Saturday, December 14, 2002
The Islamofascist left
rather harsh review of Dinesh D'souza's latest screed in The Nation starts off quite well. I'm well prepared to accept there are some shallow right wingers out there and D'souza is one of them. However the review then suddenly verges into cloud-cuckoo land with this:
A serious book by a conservative today would face the dilemma I mentioned above--that freedom and authority are profoundly at odds. Any true conservative (as opposed to a mere libertarian) has to be disturbed, if not disgusted, by the spectacle of contemporary America. If belief in a traditional and externally existing system of moral values by which human beings must organize the good society is the philosophical touchstone of conservatism, then America today represents the closest thing on earth to its actual repudiation. In this sense the Islamists are right to hate us, and the initial reaction to September 11 from the likes of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson was philosophically correct ...
And by the same token, any true conservative must be uneasy with how completely the Republican Party has submitted to the interests of big business. The making of money doesn't signify any higher value, and in techno-capitalist America it is the single strongest force for crushing competing values, including what are known as "family values."
I think these lines and the title of my post speak for themselves ...
The uses of racism
has a thoughtful post on racism. I wrote some comments in his comments facility part of which I'll reproduce here (sans the typos).
If one were to take a literal definition of racism, then I think it is *racially discriminatory policies* and *racially discriminatory behaviour* which are morally 'ugly' and not necessarily racism in itself. Thus I tend to use *racist* as a shorthand or synonym for someone who believes in or indulges in racially discriminatory poliicies or behaviour - its immorality arises from its failure to treat individuals as individuals and respect their individual dignity. On the other hand, if you are *literally* opposed to racism then that is just like being opposed to the law of gravity - races are different at least cosmetically and in some superificial physiological aspects and *possibly* (and this should be treated purely as a question of intellectual inquiry with no normative overtones) in other aspects** . Accepting the *possibly* in that sentence does not imply any commitment to racially discriminatory policy or behaviour because ideally individuals should be treated as individuals
and if one is intellectually honest then the 'possibly' cannot be ruled out until further progress is made in mapping the human genome.
**For example it is well documented that Ashkenazi Jews have an average IQ that is clearly one standard deviation above the norm and it is an open question what respective weighting genetic as opposed to environmental/cultural influences play a part in that. I respectfully submit that anyone who says with confidence that the environmental weighting is 'obviously' 100% is speaking without any evidence on such a complex issue. I can better understand the environment having a *depressive* effect on IQ but how to explain a consistently elevating effect? Incidentally see this
thought provoking article.
Rothbard's letter to the Dixiecrats
As if to prove the point of my previous post, the paleo-libertarian news portal Lew Rockwell now puts on the web a letter
that their hero Murray Rothbard (whom they like to bill as the founder of 'modern libertarianism' - give me Rand over Rothbard any day, at least she never mollycoddled Christian Taliban and unlettered trailer park trash) wrote to the Dixiecrats. Their mad guru somehow manages to link the Dixicrat struggle with the fight for a nation 'dedicated to liberty'. Aside from writing a few good books of intellectual history I have never understood why Rothbard has such a good reputation as a rigorous thinker among some libertarians.
The g factor
High IQ society the Mega Foundation
have conducted a valuable and fascinating series of interviews with controversial psychometrician Arthur Jensen, famous for arguing the 'hereditarian' position and formulating the concept of the 'g factor'.. The interviews are here
. Even if like me, you're agnostic about this stuff or sceptical, it's well worth reading to help make up your own mind.
Always sailing against the tide
I sometimes (actually many times) disagree with amiable evol-con Steve Sailer
but at least he always has a fresh take on the issues like this:
Yassir Arafat has appointed as his point man on the West an activist who has long struggled to prevent intermarriage between people of different religions. Yet more evidence of Muslim bigotry!
Oops! Never mind. I got that backwards. It's Arafat who is married to a Christian. It's George W. Bush who has just appointed as America's point man on the Middle East a gentleman who spent most of the 1990s trying to keep Gentiles and Jews from marrying each other: Elliott Abrams
Friday, December 13, 2002
Putting things in perspective
1999 article reminds us that not too long ago, the Democrats were the party of trailer park trash too. No one is completely taintless in the political business:
Al Gore, Sr., together with the rest of the southern Democrats, voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Congressional Quarterly reported that, in the House of Representatives, 61% of Democrats (152 for, 96 against) voted for the Civil Rights Act as opposed to 80% of Republicans (138 for, 38 against). In the Senate, 69% of Democrats (46 for, 21 against) voted for the Act while 82% of Republicans did (27 for, 6 against). All southern Democrats voted against the Act.
In his remarks upon signing the Civil Rights Act, President Lyndon Johnson praised Republicans for their "overwhelming majority." He did not offer similar praise to his own Democratic Party ...
In addition, Congressional Quarterly reported that Gore attempted to send the Act to the Senate Judiciary Committee with an amendment to say "in defiance of a court desegregation order, federal funds could not be held from any school districts." Gore sought to take the teeth out of the Act in the event it passed.
In the end, the Gore Amendment was defeated by a vote of 74-25. Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, one of President Bill Clinton's political mentors, was among the 23 southern Democratic senators and only one Republican voting with Gore for this racist amendment.
Republican Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona voted against the Civil Rights Act because he was afraid the nation would be transformed into a "police state" as a result of some of its provisions. He did not want to throw out the proverbial "baby with the bath water."
History, of course, labeled Goldwater a racist even though he voted against the Gore Amendment - an amendment devised to continue school segregation ...
At least civil rights activist Andrew Young was forthcoming about this oversight in his book An Easy Burden. Young wrote, "The southern segregationists were all Democrats, and it was black Republicans...who could effectively influence the appointment of federal judges in the South." Young noted that the best civil rights judges were Republicans appointed by President Dwight Eisenhower. Young admitted, "These judges are among the many unsung heroes of the civil rights movement."
Let's roll .. maybe
What Saddam does to his own people isn't sufficient cause for destabilising the Middle East but if there is stronger confirmation of this
then let bombs fall on Baghdad. If the US government does its homework it will have most of the civilised world behind it.
More on Lott ... and Rothbard
Some bloggers I usually respect like Steve Sailer are running the argument that Trent Lott's infamous comments were nothing more than a bit of buttering up and a joke for the pleasure of a 100 year old man. This is a bizzare explanation. Firstly, Thurmond seems to have done a complete turnaround long ago for whatever reason and whatever his private sentiments it's unlikely this gaffe would have brought him much pleasure. He's hardly going to say he appreciated the 'joke' given his attempts at reconstructing his image, is he? Secondly it now turns out that Lott said more or less the same thing more than 20 years ago
Twenty-two years ago, Trent Lott, then a House member from Mississippi, told a home state political gathering that if the country had elected segregationist candidate Strom Thurmond to the presidency "30 years ago, we wouldn't be in the mess we are today." The phrasing is very similar to incoming Senate Majority Leader Lott's controversial remarks at a 100th birthday party for Thurmond last week.
The Jackson Clarion-Ledger reported Lott's earlier comments in a Nov. 3, 1980, report about a rally for the presidential campaign of Ronald Reagan in downtown Jackson at which Thurmond was the keynote speaker
This is just vile, and it's idiotic that Lott actually said this during a Reagan campaign and got away with it too. The Right can do no good for itself tolerating such people within its tent. It's a no-brainer that State-based segregation is wrong and no true conservative or libertarian would trust the government with such arbitrary powers. Well, it's a no-brainer to most people anyway ... anyone who can look fondly on such policies is neither a libertarian or a conservative ... which brings me to that darling of the paleo-libertarian right (i.e. that group of protectionists and segregationists who denounce Virginia Postrel as a 'pseudo-libertarian' and 'neo-conservative'), a punch polemicist who gets a lot more respect than he deserves, the significantly over-estimated Murray Rothbard. Yes, Rothbard supported the Dixiecrats
as even one of his admirers in the paleo-movement admits:
Rothbard was politically incorrect at the beginning and at the end of his career. In 1948, he was, he later wrote, probably the only New York Jew to support the State Rights Party ticket of Strom Thurmond. In the early fifties he denounced pending Hawaiian statehood as an affront to the continental and organic character of the American federation
Thursday, December 12, 2002
Another university press book, another attack on economic rationalism. The latest is University of Newcastle philosopher John Wright’s tome The Ethics of Economic Rationalism .
Wright looks at the ethics of economic rationalism from a variety of perspectives, including utilitarianism, desert (as in deserving something), voluntary exchange, and liberty. The trouble with all this is that while people could perhaps justify economic rationalism along these lines, Wright provides no evidence that anyone did. Of more than 60 entries in his bibliography, there is only one book by self-described economic rationalists, and even that is relegated to the endnotes.
In my view economic rationalism can only be understood in the context of Australia’s economic and political history. It wasn’t a conscious attempt to implement any comprehensive philosophy, and so Wright’s background as a philosopher doesn’t help him explain what happened or why.
He completely misses, for example, that economic rationalism was a mix and match set of economic policies that could be combined with Paul Keating’s social democracy, John Hewson’s libertarianism, John Howard’s conservatism and Jeff Kennett’s grand state-building projects. All these diverse political leaders faced similar sets of political problems – economic growth was the only way to deal with ever-increasing demands on government and electoral resistance to taxation. Economic rationalism was an economic solution to a political problem, not a philosophical project.
This isn’t to say that economic policy in Australia is above criticism, ethical or otherwise. But no sensible critique can be written in isolation from the historical context, and the choices our political leaders actually faced.