Repost-Ronald Bailey At Reason: ‘Are Savages Noble?’

Review here (You have to answer a few questions to access the archives)

Bailey reviews two new books on anthropology, one by Jared Diamond, the other by Marlene Zuk.  Inevitably questions of political philosophy arise:

‘Modern anthropological research may be settling the great debate between the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes and the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Was the state of nature a “war of every man against every man” in which life was “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short,” as Hobbes wrote? Or did “savages” live in utopian bliss, thanks to “the tranquility of their passions and their ignorance of vice,” as Rousseau believed?’

Libertarians tend to be more comfortable with the Magna Carta, British common law, Hobbes, Locke, Adam Smith and onwards, as well as some products of Enlightenment reason:

‘Diamond simply doesn’t engage with the notion that development of specific human institutions, such as private property and the rule of law, have enabled a happy portion of the global population to rise above humanity’s natural state of abject poverty. His description of trade among traditional societies, in which one group specializes in pottery while another focuses on canoes, completely misses how trade makes both groups better through the higher productivity made possible by pursuing comparative advantage. Diamond characterizes the goal of business transactions in modern societies as winning profits by inflicting losses, missing entirely the fact that modern markets consist largely of world-spanning networks of cooperation.’

Worth a read.

Related On This SiteFrom The Chronicle Of Higher Ed: “Misguided Nostalgia For Our Paleo Past”

What happens when you romanticize the aboriginal? Romantic primitivism: Roger Sandall: Marveling At The Aborigines, But Not Really Helping?Repost-Roger Sandall At The American Interest: ‘Tribal Realism ….Roger Sandall At The New Criterion Via The A & L Daily: ‘Aboriginal Sin’

The tragic, romantic German view…Robert Merry At The National Interest: ‘Spengler’s Ominous Prophecy’

Maybe if you’re defending religion, Nietzsche is a problematic reference: Dinesh D’Souza And Daniel Dennett at Tufts University: Nietzsche’s Prophesy…

Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’…From Darwinian Conservatism By Larry Arnhart: “Surfing Strauss’s Third Wave of Modernity”

Peter Levine discusses the Nietzsche connection here.

Did Jared Diamond get attacked for not being romantic enough…or just for potential hubris?:  Was he acting as a journalist in Papua New-Guinea?:  From The Chronicle Of Higher Education: Jared Diamond’s Lawsuit

Darwin and the arts: Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’

You know, Plato addressed Thrasymachus in the Republic about the will of the stronger: From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘Might Makes Right’…Darwinian Conservatism’…From Edge: ‘Re: What Makes People Republican? By Jonathan Haidt’…Evolutionary psychology and moral thinking: Franz De Waal At The NY Times 10/17/10: ‘Morals Without God?’

Steven Pinker somewhat focused on the idea of freedom from violence, which tends to be libertarian. Yet, he’s also skeptical of the more liberal human rights and also religious natural rights. What about a World Leviathan?: At Bloggingheads Steven Pinker Discusses War And Thomas HobbesFrom Reason.TV Via YouTube: ‘Steven Pinker on The Decline of Violence & “The Better Angels of Our Nature”‘Simon Blackburn Reviews Steven Pinker’s “The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial Of Human Nature” Via the University Of Cambridge Philosophy Department

End Federal Funding For The Arts? From The New Criterion: ‘Who Supports The Arts?’ Plus Richard Serra’s ‘Tilted Arc’ & An Old Vincent Gallo Interview

Full piece here.

‘But step back a moment. Would ending federal, i.e., taxpayer, i.e., your, money on entities like the NEA, the NEH, and the CPB be a bad thing?’

Here are two good reasons in favor of ending Federal funding:

  1. You will likely aid in making better art.  Universities, museums and institutions don’t necessarily get along with the creative genius, nor in making something new.  In fact, such institutions can stifle creativity by rewarding and amplifying current tastes and entrenching public sentiment into reefs, creating additional hurdles for talent to get where it’s going.  State money, furthermore, is not a necessary condition of good art.  In fact, it may be a necessary condition of bad art [addition: we can probably say that bad art is everywhere, but there’s rarely great art coming out of Federally funded programs].
  2. Incentives matter: The self-interested, ideologically driven and less-talented will have incentives to control the Federal bureaucracy and politicize the arts.  They’re out there, and if you reward them with cash and status, you’ll get more of them (bad artists, ideologues, politicians and bureaucrats in an unholy cycle of Badness).

No one can speak for all the public, not even the artistic genius.  Art-curators, docents, specialists and critics can do good [for art], but sometimes they can do bad. Individual talent, tradition, hard-work, groups of people, ideas, money and opportunities all matter, but how much exactly, is anyone’s guess.

Richard Serra was commissioned to put a piece in Federal Plaza, paid for the public, and some people didn’t like it.

It was removed.  Serra felt railroaded.  There was a lot of press and drama.

Pretty relevant, I’d say:

Also, this Vincent Gallo interview is funny as hell:

He takes the critics on while wearing an awesome USA track-suit:

Related On This Site:  Repost-From Poemshape: ‘Let Poetry Die’

They’ve got to keep up with the times:A Few Thoughts On NPR And Current Liberal Establishment Thinking Under Obama

 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…
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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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From 2 Blowhards-We Need The Arts: A Sob Story…A museum industrial complex…more complexes…who are the people museums should be serving? James Panero At The New Criterion: ‘Time to Free NY’s Museums: The Met Responds’

Two Wednesday Links-Roger Scruton & Megan McArdle

Roger Scruton at The New Criterion: ‘Populism, VII: Representation & the people:

‘All this has left the conservative movement at an impasse. The leading virtue of conservative politics as I see it is the preference for procedure over ideological programs. Liberals tend to believe that government exists in order to lead the people into a better future, in which liberty, equality, social justice, the socialist millennium, or something of that kind will be realized.’

Is there a global conservative movement or moment happening right now?  Different people, as parts of different and sometimes competing traditions have different things to conserve…


Megan McArdle at Bloomberg: ‘Best Health-Care Plan For Republicans?-Wait

‘A plan based on these ideas may, to be sure, end up covering fewer people than Obamacare currently does. But then Obamacare may end up covering fewer people than Obamacare currently does, because it seems to be slowly strangling the individual market.’

One goal was to get various poor and sick people as permanently ensconced and dependent on a vast expansion of federal authority as possible (or Medicaid, for now, while raiding Medicaid).  Don’t mind the rotten deal and bad incentives for many other people that came about (rising health-care costs were unsustainable, after all).

If this meant a vast expansion of money, politics, and power into your life, limiting policy options, limiting many doctors’ freedom to serve you locally and directly, well, it was for your own good.

You see, the designers of the ACA have the knowledge, moral virtue and ability to make everyone’s lives better.  Their principles are universally true, and descriptive of a future they can predict with as much accuracy as a formula predicts the probabilistic path of a particle.  Hard choices, scarce resources, and basic human suffering are mostly a thing of the past.

Health-care is a right derived from these true principles, the knowledge to design the ACA just a matter of implementation now….

What was that again?

Ah yes, money, politics, and power.

An Alternate Theory Of The Middlebury Mob-Charles Murray Is A Witch!

There were some recitations from the James Baldwin crib-sheet as though from a hymnal at a church service (obviously chanting and turning one’s back ritualistically is at the core of a liberal education).  A few others actually committed acts of escalating aggression and violence.

There were some who were probably incredulous, taking up the job of sloganeering half-heartedly, not really losing themselves amidst the heat of the mob.  The ‘insufficiently-committed’ are always there among us, taking pot-shots at pinatas strung-up above the silly, hot seriousness of it all.

A few intense sorts, though, probably had to be right about Charles Murray because they can’t be anything else (at least inside their own minds, at that moment). They needed some action fast, the truth already decided, the enemy already picked-out, the heretic against the sacred ‘-ism’ selected for his apostasy.

He’s a witch!

So, if you’re in charge at Middlebury, how do you proceed?

You may well tacitly support a lot of the ideology exhibited by the student mob, locked in a weird financial and emotional symbiosis along with them towards liberation against ‘the man.’

It would be unseemly to suddenly become ‘the man’ and inflict your authority along with the dull politics of the bursar and the bottom-line, the dorm room and the suburban checkbook, onto their hopes and dreams.

Charles Murray’s Account Of The Middlebury College Affair

See the previous post.The Intellectual Cowardice Of The Crowd-Charles Murray At Middlebury College

Repost-From The Liberal Bastions-James Baldwin, Often

Repost-Michael Moynihan At The Daily Beast: ‘Whitewashing The Black Panthers’

Our institutions, bending to liberal ideals, will also involve a bending towards the radical base, which is not necessarily liberal.

Michael Moynihan at the Daily Beast  ‘‘Whitewashing The Black Panthers’

A new PBS documentary tries to excuse a murderous and totalitarian cult.

When his captors uncinched the noose around his neck and shoved him into a wooden chair, Alex Rackley might have assumed his ordeal was over. He had already endured a flurry of kicks and punches, the repeated crack of a wooden truncheon, ritual humiliation, and a mock lynching. But it wasn’t over. It was about to get much, much worse.’

That party at Lenny’s is still pretty awkward, at least the way Tom Wolfe tells it:

‘. . and now, in the season of Radical Chic, the Black Panthers. That huge Panther there, the one Felicia is smiling her tango smile at, is Robert Bay, who just 41 hours ago was arrested in an altercation with the police, supposedly over a .38-caliber revolver that someone had, in a parked car in Queens at Northern Boulevard and 104th Street or some such unbelievable place, and taken to jail on a most unusual charge called “criminal facilitation.” And now he is out on bail and walking into Leonard and Felicia Bernstein’s 13-room penthouse duplex on Park Avenue. Harassment & Hassles, Guns & Pigs, Jail & Bail—they’re real, these Black Panthers. The very idea of them, these real revolutionaries, who actually put their lives on the line, runs through Lenny’s duplex like a rogue hormone.’

Related On This Site:  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 Quotations From F.A. Hayek’s: ‘Why I Am Not A Conservative’A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’

From Bloggingheads: Denis Dutton On His New Book: ‘The Art Instinct’A Few More Thoughts On Denis Dutton’s New Book: ‘The Art Instinct’

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’

Repost-Surely The Left Hand Knows What The Right Hand Is Doing, And Vice-Versa-George Packer At The New Yorker: ‘Why Leftists Go Right’

Full piece here.

I have to confess, there’s a fair amount of meat in the article, as Packer reviews “Exit Right: The People Who Left the Left and Reshaped the American Century.”

Whittaker Chambers, David Horowitz, and other heretics having fled from the radical ideologies of the Left are explained as part of a movement that helped define a century in which, for Packer, the American right has come to dominate.

In fact, he finishes with:

‘The downward slide from Chambers and Reagan to Coulter and Trump has surely swept along a few young idealists who thought they were joining the side of freedom and truth, then realized too late that they had signed on for junk science and white identity politics. Ted Cruz’s vision would require the toppling of just about every pillar of the country’s social and economic structure. You don’t have to look elsewhere for the destructive utopianism that turns believers into apostates. In a few years’ time, we’ll be reading the chilling inside story, written by a campaign aide who barely got out alive.’

I can imagine the view from the New Yorker office in Manhattan might be magnifying the various and sundry evangelicals, mouth-breathing gun-nuts, racist xenophobes and ‘junk-scientists’ gathering at the Black Gate Of Mordor.  These are simple folk, really.

We all know that even if ideal human societies with ever more freedom and equality aren’t possible, we should still try and make them a reality, right?  Many people’s hearts are in the right place, after all.

Or do ‘The People’ possess one big heart they all have to share?

Do ‘real-scientists’ all read the New Yorker for the latest scientific discoveries explained in 2,000 word long-form essays?

***Yes, angry emailers, these are attempts at satire. Post has been updated to fix an errant quote and some grammatical errors.

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Of course, while there is a special kind of concern-trolling on display in Packer’s piece, there is also a fair amount of truth:  It is the heretics ‘mugged by reality’ who’ve helped to lead the conservative movement in the U.S.

Irving Kristol is just one example.

Longer-term, I suspect it’s bound to happen that more ‘neoconservatives’ fall-out of the intellectual grace of worldviews like those often found at the New Yorker, where liberal-Left democratic and secular humanism rule the roost.  There’s plenty of soft-collectivism on display, (with its own attendant hippie and post-hippie utopian idealism), safe-spaces for feminism and environmentalism (alarming levels of enviro-dread, lately), along with much post 68′ civil-rights radicalism and what I call ‘brownstone activism.’

I don’t know if such observations make me conservative (surely, they do to some), but I often find myself wondering where such ideals lead, exactly? What responsibilities do they impose upon me?

How much equality is enough?  How will you know when it is enough? What kinds of moral authority do these ideals rely upon and what kind of institutions do they actually produce in the real world?

Which freedoms and opportunities have they brought me?  Are these worth the trade-offs?

If such arguments are well-made, they always have a chance of convincing me.

A reasonably open mind is a good thing to maintain, after all, and I suppose I could become more Leftist, or liberal, depending on circumstances.

In the meantime, however, there’s Packer’s piece, where at least there’s some recognition of the following:

‘In the twentieth century, the void left by the loss of religion was sometimes filled by totalizing political systems, and the result was a literary genre of confession that is as powerful and probing as the Augustinian kind.’

Addition: Nice wild swing at Augustinians, there.


Let me know what I’ve got wrong, as so much depends upon where you start:

Technology: It might well be possible to have one trucker and a technician leading a convoy in 10-20 years time.  Many jobs now done by people will simply be automated.  It’s quite easy to have a mobile device and choose the kinds of people, jobs and places people become a part of in America; much more than ever before.  People are expecting a lot more choice in their lives, and are self-selecting based on their current preferences (most of us are doing this, to some extent).

Globalization: Both India and China are producing hundreds of thousands of high IQ, specially trained, hard-working software and hardware engineers competing for slots in American higher Ed and the American tech sector.  There is global competition in many sectors of the economy.

Past and current trade deals are trying to address the inherent dislocation that comes when capital chases cheap labor, when industry dies out in one area and blooms in another.

America has an aging population, and many hopelessly insolvent social programs based on somewhat Ponzi-like projections that can’t be maintained as they currently exist.

The American university and current government models are bloated, with a lot of waste and poor incentives, producing a lot of people with unforgivable student-loan debt and degrees of questionable value in current job markets.   Our public sector is woefully unable to handle such change.

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As previously posted-A breath of fresh air from George Packer at the New Yorker: ‘Mute Button:

‘The problem with free speech is that it’s hard, and self-censorship is the path of least resistance. But, once you learn to keep yourself from voicing unwelcome thoughts, you forget how to think them—how to think freely at all—and ideas perish at conception. Washiqur Rahman and Avijit Roy had more to fear than most of us, but they lived and died as free men.’

Maybe this kind of moral courage will make a comeback…

Repost-Quotation From Charles Kesler And A Few Thoughts on Conservatism…Charles Murray is trying to get virtue back with the social sciences: Charles Murray At The New Criterion: ‘Belmont & Fishtown’Charles Murray Lecture At AEI: The Happiness Of People

Christopher Hitchens at Slate: Yale Surrenders

From The Liberal Bastions-James Baldwin, Often

See Also:  If you thought the cartoons were bad, more on the Fitna movie here.  From The NY Times: Review Of Christopher Caldwell’s Book “Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West”  Libertarians love this issue:  Repost-A Canadian Libertarian Making Noise: Ezra Levant  

Repost-Hipster Romanticism? From The Atlantic Photo: ‘Adventures Of A Serial Trespasser’

Photos here.

Isn’t ‘urban exploration’ a bit ruin-pornish?

The individual travels along with small groups, trespassing through city-scapes and abandoned buildings as though they were archeological ruins. Breaking the law or possibly breaking the law is part of the appeal.

Perhaps such folks are traveling as well through their own imaginations, romanticizing themselves as transgressive outsiders, taking the idea of archeology as fixed knowledge and applying it to their own present as though it were a mythic, imaginative quest, where some camaraderie, historical meaning and beauty are to be found.

A video explanation:

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Naturally, one impulse expressed here is the desire for group membership and meaning. Like kids who’ve found something new and cool to do, some recognition is desired from others or from society at large, even if it’s negative. There’s a vagabond-hipster feel to much of this, and it’s easy to imagine listening to an indie-music-montage with the latest stop-motion technology or documentarianism when one looks at the photos.

Readers will know I tend to think some of this is a sign of a newer, more anarchic/nihilistic individualism and subsequent collectivism in our culture that is partially, but not wholly, a product of the 1960’s.

One theme of this blog is how this process of increased nihilistic individualism merges with a search for meaning, group membership and identity in our culture, as in the above. This can increase the desire for collective solutions to problems, which can cast increased upward pressure on old boomer/nationalistic liberalism and liberalism in general.

At the very least, we end-up rehashing the battles of the 60’s in perpetuity. Liberalism follows the logic and incentives it’s helped to create.

James Fallows at the Atlantic, former speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, is now exploring the wonders of post-hippie settlers in Vermont to stay relevant to a new generation of readers: Vermont Report: Shaping The Soul Of A School.

I didn’t know schools had souls.

Don’t you want to live in Austin, or Boulder, or Portland, or Williamsburg (not colonial, addition: yes, there’s sarcasm here )?

NPR looks at hipsterism while their guiding ideals have helped create hipsters through all that boomer’s 60’s activism. One challenge is mixing the Lawrence Welk crowd while staying relevant with the hipsters they’ve helped create.

Related On This Site:What about the victims of crime, not all this romanticization of criminals?: Heather MacDonald At The City Journal: ‘Radical Graffiti Chic’.

Two ways around postmodernism, nihilism?: One is Allan Bloom Update And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’… Here’s a suggestion to keep aesthetic and political judgements apart-Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: Farewell To Judgment

Institutionalized Leftism in the Arts: 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?

Repost-Via Reason: ‘Salvador Allende’s Cybersocialist Command Center’