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Thursday, November 10, 2016

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Many have sensed and written during the last 100 years or so of the ongoing separation of the sheep from the goats. Thank God you are one of the sheep! More Catholic than the Pope (though that's not saying much).

One such was Chesterton who wrote, "A man cannot think himself out of mental evil; for it is actually the organ of thought that has become diseased, ungovernable, and, as it were, independent. He can only be saved by will or faith. The moment his mere reason moves, it moves in the old circular rut; he will go round and round his logical circle, just as a man in a third-class carriage on the Inner Circle will go round and round… unless he performs the voluntary, vigorous and mystical act of getting out at Gower Street. Decision is the whole business here; a door must be shut for ever… Curing a madman is not arguing with a philosopher; it is casting out a devil. And however quietly doctors and psychologists may go to work in the matter, their attitude… is really this: that the man must stop thinking, if he is to go on living… If thy head offend thee, cut it off; for it is better… to enter the Kingdom of heaven… as an imbecile, rather than with your whole intellect to be cast into hell”

And also, "The issue is now quite clear. It is between light and darkness and everyone must choose his side."

"My thesis is that the differences exemplified above run so deep as to be irreconcilable."

You also had a thesis that Trump was unelectable. Stick to your principles, but make sure that they include optimism and magnanimity. They seem, to this outsider, to be things that Americans do supremely well.

Hi Bill,

I have recently started reading Alasdair MacIntyre's After Virtue. I'm sure you've read it, too. His central thesis, as I understand it, is that the Enlightenment project of secular liberal democracy is a failure because of a shared metaphysical understanding to ground and inform common moral convictions. He clearly thinks that only something like Aristotelianism can provide such a grounding.

Is this a hopeless project, in your opinion? What's to stop the eventual collapse of local communities on the basis of “irreconcilable differences”, just like the unity of nation as a whole is collapsing on that basis?

Dr. Vallicella, you're exactly right.

However, I would push your point, perhaps, to more radical conclusions.

Instead of laughing at those in California who wish to secede after the Trump victory, we should encourage this development. I sincerely mean that.

Imagine a situation in which each state was truly independent with no central overlord. We could then expect a society (or collection of societies) that was/were more conductive to the principles of liberty, relatively speaking, for at least following reasons.

Simply put, people could more easily vote with their feet. This would help prevent extreme abuses from any local state. Indeed, democracy is likely better locally where neighbors and politicians truly know each other.

Extreme protectionism could not be easily implemented for obvious reasons. The smaller the territorial governments, the more this is true. So, decentralization would promote free trade tendencies (which, to note, have nothing to do with the so-called free trade agreements of today). There would be a great tendency for the development of a hard, free-market money. It would be somewhat difficult, e.g., to have 50 paper moneys floating together vis-a-vis each other in America. And, even if they were, each paper money would be constrained because of a greater (indirect, international) competition. Thus, inflation, fractional reserve banking, and business cycles would be much more constrained.

Moreover, because men could vote with their feet much more easily, the most productive would be more likely to move from areas that tax and regulate more to those areas that tax and regulate less. This would shrink the tax base of those governments that taxed and regulated a lot. Governments, in their own self-interests, would want to avoid this. The more decentralization and break-up of larger territorial governments into smaller ones, the more their self-interest will compel them to take these factors into consideration.

But would the powers that be allow the peaceful development of many independent states living side by side? Indeed, there's probably relatively more of those on the "left" who wish to enforce their views on everybody than the "right." They would fight tooth and nail. And any "right-wing" group who wished to secede would, naturally, be portrayed as "racists," "scumbags," etc.

One of my favorite speeches on this is from libertarian Catholic Dr. Thomas Woods: http://tomwoods.com/podcast/ep-326-what-i-told-the-washington-post-about-secession/

It is just fantastic, really.

Dr. Woods has also promoted nullification, which is less radical than secessionism.

An economist of the name Hans-Hermann Hoppe, who is extremely controversial, has also argued that radical decentralization of political power would, indirectly, put pressures on states to become more classically liberal. Historian Ralph Raico has argued that what made the development of capitalism possible was the highly decentralized nature of old Europe.

Look, there's no "perfect" solution nor possibility of 100% agreement. I'm culturally and socially conservative. I wish things were different. Philosophically speaking, I'm not totally convinced of the justifications for libertarian ideas of absolute ownership, etc. (I can see the arguments against it, and understand why people adopt them.) But we live in a world where there's nearly zero possibility that, say, we can get a national pro-life government or whatnot in the long run. Things need decentralization.

And that may be the future. We live in media bubbles. Things have fractured between "left" and "right." Alternative media is taking over. This makes discussion between different political groups harder and harder. Maybe we'll see, incidentally, the same thing with education but in a slower way: that is, more alternatives with homeschooling, online stuff, etc.

Anyway, sorry if I have overstayed my welcome with such a long reply.

But I hope it will be useful to you and others.

Be well,
George

Thank you, George. Let me just pose a couple of naive questions, naive because I haven't studied the secessionist position.

First, wouldn't a return to federalism be better than secession? On abortion, for example, you overturn Roe v. Wade, and bring the question down to the state level. That could be done, and I think Trump has spoken about it.

You might counterargue that the Fed gov, dominated as it is by leftist totalitarians, wouldn't allow any devolution of power toward the states in line with the 10th Amendment. But then a fortiori, they wouldn't allow secession either.

Second, "Divided we stand, united we fall." How do we defend against foreign aggresssors such as the ChiComs, NoKo, and a robust successor of ISIS when we are busted up into 50 separate nations?

No doubt secessionists have answers to these questions.

Hi Steven,

>>His central thesis, as I understand it, is that the Enlightenment project of secular liberal democracy is a failure because of a shared metaphysical understanding to ground and inform common moral convictions.<< You must mean a LACK of a shared metaph. understanding.

Could a return to Aristotle be the answer? I don't think so given the murkiness of fundamental Aristotelian concepts such as that of substance.

>>What's to stop the eventual collapse of local communities on the basis of “irreconcilable differences”, just like the unity of nation as a whole is collapsing on that basis?<<

The local communities are less likely to collapse because they are made up of like-minded people who sought out their own kind to live among. Voluntary segregation involves voluntary association but also ostracism: exerting social pressure on destructive elements to hit the road, Jack.

RP,

Thanks for counting me among the sheep. I am afraid that the current pope is a leftist first and a Catholic second.

The left is freaking out and I've heard that some leftist states on the west coast are already talking about secession. That's great. We need to encourage that kind of talk and thinking and encourage them to think that living under a Trump presidency will be truly intolerable for them. If you are right that the division is irreconcilable, then we need to separate. But to do that, we need the left's agreement so that we can set up the formal, legal mechanisms required. We don't need to actually separate, but just convince them to set up a mechanism to do it _just in case_. I mean, Trump is a dangerous maniac! Right? Don't they want an escape hatch to use if necessary? It's only reasonable given that we just elected such an unstable, sociopathic, bigot! Who knows what this maniac will do?!

I, of course, don't believe any of that nonsense about Trump. But the left does and we should seize this opportunity to legally free ourselves from their subjugation and establish a decent country again.


Hello,

I think Haidt's proposal would work if everyone were to be epistemically rational about the matters under discussion, consider the opposite points of view carefully, rethink their own, etc., and decided to refrain from any immoral behavior (epistemic rationality and consideration of different points of view would very probably vastly reduce moral errors).
The problem is that it's not realistic to think most or even many people will behave in that ways.
But I think also this alternative proposal doesn't realistically have a chance of implementation and success. Some reasons are:

1. A government restricted to essential functions.
But there is vast disagreement about what those functions are. Moreover, there are plenty of people who want a bigger government, UHC, etc.
Granted, under GOP control of Congress and the Executive, government size *might* be reduced at a federal level, but it's unclear for how long the GOP could remain in power.
Clinton won the popular vote, and her voters aren't going away. Moreover, she won by much larger margins among Latinos, who will probably make up an increasingly large portion of the US population (even if immigration stops), and who have traditionally leaned towards bigger government.
Additionally, even if the federal government is reduced, some state governments are likely to keep growing.

2. Voluntary segregation.
There is plenty of people who will not want it, and so they will voluntarily segregate. Others might want it, but can't afford it. Still, this might temporarily reduce friction to some extent, but the disagreement would remain there, and would eventually come out, when it comes to decided on government action related to the disagreement in question (whether at a federal or at a state level).

3. A return to federalism.
Part of the big disagreement is whether more power to the states (as opposed to the federal government) is a good idea - not to mention the issue of the electoral college.
But let's say that the states gain more power. There would still be vast disagreements at a state level. Granted, people are legally free move from state to state. But moving from one state to another is quite expensive, and chances are most people will prefer to live with the disagreement. At least, that's what's happened so far: we don't see massive movements from state to state. If people to some extent self-segregate, they tend do so within the borders of their state for the most part.

4. A total stoppage of illegal immigration.
Illegal immigration can be reduced, but even a wall and more deportations will not stop it, and there will be serious opposition to deportation of all illegal immigrants at nearly all levels, from Congress to people on the streets.
But even if this point is achieved, I don't think this will significantly resolve the problem of vast disagreement.

5. A reform of current immigration law to favor people who share our values.
There is the issue of whose/which values are those, given the abysmal depth of disagreement.
Maybe there will be wide agreement against Sharia-supporting Muslims, but what about non-Muslim big-government supporters?
There are plenty of those in Latin America and in Europe.

Hello, Dr. Vallicella.

These are good questions. I'll try to address them in a context. Hopefully, I do not try your patients.

Overturning Roe v. Wade would follow federalism. You're right about that. It would be absolutely marvelous if Mr. Trump could help make that happen. I would never imagine a Bush doing that, but maybe Trump the wildcard could do it. We'll see.

Considering the merits of secessionism, though, requires us to look more broadly and abstractly. Just as federalism is in the American tradition, so is secessionism. (Traditional conservatives like Mel Bradford obviously argued that. Secessionism, at least in the Jeffersonian tradition and interpretation, is constitutional.) So, in practice, federalists can work together with secessionists. The latter group just takes the decentralist principle further.

And both groups should recognize nullification (following, e.g., Jefferson and Madison in the Principles of 98). Just that could be turned against abortion or whatnot. The Supreme Court shouldn’t have all the power it does! That's a huge problem. Its mission was never to do what it does now. It's not to "set the direction" of this nation. The whole mainstream conservative approach/strategy is wrong. Something that's unconstitutional is not a legitimate law that a state should enforce. Jefferson had it right: the real checks and balances are the states.

Before going on, maybe it's important to note that "conservatism" as a movement, as represented by the Republican Party, has objectively failed in that it has by no way limited or shrunk the size of the government. There is no way getting around that fact. You can of course talk about relatively limited growth, but that's different than actual cuts or the holding off of growth at a standstill. Insofar as "the right" wants to cut or limit government, it has failed spectacularly.

In my view, the problem is not just of who exactly is in charge. (Moral saints can't make socialism work. As von Mises argued, there's a calculation problem.) There are institutional and structural flaws that produce bad incentives and feedback mechanisms. The founding fathers tried to create a limited government. It didn't stay limited. Is that just an accident of bad leaders and ideas? Or is that also combined with a design that has a tendency to expand into Leviathan?

I don't think it's a coincidence that federalism failed. If we can turn back to it, fine and wonderful. But it may have the seeds of its own destruction. Every government has an incentive to expand, assuming normal human beings fill it up. Give the federal government the authority, it will take it. If the Supreme Court can do what it wants, it will rule in its favor to expand. It will decide conflicts that it is involved in itself. The real threat of "exit" needs to exist to stop that. That cannot be understated in my argument. And, as I argued above, the incentive structure for a classically liberal government is best with competition. The incentive structure of the federal government, as some libertarians have argued, is to homogenize its subordinates under it. Thus, the arguments for a more radical position are fairly good.

In regards to defense, to be sure, that is a tricky question. By noticing how productive the economies are of various individual states, it is not preposterous to think they can afford reasonable defenses. We can take a state like CA. Its economy is way bigger than most nation states. Further, states can also come together as allies, just like other nation states. Perhaps we disagree, but men like Pat Buchanan have it right: empire (which is less likely in decentralization) does more harm than good in the long-run. So I don't believe this is as tricky as others believe, although much more can be said and debated.

I hope you (and others) got the chance to listen to Tom Woods. If you like him, you might consider researching further, e.g., by taking a look at his nullification book or whatnot. Time permitting, I can also try to carry the conversation further with you or anybody else here. And, yes, I can be a bit more concise on specifics. Right now is more generalities.

At any rate, I hope you are in good spirits when reading my reply. (I know, I can write too much!) When you realize how much the State has grown, how much the "left" has transformed the culture, how pathetic the mainstream "right" has been, etc., there comes a time to think more radically. Paul Gottfried is one of my favorite conservative scholars. He said it right (paraphrasing): considering how things are, what conclusion is there left but to practically become a radical libertarian*----with a Hoppe, not a Reason magazine cultural lefty----wanting to smash the federal Leviathan?

----
*[Gottfried sees the reason to be in an alliance with certain libertarians. This goes way too off on a tangent, but maybe it should be noted. To be fair to libertarianism in its pure anarcho-capitalist form, people don't realize that it is far more "flexible" than people think. Look, a Rothbardian world would not have drugs or prostitution permissible everywhere. Does that point surprise anyone? It shouldn't. There can be rules on private property and in various associations. Etc. There would be private laws. But that, ha ha, may be a thought going too far. See, I can be a "moderate": let's try lots of small states. Hoppe himself argues that's what he wants to see in the future.]

-- George
georgewick.il at gm ail d ot com

Criticus,

The Left is indeed going bonkers. (Whereas we did not lose our minds and take to the streets when the miserably incompetent Obama was re-elected.)

But what are you suggesting by separation? Secession? Or some other form of separation/mutual withdrawal? There are various possibilities, not that I have thought about them systematically. For example, there is Rod Dreher's Benedict Option. Or we might try to force a return to federalism.

Secession weakens us overagainst foreign aggressors such as the ChiComs, NoKo, ISIS. We have to be strong and united to defeat radical Islam, the communism of the 21st century. No? "United we stand; divided we fall."

Angra,

Thanks for the detailed comments. I think we agree about Haidt. His proposal works in heaven, not on earth. As for people acting morally, Marxists consider morality to be just a load of bourgeois ideology.

As for my own suggestion, I realize that it is is extremely unlikely to be implemented. My concern was just to throw out a proposal to see if anyone had any better ideas.

Your comments help articulate just how deep the problem is. We don't agree about much of anything and so we don't agree on what the essential functions of government are. We can't even agree that national borders should be enforced, let alone who should do the enforcing.

Ditto for the rest of our points.

So what is YOUR solution?

Clearly we are in deep trouble, and we don't want the cold civil war to turn into a hot one.

We conservatives are not about to knuckle under to the fascist Left.

Hi, Bill. Yes, I'm suggesting putting legal mechanisms into place that allow for peaceful secession. Would that weaken us too much? I'll gladly take the conservative half of the population along with half, or even one quarter, of the military equipment. I think we'd do just fine. In fact, I suspect we'd quickly have a stronger, better military than that of the entire current US.

Hi Bill (if I may),

I'm afraid I do not have a solution to offer.
I could make a suggestion as to how each person can contribute (just as a person can sometimes contribute a little bit by voting, they can sometimes contribute a little bit by implementing other personal policies).
Some ways of contributing are to make an effort (if needed) to refrain from attributing to one's political opponents beliefs, intentions, etc., without good evidence that they have them, to make an effort to understand other people's views before attacking them, etc., and to try to think about the matters over which there are deep divisions without being angry with those holding opposite views - getting angry makes people generally more prone to reasoning errors, jumping to conclusions, etc.; if they want to get angry, they should at least do so at some other times, but not when analyzing the matters at hand, etc.

Now, if most people were to do that, things would likely improve to a considerable extent, even if they wouldn't be resolved. But it's not realistic to think that a significant number of people will do that, so this is just a suggestion for some very small improvements. At least, it's realistic to think that most persons who participates in debates, etc., can implement this kind of measures (i.e., each person can do so at an individual level) if they so choose - even if, unfortunately, nearly all will in fact not choose to do so.

Regarding Marxists, I'm not sure about that; are you talking about Marxist theory, or the practices of actual Marxists?
In any case, I would say that nearly all leftists (usually not Marxists) in the US (and everywhere else) do care about right and wrong, good and evil, etc. They just disagree with conservatives about morality.
Purely for example, one can take a look at the New Yorker's article you consider in your OP. David Remnick's comments are full of moral assessments, even if he doesn't use the words "moral", "ethical", "wrong", etc.
If one prefers articles or discussion in which words like "blameworthy", "wrongdoing", or "immoral", "duty", etc. are used, one can find them at Daily Nous, or other left-leaning philosophy blogs, or read the replies from some left-wingers at rightlyconsidered, etc.

"The issue is now quite clear. It is between light and darkness and everyone must choose his side."

No doubt about that. Both sides, however, claim to be the 'Light'. Each side has a unique 'light'? Whose 'light' will flourish and whose will die?

Dr. Vallicella,

First, I just recently wrote a short essay about the irreconcilable differences between the two ideological nations that exist in the country of the United States, and so I am in complete agreement that the divisions that exist in America are so deep that they cannot be mended. My answer to this problem, however, is secession. (And if anyone is interested, the essay can be found here: https://reconquistainitiative.com/2016/11/08/the-case-for-christian-secession/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true)

However, I just wanted to comment on your statement here:

Secession weakens us over against foreign aggressors such as the ChiComs, NoKo, ISIS. We have to be strong and united to defeat radical Islam, the communism of the 21st century. No? "United we stand; divided we fall.

I just wanted to point out that this statement is not exactly correct. Take ISIS and radical Islam , for example. Given the love that the left has for Islam and Muslims, and given their desire to import them in large numbers, unity with the left could actually be seen as a weakness, not a strength. Indeed, in our fight with radical Islam, being unified with the left means that the threat we face is both external and internal. Furthermore, there is the issue of who does the fighting. I would think--although I do not have the formal numbers for this point--that a larger portion of the military and intelligence apparatus is composed of those on the right rather than the left, so do we really need the left to fight? Perhaps they do offer us some greater numbers, but that advantage is off-set by the lack of internal treachery and greater strategic fighting will that the right would have if separated from the shackles of the left. And in terms of the Chinese and so on, with the advent of nuclear weapons, even a small state can hold off a large one in a strategic conflict.

Anyway, just some thoughts.

Criticus,

It would be interesting to hear more details about secession. Are you suggesting that the red states unite and secede forming, say, the Conservative States of America? But most of the red states have blue pockets in them. Would we then have to 'ideologically cleanse' those blue areas and say deport the Tucson lefties by force to blue New Mexico?

Presumably you are not suggesting that each state form a nation unto itself.

More details, please.

Angra,

Your suggestions are helpful and of course we all should calm down and try to show respect for our opponents. Unfortunately, leftists are unspeakably vicious and refuse to behave civilly. They forfeit any claim on our respect. E.g., the epithets hurled by Hillary in her "basket of deplorables" speech.

As for Marxism, it is a contradictory position. Marx hated moralizing and and held that morality is bourgeois ideology. But that did not stop him from fulminating like an Old Testament prophet against injustices. He tried to avoid the contradiction by holding that a dialectical necessity is working itself out in history which will lead to the classless society, the end of alienation, the gap between the real and the ideal, et cetera.

See Steven Lukes, *Marxism and Morality,* Oxford UP 1987.

The OVERCOMING of the gap between the real and the ideal.

Reconquista writes,

>>Take ISIS and radical Islam , for example. Given the love that the left has for Islam and Muslims, and given their desire to import them in large numbers, unity with the left could actually be seen as a weakness, not a strength. Indeed, in our fight with radical Islam, being unified with the left means that the threat we face is both external and internal. <<

I agree that the Left is in cahoots with radical Islam. My point was different. The ability to wage war requires economic and human resources. Smaller nations are at a disadvantage in these respects. It was not New Zealand that kept the Evil Empire in check, but mighty America.

Dr. Vallicella,

You said:

"I agree that the Left is in cahoots with radical Islam. My point was different. The ability to wage war requires economic and human resources. Smaller nations are at a disadvantage in these respects. It was not New Zealand that kept the Evil Empire in check, but mighty America."

Absolutely, and I understood that point. Yet in my view any secession that occurred would be, most likely, simply a secession into two large nations. Thus, the nation for "conservatives" and the right-wing would itself be large enough that it would not suffer any real economic or human resource loss in comparison to the United States itself. In fact, given its separation from the left, a "conservative" military without a leftist influence would arguably be stronger and more capable than the left-infested US military is starting to become. Furthermore, there is nothing to prevent a NATO-style alliance from occurring between the two nations for mutual security. So worries about security could be dealt with.

And on a side-note, I would actually suspect that the biggest threat to a separate conservative nation would come from the nation that the left forms once that nation starts to collapse and unravel, as all leftist nations seem to do in one way or the other.

Bill,

I would agree that some leftists refuse to behave civilly (so do some rightists, by the way). But not all leftists do so. Also, my suggestion to refrain from attributing to one's political opponents beliefs, intentions, etc., without good evidence that they have them, to make an effort to understand other people's views before attacking them, etc., applies also to those who refuse to behave civilly. While calling them on their uncivil behavior may be appropriate, I still think it's better to try not to misconstrue their views.

For example, Matt's claim "We would have shown ourselves a soulless and heartless people, beyond hope, beneath contempt." is neither warranted nor true. Realistically, a Clinton victory have merely shown that there were a bit more voters in some states for Clinton than there actually were, and/or somewhat fewer Trump voters. It might just have gone that way, without any difference in the makeup of the US, if a small percentage have chosen whether to stay home and/or go to vote differently from the way they did. Moreover, the vast majority of Clinton voters, just as the vast majority of Trump's voters, are not soulless or heartless (well, I actually do not believe in souls, but that's surely not what he's talking about).

Regarding Marxism, formal Marxist theory may be contradictory, but the vast majority of Clinton voters - including Americans further to the left than Clinton - are not Marxists, even if they agree with some aspects of Marxist theory. In particular, most American philosophers supported Clinton (if not because they liked her, as the lesser evil), and they are in several ways considerably to your left, but aren't moral error theorists, and/or Marxists.

George,

Thanks for your intro to secessionism.

Hi, Bill. There are different ways a separation could work. One essential element would have to be a new constitution that had many added anti-leftist safeguards. One of the main purposes of this would be to render the leftists who remained incapable of implementing their destructive ideas and policies. It seems to me that most people are sheep and most typical American leftists would presumably have a very different political outlook if they had been indoctrinated into rightwing ideas rather than leftist ones. So, as long as you legally incapacitated the current left and laid the ground for the future citizens to be indoctrinated with rightwing ideas, things would presumably work out all right.

Criticus,

You didn't answer my question about ideological cleansing.

"Are you suggesting that the red states unite and secede forming, say, the Conservative States of America? But most of the red states have blue pockets in them. Would we then have to 'ideologically cleanse' those blue areas and say deport the Tucson lefties by force to blue New Mexico?"

Hi, Bill. I thought my answer did address that. But perhaps it wasn't clear enough. I am not advocating forced deportation so long as legal mechanisms would be put in place to stop leftists from being able to implement their destructive ideas. It would probably be a good idea to incentivize them to leave as well if humane enough ways to do this could be devised.

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