‘The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse.’
‘Its historical perspective is, essentially, the following: in history there has been a permanent break coinciding with the Second World War; what was defeated was not just Fascism and Nazism, but the whole old European tradition; and Fascism and Nazism must be interpreted as phenomena caused by fear of historical progress … As a consequence of this judgment, those who draw inspiration from tradition are always “reactionaries” or “Fascists” (two terms that are stupidly equated), whether they know it or not.‘
Out?: The old town square, where patriotism, freedom of thought and expression, and statues, were more secure (and more religiously influenced, Catholics included)
In?: ‘History’ has a right side, and you’d better get on it. Pick a team…for now. If you have more resources, pick a cause (or fund them). Squares are oppressive.
I’m glad some people are dedicated to discovering the truth. How many other research labs are taking big risks? Who runs them? What about downstream technology in the hands of anyone/any group/any autocrat/any guerilla with a grievance?
Which benefits have already come?
More two cents: Impulses to consolidate power, tighten laws and restrict freedoms come during times of crisis and consequence (people are gonna die immediately). Wars, among other things, can mobilize people society-wide towards victory (also survival).
What if the crisis is a virus? The folks in more amenable to counter-culture liberal idealism are now running many of our institutions during this particular crisis. Their highest goods are often ideals like ‘democracy’, ‘safety’ and ‘communal-health-in-a-modern-society-by-inclusion-of-the-most-marginalized’. (these are the ideas they run on and the statements they tend to issue, anyways).
Behind the scenes, it’s usually the same mixture of principle, self-interest, favor-repayment, coalitions strategy, paybacks, ambition, fear, vanity, personal relationships etc.
This often affects how they wield authority.
It also probably affects how a lot of people are viewing their (S)elves, Nature, and giving the central dramatic meaning to their lives (this virus reaffirms a belief in the ideals).
At least with Christians, violence is limited in principle.
Clive James revisits many quite original, quite accomplished works of Joseph Conrad.
‘They are, in fact, idealists: and idealism is a cast of mind that Conrad questions even more than he questions radicalism. The logical end of radicalism, in his view, is terrorism; but idealism is the mental aberration that allows terrorism to be brought about. Conrad’s originality was to see that a new tyranny could be generated by people who thought that their rebellion against the old tyranny was rational. Thus his writings seem prescient about what was to happen in the Soviet Union. He didn’t predict the Nazi tyranny because he had underestimated the power of the irrational to organise itself into a state. But then, nobody predicted that except its perpetrators; and anyway, mere prediction was not his business. His business was the psychological analysis made possible by an acute historical awareness. Under Western Eyes is valuable not because it came true but because it rang true even at the time, only now we can better hear the deep, sad note.’
Russian and Chinese interests and leadership, as well localism within interconnected networks, might be evidence working against many Western Universalist claims. Distance-shortening technologies won’t simply manifest a world any one of us, alone, or in groups, might be working towards.
It looks to me more like liberalism in the U.S. has been heading towards rule with technocratic elements, bureaucratic elements, liberation elements, and a rather authoritarian hand.
Freedom is next!
Now, what about Safetyism? Might it be a sub-category of above described liberal thinking?
Wear a mask! Don’t go outside! Cars are dangerous! Put that helmet on, mister.
No, really, put it on.
Matthew Crawford discusses:
Let’s say there are many untruths, and conceits, floating through the modern world. One such conceit, I believe, is that (S)cience scales in dealing with all the dark parts and native ignorance of human nature. The latest (S)cientific knowledge need only be understood, interpreted and implemented by an expert technocratic management class into policy. Such ‘technocrats’ will lead all of us, through their expertise, into a better future (they have the knowledge of (H)istory and where (H)istory is going).
Adapting to the Enlightenment is a process, Dear Reader, from Hobbes To Locke To our Founders.
Something like this is happening as we speak, of course. There is a virus, furiously making copies of itself, unlocking the machinery of our cells, mutating and adapting as it goes. Many nurses, doctors and health-employees are seeing this virus kill people up close, exposing themselves to a fair amount of risk. Biologists, virologists, immunologists and medical professionals do have important knowledge and truth to impart. We all ought to be grateful.
If (S)cience is a coattrack, however, there are all manner of bureaucratic second-raters, political idealists, ideologues and demagogues hanging ratty coats, hopes and promises upon it. The particular racial history of the U.S, for example, makes for a lot of awkward silences and social chasms. Have no fear, though, as activists-cum-bureaucratic idealists need only regulate the economy, move some money around, and claim the mantle of (S)cience to succeed in (U)nity. The Climate Apocalypse is Upon Us.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, where any politician is being handed a tough task, such debate comes to the fore.
I hope to be proven wrong.
So, as to what the Sciences can do, Avi Loeb at Harvard has some interesting ideas.
See a great post here at Centauri Dreams.
There was an interstellar visitor cruising by Earth a few years ago. They called it Oumuamua (Wah-muah-muah). By the time we started training our optics upon it, it was on the way out, catching us by surprise. Our solar system mostly falls into a planar surface, and this thing was…coming in at an odd and somewhat perpendicular angle, doing a fly-by around Earth.
Given the probabilities of tracking its origins, it would be nearly impossible to know from whence it originally came. Due to the sunlight reflecting off the object as it rotated, it was shaped mostly like a pancake or cigar. It didn’t outgas quite like comets do (all the water ice in it sublimating into gas as it nears the sun, pushing it away from the sunny side in a predictable manner).
Realistically, one might assume it’s a piece of cosmic flotsam, of natural origins, yielding some interesting data. Loeb, however, is demonstrating, with a lot of scientific rigor, that it’s impossible to disprove that this object doesn’t have unnatural, or intentional origins. It’s an interesting and creative bit of Science.
Furthermore, Loeb believes there’s arguably too much conservatism in the astronomical community (he’s on a lot of boards). By the time the people who can do the math and have tenure ‘arrive’ as it were, they tend to be depressingly conservative in their approach. Of course, a lot of this conservatism is warranted. On the other hand, we may be leaving a lot of great ideas stillborn.
In addition, a LOT of people are naturally curious about the stars, and the possibility that we’re not alone, and many of these people even believe in something like aliens (usually without much evidence, but perhaps, not always).
-Via an interview with Ken Minogue from 2006:
‘BC: What do you make of political correctness? There are those who would argue it’s a thing of the past. Frankly, I don’t see how that’s possible. It seems to me that cultural Marxism is more regnant than ever, would you agree?
KM: In my time, a great deal of what used to be intuitive and instinctive (such as good manners) has been replaced by the rule-bound and rationalised. Political correctness is a politicised version of good manners offering power to the kind of meddlesome people who want to tell others how to behave. As to Marxism, it was merely one more illusion that purported to be the key to life. It is significant in that it reveals one of the dominant passions still at work in our civilisation – the passion to create happiness by technology in the hands of a supposedly enlightened elite.’
Related On This Site: Repost-From The Spiked Review Of Books Via The A & L Daily: ‘Rescuing The Enlightenment From Its Exploiters’… Repost-From The Spiked Review Of Books: ‘Delving Into The Mind Of The Technocrat’
Are these the enemies of the future?: Virginia Postrel At Bloomberg: ‘How The Elites Built America’s Economic Wall’…
Alas, Arecibo. So many findings.
Maybe we can start thinking about building a telescope on the dark side of the moon?
There are reasons for hope and optimism.
This, perhaps, is one of the more important developments in recent history: Reusuable rockets mean much cheaper payloads mean much cheaper space travel:
On to other things…:
Ladies and Gents, here are my two cents: Getting political means having a principle and choosing a position about moving around limited resources. This competition is formalized through the political process, with boundaries set by our Constitution, from elections to lobbying to policy implementation to street-level politics. Washington D.C.’s a two-party town where the business is politics, and where there are some decent people and some pretty ugly people looking to be celebrities.
For old media outlets like Fox/CNN, getting political means serving a product to viewers once you’ve made certain ideas and political opinions an explicit part of your business model. This might work better during periods when our Republic has deeper reserves of institutional competence and public trust.
For NPR, who claim to speak for all the public, it means having some built-in incentives to neutrality and impartiality, but also similar capture by highly political actors and loud-Left activists, while succumbing to the same incentives of audience feedback-looping and gang-like rivalry we’re seeing elsewhere.
Merely gesturing towards your high ideals probably won’t put the genie back in the bottle, especially if politicizing your personal life and then formalizing this into a political coalition is your path forwards.
For the new, increasingly walled media gardens of Google/Youtube, Facebook and Twitter, it means creating and innovating the technology upon which people increasingly communicate, but also increasingly dealing with the politics of Washington D.C. and the politics of…people.
Business decisions are usually the primary guide, but all are subject to the biases of the people within them and the places in which they operate. In my opinion, it would have been nice if more of them choose the harder, higher road of more speech.
The restrictions could get pretty serious, pretty quickly. Follow the money.
What I expect: The older and more principled Left (Weinsteins, Greenwalds, Taibbis) have already moved to different platforms. As much as I don’t agree, there will likely be an American cultural and political center further Leftward, with a slower-growth economy and more ‘class’ resentment than before. The New-Old Left will push back, somewhat, against the New-New identitarian Left:
Ever more vigilance against the inherent autoritiarian/totalitarian consequences of the radical Left (unresolved philosophical foundations) will be required, as they push up into a new majority which will involve increasing technocracy.
Beware the Men Of System.
For me, the Trump split is a sign of the fracturing of the old Republican coalition, the likely movement of Christian America to a minority or a plurality, and people who’d like a more limited government into a fighting minority.
Basically, I’m okay with religious belief as an agnostic, would like a limited government, and support the 1st and 2nd amendments vigorously.
Maybe you disagree?
In the meantime, let a thousand Gretas bloom. [They’re coming…]
In my view, if you’re not getting a lot of reality and human nature right from the jump, reverting to authoritarian and hare-brained means of control once you co-opt institutions is a feature, not a bug.
Utopia and dystopia tend to go hand-in-glove.
In Seattle the City Council Of Nine is where the radical action happens.
‘In October, the Seattle City Council floated legislation to provide an exemption from prosecution for misdemeanor crimes for any citizen who suffers from poverty, homelessness, addiction, or mental illness.‘
Don’t count on some journalists to support your right to speak, as they….speak. Other ideas, incentives and pressures matter more to them:
If you’re thinking diversity is enough to unite a Nation under its laws, in order to keep things civil and not violent, I have my doubts.
Heather MacDonald has a new book out, and I think it’s generally correct about what mid to longer-term solutions might actually unite us: ‘The Diversity Delusion: How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermine Our Culture‘
Thanks for stopping by, and to everyone that has!
‘It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood.’
Via the Federalist: Yuval Levin discusses his book The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine and the Birth Of Left And Right.
Some of the questions coming at Levin during the interview, I suspect, are meant to challenge Burke as either a Straussian historicist, or a(n) utilitarian. The historicist critique would have Burke holding an epistemological framework which presumes knowledge of an endpoint to human aims and affairs and a lens to observe all of human history accordingly (quite dangerous in the hands of intellectuals, Statesman and policymakers, especially the radical kind willing to break what came before and design, top-down, what will subsequently come on the way to that endpoint).
The normative ethics of the utilitarian arguments, on the other hand, tend to run into the problems of eventually sacrificing individuals on the altar of the greatest good, and also majoritarian politics, or perhaps even ‘tyranny of the majority’ scenarios, where many of the subtle protections of individual and minority (literally defined) liberties in our constitutional framework could potentially be eroded by populist sentiment, moral panics, bad laws, and mob rule.
One of Levin’s main insights is that Burke should be thought of as a Statesman, a politician and a debater, one who nearly always refused notions of top-down, abstract principles and design rather than simply conserving what was already in place.
***Abstract principles, perhaps, of the rationalist kind, the centrally planned, bureaucratic kind, or the progressive activist kind which have been serious influencers on our laws and lives.
Any thoughts and comments are welcome.
As previously posted:
‘A state without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation. Without such means it might even risque the loss of that part of the constitution which it wished the most religiously to preserve. The two principles of conservation and correction operated strongly at the two critical periods of the Restoration and Revolution, when England found itself without a king. At both those periods the nation had lost the bond of union in their antient edifice; they did not however, dissolve the whole fabric.’
–Edmund Burke, commenting on the French Revolution, in The Evils Of Revolution, What Is Liberty Without Wisdom And Without Virtue It Is The Greatest Of All Possible Evils, New York, NY. Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2008. Pg 8.
Also On This Site: What are the drawbacks of defining that change within J.S. Mill’s utilitarianism, or within abstract ideals which are assumed to be universal…i.e….perhaps…more like France in this context?: Saturday Quotation-J.S. Mill…A Few Thoughts-Another Take On J.S. Mill From “Liberal England”
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
Sandall reviews Robin Fox’s book “Tribal Imagination: Civilization And the Savage Mind”.
‘New political understandings are being launched each day, it seems. From one quarter comes what we might call Praetorian Realism, an acknowledgment of Samuel Huntington’s scenario for the military disciplining of civil chaos in modernizing lands. From another comes Matrix Realism, emphasizing the army’s role in the institutional order of the Arab countries. In this expansive intellectual climate, with its growing range of options, perhaps there’s room for one more entrant. Let’s call it Tribal Realism, the aim being to bring anthropological insights to bear on our political prospects abroad.’
So, where do the social-sciences and foreign-policy fruitfully meet? Sandall argues Fox’s then new book can point out quite how we often misunderstand other parts of the world as we project our own traditions, definitions of freedom, and democratic ideals upon it:
‘Fox knows what Tierney and most other educated Americans apparently do not: that tribal communities are the default system of human social nature. Humanity evolved that way for millennia after exiting the hunter-gatherer band stage of social life. Many of the planet’s diverse societies have since moved on toward becoming modern states, but not all of them have. And even for those that have, the shadowy emotional residues of the distant past remain.’
Fox puts his thinking into a framework of evolutionary theory (as opposed to, say, religious doctrines).
‘Fox sees the European habit of viewing society as a loose aggregate of autonomous individuals as a barrier to understanding. It prevents us from seeing the truth of Ernest Gellner’s argument in Muslim Society that, under Islam, “the individual acts toward the state essentially through the mediation of his kin group.” It equally prevents us from seeing that in ancient Greece (meaning the Greece of legend that long preceded the reforms of Cleisthenes and the rationalistic speculations of Plato and Aristotle), both autonomous individuals and the state itself were problematic.’
Food for thought, as I always think it’s important to point out that secular post-Enlightenment ideals can suffer many of the same problems as religion when sailing into contact, conflict and engagement with other parts of the world, as that world can be a dangerous place.
I like how Kenneth Minogue came at the problem of Western civilization vs what he argued exists in much of the rest of the world: ‘One-right order’ societies, or civilizations much more hierarchical and limited in individual freedoms and economic opportunities to which those in the West are accustomed.
Minogue also highlights what he sees as important differences between libertarians and conservatives during his critique of political idealism in the video below. On this site, see: Where The Libertarian And Conservative Often Part Ways-Arnold Kling On Ken Minogue’s ‘The Servile Mind’
Related On This Site: Philosopher Of Art Denis Dutton of the Arts & Letters Daily (R.I.P) says the arts and Darwin can be sucessfully synthesized: Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’.
Do we try and invest in global institutions as flawed as they are…upon a Kantian raft?: Daniel Deudney On YouTube Responding to Robert Kagan: Liberal Democracy Vs. Autocracy
Francis Fukuyama uses some Hegel and Samuel Huntington…just as Huntington was going against the grain of modernization theory…:Newsweek On Francis Fukuyama: ‘The Beginning Of History’…Francis Fukuyama At The American Interest Online: ‘Political Order in Egypt’
‘The current law is equally defective in its choice of remedies in the event of pollution. Everyone agrees that polluters should ordinarily be required to pay for the damage they cause to both public and private property, as was long required under the common law. But one key element in the private law equation was to wait until the potential nuisance was imminent or actual before issuing an injunction. The EPA does not worry about these limitations in the exercise of its enormous permit power, but requires the proponents of any new project to run a huge regulatory gauntlet that consumes years and many millions of dollars before anything can be done.
As previously posted:
Ron Bailey at Reason on Obama’s trip to Alaska:
‘In other words, whatever benefits the administration’s convoluted energy and emissions regulations may provide, they are costing American consumers and industry three times more than would a comparable carbon tax. Talk about negative impacts!’
I think this comment gets to the heart of what some folks are likely thinking:
‘Look, if we can model the economy, we can model the climate.’
YOU should feel guilty about the poor, the downtrodden, and the global victims of industrial activity. WE should ‘re-wild’ nature and bring it to a state it achieved before man came and despoiled it. Humans have the power to shape their world, but only if they follow the right ideals and the right knowledge, as well as perhaps feeling the guilt and commitment and passion that come with those ideals. WE should aim for a simpler, collective life, and feel ’empathy’ with everyone (oft times the noble savage) around the globe.
To be fair, we don’t often see genuine socialists out in public in the United States pushing green causes, but there’s more than a little anti-corporate, anti-industrial activism that often finds expression within environmental movements. This activism can make its way into laws, and forms a major plank in the Democratic party platform nationally.
Whatever your thoughts on the natural world and conservation, I think it’s fair to say that from cartoons to schools to movies, there’s also been remarkable popular success in making environmental activism mainstream conventional wisdom; easy, cool and fun to join.
Rarely though, is there much discussion of the costs environmental laws can impose on private landowners and consumers (not just big real-estate developers and industrial interests) through compliance with the laws and higher prices. Supporters of environmental causes don’t often connect the dots between their interests and the potential for bureaucratic waste and mismanagement, nor the downright twisted incentives that can result for citizens, lawmakers and even budding scientists looking for grant money.
As we see in California, I think once you get enough public sentiment believing in the basic tenets of green thinking, then climate science, whatever its merits, often becomes a sideshow, while politics and money can become the main event.
***I think Monbiot was on much more stable ground when he appealed to J.S. Mill’s harm principle regarding people harmed by industrial activity. Sometimes people in industries just don’t care about some of the consequences of their actions, and legal recourse can be hard to come by for those without money or connections. There have been beneficial consequences to individuals’ health and to those parts of nature sought to be conserved…but again…at what cost?
It seems worth continually discussing.
Related On This Site: A Wolf In Wolf’s Clothing?-’Rewilding’ And Ecological Balance
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.’…
Is it actual Nature, or a deep debate about civilization and morality, man and nature that fuels this Western debate: ….Roger Sandall At The New Criterion Via The A & L Daily: ‘Aboriginal Sin’…Roger Sandall At The American Interest: ‘Tribal Realism’…Karl Popper’s metaphysical theory: Falsifiability
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…
Instead of global green governance, what about a World Leviathan…food for thought, and a little frightening: At Bloggingheads Steven Pinker Discusses War And Thomas Hobbes…
Stern points out how important the Catholic Church, and one man in particular, were in transforming Irish immigrants from a hated, poor, dislocated immigrant class into something more in mid nineteenth-century America:
‘A hundred years ago and more, Manhattan’s tens of thousands of Irish seemed a lost community, mired in poverty and ignorance, destroying themselves through drink, idleness, violence, criminality, and illegitimacy.’
The Irish Catholic Church had brought a lot of its troubles with it, but opportunity was here, and the religion needed to change (the metaphysical debates may last for centuries but religion is woven into the culture, responding to the culture, of its time, usually only as good as its people and the decisions they make):
‘Hughes was outraged. He didn’t want Catholics to be second-class citizens in America as they had been in Ireland, and he thought he had a duty not to repeat the mistakes of the clergy in Ireland, who in his view had been remiss in not speaking out more forcefully against English oppression.’
This required a moral and psychological transformation that perhaps only religion could provide. Education and job opportunities were key:
‘Faced with perhaps as many as 60,000 Irish children wandering in packs around New York City—not attending school, not working, not under any adult supervision—Hughes encouraged the formation of the Society for the Protection of Destitute Catholic Children, known as the Catholic Protectory, which was in a sense the forerunner of Boys Town.’
Eventually, criminals became policeman, trades were learned, politics was infiltrated and controlled through the big city machines.
***Many of the functions that charities, churches, and religious organizations perform will likely try and be co-opted by the government (the De Blasio coalitions no doubt see many things this way). Interestingly, old-school Democrat, poor Brooklyn kid, and sociologist Daniel Patrick Moynihan made some interesting arguments about the dangers of such Statism.
Related On This Site: But progressive policies do address needs, and reward people, just at great cost including potential threats to individual liberties, jobs, political stability and individual and fiscal responsibility, obviously. Walter Russell Mead says the Great Society is over: A Few Thoughts On Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest: “Why Blue Can’t Save The Inner Cities Part I”
Roger Scruton At The WSJ: ‘Memo To Hawking: There’s Still Room For God’ …Theodore Dalrymple In The City Journal: Atheism’s Problems..more progressive silliness.Heather MacDonald At The City Journal: ‘The Sidewalks Of San Francisco’
Egads, New York:
‘Well, thanks to two new bills currently gaining traction in Albany’s assembly and senate, New York may become the first state to incentivize adding diversity to a production’s writing staff.
The bills, A47373 and S 5370, would modify the existing production state tax credit, so that certain New York writing income would qualify as an eligible expense. A company would have to employ women or people of color, and a portion of their New York salaries would qualify for the credit, which hasn’t been the case previously. It’s capped at $50,000 per writer, and an overall expenditure of $3.5 million a year.’
So will writers’ rooms have to send-in photos every quarter, or a list of diverse-sounding names to ensure they’re receiving the credit?
Will there be surprise, on-site inspections with a potential room full of white guys fleeing like cockroaches?
On that note, via The Federalist, ‘Get Ready For Racial Quotas In Your Neighborhood:’
Play nice, children:
‘HUD intends to insert itself into local zoning efforts through the AFFH (Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing) program to push affirmative action in housing policy, directing HUD grant recipients to “affirmatively further the Act’s goals of promoting fair housing and equal opportunity.’
You will play nice. Now, who isn’t playing nice?
Seriously, who? Where do they live?
Related On This Site: $8 cheeseburgers, operating losses and writers: From The New Yorker: ‘Writing Powered By Amtrak’
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’