From The New Criterion: ‘Solzhenitsyn’s Cathedrals’

Thanks, reader:

‘Like Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Gulag is literary without being fictional. Indeed, part of its value lies in its bringing to life the real stories of so many ordinary people. When I first began to read it, I feared that a long list of outrages would rapidly prove boring, but to my surprise I could not put the book down.’

and:

‘One lesson of Gulag is that we are all capable of evil, just as Solzhenitsyn himself was. The world is not divided into good people like ourselves and evil people who think differently. “If only it were so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

I believe within the Western canon (traditions, laws, works of art, literature, moral philosophy etc.) there is enough knowledge, experience, and wisdom to light the way.

Take heart, but watch out for yourselves.

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.New liberty away from Hobbes?: From Public Reason: A Discussion Of Gerald Gaus’s Book ‘The Order of Public Reason: A Theory of Freedom And Morality In A Diverse And Bounded World’…Richard Rorty tried to tie postmodernism and trendy leftist solidarity to liberalism, but wasn’t exactly classically liberal:  Repost: Another Take On J.S. Mill From “Liberal England”

Repost: Where The Libertarian And Conservative Often Part Ways-Arnold Kling On Ken Minogue’s ‘The Servile Mind’

Arnold Kling reviews the late Kenneth Minogue’sThe Servile Mind: How Democracy Erodes The Moral Life,‘ and finishes with:

‘Overall, I would say that for libertarians Minogue’s book provides a litmus test. If you find yourself in vigorous agreement with everything he says, then you probably see no value in efforts to work with progressives to promote libertarian causes. The left is simply too dedicated to projects that Minogue argues undermine individual moral responsibility, and thus they are antithetical to liberty. On the other hand, if you believe that Minogue is too pessimistic about the outlook for freedom in today’s society and too traditional in his outlook on moral responsibility, then you would feel even more uneasy about an alliance with conservatives than about an alliance with progressives.’

About that last part, most libertarians tend to draw a ring around the individual and proceed accordingly, seeing unnecessary authoritarianism and systems of authority on both political Left and Right.  I suspect most libertarians see this as some kind of moral failure or undue pessimism on the part of non-libertarian thinkers:  Such thinkers are unwarranted in assuming something so deeply flawed about human nature.  I mean, we’re not that bad.  Most people can handle the freedom to make their own choices most of the time.  Or at least, as many people as possible must be free to make their own mistakes and learn (or not) from them without such authority restricting voluntary choices.

Free-minds and free-markets are enough for many libertarians, while Minogue might see more flawed stuff:  The desire to know one’s place in a hierarchy, the desire to define what one is by what one is not (it, them, they), the deep desire for security and regularity in daily life.

For my part, I tend to align with libertarians on a host of issues, especially against the Western Left, who, in my experience, can usually be found attacking and tearing-down traditional institutions (marriage, family, rule of law) and the obligations and duties they require of individuals (fidelity, working mostly for children & family, military service/jury duty).  Such institutions and duties are seen as oppressive and morally illegitimate by the committed Leftist; worth protesting in peaceful, or overthrowing, in violent and radical fashion.

I often find myself asking the same old questions, with a contrarian spirit and from a position of deeper skepticism: With what are such institutions and duties to be replaced, exactly?  How do you know your beliefs are true beliefs and accurate descriptions of the world?

Any injustice, unfairness, or genuine victim in Life is immediately requiring of moral concern and action by the Leftist.  The injustice is identified, the cause amplified, and the victim placed into the ideologically preordained category, mobilizing individuals (temporarily recognized as such) for collective action on the road to presumed achievable ideal outcomes.  You’ve probably heard it all before: Equality, Freedom, Peace are next…for ALL humanity as though any one person speaks for ALL of humanity.

Of course, mention the monstrous totalitarianism of Communist and revolutionary regimes (Soviet, North Korean, Cuban, Vietnamese, Venezuelan), for example, and you’re some kind of extremist.  Point-out the many failures, injustices, and genuine victims of many rationalist economic policies and laws, or the potential logical inconsistencies found in much liberal and Western secular humanism (or any system, for that matter), and prepare to meet uncomfortable silence, scorn and derision.

Or worse.


Yet, a question rather simply and plainly presents itself: What to conserve?

The religious Right (universal claims to transcendent truth and earthly service found within God’s Plan, Family and Church) have plenty of well-documented and serious problems.  There’s an inherent assumption that Man’s nature is so flawed as to require constant adherence to God’s laws.  The universality and necessary enforcement of those laws must be undertaken and necessarily lead to redeemable suffering, some injustice and unfairness of their own.

If you fall outside this plan, prepare to eventually join the cause, or be damned.

In fact, there has been no shortage of short and long wars, schisms and all-too-earthly conflict.  Earthly authority easily degenerates into petty and ruthless competition and abuse.  The suffocation of truth and attack upon dissenters with different claims to knowledge are not rarities, and the inherent dullness and conformity of some devout believers comes as no surprise (often organizing against free-thinkers, naturalists, and opposing religious doctrines).

Here’s another review of Minogue’s book which compares The Servile Mind favorably to Thomas Sowell’s ‘A Conflict Of Visions

‘His definitions of the right and left partner well with Sowell’s analysis.  In shortened form, Minogue’s name for the right is conservatism.  He defines conservatism as caution in changing the structure of society based on an understanding that all change is likely to have unintended consequences.  He calls the left radicalism, which covers most ambitious projects for changing the basic structure of state and society.  Radicalism encompasses Fascism and Communism, popularly thought to be at opposite ends of the political spectrum, but understood by almost everyone as despotic.  Radicalism views man as malleable.’

As previously posted, here’s Minogue on liberation theology, feminism, and other radical discontents.  Rarely are ideas presented so clearly and well:

Here’s Thomas Sowell on his own thought, once a youthful and briefly committed Marxist (the kind of injustice American slavery imparted upon the mind, body and soul often led to radicalism of one kind or another).  He ended up in a very different place:

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Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

Also On This Site: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”Thomas Sowell at The National Review: ‘The Inconvenient Truth About Ghetto Communities’ Social Breakdown:’

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

Fred Siegel On The German Influence And Kelley Ross On Some Of Roger Scruton’s Thinking

Some Sunday Links & Quotations-More Ballast Against The Pursuit of Liberal Ideals

From Quillette- ‘A Noble Savage Speaks Up:

‘Not only because love is not an elastic band but also because, to be fair, the rest of the world doesn’t reciprocate. If they do, they are often too ashamed to say so in public and those who do overcome this shame end up risking death. What’s more, even though the secular religion of egalitarian love demands that the people of the West love everyone—absolutely everyone—an exception is made when it comes to loving their own selves.’

There are many Western, post-Enlightenment, humanistic ideals currently traded as currency in polite society; held aloft within institutions of education while driving much policy-making.

Some have roots within revolutionary and failed theories of history, susceptible to the demands of old and new radicals re-enacting the same old hatreds and ideological dead-ends (constantly seizing upon genuine and profound truths, injustices and inequalities).

Left-radicals still probably currently pose the biggest threats to speech:

Other ideals suffer from what I consider to be insufficiently low barriers to entry and potentially high individual and institutional liberty costs due to their idealistic character and utopian tendencies (what I call the ‘-Isms’). Lots of bad design and authoritarian consequences can easily result.

In dreams begins responsibility:

‘Their [realists’] concern is that utopian aspirations towards a new peaceful world order will simply absolutize conflicts and make them more intractable. National interests are in some degree negotiable; rights, in principle, are not. International organizations such as the United Nations have not been conspicuously successful in bringing peace, and it is likely that the states of the world would become extremely nervous of any move to give the UN the overwhelming power needed to do this.

Ken Minogue, found here, passed along by a reader.

William F. Buckley And Kenneth Minogue Discuss IdeologyKenneth Minogue At The New Criterion: ‘The Self-Interested Society’

Many idealists demand and produce change, claiming universal truth and benefits to all, but they can easily get the problems of human nature and the possibility of objective knowledge wrong.

Most people rarely like discussing the costs of the change they’ve driven:

If you’ve ever had a follower of ‘peace’ threaten you with violence, you’ll know what I mean.

From the Stanford Encyclopedia’s Page on Michael Oakeshott:

‘The fallacy of Rationalism, in other words, is that the knowledge it identifies as rational is itself the product of experience and judgment. It consists of rules, methods, or techniques abstracted from practice, tools that, far from being substitutes for experience and judgment, cannot be effectively used in the absence of experience and judgment.’

Democratic institutions are rather fragile, alas, easily manipulable, and open to corruption and ‘tyranny of the majority’ scenarios in a Constitutional Republic such as ours.

‘The pedigree of every political ideology shows it to be the creature, not of premeditation in advance of political activity, but meditation upon a manner of politics. In short, politics comes first and a political ideology follows after;…’

Oakeshott, Michael.  Political Education. Bowes & Bowes, 1951. Print.

So, below, might we have a return to the People, Nature, and The Romantic Poet upon the hillside?

Alas, maybe it’s just another modern spin-cycle of mysticism, pseudo-science and a movement potentially as anti-scientific as anti-vaxxers, anti-humanists and the postmodern nihilists etc:

Who’s looking after the arts and sciences and also seeking broader and deeper understanding of that for which we ought to be grateful?:

 

Some Links On The Move Towards Kurdish Independence

Via Mick Hartley via the NY Times: ‘Israel Endorsed Kurdish Independence. Saladin Would Be Proud

‘Ties between the two have only grown warmer and more vital since the 1960s, as Israel and the Kurds — both minorities in an inhospitable region and ever in need of international allies — have repeatedly come to each other’s aid. The Kurds have long patterned their lobbying efforts in Washington on those of Israel’s supporters.’

On the realist vision, there are no true friends, rather alliances, common interests and threats; vectors of forces.  There’s situational logic, and there are very real abstractions which matter (the character of a people, the ideas and core principles which guide them, the leaders that rise to power which can’t be too far in front of the coalitions which got them there…should they be elected).

There are also shared experiences, suffering, sentiment and sacrifices.

Relationships matter.

When the cold winds blow, however, you just may find yourself standing alone.

When survival is at stake, and war a necessity, urgency and expediency come to the fore, as does courage in battle, and cool under fire.

Not only does the Cold War and the backdrop of Russian/American power games still influence this region heavily, but the very split deep within the West itself does as well:  There are Communist Kurdish militias, and there are Kurdish nationalist militias appealing to American patriotism, Constitutional Republicanism, and the liberation of peoples oppressed under unwanted authority.

As posted:

Ofra Bengio At The American Interest: The Kurds’ Proxy Trap

Independent Kurdistan-A Good Outcome For American Interests?

In his book Where The West Ends, Totten describes visiting Northern Iraq briefly as a tourist with a friend, and the general feeling of pro-Americanism in Kurdish Northern Iraq that generally one can only feel in Poland, parts of the former Yugoslavia etc.

Related On This Site: Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest’s Via Media: “The Rise Of Independent Kurdistan?”From Reuters: ‘Analysis: Syrian Kurds Sense Freedom, Power Struggle Awaits’

Update & Repost-Jack Shakely At The Los Angeles Review Of Books Reviews Ken Stern’s ‘With Charity For All’

Full review here.

Shakely on Stern:

‘Ken Stern knows an awful lot about nonprofits, having spent the better part of a decade as chief operating officer, then president of NPR, one of the best-known, and controversial, nonprofits in America.’

Charity has limits.  Just as a wealthy, hard-working adult will certainly insulate his children from many of life’s difficulties, the lessons of hard-work that allowed for the creation of the charity can easily be lost from one generation to the next, as new-blood comes in.

One such limit, in my experience, is that most human beings are subtly and profoundly affected by the language we speak, the company we keep, and the institutions of which we are a part. As long as we’re alive, and open to new input and experiences, this is going on, often unbeknownst to our conscious minds.

Over time, institutions with such broadly defined and idealized mission statements as charities and non-profits can founder upon their own designs.  They can tend less towards divergent viewpoints and real-world experiences, and more towards shared beliefs and ideological purity.  They can become soft, resistant to change, and poorly incentivized.  They can become reefs of bureaucratic group-think although not due to any particularly malevolent design.

Idealists, after all, often self-select into charity work.

Into this breach, unfortunately, can enter the loudest voices and most passionate and committed ideologues. If you’re letting bad actors in (closed and righteous minds, narrowly focused), the clock is likely ticking before those bad actors either must be rebuffed, challenged or simply kicked-out of your organization.

How people are acting now is often a good indicator of how they’ll act in the future.

This blog likes to keep an eye on NPR, as they’re a child of the 60’s, and but for the work of LBJ’s Great Society lobbying to include ‘radio’ in the Public Television Act of 1967, they might not be around.  Many NPR stories, in reaching out to the wider world, often return to the touchstones of feminism, environmentalism and some form of diversity/multiculturalism.

Amidst high standards for journalism and production values lies the tendency towards positive definitions of equality, justice (social) and peace.  They tend to assume their ideals are your ideals, and such political idealists don’t tend to like analyzing the results of their idealism in the real world, let alone their susceptibility to radicals and violent ideologues.

Everyone’s starting a non-profit these days:

‘The ability to survive, even thrive, with programs that have been proven not to work is just one of the many oddities ‘With Charity for All’ documents in the topsy-turvy, misunderstood, and mostly ignored world of nonprofits’

Non-profits have become big business, partially following the ‘greatness model’ that worked so well for the boomers, when the getting was good. Unfortunately, there are limits to any model, and we’ve got serious economic issues and a lot of political dysfunction.  The money has to come from somewhere.

Shakely again:

‘To clean up the messy nonprofit landscape, Stern offers some suggestions that are sure to cause concern in some nonprofit quarters, including increased government oversight, increasing the application fee to cover the cost of better IRS review and, most radical of all, putting a life span on the charitable status afforded nonprofits, then requiring a renewal after a certain period of time (maybe 10 years). It’s an admirable goal, but in a sector where the stated goal of private foundations is self-preservation and “once a charity; always a charity,” is the mantra, it ain’t gonna happen. Stern knows this, of course, but it doesn’t stop him from asking this and many other valid questions about a sector that is loath to engage in self-evaluation’

It may be as simple as following the money.

On Stern’s third point, putting a life span on the charitable status afforded nonprofits, Stern might agree with David Horowitz, of all people.  He’s a red-diaper baby, an ex-Marxist activist cum anti-Leftist, anti-communist crusader. Making foundations and constantly agitating is what he knows how to do.

He had a then a new book out entitled: ‘The New Leviathan, How The Left Wing Money-Machine Shapes American Politics And Threatens America’s Future

Horowitz argues that such foundations as Ford (which donates to NPR) have become vehicles for the interests of political activists, portraying the matter of as a fight between capitalism/anti-capitalism and/or socialism.  He mentions the Tides foundation here. They are big money, he points out, and Obama’s political career was largely made possible by activist political organization, and the money and manpower behind them:

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Stern and Horowitz potentially agreeing on some regulation of non-profits makes for strange bedfellows. Obama, true to form, was seeking a permanent form of activism.  Activists, and the political idealists with whom they often find common cause, often don’t produce anything of value independently, and must rely upon existing institutions for their support, even as they seek to undermine those institutions.

How far could we apply the same logic to other institutions?  How far might it travel?

It’s 1968 all over again, see Tom Wolfe’s Radical Chic: That Party At Lenny’s…

Related On This Site: A Few Thoughts On NPR And Current Liberal Establishment Thinking Under Obama

Race And Free Speech-From Volokh: ‘Philadelphia Mayor Suggests Magazine Article on Race Relations Isn’t Protected by the First Amendment’

Jack Shafer At Slate: ‘Nonprofit Journalism Comes At A Cost’From NPR: Grants To The NEA To Stimulate The Economy?…We’re already mixing art and politics, so…How Would Obama Respond To Milton Friedman’s Four Ways To Spend Money?

A Few Thoughts On Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest: “Why Blue Can’t Save The Inner Cities Part I”

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 Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

 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…
….here’s a suggestion to keep aesthetic and political judgements apart-Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: Farewell To Judgment
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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.New liberty away from Hobbes?: From Public Reason: A Discussion Of Gerald Gaus’s Book ‘The Order of Public Reason: A Theory of Freedom And Morality In A Diverse And Bounded World’…Richard Rorty tried to tie postmodernism and trendy leftist solidarity to liberalism, but wasn’t exactly classically liberal:  Repost: Another Take On J.S. Mill From “Liberal England”

From The City Journal: Theodore Dalrymple’s ‘Freedom & Art’ & The Revolutionary Spirit Of Bill De Blasio

Theodore Dalrymple at The City Journal compares money, the individual, and the social in Depression-era Soviet and American art:

‘I was struck by the parallels between the furious debates among artists in the early years of the revolution and those that raged during the Depression about the “correct” way to paint and the role of art in society—the assumption being that an indubitably correct answer was there to be found, as if there could not be many mansions in art, as if appreciation of one style automatically precluded admiration for another. The debates were highly ideological: in the Russian case, about what activity truly served the revolution and the proletariat (itself an abstraction, very different from workers’ actual lives); and in the American case, about what activity was truly American.’

To be flippant, as previously posted on this site: A little piece I like to call ‘Stalin’s Fingers’ in Seattle.  Comic and graphic art may be taking up some of the muscularity of socialist realism and public-works solidarity.

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Fun fact: During times of stress, Josef Stalin is said to have marched his fingers just so across his desk, transgressing his own boundaries!

You might have noticed those tiles already look a little drab and dated, even though construction only finished a few years ago.

The above mural is part of the new Capitol Hill light-rail station on Broadway.

More here on the piece (apologies to all comic/graphic artists ahead of time, for not portraying your craft with as much fidelity as it probably deserves).

Our muraliste is a comic/graphic artist tapped to make signs and symbols for all the Community:

‘Forney, originally from Philadelphia…landed the light rail station gig back in 2008 after submitting a series of paintings of hands in provocative positions to Sound Transit — paintings which had originally been featured in the 2007 Seattle Erotic Art Festival. The series was called Big Fuckin’ Hands.’

Get it?  They’re hands, and they’re…well…you know.

Oh boy…

As for People’s Republic of The Northwest Territories, there’s that Diego Rivera-esque mural in Kane Hall at the University Of Washington…multi-ethnic laborers of the world uniting for the common good.


Moving along, also from The City Journal:  Mayor De Bolshevik:

‘In a wide-ranging and candid interview with New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio casually noted that the “way our legal system is structured to favor private property” provokes his “anger, which is visceral.”

De Blasio likely places certain ideals (‘community,’ equality, and cooled revolutionary spirit) above private property, free enterprise, and individual liberty, even as he’s collecting the wealth from the successes of NYC finance, trade, property taxes, and tourism.

You asked for it, New York:

As posted, from the NY Times on the mayor:

‘Bill de Blasio, then 26, went to Nicaragua to help distribute food and medicine in the middle of a war between left and right. But he returned with something else entirely: a vision of the possibilities of an unfettered leftist government.

and:

‘His activism did not stop. In the cramped Lower Manhattan headquarters of the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York, where he volunteered, Mr. de Blasio learned to cause a stir. He and a ragtag team of peace activists, Democrats, Marxists and anarchists attempted to bring attention to a Central American cause that, after the Sandinistas lost power in a 1990 election, was fading from public view. “The Nicaraguan struggle is our struggle,” said a poster designed by the group’

Some, of course, will benefit, but at what cost?

The De Blasio FilesFrom The Observer on that free WiFi for ‘The People‘…From The de Blasio Files: Red, Green and Rosenberg

What Will De Blasio’s New York Look Like?-Some LinksSandinistas At The NY Times: ‘A Mayoral Hopeful Now, de Blasio Was Once a Young Leftist’Two Links On Diane Ravitch & School Reform

Richard Epstein At Defining Ideas: ‘City Planners Run Amok’Virginia Postrel At Bloomberg: ‘How The Elites Built America’s Economic Wall’...The Irish were a mess:  William Stern At The City Journal: ‘How Dagger John Saved New York’s Irish’

A Few Thoughts On Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest: “Why Blue Can’t Save The Inner Cities Part I”

Politicians and politics likely won’t deliver you from human nature, nor fulfill your dreams in the way you want: anarchy probably won’t either: Two Sunday Quotations By Albert Jay Nock in ‘Anarchist’s Progress’

Josh Barro At Business Insider: ‘Dear New Yorkers: Here’s Why Your Rent Is So Ridiculously High’

R.I.P. Jerry Pournelle

Via Instapundit.  A pretty sad day for this blog.

How do you balance interests in liberty, libertarianism, war and military technology, government, the sciences, sci-fi, artistic creativity, along with much insight and wisdom into human nature?  And pretty good writing?

His original blog is a good place to start looking around.

As previously posted:

Libertarianism can be accompanied by attendant utopianism and grand visions of the future (as strong as the progressive and collectivist love of technocracy). Yet, as for predictions about the future, here’s Pournelle describing his own home computer and how publishing might look in a few decades time.

Keep in mind he was saying this in 1979:

How I came across his writing:

Pournelle’s 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.’

Rest in peace.