From The Hoover Institution: ‘Nature Fakery’

Full piece here.

Our author points out two myths underlying the environmental movement. The topic is hot given the influence of the Greens on our politics at the moment:

‘The Noble Savage is that inhabitant of a simpler world whose life harmonizes with his natural surroundings. He does not need government or law, for he has no private property, and hence no desire for wealth or status, nor for their byproducts, crime and war. His existence is peaceful, free from conflict and strife. He takes from nature only what he needs, and needs only what he takes’

On this site see Roger Sandall in Australia: ….Roger Sandall At The New Criterion Via The A & L Daily: ‘Aboriginal Sin’Roger Sandall At The American Interest: ‘Tribal Realism’

Also, our author argues:

‘The myth of the Golden Age, which the West has inherited from Ancient Greece, is another idealization of the lost simplicity of living in a complex society. This myth imagines a time before cities and technology, when humans lived intimately with a benevolent nature that provided for their needs and for lives of leisure, health, and happiness, free as they were from the unnatural desires and appetites created by civilization’

As posted on this site previously:

I would offer that there are many to whom environmentalism serves as a kind of religion.  On this view, man has fallen away from Nature, and built civilized society atop it through harmful, unsustainable means.  He must atone, and get back in harmony with Nature, as he has alienated himself from his once graceful state (tribal? romantically primitive? collectively just? equal and fair? healthy?  ”spiritually aware?” morally good?).

Related On This Site:  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

Ronald Bailey At Reason: ‘Delusional in Durban’A Few Links On Environmentalism And LibertyFrom George Monbiot: ‘How Freedom Became Tyranny’…people who argue the earth is warming sure don’t live like it:From The American Spectator: ‘Environmentalism and the Leisure Class’

Some Wednesday Links-P5 + 1, ISIS & Ticking Clocks

It might be worth revisiting this piece by George Schultz and Henry Kissinger now that the p5 + 1 preliminary negotiations have been extended for another seven months.

No deal is probably better than a bad deal, and perhaps this kind of dealing:

‘Some adjustments are inherent in the inevitable process of historic evolution. But we must avoid an outcome in which Iran, freed from an onerous sanctions regime, emerges as a de facto nuclear power leading an Islamist camp, while traditional allies lose confidence in the credibility of American commitments and follow the Iranian model toward a nuclear-weapons capability, if only to balance it.’

Historic evolution?

I’m guessing it’s certainly true that some people in Iran (the Green Revolution) would like to be out from under the mullah-controlled, Basij supported deep state.  The ruling cadre has plenty of political enemies within Iran (across broader groups, from religious minorities to the politically and economically oppressed).

Yet, for our sakes, it’s tough to deal with shady bunch of fiercely nationalistic, former Revolutionary guard types in charge: Perfectly happy to get nukes, become the big dogs in the region, keep funding Hizbollah and doing all the shady, destablilizing things they’ve been doing, just now with nukes.

This would continue to be really bad for the Sunnis in Iraq, the Saudis, and the Israelis, among others, as well as pretty much all American interests.

Whether it’s aggressive, untrustworthy terrorist-funding types, to more moderate calculating, wheeling-dealing types buying time and maximum advantage, this was always a longer shot which required serious diplomacy.

I’d love to be proven wrong, but I suspect this approach always required experience, timing, testicular fortitude, and enough realist leadership that seems sorely lacking in this White House.

The clock keeps ticking.

Feel free to highlight my ignorance.  Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

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Over at the nearly completely erased Syrian/Iraq border and to the Kurds left to fight for their survival.

The Turks really can’t afford an independent Kurdistan, but they probably really can’t afford an ISIS-controlled Islamo-thunderdome next door, either.  Erdogan has to keep his opposition down, and still ride the Islamically resurgent wave rolling throughout the region.

From VICE:

From this NY Times piece on the state whatever’s left of the Iraqi Army:

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“I told the Americans, don’t give any weapons through the army — not even one piece — because corruption is everywhere, and you will not see any of it,” said Col. Shaaban al-Obeidi of the internal security forces, also a Sunni tribal leader in Anbar Province. “Our people will steal it.”

Some Thursday Links-Are You ‘Socially Responsible’ & Global Women’s Health Inspectors: Colombia Division

Richard Epstein takes a look at ‘social responsibility’ investing:

‘In September 1970, the late Milton Friedman published a bold manifesto entitled “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits” in the New York Times Magazine, where he argued that businesses do not need to engage in various charitable or public-spirited activities, even those that generally meet with approval from shareholders. The best defense of the Friedman thesis is that any discrete corporate effort to advance collateral ends will not enjoy the unanimous consent of all corporate shareholders, so that the contribution operates like an implicit tax on dissenting shareholders. The better track is for the corporation to make the shareholders rich, so that they in turn can embark on their own charitable operations, without having to bind their fellow shareholders.’

I’d argue that more people nowadays are feeling social pressure to seek purpose, membership in a group, to do what everyone else is doing, be or be thought a ‘good’ person through their investments, and reacting accordingly.  There’s an underlying collectivism in the idea of wearing your commitments on your sleeve this way.

Or, at least, this underlying collectivism puts upward pressure upon companies and corporations to appear ‘socially responsible’ whatever their aims, and in fact pretty much every advertising campaign nowadays seems to be making some nod to climate change, helping the poor, making a difference etc.

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Peter Suderman at Reason on ‘optics’:

‘So the short version is this: The administration had evidence indicating that a young advance team member, who was also the child of a lobbyist-and-donor-turned-administration-staffer, was involved in a potentially embarrassing incident with a prostitute while serving as a member of the presidential advance team—and yet explicitly denied that this was the case, and also appears to have pressured independent investigators to delay and withhold evidence until after the election was over.’

Original piece at the Washington Post.

Repost-Politics Here, Politics There, Politics Everywhere?-From The Hoover Institution: ‘David Mamet On Conservatism’

Video included at the link.

Celebrated American playwright David Mamet underwent a conversion to conservatism in rather dramatic and public fashion a few years ago.  In leaving his liberal views behind, he’s no doubt become a heretic to some.  At the link, he hosts an interview at Il Forno in Santa Monica with Uncommon Knowledge’s Peter Robinson.

Here’s my take, for what it’s worth:

Born and raised in Chicago, Mamet seems pretty old-school and pretty tough.  He reminds me a bit of Norman Mailer, verbally pugilistic and combative, though unlike Mailer he’s taken a different turn into ju-jitsu, instead of boxing, as well as into a different set of motivating principles.  Alec Baldwin’s Death-Of-A-Salesman-on-steroids speech from Glengarry Glen Ross is a well-known example of Mamet’s work (demonstrating the kind of balls-out truth-telling dialogue from which Baldwin has possibly not recovered).  I’m guessing Mamet grew-up back before anti-bullying campaigns and excessive political correctness became the norm.

Mamet also cites Chicago School Of Economics neoclassical thinkers’ Milton Friedman, Thomas Sowell and Austrian economist/political philosopher Friedrich Hayek as central to his conversion.  Hayek’s rather tragic view of limited resources and opportunity costs being the natural state of affairs for mankind is clearly an influence. This would generally lead one to eschew the Statist/rationalist idealism and socialist utopianism typically associated with many Left and liberal Left movements.

***As I understand it, Thomas Sowell, after becoming a young Marxist eventually became a young ex-Marxist, embracing a hard-bitten empiricism regarding outcomes and results, not the intentions, of economic and social policies.  See him discuss his later vision of human nature and political organization in a Conflict Of Visions.

Mamet cites the Bible, but mainly the Talmud as a source of wisdom and knowledge to draw upon as a guide for flawed human nature. Jewish folks in the U.S. have traditionally formed a reliably liberal/Democratic voting bloc, so unlike many Christian religious conservatives, they aren’t necessarily voting Republican.  There are no doubt many reasons for this, but to be sure, there are also many tales of neoconservatives ‘mugged’ out of the social sciences and policy-making halls of the liberal establishment into doubt and skepticism, some chased away by the New Left.  There is also a conservative Christian/Jewish pro-Israel alliance which has traditionally been strong on national defense (some fundamentals of that American/Israeli relationship may be changing).

Religious belief can ground one in a kind of traditional and tragic view of human nature.  This, say, as opposed to human nature understood as simply a blank slate or existentialist absurdity, or by some political movements as human clay to be molded with the right knowledge and right people in charge of our social institutions (they always seem to nominate themselves).  As Mamet discusses in the video, there are distinctions to be made between Talmudic justice and social justice.

I’m guessing he might agree there are distinctions to be made between abstract equality and equality under the law (the exception of Civil Rights and black folks held under the civil laws is discussed).  I’m also guessing he’d argue there are distinctions to be made between life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness on one hand, and liberation theology and/or individual freedom granted by a rights-based cohort in charge of government on the other.

Mamet also touches on the fact that the arts aren’t a political endeavor.  If writing a play is simply a didactic enterprise and/or a vehicle for deploying a political philosophy (Ayn Rand?), then I think the artist has probably failed in some fundamental way to show the audience/reader a unique truth which only that work of art has to show.  Didactic art can come across as clunky at best, pure propaganda at worst.

Personally, I tend to believe that politics, religion, convention and popular thinking all have trouble with the arts.

Anyways, this is just a brief summary.  Any thoughts or comments are welcome.

Feel free to highlight my ignorance.

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Christopher Hitchens referenced Hayek’s work in reviewing Mamet’s book.  For Hitchens it seems, Mamet was adopting the grim literalism of religious texts without a richness of irony vital to the Western tradition (Hitchens cites Hegel).  He also charges Mamet with taking-up his new political commitments with the zeal and ignorance of the newly converted.

Hitchens:

 ‘I have no difficulty in understanding why it is that former liberals and radicals become exasperated with the pieties of the left. I have taught at Berkeley and the New School, and I know what Mamet is on about when he evokes the dull atmosphere of campus correctness. Once or twice, as when he attacks feminists for their silence on Bill Clinton’s sleazy sex life, or points out how sinister it is that we use the word “czar” as a positive term for a political problem-solver, he is unquestionably right, or at least making a solid case. But then he writes: “The BP gulf oil leak . . . was bad. The leak of thousands of classified military documents by Julian Assange on WikiLeaks was good. Why?” This is merely lame…,’

So, why is Hollywood so reliably liberal on so many issues?:

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Related On This SiteVia Youtube: Christopher Hitchens On Faith And Virtue

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

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

People are using art for political, religious, commercial and ideological reasons as always…right or left…believer or non-believer…Dove’s Campaign For Real Beauty: Pascal Dangin And AestheticsFrom Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit

Trading Robert Moses for Brailia…an authoritarian streak?:  Brasilia: A Planned CityAnd AestheticsRoger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?

Jay Z And Marina Abramovic Via Twitter: A Pop-Rap Art Marketing Performaganza… 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’

From Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit’…Marketplace aesthetics in service of “women”: Dove’s Campaign For Real Beauty: Pascal Dangin And Aesthetics

Can Kant do all that heavy lifting…what are some of the dangers of Enlightenment project?:  From Bryan Magee’s Talking Philosophy On Youtube: Geoffrey Warnock On KantA Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty” …

How does Natural Law Philosophy deal with these problems, and those of knowledge?…Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Franz De Waal At The NY Times 10/17/10: ‘Morals Without God?’

Richard Epstein At The Hoover Institution: ‘The End Of Charity?’

Full piece here.

‘Why then would the government take steps to cut back on charitable giving? The most obvious explanation is both insidious and dangerous. It is to shrink the size of its main competitors in the private sector in order to increase the dependence of ordinary people on the federal government.’

This administration has actively pursued getting people to sign up for benefits, in many cases.

Interestingly, old-school Democrat and poor Brooklyn kid Daniel Patrick Moynihan made a similar argument to Epstein’s about making charitable giving easy.  Beware the encroachment of government into such areas of our lives.

Related On This Site: Covering the law and economics from a libertarian perspective: Richard Epstein At The Hoover Institution Journal: ‘Three Cheers for Income Inequality’Richard Epstein At The Hoover Institution: ‘Death By Wealth Tax’Richard Epstein At The Hoover Institution: ‘The Obamacare Quaqmire’

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”

Richard Epstein At The Hoover Institution: ‘The Obamacare Quaqmire’

Full piece here.

‘The situation is further complicated because the basic design of these plans is intended to create major cross-subsidies between user groups, which are enforced by the guaranteed issue and non-discrimination rules that apply to all health coverages on the exchanges. Those requirements mean that it is impossible for insurance companies to deny coverage to any applicant except on very narrow grounds that relate to oversubscription. One major threat to standard insurance coverage is that the insured has more information about his or her condition than the insurer. In traditional insurance law, the insurer was therefore entitled to require full disclosure about the relevant risk in order to price the coverage appropriately, or to decline it altogether.’

What is the end game if insurers can’t properly account for risk?

Related On This Site:    From The New England Journal Of Medicine Via CATO: ‘The Constitutionality of the Individual Mandate’From If-Then Knots: Health Care Is Not A Right…But Then Neither Is Property?… From The New Yorker: Atul Gawande On Health Care-”The Cost Conundrum”Sally Pipes At Forbes: ‘A Plan That Leads Health Care To Nowhere’Peter Suderman At The WSJ: ‘Obamacare And The Medicaid Mess’From AEI: ‘Study: ‘Obama Healthcare Reform Raising Costs, Forcing Workers Out Of Existing Plans’

From The Hoover Institution: David Schmidz On Rawls, Nozick & Justice

Full podcast here. (1 hr15 min long)

‘David Schmidtz of the University of Arizona talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the work of John Rawls and Robert Nozick. The conversation covers the basic ideas of Rawls and Nozick on inequality and justice and the appropriate role of the state in taxation and property rights.’

Related On This Site:   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”…liberals attack: From Slate: ‘The Liberty Scam-Why Even Robert Nozick, The Philosophical Father Of Libertarianism, Gave Up On The Movement He Inspired.’

LIbertarianism at high tide against a particularly liberal administration?…Anarcho-capitalism:  Pro-market, anti-state, anti-war…paleo-libertarian: Link To Lew Rockwell Via A Reader…Anarcho-syndicalist, libertarian socialist and sometime blind supporter of lefty causes:  Via Youtube: (1 of 3) Kant, Chomsky and the Problem of KnowledgeTwo Sunday Quotations By Albert Jay Nock in ‘Anarchist’s Progress’…new liberty away from Hobbes?: 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’

It’s the “machinery” part of libertarianism, or often a certain commitment to abstract structures into which “individuals” would fit that is a little troubling: Youtube Via Libertarianism.Org-David Friedman: ‘The Machinery Of Freedom’.

Some Friday Quotations: (On) Kant, Locke, and Pierce

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Harvey Mansfield At Defining Ideas: ‘Democracy Without Politics?’

Full review here.

Mansfield reviews a new book by Steven Bilakovics:

‘Steven Bilakovics has written a promising first book that will give concern to all who reflect on democracy today. It begins from the simple observation that although everybody loves democracy, everybody is disgusted by democratic politics. Yet what is democracy if not the rule, the politics, of the people?  ‘

And he argues that Bilakovics doesn’t get Tocqueville quite right, as Tocqueville’s central insight is more about democracy vs. aristocracy rather than materialism vs. idealism:

‘Bilakovics has written a thoughtful book, nicely argued, and with elegant formulations one can admire and insights one can learn from. But it is not Tocqueville; it is something looser, more “open.” A defense of openness is not as open as the openness it defends, especially a good one like this, because it must contend intelligibly with arguments, such as Allan Bloom’s, in favor of reasonable limits upon openness. Somehow a reasoner ought to take the side of reason. I leave this thought, with a salute, to the author, and to Claude Lefort and Sheldon Wolin, who still deserve more attention than they get’

Drop a line if you’ve read the book.

Related On This Site:   From Volokh: Harvey Mansfield Reviews ‘The Executive Unbound’Are You Man Enough? Nussbaum v. MansfieldUpdate And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’

From The Harvard Educational Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’Harvey Mansfield At The City Journal: ‘Principles That Don’t Change’

Roger Scruton suggests keeping political and aesthetic judgements apart in the humanities: Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: Farewell To JudgmentRoger Scruton At The WSJ: ‘Memo To Hawking: There’s Still Room For God’

Bryan Magee’s series available on youbtube is useful:  Here’s Nietzsche scholar J.P. Stern on Nietzsche’s anti-Christian, anti-secular morality (Kant, utilitarians), anti-democratic, and anti-Greek (except the “heroic” Greek) biases…

Repost-From The New Atlantis: ‘Montesquieu’s Popular Science