Spotlight

A Few Quotations From The Stanford Encyclopedia On Positive And Negative Freedom

Full entry here. Of course, there are other ways to think about ...

From George Monbiot: ‘How Freedom Became Tyranny’

Full piece here. The old liberal vs libertarian battle rehashed…link sent in ...

A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

Full text found here. (updated) I wanted to focus a little on ...

Offering links and thoughts on the Arts, Politics, Political Philosophy and Foreign Affairs.

Monday Quotation-Edmund Burke

It is a general popular error to suppose the loudest complainers for the public to be the most anxious for its welfare.’

Edmund Burke

Two Monday Quotations From Keeping The Tablets

It’s getting somewhat political around here, as I was referred to this book:

“Rationalism in politics means, in Oakeshott’s challenging phrase, making politics as the crow flies, i.e. ideologically.  Hayek, a student of the great Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises and for many years a professor of economics a the University of Chicago, shows that this mode of thought is characteristic of one major stream of Continental (primarily French) social criticism, which he labels “scientism” to distinguish it from the other principal stream, which issues into social science properly understood (recall Jeffrey Hart’s essay.  The one tradition insists on science’s ability to order society according to a rational plan; the other counsels the dependence of reason on nonrational circumstances, its inability to survey and command the whole of society, its limited room to maneuver in the interstices of society.  Placing Burke, Hume, and Tocqueville squarely in the latter camp, Hayek shows why traditionalism is closer to the free market analysis of libertarianism than is commonly thought.”

and:

“In contrast to both Hayek and Vogelin, Leo Strauss presents a profound critique of rationalism that culminates in the renewed authority of reason to guide moral and political life.  Not the reason of Hegel or Rousseau or Hobbes, however, but the practical wisdom, the prudence, of statesmen-especially as explicated and defended by Aristotle.”

Buckley Jr., William F. & Charles R. Kesler.  Keeping The Tablets: Modern American Conservative Thought-A Revised Edition of American Conservative Thought in the Twentieth Century. New York: Harper & Row, 1988. Print.

I suppose, like many, I remain skeptical when I hear that men have in their minds some plan to which all the rest of us should live, even when they are well-educated and highly intelligent, and have good reasons for doing so.  That can challenge the consent of the governed, among other things.

Related On This Site: Martha Nussbaum has her own project with Aristotelian roots:   Bryan Magee Via Youtube: ‘Martha Nussbaum On Aristotle’Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’

Some Quotations From Leo Strauss On Edmund Burke In ‘Natural Right And History’A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

Surely you think science should be taught in schools, but what about administered…is Dennett deeper than the following criticism?: From The Access Resource Network: Phillip Johnson’s “Daniel Dennett’s Dangerous Idea’Dinesh D’Souza And Daniel Dennett at Tufts University: Nietzsche’s Prophesy…

Repost-From The Spiked Review Of Books Via The A & L Daily: ‘Rescuing The Enlightenment From Its Exploiters’…does Kant lead to a liberal political philosophy?: From JSTOR: Excerpt From “Rousseau, Kant, And History” By George Armstrong Kelly

Two Sunday Links-Greene Street And Organic Produce

Via Marginal Revolution.

The Greene Street Project: A Long History of a Short Block-An interactive site that follows, longitudinally, one small section of New York City.

Related On This Site:   Big cities, especially New York, tend to over-regulate business: Richard Epstein At Defining Ideas: ‘City Planners Run Amok’Richard Epstein At The Hoover Institution’s Defining Ideas: ‘California’s Kafkaesque Rent Control Laws’

From Quartz:

“Organic” has essentially become another way of saying “luxury.”

Related On This Site: Repost-A Quotation From Emerson-Some Thoughts On Hipsterdom & ‘The Culture’The Cresting Of A Hipster Wave?-From The New York Observer: ‘Brooklyn Is Now Officially Over: The Ascendance of Brooklyn, the Lifestyle, Above All Else’

Hipster Real Estate At The New York Times:

By many measures, Jeff Huston and his wife, Lisa Medvedik-Huston, arrived late to Williamsburg, Brooklyn. They weren’t among the first waves of artists and hipsters in the early-to-mid ’90s to cross the East River in search of cheaper, grittier confines.’

Oh no!

Saturday Quotation-Ken Minogue

Just because it bears repeating:

‘We may sum this up by saying that the more the style of what used to be called politics becomes theorized, the more political problems come to be reintrepreted as managerial.  Working out the least oppressive laws under which different and sometimes conflicting groups may live peaceably together is being replaced by manipulation and management of the attitudes different groups take towards each other, with the hope that this will ultimately bring harmony.  In other words, in the new form of society, human beings are becoming the matter which is to be shaped according to the latest moral ideas.’

Minogue, Kenneth.  Politics.  Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 1995. (Pg 111).

Passed Along By A Reader-Robert Satloff’s 10 Questions For Obama On Iran

Jeffrey Goldberg has reproduced the questions without comment at The Atlantic.  Some of them are pretty good.

Click through.

Here are a few concerns I’ve produced in the last 20 minutes:

In working to constrain the use and threat of military force to the strict conditions of the deal (the terms of which have gradually grown more lax), are you prepared to deal with the continued fallout of rewarding the Moscow-Damascus-Tehran alliance, traditionally adversarial to U.S. interests?

In setting such narrow conditions for the use of American force, have you not inherently given Putin leverage in Ukraine and possibly increased the likelihood of raised tensions in the Baltics and a flare-up along old Eastern boundaries?

Do you envision a longer-term American strategy regarding the bitter Syrian civil war, Assad’s regime still clinging to power (and chemical weapons), and the subsequent growth of Daesh/Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, which also can threaten U.S. interests?

By riding a wave American isolationist sentiment at home, funneling foreign policy decision-making through a smaller group of like minds and executive branch management (away from State and a lot of experienced, principled men and women), have you not weakened American foreign policy by splitting the parties and country along partisan lines in order to achieve your objectives?

Add your own!

Another Addition: Israel, Iran, & Peace: Andrew Sullivan Responds To Charges Of Potential Anti-SemitismSome Saturday Links On Iran-Skepticism, To Say The Least George Shultz & Henry Kissinger At The Hoover Institution: ‘What A Final Iran Deal Must Do’ So what are our interests and how do we secure them as the fires in the Middle-East rage?  Michael Totten makes a case here in Why We Can’t Leave The Middle-East.’  He gets push-back in the comments

Democracy as we envision it requires people to constrain themselves within laws and institutions that maintain democracy…through Mill’s utilitarianism?: Thursday Quotation: Jeane Kirkpatrick – J.S. Mill  Is Bernhard Henri-Levy actually influencing U.S. policy decisions..? From New York Magazine: ‘European Superhero Quashes Libyan Dictator’Bernhard Henri-Levy At The Daily Beast: ‘A Moral Tipping Point’
Do we try and invest in global institutions as flawed as they are…upon a Kantian raft of perpetual peace?:  Daniel Deudney On YouTube Responding to Robert Kagan: Liberal Democracy Vs. Autocracy

My Favorite Prophet

Two Links And A Previously Posted Poem By T.S. Eliot

Rachel Cusk at The New Republic on Kingsley Amis:

Don’t let the title scare you away:

‘Amis’s fear of art being viewed as pretense and the artist as lazy or dependent is clear from these remarks; and who would accuse an artist of being lazy? The answer might be: a working man. With his talk of product and workbenches, Amis is trying to create the image of the writer as an ordinary worker, to dispel art’s associations with foppishness and pretentiousness and self-aggrandizement.

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Do you recall that massacre at a Tunisian resort by an ISIS savage?  The Tunisians sure don’t, because the tourists aren’t coming back:

Michael Totten:

‘I’ve been almost everywhere in that country more than once. It felt solid. Kick the walls if you want. They won’t buckle. It will not come apart like Syria, Iraq or Libya. It was obvious from the very beginning that, post-Arab Spring, Tunisia would not explode in civil war like Syria, rupture into fragments like Libya, or devolve into another police state like Egypt. It sure as hell wouldn’t go the way of Afghanistan. That was clear.’

===

3.

You tossed a blanket from the bed
You lay upon your back, and waited;
You dozed, and watched the night revealing
The thousand sordid images
Of which your soul was constituted;
They flickered against the ceiling.
And when all the world came back
And the light crept up between the shutters
And you heard the sparrows in the gutters,
You had such a vision of the street
As the street hardly understands;
Sitting along the bed’s edge, where
You curled the papers from your hair,
Or clasped the yellow soles of feet
In the palms of both soiled hands.

Has there been a better poet writing in English in the past 150 years?   Probably not.

The depth of commitment to his metaphysical vision and the breadth of that vision is remarkable.   Look at the rhyme and meter!  Sinful.

Repost-From The American Spectator: ‘Environmentalism and the Leisure Class’-Still Pretty Relevant

Full piece here.

William Tucker makes some good points:

‘It is not that the average person is not concerned about the environment. Everyone weighs the balance of economic gain against a respect for nature. It is only the truly affluent, however, who can be concerned about the environment to the exclusion of everything else.

On this analysis, It’s the people who’ve benefitted most from industrial activity that are using their wealth and leisure to promote an ideology that is ultimately harmful to industrial activity, and the people who live by it.  Tucker has been following how such ideas actually translate into public policy and political organization for a while.  Tucker also invokes Thorstein Veblen, and highlights how environmentalism can make for strange political bedfellows:

‘But the Keystone Pipeline has brought all this into focus. As Joel Kotkin writes in Forbes, Keystone is the dividing line of the “two Americas,” the knowledge-based elites of the East and West Coasts in their media, non-profit and academic homelands (where Obama learned his environmentalism) and the blue-collar workers of the Great In- Between laboring in agriculture, mining, manufacturing, power production and the exigencies of material life.’

Aside from the political and sociological analysis, I would offer that there are many to whom environmentalism serves as a kind of religion (or at least a political and organizational entity offering purpose and membership).

On this view, man has fallen away from Nature, and built civilized society atop it through harmful, unsustainable means.  He must atone, and get back in harmony with Nature, as he has alienated himself from his once graceful state (tribal? romantically primitive? collectively just? equal and fair? healthy?  “spiritually aware?” morally good?). This obviously gives meaning to people’s lives, a purpose, belonging and group identity as well as a political and secularly moral political platform.  A majority of these folks are almost always anti-industrial, and it’s worthy of note how environmentalism has grown in our schools, marketplace, and in the public mind.

It’s often tough to tell where the sciences end (and they are often invoked to declare knowledge that is certain, or near-certain, and worthy of action) and where a certain political philosophy (usually more communal, politically Left, Statist…regulatory, centrally planned economically) begins.

———————

Related:

Urbanists love to hate Joel Kotkin, as he has offered them much in the way of criticism.  At the New Urbanist website, I found the following quote:

“Only when humans are again permitted to build authentic urbanism — those cities, towns, and villages that nurture us by their comforts and delights — will we cease the despoiling of Nature by escaping to sprawl.”

Bjorn Lomborg is skeptical of ‘Earth Hour’ in Blinded By The Light.  Go towards the light.

Here’s Robert Zubrin:

——————-

How to separate reasonable environmentalism from the totalitarian impulses, the Malthusians and various other people who “know” how many people is enough?  Now that environmentalism is a primary focus in our schools, it’s probably worth thinking about.

***It’s worthy of note how much subtle anti-corporate, anti-capitalist, communitarian political ideology has seeped into mainstream American thinking through the environmentalist movement, aside from any science.

Related On This Site: Isaiah Berlin’s negative liberty: From George Monbiot: ‘How Freedom Became Tyranny’

Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest: ‘The Failure of Al Gore Part Three: Singing the Climate Blues’

Amy Payne At The Foundry: ‘Morning Bell: Obama Administration Buries Good News on Keystone Pipeline’

Ronald Bailey At Reason: ‘Delusional in Durban’A Few Links On Environmentalism And LibertyFrom The WSJ-A Heated Exchange: Al Gore Confronts His Critics…From The Literary Review–Weather Channel Green Ideology: Founder John Coleman Upset….The Weather Channel’s Green Blog: A Little Too GreenFrom The Washington Post: The Weather Channel’s Forecast Earth Team Fired

Pink, Green, Red And Genuine Courage-Some Sunday Links

From 60 Minutes:  Hundreds of billions in American taxpayer money has pretty much been poured into an advantage for some political actors, a few green startups, and some Chinese investors.

—————

From The Atlantic Photo:  The Daguerreotype and some of the first American uses of the new technology, including San Francisco harbor in 1851.

—————

From Robert Conquest’s ‘Day Of Dupes,‘ back during the Bay Of Pigs invasion:

‘The Communists arc concerned primarily with power. They were not involved in the original Cuban revolution; on the contrary, they long collaborated with Batista. Their decision to ride Fidelismo was a simple power calculation. The gradual establishment on the back of a genuine revolution of a parasitical terrorist bureaucracy is no new thing. To allay hostile feeling and get support, they may temporarily put through such things as land reform. As soon as their power is consolidated, this turns to forced collectivization. It should not be beyond the powers of those well able to recall US misbehavior in the 1900s to have retained some recollection of more recent events in the Baltic, the Balkans and Tibet.’

—————-

Enrichment will still be going on, and many of the hard choices facing all interested parties and a recalcitrant, revoutionary, Islamist regime in Iran may have simply been kicked down the road.

Check out the AI podcast.

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If you were on the train, you may well owe your life to Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, and everyone else who realized it was probably do and/or die.

Thank you, gentleman.

Response To A Reader On ‘Radical Chic’ And A Link to Banksy’s ‘Dismaland’

As to the quote from Louis Menand’s piece on Joan Didion entitled: ‘Out Of Bethlehem:’

‘After the Old Sacramento moment, Didion came to see the whole pioneer mystique as bogus from the start. The cultivation of California was not the act of rugged pioneers, she decided. It was the act of the federal government, which built the dams and the weirs and the railroads that made the state economically exploitable, public money spent on behalf of private business. Didion called it “the subsidized monopolization” of the state.’

Of course, there’s some truth in this.  The U.S. Federal Government is a huge landowner and manager of public lands and natural resources across the West, sometimes overseeing competition between private firms and contractors to create the infrastructure (roads, aqueducts, bridges, especially), that has made some of civilized life possible.

But yes, it is the work of pioneers, settlers, and farmers, too.  It’s the work of businesses, employees, voluntary contracts and sometimes exploitation, working apart from the government. Sometimes, it really does come down to survival; new roads built out of necessity, common purpose and ingenuity.

The overall view of ‘economically exploitable’ masses of ‘People’ is a definite turn Left, though, as is the idea that an economy can be centrally planned successfully in the first place (it’s all rigged man…’they’ hate us individuals or ‘the People,’ so it’s either control or be controlled).

Rugged individualism is very common the West, but more Leftward ‘radical chic’ collectivism and solidarity-seeking tend to thrive in California and the coastal cities.

My argument would be this:  By Menand’s account, Joan Didion as a writer seemed to drift away from one of the California families earning success through its virtues, ambition and hard work, bringing benefit to many more than themselves.  I can’t speak to their character.

Frankly, it’s not uncommon for writers to engage in such drift either, especially solipsistic ones, while always seeking some context or meaning in which to frame their lives.

Thus, passing through the 60’s and growing up in California, having gone to Berkeley, and wandering around amidst some pretty sad, desperate people drawn to the Bay Area, Didion may well have been shaped along more radical and Leftward lines.

But, aside from such ideas, by all means, if you like Didion’s stuff, read it.

=========================

On that note: Banksy, the mildly talented, ironic/iconic graffiti artist tries to shock you awake to how the world really is.

It’s not Disneyland, it’s ‘Dismaland.

Get it?

——————-

I admit I find Disney theme parks to be rather sentimental recreations of nature, civilization, and storybook themes.  There’s a lot of kitsch in them thar walls.

Clearly, though, many people love them.  They provide families with a place to go and spend time with their kids, and provide the kids a safe place to explore.

They’re a business, operating for profit.  I get it, but I don’t really care.

I can understand that a Frenchman, living in the shadow of Euro Disney, consuming a local wheel of perfectly aged cheese might have a different set of concerns, and perhaps some valid concerns, but I still don’t care that much.

=============

So, why ‘ironically’ target Disney, copying their model of people paying to wander through rather sentimental recreations of nature, civilization and storybook themes?

Artists often want your attention, usually to have shaped your imagination in a slightly different way, or to make see the world anew by creating something beautiful enough that your reasons can’t justify your aesthetic pleasure.

So, ironically, and with politics infused, Banksy has deigned to get your attention by making something shockingly modern and urgent, globally just and socially conscious enough to direct your attention to the world as it really is.

Deep man, deep.

Surely, while highlighting the problems artists have always had with money and patronage, Banksy has no commitment to post-Enlightenment ideas that offer rather sentimental recreations of nature, civilization and storybook themes…still haunting the landscape like so many abandoned theme parks that few people care to visit.

What a sad use of the imagination and relatively little in the way of artistic technique to back it up.

Related On This Site:  Jay Z And Marina Abramovic Via Twitter: A Pop-Rap Art Marketing Performaganza

They designed a city in the heart of Brazil that really doesn’t work for people: Brasilia: A Planned City

No thanks to living in planned communities upon someone else’s overall vision.: Roger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?Repost-Via Reason: ‘Salvador Allende’s Cybersocialist Command Center’From Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit’… some people don’t want you to have the economic freedom to live in the suburbs: From Foreign Policy: ‘Urban Legends, Why Suburbs, Not Cities, Are The Answer’

A structure in the desert…not even a city Update On LACMA, Michael Heizer And The ‘Levitated Mass’-Modern Art And The Public;..where is modernism headed? Via Youtube: Justin, The Horse That Could Paint

Denis Dutton suggested art could head towards Darwin (and may offer new direction from the troubles of the modern art aimlessness and shallow depth…the money and the fame) Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’

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