Normal Intellectuals?-Three Quotations

A quote from this article on Samuel Huntington:

Huntington was instinctively a conservative because he valued an ordered society, but he also championed conservatism as a necessary instrument to defend liberal institutions against Communism. In many of his books he attacked idealistic liberals for holding such institutions to impossible, utopian standards that undermined their effectiveness in the world.”

Being an idealist or a utopian, as I see it, doesn’t necessarily make you any better, nor any worse, than most people.  You may not have any greater purchase on the truth, though like most of us, you naturally draw and universalize from your own experiences and marry these experiences with your guiding principles.  In ideas, then, and their inherent logic, and within yourself, arise choices and responsibilities.  Choices and responsibilities not only to yourself, but to loved ones, and to others, past and future.

For my piece, intellectuals, and people known as such, often earn my admiration when they are known as pretty normal people.

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

‘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.

We may not be heading towards the ideal society/world order many people acting within our media/academies/institutions describe, and a lot of blame will be deflected back upon the world, and anyone who mildly or wildly disagrees. Like most of us, most of the time, most people don’t like to be called on their failures.

As previously and consistently posted-

Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy.

One danger to institutions may be in their design, which is to say, radical utopians and those deeply desirous of change often drive what becomes the conventional wisdom for many moderates.  Many radicals and utopians know how to tear down existing arrangements; some obviously believing in violence to achieve their aims.

Spoils tend to go to the politically agile, often found negotiating radical voices, moderate public sentiment and many rule-oriented, institutional strivers and bureaucratic company-men:

‘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.’

See Also:  Google books has ‘Political Order In Changing Societies‘ and ‘Who Are We?:  The Challenges To America’s National Identity‘  (previews) available.

Repost-’Kenneth Anderson At Volokh: ‘The Fragmenting of the New Class Elites, Or, Downward Mobility’

There are reasons many on the Left fixate on illegitimate authority, for they have little to no experience with legitimate authority… At Bloggingheads Steven Pinker Discusses War And Thomas Hobbes

A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”From The Boston Review: ‘Libertarianism And Liberty: How Not To Argue For Limited Government And Lower Taxes’From Slate: ‘The Liberty Scam-Why Even Robert Nozick, The Philosophical Father Of Libertarianism, Gave Up On The Movement He Inspired.’

Let Me Know Just How Much I’m Missing-Face The Nation’s Interview With Defense Secretary James Mattis

Here’s a May 28th, 2017 interview with the Secretary about current American foreign policy being coordinated through the Departments of Defense and State, under the direction of the President (it still feels a little strange to write….President Trump):

My takeaways below.

  1. Regarding ISIS: ‘Accelerate’ confrontation and engage ISIS where they are, ‘clearing’ them once engaged and isolated (no longer allowing them either maintain territory, disperse and/or regroup).  Let the people on the ground pursue this strategy with a fair amount of latitude. ***As to the psychological, ideological, social, political and religious reasons individuals seem to be joining ISIS…from Molenbeek all the way to Raqqa, worry about that later, I guess.  No more territory and the legitimacy/revenue that comes with territory, seems to be the current plan regarding ISIS, which will require more resources.
  2.  Regarding Turkey’s NATO membership and internal pressures from the Kurdish PKK (Kurdish [Communist] militiamen who are Turkish citizens fighting ISIS), it seems Mattis is more committed to NATO obligations despite Erdogan’s autocratic moves.  The fact that Iraqi and Syrian Kurdish militias/leadership have been primary anti-ISIS combatants, means that Kurds should probably expect to receive some arms/logistical/tactical support during the fight against ISIS, but should probably expect to fend for themselves on any grander scale/later on.
  3. North Korea: While maintaining the DMZ, and honoring South Korean obligations, consulting Japanese leadership and leveraging Chinese influence, the goal is to try and hold the North Korean regime to some account in continuing the process of marrying ICBM technology with nuclear capability to fulfill its presumed ideological supremacy/destiny.  This will also be an attempt to reassert more of a leadership role for American hard and soft power in the region, while trying to deny the North Korean regime’s economic channels.
  4. Try and deal with Russia as it is, which is to say, Russian leadership continues a divide and conquer strategy in Georgia/Ukraine, and also continues the cold logic and vague threat of force with former Soviet satellites in the Baltics, testing the resolve of European and Western leadership and organization.  They’re not playing nice and pursuing a deeply anti-Western strategy (low birth-rates and Russian nationalism is being solidified around an assertive, kleptocratic regime heavily reliant on natural resources).
  5. NATO is not going to be abandoned, but it probably won’t hurt to have members pony-up some dough to realize the fundamental mission of security NATO offers to its members.  You may not need to change the by laws, but let’s make sure the members have reasonable skin in the game and review the membership rules from time to time.

Domestically, I suppose the plan is to maintain as much political/cultural unity in the American Republic as possible (a serious issue, indeed), while reaffirming American alliances abroad around this basic strategy.

Interestingly, Dickerson asks Mattis about Iran, and why post-1979 Iranian revolutionaries always seem to have a hand in all kinds of guns/money/terrorist activity throughout the Middle-East, so often aligning against American interests (Hizbollah in Lebanon, current uprisings in Yemen, meddling in Israel/Palestine etc.).

Mattis attributes this to the nature of their 1979 Islamic revolution, the beliefs and ideals of the people who grabbed and still maintain power in Iran (suppressing political dissent).

This reminded me that some in the West and the Middle-East will argue exactly the same about moral legitimacy since the American revolution (some with better reasons and understanding than others).  Why does America (and not so much Canada, Australia etc.) go around and keep trying to re-make the world in its image?

Isn’t it all just morally relativistic, anyways, man?

And more broadly: Do moral relativism, value pluralism and all manner of modern liberal projects run aground upon the rocks of nihilism?

Correspondence here.

Kelley Ross responds to a correspondent on Isaiah Berlin’s value pluralism, while discussing John Gray as well:

‘Now, I do not regard Berlin’s value pluralism as objectionable or even as wrong, except to the extent that it is irrelevant to the MORAL issue and so proves nothing for or against liberalism. Liberalism will indeed recommend itself if one wishes to have a regime that will respect, within limits, a value pluralism. I have no doubt that respecting a considerable value pluralism in society is a good thing and that a nomocratic regime that, mostly, leaves people alone is morally superior to a teleocratic regime that specifies and engineers the kinds of values that people should have. However, the project of showing that such a regime IS a good thing and IS morally superior is precisely the kind of thing that Gray decided was a failure.

Thus, I believe Gray himself sees clearly enough that a thoroughgoing “value pluralism” would mean that the regime of the Ayatollah Khomeini is just as morally justified as the regime of Thomas Jefferson. Gray prefers liberalism (or its wreckage) for the very same reason that the deconstructionist philosopher Richard Rorty prefers his leftism: it is “ours” and “we” like it better. Why Gray, or Rorty, should think that they speak for the rest of “us” is a good question. ‘

and about providing a core to liberalism:

‘Why should the state need a “sufficient rational justificaton” to impose a certain set of values? The whole project of “rational justification” is what Gray, and earlier philosophers like Hume, gave up on as hopeless. All the state need do, which it has often done, is claim that its values are favored by the majority, by the General Will, by the Blood of the Volk, or by God, and it is in business.’

And that business can quickly lead to ever-greater intrusion into our lives:

‘J.S. Mill, etc., continue to be better philosophers than Berlin or Gray because they understand that there must be an absolute moral claim in the end to fundamental rights and negative liberty, however it is thought, or not thought, to be justified. Surrendering the rational case does not even mean accepting the overall “value pluralism” thesis, since Hume himself did not do so. ‘

Are libertarians the true classical liberals?  Much closer to our founding fathers?

What Henry Kissinger still has to offer:

On Burkean Conservatism:

‘The billiard table is a seductive analogy. But in real foreign policy, the billiard balls do not react only to physical impact. They are also guided by their own cultural inheritances: their histories, instincts, ideals, their characteristic national approaches to strategy, in short, their national values. A realist foreign policy needs a strong value system to guide it through the inherent ambiguities of circumstance. Even Bismarck, the supreme realist, emphasized the ultimate moral basis of realist statesmanship: “The best a statesman can do is to listen carefully to the footsteps of God, get ahold of the hem of His cloak and walk with Him a few steps of the way.’

and a partial look at ideas underlying his multipolar vision:

‘The distinction between idealism and realism rejects the experience of history. Idealists do not have a monopoly on moral values; realists must recognize that ideals are also part of reality. We will be less frequently disillusioned if we emphasize a foreign policy designed to accumulate nuance rather than triumph through apocalyptic showdowns, and our values will benefit over the longer term.’

Related On This Site: Isaiah Berlin, as a youth fled a well-integrated family of Latvian Jews to Britain (for his life), subsequently spending more time with Marx than any man should…but also Mill, is value pluralism a response…or does it just lead to the same relativism and nihilism?: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

John Gray is criticizing many claims to progress in ethics and politics in the Western World, with a heavy Nietzschean influence (man is still capable of great barbarism & achievement) Repost-Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-‘Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

Robert Kagan At Brookings: ‘The Twilight Of the Liberal World Order’

Some thoughts on Fukuyama and Leo Strauss: Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Richard Epstein At Hoover-‘Progressively Bankrupt’

Full piece here.

‘It is quite clear that Illinois has passed the point of no return, even if Connecticut has not. But owing to the embedded political powers, little if anything can be done to salvage a situation that is careening toward disaster. Fortunately, the damage will be confined within the borders of the state unless the United States supplies an ill-advised bailout. That’s the beauty of our federalist system.’

-A link for Michael Lewis’ article about California politics, public pensions and Schwarzenegger’s time in office.

-Jim Powell At Forbes: ‘How Did Rich Connecticut Morph Into One Of America’s Worst Performing Economies?’

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

David Harsanyi at Reason has more on the GM bailout.  Non-union employees pensions got raided and taxpayers foot the bill, so that Obama and the UAW can maintain power.

How did Detroit get here? Very comprehensive and easy to navigate.

Some Hayek-Related Links

Via Twitter via Evonomics: ‘Hayek Meets Information Theory. And Fails.

So, replacing prices in a marketplace with AI deep learning models is apparently the way to go (reducing your knowledge, experience, and behavior to input nodes channeled through possible optimization distribution paths).

Let’s ignore the bureaucratic/political incentives for a moment…for man is a political animal.

Our author:

‘The understanding of prices and supply and demand provided by information theory and machine learning algorithms is better equipped to explain markets than arguments reducing complex distributions of possibilities to a single dimension, and hence, necessarily, requiring assumptions like rational agents and perfect foresight’

From the comments, a response:

‘His [Hayek’s] crucial point is that market prices perform a co-ordination function, allowing people to act AS IF they had the relevant knowledge.’

Also, epistemologically speaking, from the comments:

Indeed it is a central tenant of Austrian school economics (of which he was not quite a founding member, but is perhaps its most thoughtful member) that the efficient market hypothesis is false, that markets are never actually in equilibrium, that people are not perfectly rational agents, and that they most definitely do not have (and cannot have) perfect foresight.’

Your price re-allocation command console awaits, Captain.


On that note, Mark Pennington’s Robust Political Economy: Classical Liberalism and the Future of Public Policy comes recommended.

Full diavlog here.

Duke professor Bruce Caldwell talks about his then new book on Hayek, an intellectual biography.

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’

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

Repost-Cass Sunstein At The New Republic: ‘Why Paternalism Is Your Friend’

Via Another Reader Via Youtube-BBC Interview With Various Cassini Mission Scientists

~25 minutes.  Well-edited.  Informative.

Both moons Enceladus (Saturn) and Europa (Jupiter) demonstrate evidence of huge oceans of liquid water protected by thick, icy crusts.  The Cassini probe passed through water plumes emanating high above Enceladus’ icy crust.  This water has been forced out of four long, deep cracks in the surface.

After analysis, the folks in the video above have discovered many chemicals within these Enceladus geysers (ammonia, carbon dioxide) but most importantly:  Possibly hydrogen they think might be coming from hydro-thermal vents on the rocky, ocean floor of Enceladus.

From The Remodern Review: ‘The Death Of University Art Programs, Part 3: Ignorance As A Method Of Critique’

Full post here.

Hmmm…..

‘These endless deconstructive debates might not have done our art much good, but it was sure setting us up to take part in the approved modes of the establishment art world. They think if they pile enough words together, they can justify anything. However, they are profoundly wrong. Real art is self evident, and does not need to be propped up with a bunch of meaningless art speak.’

What I noticed in literature:  Most of the old-guard had higher standards and more rigorous methods.  They wanted closer readings and tended to set clearer expectations.  I suspect most thought they actually possessed both knowledge and wisdom and, frankly, they were there to impart both their knowledge and wisdom to us, the students.

‘What happened between them and me?’, I would find myself wondering.

As for the canon, there was the vague notion that it had been, no, still is, being dismantled.  Some deeper epistemic questions tended to hang in the air, put to students straightaway (how does anyone know anything, man? What does a Self do against Nothingness and the Void? how should I be a Creative Self?).

Ah, well.

Related On This Site:

Repost-Daniel Dennett: ‘Postmodernism And Truth’

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

Repost-From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘Nietzsche–Aristocratic Radical or Aristocratic Liberal?’

-Update And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’

Various Products Of Radical Reason And Reactions To Them- John Gray At The New Statesman

Repost-Roger Scruton At The New Atlantis: ‘Scientism In The Arts & Humanities’

As previously posted:

An old Heather MacDonald piece here (link may not last)

Oh, the humanity.

I agree that students, when facing a syllabus, shouldn’t also have to face the great books mediated, nor their young minds circumscribed, by overt political ideologies.

MacDonald:

‘In other words, the UCLA faculty was now officially indifferent to whether an English major had ever read a word of Chaucer, Milton or Shakespeare, but the department was determined to expose students, according to the course catalog, to “alternative rubrics of gender, sexuality, race, and class.”

Upon hearing “gender, sexuality, race, and class,” I confess my head hangs down a bit and a sigh escapes my lips. Such a lack of imagination does great disservice to works of such powerful imagination.

Then again, I remember my last trip to Southern California (zing).

Of course, there still needs to be an intellectual framework and curriculum for the humanities.

—————–

On that note, Roger Scruton had some keen insights:

“The works of Shakespeare contain important knowledge. But it is not scientific knowledge, nor could it ever be built into a theory. It is knowledge of the human heart”

“…in the days when the humanities involved knowledge of classical languages and an acquaintance with German scholarship, there was no doubt that they required real mental discipline, even if their point could reasonably be doubted. But once subjects like English were admitted to a central place in the curriculum, the question of their validity became urgent. And then, in the wake of English came the pseudo-humanities—women’s studies, gay studies and the like—which were based on the assumption that, if English is a discipline, so too are they.”

Quite importantly:

“And since there is no cogent justification for women’s studies that does not dwell upon the subject’s ideological purpose, the entire curriculum in the humanities began to be seen in ideological terms.”

This is a matter of deep debate in our society right now.

Terry Eagleton, British Marxist and professor in the humanities, debates Scruton below.

Will Marxism & continental philosophy become further guiding lights for the humanities here in America as we find much more so in Britain?

Are we really that thick into the postmodern weeds?:

 —————————–

Judgment, as Scruton points out, shouldn’t necessarily be subsumed to political ideology.  I would agree, and I generally default in assuming that each one of us is the ultimate arbiter of our own judgment.

But, no man is an island.

Does Scruton’s thinking eventually lead us back to the problems that religion can have with artists and writers?

Is there anybody whom you trust to decide what you should and shouldn’t read?

Parents?  Great authors?  Public intellectuals?  Professors?  God?  Laws and lawmakers? Religious leaders?  A school-board?  A democratic majority?  People who think like you?  A Council of Cultural Marxists?

The Department of Institutionalized Idiocy?

See Also On This Site:  Philosopher Of Art Denis Dutton of the Arts & Letters Daily says the arts and Darwin can be sucessfully synthesized: Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’

Martha Nussbaum says the university needs to be defend Socratic reason and still be open to diversity:  From The Harvard Educational Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’ 

Stanley Fish also says keep politics out of academia: From The Stanley Fish Blog: Ward Churchill Redux…

Christopher Caldwell At The Claremont Review Of Books: ‘The Hidden Costs Of Immigration’

The idea that immigration comes with costs and benefits is a pretty basic one.

The briefest sketch: On the top-end of the labor-market, let’s say a host country receives a talented, well-skilled couple willing to contribute to the economy, pay taxes, raise children and give them a good life.  The immigrant family raises their own overall standard of living, benefiting from relative political stability and economic opportunity, finding a way to both enjoy new freedoms and share in many new obligations (as mundane as mowing the lawn every weekend).  The economy grows, and barring some occasional tension, misunderstandings and mutual ignorance, both host country and immigrant family’s fates have been bettered.  A new, shared destiny is forged.

Hey, what’s not to like?

Let’s say, though, this particular immigrant family, because of the global labor market and host country incentives, eventually finds themselves doing pretty well.  They start to bring over more family members to the host country.  These family members often choose to segregate into certain parts of the host cities and keep speaking their own language and eating their own food as often as they can.  A few don’t care too much for the new place, though it’s safer than home.

Overall, despite the gains, social trust in the host city diminishes a bit. Intermarrying, it turns out, is frowned-upon in this particular family’s culture while the family’s religious beliefs (which they’re free to practice and whose practice keeps them in good stead in the home country) might eventually put them in serious crisis and conflict with many traditions and duties of the host country.

This is a rather reasonable-enough scenario I mean to present without too much in the way of value-judgment.  People are people, after all, and while some you want to have close, contributing much, others are better far, far away.  How do you know who’s who?

It seems the melting-pot model requires enough people already in the pot not hating the the pot on principle.

On that note, Christopher Caldwell highlights one of the prevailing turns of mind found throughout our academies and chattering classes these days (the ones often drafting laws and shaping public opinion around immigration):  Many promote a brand of secular humanism too easily passing the costs of immigration onto others (some of your security could well be traded for lofty goals and political promises at first…later on left unguarded by diminished choices, political expedience and mush-mouthed nonsense).

Such folks may also be cowed by the radical practitioners of the ideologies-which-function-much-as-religions these days, especially within our universities; those who claim ANY discussion of negative immigration outcomes is a violation of the sacred ‘-Isms’.

Caldwell:

‘Among academic economists, George Borjas, a professor at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, has a reputation as a debunker of pro-immigration myths and narratives. This is not out of any a priori hostility to immigration. Having left Cuba as a child in 1962 after the Castro government confiscated his family’s clothing factory, he is himself a beneficiary of American openness.

But four decades in academic life have convinced Borjas that most of those who claim to study immigration—in academia, journalism, and politics—are better thought of as advocates for it.’

Let’s find some balance and keep making good things better.

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

On this site, see: From The NY Times: Review Of Christopher Caldwell’s Book “Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West”