Some Links And Thoughts On The 2nd Amendment, Brexit & Libertarianism

I’m pretty sure human nature hasn’t changed all that much, nor have our founding documents.

Some of what seems to have changed is public sentiment around which many people are gathering.  Certain ideals are helping to define and describe the type of society such folks would like to live in, with consequences for all of us through law and public policy (interpreting the Constitution).

I know and have known people living in rural areas, hunting as a part of family and generations’ long tradition (yes, there are always a few nutballs and losers).  I’ve witnessed careful duty and patient instruction (as well as drunken and foolish behavior in the woods).  I’ve witnessed people who own guns as a pleasurable pastime placing them within nature, almost sacredly so.

Valuable survival skills, lots of time spent and knowledge gathered outdoors, and a respect for living creatures are not uncommon.

I also know and have known some inner-city folks, decent, honorable people (living amidst a lot of family and civic breakdown), law-abiding and reasonable people (dealing with much violent and dangerous adolescent gang and criminal behavior as well as crap policing).  Many such folks have trouble seeing guns as a pleasurable pastime, which strikes me as not unreasonable, given their experiences.

A different, but no less valuable, set of survival skills can be found; lots of time spent and knowledge gathered within a city within nature, and where a respect for people and moral decency are not uncommon.

When it comes to gun ownership, David Harsanyi doesn’t agree with some Supreme Court justices:

‘The singular purpose of the Second Amendment, they argued, was to arm militias, not individuals. For some reason, they contend, the Second Amendment, unlike most of the Bill of Rights, actually empowered the government rather than the individual. Any other interpretation was an antiquated and destructive reading of the past. But history has never backed up this contention — not then, and not now.’

The public debate is still a mess, and I believe this short-changes us all.

I still don’t trust those with authority to oversee a society with guns anymore than I trust those with authority to oversee a society without guns. Your ambition and knowledge has limits, and so does mine.

Merely defaulting to the authority such ideals would produce (by influencing real courts or appealing to abstract concepts in the ideal society to come) strikes me as a failure of the moral imagination.

More broadly, so you get a better picture of my thinking, dear Reader, I also don’t trust peace idealists to properly manage the instincts and reasons we humans go to war.  Bad maps, in my opinion, tend to lead to worse handling of the terrain.

A quote from this piece over at the Atlantic: From The Atlantic: Samuel Huntington’s Death And Life’s Work

“Although the professional soldier accepts the reality of never-ending and limited conflict, “the liberal tendency,” Huntington explained, is “to absolutize and dichotomize war and peace.” Liberals will most readily support a war if they can turn it into a crusade for advancing humanistic ideals. That is why, he wrote, liberals seek to reduce the defense budget even as they periodically demand an adventurous foreign policy.”

On that note, an interesting thought from Carlo Lancelotti:

This seems to me a primary question regarding the European Union (started as an economic project), which has slowly morphed into a political, legal and cultural one.

A very slight majority of Britons wanted out, and now they’re out.

Partly, this is why I harbor unresolved doubts regarding the anarchic foundations of libertarianism, and mission creep.  If individuals, keeping their promises and not doing violence, form the basic unit of modern civilization, than does it follow that some sort of equilibrium will be achieved?  I’m not sure this kind of anti-establishmentarian, decentralized authority vision of a civilization is practicable.

I remain skeptical, but this may say more about me than libertarianism, or that some libertarian principles lead to a kind of ‘economic-union first’ politics, upon which the European Union is arguably failing.

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.  What have I gotten wrong?

Related On This SiteA Few Thoughts On Robert Nozick’s “Anarchy, State and Utopia”…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’

Catholic libertarianism: Youtube Via Reason TV-Judge Napolitano ‘Why Taxation is Theft, Abortion is Murder, & Government is Dangerous’

New liberty away from Hobbes…rule-following punishers?: 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’

Steven Pinker curiously goes Hobbesian and mentions an ‘international Leviathan’:   At Bloggingheads Steven Pinker Discusses War And Thomas Hobbes

 

Postmodern Body Talk-A ‘Narrative’ To Which You Might Want To Pay Some Attention

From The Seattle Times-‘Art, Crime And Survival: ‘Awaiting Oblivion’ Seeks Hope In Hopelessness:’

‘After his arrest at Occupy Seattle, a local actor and youth-homelessness worker corresponded with “AO” — a mysterious graffiti/street artist or artists who mailed him art-based “temporary solutions” to stave off despair. The result, “Awaiting Oblivion,” opens at On the Boards.’

The two pictures at the link probably tell more than my words ever could.

Nevertheless, here’s a brief write-up: Lost, desperate souls wander hopelessly through and around the world’s woes, ground-down and alone, bedraggled and suicidal, finally…perhaps finally, discovering some meaning and purpose by engaging in (A)rt as salvation and (A)rt as therapy.

One voice, a candle-flame flickering in the darkness, provides hope and succor, solidarity and structure, across the meaningless void.  Perhaps, here, bodies of innocence and bodies of decadence spontaneously and rhythmically erupt in joy against systems of oppression and cold, uncaring authority.

Gender becomes fluid, intersectional; bodies heat-up, juxtaposed within many competing narratives of time and space.

Anti-Capitalist ‘Occupy’-style political activism and identitarian political ideology provide some replacement glow of family and friendship.


Enough of that, already.

Yet, dear reader, you might want to pay attention to how this thinking so easily can make its way up through many news and media outlets, seeping down from institutions of higher-ed into the popular culture, forming reefs of public sentiment and ‘right-thinking’ public opinion.

In fact, I’d say it will likely coalesce around a broader, more popular political middle (women’s marches) in a few years time, [that, in turn] cooling into more somewhat-reasoned anti-Trumpism.

On that note, more (A)rt as politics and protest: ‘In Protest of Trump’s Travel Ban, Davis Museum Will Remove All Art Made or Donated by Immigrants.’

‘From tomorrow, February 16, to Tuesday, February 21, 20 percent of the permanent collection galleries at the Davis Museum at Wellesley College will be shrouded or removed’

‘We’re a nation of immigrants’, not of laws, seems to have become the ‘dominant narrative,’ in many quarters these days.

Donald Pittenger, at Art Contrarian, and formerly of 2 Blowhards, has been looking at modernism. From the banner of his blog:

‘The point-of-view is that modernism in art is an idea that has, after a century or more, been thoroughly tested and found wanting. Not to say that it should be abolished — just put in its proper, diminished place’


Tom Wolfe on Max Weber on one conspicuous use of art in the ‘modern’ world:

‘…aesthetics is going to replace ethics, art is going to replace religion, as the means through which educated people express their spiritual worthiness…

Maybe anti-commercialism is kind of commercial after all, and ‘ironically’ ends-up becoming a spiritual prosthetic in many lives (update: Well, at least to hangers-on following artists around like cult-leaders, but more broadly, such influence is not hard to find in popular culture)

David Thompson offers satire on such matters.

Postmodern generator here, via David Thompson.

Simon Blackburn revisits the Sokal hoax.

Do you remember the Sokal hoax?

Some Updated Links On Postmodernism

Daniel Dennett: ‘Postmodernism And Truth’

I have a soft spot for contrarian social scientists, like Charles Murray and Jonathan Haidt, pushing against what can so easily become an orthodoxy: Repost-Charles Murray Lecture At AEI: The Happiness Of People…

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?’

Update & Repost-From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘Haidt’s Vindication of Fusionist Conservatism and Aristotelian Liberalism’

***My own anecdote: After a fruitful Town Hall discussion here in Seattle, celebrated British mathematician Roger Penrose did some Q & A afterwards. Most questions were from math majors, physicists, engineers and hobbyists in the crowd (many were over my head…but I tried to catch a few).

One question came from a youngish man in a beret, a little unkempt, who asked (in a possibly affected, but in a very serious tone):

‘Mr. Penrose, what is meaning in a moribund universe?

‘Eh…sorry…I didn’t catch that?’

‘What is meaning in a mo-ri-bund universe?’

‘Well, that is a different kind of question…I mean, here’s what I can offer you…’

***That’s roughly how I remember it, and Penrose was gracious, but brisk, in moving onto the kinds of questions he might be able to answer, or for which he could provide some insight.

Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘The Ironies Of A Palestinian State’

Full piece here.

Worth a read:

‘This traditional mélange of authority relationships masquerading as a modern state, as it were, were bound to confound Westerners, Americans in particular. Most Americans think their forms of government and the civic habits that go with them are universal in character. As far as the average person is concerned, they somehow just fell out of the sky one day in the 17th or 18th century, and we are so lucky to have been chosen to receive the tablets first. (We broke them in civil war and so had to have a second set carved out.) That average person also believes that people are essentially the same in all places and ages and that they’ll come around to our liberal democratic “best practice”—for we and the world all together of course are progressing, that being the faith of the thinly veiled “secular” eschatology of the Enlightenment.’

Garfinkle points out that should the Palestinians get their own state at some point, the record of stable Muslim states isn’t looking so hot. It may be better than the current status quo, but in the wake of the ‘Arab Spring,’ its best to take a more sober view of what’s possible.

—————————

Despite the Palestinian condition, I’m guessing the aspirations of unity under Islam as opposed to national identity for all the family/group/tribal loyalties throughout the Muslim World creates deep chasms.  Desert nomads can live in pre-modern material conditions, for example, but also for large majorities throughout the Muslim world, our Western concepts of individual liberty and functioning democratic and constitutional Republican States are often worlds away.

History is long while ethnic, linguistic and religious differences abound. Islam as a unifying force, despite its many strengths, hasn’t undergone anything like an Enlightenment as many understand it in the West, which has produced the Westphalian, Weberian, and State models which those in the West have exported and at times, imposed. Islam’s transcendental claims are absolute, and submission of the will in faith a requirement, which only adds to the confusion.

In such a light, the grievances and resentments of Muslims living under genuine Western colonial and imperial activity, but usually under their own military autocrats, competing factions and dynasties along with their own contradictions, ancient divisions and hatreds, and in some cases, pathologies, can be understood a little better.

From such depths, modernity itself could be seen as an imposition. The appeal to drive the infidel from the Arabian peninsula, to be in control of something, and the desire to return the Muslim world to an to Islamic, pre-modern utopia for which its universals are the true universals finds a lot of sentiment. The problem is, this program is also pursued by trained and murderous ideologues, the radical Islamists with whom we are essentially at war.

These are battle-hardened fighters, many of whom have guerilla skills and not much else.

Sometimes, you’re dealing with such ideologues, thugs and ahistorical holy warriors that it’s not hard to spot them.  Recruiting kids is usually a tell.

From a reader:

It’s interesting to get reports from the ground.  Vice embedded with some ISIS now just IS (Islamic State) people in Iraq.  The connection with Syria is pretty obvious:

How are they similar to other groups with Western-style, fascistic elements like Shining Path in Peru (Maoist revolutionaries), and how are they similar to the Islamic revolutionaries in 1979 Iran?

How are they different?

—————–

Tell me what I’m getting wrong.  Your thoughts and comments are welcome.

From Slate: ‘In Aleppo, Syria, Mohamed Atta Thought He Could Build The Ideal Islamic City’Lawrence Wright At The New Yorker: ‘The Man Behind Bin Laden’

Fareed Zakaria At Newsweek: ‘Terrorism’s Supermarket’Via Youtube: ‘Roger Scruton On Islam And The West’

Inside Everyone Is A Western Individual Waiting To Get Out?-Repost-Roger Sandall At The American Interest: ‘Tribal Realism’

Has Fukuyama turned away from Hegel and toward Darwin?Update And Repost-Adam Kirsch Reviews Francis Fukuyama’s Book At The City Journal: ‘The Dawn Of Politics’

Statism abroad, statism at home: Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘What Did The Arab Spring Really Change?’…Liberal Internationalism is hobbling us, and the safety of even the liberal internationalist doctrine if America doesn’t lead…Via Youtube-Uncommon Knowledge With Fouad Ajami And Charles Hill

Is Bernhard Henri-Levy actually influencing U.S. policy decisions..? From New York Magazine: ‘European Superhero Quashes Libyan Dictator’Bernhard Henri-Levy At The Daily Beast: ‘A Moral Tipping Point’Charlie Rose Episode On Libya Featuring Bernhard Henri-Levy, Les Gelb And Others

From The NY Times Book Review-Thomas Nagel On John Gray’s New ‘Silence Of Animals’

Full review here.

Book here.

Simon Critchley reviews the book at the L.A. Times.

Nagel starts with:

‘John Gray’s “Silence of Animals” is an attack on humanism. He condemns this widely accepted secular faith as a form of delusional self-flattery.’

and:

‘The question Gray poses is of fundamental importance, so one wishes the book were better. It is not a systematic argument, but a varied collection of testimonies interspersed with Gray’s comments.’

Clearly humanism could use more serious critics and pushback.

Nagel finishes with:

‘Gray thinks the belief in progress is fueled by humanists’ worship of “a divinized version of themselves.” To replace it he offers contemplation: “Contemplation can be understood as an activity that aims not to change the world or to understand it, but simply to let it be.” Though he distinguishes this from the ideal of mystical transcendence toward a higher order of being, it, too, seems more like a form of escape than a form of realism. Hope is a virtue, and we should not give it up so easily.’

Gray discusses the book here:

While science may proceed and real progress is taking place, in the realms of ethics and politics, Gray suggests things are learned but they don’t stay learned.

Are we rational beings?  Rational animals?

————————-

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

Related On This SiteFrom Darwinian Conservatism: ‘The Evolution of Mind and Mathematics: Dehaene Versus Plantinga and Nagel’

From Edward Feser: ‘Nagel And His Critics Part IV’

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

Steven Pinker somewhat focused on the idea of freedom from violence, which tends to be libertarian. Yet, he’s also skeptical of the more liberal human rights and also religious natural rights. What about a World Leviathan?: At Bloggingheads Steven Pinker Discusses War And Thomas HobbesFrom Reason.TV Via YouTube: ‘Steven Pinker on The Decline of Violence & “The Better Angels of Our Nature”‘Simon Blackburn Reviews Steven Pinker’s “The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial Of Human Nature” Via the University Of Cambridge Philosophy Department

A Few Sunday Thoughts Towards A Theme

Recently, British thinker Alain De Botton floated the idea of building an ‘atheist temple’ in the heart of London.  He recommends combing through religious practices for useful organizing principles in response to the New Atheists.  You can read more about it here, which includes a radio interview/podcast.

Did the Unitarian Universalists get there first, with a mishmash of faith and secular humanism?

Towards a theme: Perhaps you’ve also heard of the Rothko chapel, in Houston, Texas:

‘The Rothko Chapel, founded by Houston philanthropists John and Dominique de Menil, was dedicated in 1971 as an intimate sanctuary available to people of every belief. A tranquil meditative environment inspired by the mural canvases of Russian born American painter Mark Rothko (1903-1970), the Chapel welcomes over 60,000 visitors each year, people of every faith and from all parts of the world.’

There’s even a suite of music by Morton Feldman, entitled ‘Rothko Chapel’

—————————

Simon Schama has a four-part series on Rothko available on Youtube.

Here’s Robert Hughes, whom I’d identify as an art critic with roots in the Anglo-American tradition.

“Mark Rothko was obsessed with the idea of an abstract art that would carry the full weight of religious meaning.”

Sadly, Rothko killed himself.  To be fair, that was a tall order to fill.  Hughes’ also discusses the American romantics, brushing up against the wide open wilderness, and raising questions of transcendence in the linked video.

Like me, you may have gotten a whiff of something almost New Age about the chapel.  Here are some people congregating there to do yoga:

——————————

Lastly, to beat my favorite horses, I just wanted to contrast the above with the portions of our politics and culture which depend upon traditional religion, and upon resistance to the pursuit of virtue through collectivist political philosophies, which often finds common ground in secular humanism:

Addition:  Big theme, small blog?  Does art always seek its own space?

Related On This Site: Douthat argues that organized religion is on the decline in America, and in its place are rising new-age, self-help, mega-churches, and vague spirituality: Ross Douthat At The NY Times: ‘Divided By God’

Charles Murray is trying to get virtue back with the social sciences: Charles Murray At The New Criterion: ‘Belmont & Fishtown’Charles Murray Lecture At AEI: The Happiness Of People

From YouTube: Roger Scruton On Religious Freedom, Islam & AtheismRepost-From Virtual Philosophy: A Brief Interview With Simon Blackburn…Can you maintain the virtues of religion without the church…of England?:  From The City Journal: Roger Scruton On “Forgiveness And Irony”…Repost: A Debate: Would We Better Off Without Religion?…One of the new atheists and a 68er and socialist, materialist and relentless critic of religion, and especially faith: Via Youtube: Christopher Hitchens On Faith And Virtue

Nussbaum argues that relgion shouldn’t be a source for the moral laws From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum

Libertarianism In The Mainstream?: Rand Paul In The Spotlight

Full post here.

Rand Paul is having to answer some questions surrounding civil rights:

‘Republican Senate nominee Rand Paul scrambled to explain his criticism of the landmark U.S. Civil Rights Act, which outlawed racial discrimination, saying he agrees with its goals but questions the federal government imposing its will on businesses.’

Are you comfortable with?:

-The Federal Government enforcing legislation that seeks to protect and extend rights of citizens who were formerly held by the laws in slavery, so that they may have access to public resources and education, and be regarded as equal under the law? Do you think it’s the business of the state?

-Paying your taxes (property, especially) to state, local and federal entities so that they may maintain the schools and roads and law enforcement where you live? What about when they harbor unions?

-The Federal Government overseeing and enforcing legislation that would potentially require every citizen to acquire health insurance, and vastly extending its influence over the private insurers to reach its goal? (I think this is one of Paul Krugman’s key arguments:  the profound inefficiencies, irregularities and inconsistencies of our health care delivery system have led to spiraling costs that can only be corrected by the Federal Government which is the only entity large enough to do it…such an argument has won the day).

-The Federal Government passing and enforcing legislation to influence the economic activity of those who discover, refine, produce and consume fossil fuels due to the threat of the Climate Change interests?

—————————————-

I can be fairly sure that one reason Rand Paul was elected was to counter the liberal direction of the current administration and Congress, as well as the spending spree they’ve gone on, and their aims to increase federal authority.

I don’t know if I’m fully libertarian because I’ve worried that a narrow group of people would suddenly have political power and a lot bad policy at least could be the result.  I don’t find libertarianism necessarily dangerous (any more than any other set of ideas), nor a threat on the merits as many liberals now feel it necessary to claim.   Rather, it just seems that perhaps libertarians are now more mainstream and having to answer to the current mainstream (and there are important issues in the Civil Rights grilling that Paul should have to clarify).

I have noticed that libertarians grow particularly well in the soil of California (with big labor and big government and big business, perhaps less of a sense of fixed place and much more socially liberal attitudes) and I would posit not necessarily as well in the more socially and religiously conservative areas of the country (though Paul is in Kentucky).

I figure many conservatives haven’t moved all that much in worldview, and are still shocked and getting fatigued living under an Obama White House, and find the libertarian message more attractive.

Addition:  I should add that conservatives might be happy to just let the libertarians do what they do in California:  fight against liberalism.

Another Addition:  Is it fighting, arguing, or agreeing?:  David Bernstein at Volokh has more.

Also On This Site:  Liberaltarianism?:  Will Wilkinson And Jonah Goldberg On Bloggingheads: Updating Libertarianism?From Reason’s Hit And Run: What Kind Of Libertarian Are You?

Milton Friedman applies economic libertarianism to education. Trade Unions try and adapt to globalization.

Kant is a major influence on libertarians, from Ayn Rand to Robert Nozick:  A Few Thoughts On Robert Nozick’s “Anarchy, State and Utopia”…Link To An Ayn Rand Paper: The Objectivist Attack On Kant

Can you maintain the virtues of religion without the church…?:  From The City Journal: Roger Scruton On “Forgiveness And Irony”…Are we going soft and “European”… do we need to protect our religious idealism enshrined in the Constitution….with the social sciences?…Charles Murray Lecture At AEI: The Happiness Of People

Nussbaum argues profoundly for more equality, but would this require enshrining ideals in State authority?:  From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum

Add to Technorati Favorites

From Reason’s Hit And Run: What Kind Of Libertarian Are You?

Full post here.

A useful list…if you’re a libertarian.

A Political Compass test can be found here.

See Also On This Site: A Few Thoughts On Robert Nozick’s “Anarchy, State and Utopia” Link To An Ayn Rand Paper: The Objectivist Attack On KantAmartya Sen In The New York Review Of Books: Capitalism Beyond The Crisis…A Few Thoughts On (Absolute) Idealism, Both Religious And Political/Philosophical

Add to Technorati Favorites