Repost-From The American Interest: Francis Fukuyama Interviews Peter Thiel-‘A Conversation With Peter Thiel’

Full reprint here.

Peter Thiel started the Thiel Fund.

So, what about the loss of manufacturing jobs in the U.S….and the rise of technology?:

Fukuyama asks:

‘Let’s talk about the social impact of these changes. Those stagnating median wages basically translate into a guy who had been working in the auto industry or the steel industry at $15 or $20 an hour but is now a very downwardly mobile checker at Walmart. So does the government have a role in protecting that kind of individual?’

At the moment, it’s tough to see where all the people who relied on clerical, manufacturing, textiles, etc. go…

And Thiel on higher education:

‘There’s an education bubble, which is, like the others, psychosocial. There’s a wide public buy-in that leads to a product being overvalued because it’s linked to future expectations that are unrealistic. Education is similar to the tech bubble of the late 1990s, which assumed crazy growth in businesses that didn’t pan out. The education bubble is predicated on the idea that the education provided is incredibly valuable. In many cases that’s just not true.’

And on parts of the problem, with some mention of Leo Strauss:

‘It’s a mistake to simply fixate on the problem of political correctness in its narrow incarnation of campus speech codes; it’s a much more pervasive problem. For instance, part of what fuels the education bubble is that we’re not allowed to articulate certain truths about the inequality of abilities.’

Perhaps that’s what makes Thiel lean libertarian; many people on the Left will likely only address the inequality of abilities through the pursuit of equality, usually through Statism.  I suspect that political correctness isn’t going anywhere, and will simply become more entrenched in our institutions and drive political and social change.  It’s in the interest of many people backing it to do so.

Related On This Site:   Straussians likely see a long fall away from virtue, from Natural right, from the reason/revelation distinction into the flawed logic of moral relativism and the triumph of a post-Enlightenment pursuit of truth under reason alone (addition: and the 1st and 2nd crises of modernity); the successes and dangers of historicism:  From Volokh: Harvey Mansfield Reviews ‘The Executive Unbound’From The Weekly Standard: Harvey Mansfield Reviews Paul Rahe’s “Soft Despotism, Democracy’s Drift”Update And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’Some Tuesday Quotations From Leo Strauss

Has Fukuyama turned away from Hegel and toward Darwin? Adam Kirsch Reviews Francis Fukuyama’s New Book At The City Journal: ‘The Dawn Of Politics’……From The American Interest Online: Francis Fukuyama On Samuel Huntington

Repost: Via A Reader-Peter Thiel On The Logic Of Multiculturalism

Hey-Hey, Ho-Ho, Western Civ has got to go!

Maybe teaching Western Civ 101 and requiring students to think independently and rigorously would help salvage a more politicized academic climate (especially in the humanities and social sciences).

Not too bad for 1996:

On this site, see:

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Salman Rushdie at about minute 57:00: ‘This idea of separate treatment for separate cultures…I think essentially if we follow that to its conclusion…destroys our ability to have a really moral framework for society.’

From Theodore Dalrymple:

‘The doctrine of multiculturalism arose, at least in Holland, as a response to the immigration influx, believed initially to be temporary. The original purpose of multiculturalism was to preserve the culture of European “guest workers” so that when they returned home, having completed their labor contracts, they would not feel dislocated by their time away. The doctrine became a shibboleth of the Left, a useful tool of cultural dismantlement, only after family reunion in the name of humanitarianism became normal policy during the 1960s and the guest workers transformed into permanent residents.’

Full interview here with Simon Blackburn.

“Nigel: Has relativism had its day as an influential philosophical position?

Simon: No – and I don’t think it should ever die. The danger is that it gets replaced by some kind of complacent dogmatism, which is at least equally unhealthy. The Greek sceptics thought that confronting a plurality of perspectives is the beginning of wisdom, and I think they were right. It is certainly the beginning of historiography and anthropology, and if we think, for instance, of the Copernican revolution, of self-conscious science. The trick is to benefit from an imaginative awareness of diversity, without falling into a kind of “anything goes” wishy-washy nihilism or scepticism….”

Click through for some of Eugene Volokh’s thoughts. He finishes with the following:

It’s a mistake, I think, to condemn multiculturalism in general, just as it’s a mistake to praise multiculturalism in general. Rather, we should think about which forms of toleration, accommodation, and embrace of differing cultural values and behaviors are good for America — in the light of American legal and social traditions — and which are bad.

Here’s a quote from a previous post, at the request of a friend:

“As Strauss understood it, the principle of liberal democracy in the natural freedom and equality of all human beings, and the bond of liberal society is a universal morality that links human beings regardless of religion. Liberalism understands religion to be a primary source of divisiveness in society, but it also regards liberty of religious worship to be a fundamental expression of the autonomy of the individual. To safeguard religion and to safeguard society from conflicts over religion, liberalism pushes religion to the private sphere where it is protected by law. The liberal state also strictly prohibits public laws that discriminate on the basis of religion. What the liberal state cannot do without ceasing to be liberal is to use the law to root out and entirely eliminate discrimination, religious and otherwise, on the part of private individuals and groups.”

A matter of deep debate.

See Also On This Site: 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

Kenan Malik In The Spiked Review Of Books: ‘Twenty Years On: Internalizing The Fatwa’-Salman Rushdie

Also On This Site: Morality away from a transcendent God, but back toward Hume through the cognitive sciences?: Franz De Waal At The NY Times 10/17/10: ‘Morals Without God?’

Maybe if you’re defending religion, Nietzsche is a problematic reference: Dinesh D’Souza And Daniel Dennett at Tufts University: Nietzsche’s Prophesy…

Repost-From Virtual Philosophy: A Brief Interview With Simon BlackburnFrom The Harvard Educational Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’

 

It Ain’t What You Know, It’s What You Know That Ain’t So?-Eric Weinstein At the Rubin Report: The Four Kinds Of Fake News

More on Weinstein here.  Interesting guy.

His 4:

As this blog has noted:  One of the core functions of successful media outlets lies in aggregating information and sources of information, cornering a market if possible, and maintaining competitive advantage by implementing new technology ahead of others in the same market space. It’d be nice if they had an idea of the ‘public trust’ in mind, or reader-respect, or consumer responsiveness…but…there are no guarantees.  Also, they can easily become beholden to the people they rely upon for access.

What if the technology changes rapidly enough to make many old models obselete, or many of them obselete within a relatively short period of time?

The losers can be very vocal about their losses (some going-in for special pleading and the end-is-nigh handwringing….often with an inflated sense of their own importance).

A lot of the people who used the math to design the algorithms that now structure user interaction with information and sources of information have similar gatekeeping power/influence the old outlets had.

***Actual beat journalism costs time and money, is probably best done locally, and can be a vital check on those with power and influence (or more power/influence than the media outlet has, and more likely with conflicting political/business/ideological interests than the media outlet).

There is a risk calculation necessary for this type of journalism, because it often doesn’t pan-out.

Thanks to a reader.

Related On This Site:A Few Thoughts On Blogging-Chris Anderson At Wired: ‘The Long Tail’

Megan McArdle At Bloomberg: ‘The Slow, Painful Death Of The Media’s Cash Cow’

-(addition) Via a reader:  Eugene Volokh argues freedom of the press ain’t about saving the buggy whip industry:

‘I’ve often argued that the freedom of the press was seen near the time of the Framing (and near the time of the ratification of the 14th Amendment, as well as in between and largely since) as protecting the right to use the press as technology — everyone’s right to use the printing press and its modern technological heirs. It was not seen as protecting a right of the press as industry, which would have been a right limited to people who printed or wrote for newspapers, magazines and the like .

At least with the Weekly World News, you got the best of fakery:

batboy.gif

No!

Ira Stoll At The NY Sun: ‘Will Trump Target The Times The Way Hulk Hogan Wrestled With Gawker.Com?’

Full piece here.

‘The Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, is taking aim at the nation’s largest and most powerful left-of-center newspaper, the New York Times, in an attack that may expose how the newspaper is being propped up financially by a Mexican billionaire.’

Interesting times.  Lots of food fights.


As previously posted: Who reads the newspapers?

As for my own conspiratorial suspicions, I expect an influential cohort, if not an editorial majority of the NY Times, to soon resemble that of Britain’s ‘Guardian‘ (that’s Vanguardian to you, you neoliberal bourgeois sell-out).

Here is a Guardian headline tumblr page to help clarify: So.Much.Guardian.

Jezebellians writing about the NY Times have discovered a plot:

https://twitter.com/shaneferro/status/768177207122493440

Do I make any predictions?

Predictions require knowledge I don’t actually have and committing to a standard to which I could actually be held.

I simply brace myself for these things ahead of time, and invite you into a confederacy of predictive anticipation, dear reader.

Related On This Site:Nir Journalism-Via Reason-‘NY Times Public Editor Acknowledges Errors in Nail Salon Expose In Response to Reason’s Reporting’

Michael Kinsley At The New Republic Via Althouse: ‘A Q & A With Jill Abramson’

From Slate: “Newsweek Has Fallen And Can’t Get Up”

A Few Thoughts On Blogging-Chris Anderson At Wired: ‘The Long Tail’

You could do like Matt Drudge, but the odds are stacked against you.

Ah, But Pigeons Can Shit On The Shoulders Of Statues-Gay Talese on Journalism

Virginia Postrel At Bloomberg: ‘No Flying Cars, But the Future Is Bright

Full piece here.

Postrel mentions Peter Thiel:

‘In speeches, interviews and articles, Thiel decries what he sees as the country’s lack of significant innovations. “When tracked against the admittedly lofty hopes of the 1950s and 1960s, technological progress has fallen short in many domains,” he wrote last year in National Review. “Consider the most literal instance of non­acceleration: We are no longer moving faster.”

She counters with the idea that while not predicted, we take our innovations for granted:

‘Technologists who lament the “end of the future” are denigrating the decentralized, incremental advances that actually improve everyday life. And they’re promoting a truncated idea of past innovation: economic history with railroads but no department stores, radio but no ready-to-wear apparel, vaccines but no consumer packaged goods, jets but no plastics.’

Splashy innovations may not be necessary, Postrel argues, and could hinder the real progress being made, and that there are many people, for various reasons, who will put up barriers to that progress (there could be some danger in utopianism there, that has political implications as well).

Comments are worth a read.

Addition: Shouldn’t we still aim high?

Related On This Site:Virginia Postrel At Bloomberg: ‘How The Elites Built America’s Economic Wall’Virginia Postrel At Bloomberg: ‘Want To Be The Next Apple? Lose The Bafflegab’

From The American Interest: Francis Fukuyama Interviews Peter Thiel-’A Conversation With Peter Thiel’A Few Thoughts On Foreign Policy-Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘Conservative Principles Of World Order’

It might be worth mentioning the importance that science and technology have had on our culture through science fiction, too, and how sci-fi writers have handled its relation to political philosophy, from Robert Heinlein to Jerry Pournelle to Paul Krugman via Isaac Asimov, to manifest destiny to colonizing the West etc: Paul Krugman At The Guardian: ‘Asimov’s Foundation Novels Grounded My Economics’

Check out Pournelle’s Iron Law Of Bureaucracy and his chart of political organization.

A Few Thoughts On Foreign Policy-Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘Conservative Principles Of World Order’

Full piece here.

Click through for some ideas on resetting conservative foreign policy principles:

‘If Republicans adopt this basic view as a counterpoint to that of the second Obama Administration, it would be good for the country. It makes sense on its own terms and it would encourage a more serious approach to a subject we have lately tended to sleepwalk through. Can Republicans come together around this vision? Please, I hope so.’

The Republican party has not been showing good foreign policy leadership, and there seems to be a real lack of overall vision lately. Garfinkle throws out some ideas: American liberty as the measure of all things, international security through strengthened sovereignty, and live and let live, as some possible guiding alternatives.

In the meantime, what’s the current administration’s approach?:

Here’s a quote from Anne-Marie Slaughter, on liberal internationalism:

‘The central liberal internationalist premise is the value of a rules-based international order that restrains powerful states and thereby reassures their enemies and allies alike and allows weaker states to have sufficient voice in the system that they will not choose to exit’

America must be restrained, and constantly appeal to and/or help to create an international order, regardless of the design flaws of the current international order.  The liberal international map doesn’t always line up with the terrain, and can overlook many problems beyond the limits of its understanding.

For example:

What kind of table do we have to sit at if Al Qaida and the Taliban, or the people ruling Northern Mali are on the other side?  Obama is still using drone strikes, special ops and security agency capabilities on them anyways, so some of this may simply be politics.

Does the formality of speaking with the Taliban, say, before some potential military action, or listening to Gadhafi or Ahmadinejad (both state sponsors of terror) drone on for an hour on the floor of the U.N., or waiting for the U.N. to act in the case of Syria, have some symbolic value that eclipses the value of our freedom to act unilaterally or in an alternative coalition to which we are bound under different rules in protecting our interests?

What dangers are coming from picking winners and supporting rebels (which America has almost always done from installing a Shah, to supporting the Taliban against the Russians) in what seem like endless Middle-Eastern conflicts according to the liberal internationalist doctrine alone?

What if Russia is simply adversarial (Cold War), and like some in China, would pursue interests and ideals that put it in direct conflict with what we hold most dear, as well as our interests?

And perhaps most importantly:

What confers legitimacy and moral authority upon those international bodies to whom we would appeal to resolve our disputes, bind ourselves, and try to bind others, given the enormous chasms between peoples and ideas, free and unfree societies, wealthier and impoverished nations, rogue actors and rogue states?

Part of the reason the U.N looks and acts the way it does, is because it reflects what’s out there.  The incentives may simply be wrong.

I suppose the burden is on those of us who espouse more conservative, or classically liberal Western ideas and principles to come up with something.  Generally the ideals which guide many European secular humanists, the human rights crowd, and those who often seek peace unto itself find liberal internationalism appealing, and many such folks have been most effective at creating international institutions.  That said, I’m not necessarily on board what’s become of the neo-conservative option either;  using military force to spread democracy, often resting upon the national greatness platform.   The long-term consequences and costs of Iraq are up for debate, but if Iraq is how that vision is implemented, a debate is overdue in my opinion.  We can still pursue our interests, but we’ve arguably got to be a little smarter and more strategic about it.  We’ve got to earn our national greatness again.

Here’s a suggestion I threw up before, just to put it out there:

How about a coalition of free traders, that works for the common self-interest of protecting the life-blood of our respective economies with naval forces against piracy, drug-runners, and corrupt and aggressive regimes that agitate in international waters?  Perhaps America, Britain, Australia, Canada, Japan, South Africa, South Korea, Germany, France, Israel, Brazil, Chile (China down the road) could start something like a cleaned up, international, merchant marines?

Or maybe regional trading partners are responsible for their own waters and borders, and more powerful actors can assist in regional waters and international waters.  It would be nice to see trade come front and center in at least guiding how freer and more trade oriented societies pursue common interest, and this could include China, to some extent.

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What about here at home, and our economy?:

-As Garfinkle points out, domestic policy will affect what we do abroad:

Many people are looking around and seeing signs of cultural and political stagnation and real economic stagnation, if not decline, for the U.S. relative to the rest of the world.  The winds have changed, but we still can set our sails again.

At the end of the video below made right after Obama was elected in 2008, Peter Thiel argued that real growth has been stagnant since about 1970 after accounting for the recent housing collapse.  The average family is working harder to stay mostly in the same place.  He attributes this to the fact that real technological advancement is obviously occurring, but just not exponentially, and it’s not exponentially increasing real wages, nor the same growth rate for the GDP we had for previous generations (mainly the Boomers).   Those days of economic growth may be gone and this is mostly due to increased global competition and a new landscape to which America needs to adapt.

He wants to reframe the debate away from the culture wars and battles for control of the public square (the decline of institutionalized religion, the rise of feminism, women in the workforce, race, identity politics etc).  Politically, the Left clearly has a lot of reasons for holding aloft science and technology (at the very least they’ll always need a goose to lay the golden eggs, but it goes much deeper).  The Right begrudgingly accepts the importance of technology, but downplays its importance and has its own plans, according to Thiel.

He’s started the Thiel Fund that offers money to people willing to pursue an idea outside of the academy.  He wants people to focus on the state of education, especially STEM going forward, to be a little more realistic on the tech economy, and to stay competitive globally and to work toward open trade and freer capital markets.

Addition:  Does he advocate for greater realism on the tech front or is he lamenting the lack of grand, sometimes utopian visions attached to capital markets?  See the link to Virginia Postrel above.

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Related On This Site:  Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘What Did The Arab Spring Really Change?’Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest’s Via Media: “The Rise Of Independent Kurdistan?”..Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest on Egypt: ‘Still More of the Same—and Something New’

How does America lead or pursue its interests in this new landscape?:  We need to confront the rise of Islamism and the realities of many Muslim societies through our policy.  Putting women’s rights and international institutions front and center when you’re dealing with Al Qaida and the Taliban, assorted enemies, a suspicious China and a weaker adversarial Russia has serious problems …Via Youtube-Uncommon Knowledge With Fouad Ajami And Charles Hill…Daniel Deudney tries to build a global raft partially upon Kant’s idealism and says the global institutions we’ve got are better than nothing: Repost-Daniel Deudney On YouTube Responding to Robert Kagan: ‘Liberal Democracy Vs. Autocracy’

From The American Interest: Francis Fukuyama Interviews Peter Thiel-’A Conversation With Peter Thiel’… part of Fukuyama’s platform came from Huntington, but also Hegel via Kojeve.  From The American Interest Online: Francis Fukuyama On Samuel Huntington…Can economics and politics ever be a science…Hegel’s influence can be problematic: Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’…Has Fukuyama turned from Hegel toward Darwin…do we need a more moral, bureaucratic class here in America and across Europe?: Adam Kirsch Reviews Francis Fukuyama’s New Book At The City Journal: ‘The Dawn Of Politics’

Jerry Bowyer At Forbes: ‘A College Bubble So Big Even The New York Times And 60 Minutes Can See It…Sort Of’

Full post here.

Of course, in higher education, there’s a very good chance we’re looking at a bubble, where prices are being artificially inflated beyond the value of the education itself in an unsustainable manner.  There are many reasons for this, and the government getting into the business is an important one.

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A few related thoughts:

As Peter Thiel noted (and Charles Murray has for a while), there are some interests in our society which will not allow the open discussion of differences between people for reasons ideological which can become political, however plain these differences appear to us, however statistically valid they may be argued to be.  Thiel is a libertarian-minded reformer putting his money where his mouth is regarding the higher ed bubble, and Murray has been the voice of a contrarian social scientist, making unpopular arguments and observations for decades.

I think all of us recognize some good (and likely something essential) in public education, the educational experience, and the equality of opportunity found therein.  I tend to be more tolerant of much less conservative ideas regarding the social contract when it comes to our schools, young people, and the idea that all men are created equal for our democracy.  I also believe (perhaps naively) that we can find a way around the current impasse without necessarily backing ourselves into a European tiered solution, nor simply a return to the “soft-tiering” of prep schools and the Ivy League as a path to a good education, the right connections, and influence.

That said, it as vital as ever to challenge the failures of some interests who define the role of our educational institutions too broadly to be effective, and I think many of these interests aren’t going anywhere.   I think this is where Thiel and Murray are most effective.  Said interests have created:

1. The misplaced loyalty of teachers unions protecting their own and creating a twisted system of incentives that can reward mediocrity and harm students

2. The waste and mismanagement of public resources in public schools, and the politicization of the issue increasingly on the Federal level (all of us have a stake in this) sending good money after bad.  We have ended up with top down, inefficient set of standards and a huge bureaucracy. Much of it can be trimmed.

3. The tragedy and cost that the self-esteem movement will have to those who were never really included and challenged to learn in the first place, either dropping out or graduating without many basic skills, lacking in core compentency, and ill-equipped for the technological revolution and the global competition going on around us.  Civics, reading, writing, and arithmetic wouldn’t be a bad place to start…though most of these basic problems will always be with us.

It’s not clear to me at all that demanding our institutions serve principles of redistributive wealth, fairness, “justice” and the dread “social justice” really do any better with these problems in the long run.  And as for higher ed, it is deeply influenced by “lower” ed.

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All of this said, there do seem to be deeper issues at play, which are certainly up for debate as this subject has economic, cultural, political and personal implications for all of us.

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

Related On This Site: Should you get a college degree?:  Gene Expression On Charles Murray: Does College Really Pay Off?…Charles Murray In The New Criterion: The Age Of Educational Romanticism

The libertarian angle, getting smart, ambitious people off of the degree treadmill:  From The American Interest: Francis Fukuyama Interviews Peter Thiel-’A Conversation With Peter Thiel’ I think it’s going too far, trying to apply libertarian economics onto education, but Milton Friedman on Education is thought-provoking.

A deeper look at what education “ought” to be A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’

Nothing that Allan Bloom didn’t point out in the Closing Of The American Mind, at least with regard to a true liberal arts education: Update And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’

Perhaps some of the problem is due to the ideological interests holing up at our universities; at least in the liberal arts: Repost-Revisting Larry Summers: What Did He Say Again?From The Harvard Educational Review-

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