Offering links and thoughts on the Arts, Politics, Political Philosophy and Foreign Affairs.
How Many Techno- And Bureaucrats Are Enough?-David Greene At NPR: ‘Rochester Focuses On A New Piece Of American Manufacturing’
We’ve got holes where the jobs are and will be, holes where the people looking for jobs and passing through our education system can’t/aren’t able to fill some of the new jobs being created, and automation is going to make fewer manufacturing jobs in many fields, pound for pound.
Greene on the new business in an old manufacturing town: Rochester, New York.
‘That said, this picture is far from perfect. You look at this factory: making incredible things with machines both old and new, but there’s almost no one here. The factory has more than 16,000 square feet, but only 80 people work here.’
Imagine some process with which you involve yourself daily: Driving, for example. Right now teams and teams of people are designing the hardware and software to automate that process, and some will make a healthy dollar doing so. Think about how important your mobile device has likely and/or could become in your life.
Now, imagine our founding fathers getting around: Bumping over rough, dangerous roads over a period of many days, weeks and months, hearing of important news through the grapevine and horseback. Activities in our lives which already consume much time, sweat and labor, or with which we often engage mindlessly/habitually etc. will continue to be made easier or simply done for us by new technology. That rate of change is pretty high at the moment.
New jobs are gong to come out of that process, but not always where and how many we think.
As to NPR and keeping the activists from putting techno- and bureaucrats in charge: NPR has great production values, but their particular ideological preferences lead to less overall wealth and dynamism in the economy; an over-promising, under-delivering American government, or some Americanized version of European-style Statism sold as ‘private/public partnerships’ coming with lots of bloat, byzantine laws and bad incentives.
We can do better than that.
Warmed-over 60’s activism and Left-liberal populism often drives the car, and those along for the ride can be blind to how local politics actually functions, especially in our cities, and to many abuses of power and corruption that go hand-in-hand with politics across the political spectrum.
Often, I suspect that many NPR listeners are there for the culture, the quality of reporting, and the lack of advertisements. Many listeners probably don’t pay particular attention to the deeper way in which events are being interpreted for them; the possible contradictions between their commitments and the activist, ideological base which often drives the next issue for debate.
Instead, there’s a lot of literature and poetry, an exposition of secular humanism and a rather modern liberal worldview, softly material, usually pushing environmentalist, feminist, and multicultural causes.
Among other interesting thoughts, there’s this. Globalization is at play, as well:
‘…there is the basic truth that technology and globalization give greater scope to those with extraordinary entrepreneurial ability, luck, or managerial skill. Think about the contrast between George Eastman, who pioneered fundamental innovations in photography, and Steve Jobs. Jobs had an immediate global market, and the immediate capacity to implement his innovations at very low cost, so he was able to capture a far larger share of their value than Eastman. Correspondingly, while Eastman’s innovations and their dissemination through the Eastman Kodak Co. provided a foundation for a prosperous middle class in Rochester for generations, no comparable impact has been created by Jobs’s innovations’
Eastman Kodak is going through Chapter 11, as those Kodak innovations have been surpassed as well (I remember family gatherings around the slide projector, holding strays up to the light).
The idea of Singapore is bandied about in the piece.
David Brooks-style NPR house conservative praise for authoritarian Singapore is at least a step in the right direction: At least it isn’t Mao nostalgia but it’s still…pretty top-down and authoritarian.
You won’t buy or sell gum in Singapore, damn it. And you’ll only chew it under doctor’s orders.
David Brooks got in on that action:
‘In places like Singapore and China, the best students are ruthlessly culled for government service. The technocratic elites play a bigger role in designing economic life. The safety net is smaller and less forgiving. In Singapore, 90 percent of what you get out of the key pension is what you put in. Work is rewarded. People are expected to look after their own’
Let’s be a little more autocratic, America, at least at the national level. It’s just so we can compete and plan for the future. Someone’s got to take hold of the meritocracy.
Get on board!:
‘The answer is to use Lee Kuan Yew means to achieve Jeffersonian ends — to become less democratic at the national level in order to become more democratic at the local level. At the national level, American politics has become neurotically democratic.’
That’s the father of modern Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew.
We need to restrict freedoms in order to get more freedoms, you see.
We are getting a good look at the kinds of people NPRites are putting in power, and it ain’t pretty.
We can do better than that.
Three songs on a theme, and a nonexistent prize if you can guess what it is:
Is modern democracy the best form of government, and if so, how did we get here? Who is ‘we’ exactly? All of Europe and the U.S.?
How do we really know that we are progressing toward some telos, or evolving our modern democracy to some point outside ourselves, and that the rest of the world ought to be doing the same?
Via Hegel, Marx and Darwin?
‘Fukuyama believes democracy is the only system of government with a long-term future, a familiar idea emerges: as societies become more prosperous, the growing global middle class will demand more political freedom and governmental accountability. Effectively a restatement of Marx’s account of the historical role of the bourgeoisie, it is an idea we have all heard many, many times before. In fact the political record of the middle classes is decidedly mixed.’
‘While the book contains some useful insights, at the most fundamental level Political Order and Political Decay remains a morass of intellectual confusion and category mistakes. Slipping insensibly from arguments about the ethical standards by which governments are to be judged to speculative claims about the moving forces of modern history, Fukuyama blurs facts, values and theories into a dense neo-Hegelian fog. Liberal democracy may be in some sense universally desirable, as he maintains. That does not mean it will always be popular, still less that it is the normal destination of modern development.’
But he does acknowledge the following, which I’ve found reading Fukuyama, is that I come away enriched in many ways:
‘In some ways Political Order and Political Decay may be Fukuyama’s most impressive work to date. The upshot of his argument is that functioning democracy is impossible wherever an effective modern state is lacking. Since fractured and failed states are embedded in many parts of the world, the unavoidable implication is that hundreds of millions or billions of people will live without democracy for the foreseeable future.’
This blog much values Gray’s thinking as he upsets the apple-cart of many a assumption found in the modern West. If you’ve ever gazed upon the secular liberal political establishment, witnessing the gap between its ideals and daily operation, its claimed moral supremacy along with a lot of foreseeable moralism and bureaucratic bloat, then you might have some sympathy for such thinking.
As previously posted:
Kelley Ross responds to a correspondent on Isaiah Berlin’s value pluralism, while discussing John Gray as well:
‘Now, I do not regard Berlin’s value pluralism as objectionable or even as wrong, except to the extend that it is irrelevant to the MORAL issue and so proves nothing for or against liberalism. Liberalism will indeed recommend itself if one wishes to have a regime that will respect, within limits, a value pluralism. I have no doubt that respecting a considerable value pluralism in society is a good thing and that a nomocratic regime that, mostly, leaves people alone is morally superior to a teleocratic regime that specifies and engineers the kinds of values that people should have. However, the project of showing that such a regime IS a good thing and IS morally superior is precisely the kind of thing that Gray decided was a failure.
Thus, I believe Gray himself sees clearly enough that a thoroughgoing “value pluralism” would mean that the regime of the Ayatollah Khomeini is just as morally justified as the regime of Thomas Jefferson. Gray prefers liberalism (or its wreckage) for the very same reason that the deconstructionist philosopher Richard Rorty prefers his leftism: it is “ours” and “we” like it better. Why Gray, or Rorty, should think that they speak for the rest of “us” is a good question. ‘
and about providing a core to liberalism:
‘Why should the state need a “sufficient rational justificaton” to impose a certain set of values? The whole project of “rational justification” is what Gray, and earlier philosophers like Hume, gave up on as hopeless. All the state need do, which it has often done, is claim that its values are favored by the majority, by the General Will, by the Blood of the Volk, or by God, and it is in business.’
And that business can quickly lead to ever-greater intrusion into our lives:
‘J.S. Mill, etc., continue to be better philosophers than Berlin or Gray because they understand that there must be an absolute moral claim in the end to fundamental rights and negative liberty, however it is thought, or not thought, to be justified. Surrendering the rational case does not even mean accepting the overall “value pluralism” thesis, since Hume himself did not do so. ‘
Are libertarians the true classical liberals? Much closer to our founding fathers?
Has John Gray turned away from value pluralism into a kind of ‘godless mysticism?’
Here’s Fukuyama summing up his book for an audience:
Related On This Site: Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’…Update And Repost-Adam Kirsch Reviews Francis Fukuyama’s Book At The City Journal: ‘The Dawn Of Politics’
Can Kant do all that heavy lifting…what are some of the dangers of Kantian reason?: From Bryan Magee’s Talking Philosophy On Youtube: Geoffrey Warnock On Kant…A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty” …
From The Atlantic: Samuel Huntington’s Death And Life’s Work…From The American Interest Online: Francis Fukuyama On Samuel Huntington…From Foreign Affairs Via The A & L Daily: ‘Conflict Or Cooperation: Three Visions Revisited’
Do we try and invest in global institutions as flawed as they are…upon a Kantian raft?: Daniel Deudney On YouTube Responding to Robert Kagan: Liberal Democracy Vs. Autocracy
Here’s Nietzsche scholar J.P. Stern on Nietzsche’s anti-Christian, anti-secular morality (Kant, utilitarians), anti-democratic, and anti-Greek (except the “heroic” Greek) biases…See the comments Repost-Camille Paglia At Arion: Why Break, Blow, Burn Was Successful…
Arguably, there isn’t an American journalist observing Iraq like Filkins. This is writing that ought to be awarded.
The Kurds are clearly our strongest allies against ISIS, and have been the best of an Iraq/Syria situation that may see a long-term redrawing of boundaries. Independent Kurdistan would threaten the interests of what’s left of the idea of unified Iraq, as well as Turkish and Iranian interests among others (Obama’s still pinning hopes on that tentative p5 + 1 deal with Rouhani).
Filkins does a deeper dive on the Kurds:
‘Obama has spoken carefully in public, but it is plain that the Administration wants the Kurds to do two potentially incompatible things. The first is to serve as a crucial ally in the campaign to destroy ISIS, with all the military funding and equipment that such a role entails. The second is to resist seceding from the Iraqi state.’
The Obama administration went so far as to block the sale of Kurdish oil against what’s left of Baghdad’s control of oil resources. Check-out this New Republic piece of a few months ago.
As to ISIS, these are clearly people with whom we can’t do business:
‘Alhashimi estimated that Baghdadi has about ten thousand fighters under his command in Iraq and twelve thousand in Syria, with tens of thousands of active supporters in both countries. In Iraq, the advance force, called the House of Islam, is dominated by foreigners, including several hundred Europeans, Australians, and Americans. Many of them are suicide bombers. Alhashimi says that the group is increasingly well funded; he estimated that it takes in ten million dollars a month from kidnapping, and more than a hundred and fifty million dollars a month from smuggling oil into Turkey and other neighboring countries, often selling it at the bargain price of about a dollar a gallon.’
Previous VICE coverage of the Islamic State, which highlights just some of what we’re dealing with:
Filkins finishes with:
‘At a lectern draped with a Kurdish flag, Barzani apologized for the heat and urged the fighters to hold on a little longer. “Be patient,” he said. “Our day is near.”
There aren’t friends, only alliances, as they say, and this alliance would be based on the past mutual interest against Saddam and his Sunni Ba’ath thuggery, and now ISIS aligning with some of those disgruntled Sunnis, and a new, broad platform for terrorism.
A few Kurdish fighting families could become oligarchic petro-leaders should they achieve independence, but nowhere in the region do we have such alignment of interests at the moment, and do we find people who might align with our longer-term interests.
Now that missile strikes and American involvement are ramping-up against ISIS, it’s worth examining. The Iraq invasion achieved certain objectives, but at great cost, and upon many failed assumptions of what could be achieved. Now we’re cleaning-up from an ineptly managed withdrawal based on failing and I believe, a deeply flawed and oft failed set of assumptions.
Islamism, and this particularly radical brand of Islam, with its patchwork of local politics and guerilla ideological warriors, united under global and universalist claims to supremacy, will be around for a while.
It’s thriving amidst such chaos and anarchy, and if you were President, you’d be dealing with it too.
See Also: Dexter Filkins ‘From Kurdistan To New York’
During Christopher Hitchens’ 2009 appearance on Australia’s Q & A, he wore a Kurdish flag pin in solidarity and fielded a question from a Kurd (starts at minute 1:30…mentioned as the rest of the debate may be worth your time):
In his book Where The West Ends, Totten describes visiting Northern Iraq briefly as a tourist with a friend, and the general feeling of pro-Americanism in Kurdish Northern Iraq that generally one can only feel in Poland, parts of the former Yugoslavia etc.
Related On This Site: Longer odds, lots of risk: Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest’s Via Media: “The Rise Of Independent Kurdistan?”…From Reuters: ‘Analysis: Syrian Kurds Sense Freedom, Power Struggle Awaits’
Dexter Filkins Via HotAir: ‘Audio: Iraq War Critic Says Iraq Withdrawal May Have Been The Worst Strategic Mistake Of All’
Must be tough to have watched the whole Iraq war unfold, and been relatively powerless but to witness and try and put pieces together, but so it is:
‘Dexter Filkins has long been a skeptic and critic of the Iraq war, from his tenure at the New York Times to his current assignment at the New Yorker. Still, that hasn’t kept Filkins from reporting honestly on developments in the theater; in 2008, while at the NYT, he wrote extensively about the success of the surge just a few months before the presidential election. A month later, Filkins wrote again about the “literally unrecognizable” and peaceful Iraq produced by the surge. Six years later, Filkins was among the skeptics reminding people that the Iraqis’ insistence on negotiating the immunity clause for American troops was more of a welcome excuse for Obama to choose total withdrawal — and claim credit for it until this year — rather than the deal-breaker Obama now declares that it was.’
‘I left Erbil for Amman in the early hours of the morning. The streets were deserted but the refugees’ tents were still visible at the side of the road. Iraq and Syria, it appears, have become geographical expressions only. Political Islam in its various versions is fighting over much of what remains. The Kurds are standing for a radically different politics along a long line to the north. What is to come, and how all this – which may be just beginning – will end, remains hidden beyond the horizon.’
So, if and when we roll back IS, what next?
‘In a posting from last week, I mentioned what it will take to mount an airstrike campaign against targets in Syria. Given that we’re going to do this using every available air asset possible, we are looking at a combined force of about 15,000 strong. Navy, Marine, USAF, Army will all be posted to supporting this effort, at least initially.
Wait, Marines? Yep- look at some of their assets based on Navy ships; we’ll use a few of them during the campaign. I’m not sure we’ve established the Erbil base yet, so most of these will be flying from Qatar, Kuwait, and ships throughout CENTCOM and EUCOM areas (the Med being a EUCOM responsibility)’
I suppose we’ll see.
Tyler Cowen appears at a talk about Thomas Piketty’s book (1 hr 16 min long):
Also from his site, interesting speculation about trade and the growth of water/harbor cities such as Venice, and comment speculation about what makes a good port:
‘The greater the anonymity of exchange, and the greater the distance involved, the stronger is the role of a formal port as a centralized supplier of trust and also buyer-seller coordination. That will imply a small number of water nodes, all the more so as globalization and specialization proceed .’
Ringed Plover By Water’s Edge
They sprint eight feet and –
stop. Like that. They
sprintayard (like that) and
They have no acceleration
and no brakes.
Top speed’s their only one.
They’re alive – put life
through a burning-glass, they’re
its focus – but they share
the world of delicate clockwork.
they parallel the parallel ripples.
When they stop
they, suddenly, are
The best Youtube video I could find of the ringed plover:
‘The real criticism of the President isn’t that his foreign policy is too deliberative, it is that his deliberations don’t seem to end with policies that, well, work.’
From The Claremont Institute Via YouTube: Charles Kesler In Conversation With Walter Russell Mead The classical liberal tradition…looking for classical liberals in the postmodern wilderness: Isaiah Berlin’s negative liberty: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”… From George Monbiot: ‘How Freedom Became Tyranny’…Looking to supplant religion as moral source for the laws: From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum.
Via Pejman Yousefzadeh via Dylan Byers:-From The AP Press: ‘8 Ways The Obama Administration Is Blocking Information:’
Those czars have to report back to central command, I imagine, and it’s worthy of note that this is the AP making a specific list of charges:
6) One of the media — and public’s — most important legal tools, the Freedom of Information Act, is under siege. Requests for information under FOIA have become slow and expensive. Many federal agencies simply don’t respond at all in a timely manner, forcing news organizations to sue each time to force action.
7) The administration uses FOIAs as a tip service to uncover what news organizations are pursuing. Requests are now routinely forwarded to political appointees. At the agency that oversees the new health care law, for example, political appointees now handle the FOIA requests.
The modern Presidency is full of ‘optics,’ but the current White House is very invested in how the President is seen, spurning media outlets for its own carefully planned PR photos and branding. When all that PR meets reality….well:
Behold a trailer for an episode of the original Star Trek. Catspaw':
Moving along, Amity Shlaes offers a critique of Ken Burns’ new documentary on the Roosevelts, and the political philosophy that often leaks through:
‘On the surface, the series’ penchant for grandees might seem benign, like the breathless coverage of Princess Kate’s third trimester in People magazine. In this country, elevating presidential families is a common habit of television producers; the Kennedys as dynasty have enjoyed their share of airtime. Still, Burns does go further than the others…’
More substance at the link. The Roosevelts earn a special place in the modern pantheon, greater than that of the Kennedys, much more intellectual than the John Lennon pathos, more old-timey than the righteousness of 60’s coalitions and Woodstock nostalgia, and more native and local than the obsessive Royal Baby Watching.
In the above video Burns discusses how he is primarily an artist, not an historian. He does, believe, however, that his work has other goals besides art. He sees himself as:
“…rooted in a humanist tradition of American History..that includes not just the old top down version, but the bottom up version that acknowledges women and labor and minorities….”
I’m guessing such a vision of the public good acts as a beacon for many at PBS, NPR, and other people interested in speaking for all of the public. Usually they end up, like all of us, presuming their ideals are universal and forming coalitions of self-interest, money, sentiment, political influence etc. Their ideals have clear limitations and consequences.
Who among us can speak for all the public, or design some rational framework upon epistemological foundations that could ever do so?
To my ears, it’s pretty clear Burns’ ideals lead him to his own top-down version of things. It would seem Big Labor, Left-liberal Woody Guthrie-like populism, coalitions of 60’s activists, feminists, environmentalists etc. tend to prosper under such a vision.
At what cost to me, to you, to those who might not share in the ideals?
Addition: Shlaes’ suggestion seems correct. Burns has done a lot of work to put this piece together, to tell a story and to also try and get many facts right. It may also focus on some issues and not others, may be biased and examining history through an ideological lens. In a competitive marketplace of ideas, it’s incumbent on opposing points of view to offer their own films that do the same.
Related On This Site: What about black people held in bondage by the laws..the liberation theology of Rev Wright…the progressive vision and the folks over at the Nation gathered piously around John Brown’s body?: Milton Friedman Via Youtube: ‘Responsibility To The Poor’……Robert George And Cornel West At Bloggingheads: “The Scandal Of The Cross”…
I’m drafting on Charles Murray: The Hoover Institution Via Youtube: Charles Murray On ‘Coming Apart’
Free speech and Muslimst From Kenanmalik.com: ‘Introduction: How Salman Rushdie Changed My Life’… Via YouTube: ‘Christopher Hitchens Vs. Ahmed Younis On CNN (2005)’… ‘Mohammad Cartoonist Lars Vilks Headbutted‘During Lecture’……From The OC Jewish Experience: ‘UC Irvine Muslim Student Union Suspended’…From Volokh: ‘”South Park” Creators Warned (Threatened) Over Mohammed’… More From Spiegel Online After The Westergaard Attacks Via A & L Daily: ‘The West Is Choked By Fear’