Tag Archives: Politics

What Have You Left In Search Of Equality? Two Thursday Links From The Federalist

David Harsanyi: ‘What Thomas Piketty’s Popularity Tells Us About The Liberal Press?’

‘But Piketty’s utopian notions and authoritarian inclinations — ones that I’m pretty sure most Americans (and probably most Democrats) would still find off-putting — do not seem to rattle the left-wing press one bit. While Piketty’s economic data might be worth studying and debating, his political ideas are unworthy of discussion’

Maybe it’s important to leave a respectable path out of the thick brush. Some folks probably haven’t realized just what they’re chattering about while some others have.

On that note, strange bedfellows?:  Social and religious conservatives (often Burkean) and more highly individualistic, free-market libertarian coalitions may have a tough time staying together without a common purpose (to say nothing of the gap between Tea-Party populism and establishment Republicans).

Peter Lawler: ‘The State Of Marxism (And Conservatism) Today

Lawler distances his position from Piketty and also from that of libertarian economist Tyler Cowen’s review of Piketty.

‘There does seem to an emerging consensus among sophisticates today that non-libertarian conservatism—and authoritative religion in general—are “reactionary.” They have been discredited by “capitalism”—or economic and technological progress—and so are destined to have no place in the emerging future. A reactionary is nostalgic for a world that’s been surpassed by history and so can’t and, in truth, shouldn’t be restored. Unlike crabs, we dialectically materialistic beings can’t crawl backwards.’

This raises a question posed to me often:

Our institutions have necessary hierarchies built-in, from bureaucracies to law to the military. This requires authority of some sort. You don’t have to deeply agree with your boss, your law professor, and/or your drill instructor (a more complicated example), but you do have to go along to get along most of the time.

Do you find church doctrine, Natural Law and/or Natural Rights to be a morally legitimate source of that authority in our institutions and in the public square?

If you’re like an increasing number Americans, probably not.

This may well correspond with a cultural drift towards liberalism, libertarianism, and a less religiously rooted form of conservatism, for what it’s worth, or also part of a much deeper process of indiviudation (I have no empirical evidence to back such a statement up).

Looking at the the authoritarian and big government consequences of modern mainstream liberalism as it’s currently practiced, and the darker totalitarian impulses of the harder Left, it seems an important question to ponder.

And now for something kind of related:

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Apparently, Dennis is suspicious of King Arthur’s claims to rule, and thinks himself part of an autonomous collective.

Related On This Site: Libertarian socialist and anarcho-syndicalist:  Via Youtube: (1 of 3) Kant, Chomsky and the Problem of Knowledge…Martha Nussbaum criticizing Chomsky’s hubris in Martha Nussbaum In Dissent–Violence On The Left: Nandigram And The Communists Of West Bengal

From Michael Totten At World Affairs: “Noam Chomsky: The Last Totalitarian”

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.…  Repost: Another Take On J.S. Mill From “Liberal England”

Roger Scruton In The American Spectator: The New Humanism…From Nigel Warburton’s Site: A Definition of Humanism?…From The City Journal Via Arts And Letters Daily: Andre Glucksman On “The Postmodern Financial Crisis”

From The Future Of Capitalism: ‘Jamie Dimon’s Annual Letter’

Post here.

Click through for more.

‘JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon is out with his annual shareholder letter, and, as usual, it is an interesting read. The section focused on broad public policy issues, while broadly optimistic, raised these concerns:

Something is holding back the strong recovery of the great American economic engine. It is not lack of access to capital or loans, but it might be a combination of some of the following factors:

• Concerns around excessive regulation and red tape – I travel around the U.S. all the time, and this is a loud and growing complaint that I hear from businesses, small to large, across virtually all industries.

• Whether you were for or against “Obamacare,” when massive changes to such an important part of the American economy are made, it does create uncertainty for many businesses.

• The inability to face our fiscal reality is a concern. I believe that if we had adopted some form of the Simpson-Bowles plan to fix the debt, it would have been extremely beneficial to the economy.

• Entitlement spending – which now is 60% of federal spending and is growing – is crowding out infrastructure spending and spending on initiatives like research and development and training.’

Pluralism And Majoritarianism And All That-Some Links

Ross Douthat at the NY Times: ‘Why Liberalism Needs Pluralism

Watch those radical roots:

‘…much of progressivism is straightforwardly organized around the idea of the state-as-liberator, and inclined to see “the private life of power” as a greater threat to true liberty than either the tyranny of the majority or the kindly despotism of the administrative state.’

One of this blog’s primary concerns is that modern liberalism, as practiced with its progressive, collectivist and activist roots, has not addressed vital concerns between the individual and the collective, which can soon lead to the ‘tyranny of the majority or the kindly despotism of the administrative state’ as Douthat points out.

It’s not always as grave as that, but current liberal politics, with pressure from below, has been busy dragging 60′s feminist, environmentalist, and Civil Rights activism back into political discourse (to say nothing of New Deal, Big Labor, and other, older entitlement programs).

Perhaps Douthat’s piece also highlights a gap between many libertarians and conservatives that will very tough to bridge: Some libertarian ideas lead to anarchic consequences, and a vigorous libertarian defense of the individual contradicts many social and religious conservative organizing principles as well.

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On that note, if you want to see where labor activism in progressive politics can lead (unions and politicians generally fighting for the cause, their paychecks and their pensions first, the actual concerns of children later), look no further than California:

‘But after those basic protections were enshrined in law decades ago, labor leaders pushed legislators to expand rights and entitlements for public school teachers—at the expense of educating kids. In the last ten years, only 91 teachers out of about 300,000 (.003 percent) who have attained permanence lost their jobs in California. Of those, only 19 (.0007 percent) have been dismissed for poor performance

This is neither economically nor politically sustainable, and places impossible demands upon our institutions. As for the mayor of New York City:

‘The people are to show “the leaders the path.” But, it turns out, there is only one, progressive path, already marked out with thick hedges on each side. All we’ve really got to do is make sure everybody’s in the lane–get’em all signed up. The means has become the end–“universal” enrollment, not universal achievement–and the work of the good neighbor a matter of paperwork, not particular care or love’

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 leftist solidarity to liberalism, but wasn’t exactly classically liberal:  Repost: Another Take On J.S. Mill From “Liberal England”

Richard Epstein At The Hoover Institution: ‘“Oligarchs United“? Not So Fast.’

Full post here.

On that McCutcheon decision:

‘But the constant effort to broaden the definition of “corruption” so that it covers virtually all form of political activity has the same corrosive effect on the freedom of speech that is found in the fanciful communitarian objectives of land use and labor market regulation that has managed to gut traditional protections of economic liberties and private property.’

There’s upward social pressure upon liberalism from the further Left and its collectivist, majoritarian and groupthink tendencies on the way to pure democracy. This isn’t to say there isn’t plenty of populism, group-think and outrage in other quarters, but this particular pressure is likely to keep finding expression, perhaps as so represented on the losing end of that 5-4 opinion.

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

Link From A Reader: ‘Richard Epstein Introduces Chicago’s Best Ideas To Students’

Lay-Off Eich, Man–From The Washington Examiner: ‘Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich Forced To Resign For Supporting Traditional Marriage Laws’

Post here.

Follow the logic where it leads, from protests to purges to pitchforks:

‘Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich resigned under pressure after gay rights activists demanded that he step down or recant his support of traditional marriage laws.

Eich donated $1,000 to support Proposition 8, the California ballot initiative that amended the state’s constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman.

“I don’t want to talk about my personal beliefs because I kept them out of Mozilla all these 15 years we’ve been going,” Eich told The Guardian. “I don’t believe they’re relevant.”

That wasn’t an option. “CEO Brendan Eich should make an unequivocal statement of support for marriage equality,” a Credoaction petition signed by almost 75,000 people said, per The Inquirer. “If he cannot, he should resign. And if he will not, the board should fire him immediately.”

This man held the wrong ideas and beliefs in his personal life!

Surely, this kind of deeply intolerant and illiberal witch hunt activism should be recognized for what it is in more mainstream publications?

William Saletan at Slate ‘Purge The Bigots‘ (addition: which I’ve been assured is satire, and if so, I fell for it):

‘Some of my colleagues are celebrating. They call Eich a bigot who got what he deserved. I agree. But let’s not stop here. If we’re serious about enforcing the new standard, thousands of other employees who donated to the same anti-gay ballot measure must be punished.’

Another addition: The last paragraph kind of gives it away:

If we’re serious about taking down corporate officers who supported Proposition 8, and boycotting employers who promote them, we’d better get cracking on the rest of the list. Otherwise, perhaps we should put down the pitchforks.

I think some people were expecting to just rest liberalism atop 60′s protest politics and Civil Rights/social justice activism while entrusting it our liberties.

That doesn’t sound like a good idea.

Peter Berkowitz quote on Leo Strauss here.

“As Strauss understood it, the principle of liberal democracy in the natural freedom and equality of all human beings, and the bond of liberal society is a universal morality that links human beings regardless of religion. Liberalism understands religion to be a primary source of divisiveness in society, but it also regards liberty of religious worship to be a fundamental expression of the autonomy of the individual. To safeguard religion and to safeguard society from conflicts over religion, liberalism pushes religion to the private sphere where it is protected by law. The liberal state also strictly prohibits public laws that discriminate on the basis of religion. What the liberal state cannot do without ceasing to be liberal is to use the law to root out and entirely eliminate discrimination, religious and otherwise, on the part of private individuals and groups.”

Related On This SiteGreg Lukianoff At FIRE.Org: ‘Emily Bazelon And The Danger Of Bringing “Anti-Bullying” Laws To Campus’

From Volokh: ‘Conservatives, Libertarians, and Civil Rights History’Libertarianism In The Mainstream?: Rand Paul In The Spotlight…Thomas Sowell archives here.

Race And Free Speech-From Volokh: ‘Philadelphia Mayor Suggests Magazine Article on Race Relations Isn’t Protected by the First Amendment’

William Saletan and Ross Douthat At Slate: ‘Liberalism Is Stuck Halfway Between Heaven And Earth’

John Gray At The New Statesman: ‘The Ghost At The Atheist Feast-Was Nietzsche Right About Religion?’

Full piece here.

Gray reviews two books, one by Marxist dissector of postmodernism, anti-New Atheist, and literary critic, Terry Eagleton, and the other by Peter Watson.

Gray finishes with:

‘Reared on a Christian hope of redemption (he was, after all, the son of a Lutheran minister), Nietzsche was unable, finally, to accept a tragic sense of life of the kind he tried to retrieve in his early work. Yet his critique of liberal rationalism remains as forceful as ever. As he argued with masterful irony, the belief that the world can be made fully intelligible is an article of faith: a metaphysical wager, rather than a premise of rational inquiry. It is a thought our pious unbelievers are unwilling to allow. The pivotal modern critic of religion, Friedrich Nietzsche will continue to be the ghost at the atheist feast.’

I tend to take the idea that science and religion are in perpetual battle as misinformed, or at least, as one which can serve the interests of those seeking to put a certain ideology/theory of history above both science and religion.

Some related links on this site:

Dinesh D’Souza is a Christian, and while debating New Atheist Daniel Dennett at Tufts University, he brings up Nietzsche’s argument that God is dead in favor of his position…

Interesting debate.  Argument starts at 5:30:

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Terry Eagleton debates Roger Scruton below. Scruton was no doubt heavily influenced by German idealism.

Are we really that thick into the postmodern weeds?  What should students in the humanities be reading?:

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There’s a bit of an intellectual turf war going on in the Western world.  I suppose it’s been going on for a while.  Here are some recent public skirmishes I’ve been able to track:

-Steven Pinker, Harvard experimental psychologist and cognitive scientist wrote a piece in the New Republic, entitled: ‘Science Is Not Your Enemy

-Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of the New Republic since the 60′s, responded at The New Republic:  ‘No, Science Doesn’t Have All The Answers.

-Ross Douthat, conservative Catholic columnist at the Times jumped in the fray: ‘The Scientism Of Steve Pinker’ 

-Jerry Coyne, evolutionary biologist, responded to Douthat.

-Wieseltier jumped back in with: ‘Crimes Against Humanities: Now science wants to invade the humanities.  Don’t let it happen.

-Now Daniel Dennett, philosopher, cognitive scientist, one of the New Atheists and Boston-based secularistresponds to Wieseltier:

‘Pomposity can be amusing, but pomposity sitting like an oversized hat on top of fear is hilarious. Wieseltier is afraid that the humanities are being overrun by thinkers from outside, who dare to tackle their precious problems—or “problematics” to use the, um, technical term favored by many in the humanities. He is right to be afraid. It is true that there is a crowd of often overconfident scientists impatiently addressing the big questions with scant appreciation of the subtleties unearthed by philosophers and others in the humanities, but the way to deal constructively with this awkward influx is to join forces and educate them, not declare them out of bounds.’

Got all that?

Related On This Site:  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’

From Reason TV-The De Blasio Files: Teacher’s Unions Vs. Charter Schools

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Transcript at Reason here.

The politics are unfolding as predicted in New York City under De Blasio, between his further Left coalitions, activists, and labor unions against more moderate Democrats and liberal education-reformers.

From The NY Times:

“Giuliani was a prosecutor, Bloomberg was a C.E.O., and so far, Bill’s a political labor activist.”

Don’t forget the children.

Walter Russell Mead’s interesting piece-Why Blue Can’t Save The Inner Cities Part I:

‘Generally, political inertia and public worker unions combined to keep government in the Blue Age even as the rest of the economy moved on.  Today, the experiences and the expectations of people in the private sector and people in the public sector are quite different.  There are many results, including taxpayer revolts against public sector benefits and pay, but from an urban policy standpoint the key one is this: the government job machine is no longer an escalator to the middle class.  In fact, the dependence of the Black middle class on government work is going to be one of the chief threats to the health of the Black middle class as we’ve known it’

Also On This Site:Andrew Delbanco At The NY Times Review Of Books: ‘The Two Faces Of American Education’ Diane Ravitch At Education Week: ‘Why Michelle Rhee and Adrian Fenty Lost’Two Links On Diane Ravitch & School Reform

From Reason.Tv: ‘NBC’s Education Summit-Joe Trippi, Michelle Rhee & More’From The Washington Post: ‘D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee To Announce Resignation Wednesday’

Rhee stated much the same here:  She didn’t connect with the people most involved…Michelle Rhee At Newsweek: “What I’ve Learned”Repost-’Too Much “Quality Control” In Universities?’

Robert Samuelson Via Real Clear Politics: ‘Why School Reform Fails’From The Bellevue Reporter-Walter Backstrom’s: ‘Educational Progress And The Liberal Plantation’

Two Friday Links On Ukraine

We don’t necessarily want a continuation of the Cold War, but understanding the strategic realities The Cold War created is as vital as ever. The younger generation in Ukraine, as well as a lot of people in the West, are getting a hard lesson in Putin’s power politics.

Young Ukranians have yet to taste the economic possibilities of getting a job in a growing economy without living amidst the corruption and cronyism of a rotten, post-Soviet oligarchical no-man’s land.  They have yet to learn how to build and defend institutions that can secure their liberties against Putin’s aggression, and also protect them from the ethnic, linguistic, and historical strife within.

And now the Russian bootheel is back.

I think we ought to be pretty clear about where we stand on Ukrainian aspirations for such an economy, such liberties and the possible development of such institutions.  We have many strategic interests at stake here, despite our clear limitations.

The drift of the current U.S. administration is sending many messages, and not just to Ukranians.

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The Cold War strategists are still around:

Henry Kissinger At The Washington Post: ‘How The Ukraine Crisis Ends:’

‘Putin should come to realize that, whatever his grievances, a policy of military impositions would produce another Cold War. For its part, the United States needs to avoid treating Russia as an aberrant to be patiently taught rules of conduct established by Washington. Putin is a serious strategist — on the premises of Russian history. Understanding U.S. values and psychology are not his strong suits. Nor has understanding Russian history and psychology been a strong point of U.S. policymakers’

Adam Garfinkle at The American Interest talks with Zbigniew Brzezinski: ‘Coping With Crimea: In Ukraine And Beyond

‘It’s hard to understand how Putin could calculate that doing what he did in Crimea would make the Ukrainians more supine toward him in Kiev. So unless it’s a sudden burst of poorly calculated activism, the Crimea operation could be the first stage of a series of steps he’s planning, perhaps to create exploitable unrest in eastern Ukraine. The aim would be to demonstrate that Ukraine is falling into anarchy, thereby making a case for a wider Russian intervention, and then we’re back to having to ask ourselves: “How do we react to make that not happen, and if it does happen, how do we make it ‘

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Vice link from a reader:

From The National Interest: ‘Inside The Mind Of George F. Kennan’

Full piece here.

More on Kennan (wikipedia).

Now that Putin is playing the Russian strongman in Ukraine (video of Russian tactics):

‘Yet one wonders how many U.S. government officials during the 1940s would have been able to behold the fruits of the policy with the sort of critical distance that Kennan demonstrates. His black, razor-sharp diagnosis of Stalinism—at a time when pro-Soviet wartime propaganda in the United States presented a diametrically opposed picture of the regime—is of a piece with this innate skepticism and independence of thought.’

Many diplomats and first-class thinkers can be frustrated by the constraints of a democratic system. Some are like Grandmasters, playing a global game of chess. They can spend their entire lives envisioning strategic outcomes, advising and calculating many moves ahead as they run through a rolodex of hundreds of names and players.  

It can be dispiriting for them to have to try to explain the logic of it all to a President and his team who might give them 10 minutes to get a point across, and then have them write a follow-up position paper. 

Or, in the case of Kennan, it might be even harder when their ideas are actually adopted into policy.

‘SOME OF HIS crankiest observations deal with the shortcomings of democracy. During his time as a government official Kennan had often witnessed how the principles of good policy were undermined by the short-term thinking of elected politicians, and he had concluded from the experience that democracies were inherently incapable of devising and pursuing rational strategy.’

Perhaps it’s an inherent good to have the logic and experience of even the very wise frustrated by the democratic process.

A realism you can get behind?

Henry Kissinger:

“The purpose of bureaucracy is to devise a standard operating procedure which can cope effectively with most problems.  A bureaucracy is efficient if the matters which it handles routinely are, in fact, the most frequent and if its procedures are relevant to their solution.  If those criteria are met, the energies of the top leadership are freed to deal creatively with the unexpected occurrence or with the need for innovation.  Bureaucracy becomes an obstacle when what it defines as routine does not address the most significant range of issues or when its prescribed mode of action proves irrelevant to the problem.”

and:

“Moreover, the reputation, indeed the political survival, of most leaders depends on their ability to realize their goals, however these may have been arrived at.  Whether these goals are desireable is relatively less crucial.”

Kissinger, Henry. American Foreign Policy:  Three Essays.  New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc.  1969.

From Volokh: ‘Not Safe To Display American Flag In American High School’

Full post here.

Well, this did take place in California.

Volokh:

‘Yet even if the judges are right, the situation in the school seems very bad. Somehow, we’ve reached the point that students can’t safely display the American flag in an American school, because of a fear that other students will attack them for it — and the school feels unable to prevent such attacks (by punishing the threateners and the attackers, and by teaching students tolerance for other students’ speech).’

With a larger Mexican population, Cinco De Mayo has apparently become a source of enough Mexican cultural and national pride at the school that such any display, provocative or not, of American national pride, has led to some confrontation.

Or at least the avoidance of confrontation.

So the more free-thinking Jerry Brown on display in the video below, back in the 70′s, is a far cry from the practical politics of the Golden State today:

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Victor Davis Hanson’s suggestions still sound quite reasonable:  So reasonable they’d be very difficult to implement:

‘The four-part solution for California is clear:  don’t raise the state’s crushing taxes any higher; reform public-employee compensation:  make use of ample natural resources: and stop the flow of illegal aliens. Just focus on those four areas-as California did so well in the past-and in time, the state will return to its bounty of a few decades ago.  Many of us intend to stay and see that it does.’

-A link for Michael Lewis’ article about California politics, public pensions and Schwarzenegger’s time in office.

-A map from Immodest Proposals on how to divide California.  Just some suggestions.

-California’s anti-immigration, anti-union Democrat: Full video and background on Mickey Kaus here.

Related On This Site:  Victor Davis Hanson Via Youtube Via Uncommon Knowledge: ‘The New Old World Order’

Dream big: Via Reason: ‘California’s Public Transportation Sinkhole’

A great city deserves great art extravaganzas…: L.A.’s New Public Art Piece ‘The Levitated Mass,’ Or As The American Interest Puts It: ‘A Moving Rock’

Richard Epstein At The Hoover Institution’s Defining Ideas: ‘California’s Kafkaesque Rent Control Laws’

California Dreamers From The Atlantic-A Brief Review Of Kevin Starr’s History Of California

The people who promise solutions to poverty and homelessness seem to be engaged in a utopian cost-shifting exercise which favors their interests and overlooks crime, violence and personal responsbility…hardly a way to balance the budget: Repost-Heather MacDonald At The City Journal: ‘The Sidewalks Of San Francisco’

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