From The Spiked Review of Books: ‘Rescuing The Enlightentment From Its Exploiters‘
‘While the Enlightenment, ‘one of the most important shifts in the history of man’ as one recent account put it, has certainly had its detractors, who blame it for anything from the Holocaust to soulless consumerism, it now also has a veritable army of self-styled heirs. Militant secularists, New Atheists, advocates of evidence-based policy, human rights champions… each constituency in their turn will draw justification from the intellectual emanations of that period beginning roughly towards the end of the seventeenth century and culminating – some say ending – in the 1789 French Revolution and its aftermath. And each in their turn will betray it.‘
If you turn all your hopes to the salvation of (M)ankind or (H)umanity, while dealing with the same old human nature, you’re bound to run into problems.
It’s not merely doing Social Science, per se, but taking the benighted walk from Ivory Tower to Senate Hearing which probably animates many passions.
One criticism I’ve found useful (but about whose postmodern roots I do worry): Ignore those violent anarchists and anti-fascists, they’re doing the work of (M)an.
Clive James revisits many quite original, quite accomplished works of Joseph Conrad.
‘They are, in fact, idealists: and idealism is a cast of mind that Conrad questions even more than he questions radicalism. The logical end of radicalism, in his view, is terrorism; but idealism is the mental aberration that allows terrorism to be brought about. Conrad’s originality was to see that a new tyranny could be generated by people who thought that their rebellion against the old tyranny was rational. Thus his writings seem prescient about what was to happen in the Soviet Union. He didn’t predict the Nazi tyranny because he had underestimated the power of the irrational to organise itself into a state. But then, nobody predicted that except its perpetrators; and anyway, mere prediction was not his business. His business was the psychological analysis made possible by an acute historical awareness. Under Western Eyes is valuable not because it came true but because it rang true even at the time, only now we can better hear the deep, sad note.’
Jerry Pournelle’s (R.I.P.) Iron Law of Bureaucracy:
‘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.’
From friesian.com, the Practical Rules of Bureaucracy. Within Governmental and Corporate Bureaucracies, responsiveness and competence are not what you necessarily get.
- Spend Your Budget
- Fail: ‘Screw up, move up’
- Cover Your Ass
- Replace Useful Work with Useless Work
- Multiply Procedures and Paperwork
- Pass the Buck
- Join the Union
- Jerk People Around
- Preserve Your Anonymity
Thomas Sowell used to work in Chelsea, apparently, for Western Union. He’d sometimes take the 5th avenue bus back up to Harlem, on 5th Avenue for a while, and wonder why there was such inequality from neighborhood to neighborhood.
Marxism seemed like a good explanation while he was in his 20’s.
During that time he went to work for the Department Of Agriculture in D.C. He discovered that in thinking of empirical tests designed to measure if the Departments’ own policies were working and solving the actual problems they claimed to solve, such thinking about results over intentions were…..not welcomed.
“The purpose of bureaucracy is to devise a standard operating procedure which can cope effectively with most problems. A bureaucracy is efficient if the matters which it handles routinely are, in fact, the most frequent and if its procedures are relevant to their solution. If those criteria are met, the energies of the top leadership are freed to deal creatively with the unexpected occurrence or with the need for innovation. Bureaucracy becomes an obstacle when what it defines as routine does not address the most significant range of issues or when its prescribed mode of action proves irrelevant to the problem.”
“Moreover, the reputation, indeed the political survival, of most leaders depends on their ability to realize their goals, however these may have been arrived at. Whether these goals are desireable is relatively less crucial.”
Kissinger, Henry. American Foreign Policy: Three Essays. New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc. 1969.
***Bonus-One of the ‘-Isms’ we’re bound to get is ‘Safety-ism,’ which seems to run as follows:
‘This poor class/group of people is oppressed by the ‘system.’ It’s ‘systems’ all the way down. These oppressed peoples are good-hearted and will be welcomed into our political vision of Democracy, Equality and Peace‘
Wait….what? There’s still rape, robbery, gangs and murder? Impossible!
Defund the police and get the budget for another 10,000 street cameras and activity monitoring online. We’ll have another hearing…:‘