Excellent background to current developments. I may be missing something, but the subtitle seems poorly chosen. 'Toward X,' like the German Zur X,' signals that the author is for X, that he advocates it. But I take it that Gottfried is against secular theocracy. Call me a quibbler and a pedant if you like. A couple of quotations to whet your appetite:
European nation-states have become "feminized" bureaucracies, heavily staffed by women engaged in feminist politics. States no longer talk about heroic pasts nor evoke the kind of national loyalties that had marked them well into the last century. (128)
No doubt, which is why the defeat of Hillary the Feminizer, she who is so concerned for 'the children,' except for the not yet born ones, is such a theme for rejoicing and thanksgiving this Thanksgiving.
The following passage strikes me as prescient by 14 years:
The by now feared populist movements also feature leaders who claim to speak both to and for historical nations or besieged regionalists, against media-administrative elites. A cult of the leader seems inevitably attached to all such movements, partly related to the emphasis they place on circumventing ordinary party politics and enacting plebiscitary democracy. [. . .] Depicting the opponents of populism as "liberal' and the populists as unreconstructed Nazis or fascists is dishonest and misleading. [. . .] the confrontation that has erupted is not between liberals and antiliberals bur between two postliberal concepts of democracy, one, managerial-multicultueal, and the other, plebiscitary national or regional. (122)
It is as if Gottfried saw the face of Donald J. Trump in his crystal ball back in 2002.
Here is an invited essay of mine at Rightly Considered. I am told that RC is snagging around 2,000 page views per day, which is very good for such a young weblog. It is infuriating all the usual suspects.
My contribution is the first in a series of reflections on the presidential election.
Yesterday, I wrote, ". . . a vote for Trump is not an endorsement of his character, but of the ideas and policies he stands for." To generalize and precisify: A vote for a political candidate need not be an endorsement of his character as a whole; it can be mainly an endorsement of the ideas and policies he stands for.
But then I came across some comments at Rightly Considered that seem to contradict my thesis. There I read something to the effect that on a ballot there is no circle to fill in labelled 'Trump's ideas and policies.' I read that voting is for people, not for ideas and policies.
I beg to differ. Obviously, if you are voting for a candidate as opposed to a proposition, you are voting for a person. But a wise voter does not vote for a person in abstraction from what he stands for, like the conservative grandmother who votes for Lenny the Leftist because Lenny is her beloved grandson, but precisely because of what the candidate stands for.
Thus when I vote for Trump, I will vote for a particular deeply flawed man because of the policies (some of which) he can be expected to promote, policies which are salutary, as opposed to the policies of Hillary which are almost all of them deleterious. I will vote for him despite his character flaws just as, if I were a benighted lefty, I would vote for Hillary despite her even worse character flaws. I would not vote for Hillary because she is a woman, even if I were a woman who agreed with her ideas. The record will show that I am neither.
But you don't have to agree with me that Hillary is worse than Trump character-wise. We should be able to agree that both are on a fairly low moral level. The point is that my wise vote for Trump will not be an endorsement of his character as a whole. I will be voting for the Orange Man as a vehicle for the implementation of policies that will serve the greater good.
So that's the first mistake about voting. It is the mistake of thinking that to vote for candidate X is to endorse the character of candidate X in the main or as a whole. Of course, character comes into it. If I thought that Trump's mendacity extended to his lying about all of what he has promised to do, such as appoint conservative justices for the Supreme Court, then I would probably abstain from the presidential decision.
The second mistake is to think that a vote for Hillary is not also a vote for Huma, and indeed for all of Hillary's ilk and entourage. (Do you want Bill, and Huma, and possibly the texting, sexting Anthony Weiner in the White House?) The mistake is to think that a vote for a candidate is not also, indirectly a vote for all of the people the candidate, if elected, will bring into the government or appoint. Indeed, and even more indirectly, to vote for a candidate is to vote for an entire governing culture which, even if the candidate is in office for only four years, might continue on for decades .
The Hillary Stench could haunt the halls of the People's House for a long time to come.
The more I read Publius Decius Mus, the more impressed I become.
Who is this man? Why does he write under a pseudonym? And what does it say about the so-called 'liberal,' 'progressive' scum who have created a climate in which a person cannot speak his mind under his own name seriously and thoughtfully without fear of reprisal?
Of course, I am making a couple of assumptions. One is that Decius is male. The other is that fear of reprisal explains the pseudonym. Although the assumptions are reasonable, I don't know them to be true.
If anyone has any inside dope, shoot me an e-mail. If you tell me not to post it, I won't.
In general, though, Schopenhauer's advice is excellent: If there is something you don't want known, tell absolutely no one.
This is not an election fought over competing policies but a struggle for legitimacy. A very large portion of the electorate (how large a portion we will discover next month) believes that its government is no longer legitimate, and that it has become the instrument of an entrenched rent-seeking oligarchy.
By and large, I agree with this reading. "America's economy is corrupt, cartelized and anti-competitive," I wrote in August. It is typical of rent-seeking that Lockheed Martin's stock price has tripled during the past three years, and payment to its top management team has risen from $12 million a year to over $60 million a year, while Lockheed Martin's F-35 languishes in cost overruns and deployment delays. Produce a lemon and get rich: that's Washington. It is not a trivial matter, or unrepresentative of our national condition, that the FBI director who declined to prosecute Mrs. Clinton for mishandling of classified material just returned to government from a stint at Lockheed Martin, where he was paid $6 million for a single year's service. I don't know whether FBI Director Comey is corrupt. But it looks and smells terrible.
That's why it was so important for Trump to talk about jail time for his opponent. If things had not gotten to the point where former top officials well might belong in jail, Trump wouldn't be there in the first place. The Republican voters chose a reckless, independently wealthy, vulgar, rough-edged outsider precisely because they believe that the system is corrupt. They are right to so believe; if the voters knew a tenth of what I know about it, they would march on Washington with pitchforks.
"Rent seeking” is one of the most important insights in the last fifty years of economics and, unfortunately, one of the most inappropriately labeled. Gordon Tullock originated the idea in 1967, and Anne Krueger introduced the label in 1974. The idea is simple but powerful. People are said to seek rents when they try to obtain benefits for themselves through the political arena. They typically do so by getting a subsidy for a good they produce or for being in a particular class of people, by getting a tariff on a good they produce, or by getting a special regulation that hampers their competitors. Elderly people, for example, often seek higher Social Security payments; steel producers often seek restrictions on imports of steel; and licensed electricians and doctors often lobby to keep regulations in place that restrict competition from unlicensed electricians or doctors.
For the record, I cop to being a “nativist.” I prefer policies that explicitly favor the existing American citizenry, the people born here, i.e., the natives. I’m somewhat impressed that Pethokoukis and his ilk have managed to redefine this age-old, bedrock political principle as radical and “racist.” It’s like forcing people to say the sky is green—a real propaganda feat, at which hats must be tipped in awe. But acknowledging leftist success as blunt force propagandists doesn’t require accepting the underlying lie.
By etymology, a native to a place is a person born in that place. Should immigration and other policies of a nation favor those born there? Of course. That is just common sense. A government of the people, by the people, and for the people must of course be FOR the people, and these people are not people in general but the people of the nation in question. The United States government, for example, exists to benefit the people of the United States. That is its main task regardless of any subsidiary tasks it may take on such as foreign disaster relief.
So there is an innocuous and defensible sense of 'nativism.' It has nothing to do with xenophobia. 'Liberals' know this, of course, but for their ideological purposes they ride roughshod over the distinction.
And of course it has nothing to do with 'racism.'
Some 'liberals' accuse opponents of illegal immigration of being racists; but this betrays a failure to grasp a simple point, namely, that illegal immigrants do not form a race. Is this difficult to understand?
And while we are on the delightful topic of race, let me point out to our liberal pals that Muslims are not a race either. Muslims are adherents of the religion, Islam, and these adherents are of different races and ethnicities. Got that?
So if a conservative objects to the immigration of Sharia-supporting Muslims, his objection has nothing to do with race.
I apologize to the intelligent for making points so obvious; but given willfull 'liberal' self-enstupidation, these things cannot be repeated too often.
Hence my political burden of proof:
As contemporary 'liberals' become ever more extreme, they increasingly assume what I will call the political burden of proof. The onus is now on them to defeat the presumption that they are so morally and intellectually obtuse as not to be worth talking to.
Many liberals are 'threatening' to leave the country should Trump become president. They have their 'escape countries' all lined up: Canada, Australia, France and others. But to where can a conservative American escape if and when his country becomes a culturally Marxist craphole? Chances are good that the destructive Hillary will weasel her way into the White House. Is there some country we can flee to?
You see, we conservatives have nowhere to go. The USA is the last bastion of liberty, limited government, and free speech, not to mention freedom of religion and freedom from religion. Shouldn't there be at least one country on the face of the earth that champions and promotes traditional American values?
Liberals are big on diversity, but only so long as it is politically correct diversity. They have no interest in a diversity of ideas or of types of government.
To all the “conservatives” yammering about my supposed opposition to Constitutional principle (more on that below) and who hate Trump, I say: Trump is mounting the first serious national-political defense of the Constitution in a generation. He may not see himself in those terms. I believe he sees himself as a straightforward patriot who just wants to do what is best for his country and its people. Whatever the case, he is asserting the right of the sovereign people to make their government do what they want it to do, and not do things they don’t want it to do, in the teeth of determined opposition from a managerial class and administrative state that want not merely different policies but above all to perpetuate their own rule.
If the Constitution has any force or meaning, then “We the People” get to decide not merely who gets to run the administrative state—which, whatever the outcome, will always continue on the same path—more fundamentally, we get to decide what policies we want and which we don’t. Apparently, to the whole Left and much of the Right, this stance is immoderate and dangerous. The people who make that charge claim to do so in defense of Constitutional principle. I can’t square that circle. Can you?
James Cambell, a professor of political science, writes,
Thinking Republicans should NOT SUPPORT Donald Trump, but they should reluctantly VOTE for him. On what matters most, and that is public policy, Trump is not nearly as bad as Clinton. Shout that Donald Trump is an idiot from the roof tops and into any microphone thrown in front of you–but then declare a vote for him.
The distinction between supporting and voting for a candidate is not a gimmick. There is a real difference. Support implies a positive assessment. A vote is a choice.
This is close to the view I have been maintaining over a series of posts. But I don't think Campbell gets it exactly right. Here is the way I see it.
Hillary must be stopped. She is utterly corrupt as a person, as is becoming increasingly evident with every passing day, and she is in bad health to boot. And her foreign and domestic policies are disastrous. I cannot in good conscience abstain thereby aiding her. So I must vote for Trump. In doing so, I don't merely mark a ballot; I 'make a statement' and 'issue a recommendation.' The 'statement' is not that Trump is a good candidate, but that he is better than Hillary, all things considered. The 'recommendation' is that you ought to do as I do if you are a conservative.
So in one sense of 'support,' I do not support Trump by voting for him: I do not unreservedly endorse him. I agree with Campbell that there is a real distinction we need to make. The words in which we couch the distinction don't matter. You don't like 'support'? Fine. Wise men do not quibble over words. The distinction can be put like this: to vote for a candidate is not unreservedly to endorse said candidate.
A vote is of course a choice, asCampbell says, but it is not merely a choice inasmuch as it has a certain 'content' as I have already indicated. Marking my ballot for Trump, I express my belief that he is better than his opponent, and not merely better for me, but for the country. I am also tacitly recommending that others do the same.
Trump's recent speeches have been outstanding. The Phoenix immigration speech was just perfect, exactly what a conservative ought to maintain (and not all that different from what Bill Clinton maintained in '95!). So it not as if "Trump is not nearly as bad as Clinton" on policy. He is vastly superior. The trouble with Trump is his self-absorbed and mercurial character. But as events are showing, it is becoming less and less clear that Trump is as bad as Hillary character-wise. He is shaping up, and she is being exposed for what she is.
So far only two posts have appeared, but the effort looks very promising, and I wish them every success. In the premier post they introduce themselves as follows:
We are academics—graduate students, professors, and independent scholars, mostly in, or closely associated with, the profession of philosophy—who are on the political right. Obviously, we won’t always agree with each other on the finer points. We have no specific checklist of positions or statement of faith. But we all generally identify with the tradition of philosophical conservatism that began with ancient sages like Plato and Aristotle, carried on by Christian thinkers like Augustine and Aquinas, continued through Enlightenment-inspired geniuses like Burke, Tocqueville, and the American Founders, up to economic theorists like Belloc and von Hayek and contemporary authors like Kirk, Buckley, and Sowell. At the heart of this tradition is a family resemblance-related set of beliefs that we think uniquely promotes human flourishing. Whatever contradicts or subverts those beliefs not only inhibits human flourishing, but often promotes evil and suffering.
Such beliefs include, but are not limited to, the belief that all human life is intrinsically valuable, and in virtue of that all humans have natural rights, chiefly the right to live and have their life protected, the responsible exercise of individual liberty, and private ownership and management of justly acquired goods. Those natural rights are grounded in objective reality—human nature, among other things—not government. That reality entails a proper order to family and societal structures, as well as gender and sexuality norms. Maximal respect for those rights will almost always involve minimal intrusion, and most matters should be handled at the level of the closest appropriate authoritative body. These beliefs about ordered liberty and decentralization of power, when extended to the market, generate an economic system that creates more wealth and destroys more poverty than any other.
There is little doubt that the overwhelming majority of academics today are leftists, if not militantly anti-right. We are convinced that they, in some form or another, contradict or subvert the aforementioned beliefs (among others), and so, wittingly or not, inhibit human flourishing and promote evil and suffering. But the fact is that leftists are the power brokers of academia today, and so have the luxury of taking their leftist dogma for granted. Publicly questioning leftist dogma often leads to ostracism and discrimination. We’re tired of being pressured to remain closeted conservatives out of fear of ideological persecution and even more tired of seeing countless students influenced by only one side—a side we find highly unconscionable, to say the least.
We, as academics on the right, created this blog to share perspectives on politically related topics and current events that are rarely represented in other academic blogs, or anywhere else in academia for that matter. Some of our posts will be research oriented. Some of our posts will be critical replies and rebuttals. Some will be satirical and comical. Some will be expository and info-sharing. Some will be philosophically exploratory. But all will be rightly considered.
There follow entertaining biographical sketches of the contributors, one of whom is of the distaff persuasion. One cannot fault them for their pseudonyms given how vicious and vindictive leftists are. The proprietor of a certain philosophy gossip site will be tearing out what little hair he has left trying to determine their identities. My favorite bio is this one:
Conservatrarian Conservatrarian has degrees in philosophy from the US and UK. His present interests include politics and topics in applied ethics. He has published papers in academic philosophy journals on topics that anger leftists.Conservatrarian carries a Glock 19 with a 15 round magazine on his hip at all times, so mess with [him] at your own peril.
Attributed to Voltaire. "The best is the enemy of the good." The idea is that one should not allow the pursuit of an unattainable perfection to impede progress toward an attainable goal which, while not perfect, is better than the outcome that is likely to result if one seeks the unattainable.
Here is another formulation, not as accurate, but pithier and replete with trademark MavPhil alliteration: Permit not the pursuit of the perfect to preempt the possible.
Meditation on this truth may help conservatives contain their revulsion at their lousy choices. Barack Obama, who has proven to be a disaster for the country and for the world, was elected in 2008 in part because of conservatives who could not abide John McCain. And he was re-elected in 2012 in part because of disgusted conservatives who fail to heed Voltaire's principle and refused to vote for the milquetoast conservative, Mitt Romney. But surely it is obvious in hindsight that the milquetoast would have been preferable to the radical?
And now we face another ugly choice, this time between the vulgarian Trump and the hard-leftist Hillary. Some will vote for neither or throw away their vote on a third-party candidate. If you are a liberal, I warmly recommend that you vote for Jill Stein.
But if you are a conservative, you must vote for Trump. What is the force of the 'must'? It is at least prudential, if not moral. It is surely not legal. You are not legally obliged to vote in these United States. This is the way it should be.
Politics is a practical business conducted in a far from perfect world. While it is not always about the lesser of evils, in most situations it is, including the one before us. But perhaps we should avoid the word 'evil,' which I have found confuses people. Let's just say that in the real world political choices are not between the good and the bad, but between the better and the worse. Real-world politics is not about being ideologically pure. It is about accomplishing something in a concrete situation in which holding out for the best is tantamount to acquiescing in the bad. Political choices are forced options in roughly William James' sense: he who abstains chooses nolens volens, willy-nilly. Not choosing the better amounts to a choice of the worse.
Now maybe that is too strong a way of putting it if precision is at a premium. After all, if you refuse to vote for Trump, that is not a vote for Hillary since you may vote for neither. But by not voting for Trump, you aid Hillary inasmuch as you fail to do something that you can very easily do that will have the admittedly tiny effect of impeding her in her Obaminable quest to "fundamentally transform America."
I am of course assuming that Trump is better than Hillary. That is easily shown by the SCOTUS argument which has been elaborated by any number of distiguished commentators including William J. Bennett, Dennis Prager, and Hugh Hewitt, not to mention your humble correspondent. The responses to the SCOTUS argument that I have seen are breathtakingly lame. I am not in the mood to go over this ground again. In any case it is time for lunch.
Don't be a fool. Don't let the best or the better become the enemy of the good. Try to achieve something achievable. Don't pine after the unattainable. Impossible dreams are for liberals, not reality-anchored conservatives. It did not surprise me when I learned that Ted Kennedy's favorite song was The Impossible Dream. Figures!
One of the reasons put forward by some conservatives for voting for the controversial Republican nominee is that not voting for him would be “a vote for Hillary”. It’s important to understand why this is a really bad argument.
I agree that it is a bad argument, and for the reason Professor Anderson gives, namely, that if the choice is between A and B, one might vote for neither. Note that Anderson doesn't name any conservative who gives the really bad argument, but if there is such a conservative, wouldn't charity require us to construe 'A non-vote for Trump is a vote for Hillary' as a loose way of saying that not to vote for Trump is to aid Hillary?
Surely the latter -- not to vote for Trump is to aid Hillary -- is true. Or if not 'surely,' then 'arguably.' I will now try to argue it out.
There are of course candidates other than Trump and Hillary, but they have no practical chance of winning. I guarantee you that Gary Johnson, the Libertarian/'Losertarian' candidate will not be the next president of the USA. So, practically speaking, it will be either Trump or Hillary. Not both and not neither. Now suppose you are a conservative who votes for neither: you refuse to vote for Hillary because she is a leftist, and you refuse to vote for Trump because he is an obnoxious vulgarian and 'no true conservative' or for some other similar reason or reasons. By not voting for Trump you aid Hillary. You are not thereby voting for her, of course, but you are aiding her because you are failing to do something that would harm her in however slight and insignificant a way.
Anderson speaks of the "neutrality of a non-vote." But are non-votes politically neutral?
Consider a simple voting situation. Socrates Jones is up for tenure. He receives five votes against and three votes for, with three abstentions. He's out like Stout. Were the non-votes -- the abstentions -- neutral? Not at all. If the three abstainers had voted for, then Jones would have been in like Flynn. So while it would be absurd to say that the abstainers voted against Jones, it remains true that their abstentions were not neutral. You could say that the abstainers were complicit in the denial of tenure to Jones. They failed to do something which is such that, if they had done it, then Jones would have received tenure.
Or consider a hiring decision, which is a better analogy. It is down to a choice between A and B. A receives five votes, B three, with three abstentions. A gets the job. Clearly, the abstentions are not neutral. If the three abstainers had voted for B, then B would have got the job.
I suppose the neutrality question is the nub of the issue.
My thesis is that IF (i) one is a conservative and wants to see the conservative agenda advanced and/or the leftist agenda impeded, AND (ii) one believes that Trump, as awful as he is, will advance the conservative agenda somewhat and/or impede the infiltration of leftist totalitarianism into every aspect of our lives and institutions, while Hillary will go full-steam ahead in implementation of the leftist agenda, THEN to abstain from the choice between Trump and Hillary is to aid the leftist agenda and to work against one's interests as a conservative, which implies that one's non-voting is NOT politically neutral.
The thesis I am opposing is the negation of the foregoing. If you deny the first conjunct of the protasis of my conditional thesis, then I show you the door, or rather, I don't let you in the door in the first place. If you accept (i) but deny (ii), then we have an entirely different discussion which I am not interested in having at the moment. The precise question in this post is not whether (i) and (ii) are both true -- I assume they are both true -- but whether, given (i) and (ii), one aids Hillary by abstaining. I say yes.
Certain conservatives want to be able rationally to resist the following sort of 'bullying' speech from someone like me:
If Hillary gets in, then we can expect all or most of the following: four more years of illegal immigration from the south; four more years of largely unvetted Muslim immigration, including Syrian refugees; four more years of erosion of First and Second Amendment rights; four years in which Hillary can make 2-5 Supreme Court appointments that will change the complexion of SCOTUS for years to come; four more years of attacks on civil society, the buffer space between the individual and the state apparatus; four more years of sanctuary cities and the flouting of the rule of law; four more years of assaults on the likes of the Little Sisters of the Poor and others who stand in the way of the pro-abortion agenda; four more years of exploding national debt; four more years of leftist infiltration of our institutions, four more years of Obama's "fundamental transformation of America," and more.
Now Trump, as awful as he is, is all we have to stop or impede all or some of the foregoing, and there is a good chance he will do some impeding while there is NO chance that Hillary will do any impeding, quite the contrary.
Therefore, if you are a conservative, then you ought to do what you can to stop Hillary; at a bare minimum you ought to vote for Trump. If you do not, you are aiding Hillary contrary to your interests as a conservative.
What is the force of the 'ought' in my conclusion? For present purposes it suffices to take it as a merely prudential ought. It would be imprudent of you, even if not immoral, to abstain given your acceptance of (i) and (ii) above.
But have I really shown that your abstention, given your acceptance of (i) and (ii) above is not politically neutral? It seems to me that I have. By depriving Trump of your vote, and persuading others to deprive him of their votes, you are lessening the number of votes he receives. How can that be politically neutral?
To paint a massive brushstroke, I assume the difference between Europe and America is that in the former the government is seen as a facilitator and provider of peace and security, whereas in the US it seems the individual and the government are at loggerheads, hence the right to bear arms in the Constitution.
Here is the way I see it.
We too think of government as a provider of peace and security. It exists primarily, but not solely, to secure the Lockean triad of life, liberty, and property. Government is necessary to do certain jobs that we cannot do by ourselves either individually or in small groups. National defense from foreign aggressors is one such job of the central government as is the securing of the nation's borders. Government at federal, state, and local levels is also legitimately tasked with the domestic defense of the citizenry against the criminal element. And of course there are other legitimate functions of government.
So we Americans also think of government as facilitating and providing for peace and security. We are not anti-government. We are not anarchists. We believe in limited government. Patently, to believe in limited government is to believe in government. But we are aware that government is coercive by its very nature and therefore that there cannot fail to be a certain tension between individuals and groups of individuals, on the one hand, and the government on the other. If you want to say that individual and government are "at loggerheads" you can say this as long as you make it clear that this is true for everyone, American or not, who belongs to a state. And who doesn't?
Liberals like to say that the government is us. President Obama recently trotted out the line to quell the fears of gun owners:
You hear some of these quotes: ‘I need a gun to protect myself from the government.’ ‘We can’t do background checks because the government is going to come take my guns away,’ Obama said. “Well, the government is us. These officials are elected by you. They are elected by you. I am elected by you. I am constrained, as they are constrained, by a system that our Founders put in place. It’s a government of and by and for the people.
Liberals need to think about the following.
If the government is us, and the government lies to us about Benghazi or anything else, then we must be lying to ourselves. Right?
If the government is us, and the government uses the IRS to harass certain groups of citizens whose political views the administration opposes, then we must be harassing ourselves.
I could continue in this vein, but you get the drift. "The government is us" is blather. It is on a par with Paul Krugman's silly notion that we owe the national debt to ourselves. (See Left, Right, and Debt.)
It is true that some, but not all, of those who have power over us are elected. But that truth cannot be expressed by the literally false, if not meaningless, 'The government is us.' Anyone who uses this sentence is either mendacious or foolish.
The government is not us. It is an entity distinct from most of us, and opposed to many of us, run by a relatively small number of us. Among the latter are some decent people but also plenty of power-hungry individuals who may have started out with good intentions but who were soon suborned by the power, perquisites, and pelf of high office, people for whom a government position is a hustle like any hustle, a hustle in the service of personal ambition. Government, like any entity, likes power and likes to expand its power, and can be counted on to come up with plenty of rationalizations for the maintenance and extension of its power. It must be kept in check by us, who are not part of the government, just as big corporations need to be kept in check by government regulators.
If you value liberty you must cultivate a healthy skepticism about government. To do so is not anti-government.
My reader suggests that the constitutionally guaranteed right to keep and bear arms reflects the fact that in the U.S. government and citizens are "at loggerheads." My counter-suggestion is that it reflects the American love of liberty and self-reliance.
By what right does the the government deny me the means of defending myself, my family, my property, my community, against a range of malefactors running from criminals to terrorists to rogue government agents?
Being a conservative, I advocate limited government. Big government leads to big trouble as we fight endlessly, acrimoniously, and fruitlessly over all sorts of issues that we really ought not be fighting over. As one of my slogans has it, "The bigger the government, the more to fight over." The final clause of the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution enshrines the right "to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." So the more the government does things that grieve us, by intruding into our lives and limiting our liberties, the more we will petition, lobby, and generally raise hell with the government and with our political opponents.
If you try to tell me how much soda I can buy at a pop, or how capacious or incapacious my ammo mags must be, or how I must speak to assuage the tender sensitivities of the Pee Cee, or if you try to stop me from home-schooling my kids, or force me to buy health insurance, or force me to cater a same-sex 'marriage' ceremony, then you are spoiling for a fight and you will get it. Think of how much time, energy, and money we waste battling our political enemies, working to undo what we take to be their damage, the damage of ObamaCare being a prime example.
So if you want less contention, work for smaller government. The smaller the government, the less to fight over.
Or do you like fighting for the sake of fighting? I'm Italian: a lover, not a fighter. I prefer la dolce vita to bellum omnium contra omnes.
I stated that the reason for carefully vetting Muslims who aim to immigrate into the USA is political rather than religious. I had several points in mind, one of them being that it is the theocratic character of Islam that renders it incompatible with Western values, but not its specifically religious character. Theocracy is a form of political organization whereas there is nothing in the nature of the religious as such that requires that a religion be theocratic. Theocracy is a political concept. Religious character is -- wait for it -- a religious concept. These are different concepts. That should be obvious. If it is not obvious, argument up ahead!
It struck me as important to make the distinction between the political and the religious because the political reasons for vetting or even excluding Muslims or some proper subset thereof, perhaps the 'Medina Muslims,' are consistent with the commitment to religious liberty enshrined in the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution. According to this amendment, the government shall not interfere with the free exercise of religion. Now while the First Amendment applies only to citizens, not to would-be citizens, it expresses a value that is universal in scope, that of religious liberty. The value/right comes first; the amendment merely protects it.
Note also that according to the Article VI of the Constitution, there shall be no "religious Test" for would-be holders of public office. So it is not the fact that Muslims have a different religion than most of us that supplies a reason for carefully vetting them; it is because their religion is a hybrid ideology, a political-religious ideology, the political component of which is manifestly incompatible with American political principles. I hope it is obvious that a totalitarian theocracy is incompatible with limited government.
Canadian philosopher Jacques, however, questions my distinction between the political and the religious. He writes,
What are political grounds? I doubt there could be any kind of political theory that isn't ultimately based in some (implicitly) religious attitude. Consider the very idea that religion and politics are different realms, or should be or could be. It's an idea that Protestants find easy enough to accept, because of their peculiar religious beliefs. People in a Protestant-derived society such as the USA find it easy to accept because they have been shaped by Protestantism. But if Islam is true, there is no such distinction.
I am afraid I cannot agree with this. First of all, it is obvious that at the notional level there is distinction between the concept of the political and the concept of the religious. The distinction holds even if one or both concepts are empty. The first concept would be empty or uninstantiated if there were no states, just people organized in non-state or sub-state ways. But there are, we know, states. We don't know, however, if there is anything corresponding to the concept of the religious. Here are some typical religious 'objects': nirguna Brahman, saguna Brahman, Nirvana, The One of Plotinus, Deus qua ipsum esse subsistens (Aquinas), Allah, Yahweh, immortal souls . . . . Suppose that naturalism is true and that there are no religious 'objects' at all, where naturalism is the thesis that reality is exhausted by space-time and its contents. There would still be a distinction between the political and the religious. They are clearly distinct at the conceptual level. I hope Jacques is not denying the distinction at the notional or conceptual level.
Jacques appears to be claiming that every type of political theory is based in some implicitly religious attitude. That would be false for the political theory of a naturalist. I should think it is obvious that one could have a political doctrine that did not entail or presuppose any religious doctrine. A libertarian doctrine of the state as outlined in, say, Robert Nozick's Anarchy, State, and Utopia, is consistent with the view that religion is a purely private matter.
Jacques tells us that "if Islam is true, then there is no such distinction" as that between the political and the religious. But surely if two concepts are extensionally equivalent, it does not follow that they are the same concept. To borrow a Quinean example, x is a cordate iff x is a renate, but it doesn't follow that being cordate and being renate are the same property or concept. So even if Islam is true -- God forbid! -- there would still be a distinction between the religious and political character of Islam. And that is all I need for the points I am making.
But if we think about this carefully, we see that there is not even an extensional equivalence. Not every religious item in Islam is a political item. For example, take the following doctrinal item: There is no god but God! Call it Radical Monotheism. Consider it and all its entailments. Among the entailments: God/Allah exists, is radically one, is not a trinity, is radically transcendent of the world, etc. None of these metaphysical propositions has, by itself, any political implication. One could, in all logical consistency, accept all of these propositions and also accept American principles of government. Case in point: Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, a moderate Muslim who battles what he calls "political Islam" in A Battle for the Soul of Islam: An American Muslim Patriot's Fight to Save his Faith, Simon and Shuster, 2012. My tribute to Dr. Jasser here.
A reformed Islam that is consistent with American values is not only possible but also actual in the case of Dr. Jasser and a few others. So, obviously, the political and religious aspects of Islam can be prised apart. They are distinct. I should add that, while there are a few moderate Muslims, the vast majority are not. These are the ones that subscribe to Islamic law (sharia) and have no intention of assimilating to the West and its values. I am afraid that Dr. Jasser's noble attempt at a reform of Islam is bound to fail. But that is a separate issue.
Probably the same goes for Catholicism (on the most honest and coherent interpretation) and Hinduism or lots of Amerindian religions. It makes no sense, on these various religious views, to isolate some particular realm of human affairs as being just 'political' rather than religious. Just as it makes no sense, on most religious views, to isolate an area that is just 'ethical' or 'artistic' without also being religious. Just as it makes no sense for progressives to isolate an area that's just 'personal' and not political.
With respect to Catholicism, Jacques is on very shaky ground. Jesus himself provides the charter for temple/church - state separation with his "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's; render unto God the things that are God's." That saying presupposes for its very sense that the political and the religious are not identical. The saying occurs in all three of the synoptic gospels. It is of course subject to different interpretations, but the Catholic reading is something like the following. Although our main obligations are to God, we also have obligations to the political authorities, where 'Caesar' represents the political authorities of whatever time and place. So of course the political and religious spheres are distinguishable.
And surely it is false that the concepts of the ethical and the religious coincide, or that no ethics is possible that does not rest on religious tenets. This would have shocked old Aristotle whose eudaimonistic ethics rests on no religious bases. There is of course a primum mobile in Aristotle's system, but it has no religious meaning. The Prime Mover, just as such, is precisely NOT "what all men call God." (Aquinas, Quinque viae)
Jacques tells us that progressives or as I call them, 'progressives,' do not separate the personal from the political. But of course they have to, at the notional or conceptual level, if there are to be in a position to say something meaningful albeit stupid such as The personal is political. This is an informative identity claim only if the senses of 'personal' and 'political' are different -- he said with side-long glance in the direction of Frege. On the level of reference, however, it is true that the person is political for 'progressives.' But so what? They're wrong. Jacques concludes:
Protestant theology holds up individualism and autonomy as very important values, ultimately for theological reasons. Take away Protestantism, or some similar theology, and it's not clear why we should care so much about these things -- for example, why we should care that society has some tolerance for religious diversity or a non-religious conception of politics. So I'm suggesting that, if Islam is not a 'pure' religion then western liberalism or conservatism is not a 'pure' political theory.
Jacques seems to be saying that there are no non-theological reasons for caring about the toleration of religious diversity. Well, try this reason on for size: We tolerate religious diversity because we do not know which religion is true; nor do we know if any extant or possible religion is true. Given deep and intractable disagreement within religions, across religions, and between religion and anti-religion, toleration makes possible comity (social harmony) and prevents foolish, costly, and sometimes bloody conflicts. There is no need for a theology to underpin this commitment to toleration. Atheists and naturalists have no theology, but that does not prevent them from espousing toleration.
"So I'm suggesting that, if Islam is not a 'pure' religion then western liberalism or conservatism is not a 'pure' political theory." I can't agree with this either. Islam itself -- not Islam 'lite,' some Jasserian reformed, de-politicized Islam -- is as much a political ideology as a religion. It is very far from being just a religion. But much of American conservatism is mostly free of religious elements. Correct me if I am wrong, but nowhere in the U. S. Constitution or its Amendments is there any reference to God or to any religious doctrine.
Reading Notebooks 1951-1959 of Albert Camus, I cannot help but love and sympathize with this sensitive, self-doubting, and tortured soul.
Stages of healing.
Letting volition sleep. Enough of 'you must.'
Completely depoliticize the mind in order to humanize it.
Write the claustrophobic -- and comedies.
Deal with death, which is to say, accept it.
Accept making a spectacle of yourself. I will not die of this anguish. If I died from it, the end. Otherwise, at worst, shortsighted behavior. It suffices to accept others' judgment. Humility and acceptance: purely medical remedies of anguish. (p. 203)
Like his hero Nietzsche, Camus had the throbbing heart of the homo religiosus but the bladed intellect of the skeptic: he could not bring himself to believe. Trust in the ultimate sense of things was impossible for this argonaut of the Absurd, as was hope. Thus humility and acceptance could only be for him "purely medical remedies."
And how could he completely depoliticize his mind when the only world for him was this miserably political one? If this is all there is, then all of one's hopes and dreams and aspirations for peace and justice have to be trained upon it and its future. There you have the futile delusion of the 'progressive.' Rejecting God, he puts his faith in Man, when it ought to be evident that Man does not exist, only men, at each others' throats, full of ignorance and corruption, incapable of redeeming themselves.
Albert Camus, Notebooks 1951-1959, tr. Ryan Bloom, Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2010, p. 177:
The Revolution is good. But why? One must have an idea of the civilization one wishes to create. The abolition of property is not an end. It is a means.
This is foolish. Private property is the foundation of individual liberty. The problem is not private property, but too few people owning property, property they have worked for, and thus value and care about. I include among private property the means for the defense of property against assorted malefactors from unorganized criminals to rogue elements in the government.
Briefly stated, moral narcissism is this: What you say you believe or claim you believe — not how you actually behave — defines who you are and makes you “virtuous” in your own eyes and the eyes of others. Almost always, this is without regard to the consequences of those beliefs, because actual real-world results are immaterial and often ignored.
If you have the right opinions and say the right things, people will remember your pronouncements, not your actions or what happened because of them.
That is moral narcissism.
We see this in the campaign of Bernie Sanders, a moral narcissist par excellence who, rarely revising a half-century-old worldview, trumpets the virtues of socialism with scant reference to the cost of its programs or to its often-totalitarian outcome.
I would add that moral narcissism fits nicely with the denial of objective truth, one of the features of contemporary liberalism. If there is no objective way things are, then all that matters is how one postures and what one says. If you say the 'right' things, the politically correct things, the 'sensitive,' 'nonjudgmental,' 'inclusive,' things, then you are good person whether or not any of it can be expected to work out in reality.
For example, it sounds really good and 'caring' to say that the state should provide free college educations at public institutions for all and to call for an expansion of social services generally. And its sounds 'racist' and 'xenophobic' and 'mean-spirited' to insist on the stoppage of illegal immigration. But put the two together, freebies and open borders,and you get an objective absurdity that cannot work out in reality.
Not to confront this contradiction shows a lack of concern for truth.
Obviously, a sustainable welfare state requires strict immigration control. Or, if you prefer open borders, then you need a libertarian clamp-down on entitilements and social services. One or the other. Reality places us before this exclusive 'or.'
Sanders the socialist thinks he can have it both ways: a massive welfare state with open borders. That is objectively unworkable. Reality will not allow it. But if there is no reality and no objective truth, then no problem! One can say all the right things and posture as virtuous.
And when disaster occurs, you can always plead your good intentions.
I am trying to understand the structure of the problem of dirty hands.
A clear example of a dirty hands situation is one in which a political leader authorizes the intentional slaughter of innocent non-combatants to demoralize the enemy and bring about the end of a war which, if it continues, could be reasonably expected to lead to the destruction of the leader's state. The leader must act, but he cannot authorize the actions necessary for the state's survival without authorizing immoral actions. He must act, but he cannot act without dirtying his hands with the blood of innocents. In its sharpest form, the problem arises if we assume that certain actions are absolutely morally wrong, wrong in and of themselves, always and everywhere and regardless of circumstances or (good) consequences. The problem stands out in sharp relief when cast into the mold of an aporetic triad:
A. Moral reasons for action are dominant: they trump every other reason for action such as 'reasons of state.'
B. Some actions are absolutely morally wrong, morally impermissible always and everywhere, regardless of situation, context, circumstances.
C. Among absolutely morally wrong actions, there are some that are (non-morally) permissible, and indeed (non-morally) necessary: they must be done in a situation in which refusing to act would lead to worse consequences such as the destruction of one's nation or culture.
It is easy to see that this triad is inconsistent. The limbs cannot all be true. (B) and (C) could both be true if one allowed moral reasons to be trumped by non-moral reasons. But that is precisely what (A), quite plausibly, rules out.
The threesome, then, is logically inconsistent. And yet each limb makes a strong claim on our acceptance. To solve the problem one of the limbs must be rejected. Which one?
(A)-Rejection. One might take the line that in some extreme circumstances non-moral considerations take precedence over moral ones. Imagine a ticking-bomb scenario in which the bomb-planter must be tortured in order to find the location of the bomb or bombs. (Suppose a number of dirty nukes have been planted in Manhattan, all scheduled to go off at the same time.) Imagine a perfectly gruesome form of torture in which the wife and children of Ali the jihadi have their fingers and limbs sawn off in the presence of the jihadi, and then the same is done to him until he talks. Would the torture not be justified? Not morally justified of course, but justified non-morally to save Manhattan and its millions of residents and to avert the ensuing disaster for the rest of the country? One type of hard liner will say, yes, of course, even while insisting that torture of the sort envisaged is morally wrong, and indeed absolutely morally wrong. I am in some moods such a hard liner.
But am I not then falling into contradiction? No. I am not maintaining that in every case it is morally wrong to torture, but in this case it is not. That would be a contradiction. I am maintaining that it is always morally impermissible to torture but that in some circumstances moral considerations are trumped by -- what shall I call them? -- survival considerations. These are external to the moral point of view. So while morality is absolute in its own domain, its domain does not coincide with the domain of human action in general. The torture of the jihadi and his wife and children are justified, not morally, but by non-moral reasons.
(B)-Rejection. A second solution to the triad involves rejecting deontology and embracing consequentialism. Consider the following act-type: torturing a person to extract information from him. A deontologist such as Kant would maintain that the tokening of such an act-type is morally wrong just in virtue of the act-type's being the act-type it is. It would then follow for Kant that every such tokening is morally wrong. A consequentialist would say that it all depends on the outcome. Torturing our jihadi above leads or can be reasonably expected to lead to the greatest good of the greatest number in the specific circumstances in question, and those on-balance good consequences morally justify the act of torture. So, contra Kant, one and the same act-type can be morally acceptable/unacceptable depending on circumstances and consequences. Torturing Ali the jihadi is morally justified, but torturing Sammy the jeweler to get him to open his safe is not.
On this second solution to the triad, we accept (A), we accept that moral considerations reign supreme over the entire sphere of human action and cannot be trumped by any non-moral considerations. But we adopt a consequentialist moral doctrine that allows the moral justification of torture and the targeting of non-combatants in certain circumstances.
Now we must ask: Do the consequentialist torturers of the jihadi and their consequentialist superiors who order the torture have dirty hands? Suppose the hands of the torturers are literally bloody. Are they dirty? I am tempted to say No. They haven't done anything wrong; they have the done the right thing, and let us assume, at great psychological and emotional cost to themselves. Imagine snapping off the digits of a fellow human being with bolt cutters or high-torque pruning shears. Could you do that to a child in the presence of his father and do it efficiently and with equanimity? Could you do your job, your duty, despite your contrary inclination? (I am turning Kant's phraseology against him here.) But you must do it because the orders you have been given are morally correct by the consequentialist theory.
Do the torturers have dirty hands? It depends on what exactly it is to have dirty hands whch, of course, is part of the problem of dirty hands. On a narrow understanding, a dirty hands situation is one in which the agent acts, and must act, while both accepting all three limbs of our inconsistent triad and appreciating that they are inconsistent. A dirty hands situation in the narrow and strict sense is an aporetic bind. You must act and you must act immorally in violation of absolute moral prohibitions, and you cannot justify your actions by any non-moral considerations that trump moral ones. That's one hell of a bind to be in! Some will be tempted to say that there cannot ever occur such a bind. But if so, then there cannot ever occur a dirty hands situation. So maybe talk of 'dirty hands' is incoherent.
If this is what it is to be in a dirty hands situation, then a consequnetialisdt cannot be in a dirty hands situation. He is not in an aporetic bind since he rejects (B). And the same goes for those who reject (A) or (C).
(C)-Rejection. A third solution to the problem involves holding that there is no necessity to act: one can abstain from acting. A political leader faaced with a terrible choice can simply abdicate, or simply refuse to choose. He does not order the torture of the jihadi and and hence does not act to save Manhattan; but by not acting he willy-nilly aids and abets the terrorist.
I have the strong sense that I will be writing a number of posts on this fascinating topic. For now I will conclude that if we leave God and the soul out of it, if we think in purely immanent or secular terms, then we are in a genuine aporetic bind, and the problem of dirty hands, narrowly construed, is a genuine one, but also an insoluble one. For rejecting any of the limbs will get us into grave trouble. That needs to be argued, of course. One entry leads to another, and another . . . .
The Trump phenomenon provides excellent fodder for the study of political reasoning. Herewith, some thoughts on the cogency of the 'Hillary is Worse' defense for voting for Trump. I'll start with some assumptions.
A1. We are conservatives.
A2. It is Trump versus Hillary in the general: Sanders will not get the Democrat Party nod, nor will there be a conservative third-party candidate. (To be be blunt, Bill Kristol's ruminations on the latter possibility strike me as delusional.)
A3. Donald Trump is a deeply-flawed candidate who in more normal circumstances could not be considered fit for the presidency.
A4. Hillary Clinton is at least as deeply-flawed, character-wise, as Trump but also a disaster policy-wise: she will continue and augment the destructive leftist tendencies of Barack Hussein Obama. Hillary, then, is worse than Trump. For while Trump is in some ways not conservative, it is likely he will actually get some conservative things done, unlike the typical Republican who will talk endlessly about illegal immigration, etc., but never actually accomplish anything conservative.
With ordinary Republicans it is always only talk, followed by concession after concession. They lack courage, they love their power and perquisites, and they do not understand that we are in the age of post-consensus politics, an age in which politics is more like war than like gentlemanly debate on the common ground of shared principles.
My Challenge to the NeverTrump Crowd
To quote from an earlier entry:
In this age of post-consensus politics we need fighters not gentlemen. We need people who will use the Left's Alinskyite tactics against them. Civility is for the civil, not for destructive leftists who will employ any means to their end of a "fundamental transformation of America." For 'fundamental transformation' read: destruction.
It's a war, and no war is civil, especially not a civil war. To prosecute a war you need warriors. Trump is all we have. Time to face reality, you so-called conservatives. Time to man up, come clean, and get behind the 'presumptive nominee.'
Don't write another article telling us what a sorry specimen he is. We already know that. We are a nation in decline and our choices are lousy ones. Hillary is worse, far worse.
Consider just three issues: The Supreme Court, gun rights, and the southern border. We know where Hillary stands. We also know where Trump stands. Suppose he accomplishes only one thing: he nominates conservatives for SCOTUS. (You are aware, of course, that he has gone to the trouble of compiling a list of conservative candidates. That is a good indication that he is serious.) The appointment of even one conservative would retroactively justify your support for him over the destructive and crooked Hillary.
[. . .]
The alternative [to voting for Trump] is to aid and abet Hillary.
The False Priests are the columnists, media pundits, public intellectuals, and politicians who have presented themselves as principled conservatives or libertarians but now have announced they will vote for a man who, by multiple measures, represents the opposite of the beliefs they have been espousing throughout their careers. We’ve already heard you say “Hillary is even worse.” Tell us, please, without using the words “Hillary Clinton” even once, your assessment of Donald Trump, using as a template your published or broadcast positions about right policy and requisite character for a president of the United States. Put yourself on the record: Are you voting for a man whom your principles require you to despise, or have you modified your principles? In what ways were you wrong before? We require explanation beyond “Hillary is even worse.”
Now one thing that is unclear is whether Murray would accept (A4), in particular, the bit about Hillary being worse. He doesn't clearly state that they are equally bad. He says, "I am saying that Clinton may be unfit to be president, but she’s unfit within normal parameters. Donald Trump is unfit outside normal parameters." Unfortunately, it is not clear what this comes to; Murray promises a book on the topic.
Well, if you think Trump and Hillary are equally bad, then you reject (A4) and we have a different discussion. So let me now evaluate the above Murray quotation on the assumption that (A4) is true.
The Underlying Issue: Principles Versus Pragmatism
It is good to be principled, but not good to be doctrinaire. At what point do the principled become doctrinaire? It's not clear! Some say that principles are like farts: one holds on to them as long as possible, but 'in the end' one lets them go. The kernel of truth in this crude saying is that in the collision of principles with the data of experience sometimes principles need to be modified or set aside for a time. One must consider changing circumstances and the particularities of the precise situation one is in. In fact, attention to empirical details and conceptually recalcitrant facts is a deeply conservative attitude.
For example, would I support Trump if he were running against Joe Lieberman? No, I would support Lieberman. There are any number of moderate or 'conservative' Democrats that I would support over Trump. But the vile and destructive Hillary is the candidate to beat! And only Trump can do the dirty job. This is the exact situation we are in. If you are a doctrinaire conservative, say a neocon like Bill Kristol, then, holding fast to all of your principles -- and being held fast by them in turn -- you will deduce therefrom the refusal to support either Trump or Hillary. Like Kristol you may sally forth on a quixotic quest for a third conservative candidate. Just as one can be muscle-bound to the detriment of flexible and free movement, one can be principle-bound to the detriment of dealing correctly and flexibly with reality as it presents itself here and now in all its recalcitrant and gnarly details.
Conclusion: The 'Hillary is Worse' Defense is Cogent
Part of being a conservative is being skeptical about high-flying principles. Our system is the best the world has seen and it works for us. It has made us the greatest nation on the face of the earth -- which is why almost everyone wants to come here, and why we need walls to keep them out while commie shit holes like East Germany needed walls to keep them in. (The intelligent, industrious Germans were kept in poverty and misery by a political system when their countrymen to the west prospered and enjoyed the fabled Wirtschaftswunder. Think about that!) But from the fact that our system works for us, it does not follow that it will work for backward Muslims riven by ancient tribal hatreds and infected with a violent, inferior religion. The neocon principle of nation-building collides with gnarly reality and needs adjustment.
Murray's point seems to be that no principled conservative could possibly vote for Trump, and this regardless of how bad Hillary is. His reasoning is based on a false assumption, namely, that blind adherence to principles is to be preferred to the truly conservative attitude of adjusting principles to reality. Murray's view is a foolish one: he is prepared to see the country further led down the path to "fundamental transformation," i.e., destruction, as long as his precious principles remain unsullied.
Our behavior ought to be guided by principles; but that is not to say that it ought to be dictated by them.
Rather than say that principles are like farts as my old colleague Xavier Monasterio used to say, I will try this comparison: principles are like your lunch; keep it down if you can, but if it makes you sick, heave it up.
A large part of the appeal of Donald Trump even to those of us who oppose much of his style and substance is that he and he alone appears prepared to fight the Left and fight to win, which of course means using all their dirty tactics against them. He alone seems to grasp that we are in a war, and that civility has no place in a war, except for a mock civility deployed when it is advantageous to do so. The politics of personal destruction has been a trademark feature of the Left since at least V. I. Lenin, and Trump has shown that he is skilled in this nasty art. Case in point: his swift elimination of the gentlemanly but effete Jeb Bush. Poor Jeb went from Jeb! to Jeb in no time despite all the money behind him. One hopes that Trump can destroy the despicable Hillary in the same way.
But surely the politics of personal destruction is a sub-optimal form of politics, to put it in the form of an understatement.
Given that we agree on very little in this age of rage and polarization, are there any prospects for peaceful coexistence? Peter Wehner:
There’s no easy or quick way out of this. It will require some large number of Americans to re-think how we are to engage in politics in this era of rage and polarization. Toward that end John Inazu, an associate professor of law and political science at Washington University in St. Louis, has written Confident Pluralism: Surviving and Thriving through Deep Difference.
Professor Inazu’s book explores, in an honest and realistic way, how we can live together peaceably despite our deep differences. He concedes we lack agreement about the purpose of our country, the nature of the common good, and the meaning of human flourishing. But this is hardly the first time. (To take just one example, America in 1860 was far more riven than it is today.)
What is needed is to reclaim what Inazu calls three “civic aspirations” – tolerance, humility and patience. The goal here isn’t to pretend our deep differences don’t exist; rather, it’s to approach politics in ways that takes [sic] into account our constitutional commitments (including allowing individuals to form and gather in groups of their choosing) and civic practices. It is to give people space to live their lives and think about things in different ways. It means accepting our disagreements without degrading and imbruting those with whom we disagree. It obligates us, in other words, to understand what pluralism requires of others and of us. (The requirements we place on others is the easy part; the requirements we place on ourselves is the more challenging part.)
This all may sound hopelessly high-minded to you, eliciting a dismissive roll of the eyes. It’s so unfashionable, so unrealistic, so out of touch. It’s chic to be cynical. Except for this: Disagreeing with others, even passionately disagreeing with others, without rhetorically vaporizing them is actually part of what it means to live as citizens in a republic. (Once upon a time this was part of civics education.) The choice is co-existence with some degree of mutual respect — or the politics of resentment and disaffection, the politics of hate and de-humanization.
Right now, it appears an awful lot of people are embracing the politics of hate and de-humanization.
I am not as sanguine as Wehner or Inazu. We are told that the goal is "to approach politics in ways that takes [sic] into account our constitutional commitments (including allowing individuals to form and gather in groups of their choosing) and civic practices. It is to give people space to live their lives and think about things in different ways."
But precisely here is the problem. The Left will not allow it! They don't give a rat's ass about the Constitution or its commitments. There are leftist scum who now argue against free speech. There are university administrators who either have no understanding of the traditional values of the university, including open inquiry and free debate, or else are too cowed to enforce them. Not to mention the leftist termites among them out to undermine the West and its institutions. There is nothing liberal about these so-called 'liberals.' Furthermore, leftists have no qualms about using the power of the state to erode the institutions of civil society. Disaster looms if the Left gets its way and manages to eliminate the buffering elements of civil society lying between the naked individual and the state. The state can wear the monstrous aspect of Leviathan or that of the benevolent nanny whose multiple tits are so many spigots supplying panem et circenses to the increasingly less self-reliant masses. Whichever face it wears, it is the enemy of that traditional American value, liberty. To cite just one example, the Obama administration promotes ever-increasing food stamp dependency to citizens and illegal aliens alike under the mendacious SNAP acronym thereby disincentivizing relief and charitable efforts at the local level while further straining an already strapped Federal treasury. A trifecta of stupidity and corruption, if you will: the infantilizing of the populace who now needs federal help in feeding itself; the fiscal irresponsibilty of adding to the national debt; the assault on the institutions of civil society out of naked lust for ever more centralized power in the hands of the Dems, the left wing party. (Not that the Republicans are conservative.)
Wehner fails to grasp that the Left is fundamentally destructive of the spaces in which people "live their lives and think about things in different ways." This is why there can be no peace with them.
It is hopelessly naive to think that we can have comity without commonality. There are certain things we cannot be expected to agree on. We will never agree on the purpose of human life or the nature of human flourishing. This is why the Declaration of Independence speaks not of an unalienable right to happiness, but of an unalienable right to the pursuit of happiness which includes a pursuit of the question as to what it would be to be happy. But we have to agree on the purpose of government and a small set of core American values. One of them is liberty, which entails a commitment to limited government. A second is e pluribus unum which expresses the value of assimilation. A third is that rights are not granted by government but have a status antecedent to government and the conventional. Does the Left accept these as values? Of course not. The Left is totalitarian from top to bottom. It is anti-liberty. The Left promotes a mindless and destructive diversity. The Left, being totalitarian, cannot brook any competitors, not the private sphere, not private property which is the foundation of individual liberty, not the family, not religion with its reference to Transcendence, not any realm of values beyond the say-so of rulers.
I am not expressing cynicism, but realism. Inazu and Wehner are engaged in a vaporous feel-good sort of preaching lacking any connection with reality. They fail to grasp that we have reached the point where we agree on almost nothing and that the way forward will be more like war than like civil debate on a common ground of shared principles.
Maybe the alternative is this: we either defeat the Left or we balkanize. To put it oxymoronically I have toyed quite seriously with the idea that what we need is the political analog of divorce, not that this is an optimal solution. See my A Case for Voluntary Segregation. I am speaking, of course, of political segregation, not racial segregation. I have to point out the obvious because some stupid race-baiting liberal may be reading this.
I see you're paying attention to current affairs. Very hard on the nerves. I can't do it. I tried to watch one Rep "debate": the most vulgar public display I've ever seen. Do you remember the saying "he who slings mud loses ground"? I think the "contestants" dug themselves mineshaft-deep holes that night. Shameful. Didn't try to watch the Dems, but I can imagine. I'll ask you a question: as citizens do you think people deeply offended by the mudslinging nevertheless have a duty to attend to the political debate and eventually try to make an educated choice (even if it's another egregiously malum minus choice)? Unlike some countries which legally mandate voting (Australia), US citizens have no statutory obligation to vote, but I'll guess you don't see that as exhausting the duties of a citizen.
That is a wonderful saying, "He who slings mud loses ground." I had never heard it before. I shall remember it. A variant occurs to me, "He who digs up dirt loses ground."
An interesting logico-linguistic point that should interest Slim: Constructions of the form He who Fs Gs, while featuring what is grammatically the third-person singular masculine pronoun, are not logically pronominal at all. The use of 'he' in such constructions is quantificational. Thus "he who slings mud loses ground" is replaceable both salva veritate and salva significatione by
For any x, if x slings mud, then x loses ground.
Now on to to Slim's question:
As citizens do you think people deeply offended by the mudslinging nevertheless have a duty to attend to the political debate and eventually try to make an educated choice (even if it's another egregiously malum minus choice)?
After Trump referred to his phallus, praising its size and efficacy, I turned off the TV. So there is no duty to listen to all the mud slung from side to side. But yes, one does have a civic duty to "attend to the debate" in the sense of informing oneself of both (i) what the candidates represent and (ii) their character as individuals. Why? Well, since we have benefited from civil order, we have a moral responsibility to help maintain it and pass it on. It is a question of gratitude, a good conservative virtue.
One ought to attend to both (i) and (ii). I am puzzled but also appalled at the number of Trump supporters who are blind partisans who are either unaware of or dismissive of the man's obvious negatives. They are so enamored of his populism that they are willing to ignore the man's character as if that has no bearing on his fitness for high office.
There is a reason not to go the way of the Aussies and make voting mandatory. As it is here in the USA, roughly only half of the eligible voters actually vote. This is arguably good inasmuch as voters filter themselves. If I were a liberal, I would say that eligible voters who stay home 'disenfranchise' themselves, and often to the benefit of the rest of us. (But of course I am not a liberal and I don't misuse words like 'disenfranchise.')
What I mean is that, generally speaking, the people who can vote but do not are precisely the people one would not want voting in the first place. To vote takes time, energy, and a bit of commitment. Careless, lazy, and uninformed people are not likely to do it. And that is good. I don't want my thoughtful vote neutralized by the vote of some dolt who is merely at the polling place to avoid a fine. And if you force a man to vote, he may rebel and vote randomly or in other ways that subvert the process.
Of course, many refuse to vote out of disgust at their choices. My advice for them would be to hold their noses and vote for the least or the lesser of the evils. Politics is always about choosing the least or the lesser of evils. The very fact that we need government at all shows that we live in an imperfect world, one in which a perfect candidate is not to be found. Government itself is a necessary evil: it would be better if we didn't need it, but we do need it.
I support the right of those who think the system irremediably corrupt to protest by refusing to vote. Government is coercive by its very nature, and mandatory voting is a form of coercion that belongs in a police state rather than in a free republic.
If you think that a higher voter turnout is a good thing, that is happening anyway as divisions deepen and our politics become more polarized. The nastier our politics, the higher the turnout. And it will get nastier still. So why do we need mandatory voting?
Fact is, we are awash in unnecessary laws. We don't need more laws and more government interference in our lives. And will a mandatory voting law be enforced? How? At what expense? Isn't it perfectly obvious to everyone with commonsense that we need to move toward less government rather than more, toward more liberty rather than less? (You may infer from this that Hillary and Bernie lack common sense.)
If you think about it, 'One man, one vote' is a very dubious principle. I think about it here. Voluntary voting is one way of balancing the ill effects of 'One man, one vote.' But isn't voting a civic duty? I would say that it is. But not every duty should be legally mandated.
Seldom Seen Slim has correctly guessed my position: the duties of a citizen are not exhausted by what is legally mandated. One has a moral obligation to stay politically informed, to do one's best to form correct political opinions, and to vote.
We have neo-barbarians at the gate. [In truth, they are already within the gates.] We have little will to deal with them. We are mocked because we have the finest equipment, but no will to fight. The heart of our civilization has disappeared in a relativism that cannot distinguish friend and foe, truth and falsity. Not only do our people not know who they are, but even what they are. We no longer choose to understand families, truth, or polity.
We think now of Caesar as a single popular leader who rules for his own good. John Paul II spoke of “democratic tyranny” in a people who have no internal principle of rule except for what they want as enforced by their own laws. On the Ides of March, 2016, it is well to take a second look at this most famous Caesar, killed on this day in 44 B.C. What things, we should ask ourselves, ought we never to “render” unto him?
I'm enjoying the irony of American Sanders supporters lecturing me, a former Soviet citizen, on the glories of Socialism and what it really means! Socialism sounds great in speech soundbites and on Facebook, but please keep it there. In practice, it corrodes not only the economy but the human spirit itself, and the ambition and achievement that made modern capitalism possible and brought billions of people out of poverty. Talking about Socialism is a huge luxury, a luxury that was paid for by the successes of capitalism. Income inequality is a huge problem, absolutely. But the idea that the solution is more government, more regulation, more debt, and less risk is dangerously absurd.
The penultimate sentence needs some qualification, but otherwise Grandmaster Kasparov is enunciating very important truths with the authority of someone who speaks from experience. Kasparov, ethnically Jewish on his father's side, was world chess champion from 1985-1993. He was born Garik Kimovich Weinstein. Jews dominate chess out of all proportion to their numbers. A liberal dumbass would say they are 'over-represented.'
I feel a rant coming on . . . enough blogging for one day.
As far as I can tell, our thoughts on Trump’s unfitness are pretty close, and the way you’ve laid out the matter in your most recent post (Trumpian Propositions) also mirrors my thinking. This extends to the following sentence, which I’ve uttered almost verbatim to friends and family: “we know what Hillary will do, while we do not know what Trump will do.”
Where we disagree – or rather, where I may disagree with you, but am still working out my thoughts and waiting for further developments – is in evaluating the implications of that statement. You take it as an argument to vote for Trump; after all, you say, “[h]e might actually do something worthwhile.” I agree with that quotation as well. It seems to me that HRC will be a terrible President 100 times out of 100, while DJT may only be terrible 98 or 99 times out of 100.
But here’s the problem: I fear that his worst could be worse, maybe much worse, than Hillary’s. He is a thug, or at least often behaves like one (e.g. in his use of eminent domain both in the U.S. and in Scotland) and expresses admiration for thugs (e.g. Putin, Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong Un, the Chinese in cracking down in the Tiananmen Square massacre back in ’89, etc.). Trump, it seems to me, wants to be El Jefe, not merely the commander in chief of a Republic, subject to checks and balances and limitations on executive power. (See for example his incredible statement in the debate that he would give illegal orders to members of the armed forces, and they would follow them.)
BV: If we use 'thug' to refer to someone who habitually engages in thuggish behavior, then perhaps Trump is not fairly called a thug. But he is often thuggish, and he clearly admires thugs and thuggish behavior. This is a disqualifier. Lacking self-knowledge, he cannot see this fact about himself. This is another disqualifier.
It is also important to note that much of the admiration and support for Trump reflects a dark side of human nature, namely, the tendency secretly to admire supposed tough guys and 'winners,' and to have contempt for 'losers' many of whom 'lose' because they are reasonable, civil, conciliatory, and concerned for the common good, Mitt Romney being one example. To admire a winner just in virtue of his winning while ignoring the question of the morality of the means to victory is human-all-too-human. It is rooted in our animal nature. In Trump's moral calculus, the worst sort of human being is the loser. This is why the first thing he said in his response to Mitt Romney was that the latter lost.
To the extent that we can ascribe a moral theory to a shallow-pate like Trump, his is the morality of Thrasymachus, if we take that to be the view that it is right and just that the strong should dominate the weak. Might makes right. Success justifies. If the panzers of the Wehrmacht roll into Poland crushing all resistance, then the fact justifies the deed. My power to kill you confers moral justification on my killing you. On the other hand, failure condemns. If you are too weak to win and you lose, then it is right and just that you lose. When Hitler saw that the fatherland was about to be destroyed, his attitude was that it deserved to be destroyed. So he ordered the scorched earth Nero Decree as much to punish the Germans for losing as to prevent useful infrastructure from falling into the hands of the enemy.
In light of this it is easy to understand Trump's mocking of the man with the palsied hand and his reference to Megyn Kelly's menstrual cycle. The cripple is weak and less worthy of life. Women are weaker than men and so their claims can be dismissed as products of their weakness. It also sheds light on Trump's assuring us that his sexual apparatus is large and in good working order. For any weakness in that area would detract from his status as alpha male and argue his lack of value. For a man as crude as Trump the measure of a man is the size and rigidity of his penis and the extent of his net worth. Now many a man is concerned with penis and pelf; but few are so morally vacuous as to have no compunction about tying one's worth as a person to such things.
What matters for our latter-day Thrasymachus is to win, whatever the cost. And or course winning is measured in the crudest quantitative terms imaginable. Trump tweeted to a journalist who criticized him, "I get more pussy than you." What matters is quantity of 'pussy,' size of net worth, height of buildings . . . . It doesn't matter that those buildings are casinos wherein people degrade and impoverish themselves.
And notice that he doesn't care that these damning facts are known about him. He is not ashamed to be the crude vulgarian that he is. He is like Bill Clinton in this regard. Nixon, who was brought up right, could be shamed, but not Bill Clinton. "I did it because I could." And like Bill Clinton, Trump has no compunction about lying. It comes as naturally to him as breathing.
And nothing he says has to make sense since it is not about making sense but about winning. So he can make noises as if he is supportive of Christianity even though, by his own moral calculus, he ought to despise Jesus Christ. For the world has never known a bigger loser and more utter failure than Jesus. Humanly speaking, Jesus was a total loser. If that is not obvious, the case has been made most convincingly by Romano Guardini in Jesus Christus, chapter 3, "Failure."
Like Obama, Trump will say anything if he thinks it will get him what he wants. It doesn't matter whether it is true or even makes sense, or contradicts what he said the day before.
My correspondent is worried that Trump's worst may be worse than Hillary's worst. Could be. We just don't know. But we do know Hillary will do whereas we do not know what Trump will do. So it strikes me as reasonable to roll the dice in his favor should he get the nomination. Meanwhile, we should do our damndest to make sure he doesn't get the nomination.
It isn’t clear to me that he’s better than Hillary Clinton, even leaving aside his Napoleonic complex. Is there anything that you know he stands for? He thinks Planned Parenthood is “great”, he’ll let all the “good ones” (Mexicans) back in, likes H1B visas, imported immigrants to work at his resort while rejecting American labor as recently as last July, was for restrictions on the second amendment until about 30 seconds ago, recommends higher taxes on the rich, has advocated torture, opposes free trade, wants to further limit the first amendment, has been playing footsies with the KKK and the white supremacists (the “bad earpiece” try was a joke, as he himself mentioned David Duke and white supremacists in that CNN interview), has a decades-long track record of engaging in crony “capitalism” – and the list goes on and on. I don’t see where he’s better than she is, except on a very few issues where his “conversion” goes back to the instant he decided to run, and which in every case has been retracted or at least undermined by later statements during the campaign. He’s a bullshitter, a bully, and a blusterer, and if you go by his actions instead of his words he’s just another liberal democrat.
BV: There is one thing I KNOW Trump stands for, namely, his own ego. He is all the awful things you say he is. And I agree that it is not CLEAR that he is better than Hillary.
So I just don’t see it. [. . .]
The only possible and meaningful plus I see for Trump is the possibility that he appoints conservatives to SCOTUS. There is no chance that Hillary will do so, but he might. (I’m not absolutely sure about that, but it’s moderately possible.) Maybe that’s a good enough reason. Given that his sister is a pro-choice judge, and given his social liberalism, and given his seeming ignorance of and disdain for the U.S. Constitution (I especially liked his recent comments about judges signing bills into law), the odds of his nominating an originalist justice are iffy at best. But again, maybe that’s good enough. Still: does one elect a liberal ignoramus who might be Mussolini for a shot at 2-3 (relatively) good Supremes?
BV: Hillary is Obama in a pant suit. She will continue his "fundamental transformation of America." Like Obama, she is a destructive leftist. She must be stopped. Therefore, you must vote for the Republican nominee whoever it is. It will be either Trump or Cruz.
I don't think it is right to say that the only good thing Trump might do is appoint conservatives to the Supreme Court. It is a very good bet that he will put a severe dent in the influx of illegal aliens across the southern border. (Forget his bluster about making Mexico pay for the wall.) But we KNOW that hate-America Hillary will do nothing to stem the illegal tide. If anything she'll encourage it because in her cynical eyes they are undocumented Democrats.
A third thing Trump might very well do is stop the outrage of sanctuary cities. But we KNOW Hillary won't.
A fourth thing Trump can be expected to do enforce civil order in the face of rampaging blacks of the Black Lives Matter ilk. These lying scum have targeted the police and are actively working to undermine the rule of law. Hillary is in bed with them. The evil bitch repeats all the lies about Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, 'mass incarceration' and so on. And what is most despicable is that she does it cynically for her own personal advantage.
A fifth thing Trump might do is defend religious liberties. We KNOW that Hillary won't. Never forget that the Left is anti-religion and has been since 1789. Part of the reason for this is that the Left is totalitarian: it can brook no competitors to State power. This is why it must destroy belief in God and in the family. The god of the leftist is the State, the apparatchiks of the latter being the State's 'priesthood.'
A sixth thing Trump might do is defend Second Amendment rights. We KNOW that Hillary won't. She is a mendacious 'stealth ideologue' who won't admit that she is for Aussie-style confiscation, but that is what the liberty-bashing bitch is for. She realizes that guns in the hands of citizens is a check on her leftist totalitarianism.
Here is the situation. If it comes down to Trump versus Hillary, then you face a lousy choice between two awful candidates. So you must vote for the least awful of the two. And that is Trump. Alles klar?
"But why not vote for neither?"
The short answer is that the Left is totalitarian. You can't withdraw from politics, because they won't let you. And again, we know that Hillary is a leftist who will try to extend the reach of government into every aspect of our lives. You must take a stand.
Bernie Sanders calls himself a socialist and I have loosely referred to him in the same way, violating my own strictures against loose talk. Mea culpa. But of course Sanders is not a socialist in any reasonably strict sense of the term. Not only does he misuse the term, but he also does so quite foolishly since in American politics 'socialist' remains a dirty word. By so labeling himself he insures that he will never be more than a Vermont senator. He is a decent old coot, unlike the despicable Hillary, but in the end a side show on the way to the main event. Practically, then, my question is moot, but theoretically interesting nonetheless.
Sanders recently claimed that he, like Pope Francis, is a socialist. When asked to clarify his meaning, he said the following: "Well, what it means to be a socialist, in the sense of what the pope is talking about, what I'm talking about, is to say that  we have got to do our best and live our lives in a way that alleviates human suffering,  that does not accelerate the disparities of income and wealth."
I have intercalated numbers to distinguish the two different claims Sanders makes.  has nothing specifically to do with socialism. After all, I agree with  and I support free enterprise under the rule of law. Capitalism is good because it leads to prosperity and the alleviation of human suffering. Capitalism makes charitable giving possible.  has something to do with socialism but it is based on the foolish notion that there is something wrong with inequality as such.
The main point, however, is that Sanders' definition of 'socialism' is risible. Here is a dictionary definition adequate for present purposes:
Any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods;
a system of society or group living in which there is no private property : a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state.
By this definition, Sanders is not a socialist. For he does not advocate government ownership of the means of production, nor is he out to abolish all private property. He needs capitalism to generate the loot that he wants to confiscate and redistribute.
Here it is argued that Sanders would do better to label himself a social democrat rather than a democratic socialist.
While Sanders is not a socialist strictly speaking you could say he is drifting in the socialist direction toward the omni-competent (omni-incompetent?) and omni-intrusive state. So if you value liberty you must oppose Bernie and Hillary and the whole bunch of gun-grabbing, religion-bashing, race-baiting, tradition-trashing, free speech-despising, liberty-quashing, Constitution-shredding, state-worshipping, hate-America leftists.
So if it comes down to Trump versus Hillary, you must roll the dice and vote for the awful Trump and hope for the best.
Another important step is a better comprehension by communities that government is at best a rude machinery, which can accomplish but very limited good, and which, when strained to accomplish what individuals should do for themselves, is sure to be perverted by selfishness to narrow purposes, or to defeat through ignorance its own ends. Man is too ignorant to govern much, to form vast plans for states and empires. Human policy has almost always been in conflict with the great laws of social well-being, and the less we rely on it the better. The less of power given to man over man the better. I speak, of course, of physical, political force. There is a power which cannot be accumulated to excess, — I mean moral power, that of truth and virtue, the royalty of wisdom and love, of magnanimity and true religion. This is the guardian of all right. It makes those whom it acts on free. (from Discourses on War. HT: Dave Bagwill)
Before one is a conservative or a liberal ideologically, one is a conservative or a liberal temperamentally, or by disposition. Or at least this is a thesis with which I am seriously toying, to put it oxymoronically. The idea is that temperament is a major if not the main determinant of political commitments. First comes the disposition, then come the theoretical articulation, the arguments, and the examination and refutation of the arguments of adversaries. Conservatism and liberalism are bred in the bone before they are born in the brain.
If this is so, it helps explain the bitter and intractable nature of political disagreement, the hatreds that politics excites, the visceral oppositions thinly veiled under a mask of mock civility, the mutual repugnance that goes so deep as to be unlikely to be ascribable to mere differences in thinking. For how does one argue against another's temperament or disposition or sensibility? I can't argue you out of an innate disposition, any more than I can argue you out of being yourself; and if your theoretical framework is little more than a reflection at the level of ideas of an ineradicable temperamental bias, then my arguments cannot be expected to have much influence. A certain skepticism about the role and reach of reason in human affairs may well be the Oakeshottian upshot.
But rather than pursue the question whether temperament is a major if not the main determinant of political commitments, let us address, with the help of Michael Oakeshott, the logically preliminary question of what it is to be conservatively disposed. Here are some passages from his "On Being Conservative" (from Rationalism in Politics and Other Essays, Basic Books, 1962, pp. 168-196, bolding added):
The general characteristics of this [conservative] disposition are not difficult to discern, although they have often been mistaken. They centre upon a propensity to use and to enjoy what is available rather than to wish for or to look for something else; to delight in what is present rather than what was or what may be. Reflection may bring to light an appropriate gratefulness for what is available, and consequently the acknowledgment of a gift or an inheritance from the past; but there is no mere idolizing of what is past and gone. What is esteemed is the present; and it is esteemed not on account of its connections with a remote antiquity, nor because it is recognized to be more admirable than any possible alternative, but on account of its familiarity: not, Verweile doch, du bist so schoen, but Stay with me because I am attached to you.
[. . .]
To be conservative, then, is to prefer the familiar to the unknown, to prefer the tried to the untried, fact to mystery, the actual to the possible, the limited to the unbounded, the near to the distant, the sufficient to the superabundant, the convenient to the perfect, present laughter to utopian bliss. Familiar relationships and loyalties will be preferred to the allure of more profitable attachments; to acquire and to enlarge will be less important than to keep, to cultivate and to enjoy; the grief of loss will be more acute than the excitement of novelty or promise. It is to be equal to one's own fortune, to live at the level of one's own means, to be content with the want of greater perfection which belongs alike to oneself and one's circumstances.
[. . .]
The disposition to be conservative is, then, warm and positive in respect of enjoyment, and correspondingly cool and critical in respect of change and innovation: these two inclinations support and elucidate one another. The man of conservative temperament believes that a known good is not lightly to be surrendered for an unknown better. He is not in love with what is dangerous and difficult; he is unadventurous; he has no impulse to sail uncharted seas; for him there is no magic in being lost, bewildered, or shipwrecked. If forced to navigate the unknown, he sees virtue in heaving the lead every inch of the way. What others plausibly identify as timidity, he recognizes in himself as rational prudence; what others interpret as inactivity, he recognizes as a disposition to enjoy rather than to exploit. He is cautious, and he is disposed to indicate assent or dissent, not in absolute, but in graduated terms. He eyes the situation in terms of its propensity to disrupt the familiarity of the features of his world.
[. . .]
. . . what makes a conservative disposition in politics intelligible is nothing to do with natural law or a providential order, nothing to do with morals or religion; it is the observation of our current manner of living combined with the belief (which from our point of view need be regarded as no more than an hypothesis) that governing is a specific and limited activity, namely the provision and custody of general rules of conduct, which are understood, not as plans for imposing substantive activities, but as instruments enabling people to pursue the activities of their own choice with the minimum frustration, and therefore something which it is appropriate to be conservative about.
[. . .]
And the office of government is not to impose other beliefs and activities upon its subjects, not to tutor or to educate them, not to make them better or happier in another way, not to direct them, to galvanize them into action, to lead them or to coordinate their activities so that no occasion of conflict shall occur; the office of government is merely to rule. This is a specific and limited activity, easily corrupted when it is combined with any other, and, in the circumstances, indispensable. The image of the ruler is the umpire whose business is to administer the rules of the game, or the chairman who governs the debate according to known rules but does not himself participate in it.
[. . .]
. . . the office he attributes to government is to resolve some of the collisions which this variety of beliefs and activities generates; to preserve peace, not by placing an interdict upon choice and upon the diversity that springs from the exercise of preference, not by imposing substantive uniformity, but by enforcing general rules of procedure upon all subjects alike.
Government, then, as the conservative in this matter understands it, does not begin with a vision of another, different, and better world, but with the observation of the self-government practised even by men of passion in the conduct of their enterprises; it begins in the informal adjustments of interests to one another which are designed to release those who are apt to collide from the mutual frustration of a collision. Sometimes these adjustments are no more than agreements between two parties to keep out of each other's way; sometimes they are of wider application and more durable character, such as the International Rules for the prevention of collisions at sea. In short, the intimations of government are to be found in ritual, not in religion or philosophy; in the enjoyment of orderly and peaceable behaviour, not in the search for truth or perfection.
[. . .]
. . . politics is an activity unsuited to the young, not on account of their vices but on account of what I at least consider to be their virtues.
Nobody pretends that it is easy to acquire or to sustain the mood of indifference which this manner of politics calls for. To rein-in one's own beliefs and desires, to acknowledge the current shape of things, to feel the balance of things in one's hand, to tolerate what is abominable, to distinguish between crime and sin, to respect formality even when it appears to be leading to error, these are difficult achievements; and they are achievements not to be looked for in the young. Everybody's young days are a dream, a delightful insanity, a sweet solipsism. Nothing in them has a fixed shape, nothing a fixed price; everything is a possibility, and we live happily on credit. There are no obligations to be observed; there are no accounts to be kept. Nothing is specified in advance; everything is what can be made of it. The world is a mirror in which we seek the reflection of our own desires. The allure of violent emotions is irresistible. When we are young we are not disposed to make concessions to the world; we never feel the balance of a thing in our hands - unless it be a cricket bat. [Jim Morrison: "We wnat the world, and we want it now!"] We are not apt to distinguish between our liking and our esteem; urgency is our criterion of importance; and we do not easily understand that what is humdrum need not be despicable. We are impatient of restraint; and we readily believe, like Shelley, that to have contracted a habit is to have failed. These, in my opinion, are among our virtues when we are young; but how remote they are from the disposition appropriate for participating in the style of government I have been describing. Since life is a dream, we argue (with plausible but erroneous logic) that politics must be an encounter of dreams, in which we hope to impose our own. Some unfortunate people, like Pitt (laughably called "the Younger"), are born old, and are eligible to engage in politics almost in their cradles; others, perhaps more fortunate, belie the saying that one is young only once, they never grow up. But these are exceptions. For most there is what Conrad called the "shadow line" which, when we pass it, discloses a solid world of things, each with its fixed shape, each with its own point of balance, each with its price; a world of fact, not poetic image, in which what we have spent on one thing we cannot spend on another; a world inhabited by others besides ourselves who cannot be reduced to mere reflections of our own emotions. And coming to be at home in this commonplace world qualifies us (as no knowledge of "political science" can ever qualify us), if we are so inclined and have nothing better to think about, to engage in what the man of conservative disposition understands to be political activity.
Despite their name, liberals seem uninterested or insufficiently interested in the 'real' liberties, those pertaining to property, money, and guns, as opposed to the 'ideal' liberties, those pertaining to freedom of expression. A liberal will go to any extreme when it comes to defending the right to express his precious self no matter how inane or obnoxious or socially deleterious the results of his self-expression; but he cannot muster anything like this level of energy when it comes to defending the right to keep what he earns or the right to defend himself and his family from the criminal element from which liberal government fails to protect him. He would do well to reflect that his right to express his vacuous self needs concrete back-up in the form of economic and physical clout. Scribbler that I am, I prize freedom of expression; but I understand what makes possible its retention.
Taxation then is a liberty issue before it is a 'green eye shade' issue: the more the government takes, the less concrete liberty you have. Without money you can't get your kids out of a shitty public school system that liberals have destroyed with their tolerate-anything mentality; without money you cannot live in a decent and secure neighborhood. Without money you can't move out of a state such as California which is 'under water' due to liberal fiscal irresponsibility.
Taxation is a liberty issue. That is one thought as April 15th approaches. Another is that the government must justify its taking; the onus is not on you to justify your keeping.
Government exists to serve us, not the other way around.
Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, The Waste Books, tr. R. J. Hollingdale, New York Review Books, 1990, p. 101:
Certain rash people have asserted that, just as there are no mice where there are no cats, so no one is possessed where there are no exorcists.
That puts me in mind of anarchists who say that where there are no laws there are no criminals. That is not much better than saying that where there are no chemists there are no chemicals.
Just as there are chemicals whether or not there are any chemists, there are moral wrongs whether or not there are any positive laws prohibiting them. What makes murder wrong is not that there are positive laws prohibiting it; murder is wrong antecedently of the positive law. It is morally wrong before (logically speaking) it is legally wrong. And it is precisely the moral wrongness of murder that justifies having laws against it.
And yet there is a sense in which criminals are legislated into existence: one cannot be a criminal in the eyes of the law unless there is the law. And it is certainly true that to be a criminal in the eyes of the law does not entail being guilty of any moral wrong-doing. But the anarchist goes off the deep end if he thinks that there is no moral justification for any legal prohibitions, or that the wrongness of every act is but an artifact of the law's prohibiting it.
An excellent article by Walter Russell Meade. Study it, muchachos. Yes, this will be on the final.
A revenant is one who has returned from the dead or from a long absence.
Has Old Hickory come back as Donald Trump?
Though I despise contemporary liberalism and leftism (any difference?), that doesn't quite put me on the Jacksonian right. Meade:
Lynch law and Jim Crow were manifestations of Jacksonian communalism, and there are few examples of race, religious or ethnic prejudice in which Jacksonian America hasn’t indulged.
[. . .]
Jacksonians are neither liberal nor conservative in the ways that political elites use those terms; they are radically egalitarian, radically pro-middle class, radically patriotic, radically pro-Social Security.
I am too much of an intellectual, and too much of an old-time liberal, to be a Jacksonian. At the bottom of the Jacksonian bucket are the rednecks and know-nothings. You know the type. The guy who shoots out the windows of a convenience store because he thinks the proprietor is a Muslim when in fact he is a Sikh. He doesn't know the difference between a Muslim and a Hindu because he doesn't read books. He is too busy swilling Budweiser at NASCAR events and tractor-pulls. (He had hisself a coupla Buds but he was none the wiser.)
At the bottom of that same Jacksonian bucket are the jingoists who confuse jingoism with patriotism. "My country right or wrong." And while I believe that "all men are created equal" in the Declaration of Independence sense, and all deserve equal treatment before the law, I am no radical egalitarian. I am an elitist, but in the best possible sense of that word. People are obviously not equal in respect of any empirical attribute. You could put it like this: we are all equal before God, equally wretched, but among one another plainly unequal spiritually, mentally, morally, and physically. But my elitism has nothing to do with inherited privilege or blood lines and the like. It is an elitism grounded in talent and ability and the individual's free development of his talents and abilities. True, you did nothing to deserve your God- or nature-given talent, but you have nonetheless a right to its possession and development. If you develop your talents in accordance with the old virtues and become unequal to others in respect of the three Ps (position, power, and pelf), then so be it. Material equality, as such, is not a value.
But if comes down to a fight with vile and destructive leftists, you can bet I will be on the side of the Jacksonian good old boys, locked and loaded. Meade concludes:
Whatever happens to the Trump candidacy, it now seems clear that Jacksonian America is rousing itself to fight for its identity, its culture and its primacy in a country that it believes it should own. Its cultural values have been traduced, its economic interests disregarded, and its future as the center of gravity of American political life is under attack. Overseas, it sees traditional rivals like Russia, China, North Korea and Iran making headway against a President that it distrusts; more troubling still, in ISIS and jihadi terror it sees the rapid spread of a movement aiming at the mass murder of Americans. Jacksonian America has lost all confidence in the will or the ability of the political establishment to fight the threats it sees abroad and at home. It wants what it has always wanted: to take its future into its own hands.The biggest story in American politics today is this: Andrew Jackson is mad as hell, and he’s not going to take it anymore.
. . . no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.
Does it follow that the U. S. Constitution allows a Muslim citizen who supports sharia (Islamic law) to run for public office? No! For the same Constitution, in its First Amendment, enjoins a salutary separation of church/synagogue/mosque and state, though not in those words. Sharia and the values and principles enshrined in the founding documents are incompatible. On no sane interpretation is our great Constitution a suicide pact.
It is important to realize that Islam is as much an anti-Enlightenment political ideology as it is a religion. Our Enlightenment founders must be rolling around in their graves at the very suggestion that sharia-subscribing Muslims are eligible for the presidency and other public offices.
I just heard Marco Rubio refer to "no religious test" and Article VI in connection with Muslim immigration. But this shows deep confusion on his part. The U. S. Constitution affords protections to U. S. citizens, not to non-citizens.
From a reader:
I don’t follow your reasoning in the “’No Religious Test’” post. I have no idea what “…no religious Test shall ever be required” means if not that someone is permitted to run and be elected regardless of his religious views. It doesn’t mean we have to vote for him, or that his religious views can’t be criticized, or that his own attempts to give state sanction to his religious beliefs and practices can pass Constitutional muster. As you allusively note, the Establishment clause prevents Sharia law or any other distinctively religious practice from becoming the law of the land. But legally preventing the pro-Sharia Muslim from getting what he wants doesn’t legally prevent him from getting elected in the first place.
My reader assumes that no restriction may be placed on admissible religions. I deny it. A religion that requires the subverting of the U. S. Constitution is not an admissible religion when it comes to applying the "no religious Test" provision. One could argue that on a sane interpretation of the Constitution, Islam, though a religion, is not an admissible religion where an admissible religion is one that does not contain core doctrines which, if implemented, would subvert the Constitution.
Or one might argue that Islam is not a religion at all. Damn near anything can and will be called a religion by somebody. Some say with a straight face that leftism is a religion, others that Communism is a religion. Neither is a religion on any adequate definition of 'religion.' I have heard it said that atheism is a religion. Surely it isn't. Is a heresy of a genuine religion itself a religion? Arguably not. Hillaire Belloc and others have maintained that Islam is a Christian heresy. Or one could argue that Islam, or perhaps radical Islam, is not a religion but a totalitarian political ideology masquerading as a religion. How to define religion is a hotly contested issue in the philosophy of religion.
The point here is that "religious" in ". . . no religious Test shall ever be required" is subject to interpretation. We are under no obligation to give it a latitudinarian reading that allows in a destructive ideology incompatible with our values and principles.
My reader apparently thinks that since the Establishment Clause rules out Sharia, that there is no harm in allowing a Sharia-supporting Muslim, i.e., an orthodox Muslim, not a 'radicalized' Muslim, to become president. But this is a naive and dangerous view given that presidents have been known to operate outside the law. (Obama, for example.) It seems obvious to me that someone who shows contempt for our Constitution should not be allowed anywhere near the presidency.
And now San Bernardino. It is surely 'interesting' that in supposedly conservative media venues such as Fox News there has been no discussion, in the wake of this latest instance of Islamic terrorism, of the obvious question whether immigration from Muslim lands should be put on hold. Instead, time is wasted refuting silly liberal calls for more gun control. 'Interesting' but not surprising. Political correctness is so pervasive that even conservatives are infected with it. It is very hard for most of us, including conservatives, to believe that it is Islam itself and not the zealots of some hijacked version thereof that is the problem. But slowly, and very painfully, people are waking up. But I am not sanguine that only a few more such bloody events will jolt us into alertness. It will take many more.
So is it not eminently reasonable to call for a moratorium on immigration from Muslim lands? Here are some relevant points. I would say that they add up to a strong cumulative case argument for a moratorium.
1. There is no right to immigrate. See here for some arguments contra the supposed right by Steven A. Camarota. Here is my refutation of an argument pro. My astute commenters add further considerations. Since there is no right to immigrate, immigrants are allowed in only if they meet certain criteria. Surely we are under no obligation to allow in those who would destroy our way of life.
2. We philosophers will debate until doomsday about rights and duties and everything else. But in the meantime, shouldn't we in our capacity as citizens exercise prudence and advocate that our government exercise prudence? So even if in the end there is a right to immigrate, the prudent course would be to suspend this supposed right for the time being until we get a better fix on what is going on. Let's see if ISIS is contained or spreads. Let's observe events in Europe and in Britain. Let's see if Muslim leaders condemn terrorism. Let's measure the extent of Muslim assimilation.
3. "Overwhelming percentages of Muslims in many countries want Islamic law (sharia) to be the official law of the land, according to a worldwide survey by the Pew Research Center." Here. Now immigrants bring their culture and their values with them. Most Muslims will bring a commitment to sharia with them. But sharia is incompatible with our American values and the U. S. Constitution. Right here we have a very powerful reason to disallow immigration from Muslim lands.
4. You will tell me that not all Muslims subscribe to sharia, and you will be right. But how separate the sheep from the goats? Do you trust government officials to do the vetting? Are you not aware that people lie and that the Muslim doctrine of taqiyya justifies lying?
5. You will insist that not all Muslims are terrorists, and again you will be right. But almost all the terrorism in the world at the present time comes from Muslims acting upon Muslim beliefs.
Pay attention to the italicized phrase.
There are two important related distinctions we need to make.
There is first of all a distinction between committing murder because one's ideology, whether religious or non-religious, enjoins or justifies murder, and committing murder for non-ideological reasons or from non-ideological motives. For example, in the Charlie Hebdo attack, the murders were committed to avenge the blasphemy against Muhammad, the man Muslims call 'The Prophet' and consider Allah's messenger. And that is according to the terrorists themselves. Clearly, the terrorist acts were rooted in Muslim religious ideology in the same way that Communist and Nazi atrocities were rooted in Communist and Nazi political ideology, respectively. Compare that to a mafioso killing an innocent person who happens to have witnessed a crime the mafioso has committed. The latter's a mere criminal whose motives are crass and non-ideological: he just wanted to score some swag and wasn't about to be inconvenienced by a witness to his crime. "Dead men tell no tales."
The other distinction is between sociological and doctrinal uses of terms such as 'Mormon,' 'Catholic,' Buddhist,' and 'Muslim.' I know a man who is a Mormon in the sense that he was born and raised in a practicing Mormon family, was himself a practicing Mormon in his early youth, hails from a Mormon state, but then 'got philosophy,' went atheist, and now rejects all of the metaphysics of Mormonism. Is he now a Mormon or not? I say he is a Mormon sociologically but not doctrinally. He is a Mormon by upbringing but not by current belief and practice. This is a distinction that absolutely must be made, though I won't hold it against you if you think my terminology less than felicitous. Perhaps you can do better. Couch the distinction in any terms you like, but couch it.
Examples abound. An aquaintance of mine rejoices under the surname 'Anastasio.' He is Roman Catholic by upbringing, but currently a committed Buddhist by belief and practice. Or consider the notorious gangster, 'Whitey' Bulger who is fortunately not an acquaintance of mine. Biographies of this criminal refer to him as Irish-Catholic, which is not wrong. But surely none of his unspeakably evil deeds sprang from Catholic moral teaching. Nor did they spring from Bulger's 'hijacking' of Catholicism. You could call him, with some justification, a Catholic criminal. But a Catholic who firebombs an abortion clinic to protest the evil of abortion is a Catholic criminal in an entirely different sense. The difference is between the sociological and the doctrinal.
6. Perhaps you will say to me that the percentage of Muslims who are terrorists is tiny. True. But all it takes is a handful, properly positioned, with the right devices, to bring the country to a screeching halt. And those who radicalize and inspire the terrorists need not be terrorists themselves. They could be imams in mosques operating in quiet and in secret.
7. You will tell me that a moratorium would keep out many good, decent Muslims who are willing to assimilate, who will not try to impose sharia, who will not work to undermine our system of government, and who do not condone terrorism. And you will be right. But again, there is no right to immigrate. So no wrong is done to good Muslims by preventing them from immigrating.
8. Think of it in terms of cost and benefit. Is there any net benefit from Muslim immigration? No. The cost outweighs the benefit. This is consistent with the frank admission that there are many fine Muslims who would add value to our society.
9. Perhaps you will call me a racist. I will return the compliment by calling you stupid for thinking that Islam is a race. Islam is a religious political ideology.
Current events warrant this re-post from two years ago. Christian precepts such as "Turn the other cheek" and "Welcome the stranger" make sense and are salutary only within communities of the like-minded and morally decent; they make no sense and are positively harmful in the public sphere, and, a fortiori, in the international sphere. The monastery is not the wide world. What is conducive unto salvation in the former will get you killed in the latter. And we know what totalitarians, whether Communists or Islamists, do when they get power: they destroy the churches, synagogues, monasteries, ashrams, and zendos. And with them are destroyed the means of transmitting the dharma, the kerygma, the law and the prophets.
So my question to Catholic bishops and their fellow travellers is this: Do you have a death wish for you and your flocks and your doctrine?
An important but troubling thought is conveyed in a recent NYT op-ed (emphasis added):
Machiavelli teaches that in a world where so many are not good, you must learn to be able to not be good. The virtues taught in our secular and religious schools are incompatible with the virtues one must practice to safeguard those same institutions. The power of the lion and the cleverness of the fox: These are the qualities a leader must harness to preserve the republic.
The problem as I see it is that (i) the pacific virtues the practice of which makes life worth living within families, between friends, and in such institutions of civil society as churches and fraternal organizations are essentially private and cannot be extended outward as if we are all brothers and sisters belonging to a global community. Talk of global community is blather. The institutions of civil society can survive and flourish only if protected by warriors and statesmen whose virtues are of the manly and martial, not of the womanish and pacific, sort. And yet (ii) if no extension of the pacific virtues is possible then humanity would seem to be doomed in an age of terrorism and WMDs. Besides, it is unsatisfactory that there be two moralities, one private, the other public.
Consider the Christian virtues preached by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. They include humility, meekness, love of righteousness, mercy, purity of heart, love of peace and of reconciliation. Everyone who must live uncloistered in the world understands that these pacific and essentially womanish virtues have but limited application there. (I am not using 'womanish' as a derogatory qualifier.) You may love peace, but unless you are prepared to make war upon your enemies and show them no mercy, you may not be long for this world. Turning the other cheek makes sense within a loving family, but no sense in the wider world. (Would the Pope turn the other cheek if the Vatican came under attack by Muslim terrorists or would he call upon the armed might of the Italian state?) This is perfectly obvious in the case of states: they are in the state (condition) of nature with respect to each other. Each state secures by blood and iron a civilized space within which art and music and science and scholarship can flourish and wherein, ideally, blood does not flow; but these states and their civilizations battle each other in the state (condition) of nature red in tooth and claw.
The Allies would not have been long for this world had they not been merciless in their treatment of the Axis Powers.
This is also true of individuals once they move beyond their families and friends and genuine communities and sally forth into the wider world.
The problem is well understood by Hannah Arendt ("Truth and Politics" in Between Past and Future, Penguin 1968, p. 245):
The disastrous consequences for any community that began in all earnest to follow ethical precepts derived from man in the singular -- be they Socratic or Platonic or Christian -- have been frequently pointed out. Long before Machiavelli recommended protecting the political realm against the undiluted principles of the Christian faith (those who refuse to resist evil permit the wicked "to do as much evil as they please"), Aristotle warned against giving philosophers any say in political matters. (Men who for professional reasons must be so unconcerned with "what is good for themselves" cannot very well be trusted with what is good for others, and least of all with the "common good," the down-to-earth interests of the community.) [Arendt cites the Nicomachean Ethics, Book VI, and in particular 1140b9 and 1141b4.]
There is a tension between man qua philosopher/Christian and man qua citizen. As a philosopher raised in Christianity, I am concerned with my soul, with its integrity, purity, salvation. I take very seriously indeed the Socratic "Better to suffer wrong than to do it" and the Christian "Resist not the evildoer." But as a citizen I must be concerned not only with my own well-being but also with the public welfare. This is true a fortiori of public officials and people in a position to influence public opinion, people like Catholic bishops many of whom are woefully ignorant of the simple points Arendt makes in the passage quoted. So, as Arendt points out, the Socratic and Christian admonitions are not applicable in the public sphere.
What is applicable to me in the singular, as this existing individual concerned with the welfare of his immortal soul over that of his perishable body, is not applicable to me as citizen. As a citizen, I cannot "welcome the stranger" who violates the laws of my country, a stranger who may be a terrorist or a drug smuggler or a human trafficker or a carrier of a deadly disease or a person who has no respect for the traditions of the country he invades; I cannot aid and abet his law breaking. I must be concerned with public order. This order is among the very conditions that make the philosophical and Christian life possible in the first place. If I were to aid and abet the stranger's law breaking, I would not be "rendering unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's" as the New Testament enjoins us to do.
Indeed, the Caesar verse provides a scriptural basis for Church-State separation and indirectly exposes the fallacy of the Catholic bishops and others who confuse private and public morality.
My brand of conservatism takes on board what I consider to be good in the old liberal tradition. I like to think that it blends the best of conservatism with the best of liberalism. A couple of sharp young philosophers have surfaced to challenge me, however. Their brand of conservatism looks askance at paleo-liberalism and sees it as leading inevitably to the hard leftism of the present day. So a fruitful intramural debate is in progress. I agree with much of what they say, but I think they go too far in reacting against the lunatic excesses of contemporary liberalism. If I label my interlocutors as neo-reactionary, I mean it descriptively, not pejoratively. I am grateful for their readership and commentary.
I pressed one of the sparring partners for a list of theses, and he came up with the following. My comments are in blue. His remarks and my responses are of course tentative and exploratory. So keep your shirt on.
1. Natural authority and social organization:
(A) Men are natural leaders of any human group. Their natural function is to build and protect society. Some men are natural leaders of other men. Women are nurturers. Their natural function is to raise the people who will compose and inhabit the society. There are exceptions to these broad norms, but any society that attempts to act against these norms will sicken and die in short order.
BV: I agree, but with some important qualifications. I'll start with our agreement. Differences in social role as between the sexes are grounded in hard biological facts. The biological differences between men and women are not 'social constructs.' The male sex hormone testosterone is not a 'social construct' although the words 'hormone' and 'testosterone' and the theory in which which they figure are. That women are better at nurturing than men is grounded in their biological constitution, which lies deeper than the social. This is not to say that all women are good at raising and nurturing children. 'Woman are nurturers' is a generic statement, not a universal statement. It is like the statement, 'Men are taller than women.' It does not mean that every man is taller than every woman.
Does it follow from the obvious biologically-grounded difference between men and women that women should be discouraged from pursuing careers outside the home and entering the professions? Here I begin to diverge from my interlocutors. They don't like talk of equal rights though I cannot see why a woman should not have the same right to pursue a career in medicine or engineering or mathematics or philosophy as a man if she has the aptitude for it. (But of course there must be no erosion of standards.) How do our NRs, who do not like talk of equality, protect women from men who would so dominate them as to prevent them from developing their talents? On the other hand, men as a group are very different from women as a group. So we should not expect equal outcomes. It should come as no surprise that women are 'underrepresented' in STEM fields, or in philosophy.
Why are they 'underrepresented' in philosophy? Because women as a group are not as good at it as men as a group, because women as a group are not as interested in it as men as a group, and because the feminine nature is conciliatory and averse to what they perceive as the aggressive, combative, and hostile aspects of philosophical dialectic. This is surely a large part, if not the whole, of the explanation, especially given the Affirmative Action advantage women have enjoyed over the past half a century. The hostility perceived by women reflects something about the nature of philosophy, namely, that its very lifeblood is dialectic and argument. Argument can be conducted civilly, often is, and of course ought to be. But it still looks to the female nature as a sort of 'fighting,' a sublimated form of the physical combat that men are wont to engage in, even when dialectic at its best is no such thing. So there is something in the nature of philosophy and something about females that explains their 'underrepresentation.' Those are sneer quotes, by the way. Anyone with an ounce of philosophical intelligence can see that the word I am sneering at conflates the factual and the normative. Therefore it shouldn't be used without sneer quotes.
You cannot refute my point about women by citing women who like the blood-sport aspect of philosophy. They are the exceptions that prove the rule. Harriet Baber, for example, who is Jewish and exemplifies the Jewish love of dialectic, writes:
I *LIKE* the blood-sport aspect of philosophy. To me, entering my first philosophy class, freshman year (1967) and discovering that you were not only allowed to fight but that the teacher actually encouraged it was liberating. As a girl, I was constantly squeezed and suppressed into being "nice" and non-confrontational. I was under chronic stress holding back, trying to fudge, not to be too clear or direct. But, mirabile dictu: I got into the Profession and through my undergrad, and, oh with a vengeance in grad school at Johns Hopkins, everything I had been pushed throughout my childhood to suppress, and which I failed to suppress adequately to be regarded as "normal," was positively encouraged.
Anecdote. I once roomed with an analytic philosopher at a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute. I recall a remark he made about philosophical discussion: "If you are not willing to become a bit of an asshole about it, you are not taking it seriously." The guy was obnoxious, but he was right. In a serious discussion, things can get a little tense. The feminine nature shies away from contention and dispute.
If you deny that, then you have no knowledge of human nature and no experience of life. Ever wonder why women are 'overrepresented' among realtors? They excel men when it comes to conciliation and mediation. I don't mean this as a snarky put-down of the distaff contingent. I mean it as praise. And if females do not take it as praise are they not assuming the superiority of male virtues?
It is a non sequitur to think that if the Xs are 'underrepresented' among the Ys, then the Xs must have been the victims of some unjust discrimination. Men are 'underrepresented' among massage therapists, but the explanation is obvious and harmless: men like to have their naked bodies rubbed by women in dark rooms, but women feel uncomfortable having their naked bodies rubbed by men in dark rooms. It is not as if there is some sort of sexism, 'institutional' or individual, that keeps men out of massage therapy.
Blacks are 'overrepresented' in the NFL and the NBA. Is that because of some racism 'institutional' or individual, that keeps whitey out? Of course not. Blacks are better than whites at football and basketball. Jews are just terrible. Chess is their athletics. Jews dominate in the chess world. Is that because the goyim have been suppressed?
Does my talk of blacks and Jews make me a racist and an anti-Semite ? To a liberal-left dumbass, yes. For they are incapable of distinguishing between a statement whose content is race and a racist statement.
As it seems to me, I am treading a via media between the excesses of the neo-reactionaries and the even worse excesses of the leftists. My challenge to the NRs: How can you fail to see the importance of equal treatment of men and women? One of the NRs claimed that the notion of equality of opportunity is vacuous. Why? To require that applicants for a job not be discriminated against on the basis of race, sex, or creed, is not vacuous. It has a definite content. That it could use some spelling out is not to the point. What I mean is this. Some creeds are such that people who hold them must be discriminated against. Suppose you are an orthodox Muslim: you subscribe to Sharia and hold that it takes precedence over the U. S. Constitution. You ought to be discriminated against. The U. S. Constitution is not a suicide pact. This is a point that Dr. Ben Carson made recently in connection with eligibility to become POTUS. But the scumbags of the Left willfully misrepresented him.
(B) Real authority is based on personal relationships within which this kind of natural social organization develops and comes to be understood. The institutions of society should reflect this kind of real authority. It is wrong and very dangerous to try to force other structures on to human nature, e.g., the ludicrous spectacle of pregnant women in Europe pretending to be 'defense ministers', reviewing the troops.
BV: My objection is that this is an extreme statement. Taken without qualification, it could be used to justify slavery. A society consisting of slaves and free men is in one obvious sense a "natural social organization." The naturally powerful dominate the weak and enslave them thereby exercising "real authority" over them.
(2) Aristocracy, for lack of a better name: Rule of the Excellent. Democracy in anything like its current form is clearly not an example. Monarchy of some kinds might well be. But in any case, the ideal for me -- which I'm not presently able to articulate in much concrete detail -- is a situation where those who are motivated by a love for their community rule. But I doubt that there is any technique or system that ensures this situation. It's just something that may happen from time to time in the organic development of a culture, perhaps. Or maybe God helps to set up the right preconditions.
BV: Rule of the excellent sounds good! But who are the excellent? Those with titles and/or inherited wealth and the power it brings? The stronger? Does might make right and fitness to rule? Granted, pure democracy would be disastrous. There must be principles that are not up for democratic grabs. But concentrating power in a monarch is just as bad. A system of checks and balances is best. Power corrupts, etc.
(3) Racial, ethnic and national differences and inequality:
(A) Not all human biological groups have the same abilities or interests or psychologies. We should never expect that all races will act the same, achieve the same things, etc.
BV: This is an important truth. The fact that leftists denounce those who express it shows how evil the Left is. Not only do leftists suppress free expression, they suppress free expression of what is obviously true. For the Left it is the narrative, not the truth, that counts. If the truth fits the narrative, then leftists embrace it; if the truth contradicts the narrative, they reject it. Part of their narrative is that everyone is equal or to be made equal. At the same time, their narrative is in the service of their will to power. Power is what they want, the power to level and equalize. In order to achieve this, however, they must be unequal in power to those they would equalize. Herein lies one of the contradictions of the leftist project.
But the truth of (A) is consistent with a framework of equal rights that protect all regardless of sex, race, or (non-destructive) creed.
(B) It is perfectly legitimate, then, for members of a given race to wish to live and work among their own kind.
BV: I tend to agree. As I like to put it, no comity without commonality. One cannot get along with people who do not share one's values. This is why unrestricted legal immigration from Muslim lands, of people who make no effort to assimilate, is insane. I would add that people have a right to their likes and dislikes. More importantly, we have a right to our culture and its preservation, and a right to defend it against those who would destroy it. On top of that, our culture 'works' while theirs doesn't -- which is why they won't stay home. They won't stay home and they bring their inferior religion and culture with them. Or do you deny that Islam is the saddest and poorest form of theism?
But skin color and national origin cannot be the sole criteria here.
I would have no problem with living next door to a Muslim like Juhdi Jasser or blacks like Ben Carson, Juan Williams, Walter Williams, Condoleeza Rice, Shelby Steele, Herman Cain, Jason Riley, et al. and including mulattoes like Colin Powell even though the latter amazingly, and presumably in the grip of tribalism, refused to condemn Black Lives Matters, that thuggish outfit that undermines the rule of law and demonizes police officers. That refusal is as absurd as if I were to refuse to condemn the mafia. "Look, I'm Italian; I can't condemn my own kind!" (The 'tribalism' of blacks, Hispanics, and women is another topic we need to discuss one of these days. And now it occurs that the NRs may be guilty of some tribalism of their own.)
I would welcome that sort of diversity. Diversity, within limits, is good! It is just that leftists, being the willfully stupid stupidos that they are, make a fetish out of it and fail to realize that there is a competing value: unity. But going to the opposite extreme is also bad. See how fair and balanced I am? [grin]
(C) For whites, there are no important benefits to 'racial integration' or 'diversity' and there are some very profound and irreparable harms. Therefore, whites should be race-conscious and reject the false racial guilt that has been programmed into them over the decades by anti-whites, Leftists and hostile non-whites.
BV: This needs some qualification. Popular music has certainly benefited from something like 'racial integration' and cross-fertilization. Think of jazz, blues, rock, etc. This is a huge separate topic. It would be interesting to study the degeneration of black music from the Negro spirituals on down to soul-destroying hip-hop and rap crap. Arguably, one of the reasons blacks will always be on the economic and social bottom of society is because of the base, crude, degrading, and outright evil 'music' they produce and consume. What you pump into your mind is even more important than what you pump into your gut. A diet of dreck is destructive. Of course, the whites that produce, partake of, and profit from this evil shit can't be let off the hook either. (Didn't Bill Bennett go after Sony a while back? By the way, conservatism is not equivalent to support for big corporations!)
Should whites be race-conscious? I have always held the view that blood ought not matter, that race ought not matter, that we ought to try to treat each other as individuals and not as tokens of a type or members of a group. I have always held that before we are men or women, white or black, Gentile or Jew, we are rational animals and indeed spiritual animals made in the imago Dei. We are persons and equal as persons to be treated as ends only and never as means (Kant). We are brothers and sisters with one and the same Father and it is this metaphysical fact, if it is a fact, that underpins our normative equality. Remove this underpinning and the normative equality collapses. (Or can you think of something that could be put in its place?) Empirically, of course, there is no equality among individual or groups. Life is hierarchical as Crazy Fritz liked to say. Nietzsche, who gave aid and comfort to National Socialism, drew the consequences of the death of God quite fearlessly: no God, no truth, no moral world order, no respect for persons as persons. It's all power at bottom: "The world is the will to power and nothing besides!" (Is this why some leftists love him so much?) Nietzsche undermined key supports of our Western heritage with its dual rootage in Athens and Jerusalem. But for my neo-reactionary sparring partners I think I hear the strains of Blut und Boden perhaps supplemented with Blut und Hoden (blood and balls/testicles) with the Horst Wessell Lied playing in the background. I don't mean to be disrespectful to them, but there is a danger here. The danger is that in reacting against the commie Left you end up a fascist.
Does blood matter? Well, it does matter for many, but should it matter? Perhaps the question is this: Is it morally justifiable to tie one's very identity to one's race or ethnicity as opposed to tying it to being zoon logikon or imago Dei? Unfortunately, there are women who identify as women above all else; among them are those who will vote for Hillary because she is a woman! That is despicable. It is as if I were to vote for a man because he is a man. And if we do identify racially, ethnically, sexually, how do we live in peace with one another in a world in which distances have been technologically shrunk and buffers removed?
Dennis Prager harps on the differences between the sexes, differences deeper than any 'social constructing/construing' can reach; but he also maintains that blood does not matter. Is that a logically consistent position? Can one be a sex realist but not a race realist? Is Prager's conservatism at odds with his liberalism? I put the question to myself. Further: Is there a Right race realism and a Left race realism? The above are not rhetorical questions.
(4) Transcendence: There is ultimately no reason to do anything or care about anything unless we can tell some (believable) story about ultimate things. Hence any viable society must have such a story. (I think Christianity is the best.) Right now we in the west are quite literally dying for lack of one. This story should be the basis for political society. (I am not advocating an Iranian style theocracy; but think of how Christianity continues to color everything in our society even though it is explicitly rejected and denounced. Once the Left has really rejected Christianity it will just curl up and die.)
BV: I agree that Christianity is the best of the five great religions. It is supreme among religions. Islam is the worst, the adolescent punk of religions, still 'acting out' after all these centuries, still pissed off over ancient grievances, still angry about the Crusades which were a defensive response to Muslim land-grabs!
We are push-overs for the Islamo-fanatics and their leftist enablers because we no longer believe in ourselves or our great heritage. We have become soft and weak and unwilling to defend the conditions of our soft and prosperous way of life. The abdication of authority on the part of university administrators and professors is just one proof of this. Another is our unwillingness to assume the burdens of procreation. We do not believe in our values and principles sufficiently to transmit them into the future.
Here is the problem. We need a believable narrative about ultimate things. And we may need it as a support of our politics, though this is not obvious to me. (Politics rests on normative ethics which rests on philosophical anthropology which is the metaphysics of human nature and from there we enter the entire constellation of metaphysical questions.) We need an account of the ultimate why and wherefore to keep from lapsing into the somnolent nihilism of Nietzsche's Last Man. I use 'narrative' to hold open the question whether the account must be true to be life-enhancing. A narrative is a story, but a story needn't be true to be a story, whereas the truth needs to be true to be the truth, and it is at least a question whether a narrative must be true to be life-enhancing in the long run. (There is of course the temptation to go pragmatic here and say, with William James, that the true just is the good by way of belief.)
To get to this believable narrative about ultimates, however, we need open inquiry and free discussion, values my neo-reactionary interlocutors seem wary of trumpeting. (They seem to think that any truck with liberalism leads inevitably to the insanities of hard leftism.) We need to arrange the confrontation of different sectors of culture that are at least partially hostile to one another. For example, philosophy and religion are clearly at odds, but each needs the other and each profits from dialogue and some 'fighting' with the other. Philosophy and science are at odds to some extent as well. Left unchastened, science can transmogrify into an absurd scientism, just as religion, left unchastened, can turn into fanaticism and fideism and an embrace of the irrational. The religions need each other too. Judaic legalism and tribalism profits from Christian critique just as the excesses of Buddhist metaphysics (anatta, anicca, dukkha) are curbed by Christian personalism and its eminently more balanced view of impermanence and suffering. If there were some real philosophy in the Muslim world, Muslims would not be so bloody (literally!) fanatical and murderous. Philosophy induces a certain healthy skepticism. And so on. Science versus religion. The vita contemplativa versus the vita activa.
Note that if it is salutary to have a dialog with Buddhism and Hinduism and Taoism and perhaps even witj some of the more respectable strands of Islam such as Sufism (its mystical branch), then we cannot be blood-and-soil nativists: we need to be open-minded and 'liberal.' Being an aporetician, I am driving toward the articulation of a problem: We need a believable, action-guiding narrative. To be believable it must be coherent and rationally supportable. To arrive at such requires the examination and evaluation of competing worldviews. But bitter and protracted disagreement is inevitable. We won't able to agree on the best overall action-guiding narrative. We will splinter apart into a plurality of positions. This weakens us over against the Muslim fascists who would impose a worldview by force and a crappy one at that. Same with the Left: they have no compunction about using the awesome coercive power of the State to bring people into line with their destructive agenda.
(5) Non-neutrality: There is no system of abstract principles neutral with [respect] to the good, e.g., principles about Harm or Equal Freedom or Autonomy. Hence there is no way for the state or any other authority to act on neutral principles. We are always already in the fray, fighting on some side whether we know it or not. The only thing anyone can really do is to try to figure out what is Good and then go from there.
BV: Agreed, we need some substantive theory of the Good. (By the way, aren't all supposedly neutral principles also committed in some substantive way or other? Give me an example of a purely neutral, purely abstract principle.) Trouble is, we disagree about what the ultimate good for man is. The visio beata? The bios theoretikos? Submission to the will of Allah? The maximum of autonomy and self-determination? Pleasure? (Nietzsche: "Man does not seek pleasure; only the Englishman does.") The greatest material well-being of the greatest number?
And of course we will disagree about the metaphysical underpinnings of any theory of the human good or any theory of the purpose of human life.
I suggest that what we need to do is battle the totalitarian forces that would squelch free inquiry: radical Islam, the Left, and the scientisticists (to give an ugly name to an ugly bunch), many of them New Atheists. We need to be intolerant in defense of our space of toleration. We need to be intolerant toward the New Atheist suppression of religion by the Dawkins Gang and their ilk while at the same time tolerating decent atheists. In conjunction with this: defense of our Enlightenment culture by means of a stoppage of illegal immigration; a moratorium on legal immigration from Muslim lands; the destruction of ISIS and other terrorist entities; a vigorous defense of Israel; a more robust confrontation with leftists and other destructive types, especially those who are destroying the universities. That for a start. And of course, when dealing with evil-doers, the threat of physical violence must always be 'on the table.'
. . . U.S. immigration policy is fundamentally unjust. It disregards the rights and interests of other human beings, merely because those persons were born in another country. It coercively imposes clear and serious harms on some people, for the sake of relatively minor or dubious benefits for others who happened to have been born in the right geographical area.
Huemer's argument stripped to essentials and in his own words:
1. It is wrong to knowingly impose severe harms on others, by force, without having a good reason for doing so. This principle holds regardless of where one's victims were born or presently reside.
2. The U.S. government, in restricting immigration, knowingly and coercively imposes severe harms on millions of human beings.
3. The U.S. government has no good reason for imposing such harms on potential immigrants.
4. It follows that U.S. immigration policy is morally wrong.
Before addressing Huemer's argument, some preliminary points need to be made.
A. First, a difficult issue such as the one before us cannot be resolved via some quick little argument like the above. Numerous considerations and counter-considerations come into play.
B. Here is a consideration in the light of which Huemer's argument has an aura of the fantastic. The U. S. is a welfare state. Now no welfare state can hope to survive and meet it commitments to provide all sorts of services at taxpayer expense if it opens its borders wide. Without trying to estimate the tsunami of humanity that would flood into the country from all sides were immigration restrictions removed, it is clear that open borders is a wildly impractical proposal. And note that this impracticality itself has moral ramifications: if bona fide citizens have been promised that they will be taken care of by some such system as Social Security into their old age, and the government reneges on its promises because of an empty treasury, then the rights of the retirees will have been violated -- which is a moral issue.
If state functions were stripped down to 'night watchman' size as certain libertarians would advocate, then perhaps an open borders policy would be workable; but obviously such a rollback of governmental powers and functions has no chance of occurring. Let the quixotic rollback occur; THEN and ONLY THEN we can talk about open borders. Meanwhile we do have border control, half-hearted as it is. It is not obviously unjust to those who immigrate legally to allow others in illegally?
C. An open borders policy is impractical not only for the reason mentioned, but for many others besides. I catalog some of them in Immigration Legal and Illegal.
Now to Huemer's argument.
I see no reason to accept premise (2) according to which the U. S. government imposes severe harms on people by preventing them from immigrating. Suppose you have foolishly gone into the desert without proper supplies. You soon find yourself in dire need of water. Coming upon my camp, you enter it and try to take my water. I prevent you from doing so. Have I harmed you? I have not inflicted any harm upon you; I have merely prevented you from getting something you need for your well-being. But you have no right to my water, even if I have more than enough. If you steal my supplies, you violate my property rights; I am therefore morally justified in resisting the theft. You are morally obliged to respect my property rights, but I am under no moral obligation to give you what you need, especially in light of the fact that you have freely put yourself in harm's way.
Similarly, the U. S. government does not harm those whom it does not allow to enter its territory, for they have no right to enter its territory in the first place, and in so doing violate the property rights of the U. S.
Once this is appreciated it will also be seen why (3) is false. The U. S. does have a good moral reason to prevent foreigners from entering its territory, namely, to prevent them from violating the property rights of the U. S.
Now at this point I expect someone to object as follows. "I grant you that illegal aliens are not justified in violating private property rights, but when they cross public lands, travel on public roads, use public facilities, etc. they are not violating any property rights. The U. S. has no property rights; there are no public property rights that need to be respected."
This objection is easily rebutted. It is based on a false analogy with unowned resources. An incursion into an uninhabited region not in the jurisdiction of a state does not violate property rights. But the public lands of the U. S. are within the jurisdiction of the U.S. These lands are managed and protected by the state which gets the werewithal of such management and protection, and in some instances, the money to pay for the original acquisition, from coercive taxation. Thus we taxpayers collectively own these lands. It is not as if the land, roads, resources and the like of the U.S. which are not privately owned are somehow open to anyone in the world who wants to come here. Just as an illegal alien violates property rights when he breaks into my house, he violates property rights when he breaks into my country. For a country belongs collectively to its citizens, not to everyone in the world.
The fundamental point is that foreigners have no right to immigrate. Since they have no such right, no moral wrong is done to them by preventing them from immigrating even though they would be better off were they to immigrate. Furthermore, the U.S. government and every government has not only the right, but also the moral obligation, to control its border for the the good of its citizens. After all, protection from foreign invasion is one of the legitimate functions of government.
Since forcible equalization of wealth will be resisted by those who possess it and feel entitled to their possession of it, a revolutionary vanguard will be needed to impose the equalization. But this vanguard cannot have power equal to the power of those upon whom it imposes its will: the power of the vanguard must far outstrip the power of those to be socialized. So right at the outset of the new socialist order an inequality of power is instituted to bring about an equality of wealth -- in contradiction to the socialist demand for equality.
The upshot is that no equality is attained, neither of wealth nor of power. The apparatchiks end up with both, and their subjects end up far worse off than they would have ended up in a free and competitive society. And once the apparatchiks get a taste of the good life with their luxury apartments in Moscow and their dachas on the Black Sea, or their equivalent in other lands, they will not want to give it up. Greed has ever been with us, and it is folly to suppose that it is a fruit of capitalism or that its cure is socialism.
André Glucksmann was a great man, and he played a great role in history. I think that, in the world of ideas, no one in modern times has played a larger and more effective role in marshalling the arguments against totalitarianisms of every sort—no one outside of the dissident circles of the old Soviet bloc, that is.
[. . .]
Glucksmann worried about dreamy visions of world peace. Dreamy visions seemed to him a ticket to war. He had a lot to say about the Soviet Union and its own weapons. He argued that, in the face of the Soviet Union, nuclear deterrence and common sense were one and the same. Pessimism was wisdom, in his eyes. He wanted to rally support in the West for the dissidents of the East, which was not the same as staging mass demonstrations against Ronald Reagan.
[. . .]
Intellectually speaking, he did not care if old-fashioned leftists of a certain kind accused him of betrayal. His own rebellion was to reject political ideologies altogether. The leftists denounced him as a right-winger, and sometimes the press picked up the cliché, but this, of course, was never accurate. You have only to read two pages by Glucksmann to appreciate that he is not a man of conservative instincts. He is outraged by injustice; he is moved by the despair of the most desperate; he doesn’t give a damn about hallowed traditions. These traits of his were constitutional. His final book is about Voltaire—I wrote about it for Tablet—and, in that book, he mounted a defense of the Roma, or Gypsies, in France, people so downtrodden they have ended up deformed and ugly, doomed to the pathologies of organized crime. In France, to defend the Roma has not been in fashion. But France’s most principled intellectual was on their side.
It is true that, in the French election of 2007, he came out for the conservative candidate for president. This was Nicolas Sarkozy, and Glucksmann’s endorsement aroused the harshest denunciations of his life. He could not walk in the street without being rebuked by the leftwing passersby. As it happened, he came to the conclusion, after a couple of years, that his endorsement was a mistake, which he regretted.
This entry continues the discussion with Jacques about patriotism begun in Is Patriotism a Good Thing? The topic is murky and difficult and we have been meandering some, but at the moment we are discussing the ground of patriotism's moral permissibility. What makes patriotism morally permissible, assuming that it is? We have been operating with a characterization of patriotism as love of, and loyalty to, one's country. (A characterization needn't be a definition in the strict sense of a specification of the necessary and sufficient conditions for the correct application of the definiendum. Or so say I.)
Here is part of our last exchange:
Now my surrejoinder:
I take you to be committed to the proposition that a logically sufficient condition of the moral permissibility of a person's being loyal to his family is just that he be a member of it. And similarly for the moral permissibility of loyalty to larger groups up to and including the nation.
But this is entirely too thin a basis for the moral permissibility of loyalty. Why? Because it allows such permissibility even if the group to which one is loyal has no worthwhile features at all. And surely this is absurd.
You might respond that in actuality no group is devoid of worthwhile attributes. You would be right about that, but all I need is the possibility of such a group for my objection to go through.
I think you agree with me that patriotism is not jingoism. In my original post I characterized jingoism as bellicose chauvinism. So imagine some jingoist who trumpets "My country right or wrong." He could invoke your theory in justification of his attitude. He might say, agreeing with you: My country is mine, and its being mine suffices to make it morally permissible for me to prefer my country over every other, and to take its side in any conflict with any other, regardless of the nature of the conflict and regardless of any moral outrages my country has perpetrated on the other. Do you want to give aid and comfort to such jingoism?
Is your loyalty to your rapist friend (or to your Muslim friend whom you have just discovered to have participated in the Paris terrorist attack) logically consistent with turning him into the police? Assume that 'ratting him out' will lead to his execution. Would you remain a loyal friend if you did that? Can a 'rat' be loyal? I would say No, and that you (morally) must turn him in. It is morally obligatory that you turn him in. It is therefore morally impermissible that you abstract away from his attributes and deeds and consider merely the fact that he is your friend.
I take that to show that the moral permissibility of loyalty to a friend cannot be grounded merely in the fact that he is your friend.
It is not uncommon to hear people confuse patriotism with jingoism. So let's spend a few moments this Veteran's Day reflecting on the difference.
Jingoism is well described by Robert Hendrickson as "bellicose chauvinism." But given the general level of culture, I am afraid I can't leave it at that, but must go on to explain 'chauvinism' and 'bellicose.' Chauvinism has nothing to do with sex or race. I have no objection to the phrases 'male chauvinism' or 'white chavinism,' the latter a term widely used in the 1950s in Communist Party USA circles; but the qualifiers are essential. Chauvinism, named after Nicholas Chauvin of Rochefort, an officer under Napoleon, is excessive nationalism. 'Bellicose' from the Latin word for war (bellum, belli) means warlike. So we get 'warlike excessive nationalism' as the definiens of 'jingoism.'
According to Henrickson, the term 'jingoism' originated from a refrain from the British music hall song "The Great MacDermott" (1878) urging Great Britain to fight the Russians and prevent them from taking Constantinople:
We don't want to fight, yet by Jingo if we do/ We've got the ships, we've got the men, and the money, too.
'By Jingo,' in turn, is a euphemism for 'by Jesus' that dates back to the later 17th century. (QPB Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, 2nd ed. p. 395) So much for 'jingoism.' I think we are all going to agree that it is not a good thing.
Patriotism, however, is a good thing, a virtue. Like any virtue it is a means between two extremes. In this case, one of the extremes is excessive love of one's country, while the other is a deficiency of love for one's country. The patriot's love of his country is ordinate, within bounds. The patriot is neither a jingoist nor a neutralist. Both are anti-patriots. To confuse a patriot with a jingoist is like confusing a dissenter with a traitor. No doubt sometimes a jingoist or chauvinist will hide beneath the mantle of patriotism, but just as often a traitor will hide beneath the mantle of dissent. The patriot is also not a xenophobe since ordinate love of one's country does not entail hatred or fear of other countries and their inhabitants. Is patriotism, defined as the ordinate love of, and loyalty to, one's country justified?
Although it does not entail xenophobia, patriotism does imply a certain partiality to one's own country precisely because it is one's own. Is this partiality toward one's own country justifiable? If it is, then so is patriotism. As Socrates explains in Plato's Crito, we are what we are because of the laws. Our country and its laws have overseen our nurturance, our education, and the forming of our characters. We owe a debt of gratitude to our country, its laws, those who have worked to maintain and defend it, and especially those who have died in its defense.
Is Obama a patriot? Well, if you want fundamentally to transform your country, are you a patriot? Suppose you profess love of a girl and propose marriage to her, but only on condition that she undergo a fundamental transformation, physical, mental, moral and emotional. Can you be said to love her?
Suppose you win big in a state-sponsored lottery. The money was extracted via false advertising from ignorant rubes and is being transferred by a chance mechanism to one who has done nothing to deserve it. Besides, you are complicit in the state-sponsorship of gambling, which is clearly wrong. The state-sponsorship, not the gambling. There is nothing wrong with gambling, any more than there is anything wrong with consuming alcoholic beverages. But just as the state should not promote the consumption of alcohol or tobacco products, it should not promote gambling via lotteries. If you don't see that instantly, then I pronounce you morally obtuse -- or a liberal, which may come to the same thing.
Primum non nocere. A good maxim for states as well as sawbones. "First do no harm."
So a case can be made that lottery winnings are ill-gotten gains.
Reader Jacques spots an error of mine in a recent entry and goes on to make points with which I agree:
In your recent post on "sloppy liberal thinking about equality" you seem to be thinking a little sloppily yourself. (No offense! I admire your philosophical writing and I've learned a lot from your blog.)
You say that equality of opportunity is necessary but not sufficient for equality of outcomes, but in fact it's neither sufficient nor necessary. It is clearly possible to have unequal opportunities, in pretty much any sense that we can give to that term, and equal outcomes. In fact the denial of equal opportunity might often be necessary for equal outcomes. If many As are criminals and very few Bs are, the only way to equalize the outcomes for As and Bs with respect to incarceration (for example) will be to deny them equal opportunities. Maybe we give Bs many more opportunities to shape up than we give to As, for example. Or maybe we sentence As more harshly than Bs for the same offences.
Or imagine a more extreme scenario: all As but no Bs are competent philosophers. Universities might then arrange to have 'equal outcomes' for As and Bs with respect to admission to graduate studies in philosophy only by making their 'opportunities' grossly unequal in relevant respects. For example, they might choose to set absurdly high standards for any A who seeks admission to a graduate program while setting absurdly low standards for any B, thus ensuring that exactly equal numbers of As and Bs are admitted. Or they might choose to introduce new criteria for admission which have no systematic relationship to anyone's interest or ability in philosophy, but which can be expected to be met by most Bs and only a few As. (Perhaps almost all Bs are left-handed or good at Scrabble, and these traits are very rare among As. The universities declare that being a left-handed Scrabble player contributes something vital and deep and vibrant to the philosophical culture, and that, therefore, those who can enrich the culture in this respect, just by being who they are, and that, therefore, they should always be preferred to other candidates in relation to whom they are 'relatively equal' in other respects.)
Of course, this is pretty much how 'equal outcomes' are achieved, or approximated, in our actual society under the rule of Leftism. Since people and groups are in fact radically unequal in their abilities and interests and in pretty much every way that matters, the desired equality of outcomes must always be achieved by denying opportunities to some people and creating special opportunities for others. This is how 'affirmative action' works, for example. If the relevant 'opportunities' were really equal, there would be far fewer women and racial minorities in philosophy than there are at present. And usually it's quite obvious that women, for example, are being hired or promoted on the basis of qualifications or achievements that would not count for much if they were men. (Not to suggest, of course, that no or few women are capable or competent philosophers; the point is that if they are their capabilities and competence are almost always rated far more highly than they would be if they were men.) Women and minorities are routinely given a kind of 'opportunity' that is denied to others: the opportunity to have their achievements and abilities assessed under less demanding standards.
The Founding Fathers of America knew that liberty was necessary to avoid tyranny and stagnation. In order to obtain liberty without intolerable disorder they adopted a federal structure. Those 18th century men discovered, far in advance of computer scientists, the concept of a sandbox, a method of controlled experimentation.
For those who have never heard of it, a programming sandbox  ”is a security mechanism for separating running programs. It is often used to execute untested code, or untrusted programs from unverified third parties, suppliers, untrusted users and untrusted websites … In the sense of providing a highly controlled environment, sandboxes may be seen as a specific example of virtualization. Sandboxing is frequently used to test unverified programs that may contain a virus or other malignant code, without allowing the software to harm the host device.”
The states function as political sandboxes. They are places where ideas can be tested in relative isolation from the national current. Back in the 1960s, the Bay Area functioned as a sandbox for ideas that are themselves now attempting to abolish sandboxes. One of the genuine paradoxes of decisions like Obergefell is that they could not have philosophically survived themselves.
I fear that we are coming apart as a nation. We need to face the fact that we do not agree on a large number of divisive, passion-inspiring issues. Among these are abortion, gun rights, capital punishment, affirmative action, legal and illegal immigration, same-sex 'marriage,' taxation, the need for fiscal responsibility in government, the legitimacy of public-sector unions, wealth redistribution, the role of the federal government in education, the very purpose of government, the limits, if any, on governmental power, and numerous others.
We need also to face the fact that we will never agree on them. These are not merely academic issues since they directly affect the lives and livelihoods and liberties of people. And they are not easily resolved because they are deeply rooted in fundamental worldview differences, in a "conflict of visions," to borrow a phrase from Thomas Sowell. When you violate a man's liberty, or mock his moral sense, or threaten to destroy his way of life, or use the power to the state to force him to violate his conscience, you are spoiling for a fight and you will get it.
We ought also to realize that calls for civility and comity and social cohesion are pretty much empty. Comity (social harmony) in whose terms? On what common ground? Peace is always possible if one side just gives in. If conservatives all converted to leftism, or vice versa, then harmony would reign. But to think such a thing will happen is just silly, as silly as the silly hope that Obama, a leftist, could 'bring us together.' We can come together only on common ground, or to invert the metaphor, only under the umbrella of shared principles. And what would these be?
There is no point in papering over very real differences.
Not only are we disagreeing about issues concerning which there can be reasonable disagreement, we are also disagreeing about things that it is unreasonable to disagree about, for example, whether photo ID ought to be required at polling places, and about what really happened in the Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin cases. When disagreement spreads to ascertainable facts, then things are well-nigh hopeless.
The rifts are deep and nasty. Polarization and demonization of the opponent are the order of the day. Do you want more of this? Then give government more say in your life. The bigger the government, the more to fight over. Do you want less? Then support limited government and federalism. A return to federalism may be a way to ease the tensions, some of them anyway, not that I am sanguine about any solution.
What is Federalism?
Federalism, roughly, is (i) a form of political organization in which governmental power is divided among a central government and various constituent governing entities such as states, counties, and cities; (ii) subject to the proviso that both the central and the constituent governments retain their separate identities and assigned duties. A government that is not a federation would allow for the central government to create and reorganize constituent governments at will and meddle in their affairs. Federalism is implied by the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited to it by the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."
Federalism would make for less contention, because people who support high taxes and liberal schemes could head for states like Massachusetts or California, while the conservatively inclined who support gun rights and capital punishment could gravitate toward states like Texas.
We see the world differently. Worldview differences in turn reflect differences in values. Now values are not like tastes. Tastes cannot be reasonably discussed and disputed while values can. (De gustibus non est disputandum.) But value differences, though they can be fruitfully discussed, cannot be objectively resolved because any attempted resolution will end up relying on higher-order value judgments. There is no exit from the axiological circle. We can articulate and defend our values and clarify our value differences. What we cannot do is resolve our value differences to the satisfaction of all sincere, intelligent, and informed discussants.
Consider religion. Is it a value or not? Conservatives, even those who are atheistic and irreligious, tend to view religion as a value, as conducive to human flourishing. Liberals and leftists tend to view it as a disvalue, as something that impedes human flourishing. The question is not whether religion, or rather some particular religion, is true. Nor is the question whether religion, or some particular religion, is rationally defensible. The question is whether the teaching and learning and practice of a religion contributes to our well-being, not just as individuals, but in our relations with others. For example, would we be better off as a society if every vestige of religion were removed from the public square? Or does Bible study and other forms of religious education tend to make us better people?
For a conservative like Dennis Prager, the answer to both questions is obvious. No and Yes, respectively. As I recall, he gives an example something like the following. You are walking down the street in a bad part of town. On one side of the street people are leaving a Bible study class. On the other side, a bunch of Hells [sic] Angels are coming out of the Pussy Cat Lounge. Which side of the street do you want to be on? For a conservative the answer is obvious. People who study and take to heart the Bible with its Ten Commandments, etc. are less likely to mug or injure you than drunken bikers who have been getting in touch with their inner demons for the last three hours. But of course this little thought experiment won't cut any ice with a dedicated leftist.
I won't spell out the leftist response. I will say only that you will enter a morass of consideration and counter-consideration that cannot be objectively adjudicated. You won't get Christopher Hitchens to give up his view.
My thesis is that there can be no objective resolution, satisfactory to every sincere, intelligent, and well-informed discussant, of the question of the value of religion. And this is a special case of a general thesis about the objective insolubility of value questions with respect to the issues that most concern us.
Another sort of value difference concerns not what we count as values, but how we weight or prioritize them. Presumably both conservatives and liberals value both liberty and security. But they will differ bitterly over which trumps the other and in what circumstances. Here too it is naive to expect an objective resolution of the issue satisfactory to all participants, even those who meet the most stringent standards of moral probity, intellectual acuity, knowledgeability with respect to relevant empirical issues, etc.
Liberal and conservative, when locked in polemic, like to call each other stupid. But of course intelligence or the lack thereof has nothing to do with the intractability of the debates. The intractability is rooted in value differences about which consensus is impossible. On the abortion question, for example, there is no empirical evidence that can resolve the dispute. Empirical data from biology and other sciences are of course relevant to the correct formulation of the problem, but contribute nothing to its resolution. Nor can reason whose organon is logic resolve the dispute. You would have to be as naive as Ayn Rand to think that Reason dictates a solution.
Recognizing these facts, we must ask ourselves: How can we keep from tearing each other apart literally or figuratively? Guns, God, abortion, illegal immigration -- these are issues that get the blood up. I am floating the suggestion that federalism and severe limitations on the reach of the central government are what we need to lessen tensions. (But isn't border enforcement a federal job? Yes, of course. In this example, what needs to be curtailed is Federal interference with a border state's reasonable enforcement of its borders with a foreign country. Remember Arizona Senate Bill 1070?)
Suppose Roe v. Wade is overturned and the question of the legality of abortion is returned to the states. Some states will make it legal, others illegal. This would be a modest step in the direction of mitigating the tensions between the warring camps. If abortion is a question for the states, then no federal monies could be allocated to the support of abortion. People who want to live in abortion states can move there; people who don't can move to states in which abortion is illegal. Each can live with their own kind and avoid having their values and sensibilities disrespected.
I understand that my proposal will not be acceptable to either liberals or conservatives. Both want to use the power of the central government to enforce what they consider right. Both sides are convinced that they are right. But of course they cannot both be right. So how do they propose to heal the splits in the body politic?
Why shouldn't the state have and exercise the power to override the conscience of the individual? Suppose I am in the bumper sticker and T-shirt business. You come to my shop and order a thousand Fuck Obama! bumper stickers and a thousand Hillary Sucks! T-shirts. I explain to you that to do as you request would be to violate my longstanding commitment to civility and that you should take your business elsewhere.
Question: Should the power of the state be used to force me to serve this particular customer? If not, why not? Am I not discriminating against him on the basis of his creed, which includes a commitment to the absolute right of free speech? Am I not interfering with his exercise of this absolute right?
The following is verbatim from a post by Jim Ryan, dated 14 August 2013. The truths below are important and need to be widely disseminated.
Some Self-Evident Truths
A "self-evident" proposition is one that is obviously true to anyone who understands it. These truths are self-evident:
1. To support a free market does not mean to oppose the regulation of commerce. On the contrary, the concept of a free market without the rule of law hardly makes any sense.
2. It is not theocratic to argue that abortion ought to be as illegal because it is the wrongful killing of a human being. The civil rights movement, as deeply Christian as much of it was, was not theocratic. It is not obvious that the current moral support for abortion is not as foolish and wrongheaded as the moral support for slavery was in the early 19th Century.
3. To argue that big government welfare destroys self-reliance and prosperity and makes national bankruptcy inevitable should not be confused with arguing that one should not offer assistance to the poor.
4. There is a wide array of values we have inherited: liberty, hard work, justice, limited government, courage, charity, involvement in civil society, etc. It makes no sense to raise equality in property above these values.
5. It is not clear that equality in property is ever preferable to liberty, hard work, team work, charity, and self-reliance. It is not clear what would count as a good reason to say that a society in which liberty, hard work, team work, charity, and self-reliance were flourishing would be even better if the the government decreased the achievement of those values so that equality in property could be increased. For this reason it is not clear that equality in property is even a value at all.
6. It is hypocritical for a wealthy person to maintain his great wealth while advocating equality in property and holding that it is unjust for some to be rich while others are poor.
7. To advocate a system in which a small group of leftwing leaders and their technocratic experts maintain enormous political power and wealth while they keep the overwhelming majority of people in society relatively powerless and poor is to advocate kleptocracy and totalitarianism, not to take any sort of moral stance at all.
8. Leftism and totalitarianism both advocate the government's having great control over individuals' economic endeavors and property. If all the preceding truths are self-evident, then it is not clear how a leftwing government can maintain power without controlling speech and thought in order to stop those truths from being communicated, explained, discussed, and understood. If that is true, it is not clear how a leftwing government can avoid full totalitarianism if it is to maintain power.