Repost-From Bloggingheads: Robert Kagan Discusses The U.N. Security Council

5:00 discussion here.

Well over ten years ago now, we willingly decided to pretty much ignore the U.N. and the U.N. security council with our decision to invade Iraq.  It’d be nice to think that a better system would have forced us to balance our interests against those of other powerful and influential states with some stake in the claim.  But make no mistake, the U.N. has got serious problems and seems at times hopelessly outdated and inefficient…attractive to secular humanists and idealists, inclusive of rogues and dictators, and creating lots of bad incentives.

As a result we (and we aren’t the only ones) have to rationally pursue the majority of our self-interest outside the U.N. and still must find common ground and form alliances as we did in Iraq.

A Defense Of Capitalism, Moving Away From Deconstruction & Questioning The Idea Of All That Progress-Some Links

Via Bloggingheads-Will Wilkinson & Jason Brennan Of Georgetown University discuss Brennan’s new book: ‘Why Not Capitalism?’

A radio interview with Brennan here at

Some arguments against idealized and practical socialism.  The kids probably need to hear this kind of thing nowadays.


Via The American Mind Series at Claremont McKenna CollegeHeather McDonald, a fellow the Manhattan Institute, discusses her movement away from Deconstruction at Yale, Jacques Derrida, and her time as a clerk for a judge on the 9th Circuit:


This Jack Balkin paper on Deconstruction is interesting.

See: Heather McDonald At The WSJ: ‘ The Humanities Have Forgotten Their Humanity’Monday Quotation From Charles Kesler And A Few Thoughts on Conservatism


Via a reader: Edward Feser’s review of John Gray’s ‘The Silence Of Animals.’  It is rather unfavorable, and for my part, may highlight a divide between the act of writing and reading as a particular use of the creative imagination versus that of the more sustained reasoning required of philosophical debate.

Needless to say, Gray’s rather nihilistic approach casts doubt upon much of the modern project, religious claims to moral authority, the new humanism and many common assumptions of progress and the products of reason as well.

Here he is in his own words:


Related On This Site:  From The NY Times Book Review-Thomas Nagel On John Gray’s New ‘Silence Of Animals’From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘The Evolution of Mind and Mathematics: Dehaene Versus Plantinga and Nagel’

From Edward Feser: ‘Nagel And His Critics Part IV’A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

John Gray Reviews Jonathan Haidt’s New Book At The New Republic: ‘The Knowns And The Unknowns’

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

What about black people held in bondage by the laws..the liberation theology of Rev Wright…the progressive vision and the folks over at the Nation gathered piously around John Brown’s body?: Milton Friedman Via Youtube: ‘Responsibility To The Poor’……Robert George And Cornel West At Bloggingheads: “The Scandal Of The Cross”

See:Repost-Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-’Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’…John Gray At The Literary Review Takes A Look At A New Book On Michael Oakeshott: ‘Last Of The Idealists’

From The De Blasio Files-Follow The Money And The Money Follows You

I haven’t visited Bloggingheads often due to what I perceive as many Left, and Left-liberal ideological commitments by founder Bob Wright and many of the commenters. Despite the depth, it’s not usually my cup of tea.

However, if you like hearing two local Daily News reporters discuss NYC politics with bemused and fairly cynical eyes, this one’s for you.

Do you remember that Jill Abramson piece about how she got blindsided by a truck (not her firing from the Times)?  It wasn’t bad journalism, honestly.

It’s probably helped the issue become a DeBlasio cause, who is seeking broader platforms around which to gather his union and labor activist coalitions.  Eliminating traffic deaths to Vision Zero and creating more pedestrian safety is the current, stated goal.

DeBlasio’s managed to get money set aside for universal Pre-K as well. (the People’s future will secured through taxpayer funded health-care and education, also with real-estate money it seems).

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s more centrist Democrat push-back and distancing from DeBlasio’s labor activism is the source of a lot of tension, as Albany maintains a lot of power over NYC politics.

He doesn’t want to be labeled a Cuomo-unist later on.

What happens in NYC politics, often has a delayed impact on life for the rest of us.

Here’s Liam Neeson on the horse-drawn carriage fiasco, which has been blown into quite the cause.

Witness the spirit of one lone Irishman willing to stand-up for the dignity of honest work, the sacred bond between man and beast, and the nameless, faceless Joes (and the Teamsters) crushed under the bootheel of Big Red Bill DeBlasio, Big Parking and Big Animal Activism.

Earth-shaking stuff (yes there’s a little sarcasm here):


“I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.”

Repost-Philip Bobbitt Discusses His Book ‘Terror And Consent’ On Bloggingheads

Full diavlog here.

Not a war on terror, but wars on terror.  A deep, interesting discussion of terrorism, nationhood, law, political structures and war.

Bobbit’s professional focus is Constitutional Law.  His faculty page is here, his book here.  A NY Times review here, (a pretty good job), which has the last lines:

There is also a tragic consciousness overshadowing it, evident in the fragments of poetry Mr. Bobbitt cites throughout. He quotes St. Augustine, calling the looming task “mournful work”: “sustaining relative good in the face of greater evil.

**It might be worth revisiting, whatever the outcome of the Boston Marathon Bombing, and how we proceed. 
Addition:  Freedom and security.  Ross Douthat has an interesting post here (with a sobering link to Richard Clarke’s 2005 piece imagining a 2nd wave of Al Qaeda attacks):
‘It would be difficult, no doubt, for even a highly effective terrorist organization to pull off atrocities like yesterday’s bombing — carried out against a high profile target in a major city, with cops and security cameras all around — on a consistent basis without getting rolled up fairly quickly. But I agree with James Joyner and Megan McArdle: In a country as vast as the U.S.A., where Israeli-style security measures would be unmanageable and unimaginable, a highly effective terror campaign (as opposed to the lone-wolf one-offs we’ve experienced) wouldn’t require genius planning, massive amounts of capital, or highly sophisticated material; it would just require guns, crude bombs and (crucially) manpower.’

From Bloggingheads: “Michael Lind Discusses His New Book ‘Land Of Promise'”

Full diavlog here.

Lind, a co-founder of the New America Foundation, advocates a return to thinking about America in terms of the  Hamiltonian and Jeffersonian traditions, particularly in the hopes of resuscitating a Hamiltonian nationalism for Democrats (he used to be a conservative some decades ago).

A brief summmary of the discussion:  -At the time of our founding, Hamiltonians wanted government to intervene on behalf of business (Hamilton was the 1st secretary of the Treasury and had a big hand in the Federalist Papers). Big banks and a strong central institution managing the banks was the model. Hamiltonians were generally more cosmopolitan and wanted a stronger Federal structure on many levels, including many more taxes and tarriffs to regulate most economic activity. They weren’t generally advocates of free trade either (partly because Hamilton thought free trade gave the Crown too much power, and the colonies needed to be protected and organize a stronger response to it).

-Jeffersonians, on the other hand, wanted government to intervene mostly to protect individual liberty and smaller entities.  They thought the Hamiltonians were too comfortable with the aristocratic and monarchic methods they were implenting through Federalism (re-creating the conditions that led the colonies to revolt against the Crown).  Jeffersonians were more agrarian (the city corrupts, banks abstract people from honest labor) and generally supported States and individual rights against the Federalists.


On Lind’s view, both groups have used the government to serve the interests of the people throughout our history and it’s the Hamiltonians who primarily have been successful.   Furthermore, we’re on the cusp of a Fourth Republic (he explains his reasoning, of which I remain skeptical, here).  So, in addition to being at the end of the third incarnation of our Constitutional Republic (incarnations which have always begun after a war) from which a fourth will be born, we’re also ending a cycle of Jeffersonian ascendancy and we need a team of Hamiltonian-types (Democrats, presumably) to build anew.  Lind is ready with some policy prescriptions as well.

In fact, at the end of the diavlog, he advocates permanent federal employment programs for low skilled people in order to get back to where we were in the 1950’s regarding income inequality.  The jobs that aren’t coming back need to be created and subsidized by government in our globally competitive economy.  He also advocates for federal work subsidies in say, the mining industry, which has lost jobs due to automation (now much less labor intensive) in order to get people working where we’ll need them in, say, home health-care.

For Lind, government is the lever to direct individuals’ lives by directing economic activity and ultimately managing and driving economic growth. Deep down, it seems the social contract is one for Lind in which he might have trouble with people voluntarily directing their own lives, and managing their own self-interest, apart from these structures.

Here’s a line from David Leonhardt’s NY Times review of the book:

‘The chapters on the most recent years are a fairly standard liberal version of events, with deregulation and modern finance as the main antagonists.’



Lind also has little patience for libertarians, regards them as extreme, and busy importing the struggles of Central Europe through Friedrich Hayek, the Austrians (heavy on philosophy and metaphysics), and the Chicago School to the detriment of where the real action is:  the two party American system which can revisit previous economic successes through greater government direction within a Hamiltonian federalist structure.

Many libertarians I know understand themselves to be inheritors of the true classical liberal tradition (there is an anarchic libertarian tradition as well), because socially, politically, and economically, the modern American Left has unable to uphold the values libertarians see as central to a liberal society.  Partially, this is because the Left has also been deeply influenced by Continental ideas, including many actual Communists, Marxists, Neo-marxists, the New Left and the “personal is political” crowd.  Such folks are not exactly Hamiltonians.  We’ve also seen the rise of modernism, post-modernism, and moral relativism especially in our universities, all of which have done much to erode many religious and cultural traditions that tend to preserve individual liberty and the Jeffersonian outlook.  Perhaps such libertarian bulwarks are needed against the collectivist and sometimes authoritarian impulses within much of modern liberalism.  I don’t think Lind has convinced me at all such thinking isn’t useful, at the very least.

Generally, these classical libertarians also champion individual liberty, the autonomy of the individual and the vital connection between economic and personal liberty.  This often puts them in greater alliance with modern conservatives (in the Jeffersonian, Republican tradition) than liberals.  It also puts them at odds with religious conservatives in many cases, and anyone who would use the laws to infringe upon their definition of liberty.


This blog remains skeptical of the political and philosophical ideas that promote a redistribution of wealth or resources beyond a very limited scope for government, because it’s not clear that less injustice results, nor more equality, nor even more freedom, except for some who are in charge as they pursue their own self-interest and others in their wake becoming dependent upon and molded by that system.  Lind argues otherwise.

Any thoughts and comments are  welcome, as I’m aware I haven’t responded directly to much of what is essentially, a book on American economic history and current politics, but it has policy implications, especially for the Left and where Lind might want to take the Democratic party.

A review at the New Republic here.

Thomas Jefferson closed his inaugural address of 1801—which was made possible by Hamilton’s continuing influence over the defeated Federalist Party—by reminding his congressional audience that “We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists.” It may also be the case that we are all Hamiltonians, all Jeffersonians, and that, for better or worse, this is a part of the genius of our American system.

Related On This Site:  The voluntary exchanges that occur between people pursuing their own self-interest in the marketplace has been the greatest driver of human freedom and the greatest liberator from the natural human conditions of poverty, privation and want, according to Milton Friedman.  He merges Adam Smith’s invisible hand and Thomas Jefferson’s liberty and separation of powers, including other influences:  Free To Choose

Noam Chomsky also shares a view that the individual ought to be free to enter into voluntary cooperative action (community councils or faculties in universities), but believes that to be achieved by perhaps only anarchy (where he retreats) or anarcho syndicalism, or libertarian socialism.  I don’t find anarchy to be tenable in protecting individual liberty.  Via Youtube: (1 of 3) Kant, Chomsky and the Problem of Knowledge.

Leo Strauss may not have been a believer, but he did want the individual to be free from the structures that developed in Europe these past centuries.  The triumph of Reason (historicism and positivism which lead to relativism and nihilism) over some form of Revelation, or revealed truth.  From Darwinian Conservatism By Larry Arnhart: “Surfing Strauss’s Third Wave of Modernity”

Robert Nozick merged elements of Kant and Locke into a strong, libertarian defense of the individual, and also responded to Rawls distributive justice: A Few Thoughts On Robert Nozick’s “Anarchy, State and Utopia”From Slate: ‘The Liberty Scam-Why Even Robert Nozick, The Philosophical Father Of Libertarianism, Gave Up On The Movement He Inspired.’

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

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At Bloggingheads Steven Pinker Discusses War And Thomas Hobbes

Relevant diavlog here.

In the discussion, Pinker borrows from Thomas Hobbes’ “Leviathan,”  to put forth the argument that one reason for what Pinker claims is an overall decline in violence (at least recently, since 1945) is the development of the modern State.  It has the lion’s share of power, and puts its own citizens at ease from a natural state of potential violence and rational calculation they find themselves in regarding other individuals, groups, and rivals, including other States (see also: game theory) a la Hobbes.  Nature is rough.  Citizens become protected from this state of nature in which escalating violence, revenge and brinksmanship are always present and thus defer these activies to the 3rd party of the State….internally and externally…to get on with their lives in relative security.  On the large scale, States, Pinker points out, still fight each other, and he furthers two more arguments:

1. The State is a somewhat outmoded covention, having served its purpose during the Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment to produce the flowering plants of individual rights, human rights, and other products of modern Western society (that are being exported with and without force around the globe, to varying degrees of success).  The kind of loyalty States require for their existence and to which its citizens give their lives is not necessary to the same degree on this view.  This is highly debatable. Pinker also mentions Norbert Elias, a German sociologist, and the data Pinker cites suggest both a lower frequency of wars and lower frequency of violence per war since the end of the WWII.  Pinker also attempts to isolate Locke, Spinoza, and Kant from other reactions to these thinkers which he claims produced the kind of fascist, marxist/communist, and Nazi movements that have wracked Europe since.

2.  Pinker then mentions an “international Leviathan”  which would be a potential consequence of this view. Much like Hobbes found himself in the throes of a more feudal, warring, Reformation England (the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches), it’s possible to imagine not just a large barganing table with plush chairs for world government, but one in which that world government(s) takes the lion’s share of force from its members and requires submission (as Hobbes agued is necessary for the Leviathan).

Food for thought. Here’s a quote from John Locke:

‘This is to think that men are so foolish that they take care to avoid what mischiefs may be done them by pole-cats, or foxes, but are content, nay think it safety, to be devoured by lions.’

Addition:  A reader sends in a link to an Intro to Political Philsophy course at Yale, discussing the Leviathan, and the scope of Hobbes project to essentially create a “civil science” in response to conditions and Enlightenment developments around him.  As the video points out, perhaps one of Hobbes’ central questions is: “How is legitimate authority possible?”

Hobbes throws out the biblical vision of Eden and of man’s fallen but once perfect relationship with nature, as well as the Aristotelian model of man’s pursuit of his best nature in the polis (and man’s arts & sciences) also with it roots in nature, which was a common view of the time.  Hobbes replaces these, after Machiavelli, with the modern conception of the State.  On this view, man must turn away from nature to some degree, as he has done with the then New science.  He must put questions to nature and reason his way along.  He must impose some order upon nature and discover her laws. Perhaps he can create an enclave where man must make his own order carved out of nature and build for himself civilized society, a society that finds itself in a state of brute nature, fear, violence and mistrust among it members.  The Leviathan is partly that answer for Hobbes, the creation of a sovereign, and a sovereign which has the consent of the people (for this sovereign is also an abstraction, an “office” to be filled by successive men), and is a sovereign that requires the people’s submission.

So, what will prevent the endless strife that consumed both England and Italy of the time for Hobbes and Machiavelli?  How do you maintain respectable authority upon this new vision?

Is this the beginning of Leo Strauss’ 1st crisis of modernity?

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

Addition:  As a friend points out, Hobbes’ thinking contributes heavily in developing the commonwealth, an Anglo-American model which has proved remarkably stable.  Perhaps Strauss reason/revelation distinction and his project just really didn’t understand parts of American life and intellectual history.

Another Addition:  Perhaps we should identify a liberal American tradition that does not contain the seeds of its own nihilism and destruction a la Europe via fascism and value-free relativism and hedonism.  Perhaps there are empirical traditions already in place that escape such a diagnosis.

Also On This SiteSimon Blackburn Reviews Steven Pinker’s “The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial Of Human Nature” Via the University Of Cambridge Philosophy Department

A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”Via Youtube: (1 of 3) Kant, Chomsky and the Problem of Knowledge

Does Leo Strauss offer a way back toward truth through revelation, and not merely reason..?:From Wikipedia’s Page On Leo Strauss: A Few Quotes……Harry Jaffa At The Claremont Institute: ‘Leo Strauss, the Bible, and Political Philosophy’Via An Emailer: Some Criticism Of Leo Strauss?

Has Fukuyama turned away from Hegel and toward Darwin? Adam Kirsch Reviews Francis Fukuyama’s New Book At The City Journal: ‘The Dawn Of Politics’From The Atlantic: Samuel Huntington’s Death And Life’s WorkFrom The American Interest Online: Francis Fukuyama On Samuel HuntingtonFrom Foreign Affairs Via The A & L Daily: ‘Conflict Or Cooperation: Three Visions Revisited’

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Repost-Philip Bobbitt Discusses His Book ‘Terror And Consent’ On Bloggingheads

Full diavlog here.

Not a war on terror, but wars on terror.  A deep, interesting discussion of terrorism, nationhood, law, political structures and war.

Bobbit’s professional focus is Constitutional Law.  His faculty page is here, his book here.  A NY Times review here, (a pretty good job), which has the last lines:

There is also a tragic consciousness overshadowing it, evident in the fragments of poetry Mr. Bobbitt cites throughout. He quotes St. Augustine, calling the looming task “mournful work”: “sustaining relative good in the face of greater evil.”

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Robert George And Cornel West At Bloggingheads: “The Scandal Of The Cross”

Full diavlog here.

The church, and “subsidiarity”, as George defines it and makes the case (beginning at min 16:35), may be crucial in addressing the needs of people: as individuals, as families, as communities, and as a nation, while maintaining a focus on personal responsibility, economic opportunity, and perhaps preventing too much power from disassociating people from those they serve.   George is philosophically deep and offers a reasonable, practical philosophy extending from Natural Law.

Cornel West is still, in my opinion,…Cornel West.  He’s much concerned with poverty, black poverty, and the misery of poverty.  He is often more politically and philosophically left though he runs pretty deep.  He is an associative, literary/artistic type thinker, riffing, and in my opinion, a bit of a caricature of himself.

The two men work to find some common ground in this discussion.  Interesting.

Also On This Site:  From Bloggingheads: Robert Wright And Robert P George Discuss Natural Law

Where might libertarianism conflict with Martin Luther King’s thought… and does religious thinking still unite much more deeply than the current identity politics?:  Sunday Quotation: Edmund Burke On The French Revolution…the dangers of post Enlightenment reason?: Harry Jaffa At The Claremont Institute: ‘Leo Strauss, the Bible, and Political Philosophy’A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”From Peter Berkowitz At Harvard: ‘The Reason Of Revelation: The Jewish Thought Of Leo Strauss’

Taking religion out of the laws, and replacing it with a Millian/Aristelolian framework?: Repost: Martha Nussbaum Channels Roger Williams In The New Republic: The First Founder…From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum

How might Nietzsche figure in the discussion, at least with regard to Camille Paglia.  See the comments:  Repost-Camille Paglia At Arion: Why Break, Blow, Burn Was Successful

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From Bloggingheads: “Values Added: Immigration”

6:42 min discussion here

Remember the 1986 Amnesty?  Mark Krikorian gives some valid reasons about having proper skepticism regarding enforcement promises made once amnesty is given to the illegals already here.

Also On This Site:  From The DOD Website: ‘National Guard to Deploy Troops to Mexican Border’Reno Man Takes Down Mexican Flag With Army KnifeRepost-Immigration: Will A Wall Work?From The WSJ: ‘Judge Blocks Arizona Law’

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