Repost-A Few Thoughts On Robert Bork’s “Slouching Towards Gomorrah”

Book here.

Bork argues that during the 1960’s, likely starting with the SDS, a form of liberalism took shape that promotes radical egalitarianism (social justice, equality of outcomes) and radical individualism (excessive freedom from the moral and legal doctrines which require an individual’s duty and which form the fabric of civil society).  This is the New Left.

Grounded in an utopian vision, fed in part by the affluence of the previous decades and the boredom and yearning of largely well-off youth, the New Left blossomed not merely into the anti-draft Vietnam protests across the nation’s universities, but into a movement that has forever altered American life in mostly negative ways for Bork(see Tom Wolfe’s Radical Chic: That Party At Lenny’s… for a rich account of the times).

Bork is quite explicit about the violence and threats of violence he witnessed, the barbarism on display, and the confused, tense years that unfolded (culminating in the Kent State debacle).  He was one of two conservative law professors at Yale during the late 1960’s and he argues that events have rarely been represented accurately as he saw them.   It is a personal account.

On Bork’s view, the New Left is still quite with us, for the New Left, to some extent, has morphed into the multi-cultural, diversity politicking, equality pursuing liberal left we’ve come to know and love.  How much equality is enough?  There’s never enough.  How free is the individual?  Well, he’s almost, if not totally, free.  But definitely free from “the patriarchy” and all those silly religious myths.  He’s also adrift, mostly engaged in self-gratification and mostly only able to articulate what he’s free from.  Hence, the radicalism of the New Left on Bork’s view.

I think Bork is at his best when he highlights how portions of the radical individualist project continue to seek meaning in life through collectivist political philosophy, politics, political ideology, gender equality, feminism etc (whereas I would think Bork finds this meaning, a deeper, wiser meaning, in Church doctrine, but the Natural Law folks have problems with him).   Bork even concedes that it may be something in the pursuit of liberty itself, as we do have liberty and equality defined in our Constitution, such as they are.   On this view, the seeds of its destruction lie within liberty and our founding documents to some extent.  Perhaps the old, classical liberalism (equality of opportunity, free markets, party of the working man) will eventually go soft and give way to more radical liberty, given due time.  This is what Bork, as a nearly lone conservative amongst older-school liberals, claims happened at Yale in 1967-69.

Bork also puts forth an originalist interpretation of the Constitution.  He makes the case that there are simply a lot of cultural elites legislating from the bench, using the Supreme Court as a means to the end of more diversity and equality-making, and that they’ve wandered far afield from the document itself (some background here, if you have a better link or better understanding, drop a line).  They court an ultimate danger of undermining themselves, cultivating radicalized people and setting themselves up as the only authority capable of interpreting and directing those people:

If the Constitution is law, then presumably its meaning, like that of all other law, is the meaning the lawmakers were understood to have intended.  If the Constitution is law, then presumably, like all other law, the meaning the lawmakers intended is as binding upon judges as it is upon legislatures and executives.  There is no other sense in which the Constitution can be what article VI proclaims it to be: “Law….” This means, of course, that a judge, no matter on what court he sits, may never create new constitutional rights or destroy old ones.  Any time he does so, he violates not only the limits to his own authority but, and for that reason, also violates the rights of the legislature and the people….the philosophy of original understanding is thus a necessary inference from the structure of government apparent on the face of the Constitution.

As to the legal aspects, I do know that Justices Clarence Thomas, William Rehnquist, and Antonin Scalia have been/were influenced by originalism to some extent.  Of course, like Bork, this makes them targets for attack by the opposition:

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I must say I find Bork refreshing reading when he helps to reveal the authoritarian (nay, totalitarian) impulses of the “personal is political” crowd.  It’s fun to have someone provide context when observing the tolerance crowd keep on doing intolerant things, yet piously and humourlessly demanding tolerance all the same (see what FIRE does in response at college campuses).  Many of these people actually do run our universities.

***As an aside, I think what’s happened at Slate magazine helps advance the theory.  While politically left, I like Slate when it can be a bit edgy, thoughtful, occasionally more of a haven for artists, writers, creative thinkers and iconoclasts (Christopher Hitchens was a good example).  As of this writing, I find a commitment to the shibboleths of the Left is the ruling order of the day (see the NY Times as well):  You have to toe the line with political correctness and gender and racial equality, and all that individual freedom has limits, obviously, and coalesces around regulated markets, trying to control the public square, and other Statist projects.  Such collectivism should make every individual stop and think about how they fit into such a framework.

Why, it’s almost enough to make a man yearn to live back in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

As for art, as T.S. Eliot points out, a first-rate poet can also chart a course back to church doctrine, though this blog believes art is best served when one points out the obvious problems that religion, politics, law, and polite society have with it.  Robert Bork quoting Yeats and Auden is interesting though potentially problematic, but Robert Bork quoting rap lyrics to show cultural decay is a little humourous, and probably just emboldens the opposition.

I think Bork is arguing that unless we stay religious to some extent, and recognize that truth can be revealed to us through the word of God as well as through reason, we will decline (and there are all sorts of declinists out there).

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

Related On This Site:  Charles Murray is trying to get virtue back with the social sciences: Charles Murray At The New Criterion: ‘Belmont & Fishtown’…Can you maintain the virtues of religion without the church…of England?:  From The City Journal: Roger Scruton On “Forgiveness And Irony”…

What about black people held in bondage by the laws..the liberation theology of Rev Wright…the progressive vision and the folks over at the Nation gathered piously around John Brown’s body?: Milton Friedman Via Youtube: ‘Responsibility To The Poor’……Robert George And Cornel West At Bloggingheads: “The Scandal Of The Cross”

How does Natural Law Philosophy deal with these problems, and those of knowledge?

Richard Rorty tried to tie postmodernism and trendy leftist solidarity to liberalism:  Repost: Another Take On J.S. Mill From “Liberal England”

Catholic libertarianism: Youtube Via Reason TV-Judge Napolitano ‘Why Taxation is Theft, Abortion is Murder, & Government is Dangerous’

I’m not sure I’ve understand him properly:  Harry Jaffa At The Claremont Institute: ‘Leo Strauss, the Bible, and Political Philosophy’Via An Emailer: Some Criticism Of Leo Strauss? From Wikipedia’s Page On Leo Strauss: A Few Quotes:

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Ilya Somin At Volokh: ‘Of Silver Linings And Clouds’

Full post here.

‘Obviously, losing the mandate case was a significant setback. But if we had to lose at all, better this way than almost any other. Whether the positive effects of the decision predominate over the negative ones in the long run remains to be seen. It depends on future events such as the identity of the next few Supreme Court appointments, and whether or not Obama’s health care law can be repealed or modified’

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A Few Health Care Links: “The Individual Mandate Survives As A Tax”

Reason has some links.

Althouse.

National Journal.

Washington Post.

It seems the individual mandate will now be a tax, while the law will mostly stand as it was passed and signed for now.

I still don’t see how we afford another unfunded liability, and how we insure 30 million with a good budget in mind.  People who work for bureaucracies often have incentives to avoid innovation, avoid hard decisions, protect their own, and always meet the budget regardless of performance (among other things).   We will be placing serious restrictions (through the tax) on many people’s freedom, in order to redistribute their tax money to others, while this tax money is funneled through a few (of course what goes on in health insurance companies isn’t lovely, and similar in many ways, but this the ACA is likely a worse evil because there are fewer alternatives, if any).  This will likely increase the size and scope of government a good deal in America, and dramatically change the nature of the social contract.  I’d like to think I’m consistently worried about to whom we’re giving power, why, and how such ideas will end up working in practice.

There will obviously be some winners though, and some benefits.  The “ideal” and more fair, just society however, will remain forever out of view on the horizon…a promise on the lips of those with skin in the game.

My two cents, as it remains to be seen how this will all play out.

Update: The Roberts long-view theory, more here from Paul Rahe, or just the Supreme Court staying out of politics.

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’From AEI: ‘Study: ‘Obama Healthcare Reform Raising Costs, Forcing Workers Out Of Existing Plans’

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From Thirty Two Via Althouse: ‘The Fall Of The Creative Class’

Full piece here.

Thirty Two is a Minneapolis based publication, where our author ended up after looking for “the creative class,” which has to do with Richard Florida’s economic theory:

‘When I asked if he could show me a city that had had mea­sur­able eco­nomic growth as a result of an influx of cre­ative indi­vid­u­als, Florida said there was “wide con­sen­sus” that migra­tion of cre­ative indi­vid­u­als had taken place, and named some places like Wash­ing­ton DC, greater Boston, greater NY, and greater San Francisco.’

Putting the cart before the horse?  Here’s a previous quote from Florida:

“I grew up in that culture. My father worked his entire life in a factory. I spent my high-school summers doing factory work. Sexism and racism ran rampant. Fights were almost every day occurrences: Working class disagreements almost always end in them.”

A creative, non-sexist, non-racist, non-classist future awaits.  There will be lots of community gardens and bike paths, I imagine.  Brooklyn doesn’t need Wall Street!

Addition:  Apparently, some people still don’t recognize attempts at irony.

Related On This Site:  Cities should be magnets for creativity and culture? –From The Atlantic: Richard Florida On The Decline Of The Blue-Collar ManFrom Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit’… some people don’t want you to have the economic freedom to live in the suburbs: From Foreign Policy: ‘Urban Legends, Why Suburbs, Not Cities, Are The Answer’

It’s the 60’s, don’t you know.  The Arts can also be united with a Left-of-Center political philosophy as they are at NPR for popular consumption…after going mainstream.  On this site, see: From ReasonTV Via Youtube: ‘Ken Burns on PBS Funding, Being a “Yellow-Dog Democrat,” & Missing Walter Cronkite’Repost-From NPR: Grants To The NEA To Stimulate The Economy?

Well, art doesn’t need to be in service of a socialist vision, but it can:  Via Reason: ‘Salvador Allende’s Cybersocialist Command Center’

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What if you’re economy’s already depressed?  Don’t make a maze of laws and build stadiums and museums on the public dime…get new industry: From Reason: ‘Reason Saves Cleveland With Drew Carey’…Reason also suggests that if such creative/entrepenurial spirit gets off the ground, it will have to get around the public sector in Detroit.  From Reason Via Youtube: ‘Is Harrisburg’s Nightmare America’s Future?’

 
Is the same definition of ‘community’ connected with one that can stifle economic growth through political means?: Roger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?
 
 
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Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘NYT, WaPo Get It Mostly Right on Egypt, Libya’

Full piece here.

‘As regards Egypt, both the New York Times’ and the Washington Post’s main stories corroborated and detailed the gist of what I have been saying over the past week or two: the military is negotiating the results of the presidential election. It is trying to work a deal in a situation where it holds most, but not all, of the leverage.’

and:

‘The way things stand now, Morsi is supreme over the façade of the Egyptian state, but the SCAF rules the “deep state.” This resembles in some ways the situation in Turkey from the mid-1920s all the way into the 1990s (not that Egyptians deliberately modeled the current mess after the Turkish experience). Thus arrangements like this can last a long time—or not. Time will tell’

And as Garfinkle points out, the U.S. has almost zero say in what happens.  A previous post on here was perhaps giving the Muslim Brotherhood (out of fear of dealing with a Brotherhood led Egypt) too much credit.  Perhaps also the leading edge of Western involvement to change Egypt (however much it could) was a more liberal internationalist, coalition-based, often hopelessly protest-based vision of liberal democracy coming to Egypt.  This will validate, for some, such an approach (the Arab Spring worked!…the Arab world has tilted toward greater freedom and human rights) come what may.

Related On This Site:   From Al Jazeera English: ‘Morsi Wins Egypt’s Presidential Election’Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest on Egypt: ‘Still More of the Same—and Something New’

Via Youtube: ‘The Challenges Of Getting To Mars: Selecting A Landing Site

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How was Gale Crater chosen?  Thanks to a reader for the link.

Related On This Site:   Via The Mars Science Laboratory At NASA: ”Mount Sharp’ On Mars Links Geology’s Past And Future’

NASA Via Youtube: ‘The Martians: Launching Curiosity To Mars’NASA Via Youtube: ‘Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity Rover) Mission AnimationRepost: Richard Feynman at NASARepost: Via Youtube: ‘Homemade Spacecraft-Space Balloon’Via Hulu: NASA Mission To The Moon And Mars..

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From Al Jazeera English: ‘Morsi Wins Egypt’s Presidential Election’

Full piece here.

The election is called, 51.7% in favor of Mohammed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate over Ahmed Shafik, a former Mubarak general with 48.3%.   How much power the office of the president will have, and how much the Army allows it to have will be hashed out in the coming months and years, with a lot of tension and mistrust.  It remains to be seen how flexible either side will be.

In Egypt, there is grinding poverty, and many people have lived under an Army controlled State bureaucracy, with entrenched interests dependent on foreign aid and running high levels of corruption, for generations.   The Mubarak regime ran this bureaucracy often brutally (especially in its prisons), and mostly succeeded in preventing the formation of  many competing interests and forms of political organization.  It is still strongly entrenched.

The Muslim Brotherhood is the next best well-organized entity in Egypt, and its connections are deep across the region.  The Brotherhood is increasingly capable of playing a longer game, and some of those connections should be worrying to Western interests, especially regarding the Israelis, the Suez canal, and where Brotherhood leaders can reasonably be expected to be in front of their people, especially given the sticking point of Palestine.  It should be noted however, that by accounts, they have fairly won the election.

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Here’s a quote from Henry Kissinger during the Cold War years. (I should point out that his analysis is aimed more specifically, but not exclusively, at Communist revolutions, emerging from Marxist/Communist doctrine and their assumed certainty of historical and dialectical progress.  It assumes the ideological revolutionaries are the ones creating the bureaucratic structures.  In Egypt at the moment, the bureaucracy may be seen by some as an enemy rather than a prize):

‘But once a revolution becomes institutionalized, the administrative structures which it has spawned develop their own vested interests.  Ideology may grown less significant in creating commitment; it becomes pervasive in supplying criteria of administrative choice.  Ideologies prevail by being taken for granted.’

One likely U.S. response is to maintain aid to Egypt, in order to maintain stability of the bureaucratic structure and encourage as gradual a transition with as little true revolution as possible if it is to be the Brotherhood gaining increasing control, while watching events closely.

There are other interests in Egypt, of course, a smaller, educated, wealthier class that drove much of the change, but they will not necessarily have the ideological unity, political support nor organization capable of meeting many of the people and energies that have been unleashed (nor perhaps, before they were unleashed).  A Western-style, Western hoped-for democratic revolution was not/is not likely given the conditions on the ground in Egypt.  In the next U.S. elections, there is possibility of a backlash against a more liberal internationalist foreign policy doctrine.

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

Addition:  Walter Russell Mead says the Army and the establishment have nearly total control over the process.

Michael Totten pretty much agrees.

Related On This Site:  Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest on Egypt: ‘Still More of the Same—and Something New’

From Abu Muqawama: ‘Mubarak And Me’From Michael Totten: ‘The New Egyptian Underground’Michael Totten At The American Interest: “A Leaner, Meaner Brotherhood”

Francis Fukuyama At The American Interest Online: ‘Political Order in Egypt’

Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest: ‘Mubaraks, Mamelukes, Modernizers and Muslims’……James Kirchik At The American Interest: ‘Egyptian Liberals Against the Revolution’

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