P.J. O’Rourke At The Weekly Standard Via The A & L Daily: ‘The 72-Hour Expert’

Full piece here.

O’Rourke visits and talks with some Afghans:

‘The problem in Afghanistan is really not so much land as water. It’s a dry country with ample amounts of water running through it but not to good enough effect. “We have a law to distribute water but not to manage water,” the Turkmen said. This lack of management combines with the age-old conflicts between nomads with their need for watered pastures and farmers with their need for irrigation.’

Also On This Site:  From Michael Yon: ‘General Petraeus Letter’Dexter Filkins Book On Afghanistan And Iraq: “The Forever War”Greg Mortenson On Charlie Rose: Afghanistan And PakistanFrom Bloomberg: More Troops To Afghanistan? A Memo From Henry Kissinger To Gerald Ford?

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William Galston At The Democratic Strategist Responds to Harvey Mansfield At The Weekly Standard

Mansfield’s Weekly Standard piece here.

“One might call this sort of governing rational administration or rational control. It is government directed by reason that does not appeal to reason but rather to subrational motives that will lead people to do what is rational without their quite understanding what they are doing.”

So, Obama’s not defending liberty enough (through an appeal to individual reason) in the name of progress, and (perhaps inadvertently) treading a dangerous line…eventually building a structure that will quash individual liberty in the name of that progress?

Full response here.

“But to say, as Mansfield does, that the president’s belief in the ability of government to improve our health care system reflects a preference for progress over liberty only obscures what is really at stake. The president’s stance threatens neither political liberty nor individual liberty. His argument does not remove—and was not intended to remove—the issue of health policy beyond the bounds of political argument. It seeks, rather, to ground his proposals in considerations that most citizens would regard as weighty if not dispositive.”

So Obama’s just being pragmatic?   …but what about the Left beneath him?   I’d agree that there is hubris in Mansfield’s thinking, but there are also some things to worry about in the thinking of progressives and liberals supporting Obama. I’d still like to see more of a Millian defense of individual liberty.  They seem aimless, but maybe that’s just me.

Also On This Site:  From The Weekly Standard: Harvey Mansfield Reviews Paul Rahe’s “Soft Despotism, Democracy’s Drift” Are You Man Enough? Nussbaum v. Mansfield

A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

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

Jesse Larner In Dissent Magazine: Who’s Afraid Of Friedrich Hayek? The Obvious Truths And Mystical Fallacies Of A Hero Of The Right

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From The Weekly Standard: Harvey Mansfield Reviews Paul Rahe’s “Soft Despotism, Democracy’s Drift”

Full review here. (Thanks to the A & L Daily for the link)

Mansfield identifies Rahe as a follower of Leo Strauss, and as a historian who disagrees with both Quentin Skinner and J.G.A Pocock’s historicism:

“In their view…ideas can be traced to prior conditions that are not ideas, such as economic forces or, more particularly for them, political interests. Ideas are essentially defensive; they justify, defend, and protect the established interests of various regimes and of their opponents, for example the defense of the American colonists in the Declaration of Independence.”

Mansfield argues that Rahe takes a different tack; ideas can come from sources.  Sources such as the influence of Montesquieu and Jean-Jacques Rousseau on Alexis De Tocqueville.

However, Mansfield also argues there are two problems that seem to arise from Rahe’s view, namely that De Tocqueville’s thinking runs deeper than those sources:

“…when democracy comes to America fully visible “in broad daylight,” as Tocqueville says, it is in the democratic “idea,” both political and religious, that the Puritans brought with them. It seems that, before the Puritans, democracy was working under cover of aristocracy–on its own, as it were–without benefit of advocates who were strong enough to speak openly on its behalf.”

…namely that he was a historicist in some ways (democracy has been there all along, back to the Greeks at least) , as well as the fact that De Tocqueville:

“…does not appear to be a political philosopher, at least not one of their kind. He does not provide either a comprehensive survey of politics, as did Montesquieu, or an abstract foundation for politics, as did Rousseau.”

Mansfield argues that De Tocuqueville took care to resist the lure of top-down abstract surveys applied to people and how they organize , as well as even resisting historicism.

“In this he offers testimony to the influence of ideas while avoiding them, and to the power of the democratic context of ideas while resisting it. One could say that he yields some ground to historicism as he decisively rejects it”

Food for thought.  Mansfield seems to find Rahe’s book not quite convincing.

I still very much find myself compelled by Strauss’s fact-value distinction (from wikipedia):

“Strauss treated politics as something that could not be studied from afar. A political scientist examining politics with a value-free scientific eye, for Strauss, was self-deluded”

Also On This Site:  Bernhard Henri-Levy: no De-Tocqueville? Scott McLemee At ‘The Nation’ On Bernhard Henri-Levi: Darkness Becomes HimFrom The New Atlantis: MontesquieuAre You Man Enough? Nussbaum v. Mansfield

A Brief Discussion of Strauss here:  Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

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