Via Youtube-Victor Davis Hanson On California-About That Utopia, You’re Going To Have To Get Back To Basics

Dream big, Californians, but plant your dreams in real gardens.

Victor Davis Hanson offers some suggestions which may or may not guide policy on a mid to longer-time horizon (water projects, roads, and an awareness of the economic and cultural bifucation which has occurred).

The short-term’s looking messy, indeed.  The mid- and longer- terms, of course, are still in doubt:

As posted:

Part of what’s happened is cultural:

Louis Menand’s piece at the New Yorker: ‘Out Of Bethlehem:‘ (he’s still dealing with the idea of multiculturalism).

The radicalization of Joan Didion?:

‘After the Old Sacramento moment, Didion came to see the whole pioneer mystique as bogus from the start. The cultivation of California was not the act of rugged pioneers, she decided. It was the act of the federal government, which built the dams and the weirs and the railroads that made the state economically exploitable, public money spent on behalf of private business. Didion called it “the subsidized monopolization” of the state.’

Much is downstream of culture:

Virginia Postrel here.

‘When Robert J. Samuelson published a Newsweek column last month arguing that high-speed rail is “a perfect example of wasteful spending masquerading as a respectable social cause,” he cited cost figures and potential ridership to demonstrate that even the rosiest scenarios wouldn’t justify the investment. He made a good, rational case — only to have it completely undermined by the evocative photograph the magazine chose to accompany the article.’

In my experience, it’s not much about economics (those rationalizations tend to come later), but more about many people finding solidarity, common-cause, identity and group-identity through a set of shared interests and ideals. My major complaint is that basic human needs met under such ideals become met through politics and often non-delimited theories of political power.

To say nothing of other people’s money.

Utopias, progressivism and new-age explorations still have to answer to time, truth and reality.

From California’s High Speed Rail Authority Site:

‘California high-speed rail will connect the mega-regions of the state, contribute to economic development and a cleaner environment, create jobs and preserve agricultural and protected lands’

What could go wrong?

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Much left and left-liberal idealism finds expression through high-speed rail: If you build it, the ideal society will come.

Unions and union-elected government representatives tend to get contracts, money, power and influence, if they play the game right. Many environmentalists and environmental groups can get contracts, money, power and influence, if they play the game right. Everyone somewhat invested in the ideal of a better, shared, collectivist society (especially those further left into anti-capitalism and diversified into identity groups by ‘race, gender and class’) might get money, power and influence…if they play the game right. The winners aren’t always so ‘sharing.’

As I see it, much political stability and individual liberties are lost as these political and social arrangements become reflective of both actual human nature as it is and the economic scarcity of reality.

Update And Repost-From The Spiked Review Of Books: ‘Delving Into The Mind Of The Technocrat’

Dream big: Via Reason: ‘California’s Public Transportation Sinkhole’

A great city deserves great art extravaganzas…: L.A.’s New Public Art Piece ‘The Levitated Mass,’ Or As The American Interest Puts It: ‘A Moving Rock’

Richard Epstein At The Hoover Institution’s Defining Ideas: ‘California’s Kafkaesque Rent Control Laws’

California Dreamers From The Atlantic-A Brief Review Of Kevin Starr’s History Of California

The people who promise solutions to poverty and homlessness seem to be engaged in a utopian cost-shifting exercise which favors their interests and overlooks crime, violence and personal responsbility…hardly a way to balance the budget: Repost-Heather MacDonald At The City Journal: ‘The Sidewalks Of San Francisco’

Some concentrated wealth on top, a stalled legislature with members who know how to play the game…and a service sector beneath…that probably can’t go on forever: …From The WSJ: ‘Joel Kotkin: The Great California Exodus’

Via The Hoover Institution Via Youtube: Victor Davis Hanson On WWII

Via a reader via The Hoover Institution:  Some actual first (second)-hand accounts and some counter-factuals:

The current world-order, of more stable Western democracies, rests upon a foundation I don’t trust our education system to (understand nor) address.

Part 1 here.

Repost-Victor Davis Hanson Via Youtube Via Uncommon Knowledge: ‘The New Old World Order’

Robert Kagan At Brookings: ‘The Twilight Of the Liberal World Order’

Victor Davis Hanson At The City Journal: ‘California, Here We Stay’

From Maverick Philosopher:  The Difference Between Patriotism And Jingoism.

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Some Monday Links-Syria, California & Iran

Tom Switzer At The American Conservative: ‘Three Realist Lessons From Obama’s Syria Missteps:’

‘As realists from George Kennan to Henry Kissinger have argued, Americans do not have the understanding of other societies and people, the attention span or staying power, to engage in an active, interventionist policy of nation-building and democracy-promotion on a large scale.’

What are our objectives in fighting terrorism, and how do we best achieve them?

We can’t necessarily lash out in full-scale WWII conflict, nor engage in a Cold-War style chess games against a single player, so how do we best fight our enemies and secure our interests?

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Carson Bruno & Jeremy Carl At The Hoover Institution ‘What California Comeback?:’

‘So while the media may call it a comeback, our poll suggests that Californians aren’t feeling the love as far as their pocketbooks, job prospects, and retirement plans are concerned.’

I suppose we’ll see.

Victor Davis Hanson tries to recover ‘California’s Promethean Past‘ and get back to non-governmental big public works projects.  The conservative Democrat position in California is a minority one.  Public sentiment is much more gathered around green, multicultural, and mildly collectivist thinking, which generally lead to the bureaucratic state of mind and the regulatory state.

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From The Economist on Iran Negotiations: ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm

‘If Iran resists such a deal, it would be further evidence that it is still trying to follow the North Korean route, as the Israelis keep insisting it is. If Iran however seems serious, then America is right to engage in negotiations at the highest level. The questions are when and how fast to lift sanctions.’

So, are they as bad as North Korea, back when George Bush lumped them together in the Axis Of Evil?

If only we could break through the hard-line, repressive, Islamist thugocracy down to the pragmatic, pro-democratic Green thinking, this would be a masterstroke, goes the current and perhaps wishful thinking.

I can’t help but think of all the bumbling and lack of strategy that brought us here isn’t a good sign.

Victor Davis Hanson At The City Journal: ‘California, Here We Stay’

Full piece here.

You can’t say that VDH doesn’t care about California, and he gives it a lot of credit despite the following:

‘California’s multidimensional decline-fiscal, commercial, social, and political-sometimes seems endless.’

I imagine it must be tough for a well-educated, reasonably conservative Democrat from a farming family in the Central Valley looking out upon the coast.  He finishes with:

‘Soon, even the Stanford professor and the La Jolla administrator may learn that illegal immigration, cumbersome regulations, and the terrible elementary schools affect them as well.

The four-part solution for California is clear:  don’t raise the state’s crushing taxes any higher; reform public-employee compensation:  make use of ample natural resources: and stop the flow of illegal aliens. Just focus on those four areas-as California did so well in the past-and in time, the state will return to its bounty of a few decades ago.  Many of us intend to stay and see that it does.

The public and private sector unions, the teachers’ unions, the green lobby, racial politics and the politicized efforts of groups like La Raza and the large pool of public sentiment for their causes will not be easy to get around, that’s for sure.

So goes California, so goes the nation?

-A link for Michael Lewis’ article about California politics, public pensions and Schwarzenegger’s time in office.

-A map from Immodest Proposals on how to divide California.  Just some suggestions.

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

Related On This Site:  Remember, neo-conservatism partially came out of the increasing liberal trends in our society, as folks get ‘mugged by reality,” .  There is always a sharp edge to people, their affairs, and the groups they form:  Victor Davis Hanson Via Youtube Via Uncommon Knowledge: ‘The New Old World Order’

Dream big: Via Reason: ‘California’s Public Transportation Sinkhole’

A great city deserves great art extravaganzas…: L.A.’s New Public Art Piece ‘The Levitated Mass,’ Or As The American Interest Puts It: ‘A Moving Rock’

Richard Epstein At The Hoover Institution’s Defining Ideas: ‘California’s Kafkaesque Rent Control Laws’

California Dreamers From The Atlantic-A Brief Review Of Kevin Starr’s History Of California

The people who promise solutions to poverty and homlessness seem to be engaged in a utopian cost-shifting exercise which favors their interests and overlooks crime, violence and personal responsbility…hardly a way to balance the budget: Repost-Heather MacDonald At The City Journal: ‘The Sidewalks Of San Francisco’

Some concentrated wealth on top, a stalled legislature with members who know how to play the game…and a service sector beneath…that probably can’t go on forever: …From The WSJ: ‘Joel Kotkin: The Great California Exodus’

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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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Victor Davis Hanson Via Youtube Via Uncommon Knowledge: ‘The New Old World Order’

10/14/2010

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VDH was a supporter of the Iraq war as part of a larger war against “Islamic fascism.” He is registered Democrat but generally conservative (neoconservative?), and I suspect virtue, duty, and honor are central to a lot of his thinking as he is a military historian who’s written extensively about the Peloponessian wars.

As he points out, we are in an asymmetrical war against Islamic terrorists and also in potential conflict with the nations which actively support, harbor, or simply cannot control those terrorists within their borders.  He discusses some of the forces inside Muslim countries which help to produce these terrorists as he sees them:  anti-modernism, anti-Westernism, an Islamic resurgence whose sharp edge is going to drive the infidel and his Western influences from the Arabian peninsula and restore purist Islam.

In a democracy like ours (he no doubt sees parallels to ancient Athens) we generally don’t provide a lot of public support to a war unless we are in real danger as we were on 9/11.  This kind of ongoing conflict (USS Cole, embassy bombings, Ft. Hood, Times Square bomber) is a tough sell to Americans and VDH is generally suspect of our will to see the struggle through as for him it is a conflict to be won, military campaigns and all.

I’d add that as we speak, Obama’s liberal internationalist policy platform is pursuing a goal which I would support if I had more confidence it would reap reward without too much sacrifice and change to our own freedoms, traditions and institutions (and not lead us into the European multicultural solution which is in part relying on our military strength).

This goal is getting a plurality if not a majority of Muslims to stand up and say to those terrorists, Al-Qaida members, inflammatory Imams and radicals amongst them:  Stop it.  Your way is not our way.

On this view, to achieve this goal, you meet with these Muslims and their organizations where they are, and you try and punish/reward their political leaders who cannot be too far in front of their people.  You still try and install more Western democratic institutions and include the people under a set of ideals which you presume to be universal, but with as little military involvement as possible.  Now you have the “right ideas.”

According to liberal internationalism, curbing American force, withdrawing our military from Afghanistan and Iraq (but involving it in unforeseen ways in Libya, and leaving it out of Syria?) is the best way forward.  With carrots and sticks this will somehow, in the long run, lead toward peace by including and representing all parties without exposing them to the sharp edge of Western society.  The preferred ideals of women’s freedoms, human rights, and tolerance are often pursued most prominently.

As VDH points out, our enemies (Al Qaida, terrorists in general, Ahmadinejad, Hizbollah) see this approach as a sign of weakness, and will take any advantage they can which poses other risks to our security.  Our old enemies like Russia and unknowns like China will do much the same, and international institutions may not be the best way to handle any common interests.  The kinds of institutions which this worldview produces are like the relatively ineffective ones it has already already produced:  the U.N., the failures of the Eurozone and its top down class of bureaucrats, and the excesses of more indebted and unsustainable Western States whose people are being out-produced and out-reproduced.

There is a serious design flaw to such an approach, aside from the Rousseuian tendencies and the idealism inherent within it.

I’m not sure I’m totally on board with another military campaign in the Middle-East and I know many fellow Americans are not as well, so I’ll leave with this quotation by Samuel Huntington which I keep putting up:

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

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

Related On This Site:  The Clash Of Civilizations…The End Of History?:  From The Atlantic: Samuel Huntington’s Death And Life’s WorkFrom The American Interest Online: Francis Fukuyama On Samuel HuntingtonFrom Foreign Affairs Via The A & L Daily: ‘Conflict Or Cooperation: Three Visions Revisited’

Back to 19th Century power politics since the end of history has not “materialized”?:  Obama’s Decision On Missile Defense And A Quote From Robert Kagan’s: ‘The Return Of History And The End Of DreamsRepost-Daniel Deudney On YouTube Responding to Robert Kagan: ‘Liberal Democracy Vs. Autocracy’

Is the End Of History contingent upon a perfectible State driven by a more moral bureaucratic class?:  Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Are we in decline?:  Fareed Zakaria BBC Interview: America In DeclineRichard Lieber In The World Affairs Journal–Falling Upwards: Declinism, The Box Set

It’s a big assumption to make: From YouTube: Roger Scruton On Religious Freedom, Islam & Atheism….Daniel Greenfield definitely thinks Islam is the problem: From Sultan Knish: ‘The Mirage Of Moderate Islam’Repost-From Beautiful Horizons: ‘Christopher Hitchens and Tariq Ramadan at the 92nd Street Y’

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Victor Davis Hanson In The New Criterion: Haven’t We Heard This Before?

Full article here.

Of course, he’s got some good points:

“As defenders of a unique discipline inextricably linked to the origin of American values and traditions, classicists also need to introduce the Greeks and Romans to a wider public, both to enrich contemporary American society and to bring both an ability to popularize and a much needed pragmatism to what has otherwise become a stultifying and often pedantically narrow field.”

Not much here you won’t find in Allan Bloom (which I think gets some things right and some things very wrong).  Values?  Well, the Greeks and Romans are important I suppose.  Anyways, we’ve gotten away from our intellectual roots:

“In acknowledgment of such frequent controversies and loud revisionism, the compromise is that “Western civilization” continues to metamorphose into something known as “World Civilizations”: India, China, Africa, and the New World merit roughly the same attention in the university core curriculum as the West, inasmuch as they are merely “different,” hardly less influential in the formation of Western and now global civilization.”

Okay, I’ll bite, there do seem to be some departments in universities intellectually adrift, too easily tethered to a set of ideas (certain French philsophers, moral relativism, probably even in response to logical positivism) that thus could be tethered to deeper classical, and Western ideas.  

Though as for the hubris of moral relativism, Hanson’s mixing of current politics and philosophy seems just as, if not more, guilty of hubris.  

Maybe I’ll just read Aristotle on my own…with an open and focused mind, asking questions.  Aren’t other people doing this in universities…without political agendas?

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