From Edward Feser: ‘Liberty, Equality, Fraternity?’

Full post here.

“Surely you’re not against liberty, equality, and fraternity?!” you ask.  Well, no, not necessarily – depending on what you mean by those terms.  The trouble is that though some of the ideas that commonly go under those labels are good, others are very bad.’

Hmmm…:

‘Modern egalitarianism makes essentially this mistake.  In the name of equal concern for all, it resists or even rejects the idea that different members of society have different roles, aptitudes, and needs.  Hence socialism’s hostility to the very existence of different classes.  Hence feminism’s hostility to traditional sex roles within the family and to the idea that men and women naturally tend to differ in psychological traits no less than they do physiologically.  Hence the liberal’s dogmatic insistence on seeing persistent differences in economic and other outcomes as a result of unjust discrimination and insufficiently vigorous social engineering.’

Just providing a reasoned, principled critique of such liberal political idealism may actually be beneficial to us all.

Edward Feser In The Claremont Review: ‘Looking For Meaning in All The Wrong Places’

From Edward Feser: ‘Nagel And His Critics Part IV’

Leo Strauss seems to have had Burke succumbing to historicism? A response here.

As to the American and French Revolutions:

“In both cases the political leaders whom Burke opposed insisted on certain rights: the English government on the rights of soverignty and the French revolutionists insisted on the rights of man.  In both cases Burke proceeded in exactly the same manner:  he questions less the rights than the wisdom of exercising the rights.”

“What ever might have to be said about the propriety of Burke’s usage, it is here sufficient to note that, in judging the political leaders whom he opposed in the two most important actions of his life, he traced their lack of prudence less to passion than to the intrusion of the spirit of theory into the field of politics.”

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

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”

Some Labor Day Links 2017

Alas, when the whole faculty/staff/students are in this deep, expect slow, if any, change.

John Gray from the New Statesman back in May:

‘The gaggles of bien pensant writers and journalists, liberal teachers and academics, radical aristocrats and businessmen who flocked to the Soviet Union and later Mao’s China went to these countries convinced that their own societies were stuck in the past. They believed that only a thinking minority – themselves – could see the outlines of a better future. Plainly, it was these advanced minds that could direct the new society that was coming into being.’

The last few centuries have been full of fits and starts of post-Enlightenment utopianism and downside repressive authoritarianism and horrendous totalitarianism.

Via Marginal Revolution: ‘Big Data Surveillance: The Case Of Policing

The police are going to keep exercising their authority, but increasingly by utilizing new methods of data collection and analysis in order to predict, target and prevent the worst outcomes.  They won’t always get things right.

‘This article examines the intersection of two structural developments: the growth of surveillance and the rise of “big data.” Drawing on observations and interviews conducted within the Los Angeles Police Department, I offer an empirical account of how the adoption of big data analytics does—and does not—transform police surveillance practices. I argue that the adoption of big data analytics facilitates amplifications of prior surveillance practices and fundamental transformations in surveillance activities.’

You know, maybe stable marriages do primarily form the bedrock of Western Civilization, or at least, such ideas should be discussed in universities and in public:

Jonathan Haidt defends Amy Wax (who has contributed to his Heterodox Academy)

***Many of the functions that charities, churches, and religious organizations perform will likely try and be co-opted by the government (many coalitions no doubt see many things this way…replacing religious idealism with their own secular and ideological lights and political interests).  Interestingly, old-school Democrat, poor Brooklyn kid, and sociologist Daniel Patrick Moynihan made some interesting arguments about the dangers of such Statism.

A Few Crime Links, Easy To Post

Variations On A Theme-The Downside Risks To Political Idealism

Via ‘A Dose Of Theodore Dalrymple: ‘The Socialist Wasteland

Marxism, Dalrymple explains, answers several needs:

  • ‘It has its arcana, which persuade believers that they have penetrated to secrets veiled from others, who are possessed of false consciousness.
  • It appeals to the strongest of all political passions, hatred, and justifies it.
  • It provides a highly intellectualised rationalisation of a discreditable but almost universal and ineradicable emotion: envy.
  • It forever puts the blame elsewhere, making self-examination unnecessary and self-knowledge impossible.
  • It explains everything.
  • It persuades believers that they have a special destiny in the world. For disgruntled intellectuals, nothing could be more gratifying.’

Aside from the radical doctrines, it’s apparent that many in the West have placed their hopes and aspirations into various flavors of political idealism. Man’s nature is assumed to be fundamentally good, for the most part, merely in need of liberation from previous traditions, injustices and illegitimate claims to authority.

It’s often taken for granted that such post-Enlightenment ideals have room for ever more individuals (or collectives/categories of individuals).  All that’s required is working towards particular ends, usually against common enemies (salvation through individual Romantic conceptions of Nature, shared communally, for example, or the oft confused relation between Scientific truth/method and social/political goods).

For many political idealists in the modern world, the moral goods are good enough, the universal truths sufficiently universal, in justifying their own actions at any given time (the properly balanced ideal State has room for competing factions of political idealists, mind you, as many idealists believe the knowledge is available to design such systems from the top-down).

The below links are to whom I’m indebted in cobbling such posts together on alas…a blog:

-Thomas Sowell discusses his constrained/unconstrained formulation from a Conflict Of Visions.

William F. Buckley And Kenneth Minogue Discuss Ideology…as thorough an exploration of ideology and doctrines of radical liberation as I’ve come across.

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

How might this relate to the Heglian/post-Marxist project via ‘The End Of History’: Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Repost-Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-‘Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

Anarcho-syndicalist, libertarian socialist and sometime blind supporter of lefty causes: Via Youtube: (1 of 3) Kant, Chomsky and the Problem of Knowledge

New liberty away from Hobbes…toward Hayek…but can you see Locke from there?: Repost-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  more broadly: Repost: Another Take On J.S. Mill From “Liberal England”