy Zhukov

On his role as a leader at the USSR:
Do you remember the tsar? Well, I‘m like a tsar.
To his mother in the 1930s as quoted in Young Stalin (2007) by Simon Sebag Montefiore

To finish, a comment by George Orwell about Stalin, and above that, about people in the West who failed to see what the USSR actually was:
I would not condemn Stalin and his associates merely for their barbaric and undemocratic methods. It is quite possible that, even with the best intentions, they could not have acted otherwise under the conditions prevailing there.

But on the other hand it was of the utmost importance to me that people in western Europe should see the Soviet regime for what it really was. Since 1930 I had seen little evidence that the USSR was progressing towards anything that one could truly call Socialism. On the contrary, I was struck by clear signs of its transformation into a hierarchical society, in which the rulers have no more reason to give up their power than any other ruling class. Moreover, the workers and intelligentsia in a country like England cannot understand that the USSR of today is altogether different from what it was in 1917. It is partly that they do not want to understand (i.e. they want to believe that, somewhere, a really Socialist country does actually exist), and partly that, being accustomed to comparative freedom and moderation in public life, totalitarianism is completely incomprehensible to them.

George Orwell, in the original preface to Animal Farm; as published in George Orwell : Some Materials for a Bibliography (1953) by Ian R. Willison