Francis Fukuyama in The L.A. Times: China’s Powerful Weakness

by frontpersatuannasional

Full piece here.

Is it a stronger centralized government that China needs?

China’s peculiar road toward modernization after 1978 was powered by “township and village enterprises” — local government bodies given the freedom to establish businesses and enter into the emerging market economy.

Now that the local and village enterprises are much stronger, they will need the central government to counter local abuses of power within a federal structure. 

But it (freedom) will come about only when popular demand for some form of downward accountability on the part of local governments and businesses is supported by a central government strong enough to force local elites to obey the country’s rules”

This balance of power can create a more stable China…and a China more dedicated to protecting freedom and individual rights.  As usual, Fukuyama is keenly pragmatic and profound. 


As a small aside, Fukuyama did support the Iraq military invasion, perhaps in part because of similar thinking he’s applying to China now (freedom through western democratic statecraft and balance of powers).

Iraq was bungled by this administration, but also, perhaps we were a little idealistic about how well our concept of freedom (Western, post-enlightenment, deeply individualistic) would travel.

China’s a different story, obviously, than Iraq, but does the model need tweaking a little?  

Is the use of military force to apply such thinking ever justified? 

Addition:  The PEN American Center has awarded Yang Tongyan a Freedom To Write Medal (which he’s apparently not so free to do).  Tongyan is in prison for challenging the very structures discussed above.  The good that PEN can do comes with its own idealism and limitations, I imagine, but is a good way to show the range of American influence on China…

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Jared Diamond: “Vengeance Is Ours” In The New Yorker

Full piece here. (abstract only now, subscription required)

Diamond focuses on a young man who’s a member of the Handa clan in Papua New-Guinea.  The clan, like many others, devotes a lot of time and energy to fighting, and specifically, getting revenge.

Daniel, the young man in Diamond’s portrayal, clearly likely feels honor and a sense of pride when acting on his desire for revenge…and gets satisfaction from it as well.  Diamond argues the lack of organized religious and moral codes (largely in service of the state here in the West) don’t exist in Papua-New Guinea.

In other words, most of the reasons we don’t go revenge killing here in the States and defer (usually) to the police, the courts, or to God aren’t really in effect.

This is one of Diamond’s conclusions:

“My conversations with Daniel made me understand what we have given up by leaving justice to the state. In order to induce us to do so, state societies and their associated religions and moral codes teach us that seeking revenge is bad. But, while acting on vengeful feelings clearly needs to be discouraged, acknowledging them should be not merely permitted but encouraged.”

So let me get this straight: from our own true nature, moral codes have deferred…

feelings…natural and powerful”

…into a “cold monster” of the state?

Yet, if we invested in our feelings, wouldn’t we make the state more powerful by increasing its desire to control our feelings too?

Wait…I thought the state was bad, or un-natural?

Okay…so…according to Diamond, if we just feel enough, we’ll think clearly?

See Also: This post about David Sloan Wilson’s research.  Is a common thread between evolutionary biologists, anthropologists, and perhaps even psychologists the attempt to base morality in feeling?  Or a certain type of thoughts about feelings?

So…is Diamond an anthropologist?  It appears not.  My mistake.

Addition: So where do you look to deepen evolutionary biology and the cognitive sciences?  To Nietzsche for starters, but Jesse Prinz looks to David Hume:  Another Note On Jesse Prinz’s “Constructive Sentimentalism”Jesse Prinz Discusses “The Emotional Construction Of Morals” On Bloggingheads.More On Jesse Prinz. A Review Of “The Emotional Construction Of Morals” At Notre Dame.

Remember that as with all utterances of truth, there will be a large percentage of the population who considers these ideas not a matter of debate, but as true.

UpdatedFrom Savage Minds: More On The Lawsuit Against Jared Diamond…From The Chronicle Of Higher Education: Jared Diamond’s Lawsuit

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Roger Sandall: And Back To Plato We Go?

As to the previous post, I wonder if artists, romantics, poets and dreamers (idealists of all stripes) who give up their art or are compelled to re-examine their ideas aren’t susceptible to pursuing the same idealism within politics.

Sandall knows of where he speaks regarding romanticism. He is essentially an artist and film-maker, and it’s tough to imagine an artist in the Western World who hasn’t been influenced by Romanticism. Perhaps also in his experience of pursuing aesthetic beauty, narrative and storytelling, he can illuminate the plight of the Aborginal quite well.

Is it the relation with one’s desires that can determine the limit of one’s ideas?

It’s a matter of debate, and I’ll put this quote up, found here:

“This also meant that the artist is two steps removed from knowledge, and, indeed, Plato’s frequent criticism of the artists is that they lack genuine knowledge of what they are doing. Artistic creation, Plato observed, seems to be rooted in a kind of inspired madness.”

by Rickydavid

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The National Geographic-Marching To The Eco-Drumbeat

Have you read National Geographic lately?

If you’re like me, you’re finding the tone a little heavy-handed, and perhaps stifling of curiousity. Every article ends like the one I just read:

“As the Earth warms, its vast frozen lands are being transformed-and we are only starting to grasp the consequences.”   Coldscapes, Dec. 2007

Pretty soon they won’t have to go exploring anymore.

Here’s my theory: Instead of sticking more to the science and geography parts of its mission, the National Geographic is invested heavily in current intellectual trends (cultural relativity, the certainty of man-made global warming) and so is putting the cart before the horse: the conservation and educational parts of its mission are left to justify themselves…

So… why not just stick to where wonder, awe and mystery meet high standards and rigorous intellectual tradition…in science?

That may be the best way to promote the other goals of conservation and education.

by Daniel Y. Go

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Too Much “Quality Control” In Universities?

Here’s a great rant.

“The galling part of this whole process is that it really has no impact on what we and our professors actually do in our classroom. Perhaps I should not say this publicly. The issue is not one of of being opposed to high standards. We already do have high standards. We believe strongly in pedagogy and teaching excellence. The issue is that the assumptions and thought process behind this sort of modeling is fundamentally wrong-headed, diminishing, rather than enhancing education.”

It can sure get in the way if you’re trying to teach or trying to learn.

uploaded by mattbucher

What the cartoon doesn’t touch on is how much “creative types” can get in the way too.

Addition:  I think it’s going too far, trying to apply libertarian economics onto education, but Milton Friedman on Education is thought-provoking.

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From The Weekly Standard: It’s Not Necessarily Islam, There’s Tribalism Too

Full article here, by Stanley Kurtz.

“Arab tribal warriors aren’t “too egalitarian.” Advocates of race and gender preferences are too egalitarian. Arab tribal warriors aren’t “too individualist.” Strict libertarians are too individualist. The equality and autonomy of Arab tribal warriors are closer to what we find in Hobbes’s state of nature–the sort of individualism that precedes the social contract, not the individualism that follows it.”

…and Islam has largely been the glue uniting these tribes.

“Learning how to understand and critique the Islamic Near East through a tribal lens will open up a new and smarter strategy for change.”

I could be persuaded; it’s another piece of the puzzle anyways… 

So, in Iraq, we thought we could take out Saddam and leave behind a constitutional democracy…ameliorating tribal and religious differences within a national identity with oil revenue greasing the skids?

…because of freedom?

Addition:  Perhaps we can only deepen our understanding of these ideas, because it won’t be long before we may be using them again and forging into the unknown…with important consequences, moral and otherwise.

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A Sympathetic View Of Noam Chomsky?

by eclipsechaser (Daniel Lynch)

My limited and over-simplified take on Noam Chomsky is that he offered a profound theory of language: we are not merely a blank slate upon which language is programmed, rather there is a universal grammar or structure common to us all. This greatly deepens and attaches linguistics to philosophical (Enlightenment, Kantian?) and mathematical traditions, and as he has said, perhaps makes linguistics akin to cognitive psychology.

He is a deep thinker and has been supportive of scientific endeavor and has even defended it from postmodern critique. It’s quite possible to see Chomsky in a humanistic and classically liberal vein of thought, perhaps helpfully illuminated in my post about the differences between right and left (Thomas Carlyle and J.S. Mill, choleric conservative and rational liberal).

Yet Chomsky’s criticism of American foreign policy, capitalism, and essentially all forms of power without legitimacy (for which he has a concept of burden of proof) is suspect.

Here’s Wikipedia’s again:

Critical of the American capitalist system and big business, he describes himself as a libertarian socialist who sympathizes with anarcho-syndicalism and is critical of Leninist branches of socialism. He also believes that libertarian socialist values exemplify the rational and morally consistent extension of original unreconstructed classical liberal and radical humanist ideas to an industrial context. Specifically he believes that society should be highly organized and based on democratic control of communities and work places. He believes that the radical humanist ideas of his two major influences, Bertrand Russell and John Dewey, were “rooted in the Enlightenment and classical liberalism, and retain their revolutionary character.”

His moral thinking is deep, but there are obvious dangers in trying to graft such deep ideas onto politics…

If he is classically liberal (and I’m not sure he is), do you think he’s doing classical liberalism any good?

See Also: Wikipedia’s Page, Chomsky’s Home PageChomsky interview here on his theory.

Addition: How his depth as a thinker (moral, linguistic and philosophical) grants legitimacy to his political views is unclear to me.   His political position is one of radical liberalism in my mind, a failed ideology not mainstream classical liberalism.  Martha Nussbaum draws the distinction here:

Martha Nussbaum In Dissent–Violence On The Left: Nandigram And The Communists Of West Bengal


Paul Berman On Bloggingheads: The Left Can Criticize Iran

Diavlog here, statements begin at about the 6:00 min mark.

Berman bio here (wikipedia).

I would ask those who have lost patience with liberalism to think about what it’d be like if the left offered more coherent, rational arguments before and during the Iraq war.  Of course, everyone’s hindsight is 20/20, but we might have had a better discussion; even one that could help with our most difficult problems going foward.

The idea is relatively simple: intellectuals (and Berman is a serious leftist) need to reorganize and perhaps:

1.  Accept the moral burdens the war has brought us.

2.  Develop a vigorous intellectual debate that has the depth and moral courage to provide an alternative to the current administration’s (and I would say thinkers like Fukuyama) advocacy of the war, military force, and agressive action.

3.  Use that debate as a platform to confront the totalitarian regime in Iran (for example)…thus not leaving only us with Bush-style axis-of-evil rhetoric and the unwise and unnecessary use of force as too easy an option.

It’d be a lot better than a lot of the debate we have going now.

More on Berman and how he fits into the Islamic debate in Europe here in World Affairs.

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