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

Correspondence here.

Link sent in by a reader.

Without a stronger moral core, will liberalism necessarily corrode into the soft tyranny of an ever-expanding State?

Since the 60’s, and with a lot of postmodern nihilism making advances in our society, is a liberal politics of consent possible given the dangers of cultivating a kind of majoritarian politics: Dirty, easily corrupt, with everyone fighting for a piece of the pie?

As an example, Civil Rights activists showed moral courage and high idealism, to be sure, but we’ve also seen a devolution of the Civil Rights crowd into squabbling factions, many of whom seem more interested in money, self-promotion, influence, and political power.

The 60’s protest model, too, washed over our universities, demanding freedom against injustice, but it has since devolved into a kind of politically correct farce, with comically illiberal and intolerant people claiming they seek liberty and tolerance for all in the name of similar ideals.

Who are they to decide what’s best for everyone?  How ‘liberal’ were they ever, really?

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 extend 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?

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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”

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

Repost-Eugene Volokh At The National Review: ‘Multiculturalism: For or Against?’

From THEFIRE.org Via Youtube: ‘Juan Williams On Firing From NPR, ‘Muzzled,’ And Threats Posed To Free Speech’

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Do you remember the Juan Williams’ firing?  He’s got a new book out and is making the rounds.

As regular readers know, my criticism of NPR usually stems from this insight:  The 60’s coalition of feminists, civil-rights activists, multiculturalists and environmentalists often represented on NPR’s airwaves are guided by ideas which unite some people while dividing and excluding others.   Ideas have limitations, and ideas often set-up by well-meaning, morally serious, well-educated people can also lead, over time, to a very different system of incentives and very different behavior than was intended.

Freedom of speech can get in the way.

Here’s a quote by Jerry Pournelle.  His  Iron Law of Bureaucracy:

Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people”:

 First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration.

Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.

The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization’

I certainly see a lot of good in people trying to work to expand their horizons, understand and listen to other points of view while representing them in the public sphere through the arts, literature, politics and a mission of education.  NPR certainly maintains high-standards for journalism and has much broader public support.  I like NOVA as much as the next guy.

But all of the public?  Which single person or group do you trust to speak for all of the public?

Juan Williams, despite what was going on behind the scenes, seems to have stepped on the NPR mission statement.  The ironic thing is he’s still pretty invested in liberalism and the civil rights movement, it’s just that he ran too far afield from NPR’s boundaries, and ran into intolerance and illiberalism, and now he’s making it the central issue of his new book.

Here are his original comments:

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Here was then NPR CEO Vivian Schiller discussing his firing:

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*I’ve always got people telling me I’m too negative and harsh on the one hand, and not critical, negative and harsh enough on the other.  You can’t please ’em all.

Related On This Site:  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”

I’m drafting on Charles Murray: The Hoover Institution Via Youtube: Charles Murray On ‘Coming Apart’

Free speech and Muslimst From Kenanmalik.com: ‘Introduction: How Salman Rushdie Changed My Life’… Via YouTube: ‘Christopher Hitchens Vs. Ahmed Younis On CNN (2005)’…  Mohammad Cartoonist Lars Vilks HeadbuttedDuring Lecture’From The OC Jewish Experience: ‘UC Irvine Muslim Student Union Suspended’From Volokh: ‘”South Park” Creators Warned (Threatened) Over Mohammed’… More From Spiegel Online After The Westergaard Attacks Via A & L Daily: ‘The West Is Choked By Fear’

A Few Thoughts On NPR And Current Liberal Establishment Thinking Under Obama

From FIRE.org-’Federal Government Mandates Unconstitutional Speech Codes At Colleges And Universities Nationwide’

Greg Lukianoff At FIRE.Org: ‘Emily Bazelon And The Danger Of Bringing “Anti-Bullying” Laws To Campus’

From Inside Higher Ed: ‘Into The Lawyer’s Den’

Full piece here.

‘The Obama administration has stepped up its enforcement of sexual harassment rules since 2010, starting with investigations that led to voluntary resolution agreements with Armstrong’s institution and Eastern Michigan University, escalating with high-profile inquiries at Yale University and the University of Notre Dame and a 2012 letter with regulatory guidance, and peaking this spring with a settlement with the University of Montana. The Montana case drew significant attention because, in a letter trumpeting the expansive and unusually aggressive agreement, the Justice Department characterized the settlement there as a “blueprint” for other colleges.’

I’m reminded of Sandra Fluke, and the rights-based victims, the Left-of-Center activist types, able to find common ground with this administration and its extension of civil rights logic as far as it will go:

The FIRE.org had a response.  Full post here:

‘Among the forms of expression now punishable on America’s campuses by order of the federal government are: 

  • Any expression related to sexual topics that offends any person. This leaves a wide range of expressive activity—a campus performance of “The Vagina Monologues,” a presentation on safe sex practices, a debate about sexual morality, a discussion of gay marriage, or a classroom lecture on Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita—subject to discipline.

  • Any sexually themed joke overheard by any person who finds that joke offensive for any reason.

  • Any request for dates or any flirtation that is not welcomed by the recipient of such a request or flirtation.’

This can make bad, overbroad law, and create incentives to use our Federal Government as an enforcer of activism, awash in patronage, constantly expanding, and pursuing the rather narrower ideological aims of those seeking more power.

Related On This SiteGreg Lukianoff At FIRE.Org: ‘Emily Bazelon And The Danger Of Bringing “Anti-Bullying” Laws To Campus’

From Volokh: ‘Conservatives, Libertarians, and Civil Rights History’Libertarianism In The Mainstream?: Rand Paul In The Spotlight…Thomas Sowell archives here.

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

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”

From FIRE.org-‘Federal Government Mandates Unconstitutional Speech Codes At Colleges And Universities Nationwide’

Full post here.

Sure it’s fun to mock the p.c. crowd, but this is p.c. on steroids. Greg Lukianoff, founder of FIRE (Foundation For Individual Rights In Education) sees a new threat on the doorstep:

“In 2011, the Department of Education took a hatchet to due process protections for students accused of sexual misconduct. Now the Department of Education has enlisted the help of the Department of Justice to mandate campus speech codes so broad that virtually every student will regularly violate them.’

The kind of corruption we saw coming out of the IRS is of a piece, too.

More from the article:

‘Among the forms of expression now punishable on America’s campuses by order of the federal government are: 

  • Any expression related to sexual topics that offends any person. This leaves a wide range of expressive activity—a campus performance of “The Vagina Monologues,” a presentation on safe sex practices, a debate about sexual morality, a discussion of gay marriage, or a classroom lecture on Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita—subject to discipline.

  • Any sexually themed joke overheard by any person who finds that joke offensive for any reason.

  • Any request for dates or any flirtation that is not welcomed by the recipient of such a request or flirtation.’

This blog would like to make a brief appeal:

Without glossing too much over the historical record nor the clear moral wrongs of this country’s legacy and institutions to black folks:  The above approach is closing doors you might want to keep open.  No one can take away the civil rights ethos of your elders that’s been passed down to you.  It’s been vital in carving out space for freedom, inclusion under the law, truth, wisdom, safety, dignity and common purpose.  It’s your legacy.

That said, the playing field has changed and will continue to change.  Activists and progressive political coalitions like the ones we have in power will by their nature churn out bad, restrictive laws that tend to favor a few (usually themselves and their cronies) in the name of all.  Every law that can be used to favor your interests, can be used against your interests.

To appeal further, hopefully beyond the typical libertarian argument (freedom vs. coercion, the individual vs. the State) I would say such progressive activism can harm the soil out of which future generations will grow:  The church through onerous regulations and laws which contradict church doctrine, the neighborhood through a weakened and stagnant economy, the healthy bonds that can unite different groups society-wide by encouraging political favoritism and corruption which erodes the public trust.

What am I missing?

Related On This SiteGreg Lukianoff At FIRE.Org: ‘Emily Bazelon And The Danger Of Bringing “Anti-Bullying” Laws To Campus’

From Volokh: ‘Conservatives, Libertarians, and Civil Rights History’Libertarianism In The Mainstream?: Rand Paul In The Spotlight…Thomas Sowell archives here.

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

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”

From Volokh: ‘Conservatives, Libertarians, and Civil Rights History’

Full post here.

‘The Taft-Eisenhower battle illuminates the fact that the more libertarian-oriented conservative tradition was civil-rights friendly. The more traditionalist National Review crowd, which took over the conservative movement, was not. Yet more reason for conservatives to be more abashed about claiming that their position on civil rights makes them superior to libertarians, and, for that matter, for some of our commenters to be a bit more circumspect about reading classical liberals out of the modern civil rights movement.’

Here’s another take from a previous post on this site. Information found here:

Sowell’s argument is a relatively simple one:  ”innate” mental abilities do not develop spontaneously but must undergo development, which is differentially fostered by different cultures, even when the abilities are general and abstract and do not consist of items of cultural knowledge.

“…Sowell’s approach splits the difference between “nature” and “nurture“…

Also On This Site:  Libertarianism In The Mainstream?: Rand Paul In The Spotlight…Thomas Sowell archives here.

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