Liberty

Three Sunday Quotations On Liberalism-Lionel Trilling, Michael Oakeshott & J.S. Mill

‘Contemporary liberalism does not depreciate emotion in the abstract, and in the abstract it sets great store by variousness and possibility. Yet, as is true of any other human entity, the conscious and the unconscious life of liberalism are not always in accord. So far as liberalism is active and positive, so far, that is, as it moves toward organization, it tends to select the emotions and qualities that are most susceptible of organization. As it carries out its active and positive ends it unconsciously limits its view of the world to what it can deal with, and it unconsciously tends to develop theories and principles, particularly in relation to the nature of the human mind, that justify its limitation.’

Trilling, Lionel.  The Liberal Imagination: Essays On Literature And Society.  The Viking Press:  New York, 1950. (preface xiii).

It’s easy to believe that because you know one thing pretty well, or a few things reasonably well, that what you know is known by all, and that this knowledge is universal.  What if what you can know is bound up with your experiences, and is acutely limited?

A 20th century address of such problems:

‘But my object is not to refute Rationalism: its errors are interesting only in so far as they reveal its character.  We are considering not merely the truth of a doctrine, but the significance of an intellectual fashion in the history of post-Renaissance Europe. And the questions we must try to answer are: What is the generation of this belief in the sovereignty of technique? When springs this supreme confidence in human ‘reason’ thus interpreted? What is the provenance, the context of this intellectual character?  And in what circumstances and with what effect did it come to invade European politics?’

Oakeshott, Michael. Rationalism In Politics“. Rationalism In Politics And Other Essays. Liberty Fund, 1991. Print. (Pg 17).

One of the more solid moral foundations for why you should be liberal still comes from J.S. Mill:

“The likings and dislikings of society, or of some powerful portion of it, are thus the main thing which has practically determined the rules laid down for general observance, under the penalties of law or opinion. And in general, those who have been in advance of society in thought and feeling, have left this condition of things unassailed in principle, however they may have come into conflict with it in some of its details. They have occupied themselves rather in inquiring what things society ought to like or dislike, than in questioning whether its likings or dislikings should be a law to individuals. They preferred endeavoring to alter the feelings of mankind on the particular points on which they were themselves heretical, rather than make common cause in defence of freedom, with heretics generally. The only case in which the higher ground has been taken on principle and maintained with consistency, by any but an individual here and there, is that of religious belief:…”

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (New York: Barnes & Noble, 2007), 8-9.

Watch out for the assumption of rational and knowable ends, and the one-stop-shop of modern doctrines promising radical liberation. All that’s left is to implement such knowledge into systems that will lead all men to some point outside of themselves.: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

The radical and rationalist project, anarcho-syndicalism and libertarian socialism: Repost-From Michael Totten At World Affairs: “Noam Chomsky: The Last Totalitarian”

Positive and negative rights are also a part of Leo Strauss’ thinking (persona non-grata nowadays), and Strauss thought you were deluded if your were going to study politics from afar, as a “science.”  There has been much dispute about this: Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Full post here.

Bonus quote:

“More recently Richard Rorty made an attractive attempt to reconcile the most avant-garde postmodern theory with a defence of the institutions of the Western liberal democracies, but the Mill of On Liberty still reigns supreme.”

The Perilous State Of The University: Jonathan Haidt & Jordan B. Peterson

Jonathan Haidt (moral/social psychologist) and Jordan Peterson (clinical psychologist) discuss how they view what’s going on within our universities:

I’d like to think that there’s a reasonable conservative position which is agnostic, and respects the depths and dangers of religious experience, faith claims to knowledge, and the profound impact Christianity has had upon our legal and social institutions.

In essence, this blog believes such moral reasoning can provide a profoundly wise framework for understanding one’s own nature.  It can also help understand the problems which arise from our interactions with each other, with positions of authority, and with the world.  These depths can orient one towards what’s worth conserving (just as can a good humanities or social sciences education), despite being at odds with many other things of value.  Discovering what is true is a continuing job (and blessing) belonging to each of us, especially since the Enlightenment, but this apparently comes with the dangers of ideology, bad ideas, radical resentment, and totalitarian dead-ends still with us.

This agnostic position can, I believe, with some accuracy, view the depths and dangers of fundamentalist Leftism; how swiftly it can take over institutions, and how it appeals to many of the same old human nature problems with often pseudo-religious claims to knowledge.  Marxism, after all, is designed to take people up towards a promised endpoint to human history, and incite individuals into action towards ideals (revolutionary praxis-radical liberation) happy to trammel over the Sciences, the Social Sciences, the Humanities, and much truth besides.

See Also On This Site: The comments section of Theodore Dalrymple In The City Journal: Atheism’s Problems…Repost-Theodore Dalrymple: ‘What The New Atheists Don’t See’

From New York Magazine: If God Is Dead, Who Gets His House?

A Brief Defense Of Agnosticism

Did the ground shift some time ago?  Bryan Magee’s Talking Philosophy On YouTube

Roger Scruton At The WSJ: ‘Memo To Hawking: There’s Still Room For God’

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

Evolutionary psychology and moral thinking: Franz De Waal At The NY Times 10/17/10: ‘Morals Without God?’

The Two Clashing Meanings Of Free Speech-Whence Liberalism?

‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.’

-1st amendment to the Constitution.

Teresa Bejan’s ‘The Two Clashing Meanings Of ‘Free Speech‘ piece at the Atlantic:

‘Recognizing the ancient ideas at work in these modern arguments puts those of us committed to America’s parrhesiastic tradition of speaking truth to power in a better position to defend it. It suggests that to defeat the modern proponents of isegoria—and remind the modern parrhesiastes what they are fighting for—one must go beyond the First Amendment to the other, orienting principle of American democracy behind it, namely equality. After all, the genius of the First Amendment lies in bringing isegoria and parrhesia together, by securing the equal right and liberty of citizens not simply to “exercise their reason” but to speak their minds. It does so because the alternative is to allow the powers-that-happen-to-be to grant that liberty as a license to some individuals while denying it to others.’

Further exploration in the video below…:

My brief summary (let me know what I may have gotten wrong): Bejan appeals to two ancient and somewhat conflicting Greek concepts in order to define two types of ‘free speech.’

Isegoria:  More associated with reason, argument, and debate.  You may feel, believe and think certain things to be true, but you’re a member/citizen of a Republic and you’ve got to martial your arguments and follow the rules (not all people may be members/citizens either, depending on the rules).  Many Enlightenment figures (Locke, Kant, Spinoza) appealed to reason more through isegoria according to Bejan (given the tricky course they had to navigate with the existing authority of the time).  Think first, speak later.

Parrhesia: More associated with open, honest and frank discussion, and with much less concern as to consequences:  ‘Say-it-all’ Socrates was voted to death by the People after all, despite his reasoning prowess. She brings up Diogenes (the lantern guy), who flaunted convention, tooks serious risks and even masturbated publicly. She brings up all the racy stuff even Quakers and various other sects said against each other in the early days of our Republic.

So, why create this particular framework, and why is it necessary to ‘go around’ the 1st amendment upon it in pursuit of Equality?: Perhaps one of Bejan’s aims is to resuscitate an American liberalism which would allow old-school liberals to appeal to young activists and a lot of young people influenced by activists, obliquely routing all back to the Constitution.  Only through becoming aware of their own assumptions can liberals better address the ‘hate-speech’ concept (with no Constitutional basis) which has taken root in our universities, for example.

Bejan relies on some data and some anecdotal evidence from her own teaching experience to justify a potential shift in public sentiment, requiring of her approach.  Such evidence might line-up with elements of libertarian/conservative critiques of liberalism, too, which tend to focus on liberals lacking a sufficiently profound moral framework to justify why liberals should make and enforce laws, and run our institutions, especially when those institutions are judged by outcomes, not intentions, bound as they are within a Constitutional framework.

So far, I’m not sure I’m persuaded by Bejan’s reasoning, for why not just stick to teaching, promoting and discussing the Constitution? Has Bejan really punched a hole back to the Greeks, or has she fashioned a tool-at-hand to grasp certain products of Enlightenment modernity to address more crises of modernity?

***In the video Bejan mentions, in non-Burkean, non-conservative fashion, our founding documents, the French Revolutionaries, and the U.N. charter as examples of rights-based thinking.  Of course, beyond debates about liberalism, there’s quite a lot of dispute about where our rights might come from in the first place (from God, from a Deity, from Nature, from Nature’s Laws, from past Laws and Charters, from knowledge gained through the Natural Sciences, from the latest Social Science, from coalitions of like-minded people, from majorities/pluralities of people, from top-down lists of rights and ideological platforms etc.)

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

Found here.

I keep hearing about a supposed “hate speech” exception to the First Amendment, or statements such as, “This isn’t free speech, it’s hate speech,” or “When does free speech stop and hate speech begin?” But there is no hate speech exception to the First Amendment. Hateful ideas (whatever exactly that might mean) are just as protected under the First Amendment as other ideas.

Yes, a modern Marxist: Brendan O’Neill At Spiked: ‘Why We Must Fight For Free Speech For People We Loathe:

‘A true devotee of freedom of speech says, ‘Let everyone speak, because it is important that all sides are heard and that the public has the right to use their moral muscles and decide who they trust and who they don’t’. The new, partial campaigners for friends’ speech effectively say, ‘Let my friend speak. She is interesting. She will tell the public what they need to hear.’ These are profoundly different positions, the former built on liberty and humanism, the latter motored by a desire to protect oneself, and oneself alone, from censorship. The former is free speech; the latter ‘me speech.’

Also:

“First, if any opinion is compelled to silence, that opinion may, for aught we can certainly know, be true. To deny this is to assume our own infallibility.’

‘Secondly, though the silenced opinion be an error, it may, and very commonly does, contain a portion of truth; and since the general or prevailing opinion on any subject is rarely or never the whole truth, it is only by the collision of adverse opinions that the remainder of the truth has any chance of being supplied. ‘

‘Thirdly, even if the received opinion be not only true, but the whole truth; unless it is suffered to be, and actually is, vigorously and earnestly contested, it will, by most of those who receive it, be held in the manner of a prejudice, with little comprehension or feeling of its rational grounds. ‘

And not only this, but, fourthly, the meaning of the doctrine itself will be in danger of being lost, or enfeebled, and deprived of its vital effect on the character and conduct: the dogma becoming a mere formal profession, inefficacious for good, but cumbering the ground, and preventing the growth of any real and heartfelt conviction, from reason or personal experience.”

-John Stuart Mill ‘On Liberty: Chapter II-Of The Liberty Of Thought And Discussion’

On this site, see: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”…

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

How might this relate to the Heglian/post-Marxist project via ‘The End Of History’: Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

A Modern Liberal, somewhat Aristotelian and classical?:  From The Harvard Educational Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’…Repost: Martha Nussbaum Channels Roger Williams In The New Republic: The First Founder

Samuel Huntington was quite humble, and often wise, about what political philosophy could do:  From Prospect: Eric Kaufmann On ‘The Meaning Of Huntington’

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’

 

Robert Conquest At The Hoover Institution: ‘When Goodness Won’

On Andrei Sakharov:

‘The events of the long struggle in the Soviet Union between the despots and the “dissidents,” in which Andrei Sakharov played such a great role, were well described in his Memoirs, which appeared in English in 1990, and in the accounts of his valiant wife, Elena Bonner. But here we have the other side of the story: the long secret records kept by the KGB and submitted to the state and party leadership. And these documents are skillfully put into the larger context by an extensive and useful introduction by Joshua Rubenstein.’

and:

‘Another large misapprehension about the nature of the Soviet and similar regimes was that the “planned economy” meant something real. There was also, among progressives in the West, the idea that the “bourgeoisie” were a natural enemy of the forward-looking, adolescent intelligentsia, and that the “capitalists” were the natural enemies. There is a historical context for these sinister myths. British ambassadors to Russia in the late eighteenth century had noted that entrepreneurs had to seek the quick ruble because at any moment the state might confiscate their investments. And at the opposite pole of Russian society, the peasantry was fixed on the need to deceive the authorities to whom they were subservient—up to, and provoking, violent rural risings.’

As previously posted:

Ha!:

“Those teach who can’t do” runs the dictum,

But for some even that’s out of reach:

They can’t even teach—so they’ve picked ’em

To teach other people to teach.

Then alas for the next generation,

For the pots fairly crackle with thorn.

Where psychology meets education

A terrible bullshit is born.’

Many people still can’t handle how bad Communism was on the ground, and fewer these days are looking to keep the ideology up in the air, partly thanks to Conquest and his labors:

Repost At The Request Of A Reader-Revisting Larry Summers: What Did He Say Again?

As you’ll notice in the James Damore affair (memo here, interview here), data and methodologies can be disputed, as can conclusions and recommendations derived from the data in the hopes of arriving at truth.  The point is you want forums to arrive at the truth, because the truth really doesn’t go away, and the wrong untruths and incentives can lead to much human misery.

I don’t know if Google really ought to be a forum for this particular discussion, as Google is a private company and I don’t have all the details.  I do suspect as an influential company Google tithes to various groups in/out of power in order to have the engineers do the work they really want to do (governments, interest groups/loud voices, lobbyists…).

Moral reasoning attached to ideas and ideologies engenders emotions and loyalties, beliefs and meaning, around which individuals seek common purpose.  This can also create vast structures of social, political and intellectual influence, self-interest, and money.

I suspect that’s a lot of what’s going on here, and if the truth is shown to potentially conflict with any or all of the above, then watch out.

***(Google clearly has a lot of social, political and intellectual influence, but it also in the business of providing tangible value and products to people’s lives bound by contract and law (enforced by governments)..this also attracts all kinds of people).

As previously posted:

He may have been fired for many reasons, but Summers off-the-cuff Remarks at NBER Conference on Diversifying the Science & Engineering Workforce had a lot to do with it:

1.  The first is what I call the high-powered job hypothesis-Summers notes that high positions demand high commitment.  Science could be analogous to other professions like law.   He appeals to a longitudinal study that suggests that fewer women may agree to, or be willing to, devote such time and energy to their jobs over their careers as do men.  Changing the nature of these professions to higher female ratios may change some of the fundamental ways we arrange our society:

“…is our society right to expect that level of effort from people who hold the most prominent jobs?”

Perhaps…though the subtext might be:  are some members of our society right to expect that the guiding ideas of diversity and equality won’t come with a host of other problems…?

***Charles Murray takes it a few steps further, asserting that our social sciences are leading us to become more like Europe (less dynamic and less idealistic in our pursuit of Aristotelian happiness)  He also argues that there is a sea-change going on in the social science that will come to support his thinking.

2.  The second is what I would call different availability of aptitude at the high end-The bell curve argument that there are more genius and idiot men.  When you get to MIT, 3 and more standard deviations above the mean…means a lot.

3.  The third is what I would call different socialization and patterns of discrimination in a search-If discrimination is such an important factor in there being a lack of women scientists, then economic theory holds that there are going to be:

“…very substantial opportunities for a limited number of people who were not prepared to discriminate to assemble remarkable departments of high quality people at relatively limited cost simply by the act of their not discriminating.”

So if the theory holds…where are the science departments scooping up all women scientists at low cost…who’ve been rejected elsewhere due to discrimination?

—————————————————————————————–

I believe there is quite arguably discrimination against women in the sciences, and they have a harder road to reach success.  But there is also substance here…and clearly politics was a factor in Summers’ firing as well;  the women’s groups who viewed his ideas as an attack on their belief appealed to public sentiment in the worst kind of way.

Will social science ever be enough to address such an issue…or is it possibly changing to adapt to the demands people require of it?

On This Site:  Charles Murray Lecture At AEI: The Happiness Of People

Addition:  I always get an email or two that suggests I’ve joined the ranks of those who don’t fully understand the problem and seek to oppress women.  I don’t think I’ve done such a thing, and if women are going broaden and deepen feminism, they may well have to answer to arguments like these.

It’s not like there aren’t women in the sciences either, Vera Rubin, Lisa Randall and Lise Meitner come to mind, but this debate is clearly not just about science.  It’s also about feminism, the social sciences, money, politics, public opinion etc…

Larry Summers - World Economic Forum Annual Meeting Davos 2007 by World Economic Forum

Some Links On That ‘Community Of Nations’-North Korea And The Use Of Force

From Millenial Transmissions-‘John Stuart Mill Predicts Soviet Communism’

Well, predictions are hard, especially about the future…:

I’ll just pull part of the quote:

‘The worth of a State, in the long run, is the worth of the individuals composing it; and a State which postpones the interests of their mental expansion and elevation, to a little more of administrative skill, or of that semblance of it which practice gives, in the details of business; a State which dwarfs its men, in order that they may be more docile instruments in its hands even for beneficial purposes, will find that with small men no great thing can really be accomplished; and that the perfection of machinery to which it has sacrificed everything, will in the end avail it nothing, for want of the vital power which, in order that the machine might work more smoothly, it has preferred to banish.”

Mill provided a fairly comprehensive underlying moral philosophy as to why to individual liberty should be championed; deep reasons as to how you should live and what you should do towards these ends.

It’s odd that some in the West look upon the post-ish-Communist landscape (China, Russia, North Korea) and merely see States not sufficiently included within ‘the community of nations.’  This, rather than seeing States with vastly different, and often competing traditions and interests than oursand who are still often crushing individual liberty underfoot.

It must be said that such folks in the West harbor deep sympathies with Communist collectivist ideological constructs themselves, or at least a kind of one-world secular idealism which sees any use of force as illegitimate (often on the way to radical and revolutionary freedom, or perhaps…something more like a global collective).

As you’ve noticed, there’s still a thoroughly bankrupt, totalitarian regime on the path to deliverable nukes in North Korea (yes it still possesses a reasonably competent military seeking all aspects of nuclear delivery…for all the worst reasons).

Force and the threat of force are still on the table, but now there appear to be fewer good options in the halls of American power.

From The Atlantic (complete with a standard underlying suspicion of all ideas realist and nationalist):

‘Kim Jong Un must be made to understand that, under no uncertain terms, can he ever use his nuclear weapons; doing so would mean the end of North Korea. Whether the United States likes it or not, the country now poses a clear strategic threat, and it must be treated as such.’

America has a soft and hard power game to play in the Asian theater in order to foster the kinds of freedom that lead to greater trade, understanding and knowledge, as I see it.  Self-interest is often a reasonably honest, and reliable guide.

For even if we apply Mill’s thinking to the South Koreans, the Japanese, and the Chinese, depending on circumstances, individuals with whom we deal may not return the favor, especially with their own interests and obligations to the traditions, governments, and institutions of which they are a part.

In the meantime, the mess that is North Korea sits on their doorsteps, after all, and seeks to increase its scope to our shores.

A previous piece here.

Via Readers-Two North Korea Links

What are some things China might have to gain and lose from a still-existing North Korean regime?

Some people have a lot of experience with this problem:


Even if there were a global collective and community of nations honoring every single human-rights bill and charter it would still use force and the threat of force…I should think.

So much for ideals of peace and harmony promised? (delivery from history and much of our own natures).

Where are we headed, here?

As previously posted:  Richard Epstein ‘Barack vs. Bibi:’ takes the classical liberal, non anti-war libertarian position (regarding Obama):

‘In the end, it is critical to understand that the current weaknesses in American foreign policy stem from the President’s adamant reluctance to commit to the use of American force in international relations, whether with Israel, Iran or with ISIS. Starting from that position, the President has to make huge unilateral concessions, and force his allies to do the same thing. Right now his only expertise is leading from behind.  The President has to learn to be tough in negotiations with his enemies. Right now, sadly, he has demonstrated that toughness only in his relationships with America’s friends and allies.’

From Malcolm Greenhill: ‘I believe my good friend, Jeff Hummel, has made the best attempt so far at solving the public goods problem of national defense:’

http://mises.org/document/274/National-Goods-versus-Public-Goods-Defense-Disarmament-and-Free-Riders

On this site, see: George Shultz & Henry Kissinger At The Hoover Institution: ‘What A Final Iran Deal Must Do’

A Far-Left Resurgence In Ol’ Blighty: Counter-Cultural Tides At Home

Clive Crook at Bloomberg had some reasonable advice for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party in Britain:

‘You heard me. A modern party of the left doesn’t need to be anti-capitalist. Concern for social justice, equality of opportunity and even (up to a point) equality of outcome don’t require a belief in the innate wickedness of capitalism.’

Neo-liberalism would be nice, of course; many hardened types on the Left morphing into more compromising, dirigiste, Statist social democrats.  It’s easy to imagine (if you try) realpolitik humanists capable of prevention and intervention abroad, rather than the usual post-Enlightenment apologism for dictators, and/or during times of crisis, conspicuous silence, unless returning to the ‘peaceful’ moral high ground against all ideological enemies.

Market forces could be useful in pursuing such desired ends, after all, rather than many anti-capitalist, totalitarian, true-believin’ ideologues one so often finds.

Yet, here we are, and here’s Corbyn’s home page.  It’s almost as if failed theories of history and the ideologues committed to them keep rising anew…

The Monarchy’s still around, even as a figurehead.  Some real, faded, Red ideologues are still around, too.

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Possibly relevant quote via Chaos Manor:

‘Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.

Another from Karl Popper:

“…and if there could be such a thing as socialism combined with individual liberty, I would be a socialist still. For nothing could be better than living a modest, simple, and free life in an egalitarian society. It took some time before I recognized this as no more than a beautiful dream; that freedom is more important that equality; that the attempt to realize equality endangers freedom; and that, if freedom is lost, there will not even be equality among the unfree.”

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Here at home, Charlie Martin reminds us that there’s no free lunch.  When you offer sick people other people’s money to buy insurance, and generally offer healthy people only higher premiums and relatively fewer options, you haven’t really understood the basic concept of insurance:

‘I won’t go into great detail about how insurance works here. I’ve done it before, both laying it out mathematically and in a little parable appropriate to the season. The basic thing is that insurance is a bet: you bet someone that something bad is going to happen, and that someone takes the bet.’

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As previously posted, but relevant:

Why have large numbers of people from the suburbs and small towns been migrating to Brooklyn, for example, seeking to make what they do what they love, engaging in the creative process and almost fetishizing the idea of ‘craft’?

Below are the Mast brothers, taking the hipster ethos into the business and branding of themselves as chocolate-makers, along with an entirely ‘old-timey’ aesthetic. Few chocolate-makers take pains to mention Mark Twain & Ralph Waldo Emerson in their promo videos:

———————-

I’ve been thinking that upon examination, hipsterdom (not necessarily the Mast Brothers) may reveal DNA strands of previous American counter-culture movements: Some hipsters have adopted milder forms of the bohemianism and cultural withdrawal of the Beats, others the collectivism, activism and ‘social conscience’ of the Hippies (along with many tenets of the feminist and environmentalist movements).  Some others still the disposable income and professional ambition of Yuppies (see: Park Slope).

Overall, in terms of political philosophy, I’m guessing such strands would most likely unite under a rather standard-issue secular-liberal humanism or post new-Democrat alliance (how tolerant such a voting bloc would be of progressive activism, redistributionism, and true radicalism remains to be seen when the chips are down).

Throw in some postmodernist art-theory and nihilist performance artists seeking human connection in the meaningless void, such as Matthew Silver, and we may be getting somewhere (apologies if I’ve unfairly reduced you to a bit part in a bad theory…such are the wages of cultural criticism in the blogosphere).

Another explanation I’ve heard floated is that hipsterdom is partially the product of the everyone-gets-a-trophy generation. Everyone’s a special snowflake. Every minute of every day can be planned and some parents are still hovering like crazy in the lives of their children. The Self-Esteem movement can then loom large in the rather rarefied atmospheres that some kids have grown-up in.

How to live, what to do?

Where to find meaning, purpose and connection?

Perhaps many people making American businesses run are more likely to respond to the language of psychology and pop-psychology, neuroscience and pop-neuroscience, literature, ethics gurus and even the kinds of self-help books to be found on Oprah, whatever wisdom and truths they may contain.

Or, at least this stuff is bigger business these days.

As for Emerson, and the transcendentalist, perhaps even somewhat pragmatist, search for the Stern Fact & Sad Self, I suspect it will still figure heavily in American life and culture for quite some time.

Let me know what I’m missing.

***In terms of starting some kind of business or appealing to popular sentiment, I would recommend the safe option of a time-lapse a video of the stars, adding some quotes about living in a globalized world, the importance of (S)cience, (A)rt, people and progress, then some background indie music and you may well have a Kickstarter campaign.

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So, economics is a science?: Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’…I’m much more inclined to believe it is if there’s a defense of Jeffersonian liberty and Adam Smith’s invisible hand: Repost-’Milton Friedman Via Youtube: ‘Responsibility To The Poor’

Can you see life, liberty, and property from here?: Via Youtube: (1 of 3) Kant, Chomsky and the Problem of Knowledge…Kant chopped the head off from German deism and the German State has been reeling every since…is value pluralism a response?: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

Using J.S. Mill, moving away from religion? Rationalism and Utilitarianism On The Rise?: From The Harvard Educational Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’…Liberalism should move towards the Austrians, or at least away from rationalist structures?:  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’

From The Liberal Bastions-James Baldwin, Often

Quote found here:

‘By the time Baldwin published “Another country” and the essay collection “Nobody Knows My Name,” both in 1962, he had become America’s leading black literary star. Both books were commercially successful, but reviews were mixed. In 1962, “The New Yorker” published Baldwin’s essay “The Fire Next Time,” which detailed his evangelical upbringing and his views on Christianity as a form of slavery forced on and then embraced by blacks. When Baldwin became the official voice of black America, however, he immediately compromised his voice as a writer, sacrificing his gifts in order to gain acceptance from the Black Power movement. In the 1970s, Baldwin was adrift not only politically but aesthetically. Nevertheless, up until his death, in 1987, at the age of 63, Baldwin continued to harbor the hope that he would be embraced as an important literary figure by his own race.’

And just to suggest no definitive answers to such problems, but rather which kinds of questions might be worth asking:

At minute 9:20 of Thomas Sowell discussing his book: ‘Intellectuals and Race…

…Baldwin is quoted:

People in Harlem know they are there because white people do not think they are good enough to live anywhere else…[In a new housing project they] naturally…began smashing windows, defacing walls {and] urinating in the elevators…

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But what if in the crusade of black folks to appeal to white folks’ better natures, one fell prey to the vanity of this idea?:

‘The central premise of liberal intellectuals for decades…[was] that the racial problem was essentially…inside the minds of white people…

Well, Baldwin was pretty successful at reaching inside the minds of many, to his credit, using his natural gifts to make a moral plea for such ends.

Sowell asks why certain cultures have pursued ideas and abstractions to tremendous advantage, developing habits of success in the sciences, politics, law, trade and technology in the process?

America, certainly, has been one such success story, despite and partly because of its original sin…and such successes have happened before in England instead of Ireland, the Greeks and Romans instead of Northern Europe, as Sowell notes.

Why not join ’em, copying what works, or at least trying hard to beat them at their own game once given the chance? This seems to be a logical consequence of Sowell’s reasoning. This, as opposed becoming locked in resentment, justified in anger, dependent upon the ‘oppressor’, often following an ideology in search of a cause; victim-hood in search of facts and evidence.

Schools and programs can do a lot, expanding experience and making people larger than they otherwise would be, but they are often an inefficient way to do it, really offering less than can a stable home in a growing economy, and running into problems of unions, twisted incentives, bureaucracies, corruption and waste.

Notice the emotional appeal:

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I suspect that under an activist moon, many liberals must feel the tidal pull of solidarity against the ‘oppressor;’ left seeking their own moral lights in a rather dense fog.

There must be someone to blame!

This can also be very funny; creating incentives for well-educated, often very square people to overlook, quite conveniently at times, their own habits of success, wealth-building and hard-work.

This can also be very sad, making successful folks follow incentives that will eventually undercut their own habits of success, wealth-building and hard-work through awful political incentives, potentially dragging us all into poorer, darker, place with little room to reflect.

Preach what you practice.  Keep an open mind, but not so open that your brains fall out.

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

***From a reader, parks are better than the kind of neighborhood ‘The Message’ comes from:

Duly noted:

‘People pissin’ on the stairs you know they just don’t care’:

Also On This Site:  From Fora Via YouTube: ‘Thomas Sowell and a Conflict of Visions’Two Sunday Quotations By Albert Jay Nock in ‘Anarchist’s Progress’

Repost-Vidal/Buckley Debate, 1968

Kevin Williamson At The National Review: ‘Whose Liberalism?’

Link sent-in by a reader:

Original review in The Nation:

‘Before the 1930s, histories of liberalism told a different story. In his excellent Liberalism: The Life of an Idea, the journalist Edmund Fawcett, a former correspondent for The Economist, returns to this earlier telling. For Fawcett, liberalism is, at its simplest, about “improving people’s lives while treating them alike and shielding them from undue power.” To understand its history, “liberty is the wrong place to begin.” Liberalism wasn’t created in the seventeenth century but in the nineteenth, after a trio of revolutions—American, French and industrial—shattered the old order. Liberalism’s first job wasn’t simply to defend private individuals and limit the size of government, but to cope with the rise of capitalism and mass democracy amid the aftershocks of a postrevolutionary world.’

Reducing Locke’s influence thus would serve certain ends:

For Fawcett, all of these solutions count as liberal ones. His book is intended as a defense of liberal values, capaciously defined. The usual cast list of Mill, Tocqueville and Isaiah Berlin is expanded to include unfamiliar philosophers and household-name politicians on both the left and the right who wouldn’t normally make the cut: Roger Nash Baldwin, the founder of the American Civil Liberties Union, stands alongside the German progressive Eugen Richter; Margaret Thatcher and Herbert Hoover are squeezed in alongside Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson; Marxist Jean-Paul Sartre rubs shoulders with Milton Friedman and conservative philosopher Michael Oakeshott.’

To which Williamson responds:

‘Forrester, a lecturer in the history of political thought at Queen Mary University, London, begins with a strange assertion: that the idea of liberalism as a consent-oriented view rooted in the work of John Locke and based on “toleration, private property, and individualism” is in effect a propaganda coup, “a recent invention. It is, in fact, largely a product of the Cold War. . . . Before the 1930s, histories of liberalism told a different story.”

and:

‘This speaks to an ancient but fundamental disagreement over the nature of human beings and, consequently, over the nature of human society. Conservatives — those who seek to conserve the liberal national order formalized by the founding of the American republic — tend to be oriented toward process, toward a narrow reading not only of Constitution and statute but also of the meaning of rights (negative) and the role of the state (limited); in our view, rights are enjoyed by individuals rather than by collectives, even when those rights are exercised in aggregate. Forrester characterizes this habit as “polar thinking,” and against it opposes what she calls “practical thinking” and “practical compromise.”

The fight for the ‘pragmatic’ and the view from nowhere is always going on. Comments are worth a read.

Related On This Site:  Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’ Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-’Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

Ed West At The Telegraph: ‘Conservatives, Depressing Everyone Since 500BC’Monday Quotation From Charles Kesler And A Few Thoughts on Conservatism

The classical liberal tradition…looking for classical liberals in the postmodern wilderness: Isaiah Berlin’s negative liberty: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”… From George Monbiot: ‘How Freedom Became Tyranny’…Looking to supplant religion as moral source for the laws: From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum.…  Repost: Another Take On J.S. Mill From “Liberal England”

Roger Scruton In The American Spectator: The New Humanism…From Nigel Warburton’s Site: A Definition of Humanism?…

Repost-Two Sunday Quotations By Albert Jay Nock in ‘Anarchist’s Progress’

Labor & Time-Kevin Williamson At The National Review: ‘Planes, Trains & The Internet’

Full piece here

Williamson suggests we should look to Helsinki, Finland, at least when it comes to technology and transportation:

‘Notably, the Helsinki model would end some transportation monopolies (the rail service would no longer have a monopoly on ticket sales, for instance) and would rely on competition among private providers to match resources with consumer demand.’

The larger principle he uses to get there:

‘American progressives love railroads and hate cars, and that is not without a political dimension: Railroads tell you where to go, which is very appealing if you see society as one big factory to be subjected to (your) expert management. And that’s really the basic question of liberalism in the better, classical sense of that word: Is the state here to tell you where to go, or is it here to help you get where you are going? And how to get there?

If you believe that you have a right to your own labor, and that your time is your labor, then why would you need a large, unresponsive, oft politicized monopoly deciding how much time you spend in transit now that technology is making other options available?

One appeal of the libertarian argument is simple: Don’t you want to pay less for a ride when you can?

Another appeal is also pretty simple if you believe in the above: Free citizens need to put the moral justification back onto the current laws, political players, and monopolies from time to time, forcing them to justify their involvement in our lives and in the markets. After all, beneath lofty ideals gather real interests seeking to bend the laws towards their own ends, and with a lot of self-interest besides.

Incentives matter, and while I’m guessing safety and public safety guide a lot of moral justification by local governments, and which a lot of citizens generally support, it’s necessary to do some house-cleaning now and again.

Airlines are partially de-regulated as Williamson points out (more responsive to consumer demand these days, so flying is much cheaper and more accessible and thus probably more like taking a Greyhound), but not all the way de-regulated.  Yet, where is the money going again exactly?  Who’s doing what and how much are they getting paid? Aren’t these regulations creating dead zones where technological innovation lags?

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On that note, one of the main arguments behind the push to pass Obamacare was the idea that you don’t own a right to your own labor nor time enough to prevent the socialization of that labor when it comes to health-care:  It’s no mere commodity nor economic exchange. You will have a tax/penalty levied and part of your tax dollars will now go to a centralized, redistributionist, oft politicized set of experts and enforcers promising to make sure everyone gets health-care on some level (ignoring many of the structural problems at the VA and various other incentives that prevent responsiveness at other bureaucracies).

Unsurprisingly, this hasn’t exactly worked as advertised so far, with a lot more bumpy road likely to come.

The Scandinavian welfare-state was held-up as a model by many progressives for Obamacare, so Williamson does try and justify his use of Helsinki as a model for deregulation here in the U.S.:

‘Imagine trying to implement such a thing in New York City or California — imagine the union friction alone — and you’ll have a pretty good indicator of why European-style policies are unlikely to produce European-style results in the United States. It is not as though Helsinki is a free-market, limited-government utopia — far from it. But on the liberty–statism spectrum, it matters not only where you are but in which direction you are moving — and why.’

Intentions matter as much as actions?

On the statism/liberty axis, I’m guessing many progressives believe that we need more Statism in order to secure more liberty, but from the libertarian perspective, such a definition of liberty is so utopian and idealistic/ideological that it can never be reached, only promised and over-promised. Many progressives also likely believe their intentions are pure enough for government work and during the last two Presidential elections, it seems a fair number of Americans agreed with them for a time.