Tag Archives: Politics

Some Quotes On Postmodernism

There’s a lot more going on in English Departments, to be sure, but still worth pointing out.

Quote found here at friesian.com:

‘Oddly enough, it is the intellectual snobbery and elitism of many of the literati that politically correct egalitarianism appeals to; their partiality to literary Marxism is based not on its economic theory but on its hostility to business and the middle class. The character of this anti-bourgeois sentiment therefore has more in common with its origin in aristocratic disdain for the lower orders than with egalitarianism.’

John M. Ellis, Literature Lost [Yale University Press, 1997, p. 214]

Related: From Darwinian Conservatism: Nietzsche-Aristocratic Radical or Aristocratic Liberal?

Another pomo quote from Dr. Steven Hicks:

‘In the shorter term, postmodernism has caused an impoverishment of much of the academic humanities, both in the quality of the work being done and the civility of the debates. The sciences have been less affected and are relatively healthy. The social sciences are mixed.

I am optimistic, though, for a couple of reasons. One is that pomo was able to entrench itself in the second half of the twentieth century in large part because first-rate intellectuals were mostly dismissive of it and focused on their own projects. But over the last ten years, after pomo’s excesses became blatant, there has been a vigorous counter-attack and pomo is now on the defensive. Another reason for optimism is that, as a species of skepticism, pomo is ultimately empty and becomes boring. Eventually intellectually-alert individuals get tired of the same old lines and move on. It is one thing, as the pomo can do well, to critique other theories and tear them down. But that merely clears the field for the next new and intriguing theory and for the next generation of energetic young intellectuals.

So while the postmodernism has had its generation or two, I think we’re ready for the next new thing – a strong, fresh, and positive approach to the big issues, one that of course takes into account the critical weapons the pomo have used well over the last while

Related On This Site:  Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’ Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-’Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

Ed West At The Telegraph: ‘Conservatives, Depressing Everyone Since 500BC’Monday Quotation From Charles Kesler And A Few Thoughts on Conservatism

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 Entry On Liberalism At The Stanford Encyclopedia Of Philosophy

Full entry here.

A reader sends in the final paragraph:

‘Given that liberalism fractures on so many issues — the nature of liberty, the place of property and democracy in a just society, the comprehensiveness and the reach of the liberal ideal — one might wonder whether there is any point in talking of ‘liberalism’ at all. It is not, though, an unimportant or trivial thing that all these theories take liberty to be the grounding political value. Radical democrats assert the overriding value of equality, communitarians maintain that the demands of belongingness trump freedom, and conservatives complain that the liberal devotion to freedom undermines traditional values and virtues and so social order itself. Intramural disputes aside, liberals join in rejecting these conceptions of political right.’

Related On This Site:   Tuesday Quotation: J.S. MillPeter Singer discusses Hegel and MarxFrom Philosophy And Polity: ‘Historicism In German Political Theory’

How does Natural Law Philosophy deal with these problems, and those of knowledge?  What about Kantian transcendental idealism (and empirical realism)…or is that part of the Enlightenment project of reason that Libertarians perhaps ought to be more careful with?:  A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty” …Some Sunday Quotations: (On) Kant, Locke, and Pierce

Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-’Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

British conservatism with a fair amount of German idealist influence: Repost-Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: ‘Farewell To Judgment’

Megan McArdle At Bloomberg: ‘UVA Should Help Police Catch Alleged Rapists — Now.’

Full piece here

McArdle:

‘I wrote last week about the explosive rape allegations against a University of Virginia fraternity in Rolling Stone.  This morning I see that Richard Bradley, a former editor at George who had the unhappy distinction of having been taken in by Stephen Glass, is raising questions about the story and the reporting by the author,  Sabrina Rubin Erdely.’

There can be big rewards for using the victimhood bullhorn: Garnering internet traffic, making money, gaining political power and cultural influence etc. but facts often come later…in some cases…if at all.

If the facts are true, then use the bullhorn wisely.

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Camille Paglia’s take on modern campus politics here.

With freedom comes responsibility.

Via David Thompson, from Canada via the Agenda with Steve Paikin, notice how two panelists just can’t bring themselves around to the idea of other people speaking their minds, thinking differently and critically, and pursuing ideas freely in an open debate.

They really don’t seem to see a problem with where the logic of their own ideology leads:  To silence and shout-down opposing points of view, to constantly try and control the speech and thoughts of others.

Canada and Britain already have a more entrenched ideological/victimhood class of generally Left types, America.

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As I’ve gotten a few nasty e-mails myself on this subject, I want to reiterate this is not a dismissal of the seriousness of the moral horror and crime that is rape, but a freeing of such a horrible crime to be discussed in the public square calmly and reasonably by differing points of view.  The crime is bad enough without the cult of victimhood out to morally and ideologically dominate the issue.

This ‘holding the line’ is more an appeal to keep civil society civil, and wrenching a very serious subject away from ideologues who traffic in often questionable statistics, gin up moral outrage and panic, and gain advantage by using blind, rabid emotion to their advantage to shun, shame and attack anyone who disagrees. That’s really all it can take to have a less free society, and it’s really all some people have.

After six years of an administration which also benefits from bringing further Left activists into the public square (gun-rights, Keystone pipeline, Organizing For Action), and will likely do little to turn those ideologues away, some media outlets which have drifted in the same direction lately will find it hard indeed to even criticize the ideologues among them.

This ain’t liberal, nor open, nor civil.

Here’s George Will reasonably explaining his position, and the reasons for it:

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Cathy Young At Minding The Campus: ‘The Brown Case: Does It Still Look Like Rape?…The Personal Ain’t Political-Holding The Line Against Rape Ideologues-Conor Friedersdorf On George Will

Christina Hoff Sommers (wikipedia) is trying to replacing gender feminism with equity feminism. She also wrote The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men.

Are You Man Enough? Nussbaum v. MansfieldFrom The Harvard Educational Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’

Defending Eliot Spitzer…as a man who ought to be free of prostitution laws…but didn’t he prosecute others with those same laws?: Repost: Martha Nussbaum On Eliot Spitzer At The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A very Harvard affair: The Spelke/Pinker debate-The Science Of Gender And Science

Repost-Revisting Larry Summers: What Did He Say Again?

From FIRE.org-’Federal Government Mandates Unconstitutional Speech Codes At Colleges And Universities Nationwide’

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

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

***Feel free to critique, or highlight my ignorance, as I’ll have to dig back here soon to confirm the reasoning.

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I wanted to contrast and highlight the above video with a recent post by Francis Fukuyama, a well-known American political scientist and former neoconservative.  He maintains a blog at the American Interest which often advocates for a larger State.

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For Strauss, there were two distinct schools of thought which prevent people from asking and trying to answer the question he wants them to ask:

“What is the good society?”

1. Positivism-The only form of genuine knowledge is scientific knowledge…and science knows only facts, or relations of facts.”-Video 1-Minute 4:40

On the positivist view, political science is but a pale copy of the best knowledge that we have.  Science deals with questions of fact, and the social sciences, on this view, deal with questions of value (as Strauss notes, there are much thornier philosophical problems underlying the fact/value distinction).

A good political scientist, however, can develop methods of his own.  He can poll people, read and interpret economic data, and he can use the best statistical sampling and modeling available.  Fukuyama, in his post, for example, advocates for a return to vigorous, empirical studies measuring the freedom bureaucrats have from direct political pressure in a bureaucratic modern society, bending the discipline in a direction he’d like to see it go (for which he has a conception of the good society which involves a bigger State led by a more moral, bureaucracy and with which I generally disagree).

Political scientists can also carefully follow events on the ground in foreign countries, gathering reports to establish facts (of a sort on the positivist view) which can back their thinking up, or challenge their framework, coming to understand many of the complex relationships of the societies they’re dealing with.  They can think clearly and well about Statecraft and the organizational structures of societies, as well as their own.  They can interview, visit, and come to understand the particular people, their incentives and motives, that live in these countries. They can try and provide road maps, as Samuel Huntington did, and as Fukuyama did with his famous The End Of History.  They can provide direct consultation to our military and can deeply affect how those making U.S. Foreign policy understand the world.

Yet, on the positivist view, such attempts will always fall short of factual, scientific knowledge.

Positivism, Strauss believes, comes with a problem in its wake:  It leads to nihilism, or the negation of the possibility of knowledge.   Continental European thought in the last 140 years or so is full of nihilists, existentialists, modernists and postmodernists many of whom are reacting to, or developing alongside, positivism.  Here’s Wikipedia’s page:

‘Most commonly, nihilism is presented in the form of existential nihilism, which argues that life is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value.  Moral nihilists assert that morality does not inherently exist, and that any established moral values are abstractly contrived. Nihilism can also take epistemological or metaphysical/ontological forms, meaning respectively that, in some aspect, knowledge is not possible, or that reality does not actually exist.’

On Strauss’ view, nihilism can be especially dangerous because in its negation of knowledge, and the possibility of knowledge, it can go about destroying the traditions and institutions that make civil society possible and maintain the political and economic liberty we in America often take for granted.  Strauss was particularly concerned with the effects of  Friedrich Nietzsche, and Nietzsche through Martin Heidegger.

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The other school of thought holding back genuine questions of the good in politics for Strauss was:

2. Historicism “All human thought, including scientific thought, rests ultimately on premises, which cannot be validated by human reason, and which change from historical epoch to historical epoch.”-Video 2-Minute 4:10.

This is largely a critique of the German philosopher G.W.F. Hegel and his absolute idealism.

Again, those whom Strauss wants to ask: “What is the good society?”, are forced to confront the idea that a universal response is not really possible.  Aristotle said many true things, but that was in ancient Athens in the polis, partly in response to Plato’s idealism.

John Locke, in contrast, was responding to 17th century, warring, Protestant, Anglican and Catholic England from a more Christian perspective, as well as dealing with the achievements of Galileo and Newton as the sciences were splitting from natural philosophy at the time.  Thus, Aristotle and Locke’s answers will naturally be different as to what constitutes a good society, and perhaps incompatibly so.  This view, for Strauss, is in the air we breathe and the water we drink, but it wasn’t always the case.

The historicist view assumes a universality of its own, according to Strauss. Hegel assumed that an absolute knowledge of time is possible, and thus his historicism is a lens through which one can scan and survey all of time, from epoch to epoch.  Yet, the historicist lens does not critique itself nor its own metaphysical foundations (Hegel’s thought remains exempt from its own criticism).   Hegel’s philosophy puts humanity in a process of progressing toward future goals, shaped by forces larger than itself, in an absolute relationship with time, and as part of a history which has an internal logic of its own (he dragged a lot of Christian metaphysics along).

Hegel’s idealism, after what Hegel did to Kant’s transcendental idealism, became known as German Idealism, developed further later on by Fichte and Schelling, and also formed the basis for some of Karl Marx’s thought, and the ideas that made up the stuff of the Communist Manifesto and the socialist, and the current social democratic, parties of Europe.

The problem of historicism, Strauss believes, comes with a problem in its wake:  It leads to relativism.  Here’s the Stanford Encyclopedia Of Philosophy definition:

‘Relativism is not a single doctrine but a family of views whose common theme is that some central aspect of experience, thought, evaluation, or even reality is somehow relative to something else. For example standards of justification, moral principles or truth are sometimes said to be relative to language, culture, or biological makeup. Although relativistic lines of thought often lead to very implausible conclusions, there is something seductive about them, and they have captivated a wide range of thinkers from a wide range of traditions.’

Relativism, including moral relativism, should be familiar to us all.  Why is one set of moral values any better than another? Why is my civilization better than any other?  Why do I even have to learn and understand the values of my own culture if all values are relative?  A malaise ensues.

I would offer that too much relativism is clearly corrosive to our civil society, our institutions and freedoms.  When no one can agree upon, nor even identify, a set of principles and ideas around which our civil society is based, then we’re all more likely to come into conflict, and more likely to swing to an opposite pole of moral absolutism in response, which is equally dangerous.  That said, like many people, I could try and defend some aspects of relativism, or the examining of one’s own beliefs, ideas and principles and testing them for holes which I think is often the beginning of wisdom.

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Hopefully, looking at Strauss can help highlight the Hegelian influence of Fukuyama and why he might have been advocating for an end of history a few decades ago, and for a bigger State now, as well as how a positivist influence through the Straussian lens might look more broadly upon a political scientist.

I haven’t discussed the criticisms of Strauss, including his esotericism, his other work and where his philosophy leads as a positive doctrine.

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.  Thanks for reading.

Addition:  Related post here at American Creation.

Related On This Site:   Has Fukuyama turned away from Hegel and toward Darwin? Adam Kirsch Reviews Francis Fukuyama’s New Book At The City Journal: ‘The Dawn Of Politics’……Peter Singer discusses Hegel and MarxFrom Philosophy And Polity: ‘Historicism In German Political Theory’

Do we try and invest in global institutions as flawed as they are…upon a Kantian raft…Kant often leads to a liberal political philosophy:  Daniel Deudney On YouTube Responding to Robert Kagan: Liberal Democracy Vs. Autocracy

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’

Samuel Huntington was quite humble, and often wise, about what political philosophy could do:  From Prospect: Eric Kaufmann On ‘The Meaning Of Huntington’……Via An Emailer: Some Criticism Of Leo Strauss?

Kant is a major influence on libertarians, from Ayn Rand to Robert Nozick:  A Few Thoughts On Robert Nozick’s “Anarchy, State and Utopia”…Link To An Ayn Rand Paper: The Objectivist Attack On Kant

Kant chopped the head off from German deism and the German State has been reeling every since…is value pluralism a response?: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

Repost-From The Spiked Review Of Books: ‘Delving Into The Mind Of The Technocrat’

Full piece here.

Our author, Daniel Ben-Ami, makes some good points while reviewing Robert Frank’s the Darwin Economy. Here are some quotes from the Princeton Press page on the book (found at the link):

‘The good news is that we have the ability to tame the Darwin economy. The best solution is not to prohibit harmful behaviors but to tax them. By doing so, we could make the economic pie larger, eliminate government debt, and provide better public services, all without requiring painful sacrifices from anyone. That’s a bold claim, Frank concedes, but it follows directly from logic and evidence that most people already accept.’

It’s good to know there are people arguing for such a collectivist moral and political philosophy out of the Origin Of Species and Darwin’s theories of natural selection. Of course, this view requires our betters to gently steer the Ship Of State through the stormy seas of human irrationality, manipulating its levers of taxation wisely, with only the stars of reason, Darwinian group selection, and the dismal science as their guides.

Ben-Ami invokes the fact/value distinction:

‘Students have long been taught that economics is a ‘positive science’ – one based on facts rather than values. Politicians are entitled to their preferences, so the argument went, but economists are supposed to give them impartial advice based on an objective examination of the facts.’

Well, if we do use the fact/value distinction, we should acknowledge that all economists (e.g. Milton Friedman) would fall short of achieving factual knowledge on this view….but point taken.  There is a deeper debate about where to ground our knowledge and what it is that we know.  Economics and potentially unfalsifiable theories are here presented as knowledge upon which to organize all of our lives.   Ben-Ami goes on:

The focus of The Darwin Economy is to work out how best to resolve such conflicts. To do so, he turns to an influential approach developed by Ronald Coase, a Nobel laureate in economics based at the University of Chicago in the late 1950s. His concern was to find a pragmatic way to resolve conflicts rather than having to rely on moral principles

To illustrate his argument, Coase gave the example of a confectioner who had used his business premises for many years. A doctor moved in to occupy the neighbouring property and the confectioner’s machinery did him no harm till he built a consulting room at the end of the garden, next to the confectioner’s premises. The noise and vibration of the machinery began to disturb the doctor’s work.

Coase then made the following assumptions:

  • If the doctor did nothing it would cost his surgery $20,000 in damage;
  • If he moved to a different location it would cost him $10,000;
  • The factory owner could eliminate the noise by installing soundproofing at a cost of $5,000;
  • The costs for the two to negotiate were minimal.

From these premises, it is clear that the two sides should be able to negotiate an agreement with each other for the installation of soundproofing. This is the case even if the government does not make the factory owner responsible for noise damage.

Why not just use the power of taxation to nudge people where you want them to go…if you already happen to know what is rationally in their best interest (or the common interest) anyways? Individuals come into conflict with each other while pursuing their own rational self-interest, and eventually many use the State to resolve their conflicts (property disputes, tort law etc), so why not just head them off at the pass?

And if you’re worried about your freedom?:

”To those who believe that such measures can lead to the denial of individual freedom, Frank enlists an unlikely ally: John Stuart Mill. The nineteenth-century British philosopher is normally seen as the arch proponent of liberty, but Frank turns him into its opposite. Mill supported the maximum possible freedom for individuals with the important caveat that they should not be able to harm others. For instance, I should be free to criticise individuals as harshly as I like but I should not have the right to punch them in the face. Frank extends the harm principle to cover more or less any behaviour that could be deemed harmful. His argument is not that harmful behaviour should always be banned, but government should in many cases impose extra taxes to make it more expensive.’

Don’t worry, these folks are on your side against the interests of large corporations, pretty much all industries, crony capitalists, the oligarchy etc. J.S. Mill’s harm principle is being used to rectify the harm done to individuals by the State through the laws by wielding that State power rationally.  If an individual lives downwind of say, a smelting plant, and comes to develop a disease he thinks can be proven to have been caused by the plant’s activities, he might be able to file suit.  This of course, may be proper legal recourse, but is also used to defend global warming, as virtually any industrial activity can be held legally and morally responsible for causing harm to the individual on this view (acid rain, climate change, rising sea levels, poorer air quality etc).  Scientism abounds amidst deep thinking and actual science.

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I could see this view getting much more traction in Britain, and Europe more broadly, because there is a much more entrenched Left (many more actual Communists, Socialists, Big Labor parties, Social Democrats, Humanists, Marxists etc) milling around.  Europe is actually run by techo-bureaucrats largely because such a large techno-bureaucracy is arguably the product of such Leftism and certain strains of collectivist, post-Enlightenment thought.

But is this really where the modern American Left is, as well?

Taxing soda in Seattle schools has unintended consequences.  It’s not just taxation, it’s banning happy meals altogether.

There are lots of threats to liberty out there, and when you think about just what’s happened to our American institutions these past few generations, and who’s running them, then the strands of liberalism that dwell there makes more sense.

Culturally, we see more inroads for this point of view as well.

Related On This Site: …Repost-From The Spiked Review Of Books Via The A & L Daily: ‘Rescuing The Enlightenment From Its Exploiters’… Behavioral economics and libertarian paternalism and below all that some liberal totalitarianism (the personal is political crowd)…Ross Douthat Responds To Paul Krugman At The NY Times: ‘Can We Be Sweden?’

From Michael Totten At World Affairs: “Noam Chomsky: The Last Totalitarian”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 but her liberalism leads to a kind of technocratic group of self-sacrificing people guiding use along.

Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’…Morality away from a transcendent God, but back toward Hume through the cognitive sciences?: Franz De Waal At The NY Times 10/17/10: ‘Morals Without God?’

Steven Pinker curiously goes Hobbesian and mentions an ‘international Leviathan’:   At Bloggingheads Steven Pinker Discusses War And Thomas HobbesTimothy Snyder Responds To Steven Pinker’s New Book At Foreign Policy: ‘War No More: Why The World Has Become More Peaceful’

The market will make people better off, but always leaves them wanting more and in a state of spiritual malaise, which invites constant meddling.  Can economic freedom and free markets reconcile the moral depth of progressive big-State human freedom?:  Milton Friedman Via Youtube: ‘Responsibility To The Poor’A Few Quotations From F.A. Hayek’s: ‘Why I Am Not A Conservative’…libertarians share a definition of liberty

Robert Bork called them the New Left: A Few Thoughts On Robert Bork’s “Slouching Towards Gomorrah”

Megan McArdle At Bloomberg: ‘Simple Policies Win Elections’

Ron Fournier at the National Journal: ‘Obamacare’s Foundation Of Lies

On the Gruber gaffes (forcing healthy people to work against their interests with knowing lies withheld by a chief Obamacare architect in order to get the thing passed):

‘A lie is apolitical, or at least it should be. If there is one thing that unites clear-headed Americans, it’s a belief that our leaders must be transparent and honest.

And yet, there seem to be two types of lies in our political discourse: Those that hurt “my party” and “my policies”; and those that don’t. We condemn the former and forgive the latter—cheapening the bond of trust that enables a society to progress.’

Megan McArdle has a piece here.

Aside from the Gruber gaffes:

‘So too, with Obamacare.  They wanted a massive overhaul of the whole system, but they couldn’t do that cleanly, so they jammed a bunch of complicated mechanisms into one sort-of-working bill.  You may like the goal of Obamacare, or you may not. Either way, you probably wouldn’t choose this particular method of implementation, which is simultaneously less comprehensive, more expensive and more annoying than many other methods they could have chosen.’

You don’t have to be libertarian to find some of Richard Epstein’s suggestions…reasonable:

As I have noted before, there is only one type of reform that can make progress in meeting the three goals of a sensible health care system: cost reduction, quality improvements, and public access. That reform requires massive deregulation of the many market impediments that are already in place. Lower the costs, drop the excessive mandates, and thin out administrative costs, and people will flock back to the system voluntarily.’

I still see a massive, top-down, poorly conceived law that freezes a lot of the problems in place, adds more layers of bureaucracy on top, and serves a narrower range of interests that claim universal, utopian ideals.

Follow the money.

In the meantime, the rising costs, bloated bureaucracy, misplaced incentives etc. of the current system continue.

First, do no harm.

Related On This SiteFrom The New England Journal Of Medicine Via CATO: ‘The Constitutionality of the Individual Mandate’From If-Then Knots: Health Care Is Not A Right…But Then Neither Is Property?… From The New Yorker: Atul Gawande On Health Care-”The Cost Conundrum”Sally Pipes At Forbes: ‘A Plan That Leads Health Care To Nowhere’From AEI: ‘Study: ‘Obama Healthcare Reform Raising Costs, Forcing Workers Out Of Existing Plans’

Every Time An Activist Gets His Wings…From Inside Philanthropy: ‘Did You Hear The Koch Brothers Just Gave A Million Bucks To NPR To Cover Healthcare?’

Full piece here. (No, it didn’t really happen, but this is one of my hobby horses, and I’m not afraid to whip it often).

NPR works alongside the Kaiser Family Foundation to deliver ACA coverage.

Money, money, money:

‘My point, of course, is that growing concern about the subversion of public media by private donors is quite selective. Progressives only fret when it’s conservative money coming in, but ignore cases in which funders they like are writing the checks. And while the right routinely hits NPR for being too liberal, it’s been strangely quiet on NPR’s sources of funding and the possible conflicts embedded in funding arrangements’

Let’s just say most people are attracted to large revenue streams, even lofty secular idealists.  The money has to come from somewhere.

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A brief rant:

Activists of all stripes seem to occupy a special place in the moral universe of NPR coverage. Perhaps a pure, uncut activist is a little much, but such folks can always be backed-up with the right studies and statistics.  In a four-minute piece, activists can be bolstered by a two-minute interview with a more knowledgeable bureaucrat and/or favorable university professor.

Activism is virtuous, after all.

From civil rights to feminism to environmentalism to gay rights…equality will eventually be reached, doled-out, quantified and planned.  But only if the general will is being served daily, while the ‘The People’ are rising-up demanding change, protesting and chanting, forming purely democratic coalitions and autonomous collectives that can only make our politics and the world a better place.

Each individual is gaining more freedom daily through collective action, dear reader.

***I’ve been assured that every time an activist gets his wings, the storehouse of moral good increases by a hectare, while the happiness index inches upwards.

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Of course, making such Left-liberal ideals the highest things around means always courting activists to some extent, for no other purpose than staying in business. It also means making choices in the real world.  Private donations by listeners to NPR are generally good, while private ownership in a company donating to political campaigns is generally bad.

The foundation money that funds Left-liberal think tanks and action committees is generally a force for good in politics, while the Koch brothers money is generally bad, and suspicious.

Even if the foundations were started by capitalists, innovators thriving under a relatively free flow of capital and labor like Henry Ford’s motor company did, dramatically driving down the price of cars for everyone, these cash-cows have finally been bent to the right ideals.

Equality is next, right after the next big private/public partnership.

(addition: yes, that last part is sarcasm, and no, I don’t think anyone is capable of being the moral judge nor final arbiter of the Civil Rights movement and its gains of freedom for many in the real world.

Rather, one can simply point out many of its costs and consequences; the logical flaws, including the lack of limiting principles to political power.

I think it’s more clear now how endlessly rewarding victimhood, capitalizing on grievance and injustice, and cultivating envy into a movement led by a charismatic figure has consequences.

It seems there’s some good when the folks at NPR are called-out on their activism as well as their moral and political commitments, to see how their business works while they are busily minding everyone else’s business).

Related On This SiteJack Shakely At The Los Angeles Review Of Books Reviews Ken Stern’s ‘With Charity For All’

How Many Techno- And Bureaucrats Are Enough?-David Greene At NPR: ‘Rochester Focuses On A New Piece Of American Manufacturing’

A Few Thoughts On NPR And Current Liberal Establishment Thinking Under Obama

Ken Burns makes a good documentary, but he’s also arguing he absolutely needs your tax dollars in service of what he assumes to be a shared definition of the “common good” as he pursues that art.  The market just can’t support it otherwise. Repost-From ReasonTV Via Youtube: ‘Ken Burns on PBS Funding, Being a “Yellow-Dog Democrat,” & Missing Walter Cronkite’From NPR: Grants To The NEA To Stimulate The Economy?…We’re already mixing art and politics, so…
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Repost-From Guernica: Bernard Henri Levy Interview On Anti-Semitism And Fascism

Full post and brief written interview here.

Henri-Levy has done some pretty deep thinking, mostly within leftist intellectual traditions, but also seems to attempt to question the core ideas of those traditions:

“I hate competition of victimhood. But I also hate the idea of a big, huge, and empty concept of suffering…”

A deep moral and (maturing political) realist who’s also anti-religious (typically left, at least he doesn’t advocate enforcement of Godlessness).

I agree that there’s danger in identity-victimhood politics.  It can cultivate many vices under its loftier idealism.  Yet, for my part, I believe that an intellectually honest, reasonable conservative (conservare) position already acknowledges much of this danger:

“You had fascism in Japan. You had fascism in Europe. You had fascism in people like Lindberg in America. You had fascism in Latin America and in the Arab world.”

Well…yes.   It doesn’t go away, and you can likely make a deep metaphysical theories about how it is a part of each of us and extend them around the globe with moral courage as Henri-Levy has done.   However, I don’t think the conservative position need devolve into caricatured support of fascist tendencies.  I can easily see how identity-politics might inflame fascist tendencies (if you accept Henri-Levy’s defintion of fascism.

And…Lindberg?

Which brings me to the next point:

“And one of the reasons I am so much in favor of [Senator Barack] Obama is that his election might be, will be—because I think he will be elected—a real end to this tide of competition of victimhood, and especially on the specific ground of the two communities, Jews and African Americans, who were so close in the 1960s”

…”The Obama election would reconstitute the grand alliance.”

What is he smoking?  The grand alliance?  No wonder his book American Vertigo seemed so tone-deaf when dealing with its potential subject:  America.   Even the American left found it lacking.

———————————————————–

I appreciate the support that some in the French republic extended to African Americans (jazz musicians, writers, James Baldwin…for example) who were cast beneath our moral concern, and held there, sadly, by even the laws.  There are hardly words for such injustice, yet I see no easy recourse from it.

In fact, if I were one of the millions of relatively poor and marginalized Muslims on the outsides of Paris, languishing with little hope of a future, my fascist tendencies (expressed within or without the Koran) would lIkely be bubbling up.  And while the depths of moral courage, wisdom and insight an Henri-Levy provided (if I got the chance to read him) might spur me on to independent thought, those depths would leave a lot untouched.

Addition:  Reader-emailed evidence for the American black-jewish leftist alliance on Bloggingheads with Joshua Cohen  engaging in genuine moral concern and genuie academic apologetics.  Obama has chosen Rahm Emmanuel to likely be the White House Chief Of Staff, and of course from the Kentucky Fried Movie, Cleopatra Swartz.  Thank you readers…I think.

————

At this point, we’re probably helping Henri-Levy make his. Identity politics!

I thought Henri-Levy had transcended them…oh wait…never mind.

Pascal Emmanuel Gobry At The American Interest: ‘What Americans Won’t Learn About Health Care’

Full piece here.

I tend to agree with the below, that the ACA will further remove health care decisions from many consumers.

‘One ray of sunshine might be an involuntary heightening of the contradictions: The structure of the Affordable Care Act, by removing health care decisions even further from consumers, all but ensures that costs will escalate even faster. At some point, most employers in America will only be able to afford catastrophic health insurance for their employees. If and when that irony busts onto the scene, perhaps real consumer dynamics will emerge, and perhaps America will stumble backward into a Singapore-style system.’

Many people have been brought onto Medicaid rolls under the ACA, and some onto the exchanges, but many incentives are simply backwards, such as inducing young people in their prime to buy-in with carrots and sticks. Under this law, you, me and everyone (in theory) will eventually be forced to join the government-run exchanges.

I could easily see a massive, health-care bureaucratic complex on the time horizon of a few decades; sprawling, good for the politically and culturally well-connected along with a large swathe of people who have enough money and freedom to access it and who would often have other options available, if necessary.  They would be accessing near the top, too, where there would be higher-end facilities and better points of access, and this is also where the choice jobs and opportunities would be on the bureaucratic side, as I envision a generational conveyor belt moving through the suburbs, universities and on down to Washington (a permanent coalition of majority Democrats, if other bureaucracies offer any example).  People with enough money always tend to have other options, and there would be winners and losers in this set-up just like any other.

Clearly, many poor and working poor would get more care than they got before, early childhood vaccinations and urgent care, some basic access and routine checkups, but again, in a world of limited resources, they would get promises but not always delivery. There would definitely be more availability for some and lots of brochures and ‘nudges’ that usually don’t work as advertised.

Of course, paying for these folks would be many others who are working poor and non-poor who could very easily be getting the short-end of the stick: Paying for all of this and perhaps getting very little in return and having no other options and virtually no political recourse. Such people would be paying for an immovable bureaucracy and more politicians controlling more of the money supply. They would be paying for more union control through the activists who benefit from the law along with the standard corruption and inefficiencies inherent in such systems. Such folks would sometimes be working against their own interests, disincentivized and unfree.

Richard Epstein looks pretty prescient on what the law’s specific challenges are:

‘As I have noted before, there is only one type of reform that can make progress in meeting the three goals of a sensible health care system: cost reduction, quality improvements, and public access. That reform requires massive deregulation of the many market impediments that are already in place. Lower the costs, drop the excessive mandates, and thin out administrative costs, and people will flock back to the system voluntarily’

Epstein on Obamacare’s Moral Blindness, the Obamacare Quagmire, and Watching Obamacare Unravel.

Still Looking For Alternatives-Charlie Martin At PJ Media: ‘Obamacare vs. Arithmetic’

Avik Roy At Forbes: ‘Democrats’ New Argument: It’s A Good Thing That Obamacare Doubles Individual Health Insurance Premiums’Megan McArdle At Bloomberg: ‘Health-Care Costs Are Driven By Technology, Not Presidents’

Related On This Site:    From The New England Journal Of Medicine Via CATO: ‘The Constitutionality of the Individual Mandate’From If-Then Knots: Health Care Is Not A Right…But Then Neither Is Property?… From The New Yorker: Atul Gawande On Health Care-”The Cost Conundrum”Sally Pipes At Forbes: ‘A Plan That Leads Health Care To Nowhere’Peter Suderman At The WSJ: ‘Obamacare And The Medicaid Mess’From AEI: ‘Study: ‘Obama Healthcare Reform Raising Costs, Forcing Workers Out Of Existing Plans’

Al Qaeda Is Still Out There, And It’s Complicated

Andrew McCarthy at the National Review:

Whatever your thoughts on our foreign policy, it’s important to recognize an important aim of any administration is to set goals and appear to have met them.

The whole ‘ISIL’ moniker instead of ‘IS’ or ‘ISIS’, and ‘Khorasan,’ rather than any focus on Al Qaeda serves the current President’s claims that his policies have worked.  There isn’t much evidence for this.

McCarthy:

‘You can’t pick up a carpet by all four corners at once. Some al-Qaeda units are assigned to one or more of these objectives at different times; but all al-Qaeda units support and work toward the comprehensive, hegemonic program. It is highly unlikely that the so-called Khorasan Group is working on a mission completely distinct from al-Nusra’s mission; but even if there were such a division of labor, they are still one organization with one ideology and one ultimate goal.’

It’s a little more complicated than that. Eli Lake’s original piece:

‘The attack on the Khorasan Group, which consists of senior al Qaeda operatives loyal to the group’s central leadership, presents an unusual dilemma for Obama’s own war planners.’

and:

‘An easing of tensions between al Qaeda and ISIS presents dangers for America in its military campaign in the Levant. It could persuade hardline Islamist brigades, the largest of the insurgent militias among the Syrian rebels, to oppose the West and to halt their own war against ISIS.’

Here’s Adam Garfinkle, from a while ago, as (I think) the goal is to have policies that work, that can maintain American security and form functional alliances to meet our interests. Full piece here.

‘It is all well and good to point out that the President is largely to blame for his paucity of decent options—and it happens also to be true. It is true that, had he acted with a judicious use of U.S. power in the early stages in the Syrian civil war, he very well might have avoided the mess that he, and the nation with him, are in now. Plenty of people urged him, and plenty of people warned him—both inside his own Administration and out—that passivity would exact the highest price of all. He ignored them all.’

There’s a real mess out there.

Related On This Site:  From Slate: ‘In Aleppo, Syria, Mohamed Atta Thought He Could Build The Ideal Islamic City’Lawrence Wright At The New Yorker: ‘The Man Behind Bin Laden’

A Few More Thoughts On The Marathon Bombing: Free Speech Is Key

Michael Moynihan At Newsweek: ‘http://www.jihad.com’

Link sent in by a reader to Alexander Hitchens essay:  As American As Apple Pie: How Anwar al-Awlaki Became The Face Of Western Jihad

Christopher Hitchens At Slate: ‘Lord Haw Haw And Anwar Al-Awlaki’From CSIS: ‘Rick “Ozzie” Nelson and Tom Sanderson on the Future of Al Qaeda’,Lawrence Wright At The New Yorker: ‘The Man Behind Bin Laden’From Slate: ‘In Aleppo, Syria, Mohamed Atta Thought He Could Build The Ideal Islamic City’Repost-Philip Bobbitt Discusses His Book ‘Terror And Consent’ On Bloggingheads

From Foreign Affairs: ‘Al Qaeda After Attiyya’

Fareed Zakaria At Newsweek: ‘Terrorism’s Supermarket’Via Youtube: ‘Roger Scruton On Islam And The West’

Free speech (used both well and unwell) meets offended Muslims: Mohammad Cartoonist Lars Vilks HeadbuttedDuring Lecture’From The OC Jewish Experience: ‘UC Irvine Muslim Student Union Suspended’From Volokh: ‘”South Park” Creators Warned (Threatened) Over Mohammed’

Najat Fawzy Alsaeid At The Center For Islamic Pluralism: ‘The War Of Ideologies In The Arab World’

Repost-Philip Bobbitt Discusses His Book ‘Terror And Consent’ On Bloggingheads

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