Our author speculates who would go Nazi in a room full of people at a dinner party. Continuing on a recent theme around here and in society more broadly:
‘Kind, good, happy, gentlemanly, secure people never go Nazi. They may be the gentle philosopher whose name is in the Blue Book, or Bill from City College to whom democracy gave a chance to design airplanes–you’ll never make Nazis out of them. But the frustrated and humiliated intellectual, the rich and scared speculator, the spoiled son, the labor tyrant, the fellow who has achieved success by smelling out the wind of success–they would all go Nazi in a crisis.’
‘Ramadan in no way condones or approves of these murders, but his response still falls short. Ramadan sees no anti-Semitic executioner here, only an oppressed soul driven inexorably by unfair social forces to murder others — most of whom, irrelevantly, happened to be Jews.’
Well, the European Left, multiculturalism, and moral relativism don’t require it of him and neither do the Muslim world nor the Muslim brotherhood (he bridges the two worlds), so why should he?
‘Europe and France should either have kept the immigrants out or welcomed them in as they prepared a place for them. They did neither, and the payback will hurt.’
Very high unemployment, poor living conditions, high birth rates, cultural exclusion into ghettoes and fewer opportunities to really be French (or German, or British) leave men like Merah in no man’s land (and he is by all means accountable for his actions). A few, like Merah, choose this cowardly path.
Smaller, more regulated and indebted economies, low birth-rates, more culturally homogenous societies united under a technocracy and anti-nationalist post World War II governance (which is understandable and has good reasons but which stuffs nationalist impulses into the shadows, sometimes unreasonably and makes them self-righteous and inflamed) could likely make Europeans face some uncomfortable choices regarding its Muslim immigrants.
And some folks in America want to have a similar set of principles be the highest things around over here.
“Nigel: Has relativism had its day as an influential philosophical position?
Simon: No – and I don’t think it should ever die. The danger is that it gets replaced by some kind of complacent dogmatism, which is at least equally unhealthy. The Greek sceptics thought that confronting a plurality of perspectives is the beginning of wisdom, and I think they were right. It is certainly the beginning of historiography and anthropology, and if we think, for instance, of the Copernican revolution, of self-conscious science. The trick is to benefit from an imaginative awareness of diversity, without falling into a kind of “anything goes” wishy-washy nihilism or scepticism….”
It looks like we’ve been dealing with such a problem for a long time, in one form or another.
Click through for the arguments against the Patient Protection And Affordable Care Act, the Individual Mandate, and legal arguments against Obamacare (libertarians are leading the charge).
In the discussions I’ve had, if someone believes the idea that health-care is a right and not a commodity (some people argue that it is privilege, morally, but I’ll stick to a commodity, as with a commodity you get what you pay for in a world of limited resources), then they are usually supportive of the Law.
If upheld, I believe we would be inviting the government into our lives in a way we haven’t before, granting it the power to tax and penalize us for our very health itself (few things are more important). Because few things are more important, and because so many people do not have access to health care, or do have access but we are providing it to them inefficiently, or because some people abuse the care provided and do not have the ability to manage their lives accordingly, or because health-insurance companies are making end-of-life decisions sometimes based on the bottom line and the profit motive (which is what would happen under the new Law), because we’ve tied health-care to employment, or because costs are rising rapidly for all due in part to technology, longevity, and prescription drugs (all of which would become less available long-term under the law)…the supporters of this Law are willing to overlook the power granted to one group of people (their favored political and ideological interests) over other interests left to pick up the costs.
For many of them, the concept of a right is universal enough to enshrine their thinking into law, and the Affordable Care Act, passed as it is, will do. In digging, I sometimes find much ire against their political and ideological enemies rather than Nature herself, sickness and disease, the natural inequality of human gifts and abilities, and the unequal outcomes we allow in our society. They want the social contract to mean something quite different.
Of course, the idea that the Act won’t lead to greater fiscal insolvency and massive deficits, at a time when two other entitlement programs are increasingly insolvent, is a non-starter. It won’t.
The American Interest has a breakdown of the Supreme Court’s schedule here.
Addition: Richard Epstein has more here. More good coverage here. Price controls will drive insurers to compete to provide worst care for the sick, and destabilize health insurance markets by taking away the means insurance companies use to stay afloat.
The Upper West Side wants to limit store frontage to prevent big commercial businesses from ruining the character of the neighborhood. Epstein has focused particularly on land use in the past:
‘I begin with a cautionary note. It is too easy to treat “neighborhood character” as a loose and sentimental notion that should be excluded from urban planning deliberations. To do so would be to ignore what everyone knows: that the character of our surroundings makes a huge difference in how we live and organize our lives. The proper integration of public and private spaces is something people expect in deciding where to live and work. There is no question that private developers think about how to integrate aesthetics, access, and use into a harmonious whole; they know these amenities drive both the desirability and price of the units that they wish to sell. Ample evidence suggests that character also matters a great deal in public spaces.
But to stop there leaves the story incomplete, for it fails to address two questions: Will regulations, such as the ones discussed above, improve the “streetscape character,” as its supporters claim? If so, will it do so at an acceptable cost to all of the individuals and businesses that bear the brunt of the proposal?’
A pretty thorough analysis of likely consequences, especially for business owners and landlords and their limited legal recourse.
Hoffer was a man deeply suspicious of top-down organization and intellectuals running things, yet he is a man deeply curious and taken with ideas: He strikes this blog as something of an anti-intellectual’s intellectual. He worked as a longshoreman for much of his life in San Francisco and was not formally educated, but read many of the great books. In the video he discusses how he thought he was observing a change from an interest in business to an interest in ideas in American culture and society in the 1960’s, among other things.
‘Hoffer said: “The less justified a man is in claiming excellence for his own self, the more ready he is to claim all excellence for his nation, his religion, his race or his holy cause.”
People who are fulfilled in their own lives and careers are not the ones attracted to mass movements: “A man is likely to mind his own business when it is worth minding,” Hoffer said. “When it is not, he takes his mind off his own meaningless affairs by minding other people’s business.”
What Hoffer was describing was the political busybody, the zealot for a cause — the “true believer,” who filled the ranks of ideological movements that created the totalitarian tyrannies of the 20th century.’
‘The system, designed by British cybernetician Stafford Beer, was supposed to allow powerful men to make decisions about production, labor, and transport in real time using up-to-the-minute economic information provided directly by workers on the factory floors of dozens of newly nationalized companies’
A shag carpet probably would have been out of place, but I like the white pod chairs (Captain Kirk to the bridge for fuel price re-allocations).
‘In fact, the network that fed the system was little more than a series of jury-rigged Telex machines with human operators, transmitting only the simplest data, which were slapped onto old-style Kodak slides—again, by humans. The controls on the chairs merely allowed the operator to advance to the next slide’
In working towards a theme, check out Buzludzha, the abandoned communist monument in Bulgaria’s Balkan mountains, which still draws up to 50,000 Bulgarian Socialists for a yearly pilgrimage. Human Planet’s Timothy Allen visited the structure in the snow and took some haunting photos. You will think you’ve stepped into a Bond film and one of Blofeld’s modernist lairs, but with somewhat Eastern Orthodox tile frescos of Lenin and Marx gazing out at you, abandoned to time, the elements and to nature.
Continuing towards that theme, here are two quotes from a recent Harvey Mansfield review of Steven Bilakovics new book, which could possibly help explain how, say, the Chrysler building and St. Patrick’s Cathedral have become two of New York’s most iconic buildings (hint: we’re not a socialist society):
Tocqueville almost uses the above phrase in a chapter on “why American writers and orators are often bombastic.” He says that there is “nothing in-between,” or more literally, “the intermediate space is empty,” implying that there might have been something there. In democratic societies, each citizen is habitually occupied in the contemplation of a very small object: himself. If he raises his eyes, he sees only the “immense object of society” or even the whole human race. If he leaves his normal concerns, he expects it to be for something indefinitely vast instead of something definite and greater than himself.”
Artists have a particularly tough time in America, because they’re often particularly alone in America. Ezra Pound and T.S Eliot abandoned the place completely, and many aspiring artists get their training in Europe. This blog believes Wallace Stevens to especially be representative of this dilemma (he never left). He was an insurance executive by day and perhaps one of America’s best poets; a romantic, a modernist, as well as a man who possibly had a deathbed conversion to Christianity: From The NY Times Via A & L Daily: Helen Vendler On Wallace Stevens ‘The Plain Sense Of Things’
On this view, being the good democratic citizens that we are, we reject the aristocratic elements from gaining too much traction, and thus do not create the vine-ripened literary, artistic, and cultural traditions that can make good artists into what they become, and what makes European cities, novels, poets, museums, and Europeans themselves something of what they are (a broad brush, I know).
Some of these same folks see religion (the Puritan roots especially) as a restrictive, repressive force that needs to be overcome in order for freedom, free artistic expression and individual autonomy to flourish (I believe this is a driving tension in Hollywood). There’s some truth to this, because I believe religion and politics, and even philosophy itself, have troubled relationships with art.
Mansfield goes on:
‘The theorists of materialism tell us that the long term will take care of itself so long as we do not obstruct materialism in the short run in our everyday lives. With a view to supporting political liberty, Tocqueville wants to limit everyday materialism and to concern us with a long-term goal, such as improving our immortal souls. This is why he fears for the state of democratic souls and speaks so strongly, if not fervently, in favor of religion. This is also why he showed such disgust for socialism.’
Perhaps we can keep it simpler, and not get taken with grand theories, or at least socialist ones anyways:
Mansfield reviews a new book by Steven Bilakovics:
‘Steven Bilakovics has written a promising first book that will give concern to all who reflect on democracy today. It begins from the simple observation that although everybody loves democracy, everybody is disgusted by democratic politics. Yet what is democracy if not the rule, the politics, of the people? ‘
And he argues that Bilakovics doesn’t get Tocqueville quite right, as Tocqueville’s central insight is more about democracy vs. aristocracy rather than materialism vs. idealism:
‘Bilakovics has written a thoughtful book, nicely argued, and with elegant formulations one can admire and insights one can learn from. But it is not Tocqueville; it is something looser, more “open.” A defense of openness is not as open as the openness it defends, especially a good one like this, because it must contend intelligibly with arguments, such as Allan Bloom’s, in favor of reasonable limits upon openness. Somehow a reasoner ought to take the side of reason. I leave this thought, with a salute, to the author, and to Claude Lefort and Sheldon Wolin, who still deserve more attention than they get’
Bryan Magee’s series available on youbtube is useful: 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…
You also need young, usually healthy people (usually without much money) to pay into the system to subsidize the old, the sick and the poor. Right now, 2.5 million of those young people have been added to their parents’ plans for a longer period of time, but eventually they will be siphoned in. I believe one of the primary goals of the Affordable Care Act is to fundamentally change the relationship between nearly every American and their government, bending it more toward the progressive political and moral vision of “shared sacrifice” and collectivist principles of organization which require another entitlement program which won’t ever pay for itself. This is nothing new.
Some will get access to health care who didn’t have access before, and others will pay for them. Some insurance companies will gain a lot of new customers (but they must play the game right and tithe the overseers and check the political winds more than they do now). Some reasons for rising healthcare costs will be addressed (longer life spans, technology and prescription drugs) and many other won’t, and new ones will pop up.
The people who make decisions though, and where the money comes from, and where it goes, and what principles govern our politics and lives, our health, health care, and health insurance will change drastically.
‘Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people”:
First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration.
Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.
The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization’
“The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups.”
“The first requisite of a sound monetary system is that it put the least possible power over the quantity or quality of money in the hands of the politicians.”