Tag Archives: Conservatism

Repost-Politics Here, Politics There, Politics Everywhere?-From The Hoover Institution: ‘David Mamet On Conservatism’

Video included at the link.

Celebrated American playwright David Mamet underwent a conversion to conservatism in rather dramatic and public fashion a few years ago.  In leaving his liberal views behind, he’s no doubt become a heretic to some.  At the link, he hosts an interview at Il Forno in Santa Monica with Uncommon Knowledge’s Peter Robinson.

Here’s my take, for what it’s worth:

-Born and raised in Chicago, Mamet seems pretty old-school and pretty tough.  He reminds me a bit of Norman Mailer, verbally pugilistic and combative, though unlike Mailer he’s taken a different turn into ju-jitsu, instead of boxing, as well as into a different set of motivating principles.  Alec Baldwin’s Death-Of-A-Salesman-on-steroids speech from Glengarry Glen Ross is a well-known example of Mamet’s work (demonstrating the kind of balls-out truth-telling dialogue from which Baldwin has possibly not recovered).  I’m guessing Mamet grew-up back before anti-bullying campaigns and excessive political correctness became the norm.

Mamet also cites Chicago School Of Economics neoclassical thinkers’ Milton Friedman, Thomas Sowell and Austrian economist/political philosopher Friedrich Hayek as central to his conversion.  Hayek’s rather tragic view of limited resources and opportunity costs being the natural state of affairs for mankind is clearly an influence. This would generally lead one to eschew the Statist/rationalist idealism and socialist utopianism typically associated with many Left and liberal Left movements.

***As I understand it, Thomas Sowell, after becoming a young Marxist eventually became a young ex-Marxist, embracing a hard-bitten empiricism regarding outcomes and results, not the intentions, of economic and social policies.  See him discuss his later vision of human nature and political organization in a Conflict Of Visions.

-Mamet cites the Bible, but mainly the Talmud as a source of wisdom and knowledge to draw upon as a guide for flawed human nature. Jewish folks in the U.S. have traditionally formed a reliably liberal/Democratic voting bloc, so unlike many Christian religious conservatives, they aren’t necessarily voting Republican.  There are no doubt many reasons for this, but to be sure, there are also many tales of neoconservatives ‘mugged’ out of the social sciences and policy-making halls of the liberal establishment into doubt and skepticism, some chased away by the New Left.  There is also a conservative Christian/Jewish pro-Israel alliance which has traditionally been strong on national defense (some fundamentals of that American/Israeli relationship may be changing).

Religious belief can ground one in a kind of traditional and tragic view of human nature.  This, say, as opposed to human nature understood as simply a blank slate or existentialist absurdity, or by some political movements as human clay to be molded with the right knowledge and right people in charge of our social institutions (they always seem to nominate themselves).  As Mamet discusses in the video, there are distinctions to be made between Talmudic justice and social justice.

I’m guessing he might agree there are distinctions to be made between abstract equality and equality under the law (the exception of Civil Rights and black folks held under the civil laws is discussed).  I’m also guessing he’d argue there are distinctions to be made between life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness on one hand, and liberation theology and/or individual freedom granted by a rights-based cohort in charge of government on the other.

-Mamet also touches on the fact that the arts aren’t a political endeavor.  If writing a play is simply a didactic enterprise and/or a vehicle for deploying a political philosophy (Ayn Rand?), then I think the artist has probably failed in some fundamental way to show the audience/reader a unique truth which only that work of art has to show.  Didactic art can come across as clunky at best, pure propaganda at worst.

Personally, I tend to believe that politics, religion, convention and popular thinking all have trouble with the arts.

Anyways, this is just a brief summary.  Any thoughts or comments are welcome.

Feel free to highlight my ignorance.

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Christopher Hitchens referenced Hayek’s work in reviewing Mamet’s book.  For Hitchens it seems, Mamet was adopting the grim literalism of religious texts without a richness of irony vital to the Western tradition (Hitchens cites Hegel).  He also charges Mamet with taking-up his new political commitments with the zeal and ignorance of the newly converted.

Hitchens:

 ‘I have no difficulty in understanding why it is that former liberals and radicals become exasperated with the pieties of the left. I have taught at Berkeley and the New School, and I know what Mamet is on about when he evokes the dull atmosphere of campus correctness. Once or twice, as when he attacks feminists for their silence on Bill Clinton’s sleazy sex life, or points out how sinister it is that we use the word “czar” as a positive term for a political problem-solver, he is unquestionably right, or at least making a solid case. But then he writes: “The BP gulf oil leak . . . was bad. The leak of thousands of classified military documents by Julian Assange on WikiLeaks was good. Why?” This is merely lame…,’

So, why is Hollywood so reliably liberal on so many issues?:

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Related On This SiteVia Youtube: Christopher Hitchens On Faith And Virtue

Taking religion out of the laws, and replacing it with a Millian/Aristelolian framework?: Repost: Martha Nussbaum Channels Roger Williams In The New Republic: The First Founder…From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum

Robert George And Cornel West At Bloggingheads: “The Scandal Of The Cross”

People are using art for political, religious, commercial and ideological reasons as always…right or left…believer or non-believer…Dove’s Campaign For Real Beauty: Pascal Dangin And AestheticsFrom Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit

Trading Robert Moses for Brailia…an authoritarian streak?:  Brasilia: A Planned CityAnd AestheticsRoger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?

Jay Z And Marina Abramovic Via Twitter: A Pop-Rap Art Marketing Performaganza… A museum industrial complex…more complexes…who are the people museums should be serving? James Panero At The New Criterion: ‘Time to Free NY’s Museums: The Met Responds’

From Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit’…Marketplace aesthetics in service of “women”: Dove’s Campaign For Real Beauty: Pascal Dangin And Aesthetics

Can Kant do all that heavy lifting…what are some of the dangers of Enlightenment project?:  From Bryan Magee’s Talking Philosophy On Youtube: Geoffrey Warnock On KantA Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty” …

How does Natural Law Philosophy deal with these problems, and those of knowledge?…Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Franz De Waal At The NY Times 10/17/10: ‘Morals Without God?’

Some Links-Oil In L.A., British Conservatism And Possibly Independent Scotland

Maybe you didn’t know L.A. is a big oil-town?: From the Atlantic Photo-‘The Urban Oil Fields Of Los Angeles

Some of those oil derricks have been thoughtfully hidden…

As to thematic exposition and aesthetic, that ‘feel’ for L.A. often aimed for in film noir, in the detective genre, as a character itself; Michael Mann touches on this this in his movie “Collateral,” set very specifically in L.A at night:

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Some thoughts from Roger Scruton on how he sees British conservatism, as a defense of the local against the claims of universal Enlightenment ideals, a defense of tradition, the practical and real as opposed to the ideal and utopian:

‘If we look at the big issues facing us today – the EU, mass immigration, the union, Islamic extremism, the environment – we will surely see that the Conservative view rightly identifies what is now at stake: namely the survival of our way of life. Conservatives are not very good at articulating the point, and left-liberal censorship intimidates those who attempt to do so. But it is a fault in the socialist and liberal ideas that they can be so easily articulated – a proof that they avoid the real, hard philosophical task, which is that of seeing civil society as it is, and recognising that it is easier to destroy good things in the name of an ideal than to maintain them as a reality.’

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The Economist (which I think of as neo-liberal, a neo-liberalism against which Scruton distinguishes his conservatism above):

A podcast on that Scottish independence vote, which had markets spooked.  A pretty big deal if it happens.

Two Quotations From Keeping The Tablets

Referring 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.

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

You Can Be Anything You Want-A Few Sunday Links

From this piece here as previously posted, lots of food for thought, including mention of Samuel Huntington and Francis Fukuyama:

‘ And isn’t the great foreign-policy debate of our time—whether America should continue its post–Cold War policy of interventionism in the name of American exceptionalism and Western universalism; or whether it should abandon that mission in favor of a more measured exercise of its military and economic power—fundamentally a debate over whether Spengler had it right?’

Well worth a read.

How active is American exceptionalism when it comes to American foreign policy, and will the propensity for American idealism and exuberance find channels other than exceptionalism?

Is it merely dormant?

Robert Kaplan’s brief summation of Samuel Huntington’s ideas here:

“• The fact that the world is modernizing does not mean that it is Westernizing. The impact of urbanization and mass communications, coupled with poverty and ethnic divisions, will not lead to peoples’ everywhere thinking as we do.

• Asia, despite its ups and downs, is expanding militarily and economically. Islam is exploding demographically. The West may be declining in relative influence.

• Culture-consciousness is getting stronger, not weaker, and states or peoples may band together because of cultural similarities rather than because of ideological ones, as in the past.

• The Western belief that parliamentary democracy and free markets are suitable for everyone will bring the West into conflict with civilizations—notably, Islam and the Chinese—that think differently.

• In a multi-polar world based loosely on civilizations rather than on ideologies, Americans must reaffirm their Western identity.”

Worth thinking about.  His Political Order In Changing Societies challenged modernization theory.

The baby-boomers are still talking about themselves, and perhaps it’s still important.

A line by O’Rourke which stirs  libertarian sympathies:

We’re creating a political system upon which everybody is dependent.’

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Did the 60’s counter-culture and the conservative counter-counter culture both win, in a sense?

Christopher Hitchens, William F. Buckley and Peter Robinson discuss below, including the sexual revolution:

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Repost-Ed West At The Telegraph: ‘Conservatives, Depressing Everyone Since 500BC’

Full piece here.

Briton Ed West is leaving the Telegraph and offers some thoughts:

‘Conservatism is depressive realism. That’s not to say that things are always bad, or necessarily getting worse, but that there is a natural tendency among humans to ignore problems, and it’s our job to point this out.’

He finishes with:

‘So thank you, and I will continue somewhere the struggle against cultural Marxism, the Frankfurt School, Lib-Lab-Con, Common Purpose, Gramscian hegemony and reality in general. And remember, if you think things are bad, they can always get worse, and probably will.’

Adios.

Perhaps you can hold out more hope than the Stoics did, even a muted optimism for some improvement of the human condition and our institutions.  Though not by forcing human nature to conform top-down rationalism nor our institutions to meet impossibly idealistic goals.

In the modern age it often it so boils down to:  Stop!

Related On This Site:  Monday Quotation From Charles Kesler And A Few Thoughts on Conservatism

Out of the Valley of modernism, post-modernism, and relativism…one path from Nietzsche’s nihilism is through Leo Strauss and Allan Bloom: Update And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’Some Tuesday Quotations From Leo StraussFrom Peter Berkowitz At Harvard: ‘The Reason Of Revelation: The Jewish Thought Of Leo Strauss’

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.New liberty away from Hobbes?: From Public Reason: A Discussion Of Gerald Gaus’s Book ‘The Order of Public Reason: A Theory of Freedom And Morality In A Diverse And Bounded World’…Richard Rorty tried to tie postmodernism and trendy leftist solidarity to liberalism, but wasn’t exactly classically liberal:  Repost: Another Take On J.S. Mill From “Liberal England”

Compstat For Prosecutors? Hipsters Late To The Game? How Far Will Utilitarian Logic Go?

Heather MacDonald at the City Journal-‘Prosecution Gets Smart:’

The police, and now prosecutors, are responding to available data and new strategies that respond to that data.

MacDonald:

‘The rethinking of prosecution has only begun. Gascon is exploring the idea of predictive prosecution, echoing the nascent predictive policing concept. “We want to create tools to project crime patterns several years out” by mapping the connections between victims and offenders in a neighborhood, he says. In addition, he wants improved means of measuring whether his office’s court filings are targeted efficiently.’

How much of good policing and prosecution will ultimately rely on the judgment and experience of police officers working their beats and prosecutors working their caseloads?

How much on the the politics and policies of the day?

How much on data and technology?

I’m guessing that in the roughest neighborhoods, the cliche often found in movies carries some weight: The character and dedication of good police officers keeps the bad guys in check, and the good guys from becoming the bad.

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.’

At least none of the guys have gone-in for hyphenated names yet.  That’s the event horizon. One thing that seems to have changed in the latest rounds of gentrification are some of the ideals guiding the people moving into Brooklyn and making it a brand…i.e. the ‘hipsters.’

Surely people aren’t so naive and idealistic as to not understand gentrification?

From Darwinian Conservatism-‘Trolleyology & Rawlsian Moral Grammar

‘For a Kantian utilitarian like Singer, the relevant moral principle in the trolley problem–that five deaths are worse than one death–is the same in both cases, and therefore Singer would pull the switch and push the fat man. For Singer, the 10% of the people who would push the fat man are rightly following pure moral reason, while the other 90% are allowing their emotions to override their reason, because from the viewpoint of pure reason, there is no morally relevant difference between the two cases.’

How far will utilitarian logic go?

A reader sent in this quote by Ken Minogue, conservative British thinker, found on page 20 in the first print edition of ‘The Liberal Mind:’

‘Liberalism has come more and more to see politics simply as a technical activity like any other. We first decide what it is that we want, how we think our society ought to be organized, and then we seek the means to our end. It means, for example, that all widespread problems turn into political problems, inviting a solution by state activity. Faced with backsliding, governments must coerce. They must control the climate of thought in which people live, and if necessary engage in large scale and protracted repression in order to keep a public consistent with what it seemed to want at some time in the past.’

From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘Nietzsche–Aristocratic Radical or Aristocratic Liberal?’

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 SuccessfulUpdate And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’

Out of the Valley of modernism, post-modernism, and relativism…one path from Nietzsche’s nihilism is through Leo Strauss and Allan Bloom Update And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’Some Tuesday Quotations From Leo StraussFrom Peter Berkowitz At Harvard: ‘The Reason Of Revelation: The Jewish Thought Of Leo Strauss’

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

Peter Singer discusses Hegel and MarxFrom Philosophy And Polity: ‘Historicism In German Political Theory’

Two Links On The Conservation Of Liberty

This blog sometimes acts as a bit of a dumping ground, a curio-shelf of ideas on the conservation of liberty.

Keep sending those links by tweet, email, or the comments section: No postmodern, nihilist art lunacy is silly nor ideological enough, and no one painting themselves into ideological corners really ought to be safe, including me and you.

From Standpoint, our reviewer takes a look at ‘The Intellectual Life Of Edmund Burke: From The Sublime And Beautiful To American Independence‘, by David Bromwich.

‘Bromwich twice quotes Burke’s deceptively simple political creed, that “the principles of true politicks are those of morality enlarged, and I neither now do nor every will admit of any other.” This biography can be viewed as a careful unpacking of the varying implications of that stance, as Burke both adhered to it, and attained a deeper understanding of its meaning, over the course of his career in public life.’

Here’s a link to Michael Sandel at Harvard’s lecture courses on ‘Justice’.  I’ve made it through his presentation of Robert Nozick, Locke, and Kant so far.

Update & Repost-Kenneth Minogue At The New Criterion: ‘The Self-Interested Society’

Full essay here.

Thanks to a reader for the link. Deep but very readable. How universal is the desire for individual freedom?:

‘Some people take the view that we in the West are fortunate to enjoy freedom, because it is a universal human aspiration that has been commonly frustrated in most societies. This is one of the more pernicious illusions we entertain about human kind. Most people have never lived in free societies, nor exhibited any desire or capacity for freedom’

and:

‘What most people seem to want, however, is to know exactly where they stand and to be secure in their understanding of their situation.’

Isn’t that last part a universal claim upon human nature? If so, Minogue generally resisted the idea that evolutionary theories could be transferred successfully to Statecraft.

He is arguing that it’s easy to mistake your experiences and ideas within our Western tradition for that of peoples everywhere.

Maybe you’ve traveled and experienced the tribal taboos and family/kin loyalties of smaller bands and ethnic groups. Maybe you’ve been up close to the transcendental submission of will in faith in Islam, uniting a patchwork of tribes and peoples under its claims with high honor ethic and a strong warrior tradition (the individual doesn’t choose whether to drink or have women work outside of the home).   Maybe you’ve seen the caste system in India, or the authoritarian feudal landownership structure in Pakistan, or the ancient, imperial Chinese structure with a Han core, now still a strong State structure charting some kind of course out of Communism.

What is unique about our traditions?

Towards the end of the essay:

‘The balance in our tradition between the rules we must respect because they are backed by the authority of law, and the free choice in the other elements of our life is one that free agents rightly will not wish to see disturbed.’

Food for thought.

Roger Kimball quoting Minogue:

The evident problem with democracy today is that the state is pre-empting—or “crowding out,” as the economists say—our moral judgments. Rulers are adding moral judgments to the expanding schedule of powers they exercise. Nor does the state deal merely with principles. It is actually telling its subjects to do very specific things. Yet decisions about how we live are what we mean by “freedom,” and freedom is incompatible with a moralizing state. That is why I am provoked to ask the question: can the moral life survive democracy?’

One ought to think twice about offloading his/her moral reasoning and capacity for judgment over to others, mindlessly, of course, but in many cases even with family as one gets older, authority figures, tradition for the sake of tradition etc.  One should always stay aware and think for one’s self.

Yet, is any man an island? Does any one of us have knowledge enough to make important decisions for everyone else? Isn’t some degree of authority and hierarchy necessary given human nature, and the functioning of civil society in a nation of laws?

For example, don’t we all have some respect for military honor and duty, even if the military is run by flawed human beings, overseen by rotating groups of politicians with their own aims and incentives?

This is often where many libertarians and conservatives split.

Rand Paul is an anti-war libertarian, and pretty isolationist, for example. Many conservatives, neo-conservatives, traditionalists and members of the military see the necessity of limited conflict, strategy and maintenance of the peace as necessary to secure our interests. The world is a dangerous place. Of the two camps, I generally fall into the latter, trying never to make any support mindless.

Where libertarians and conservatives can agree most of the time, however, is that the products of reason being the basis for the moral authority of the State generally leads to an ever-expanding State. Where are the limiting principles? How much liberal freedom is enough, before it’s time for another crusade?

One of the great dangers, as we’ve seen, is a regime, or group of people in charge who are in possession of their own ends, or the ‘right’ ideas, and who already ‘know’ what’s best for individuals.

That never ends well.

Ken Minogue. R.I.P.

Unpopular as it is to point out: Whatever your thoughts on feminism, it’s important to recognize that at its ideological and radical core are many culturally Marxist elements (the constant search for a ‘sisterhood’…operating as a ‘class’ of oppressed victims…attached to a theory of history which has them coming out victorious against real and imagined enemies during their Manichean struggle).

In other words, you probably don’t want people like that near positions of power.

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Related On This Site:  Sunday Quotation: Edmund Burke On The French Revolution

Milton Friedman Via Youtube: ‘Responsibility To The Poor’……Robert George And Cornel West At Bloggingheads: “The Scandal Of The Cross”Race And Free Speech-From Volokh: ‘Philadelphia Mayor Suggests Magazine Article on Race Relations Isn’t Protected by the First Amendment’

..Repost-Roger Scruton In The American Spectator: The New HumanismEd West At The Telegraph: ‘Conservatives, Depressing Everyone Since 500BC’

Can you maintain the virtues of religion without the church…of England?: From The City Journal: Roger Scruton On “Forgiveness And Irony”…

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

Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Monday Quotation From Charles Kesler And A Few Thoughts on Conservatism

Repost-Politics Here, Politics There, Politics Everywhere?-From The Hoover Institution: ‘David Mamet On Conservatism’

Video included at the link.

Celebrated American playwright David Mamet underwent a conversion to conservatism in rather dramatic and public fashion a few years ago.  In leaving his liberal views behind, he’s no doubt become a heretic to some.  At the link, he hosts an interview at Il Forno in Santa Monica with Uncommon Knowledge’s Peter Robinson.

Here’s my take, for what it’s worth:

-Born and raised in Chicago, Mamet seems pretty old-school and pretty tough.  He reminds me a bit of Norman Mailer, verbally pugilistic and combative, though unlike Mailer he’s taken a different turn into ju-jitsu, instead of boxing, as well as into a different set of motivating principles.  Alec Baldwin’s Death-Of-A-Salesman-on-steroids speech from Glengarry Glen Ross is a well-known example of Mamet’s work (demonstrating the kind of balls-out truth-telling dialogue from which Baldwin has possibly not recovered).  I’m guessing Mamet grew-up back before anti-bullying campaigns and excessive political correctness became the norm.

Mamet also cites Chicago School Of Economics neoclassical thinkers’ Milton Friedman, Thomas Sowell and Austrian economist/political philosopher Friedrich Hayek as central to his conversion.  Hayek’s rather tragic view of limited resources and opportunity costs being the natural state of affairs for mankind is clearly an influence. This would generally lead one to eschew the Statist/rationalist idealism and socialist utopianism typically associated with many Left and liberal Left movements.

***As I understand it, Thomas Sowell, after becoming a young Marxist eventually became a young ex-Marxist, embracing a hard-bitten empiricism regarding outcomes and results, not the intentions, of economic and social policies.  See him discuss his later vision of human nature and political organization in a Conflict Of Visions.

-Mamet cites the Bible, but mainly the Talmud as a source of wisdom and knowledge to draw upon as a guide for flawed human nature. Jewish folks in the U.S. have traditionally formed a reliably liberal/Democratic voting bloc, so unlike many Christian religious conservatives, they aren’t necessarily voting Republican.  There are no doubt many reasons for this, but to be sure, there are also many tales of neoconservatives ‘mugged’ out of the social sciences and policy-making halls of the liberal establishment into doubt and skepticism, some chased away by the New Left.  There is also a conservative Christian/Jewish pro-Israel alliance which has traditionally been strong on national defense (some fundamentals of that American/Israeli relationship may be changing).

Religious belief can ground one in a kind of traditional and tragic view of human nature.  This, say, as opposed to human nature understood as simply a blank slate or existentialist absurdity, or by some political movements as human clay to be molded with the right knowledge and right people in charge of our social institutions (they always seem to nominate themselves).  As Mamet discusses in the video, there are distinctions to be made between Talmudic justice and social justice.

I’m guessing he might agree there are distinctions to be made between abstract equality and equality under the law (the exception of Civil Rights and black folks held under the civil laws is discussed).  I’m also guessing he’d argue there are distinctions to be made between life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness on one hand, and liberation theology and/or individual freedom granted by a rights-based cohort in charge of government on the other.

-Mamet also touches on the fact that the arts aren’t a political endeavor.  If writing a play is simply a didactic enterprise and/or a vehicle for deploying a political philosophy (Ayn Rand?), then I think the artist has probably failed in some fundamental way to show the audience/reader a unique truth which only that work of art has to show.  Didactic art can come across as clunky at best, pure propaganda at worst.

Personally, I tend to believe that politics, religion, convention and popular thinking all have trouble with the arts.

Anyways, this is just a brief summary.  Any thoughts or comments are welcome.

Feel free to highlight my ignorance.

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Christopher Hitchens referenced Hayek’s work in reviewing Mamet’s book.  For Hitchens it seems, Mamet was adopting the grim literalism of religious texts without a richness of irony vital to the Western tradition (Hitchens cites Hegel).  He also charges Mamet with taking-up his new political commitments with the zeal and ignorance of the newly converted.

Hitchens:

 ‘I have no difficulty in understanding why it is that former liberals and radicals become exasperated with the pieties of the left. I have taught at Berkeley and the New School, and I know what Mamet is on about when he evokes the dull atmosphere of campus correctness. Once or twice, as when he attacks feminists for their silence on Bill Clinton’s sleazy sex life, or points out how sinister it is that we use the word “czar” as a positive term for a political problem-solver, he is unquestionably right, or at least making a solid case. But then he writes: “The BP gulf oil leak . . . was bad. The leak of thousands of classified military documents by Julian Assange on WikiLeaks was good. Why?” This is merely lame…,’

So, why is Hollywood so reliably liberal on so many issues?:

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Related On This SiteVia Youtube: Christopher Hitchens On Faith And Virtue

Taking religion out of the laws, and replacing it with a Millian/Aristelolian framework?: Repost: Martha Nussbaum Channels Roger Williams In The New Republic: The First Founder…From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum

Robert George And Cornel West At Bloggingheads: “The Scandal Of The Cross”

People are using art for political, religious, commercial and ideological reasons as always…right or left…believer or non-believer…Dove’s Campaign For Real Beauty: Pascal Dangin And AestheticsFrom Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit

Trading Robert Moses for Brailia…an authoritarian streak?:  Brasilia: A Planned CityAnd AestheticsRoger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?

Jay Z And Marina Abramovic Via Twitter: A Pop-Rap Art Marketing Performaganza… A museum industrial complex…more complexes…who are the people museums should be serving? James Panero At The New Criterion: ‘Time to Free NY’s Museums: The Met Responds’

From Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit’…Marketplace aesthetics in service of “women”: Dove’s Campaign For Real Beauty: Pascal Dangin And Aesthetics

Can Kant do all that heavy lifting…what are some of the dangers of Enlightenment project?:  From Bryan Magee’s Talking Philosophy On Youtube: Geoffrey Warnock On KantA Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty” …

How does Natural Law Philosophy deal with these problems, and those of knowledge?…Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Franz De Waal At The NY Times 10/17/10: ‘Morals Without God?’

Repost-Monday Quotation From Charles Kesler And A Few Thoughts on Conservatism

Quote mentioned by a friend:

“…it is emblematic of liberalism’s intention, articulated in the Progressive era and pursued ever since, to replace constitutional politics with a system of interest group (and racial) competition, of bargaining for government benefits within the administrative or welfare state presided over by activist judges, policy “experts,” and bureaucrats (in collusion with congressional committees).”

-Charles Kesler-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.

Quite germane, I’d say.

The term ‘activist’ judges has become very loaded these days.  The nomination process has become politicized and nearly toxic, to be sure.

I looked up Kesler’s quote in context and found he defined 3 conservative camps.  Here’s my brief summary, so feel free to add, subtract, or disagree:

1.  Traditionalists–Often coming from literary and historical backgrounds, Kesler’s traditionalist standout is Russell Kirk, and he mentions Robert Nisbet.  Many traditionalists are more likely to be religious, and find greater wisdom in religious doctrine and teaching about how to live and what to do than most anything else.  Some can see an unbroken line back to Aquinas, and they tend to view Enlightenment rationalism with great suspicion.  Kirk and Nisbet adopted Edmund Burke’s defense of the British Constitution against what they saw as the ahistorical universalism of the French Revolution.

Many look around and see cultural decay, decline, and often times a moral corruption in society.

I’d say Ross Douthat, currently at the NY Times, is an example of a practicing Catholic and conservative.  He’s written a book about the decline of institutionalized religion in the public square and the rise of new-age, mega-churches, self-help and “spirituality.”  Robert Bork, despite his faults, was railroaded as an ‘activist’ judge and could be defined as a traditionalist.

On this site, see:  The NY Times op-ed writer and a practicing Catholic? William Saletan and Ross Douthat At Slate: ‘Liberalism Is Stuck Halfway Between Heaven And Earth’…Douthat’s The Grand New PartyRoss Douthat At First Principles: ‘The Quest for Community in the Age of Obama: Nisbet’s Prescience’A Few Thoughts On Robert Bork’s “Slouching Towards Gomorrah”

How does Natural Law Philosophy deal with these problems, and those of knowledge?  Yes, Edmund Burke opposed the French revolution Sunday Quotation: Edmund Burke On The French Revolution

2.  Libertarians–On Kesler’s view, libertarians are more comfortable with Enlightenment rationalism than the traditionalists are, but the original sin for libertarians is collectivism.  This collectivism arises from basing the Enlightenment rationalist foundation in virtue.  Marxist, Socialist, and Communist leaders advocated and sometimes succeeded in bloody revolution, and many genuinely believed they were leading humanity to some dialectically “progressive” point in the future, seeing materialist reality for what it was, and acting for the good of all.  They were ‘virtuous’.  Many in these systems believed they knew better than individuals what was best for them, deciding how they should live, and what they should do.  As is common knowledge, this had disastrous results, including food shortages, external aggression, mass murder, forced labor camps, and the systems eventually rotting from the inside out.

For Kesler, libertarians often come from economic and philosophical backgrounds, and he breaks them into two groups.   The first group consists of Milton Friedman, James Buchanan, and Friedrich Hayek.  For them, freedom simply works, scarcity is all around, and you don’t need to deduce your way back to an underlying rights-based moral theory to justify your defense of individual freedom.  Adam Smith’s invisible hand might be a good example.

Kesler’s other group are those who need to deduce the morality of the market from the rights of man.  If the rights of man don’t come from God, is there some sufficiently transcendent source for our knowledge and thus our moral thinking?  Is there a source that would justify giving some people moral legitimacy to rule over others?  Where do man’s rights come from? J.S. Mill’s utilitarianism may not be enough, so, the search continues.  Kesler offers Robert Nozick, Murray Rothbard, and Richard Epstein as examples.

In my experience, personal liberty is primary to libertarians.  Libertarians often draw a ring around the individual, and proceed from there.  How one draws that ring is of some importance.

On this site, see: Repost-’Milton Friedman Via Youtube: ‘Responsibility To The Poor’..From Fora Via YouTube: ‘Thomas Sowell and a Conflict of Visions’

Charles Murray is trying to get virtue back with the social sciences: Charles Murray At The New Criterion: ‘Belmont & Fishtown’Charles Murray Lecture At AEI: The Happiness Of People

3. Neoconservatives–Often coming from backgrounds of academic social science, chased away from the New Left and ‘mugged by reality’, Kesler’s neoconservatives would include Norman Podhoretz, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, and James Q. Wilson.  On Kesler’s view, they come to distrust ideology, rationalist political theory and have been persuaded by the fact/value distinction. Doubts are bred from within the social sciences and political sciences about how one can be sure of what one knows, especially when that knowledge becomes a source for public policy and a way for a few people to run the lives of many others.

From The American Interest Online: Francis Fukuyama On Samuel Huntington….is neoconservative foreign policy defunct…sleeping…how does a neoconservatism more comfortable with liberalism here at home translate into foreign policy?: Wilfred McClay At First Things: ‘The Enduring Irving Kristol’

Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’…Thursday Quotation: Jeane Kirkpatrick – J.S. Mill…Francis Fukuyama At The Amer

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