More Speech, Please, And A Repost-Jonathans Franzen & Haidt: Two Links On Modern Liberalism & You

Eugene Volokh 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.

The folks at Charlie Hebdo didn’t find the PEN ‘activists’ much to think about.

Michael Moynihan has been keeping an eye on some people so you don’t have to.  The 1st amendment is pretty basic, people.

Even Walter Kirn got in on the action:


Sam Tanenhaus, former editor of the NY Times, took a look at Jonathan Franzen’s then new novel ‘Purity‘ (Tanenhaus is also working on a biography of William F Buckley Jr…).

He touched on Lionel Trilling’s work and his influence on the mid 20th century American novel:

‘Trilling wrote that in 1948, at the dawn of the cold war, and for many years his literary prescription seemed a misfire—the fault, in all likelihood, of his own embroilment in the ideological soul-searching of his generation: the 1930s radicals who were drawn to communism but later discovered the facts of the Soviet Union under Lenin and Stalin. This disillusionment informed Trilling’s own novel about ideological conflict, The Middle of the Journey (1947), a stab toward the new fiction he had in mind. It is sensible and sensitive, but more cultural seminar than work of imagination. The “issues” it dissects—the delusions of fellow travelers, the shallowness of the modern liberal when forced to confront the depth and reach of Soviet crimes, the progressive belief in the future that rested on an almost childlike denial of death—felt bloodless and beside the point at a time when the developing story was no longer the false lure of communism but the blazing forth of the affluent society.’

Worth a read.  Drop a line if you’ve read Franzen’s work.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, perhaps that post-WWII corporatist model of big companies and big government tied together, knotted with the help an arguably more religiously traditional cultural fabric (married with kids younger, company men, wives at home) is not coming back, or at least in drastic need of a remodel, according to Walter Russell Mead.

The Cold War is over, though a kleptocratic, ex-KGB run Russian State is causing enough problems right now.

On this site, see: From The Claremont Institute Via YouTube: Charles Kesler In Conversation With Walter Russell Mead

Times have changed.

The 60’s happened, along with the radicalism of the New Left gaining traction in many American universities and arguably a more vigorous individualism and tendency towards social liberalism/libertarianism culture-wide.

On this site, see: Via Youtube: ‘Are We Really Coming Apart?’ Charles Murray and Robert Putnam Discuss

It would seem defenders of religious liberties may no longer have a majority stake in ‘the culture,’ or may at least come to find themselves grateful for constitutionally protected liberties.

Add competitive global labor markets to disturb the remnants of the New Deal and the Big Firm landscape (bad healthcare incentives, underfunded pension liabilities and social programs), along with rapid technological change and there’s a lot going on in American life.

How are such changes being reflected in the novel?  Are novelists reflecting your inner life faithfully enough to be worth reading?

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Megan McArdle revisited Jonathan Haidt: ‘Liberals Can’t Admit To Thinking Like Conservatives

‘I’m an enormous fan of Jonathan Haidt’s work. Nonetheless, I’ve always had two outstanding questions about it (and would note that these are not exactly questions of which Professor Haidt is unaware).’

Check out Larry Arnhart, at Darwinian Conservatism, on Jonathan Haidt:

Full piece here:

‘The most revealing comment from the Wall Street Journal interview is his praise for Thomas Sowell’s Conflict of Visions, in which Sowell elaborates Friedrich Hayek’s distinction between the “constrained vision” of the British tradition and the “unconstrained vision” of the French tradition.  The constrained or realist vision of human nature is the vision of classical liberalism (Adam Smith) or traditionalist conservatism (Edmund Burke).  “Again, as a moral psychologist,” Haidt says, “I had to say the constrained vision is correct.”  The evolutionary support for the constrained vision is one of the major themes of my Darwinian Conservatism.’

and:

‘The imprecise terminology of liberalism, conservatism, and libertarianism is also confusing.  From my reading of Haidt’s book, he is implicitly embracing a liberal conservatism, or what people like Frank Meyer defended as a fusion of classical liberalism and traditionalist conservatism.  (Haidt mentions fusionism briefly in his paper on libertarianism.)  Crucial for this fusion is the distinction between state and society.  The end for a free state is liberty.  The end for a free society is virtue.  Political liberty provides the conditions for people to pursue virtue in civil society through the natural and voluntary associations of life.  Classical liberals or libertarians rightly emphasize political liberty.  Traditionalist conservatives rightly emphasize social virtue.  Political liberty provides the liberal tolerance by which people are free to pursue their moral visions within whatever moral community they join, as long as they do not violate the equal liberty of all others to live their moral lives as they choose.

‘This is, I think, implicit in Haidt’s book, but he never makes it explicit, because he never clearly makes the crucial distinction between state and society, political liberty and social virtue.’

Interesting reading.

From a reader:  ‘The Rationalist Delusion In Politics:’

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Communist corner: I remember reading a piece at the NY Times about Trotsky’s great-grandaughter, the neuroscientist Nora Volkow:

‘Dr. Volkow generally forswears any interest in politics per se, but midway through a long day of meetings last month she sighed and acknowledged, “science and politics are intertwined.” We think we have free will, she continued, but we are foiled at every turn. First our biology conspires against us with brains that are hard-wired to increase pleasure and decrease pain. Meanwhile, we are so gregarious that social systems — whether you call them peer pressure or politics — reliably dwarf us as individuals. “There is no way you can escape.”

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As for a critique of Albany Plaza, another modernist/bureaucratic concrete wonderland, here’s Robert Hughes:

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As for the 60’s, how about Pete Seeger’s lifelong Communism?:

‘Seeger never really did abandon the dream of communism, despite the inconvenient fact that it had long since (starting around 1918) transformed into a pitiful nightmare. So it was unsurprising that in 1995 he would provide an effusive blurb for a book of poetry written by Tomas Borge, the brutal secret police chief and interior minister of Sandinista Nicaragua (“An extraordinary collection of poems and prose”).’

See Tom Wolfe’s Radical Chic: That Party At Lenny’s… for a rich account of the times

Related On This Site: A Few Thoughts On NPR And Current Liberal Establishment Thinking Under ObamaFrom FIRE.org-’Federal Government Mandates Unconstitutional Speech Codes At Colleges And Universities Nationwide’Greg Lukianoff At FIRE.Org: ‘Emily Bazelon And The Danger Of Bringing “Anti-Bullying” Laws To Campus’

Hate Is A Strong Word-Some Links On The BBC, The CBC, & NPR

A mildly provocative link-roundup for a friend:

1. ‘Why I Hate The BBC‘-Libertarian Briton and climate skeptic James Delingpole at Ricochet.

From his own comments:

‘They’re self-selecting, Richard. The BBC does its recruiting through the pages of the (left-wing) Guardian, so its staff have the same bien-pensant world view. They would consider themselves centrist, moderate, reasonable, not politically biased. But that’s because everyone in the circles in which they move thinks the same way. Very few of them, I think, set out deliberately to distort the truth. It comes to them quite naturally and unconsciously.’

2. ‘How Do I Hate NPR?  Let Me Count The Ways‘-writes Glenn Garvin at the Chicago Reader.

‘It’s not that the network’s editorial brain trust meets each morning to plot the day’s campaign to rid America of Republican taint. It’s that the newsroom is composed almost entirely of like-minded people who share one another’s major philosophical precepts. When my sister says that she wants to hear news from people who think like me, she’s put her finger on the problem’

3.  100%* Of Canadians Hate The CBC-Satire,really, from The Network.

Bonus***Gavin McInnes, founder of VICE and Streetcarnage.com, goes on an entertaining anti-CBC rant on the Sun network:

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Extra special bonus***-Anti-multiculturalist provacateur of the Anglosphere!, Mark Steyn discusses complaints brought against Macleans, Canada’s largest publication, by the President of the Canadian Islamic Congress (who sent three representatives) to TVOntario.   They were upset at the pieces Steyn had published there.  The complaints went through the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal for alleged “Islamophobia” and “promoting hate:”

The connection here is what happens in Canadian society in the wake of the ideas the CBC promotes, and beneath the umbrella of more Left liberal ideas:

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The CBC actually defends Steyn a bit, which is slightly remarkable as Canada does not have nearly the same broad definitions of free speech we have here in the U.S.

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Clearly, “hate” can get you viewers and make some fun.

My two cents:

Nationalization protects the BBC and the CBC from market competition and thus they remain less open to criticism, innovation, and the interests of large swathes of their taxpayers.  Those who have self-selected and made a niche for themselves in such institutions, can more easily discriminate on that basis, even unconsciously.  They don’t tend to be friendly to business interests and people in business because they don’t as directly depend on business for advertising dollars.  This insulation allows some to think of themselves as gatekeepers to higher culture and above such incentives in the first place.

Generally, all of them seem to put environmentalism and multiculturalism first, above other ideas.  A kind of world-mash humanism is the norm and it’s never hard to find a story that trades in the same stuff as the “studies” disciplines that have sprung up in our universities where an “expert” can always be found to comment on the story of the day.

In addition, there is coverage of the Sciences and world events which does the public good, but there seems to be a penchant for science coverage that supports the more liberal worldview along with a penchant for psychology, literary analysis and music criticism that usually favors their own interests:  feminism, equality between the sexes and among the races (multiculturalism and humanism again).

Higher culture, modern liberal assumptions and current events are usually combined into bite-sized, well-produced, reasonably thoughtful morsels.  A high-end product is produced, but at what cost?

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

Related On This Site: They’ve got to keep up with the times:A Few Thoughts On NPR And Current Liberal Establishment Thinking Under Obama

 Ken Burns makes a good documentary, but he’s also arguing he absolutely needs your tax dollars in service of what he assumes to be a shared definition of the “common good” as he pursues that art.  The market just can’t support it otherwise. Repost-From ReasonTV Via Youtube: ‘Ken Burns on PBS Funding, Being a “Yellow-Dog Democrat,” & Missing Walter Cronkite’From NPR: Grants To The NEA To Stimulate The Economy?…We’re already mixing art and politics, so…
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Here’s a suggestion to keep aesthetic and political judgements apart-Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: Farewell To Judgment
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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.New liberty away from Hobbes?: 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’…Richard Rorty tried to tie postmodernism and trendy leftist solidarity to liberalism, but wasn’t exactly classically liberal:  Repost: Another Take On J.S. Mill From “Liberal England”

Some Tuesday Political Links Heading Towards A Theme

Walter Russell Mead-‘News From Obama’s Home State

‘American liberalism today is in an advanced stage of intellectual decline. Cynical and short sighted interests wrap themselves in the increasingly tattered mantles of sacred ideas.’

David Brooks-The Upside Of Opportunism

‘The bottom line is this: If Obama wins, we’ll probably get small-bore stasis; if Romney wins, we’re more likely to get bipartisan reform. Romney is more of a flexible flip-flopper than Obama. He has more influence over the most intransigent element in the Washington equation House Republicans. He’s more likely to get big stuff done.’

Victor Davis Hanson-Why Liberals Think The Way They Do.

‘In short, twenty-first century elite liberalism has become a psychological condition, not a serious blueprint on how to solve real problems.’

Our politics are extremely contentious right now.  Does it follow that if liberalism is in decline then America is in decline?

Camille Paglia is a child of the 60’s, wants better art education and is suspicious of the liberal Statist turn, and the ease with which many liberals are comfortable with authoritarian solutions and groupthink from her perspective:

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Some Other Links:

California’s anti-immigration, anti-union Democrat: Full video and background on Mickey Kaus here.

Joel Kotkin on California’s demographic decline-Full post here.

Has the ground shifted beneath our feet…are we in decline and our politics can’t keep up….or just a period of rapid change?: Francis Fukuyama And Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest: ‘None Of The Above’

Stanford Encyclopedia Of Philosophy’s entry On Liberalism.  I’m sure many liberals see matters differently.

Addition:  As a reader points out, liberalism may not be in decline.

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Related On This Site:  Mead takes a look at the blue model (the old progressive model) from the ground up in NYC to argue that it’s simply not working.  Check out his series at The American Interest.  Technology is changing things rapidly, and maybe, as Charles Murray points out, it’s skewing the field toward high IQ positions while simultaneously getting rid of industrial, managerial, clerical, labor intensive office jobs.  Even so,  we can’t cling to the past.  This is quite a progressive vision but one that embraces change boldly.

Paglia and Nietzsche: Repost-Camille Paglia At Arion: Why Break, Blow, Burn Was Successful

Some thoughts on Fukuyama and Leo Strauss…relativism, multiculturalism and nihilism: Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

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.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’  Richard Rorty tried to tie postmodernism and leftist solidarity to liberalism, but wasn’t exactly classically liberal: Repost: Another Take On J.S. Mill From “Liberal England”

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Sheldon Richman At Reason: ‘Classical Liberalism Vs. Modern Liberalism’

Full piece here.

The liberal/libertarian divide is a popular theme these days:

‘In The Future of Liberalism (2009), Alan Wolfe writes that the true heirs to the liberalism of John Locke, Adam Smith, and Thomas Jefferson are not today’s classical liberals (libertarians), but rather the other kind of liberals, those who would use government power to assure autonomy and equality for all’

On Richman’s view, it is necessary for some ‘modern liberals’, and people who might want to intellectually lead modern liberalism and/or provide a map for the democratic party is to steer itaway from the Austrians, the Chicago School, the Randians, and other assorted ‘classical liberals’ and free marketeers who tend to rise in political influence during liberal administrations in the U.S:

‘I also agree with Wolfe that equality is a core value of classical liberalism, but not as he means it. True liberal equality is not income equality; nor is it merely equality of liberty or equality under the law. The first would require continuous violent state interference with voluntary exchange, while the other two are inadequate in themselves. By equality, I mean what Roderick Long calls, per Locke, “equality of authority.” For Locke a state of equality is one in which “all the power and jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one having more than another, there being nothing more evident than that creatures of the same species and rank . . . should also be equal one amongst another, without subordination or subjection . . . .”

Many modern libertarians see themselves as one of the last lines of defense against really having imported the worst portions of the European-style State and its more radical definitions and excesses of liberty, its collectivist political philosophies, as well as its underlying authoritarian impulses across the Atlantic to our shores.  One way or another, such liberalism leads to a big-State and abridges personal liberty.  On Richman’s view, libertarians are the true classical liberals.  They gaze out upon modern liberalism in the U.S. and see a mishmash of competing interests, almost none of which hold aloft a social contract that really has any faith in inviduals to lead their own lives and pursue their own self-interest, especially economically.  Therefore thinkers like Milton Friedman, (who offered a mix of the Austrians, Jeffersonian separation of powers and definitions of liberty with Adam Smith’s fundamental insights) are quite necessary, as they had to deal with much the same problems, only much worse, on the Continent.

Richman finishes with:

‘If the alternative we face is between grappling with market forces and trusting a ruling elite to orchestrate just social outcomes, anyone concerned with autonomy and equality should choose the market. A benevolent, peaceful state is not on the menu.’

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

Related On This Site:  Yes, religion requires the submission of will in faith to God, and to the earthly Church, and ultimately sacrifices much individual freedom, but do its traditions need to be thrown overboard…what is taking their place?   Leo Strauss may not have been a believer, but he did want the individual to be free from certain structures that developed in Europe these past centuries.  He has influenced conservatism  From Darwinian Conservatism By Larry Arnhart: “Surfing Strauss’s Third Wave of Modernity”

A Few Quotations From F.A. Hayek’s: ‘Why I Am Not A Conservative’

From Bloggingheads: “Michael Lind Discusses His New Book ‘Land Of Promise’”…Snyder is perhaps not a fan of libertarianism Timothy Snyder Responds To Steven Pinker’s New Book At Foreign Policy: ‘War No More: Why The World Has Become More Peaceful’From Slate: ‘The Liberty Scam-Why Even Robert Nozick, The Philosophical Father Of Libertarianism, Gave Up On The Movement He Inspired.’

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.New liberty away from Hobbes?: 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’…Richard Rorty tried to tie postmodernism and leftist solidarity to liberalism, but wasn’t exactly classically liberal:  Repost: Another Take On J.S. Mill From “Liberal England”

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