November 15, 2013

James Madison on, well, a lot of things government does these days...

Steven Hayward posted this perfect quote at Power Line:

...For now, here's how James Madison sized things up in Federalist #62:
The internal effects of a mutable policy are still more calamitous. It poisons the blessing of liberty itself. It will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is to-day, can guess what it will be tomorrow. Law is defined to be a rule of action; but how can that be a rule, which is little known, and less fixed?

Another effect of public instability is the unreasonable advantage it gives to the sagacious, the enterprising, and the moneyed few over the industrious and uniformed mass of the people. Every new regulation concerning commerce or revenue, or in any way affecting the value of the different species of property, presents a new harvest to those who watch the change, and can trace its consequences; a harvest, reared not by themselves, but by the toils and cares of the great body of their fellow-citizens. This is a state of things in which it may be said with some truth that laws are made for the few, not for the many.
Posted by John Weidner at 6:50 AM

October 11, 2013

Good example of muddled thinking...

Poverty of the Soul: Time to Address the Real Issue - ABC News:

...I suggested in a column nearly a year ago, right before election day, that whomever was elected president needed to establish a Domestic Peace Accord and initiate a Camp David summit (as we have done in the past related to the Middle East) of leaders from all walks of life to bridge the divides that exist in this country, and create a new vision for our country.

If we talked to each other more, let go of the old mantras and institutions, we could create a more peaceful and compassionate society. President Obama is a good man, but he along with Republican and Democratic leaders seem trapped in an old language and a desire to make decrepit and broken institutions respond inefficiently to new problems....

This could be described as: "We've lost our way so we should all get together and talk and decide what to do." But in fact we've "lost our way" in the sense that we no longer agree on what the "way" is. There is zero possibility any of us could "create a new vision for our country." A "vision" is something you "see." You see the thing you are trying to get to. It's a picture of a goal.

But you can't just invent such a thing. Or rather, you can invent them easily, but other people can invent their own, and there is no objective way to choose. It's precisely the same problem we see when liberals (and libertarians) claim they can "create" a system of morality. So can I, so can any man. Such a thing might be useful if everyone agreed upon it, but that never happens. There is no objective criteria to decide on such a thing.

The quote is liberalism in a nutshell. The deep idea of everything that gets labeled "Liberal" is that we humans can just guide ourselves. "Let go of the old mantras and institutions." So which ones? How does one decide? One can guess that the author means conservative ones, but even if he was advocating getting rid of liberal "mantras," the problem would be the same. There is no objective standard to go by.

This is a quote I saved from some discussions in my parish:

"...a one-day visioning retreat, led by an outside facilitator (crucial!), that included 50 members of the parish community from a wide-swath of ministries, leadership roles, Mass congregations, and generations. Our parish would probably need 100. Then, we spent the day briefly identifying our respective talent areas (leadership domains), thought-clouding our words and phrases for what sets our parish apart, further though-clouding what our future goals were (such as our current goals of Welcoming, Broadening AFF, Encouraging contemplative prayer, Sharing Our Stories) and then doing some initial word-smithing to articulate the mission statement and and vision statement.

Then, a pastor-picked committee met one week later to finish the word-smithing in adherence to the fruit and spirit of the larger group. Then, the results were shared in the bulletin, on prominent posters/banners, in ALL the homilies for two Sundays, and eventually in brief post-communion announcements for three more weeks. 5 weeks total. DONE. A new momentum in the parish had been set...
This is guaranteed to produce a new vision just like the old vision. You are selecting your "visioneers" from among people who are already deeply involved in the old system. So of course their vision will be "more of same, but done better."

A real new vision" can only come from a visionary. And it can't be decided-upon by a committee. It's a "vision!" Something you "see," and suddenly "get." Usually a new vision can only happen if the old vision fails catastrophically. Only then are minds open to new possibilities.

WORD NOTE: The Camp David Summit, by the way, did not get Israel and Egypt together to "decide what to do." Both sides had already decided what they wanted, and the summit just finished the job. They call them "summits" because they are the top of a mountain of diplomacy.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:23 AM | Comments (21)

September 14, 2013

Back to the old problem...

Politics without Foundations | The View from Alexandria:

...For about a decade I team-taught a course on Contemporary Moral Problems with a prominent philosopher of language. He argued the liberal side of each issue; I argued the conservative side. I had no shortage of philosophical material on which to rely. He and I both assumed, since liberalism is supposedly the position that informed, intelligent people occupy, that there were similar philosophical foundations for liberalism. We were both astounded that there were not. For someone who seeks to be a liberal, but not a totalitarian, there is Rousseau, on one interpretation of his thought. And that’s about it.

Of course, there are people trying to provide such intellectual foundations. But we were startled at how thin their theoretical constructs really are. Any competent philosopher can think of a dozen serious objections to Rawls before breakfast, even on hearing his views for the first time. We base our conception of justice on what people would do if in some hypothetical situation satisfying certain constraints? Really? The actual circumstance, the actual history, what people actually want and need—these don’t matter at all? Why that hypothetical situation, anyway? Why those constraints? Would people really reach agreement? Would they even individually come to any “reflective equilibrium” at all? And why would people choose those principles of justice? Is there actually any research indicating that people would choose those principles? People would divide liberties into basic ones, which matter, and others, which don’t? 

Everything in the end rests on the welfare of the least advantaged in society? Who’s that? Mental patients and prisoners, probably. So, we’re to judge a society solely on how it treats its mental patients and prisoners? And the welfare of everyone else in society ought to be sacrificed to improve their lot even a tiny bit? Why think, moreover, that liberalism maximizes the welfare of the least advantaged? Rawls speaks as if well-being is static, as if we can speak simply of what happens at some equilibrium state without worrying about dynamic aspects of the economy or of a person’s life trajectory. But that leads him to confuse well-being at a moment with well-being over a life. An extensive welfare state might maximize the well-being of the least advantaged at the lowest points of their life trajectories without thereby maximizing their long-term well-being. In fact, preventing people from experiencing real lows might undermine their well-being as measured over a life.

I don’t mean to pick on Rawls especially; the same is true of other liberal theorists. Their theoretical constructs don’t connect with deep-seated features of human nature or of human societies. Their theoretical assumptions seem arbitrary and open to overwhelming objections....

There never will be a guiding political philosopher for liberalism. Liberalism is , deep down, the idea that we humans can navigate ourselves by our own reason, without using any external landmarks or guide-stars. Liberalism can't have a "guiding philosophy," because its core idea is that we don't need one.

Liberals has often tried to follow some particular guiding idea. But this always fails unless the new philosophy is imposed by force. In which case it becomes yet another totalitarianism.

Libertarianism tries to solve the problem by adding in a lot of personal choice. Let people chose everything freely, and make mistakes and learn from them. This works better, at least in the short run. But it doesn't solve the real problem. If people are allowed to stub their toes, they will learn to walk better. But that will not help decide what path is ultimately the best. Maybe the smooth easy path that seems to work well leads ultimately to a morass. "Strive to enter by the narrow gate."

.
Posted by John Weidner at 8:44 AM | Comments (20)

July 15, 2013

Kill the statistics to kill the planners...

David Warren, Truth & numbers:

...Once upon a time I studied demography, at first for the purpose of excoriating the “population bomb” scaremongers back in the 1970s. The subject struck me as boring, until I was sidelined into historical demography, & discovered such authorities as Thomas Henry Hollingsworth. And while his Demografia Historica will by now be dismissed as a little dated, it is permanently astute. No one could read it without having his confidence in all past & present estimates of population profoundly shaken. And while modern census-takers have devised very extravagant methods by which to corral heads for a headcount, they rely on a ludicrously complex pile-up of crude assumptions to invent every confidently-reported fact about these people. The demographers flourish nonetheless, as prized servants of bureaucratic tyranny, which has found the number crunching of “democracy” very much to its liking.

(A correspondent in email serendipitously supplies this explanatory note from C.S. Lewis: “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”)

My libertarian hero in this regard was Sir John Cowperthwaite KB CBE, financial secretary to Hong Kong through the 1960s, & perhaps the most significant figure in the recovery of the old Crown Colony from its condition at the end of the last World War. He pointedly refused to collect economic statistics. His reasoning was that, without numbers to play with, the “economic planners” would be at a loss. They were, & Hong Kong boomed.

But to mention him is to stray into questions of economic policy, which, like Cowperthwaite, I am against. How we live our lives is God’s business, & none of the government’s until we are reasonably suspected of a crime. Their job is to provide for our defence against rapine & massacre by foreign powers & domestic criminals, in return for modest taxes. It is an important job, from which they should not be distracted by their own alien & criminal propensities. Let it be added that Hong Kong was remarkably free of crime throughout the period in question, comparing favourably even to booming yet placid Tokyo....
Posted by John Weidner at 8:57 AM | Comments (0)

April 30, 2013

Good thought for the day...

By Ron Paul (no, I'm not becoming a Ron Paul fan), Liberty Was Also Attacked in Boston :

...Sadly, we have been conditioned to believe that the job of the government is to keep us safe, but in reality the job of the government is to protect our liberties. Once the government decides that its role is to keep us safe, whether economically or physically, they can only do so by taking away our liberties. That is what happened in Boston....
Posted by John Weidner at 9:05 AM | Comments (0)

April 14, 2013

"The greatest friend the United States ever had,"

By Christopher Monckton of Brenchley, Give the Iron Lady a State Funeral

It will be from Heaven that Margaret Thatcher, the greatest friend the United States ever had, will observe the now-inescapable disintegration of the dismal European tyranny-by-clerk whose failure she foresaw even as it brought her down.

Margaret was unique: a fierce champion of people against government, taxpayers against bureaucrats, workers against unions, us against Them, free markets against state control, privatization against nationalization, liberty against socialism, democracy against Communism, prosperity against national bankruptcy, law against international terrorism, independence against global governance; a visionary among pygmies; a doer among dreamers; a statesman among politicians; a destroyer of tyrannies from arrogant Argentina via incursive Iraq to the savage Soviet Union.

It is a measure of the myopia and ingratitude of her Parliamentary colleagues that, when she famously said “No, no, no!” at the despatch-box in response to a scheming proposal by the unelected arch-Kommissar of Brussels that the European Parliament of Eunuchs should supplant national Parliaments and that the hidden cabal of faceless Kommissars should become Europe’s supreme government and the fumbling European Council its senile senate, they ejected her from office and, in so doing, resumed the sad, comfortable decline of the nation that she had briefly and gloriously made great again.

Never did she forget the special relationship that has long and happily united the Old Country to the New. She shared the noble ambition of your great President, Ronald Reagan, that throughout the world all should have the chance to live the life, enjoy the liberty, and celebrate the happiness that your Founding Fathers had bequeathed to you in their last Will and Testament, the Constitution of the United States. I know that my many friends in your athletic democracy will mourn her with as heartfelt a sense of loss as my own.

The sonorous eulogies and glittering panegyrics will be spoken by others greater than I. But I, who had the honor to serve as one of her six policy advisors at the height of her premiership, will affectionately remember her and her late husband, Denis, not only for all that they did but for all that they were; not only for the great acts of State but for the little human kindnesses to which they devoted no less thought and energy...
Posted by John Weidner at 8:15 AM | Comments (0)

February 2, 2013

Sometimes I think we should chisel Teddy off of Mt Rushmore...

This is a great piece I meant to blog long ago. From National Affairs, The Saviors of the Constitution:

...The truth, however, is more kind to the Tea Party. Hardly a symptom of hopeless confusion, the Tea Party's willingness to use the means of democracy to address the problem of democracy and its relationship to the Constitution is an important first step toward recovering that document from the Progressive opprobrium beneath which it has labored for more than a century. For as the Tea Party senses, Progressivism acquired for itself an unfair advantage when it linked the notion of constitutional legitimacy to the cause of unlimited government powers in the name of democracy.

There is another view of the Constitution -- a view closer to that of the founders, that arose in defense of the Constitution against the Progressives, and that finds no contradiction in the notion of a constitutionally limited or constrained democracy. It was articulated with great subtlety and depth a century before the Tea Party, in a debate that prefigured many of the issues that now confront our country.

The year 2012 marks the 100th anniversary of the American presidential election in which this very conflict of constitutional visions played a central role. And by revisiting the issues of the election of 1912 -- in particular the contest for the Republican presidential nomination between William Howard Taft and Theodore Roosevelt -- we may come to appreciate the coherence of a popular effort to restore limits on the popular will....


...Nothing illustrates Roosevelt's radical constitutional program better than his proposal for the recall of judicial decisions. Roosevelt was the foremost national champion of that idea, and he devoted almost a third of the "Charter" speech to it. When a judge decides "what the people as a whole can or cannot do, the people should have the right to recall that decision if they think it wrong," Roosevelt maintained. This form of recall -- applied in his initial formulation to the review of state supreme-court decisions -- would allow the people at large to override the "monstrous misconstruction of the Constitution into an instrument for the perpetuation of social and industrial wrong and for the oppression of the weak and helpless." Since the "power to interpret is the power to establish," Roosevelt argued, "if the people are not to be allowed finally to interpret the fundamental law, ours is not a popular government."

Roosevelt was fully aware that the power to recall judicial decisions in fact amounted to the power of a majority to change the fundamental meaning of the Constitution, circumventing the cumbersome amending procedures of Article V. "Whether [recall of decisions] is called a referendum to the people or whether it is called a shorter and simpler way of amending the Constitution, to my mind matters nothing," Roosevelt explained. "The essential thing is to get the power to the people." The reason, he added, was that the "people themselves must be the ultimate makers of their own Constitution."...

I'm sure I don't have to spell out what the problems are with that idea.

Posted by John Weidner at 4:12 PM

September 20, 2012

"If your principles are clear you don’t need focus groups"

Roger’s Rules -- Newton’s first Law of Motion Applied to Political Strategy (with a brief excursus on Gaffes):

...Finally, let me observe that there is often a lot to be said for shooting before you take aim.  If your principles are correct, if your vision is clear, you are already aiming in the right direction. Just pull the trigger.  In fact, this is something Obama understands perfectly well. His administration has unleashed a continuous barrage since January 2009. I happen to think he is aiming in exactly the wrong direction. But his instincts about when (if not what) to shoot at are correct. If your principles are clear you don’t need focus groups and the abundance of caution they instill. You need a simple, clear, and (I’ll use the dread word again) manly policy for the country. I think that, deep down, Mitt Romney has such a vision. Hitherto, he has allowed it to be obscured by too diligent adherence to the false wisdom of focus groups. The path to victory is cleared by the candidate that has momentum. Inertia in the positive, irresistible sense is within Romney’s grasp. He needs but seize it....

The general point is dead on. You need to know what you believe, and then express it. One can't be making constant calculations, there just isn't the time. I have my doubts though about Romney being able to project any vision. He's a problem-solver, a technocrat. He's spent a lifetime thinking about what "works." And just assuming that the world has already worked out where it wants to go.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:47 AM | Comments (0)

August 3, 2012

Anders Borg...

Forbes, With Most Of Europe Still On Its Back, Sweden Tries Policies That Actually Work :

The headlines from across the pond read "Europe Rejects Austerity" as the French and Greeks elected socialists and even some neo-national socialists to office. These new officials have promised tax rates as high as 75 percent on millionaires, and have vowed to continue government spending unabashed in the wake of staggering levels of debt and anemic economic growth and persistent double- digit unemployment. However, there is one finance minister in one European nation that is bucking the trend, and, instead of ridicule and failure, he's been named Europe's best finance minister by the Financial Times. He's not from Britain or Germany and certainly isn't Greek. He isn't some old fat cat in a suit either. In fact he's famous for rocking a pretty awesome ponytail and gold earring. His name is Anders Borg and he's Swedish.

That's right, the European nation famously stereotyped for having aggressive taxation to fund an omnipresent state has actually decided that in response to the Eurozone crisis and the continued effects of the global economic downturn, or "Great Recession", that it's time to ease up on taxes and reduce the size of government. While Sweden is not technically in the Eurozone, as it does not use the Euro as currency, it has been drawn into the financial mess of the Eurozone by sheer proximity. Unemployment in 2011 was north of 7.5 percent and GDP growth was anemic at .4 percent projected for 2012.

While the rest of Europe and the United States have gone on massive spending sprees fueled by government borrowing and tax hikes, Sweden took a different approach. In the Spring 2012 Economic and Budget Policy Guidelines, the Swedish Government and its Finance Minister, Anders Borg, have laid out a plan that is focused on lowering taxes. Their rationale? "When indviduals and families get to keep more their income, their independence and their opportunities to shape their own lives also increase."...

Gee, do ya think?

Posted by John Weidner at 7:03 PM

June 1, 2012

"The motto of the liberal"

Althouse, on NYC Mayor Bloomberg's plan to ban large sugared drinks...

...Elsewhere, "all over the United States," they "are wringing their hands saying, ‘Oh, this is terrible,’” but not in New York. In New York, they are doing something.

Do something — what a wonderful concept, often heard in the old cry for help: "Don't just stand there; do something."

It's the the motto of the liberal. The corresponding motto of the conservative is: First, do no harm. Or to put it in the form that I thought up (in another context) and have adopted as a kind of a personal motto: Better than nothing is a high standard...

"Do something." Or, "First, do no harm." Well, the second one is a bit wiser in general. But it isn't really asking the right question. Because, paradoxically, for conservatism to conserve things, it has to change them—that is, keep adapting them to changing times. You have to keep thinking and working on the things you want to preserve. For instance, "Freedom of speech" means something different now than when I was a boy. Then I was in a culture that had many traditional norms on the limits of speech. Now we have torrents of high-octane porn available at a mouse-click. Even words, like "freedom," have changed their meanings.

So liberals and conservatives are both changing things. So both face the problem of "Inertial Navigation." (Which I wrote abut here.)

...When I ascribe this double phenomenon in Church history, of resistance and subsequent assimilation, to the conservative principle of the Church, I may at first appear to maintain a paradox. It may be urged that the first attitude—of opposition to aggressive novelty—is an exhibition of the conservative principle; but that the second—the subsequent assimilation of portions of what was rejected—is not. To this I would reply that to identify Conservatism simply with the rejection of what is extraneous and new in form is to identify it with a principle of decay. To preserve a building we must indeed resist those who would pull it down; but we must also repair it, replace what is worn out by what is new, and fit it to last in the varying conditions of life. True conservatism involves constructive activity as well as resistance to destructive activity. Periodical reform and reconstruction belong to its very essence...
    -- Wilfrid Ward, From his essay The Conservative Genius of the Church

I like, by the way, Ann's line, Better than nothing is a high standard.

Posted by John Weidner at 6:00 PM | Comments (0)

May 8, 2012

This is pretty good...

What Lugar's loss could mean for a Pres. Romney :

...As I wrote earlier this week, a lot of pundits have been prematurely writing the obituary to the Tea Party, but Mourdock's victory demonstrates that the movement still has a lot of power. Tea Party activists will be tested again in Texas, where they hope to nominate Ted Cruz and Utah, where they hope to dump veteran Sen. Orrin Hatch in favor of conservative Dan Liljenquist. 

Mourdock's victory not only means that this particular Senate seat is likely to be more conservative (assuming he goes on to win the general election in this traditionally red state), but it also puts Republican Senators everywhere on notice that no seat is safe anywhere in the country. Any elected Republican that doesn't pursue a small government agenda once in office risks suffering the same fate as Lugar. Had Lugar hung on, then a lot of people would have dismissed the Tea Party as a passing fad from 2010. But now it's clear that the movement has been underestimated once again. Tea Partiers have a lot more staying power than skeptics expected.

With the Republican presidential nomination going to the ideologically malleable Mitt Romney, supporters of limited government have recognized that their best hope for advancing the conservative agenda rests on the ability to elect as many principled conservatives to Congress as possible. That is, lawmakers who will be willing to fight for smaller government even if it means standing up to a president of their own party. The more victories the Tea Party racks up, the greater the chance that Romney will be forced to govern as a limited government conservative if elected, even if his natural inclination is to migrate to the left....

The good thing about having a "malleable" president is that he will presumably be malleable in our direction too. Of course "malleable" usually tends Leftward, because that's the direction of nihilism and cowardice. But ..

Posted by John Weidner at 9:33 PM | Comments (2)

April 19, 2012

"Conservatism by inertia"

I recently stumbled upon an old nut I'd squirreled away, by Orrin Judd from 2003. He's writing on a piece by Roger Scruton, Decencies for Skeptics: Is religion necessary to make a moral society? No; but reverence is. (Roger Scruton, City Journal)

I think I liked the term "conservatism by inertia," but never got around to blogging it and remembering it...

Mr. Scruton represents that worthwhile but tragic strain of British thought that combines skepticism and nostalgia to produce a kind of conservatism by inertia--we can't believe in anything, but Britain was great when we did, so let's not get rid of everything we had then, let's act as if we still believe in something. This is the Right's version of "freeloading atheism".

But rational skepticism has a fatal flaw--one that renders it quite dubious as the basis of a political philosophy--it ultimately disproves itself and reason entirely. Having once denied that we can know anything with certainty about reality through the exercise of pure reason, one has denied the reality, reason, and the self. They can only be recouped by the exercise of faith. So the great response to the skepticism of Hume and Berkley is not an elaborate theory but Samuel Johnson kicking a large stone and exclaiming: "I deny it thus". No matter how taut their theory may be, no one will choose to live their life by it. We all believe certain things to be real, most especially ourselves, and, therefore, accepting their proof as valid, we all proceed from a stance of faith. That genie too is out of the bottle.

When Mr. Scruton then argues, quite accurately, that reason can offer no coherent basis for morality, that only religion can, we must ask: so what? Reason couldn't prove that you and I exist, but that does not truly make us doubt that we do. And when we turn to look at all of humanity today and all of human history, if we perceive, as we must, that you and I are rather insignificant, but that morality matters greatly, who is so self-absorbed that they would argue that faith is sufficient to prove our own measly existence but we can have no recourse to it to prove that the morality upon which decent human society depends likewise exists? The claim that I can utilize personal faith in order to know myself to be real but that any faith I disagree with, including (especially) one shared by billions of my fellow men, is necessarily illusion, because mere faith, is nought but egomania.
Posted by John Weidner at 8:10 AM | Comments (16)

March 24, 2012

An old idea. Older than you think...

The Federalist Solution - Jonah Goldberg - National Review Online:

...But what if the real compromise isn't in forcing the Left and the Right to heel? What if instead the solution is to disempower the national elites who think they've got the answers to everything?

Federalism — the process whereby you push most political questions to the lowest democratic level possible — has been ripe on the right for years now. It even had a champion in Texas governor Rick Perry, and Ron Paul still carries that torch.

The main advantage of federalism is more fundamental than the "laboratories of democracy" idea. Federalism is simply the best political system ever conceived of for maximizing human happiness. A one-size-fits-all policy imposed at the national level has the potential to make very large numbers of citizens unhappy, even if it was arrived at democratically. In a pure democracy, I always say, 51 percent of the people can vote to pee in the cornflakes of 49 percent of the people.

Pushing government decisions down to the lowest democratic level possible — while protecting basic civil rights — guarantees that more people will have a say in how they live their lives. Not only does that mean more people will be happy, but the moral legitimacy of political decisions will be greater.

The problem for conservative and libertarian federalists is that whenever we talk about federalism, the Left hears "states' rights" — which is then immediately, and unfairly, translated into, "Bring back Bull Connor."

But that may be changing. In an essay for the spring issue of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, Yale law professor Heather K. Gerken offers the case for "A New Progressive Federalism."...

If Federalism makes a comeback, it will be because it fits the Information Age much better than it did the Industrial Age. Top-down management by government doesn't work well any more. Actually, management in general works poorly now. Management used to mean something like the Ringmaster in the Disney movie Dumbo directing a parade of slow-moving docile elephants. Now it is like the Ringmaster racking his whip over a thousand scampering cats.

And Federalism is actually an instance of the old Catholic doctrine called Subsidiarity. Which holds that all power should be pushed as far down as possible. That is, we should not only be pushing as much decision-making to the states as possible—that's what the Constitution did until it was subverted—but also pushing power down from the states to the cities and counties. And as much of that as possible should be given to voluntary groups and churches. And, whenever possible, decisions should be made by individuals and families.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:57 AM

March 18, 2012

This was written in 2005...

I blogged it in 2009...

And it still fits!

Ramesh Ponnuru:
Patrick Hynes obviously doesn't understand the basic rules of political journalism. How many times do we have to explain it? Every election that goes badly for the Republicans is the fault of social conservatives. Every such election is the death knell of the social Right. The 1992 election marked the end of the Christian conservative moment in American politics. The 1998 election, too. And now the 2005 election. Once Hynes has gotten this down, we can work on the corollary: When Republicans win elections, the big story is the danger that social-conservative excess poses to them.
It's been pretty grim-yet-funny seeing the nattering nabobs of elite conservatism and "centrism" opining that we have to rebuild the Republican party by jettisoning all that old conservative stuff about morality and God that's keeping us from hanging with the cool kids...
Posted by John Weidner at 7:12 PM

February 18, 2012

It doesn't scale in a linear fashion...

Richard Fernandez, The Life of Ants:

...The costs of running a society by detailed regulation do not scale in a linear fashion. Adding a single little thing requires committees to coordinate between committees; oversight and review functions; evaluation units and managers to manage everything. And that doesn't even count the cost of politically selling and defending each and every new mandate...

There's another thing that amplifies this. Running anything by "detailed regulation" is Industrial Age practice. We are now deep in the Information Age, and those who are hip to it can use much more effective management techniques. We are the Dinosaurs, they are the Thecodonts. They will be out-competed!

One of the earliest examples of the emergence of a new age was the Israeli victory in the Six-Day War, in 1967. We tend to take this sort of Israeli (and American) prowess for granted, but it was something that had never been seen before in history. Israel defeated three nations, with three armies, ten times her numbers, and with weapons of equal quality, in less than a week!

How did they do it? Israel had developed a new way of managing war. If division commander gave a task to one of his brigades, it was not accompanied with any sort of plan. The brigade was free to do the job however he thought best. The only proviso was that he had to keep headquarters informed about what was going on. Likewise, the Brigade would give its battalion commanders only general objectives, and they would make their own detailed plans. And so on down the line.

So they were harnessing the brainpower of far more people, and particularly, people who were much more motivated to succeed than staff drones. We see this kind of thing often now in successful young firms. (If you are hired by Dropbox, here in SF, YOU get to decide what you will work on! Wouldn't you give your best in such a situation?)

Israeli Dodge Power Wagon, during Six Day War period
(I have no special reason for putting this picture in, except for a love of the old Dodge Power Wagons. This one is Israeli, about the time of the Six-Day War. I think I got the pic here.)

Posted by John Weidner at 6:51 PM

December 6, 2011

Can't I vote for "None of the above?"

Recent comment by Mr Gingrich:

The people who get on their computer to access the internet to send a note to their friends about the dangers of big government are using a device developed by the U.S. government — a computer, with an interface developed by U.S. government grants, what we then called the (Defense Department's) Advanced Research Projects Agency, in order to access a worldwide system (also) developed by the Advanced Research Projects Agency.

This is stupid in SO many ways.

1. Research into promising new technologies is not the sort of thing conservatives are worried about. Especially if the technology is then passed on to the private sector. But government tends to grow inexorably, even in technology research. And to cling to control. As witness NASA. We should be developing and colonizing Space right now, but we can't because of the stranglehold of government.

2. DARPA was not trying to create the Internet. It was simply trying to link a few dozen computers so that they could be used more efficiently. DARPA was funding numerous computer projects at various universities, and had to buy fabulously expensive new computers for each project. They wanted a simple way for a researcher in one place to use a computer in another.

3. If there had been a government project to create the--tah dah!-- "world communications project of the future," it would almost certainly have failed. As I recall there were such attempts, ponderous and official, and the Internet simply grew so fast that they slipped into irrelevance.

4. When the Internet started to explode in the 1980's, many of the early users hated what was happening. They wanted bandwidth to be reserved for the important things they were doing and not squandered by a frivolous public. If government had still been in control, who can doubt that it would have tried to strangle change?

Posted by John Weidner at 8:17 AM

October 29, 2011

You can't expect nihilists to act like [racist remark redacted]

Richmond tea party: Charge Occupy protesters or refund $10,000 we spent to rally in Virginia:

Richmond, Va. — The Richmond tea party is demanding a refund of about $10,000 from the city, claiming it unfairly charged them for rallies while allowing the Occupy protesters to use the same space for several weeks for free.

The political organization is sending the city an invoice for the charges incurred for three rallies held in Kanawha Plaza over the past three years. The Occupy protesters have been camped in the plaza since Oct. 15.

Richmond Tea Party spokeswoman Colleen Owens says it's not fair that her group had to pay fees for permits, portable toilets, police presence and emergency personnel. The group also had to purchase a $1 million insurance policy.

Tea party groups across the nation have raised similar concerns since the protests spread from New York earlier this month...

Silly Tea Partiers. You are grown-ups, so of course you must pay. Having myself been to tea parties, I know that you not only picked up all your trash, you also brought extra plastic trash bags to give to anyone who forgot to bring one. So OF COURSE you must be punished! OF COURSE you must pay the bills.

And the children-of-dirt who shit in people's doorways must be cosseted and praised by nihilist politicians, like fake-Catholic Nancy Pelosi. How I would love to see those slime-worms and their fake-liberal enablers where they belong, in orange jump-suits and leg-chains picking up trash along the county roads.

Yeah, yeah, I know, I know. I should be more moderate in tone. Not tonight. Not in the mood. I spend most of my life among fake-liberals, smiling and nodding, and saying nothing. But this tiny blog is where I can be myself. Bounded in a nutshell I am, but king in my little kingdom. And if any of you lefties manage to find this place, and read this far, well, you should be ashamed of yourselves!

John Bauer, Into The Wide World

Posted by John Weidner at 12:15 AM | Comments (0)

October 15, 2011

Compare...

Milton Friedman, From Capitalism and Freedom, p.3:

...The second broad principle is that government power must be dispersed. If government is to exercise power, better in the county than in the state, better in the state than in Washington. If I do not like what my local community does, be it in sewage disposal, or zoning, or schools, I can move to another local community, and though few may take this step, the mere possibility acts as a check. If I do not like what my state does, I can move to another. If I do not like what Washington proposes I have few alternatives in this world of jealous nations...

And...

Wikipedia, on the Catholic teaching called subsidiarity :

...Functions of government, business, and other secular activities should be as local as possible. If a complex function is carried out at a local level just as effectively as on the national level, the local level should be the one to carry out the specified function. The principle is based upon the autonomy and dignity of the human individual, and holds that all other forms of society, from the family to the state and the international order, should be in the service of the human person. Subsidiarity assumes that these human persons are by their nature social beings, and emphasizes the importance of small and intermediate-sized communities or institutions, like the family, the church, and voluntary associations, as mediating structures which empower individual action and link the individual to society as a whole...
It is a fundamental principle of social philosophy, fixed and unchangeable, that one should not withdraw from individuals and commit to the community what they can accomplish by their own enterprise and industry. (Pope Pius XI, Quadragesimo Anno, 79

Posted by John Weidner at 9:59 PM | Comments (2)

September 13, 2011

Like the dog in the night...

I was writing a lonnng 9/11 post, starting from that disgusting column by Paul Krugman. But I realized I was just starting to re-fight all the warblogging campaigns of my 10 years of Random Jottings. I don't need to do that, events have not shown me to be wrong. And, as Professor Jacobson pointed out, Krugman is lashing out because his faith is shaken.

Though it might seem so, right now we are not in an argument between two Twentieth Century models of life and government, conservative and liberal. Why? Because Krugman's model has already died. It's a zombie-corpse staggering a few last steps before toppling in the dust. The Obama administration is just a last efflorescence of phosphorescent bacteria.

So instead, here's a small interesting item, also from Jacobson...

The American people can handle the truth about Obama's phony jobs bill:

There is a good reason Obama did not unveil his jobs bill prior to his jobs speech.

It's because the jobs bill is not a jobs bill, it is the tax increase Obama has been hoping for since he was a candidate, taking $400 billion from people making $200,000 or more (couples making $250,000 or more). Had Obama released the plan, all the talk surrounding the speech would have been about the tax increase, the opposite of what the Axelplouffe message machine wanted.

What Obama misleadingly calls a jobs bill literally takes $400 billion from the demonized "top 2%" over 10 years to give to almost everyone else now, a pure redistributionist plan. There is some revenue taken from oil companies and corporate jet owners (yes, that's in there), but that is just political cover, a relatively small percentage of the total tax increase, as this chart shows...
Posted by John Weidner at 7:30 AM

August 30, 2011

This makes me feel good about being a long-time Thomas fan...

Walter Russell Mead, New Blue Nightmare: Clarence Thomas and the Amendment of Doom:

....There are few articles of faith as firmly fixed in the liberal canon as the belief that Clarence Thomas is, to put it as bluntly as many liberals do, a dunce and a worm. Twenty years of married life have not erased the conventional liberal view of his character etched by Anita Hill's testimony at his confirmation hearings.�Not only does the liberal mind perceive him as a disgusting lump of ungoverned sexual impulse; he is seen as an intellectual cipher. Thomas' silence during oral argument before the Supreme Court is taken as obvious evidence that he has nothing to say and is perhaps a bit intimidated by the verbal fireworks exchanged by the high profile lawyers and his more, ahem, 'qualified' colleagues.

At most liberals have long seen Thomas as the Sancho Panza to Justice Antonin Scalia's Don Quixote, Tonto to his Lone Ranger. No, says Toobin: the intellectual influence runs the other way. Thomas is the consistently clear and purposeful theorist that history will remember as an intellectual pioneer; Scalia the less clear-minded colleague who is gradually following in Thomas' tracks.

If Toobin's revionist take is correct, (and I defer to his knowledge of the direction of modern constitutional thought) it means that liberal America has spent a generation mocking a Black man as an ignorant fool, even as constitutional scholars stand in growing amazement at the intellectual audacity, philosophical coherence and historical reflection embedded in his judicial work.

Toobin is less interested in exploring why liberal America has been so blind for so long to the force of Clarence Thomas' intellect than in understanding just what Thomas has achieved in his lonely trek across the wastes of Mordor. And what he finds is that Thomas has been pioneering the techniques and the ideas that could not only lead to the court rejecting all or part of President Obama's health legislation; the ideas and strategies Thomas has developed could conceivably topple the constitutionality of the post New Deal state...

Well, the parrot's dead; we might as well get on with burying it.

My question is, those "liberals" who have spent 20 years calling Clarence Thomas a dunce and a fool, and worse... Did they suspect, perhaps unconsciously, that he was their real opponent? I've always assumed that they just hated the idea of a black man escaping from servitude on the Lefty Plantation. But maybe they knew deep down...

Posted by John Weidner at 6:51 PM

July 25, 2011

Thoughts for Hale Adams...

Hale Adams is in a foul mood, which is always good for the creative juices! Me, I'm in a pretty cranky mood too, and for some of the same reasons. This is a hasty answer to a comment he posted here. (Other comments deserve answers, but this may use up my limited amount of time and energy--sorry.)

Um, John, maybe it's you who should think. How does the State allowing gays and lesbians to enter into a marriage contract make you and Charlene any less married? How are the two of you injured?

That wasn't my point at all, but yes, we are "less married." We have invested the bulk of of what we are and possess in an institution, and now the terms of the contract are being downgraded. In libertarian terms, it might be like spending all your money to join an exclusive club, and then having the government say that other people must be admitted for free.

The State has to define marriage because it is, in its civil aspects, a partnership.

No, the state has never even considered doing that until recent decades. It merely adumbrated the tradition of all of Western Civilization. Likewise, the early Republican opposition to Mormon polygamy was really saying: "No, you cannot change the definition of marriage."

Now, I understand your impulse to say "Ick!" at the idea of gay marriage. But what two consenting adults do in private ain't my business or yours. If those two consenting adults are doing something the Church doesn't like, and they are members of the Church, then the Church has the duty to impose discipline.

You insult me. I'm talking ideas, not "Ick!"

If they aren't members of the Church, the Church can certainly say its piece, but it doesn't get to use the power of the State to impose any kind of penalty on them. Allowing the Church to impose such penalties, or to prohibit the conduct outright only gives power to the Church, "power which is not going to deployed to make you more free. No way," if I may hurl your words back at you.

If this was a case of "the Church" as a human institution coming up with a rule or discipline and imposing it on people using the power of the state, I'd agree with you. I don't think you should be forced to eat fish on Friday! But that's not the issue here. The theory is that God defined marriage. (And just FYI, he didn't define it in the sense of an arbitrary rule; rather, this is an expression of the moral law woven into the fabric of the Universe, and even God can't change it unless he abandons his character as the Divine Lawgiver.)

So, why should a libertarian care? I'd answer, "In what sense do we have rights?" The founders wrote: "...endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights." Do you believe that that's true? I assume not. So do we have "rights?" Our country is founded on the that rights are "unalienable." That means they CANNOT be taken away. A tyrannical government can deny you the enjoyment of them, but they still exist, and always will.

In the libertarian worldview, I suspect, we do not have any rights. Not in that sense. Humans can pass a law that says we have such-and-such a "right," but next year other humans can repeal that law. That's why I tend to say the libertarianism is a form of liberalism. Liberalism is always, on a deep level, the idea that we humans can navigate ourselves, without reference to fixed landmarks outside our system.

Our founding fathers explicitly rejected this. As John Adams put it, "The rights of Englishmen are derived from God, not from king or Parliament..." And they also wrote, "We hold these truths to be self-evident." Which is to say, you can't get there by human powers of reason. You just have to dig it. (And this is exactly what I mean by a "fixed landmark.")

That, I think, is the crux, for any American in politics. That's what really bugs me about Gov. Perry's statement. (Thank you Hale for stimulating me to ponder this.) He is rejecting the essence of our American system, without thinking! Our system rests on the idea of God as the Divine Lawgiver. Our rights exist in exactly the same way that the ancient theory of Judeo-Christian marriage exists. Our Bill of Rights is just a local and human instantiation of moral laws that are baked into the structure of the universe. Human rights and the definition of marriage stand or fall on the same theory.

I think Perry is a good example of what I consider a fundamental rule: Your "philosophy" is the most important part of your mental equipment, because if it is not rock-solid, sooner or later you will be swept away by the world's torrents of fad and fancy and change.

I won't go into the rest of your comment, which I mostly agree with. As the old saying goes, "The road to Hell is paved with the skulls of bishops." Fortunately our younger priests are a lot more solid than the baby-boomers in charge now. So time may improve things a bit.

Posted by John Weidner at 12:00 PM

July 24, 2011

This is why Conservatism doesn't work...

...because most people who label themselves "conservative" refuse to think. And therefore the world thinks for them, and they drift along with whatever ideas are popular at the moment.

Rick Perry Says He's "Fine" With Gay Marriage in NY | TheBlaze.com:

Rumored Republican presidential candidate and Texas Gov. Rick Perry said he's "fine" with New York's recent passage of gay marriage — because he supports states' rights.

Speaking at an Aspen, Colo. forum Friday, Perry called himself an "unapologetic social conservative" who personally opposes gay marriage, but is also a firm believer in the 10th Amendment, the Associated Press reported.

"Our friends in New York six weeks ago passed a statute that said marriage can be between two people of the same sex. And you know what? That's New York, that's their business, and that's fine with me," Perry said. "That is their call. If you believe in the 10th Amendment, stay out of their business."...

This is so philosophically insane, I hardly know what to say. Perry says he's an "unapologetic social conservative." So Governor, where does that come from? Hmm? What is it, precisely, that you are conserving?

The odds are that Mr Perry bases his "unapologetic social conservatism" on Christian and Jewish teachings. (I suppose it is possible to be an atheist social conservative, but that has to be fairly rare.) Right, Mr P.? But Christianity unapoligetically says that there is TRUTH, Including Truth on marriage. In fact, Christianity says that marriage was instituted by God. It is right there in the beginning, in the book of Genesis.

Now Christian teachings on marriage are either true or false. There is no fuzzy middle ground. If true, then what New York is doing is catastrophic folly and wickedness. At the very least, a Christian should strongly protest against self-destructive behavior. It's a Christian duty!

(If Christianity is false, it is still an open question whether we ought to be mucking around thoughtlessly with an institution that's at least 10,000 years old.)

(Oh, and for my Libertarian friends. You ought to be thinking more too. Allowing the state to define what marriage IS, is to yield to the state enormous power. Power which is not going to deployed to make you more free. No way. )

Posted by John Weidner at 2:02 PM

May 14, 2011

"I'm the troublemaker. That's my role in life. I'm the class clown..."

I recommend Converting Mamet: A playwright's progress by Andrew Ferguson:

..."They were highly polemical, angry books," [Rabbi Mordecai] Finley said. "They were very big on sympathy and compassion but really they weren't"—he looked for the word—"they simply weren't logically coherent. And Dave [Mamet] is very logical in his thinking. Dave thought What's the Matter with Kansas? had the answer for why people could even think to vote for a Republican—it's because they're duped by capitalist fat cats. I tried to tell him that people really weren't that stupid. They just have other interests, other values. They're values voters.

"That's one thing he began to see: The left flattens people, reduces people to financial interests. Dave's an artist. He knew people are deeper than that."

Before long, when Finley didn't budge, the books from Mamet stopped arriving, and Finley asked if he could send Mamet some books too. One of the first was A Conflict of Visions, by Thomas Sowell of the Hoover Institution. In it Sowell expands on the difference between the "constrained vision" of human nature—close to the tragic view that infuses Mamet's greatest plays—and the "unconstrained vision" of man's endless improvement that suffused Mamet's politics and the politics of his profession and social class.

"He came back to me stunned. He said, 'This is incredible!' He said, 'Who thinks like this? Who are these people?' I said, 'Republicans think like this.' He said, 'Amazing.'"...

Another morsel...

...When I pushed him on the subject, he started talking about Jon Voight, another show business Republican.

One day Voight handed him Witness, the Cold War memoir by the Communist-turned-anti-Communist Whittaker Chambers.

"This book will change your life," Voight told Mamet.

"And he was right," Mamet said. "It had a huge effect on me. Forcing yourself into a new way of thinking about things is a wrenching experience. But first you have to look back and atone. You think, 'Oh my god, what have I done? What was I thinking?' You realize you've been a co-dependent with the herd. And then, when you decide to say what you've discovered, out loud, you take the risk that everyone you know will look on you as a fool."

Sitting on an overstuffed sofa in his office, he threw up his hands.

"But what the hell," he said. "I'm the troublemaker. That's my role in life. I'm the class clown."...

   

Posted by John Weidner at 7:40 PM

February 4, 2011

"The man who isn't quite there"

Charlene recommends this piece, How to Understand Rush Limbaugh:

...In retrospect, the amazing part of the story is how thoroughly the White House misunderstood Limbaugh's appeal, his staying power, and his approach to issues. It also points to a curious fact about Limbaugh's standing in the mind of much of the American media and the American left. Even though they talk about him all the time, he's the man who isn't quite there. By which I mean that there is a stubborn unwillingness, both wishful and self-defeating, to recognize Limbaugh for what he is, take him seriously, and grant him his legitimate due. Many of his detractors have never even listened to his show, for example. Some of his critics regularly refer to him as Rush "Lim-bough� (like a tree limb), as if his name is so obscure to them that they cannot even remember how to pronounce it.

In short, he is never quite acknowledged as the formidable figure he clearly is. Instead, he is dismissed in one of two ways�either as a comic buffoon, a passing phenomenon in the hit parade of American pop culture, or as a mean-spirited apostle of hate who appeals to a tiny lunatic fringe. These two views are not quite compatible, but they have one thing in common: they both aim to push him to the margins and render him illegitimate, unworthy of respectful attention. This shunning actually works in Limbaugh's favor because it creates the very conditions that cause him to be chronically underestimated and keeps his opposition chronically off-balance. Indeed, Limbaugh's use of comedy and irony and showmanship are integral to his modus operandi, the judo by which he draws in his opponents and then uses their own force to up-end them. And unless you make an effort to hear voices outside the echo chamber of the mainstream media, you won't have any inkling of what Limbaugh is all about or of how widely his reach and appeal extend....

One of the curious things about Rush is that during his New York years he was able to make almost no friends in the media world, even though he was a media giant. And even though he is an affable and interesting man. He was invited to none of the parties. Liberals are cowards!


Posted by John Weidner at 8:53 AM

December 26, 2010

The Constitution ... must be "Darwinian"

This was written back in 2004. I recently found it in my odds and ends box...

The Claremont Institute - Defending Thomas:

...Savvy liberals like Reid are right to be more concerned with Thomas than Scalia because Thomas' natural-law jurisprudence represents the greatest threat to the liberal desire to replace limited, constitutional government with a regulatory-welfare state of unlimited powers.

Thomas is one of the few jurists today, conservative or otherwise, who understand and defend the principle that our rights come not from government but from a "Creator" and "the laws of nature and of nature's God," as our Declaration of Independence says, and that the purpose and power of government should therefore be limited to protecting our natural, God-given rights.

The left understands that if it is to succeed, these principles of constitutional government must be jettisoned, or at least redefined. Thomas' recourse not only to the text of the Constitution but specifically to the founders' natural-law defense of constitutional government is fatal to liberalism's goal.

The most sophisticated and enduring critique of U.S. constitutional government was first made by Progressive-era liberals at the turn of the 20th century. Their main charge was that the Constitution was old and outdated and therefore irrelevant to modern times and modern problems. Woodrow Wilson, for example, insisted that unlike the physical universe, the political universe contains no immutable principles or laws. "Government ... is a living thing ... accountable to Darwin," explained Wilson. The Constitution, therefore, must be "Darwinian" as well—it too must grow and evolve.
From the liberal view, liberty cannot be a natural right, protected by a government of limited powers, because there are no natural rights. As liberal political scientist Charles Merriam explained in 1920, the "natural law and natural rights" of the founders had been discarded by intellectuals "with practical unanimity." Instead, "the state ... is the creator of liberty."

Bigger government means more liberty, not less. "It is denied," Merriam concluded, "that any limit can be set to governmental activity," and therefore the Constitution's original intent, which limited government power, "no longer seems sufficient."

The liberal critique of the Constitution has been repeated so long and with such intensity that it has become orthodoxy in our law schools, courtrooms and legislative halls. By 1986, liberal Justice William Brennan could easily dismiss the Constitution out of hand because it belonged "to a world that is dead and gone."

Before Anita Hill took the spotlight, the most controversial part of Thomas' confirmation hearings in 1991 stemmed from allegations that he had invoked the n-word—the natural law. Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee hardly knew how to respond, so alien was the founders' vocabulary. Perhaps this is why Reid finds Thomas' opinions "poorly written."

A generation of law students and politicians has been trained in "legal realism," which is nothing but liberal contempt for the Constitution dressed in academic garb. For liberals who believe rights come from and can be revoked by government and judges, a high court justice talking about natural rights is an embarrassment.

The size, scope and purposes of our government are no longer anchored in and limited by our Constitution. For conservatives who want to restore limited government, their first order of business is to restore the authority of the Constitution's original intent. The American people need to be reminded of the source of their rights and persuaded that limited government is good; that the principles of the Constitution—which are the natural-law principles of the Declaration of Independence—are timeless, not time-bound; that without those principles, the noble ends set forth in the Constitution's preamble can never be achieved.

Of the current Supreme Court justices, only Thomas has offered a defense of the natural-law principles of the Constitution, a defense that nearly cost him a seat on the court and continues to elicit the kind of disdain recently voiced by Reid. Conservatives should unite behind Justice Thomas and defend his natural-law jurisprudence because nothing less will resuscitate the Constitution they hope to save....
Posted by John Weidner at 9:42 PM

December 13, 2010

"Human nature can be as easily reshaped as hot wax"

I liked this piece, Human Nature and Capitalism By Arthur C. Brooks and Peter Wehner. Not because it gives new ideas, but because it puts old ideas very clearly...

At the core of every social, political, and economic system is a picture of human nature (to paraphrase 20th-century columnist Walter Lippmann). The suppositions we begin with—the ways in which that picture is developed—determine the lives we lead, the institutions we build, and the civilizations we create. They are the foundation stone.

During the 18th century—a period that saw the advent of modern capitalism—there were several different currents of thought about the nature of the human person. Three models were particularly significant.

One model was that humans, while flawed, are perfectible. A second was that we are flawed, and fatally so; we need to accept and build our society around this unpleasant reality. A third view was that although human beings are flawed, we are capable of virtuous acts and self-government—that under the right circumstances, human nature can work to the advantage of the whole.

The first school included those who (representing the French Enlightenment) believed in man's perfectibility and the pre-eminence of scientific rationalism. Their plans were grandiose, utopian, and revolutionary, aiming at "the universal regeneration of mankind" and the creation of a "New Man."

Such notions, espoused by Jean-Jacques Rousseau and other Enlightenment philosophes, heavily influenced a later generation of socialist thinkers. These theorists—Robert Owen, Charles Fourier, and Henri de Saint-Simon among them—believed that human nature can be as easily reshaped as hot wax. They considered human nature plastic and malleable, to the point that no fixed human nature existed to speak of; architects of a social system could, therefore, mold it into anything they imagined.

These theorists dreamed of a communal society, liberated from private property and free of human inequality. They articulated a theory of human nature and socioeconomic organization that eventually influenced capitalism's most famous and bitter critic: the German philosopher, economist, and revolutionary Karl Marx....

Read the whole piece for the other two views. You can probably guess where I align myself.

I recall that John Adams in his cranky post-Presidential years got into a long newspaper battle with Mercy Otis Warren over the meaning of the American Revolution. He was driven to fury by her assumption that America had somehow become a new society, freed from the corruptions of Europe. He was battling against the above view of human nature

On the same subject you might like this long-ago post of mine, on John Adams as blogger...
...The world-peace-through-fuzzy-leftist-thinking that drives today's warbloggers into a frenzy started back in John Adams' time. His was the age of the Philosophes; utopians who wanted to sweep away corrupt old institutions, thereby achieving a perfect society. What they got was the French Revolution, and Napoleon. (And Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot...) The thinking-style of the philosphes is still popular today, despite having killed hundreds of millions of people and failing utterly to achieve anything that could be labeled perfection.

Adams lived for two decades after his presidency. He spent much of his time in his library, reading and furiously arguing in the form of marginal comments in his books (I have a whole book of those scribbles: John Adams & the Prophets of Progress, by Zoltan Haraszti). A favorite target was Mary Wollstonecraft's History of the French Revolution...
     
Posted by John Weidner at 7:47 AM

November 4, 2010

Frum the trash-heap of history...

Charlene recommends The Winner: Rush Limbaugh, in The American Spectator. It's about the Alynski-ite attack by the White House and its press minions on Rush, starting in January 2009. It's worth reading. I particularly liked the rubbing it in on the absurd David Frum, who so obviously was positioning himself as a leader of a new tamed conservatism...

...BUT MURPHY, DOUTHAT, AND BROOKS were pikers when it came to former Bush speechwriter David Frum. Handed the cover of Newsweek for a lengthy article titled "Why Rush is Wrong," in a remarkable piece of writing Frum seemed to be an eager participant in a trash-for-cash article that is standard-operating-procedure for sunshine conservatives seeking approval from the liberal media. Frum chose for his venue a failing national news magazine that had traded its own reputation to the far-left in return for a soon-to-be sale by the Washington Post for -- literally - one dollar and millions in debt. The story was not only a Frum version of the personal insult-laden Alinsky strategy, also scolding Reaganites, it repeatedly insisted Rush was a distinct liability to any conservative or Republican victory -- in 2010 or any other election year.

According to Frum, who larded his three-alarm Rush-warnings throughout a piece filled with personal insults that appeared designed to appease the Washington social crowd, Rush Limbaugh was "kryptonite, weakening the GOP nationally." If the GOP listened to Limbaugh it would never win women voters who "trust and admire" Obama. Rush's CPAC speech was a terrible liability that was certain to lose votes: "Those images of crowds of CPACers cheering Rush's every rancorous word --we'll be seeing them rebroadcast for a long time." It was idiocy to be listening to Limbaugh, as so many conservatives seemed to be doing: "But do the rest of us understand what we are doing to ourselves by accepting this leadership?" And finally, the GOP could not possibly win in 2010 because "Rush Limbaugh is a seriously unpopular figure among the voters that conservatives and Republicans need to reach."

This morning, Rush Limbaugh stands vindicated....

Well, my response at the time was this...

Posted by John Weidner at 7:18 AM

October 13, 2010

the French did so, and look at the scrape it got them into...

From Progressivism: The Snobbery of Chronology:

...Thus chronological snobbery is the identification, or confusion, of "change" with "progress." "Progress" is a value-laden term: it means not just change but change in a certain direction, change for the better. It is like a graph in geometry that charts the movement of some entity (a business, a body's growth, a football player's "forward progress") not only horizontally, from past to future, but also vertically, from worse to better.

But the very notion of a "better" assumes a "best," a standard, a goal. And that standard has to be unchanging, for if the goal line itself changes, it is impossible to make progress toward it. Imagine a runner on first base trying to make progress toward second base while the second baseman is carrying second base with him into the outfield.

The typically modern mind is 1) skeptical of absolute, unchanging standards and 2) in love with the idea of progress. But this is a logical impossibility, a self-contradiction. Without an unchanging standard, there can be no progress, only change. To such people, "progress" means no more than "change," and therefore "change" means the same as "progress."

Only a people both jaded and bored by the past and the present, and also skeptical of any "vertical dimension," any absolute and unchanging standard, could possibly be so moved by the single word "change" that a presidential candidate could win an election by using that single word as his campaign slogan. Why not instead "Rutabagas"?...

Of course 'twas put better by Patrick O'Brian...

..."Then on her quarter, with the patched inner jib, that's the Hope: or maybe she's the Ocean -- they're much of a muchness, out of the same yard and off of the same draught. But any gait, all of 'em you see in this weather line, is what we call twelve-hundred-tonners; though to be sure some gauges thirteen and even fifteen hundred ton, Thames measurement. Wexford, there, with her brass fo'c'sle eight-pounder winking in the sun, she does: but we call her a twelve hundred ton ship."

"Sir, might it not be simpler to call her a fifteen hundred ton ship?"

"Simpler, maybe: but it would never do. You don't want to be upsetting the old ways. Oh dear me, no. God's my life, if the Captain was to hear you carrying on in that reckless Jacobin, democratical line, why, I dare say he would turn you adrift on a three-inch plank, with both your ears nailed down to it, to learn you bashfulness. The way he served three young gentlemen in the Med. No, no: you don't want to go arsing around with the old ways: the French did so, and look at the scrape it got them into....
    -- Patrick O'Brian, HMS Surprise

Posted by John Weidner at 10:47 PM

October 10, 2010

Through the Randian thickets...

Pajamas Media — Values and the Defense of Freedom, by Amit Ghate

I felt the need to respond to this AynRandish screed, because it misreads both Christians and conservatives...
[Note: By "Christian" I will be refering to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. 3,000 years worth of profound thought, all of it clearly expressed and defined, in a way suitable for reasoned discourse. (Link) I am aware of the schismatic and fissiparous Christian sects called "Protestant," but they seem to be capable of believing almost anything, and are therefore not worth trying to discuss.]
In the wake of the recent Values Voter Summit, a worrisome question arises: will the Tea Parties or a reformed GOP be able to champion limited government and fiscal responsibility, without also importing the religious right's so-called "social values"?

HotAir's Allahpundit raises this issue [2], noting that speakers at the summit repeatedly asserted the idea that limited government must ultimately be based on religious beliefs — on the existence of a "Big God." Uncomfortable with these assertions and searching for a better, secular defense of freedom, Allahpundit asks how Objectivists (adherents of Ayn Rand's philosophy) would respond.

It's a perceptive question. Though many recognize Rand as a stalwart defender of freedom, few appreciate how radically her defense differs from that of traditional religionists. Key to her innovative approach is an original conception of values and morality — one which ultimately puts her at odds with much of the religious program.

How then might she respond to the religionists' claims? Though of course no one can speak for her, I imagine that she might begin by challenging a common misconception, one that can be gleaned from listening to speakers at the Values Voter Summit: viz. that religion has a monopoly on values. According to them, either you're religious and have values, or you're non-religious and don't. [I don't think this is the conservative argument normally made. The real argument is that our culture's values COME FROM religion, and therefore the non-religious will tend to lose them. Well, we can see this all around us.] But this, Rand would argue, is a false dichotomy. The choice isn't between Judeo-Christian values and nothing; it's between various conceptions of values, e.g., values derived from faith vs. values grounded in reason. [The "faith vs. reason" contrast is false. ALL Christian values are consistent with reason (though some have depths reason alone cannot attain).]
As an example of the latter, she'd offer her own system of ethics. Its essentials were first presented in a seminal essay [3] where she began by asking: what are values and why does man need them? Her answer is rooted in biological facts. Values — from the most basic ones like food and shelter; to the most sublime, like love, art, and self-esteem — are necessary for man's life on Earth. As autonomous rational living beings, each of us needs a whole host of values to live the fulfilling life appropriate to man.

In effect, Ayn Rand argues, values reflect the objective requirements of life; they're not generated by the commandments and whims of some ineffable being. [This has NEVER been the Christian theory. Our values are Natural Law; they are rooted in the fundamental construction of the cosmos, and apply to all men. They are never God's "whims." In fact they are not really "commandments;" the Hebrew word translated as "commandment" is probably better translated as "statement."] Accordingly, values can — and must — be rationally discovered, evaluated, defined, and defended.

But though values are objective, they're far from obvious or innate. Beyond the simplest ones like the need for food and warmth which we recognize through direct sensory feedback, determining our values takes thought and work. Consider, for example, the process of discovery necessary for each of us to decide what type of person would "complete" us in a romantic relationship, or what type of long-term career to adopt. Likewise, the problem of prioritizing and integrating our values requires serious reflection and identification. (Is the value of watching a football game more or less important than taking time to write this opinion piece? Is purchasing a new car more valuable to me than other things I could do with the money?) [The fatal flaw in this kind of reasoning is that it is self-referential. There is no objective standard, no Pole Star to steer by. What type of person would "complete" me? To answer that I must understand myself. But there is no innate rational way to do so--it's like having the lab rats evaluate the experiment. (More thoughts on this here)]

Given these questions and challenges, we need a science to help provide us with the knowledge and guidance required to identify, codify, and achieve our values. That science is morality.

Rand fleshes out this [4] new conception of morality with a series of detailed [5] arguments and broad historical observations (like the cultural flourishing of ancient Greece and the enormous prosperity engendered by the Industrial Revolution). From these she concludes that, more than anything else, choosing and achieving values requires unswerving rational thought and productive effort. And what conditions are required to exercise these? The absolute freedom to think and act. This, she argues, is the line of reasoning required to defend freedom and individual rights. [True as far as it goes, but freedom-to-think won't get you to a science of morality. It's the same problem as above. Unless there is some objective standard from outside, there can never be a science. None of the sciences, including Natural Science, can proceed unless there are agreed-upon presuppositions and premises, which cannot be deduced from within the science.]

As such, Rand is opposed to many modern libertarians who consider freedom to be an irreducible primary, one which justifies the choice of any "values" whatsoever. To her, it's the other way around: she defends freedom as a consequence of man's need to pursue rational, life-affirming values. [Good!]

While the conclusion that values underlie freedom may seem superficially similar to the religious view, [So far it is identical. The actual Christian definition of freedom is the same as that of the great pagan philosophers, such as Aristotle. Freedom is the ability to do the good. This can be shown by reason, though I haven't the energy tonight.] Rand's account of the source and nature of those values sets them diametrically apart. (As an illustration of just how great the difference is, consider that in contrast to the Christian reverence for faith and humility, Rand counts reason [6] and pride [7] among her primary values and virtues.) [Pride is the enemy of reason and science, as reason can show. The problem with any science is that the scientist himself is a distorting lens. No human can ever be completely objective; our presuppositions and psychology shape what we can perceive. The best palliative to this is humility. The humility to welcome criticism, and humility in the face of evidence.]

Yet her fundamental disagreement with the religious approach doesn't end here; it also extends to her view of man. Many traditional religionists see the need for a "Big God" because man, in their view, is fundamentally flawed (see the doctrine of Original Sin). Because of his inherent flaws — be they greed, pride, or what have you — man can't be trusted to do good. [Has there ever been a society of which one could say, "These people can be trusted to do good?" Wake us up when that happens.] He must be kept in place by a supernatural Authority. [NO, that is not what Christians believe. Mr Ghate should know better if he is going to write on this. Christians believe in Original Sin, that is, that we are fundamentally flawed and can't, by our own strength, do the good over the long haul. But if we freely chose to accept it, God will give us the gift (we say "Grace," which means "gift") of the ability to do the good. Which is freedom. (It's beyond this topic, but, far from wishing to "keep us in place," God wants to elevate us to share in his divinity as His adopted sons and daughters. See Romans 8:11-15. A far higher view of human dignity than anything proposed by the "Enlightenment.")]

Rand, on the other hand, sides with the giants of the Enlightenment in considering man to be morally perfectible. [So, Ayn baby, how many centuries has this project been underway? Hmmm? Are we achieving perfection soon? And do we imperfect people have a (perfect?) definition of the perfection we seek?] According to her, man has in his possession the means (free will and a reasoning mind) and the incentive (the betterment of his life) to choose and practice the good. Thus, when left free, men will tend to a life of achievement. (This is borne out on a historical scale, where the freest countries were both the most productive and most moral. Think of America and the UK during the 1800s vs. any theocratic or communist state.) [Uh, yeah. And they were also the most Christian (and Jewish). Whereas the communists were...... Oh right, they were siding with the "giants of the Enlightenment" in considering man to be morally perfectible.]

In her view, freedom is both moral and practical. No top-down authority is necessary to keep man in his place, [Again, that's not the Christian position] and most laws are written primarily to punish the relatively few who would choose to initiate force against others. [One of the ugly problems with inventing your own morality is that you get to define who the "others" are in "initiate force against others." You can just define someone as "not human," and then kill them without a qualm. For instance, 1.3 million unborn children are killed each year in the US. The same logic could declare "Randians" as outside the rules, and kill them off.]

The debate over limited government and fiscal restraint, in Tea Parties and GOP alike, hinges on the grounding and defense of freedom. Does freedom come from the alleged endowments and pronouncements of a Judeo-Christian God, or is its source this-worldly, residing in the nature of man and his faculty of reason?

Ayn Rand offered powerful arguments for the latter view. Moreover, as she once wrote [8]:
[T]o rest one's case on faith means to concede that reason is on the side of one's enemies — that one has no rational arguments to offer. The "conservatives" claim that their case rests on faith, means that there are no rational arguments to support the American system, no rational justification for freedom, justice, property, individual rights …. [As already pointed out, conservatives and Christians say no such thing.]
Thus Rand not only establishes how to champion limited government without appealing to religion — she also shows why we must. Let's heed her advice by giving our values and freedom the rational defense they deserve.
Posted by John Weidner at 8:01 PM

September 19, 2010

A political heresy?

I thought this piece, It's not about the Tea: Catholic Christine O'Donnell Rejects Political Heresy — Catholic Online, was very interesting for the way it mingles politics and religion (Which I think is just common sense. Ones core philosophy is reflected in both.):

...As a Catholic I contend Christine's win was not only about the tea party. Do not get me wrong, I truly admire the movement. However, Christine O'Donnell is simply trying to be a faithful Catholic Christian. She may not remember me, but I met her many years ago. I was involved in one of several efforts I have undertaken in my life (none of which have "succeeded".. yet) of attempting to organize Catholics to inform their political participation in fidelity to the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church and a hierarchy of values - NOT based upon Partisan political labels. She espoused then what she espouses today....


...However, there is a "political dualism" emerging in Republican circles which MUST be exposed and rejected. The argument is that there are "social" and "economic" issues and they must be kept "separate". Proponents claim we can "only win if we stay focused on the economic issues". Mitch Daniel and Haley Barbour are the most recent examples. WE MUST SAY NO!

For example, the reason we care about expanding economic opportunity is because we respect the dignity of every human person. The reason we want to ensure the application of the principle of subsidiarity and keep government at the lowest level is because we respect the primacy of the first government, the family. Social and political issue cannot be separated, just as the soul and the body cannot be separated.

Catholics must reject the efforts to divide the "economic" and "social" spheres. Like the earliest heresies in the Church which separated body and soul, the separation of economic and social issues is a political heresy. I encourage Christine O'Donnell to run based upon this important truth. I will be watching her race with great interest....

Actually I'd add that the separation of economic, social, and national defense issues is political sickness. The health of the body politic flows from the health of all our souls. and part of the sickness of our time is the spreading belief that nothing is worth fighting for.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:01 AM

September 18, 2010

"Nothing more solid than social consensus"

Charlene picked this quote out of the Pope's address at Westminster Hall to civil authorities....

If the moral principles underpinning the democratic process are themselves determined by nothing more solid than social consensus, then the fragility of the process becomes all too evident – herein lies the real challenge for democracy.
This is true quite apart from any religious issues. It is true like gravity is true. Like the Second Law of Thermodynamics is true. This is the same problem I covered, much less eloquently, as the problem of inertial navigation.

It's the same problem that occurs if , say, you try to guide your life according to what makes you happy. How do you define happiness? How do you differentiate between short-term happiness, and long-term happiness (which might require doing things that make you very miserable in the short-term)?

To guide your life by any standard where you define yourself, from inside yourself, is like being the lab rat in an experimental maze, and at the same time, being the one who runs the experiment. It's a trap.

When a society guides itself by "social consensus," that's exactly the same trap.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:50 AM

September 16, 2010

Changes within my lifetime...

Charles Murray, On Energetic Government and Unlimited Government:

... But where does David get the idea that the "energetic government" he lauds in the administrations of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln was more or less the same thing conceptually as "energetic government" now, on a somewhat smaller scale? A difference in kind has occurred, and it is reflected in difference in size.

Forget about the 19th-century budgets, which would make the comparison ludicrous. Instead, consider the federal budget in 1963, on the eve of President Lyndon Johnson's ascension to power. In 2008, dollars, as are all the numbers that follow, the federal government spent $782 billion that year, almost half of which went to defense. The entire federal government spent just $259 billion on domestic non-defense items (I exclude interest payments on the national debt). In 2008, while we were still under the compassionately conservative eye of President George W. Bush instead of the spendthrift liberals, the same domestic non-defense items amounted to $1.7 trillion. Shall we remove Social Security from that calculation? Then the numbers go from $150 billion in 1963 to $1.1 trillion in 2007—a sevenfold increase.

You don't increase spending by those amounts without changing the role of government in ways that go to the heart of the American project. That truth is reflected in the qualitative record. In 1963, 30 years after the New Deal started, the federal government still played little role in vast swathes of American life, from K-12 education to the way people went about providing goods and services to their fellow citizens. We can argue about which of the subsequent interventions were warranted and which were not, but not about this: The way that presidents and Congresses see their power to intervene in American life in 2010 is profoundly different from the way they saw it in 1963. In 1963, among mainstream Democrats as well as Republicans, it was accepted that an overarching purpose of the American Constitution was to limit the arenas in which government could act. Now, the recognition of that purpose has all but disappeared—in the executive branch, in the Supreme Court, and in Congresses controlled by Republicans as well as by Democrats. There has been big change, reflected in big government....
Posted by John Weidner at 8:35 AM

September 10, 2010

Things don't ALWAYS go from bad to worse...

By Rebecca Walker, How my mother's fanatical feminist views tore us apart, by the daughter of The Color Purple author:

...I love the way his head nestles in the crook of my neck. I love the way his face falls into a mask of eager concentration when I help him learn the alphabet. But most of all, I simply love hearing his little voice calling: 'Mummy, Mummy.'

It reminds me of just how blessed I am. The truth is that I very nearly missed out on becoming a mother – thanks to being brought up by a rabid feminist who thought motherhood was about the worst thing that could happen to a woman.

You see, my mum taught me that children enslave women. I grew up believing that children are millstones around your neck, and the idea that motherhood can make you blissfully happy is a complete fairytale.

In fact, having a child has been the most rewarding experience of my life. Far from 'enslaving' me, three-and-a-half-year-old Tenzin has opened my world. My only regret is that I discovered the joys of motherhood so late - I have been trying for a second child for two years, but so far with no luck.

I was raised to believe that women need men like a fish needs a bicycle. But I strongly feel children need two parents and the thought of raising Tenzin without my partner, Glen, 52, would be terrifying.

As the child of divorced parents, I know only too well the painful consequences of being brought up in those circumstances. Feminism has much to answer for denigrating men and encouraging women to seek independence whatever the cost to their families....
Posted by John Weidner at 6:47 PM

September 1, 2010

Mrs Random Jottings suggests reading...

Charlene trecommends this post by Lexington Green, I Think I See What Glenn Beck is Doing:

The Glenn Beck rally is confusing people.

Why?

He is aiming far beyond what most people consider to be the goalposts.

Using Boyd's continuum for war: Material, Intellectual, Moral.

Analogously for political change: Elections, Institutions, Culture.

Beck sees correctly that the Conservative movement had only limited success because it was good at level 1, for a while, weak on level 2, and barely touched level 3. Talk Radio and the Tea Party are level 3 phenomena, popular outbreaks, which are blowing back into politics.

Someone who asks what the rally has to do with the 2010 election is missing the point.

Beck is building solidarity and cultural confidence in America, its Constitution, its military heritage, its freedom. This is a vision that is despised by the people who have long held the commanding heights of the culture. But is obviously alive and kicking...

She listens to Beck now and then (I've almost never heard hm) and says he's always like this, a cultural-moral-historical guy. And, "He's a bit of a rabble-rouser, but he's our rabble rouser."

And this I liked:

...Ronald Reagan said we would not defeat Communism, we would transcend it.

Beck is aiming to have America do the same thing to its decaying class of Overlords, transcend them.

Beck is prepping the battlefield for a generation-long battle.

He is that very American thing: A practical visionary..
Posted by John Weidner at 7:21 AM

August 29, 2010

Inertial navigation....

Hale Adams wrote in a comment to my neo-Gnosticism post...

...I think this ties in neatly with my periodic rants on "political Taylorism". Taylorism, as properly applied to the production of goods, resulted in such astounding success that we no longer truly want for any material thing.

Being as how it's hard to argue with success, Taylor's principles have been applied improperly to other realms of human activity. I've ranted about its application to politics and society— it's what we call "Progressivism"— but it shows up in religious matters as well, as the "neo-gnosticism" in your post. Rather than stick with the tried-and-true Judeo-Christian beliefs about human nature, too many people go with new-fangled ideas promoted by "experts"...
"applied improperly to other realms of human activity"

You are exactly right. And we see the same thing in many other areas. We constantly hear that "science" or "research" or "experts" or "psychology" tell us things about how to live. But how we are to know with certainty whether we can trust them? That's never explained.

More broadly, this is all part of the problem of inertial navigation. Which is, you can't navigate inertially unless you can occasionally refer to fixed landmarks outside your own system. Apollo missions could not depend on their own instruments and computers alone to get them to the moon or back. The astronauts took sightings on stars, with sextants, and made course corrections. Today's ships and planes get fixes from satellites, and adjust course accordingly. (When I was young they still used sextants. And the satellites must themselves be calibrated by reference to the stars, or to fixed points on Earth.)

Taylorism is proper to use for something like industrial production, because we can stand outside and measure and criticize the results, and because the goal is pretty much defined. (One of my own heroes, Peter Drucker, pointed out some of the flaws of managing people purely by efficiency. The ugly labor relations of the US auto industry are an example, and one that has led to very inefficient results.)

But if we are adjusting ourselves, guiding ourselves, then how do we stand outside and judge the results? And make course corrections? We can't, unless we have some sort of fixed reference points outside ourselves to navigate by.

"Neo-Gnosticism is the philosophy that invites you to search deep inside yourself and discover some exciting things by which you must then live." Same problem. If you are using yourself as a guideline, how can you measure the results? You are your own measuring instrument, and you are changing yourself.

Humans have never come up with a long-term solution except various forms of transcendent religious faith. All other attempts have failed. Marxism tried to use "laws of history" as fixed points. Taylorism/Pragmatism/Progressivism uses efficiency, or "what just works." But that just begs the question of how we decide that efficiency is what matters. Or what guidelines to use to judge "what works."

"The wisdom of our forefathers" has always been a good stopgap, but it breaks down over the long run once people become self-conscious about it, and start to try to pin down exactly what that wisdom is. That's the dilemma of non-religious conservatism—you still need guidelines for what exactly should be conserved! Conservatism itself cannot give an answer.

And even if by some magical revelation one knew for sure that efficiency, or the Federalist Papers, or "the greatest good for the greatest number," or Liberty should be our guide in politics and society, there remains the deeper problem that the results are being measured by the very people and societies you are tinkering with! It's like the lab rats running the experiment on themselves and then saying what it means.

Every non-religious thought-system is in deep philosophical trouble. (That doesn't mean that the religious ones are true; that's a different question.) DEEP TROUBLE! WAKE UP! And none of them want to think about it, which is why I don't have vast numbers of people avidly reading this blog.   ;-)

If there is something in your life you don't want to think about, then you are living in fear! You are skating on thin ice. And if there's even one thing you don't want to think about, then you can't be confident about anything. Why? Because you can't know the extent of the problem-area....... unless you think about it!

And this is at the core of the problem of nihilism I keep nattering about. My theory is that until recently most people in the Western world retained many habits left over from Judaism and Christianity, even though formal religious faith has been in decline for centuries. Therefore they felt like they had solid ground under their feet, and were much less fearful. Those habits have now mostly worn off, and many people have no belief in anything greater or truer than themselves. And so people are acting very strangely, because on some deep level they know that they are in trouble...

As unbelievers deny Revelation more decisively, as they put their denial into more consistent practice, it will become the more evident what it really means to be a Christian. At the same time, the unbeliever will emerge from the fogs of secularism. He will cease to reap benefit from the values and forces developed by the very Revelation he denies. He must learn to exist honestly without Christ and without the God revealed through Him; he will have to learn to experience what this honestly means. Nietzsche had already warned us that the non-Christian of the modern world had no realization of what it truly meant to be without Christ. The last decades [this was written in the 1950's] have suggested what life without Christ really is. The last decades were only the beginning...
   — Romano Guardini, from The End of the Modern World
Posted by John Weidner at 9:51 AM

August 26, 2010

Listen to a wise man...

Listen to the Maha Rushi, brothers and sisters. He speaks pearls.



Leftists use embarrassment as a weapon. They paint those they fear as embarrassingly stupid or "not polished," or crap like that, and in our desire to appear "sophisticated" people buy it. They did it to Palin from the instant she walked onstage, and they are doing it to Sharron Angle right this minute.

(Here's a transcript of Rush's remarks.)

Posted by John Weidner at 9:08 PM

July 23, 2010

Something is happening here but you don't know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?

Cedra Crenshaw...

Posted by John Weidner at 2:28 PM

July 2, 2010

Multa novit vulpes, verum echinus unum magnum...

[This is something I posted back in 2003. You could plug it into 2010 without much difficulty. The title is Erasmus's latin for "The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing." ]

What thou lov'st well remains, the rest is dross
What thou lov'st well shall not be reft from thee ...
    — Ezra Pound

Orrin Judd recently wrote...

..It is often thought that ideology makes people inflexible, unable to face new situations they've not thought about before. In fact, given how seldom a situation truly is new, a well thought through set of ideas will serve in any circumstance that arises and so may give such folk--Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and George W. Bush are the paramount recent examples--a suppleness that those whose minds function in a more ad hoc way will lack. The latter--men like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton--may be paralyzed into inaction, because they have to analyze things afresh and then worry over whether they've come up with the right decision. It is the difference that Isaiah Berlin wrote about in his famous essay, The Hedgehog and the Fox.

Conservatives tend to be people who find the past appealing, thrilling, alive. You might think that would make them uncomfortable dealing with the future, but just the opposite is true. The things you love you will absorb, they will soak in, they will become part of you without the need for laborious study. And if you absorb, for example, things like the story of Gideon, you may be more ready for life's crises than the theorist who has read a hundred books...And if you absorb histories of Sam Houston or Lord Fairfax or Abigail Adams or Epaminondas, you will not be alone when the crisis comes...

I suspect our country has flourished partly because, at times of testing, hedgehogs often appear. (And if you find the accusations of stupidity heaped on Bush by the foxes to be a bit much, go back and read what they said about Lincoln. Or Jackson, or Truman...)

Posted by John Weidner at 7:53 AM

June 29, 2010

We're just trying to help you wing-nuts...

Jay Valentine: Rolling the Conservative Movement:

...Though Democrats don't agree with the concepts of individual liberty and limited government, they understand their powerful appeal to most Americans. They are terrified Republicans will pick a candidate who espouses these ideals. They would like nothing better than for Republicans to nominate another moderate from the Mitt Romney-David Frum wing so they can avoid fighting a campaign on a battlefield of ideas they can't possibly win.

Let's be clear, if Republicans choose another moderate, Democrats will have successfully avoided that battlefield altogether and the election will be over whose candidate can deliver more freebies to more people more efficiently rather than whether or not the freebies are a good idea in the first place. This is Democrat turf and explains why they are, even as we speak, seeking to get Republican candidates to disavow core conservatives like Governor Palin. If Republicans fall for this, they will have squandered a once-in-a-generation opportunity and will richly deserve the electoral wilderness to which they will have consigned themselves...
.

I'm willing to be open-minded about which rock-solid conservative carries the party's banner in 2012... except there only seems to be one possibility at the moment...

Take no prisoners. Palin/Christie 2012...


Posted by John Weidner at 8:30 PM

June 24, 2010

The deep perniciousness of "social justice"

I saw this quote by one Jerry H. Tempelman in an amazon.com review of Law, Legislation and Liberty, Volume 2: The Mirage of Social Justice, by F. A. Hayek...

...The following passage sums up the entire book quite well: "[I]n...a system in which each is allowed to use his knowledge for his own purposes the concept of 'social justice' is necessarily empty and meaningless, because in it nobody's will can determine the relative incomes of the different people, or prevent that they be partly dependent on accident. 'Social justice' can be given a meaning only in a directed or 'command' economy (such as an army) in which the individuals are ordered what to do; and any particular conception of 'social justice' could be realized only in such a centrally directed system. It presupposes that people are guided by specific directions and not by rules of just individual conduct.

Indeed, no system of rules of just individual conduct, and therefore no free action of the individuals, could produce results satisfying any principle of distributive justice...In a free society in which the position of the different individuals and groups is not the result of anybody's design—or could, within such a society, be altered in accordance with a generally applicable principle—the differences in reward simply cannot meaningfully be described as just or unjust." (pp. 69-70) ...

Thanks, I'm glad I don't need to read the book    ;-)

Actually, I'm posting this mostly because a blog is a good place to store this sort of thing. And I may need it someday because the term "social justice" is heard a lot in the Catholic world. I never say nothin' but I could someday, and I think 'social justice' is a deeply wicked idea.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:05 PM

June 17, 2010

Subsidiarity in action...

If nothing else, this is sure making the case for limited government. And demolishing the crappy socialistic idea that government can take care of you. This oil spill is precisely the sort of job that is a federal responsibility. Both by statute and by the simple logic of the situation. But the feds are paralyzed by their monstrous size and complexity and by their bad philosophy...

Posted by John Weidner at 6:26 PM

June 14, 2010

She's an "across the board" conservative...

Jay Nordlinger, Sarah Palin, Forbesian:

A few days ago, I did a post in which I linked to an article about Sarah Palin. The article was published shortly after Palin was nominated for vice president. My purpose in citing the article was to say something about Palin and Israel. But I noticed something else in the article that I thought I'd bring up here.

In the 2000 presidential cycle, Palin was mayor of Wasilla. And she was formally with … whose campaign? Steve Forbes's. I think that most people think of Palin as a "social conservative," as indeed she is. But she's also a raging free-marketeer — in fact, one of the most robust, full-hearted, and full-throated proponents of a free market in American politics today.

Funny that she's so seldom described this way. Many of the "cool" Republicans disdain her. You know the type of Republican I mean: the type that wants the party to drop abortion and other icky, discomforting issues. But, if entrepreneurial capitalism's your thing, Palin is your woman, or at least someone to appreciate. She ought to have the appreciation of the entrepreneurially minded everywhere. It's just that some people can never forgive her for not aborting a Down-syndrome child. Believe me, I know such people (I'm sorry to say).

Sarah is always going to frustrate the hyphenated conservatives. She will never be pure enough for them, in her support of their particular flavor. I personally think that all the conservative issues are inter-dependent. The economy is not something you can "get right" independently of social issues, because ultimately the economy rests on billions of individual decisions. If people's souls are corrupted it will manifest in the economy.

This works the other way around, too. Our characters and souls are partly trained by economic factors. If entrepreneurism and risk-taking are held in esteem, for instance, rather than statist caution and paralysis, then people will have more boldness and courage in their personal and spiritual lives.


Posted by John Weidner at 6:31 AM

June 7, 2010

"wringing their hands and wetting their pants"

Jay Nordlinger:

...Enjoy Christie while you can, folks, because we may not see his like again soon.

I felt the same about George W. Bush on Social Security (and other issues). I had been waiting for a politician — a major politician — to grab the "third rail of American politics" and urge reform, liberalization. Bush did. And, in the campaign of 2000, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Joe Andrew, said that the Democrats would "fry" Bush on that third rail. They almost did. If Bush had kept mum about Social Security, he would have had a very clean win in Florida, I think. DUI and Social Security: That’s what helped Gore, in those final days.

Anyway, when Bush won reelection in 2004, he went for Social Security reform full-bore. He was pretty much alone. Most Republicans and conservatives sat on the sidelines, wringing their hands and wetting their pants. And then we all picked at Bush, for not pursuing reform with tactical perfection. Well, great, guys: Hope you don’t get run over by the teeming mass of politicians itching to reform Social Security...

Amen, brother Jay. I'm still disgusted at the way conservatives failed to support President Bush when he proposed one of the most conservative measures of our lifetime. And of course I'm still angry about the way affluent middle-class "liberals" attacked a reform that would help humble ordinary workers most of all--by putting some of their retirement money into the very same sort of investments that those "liberals" use themselves. That moment rolled over the rotting log and exposed EVIL, folks.

Human beings sacrificed to maintain a political system. That's the ugly reality of liberalism.

Posted by John Weidner at 11:54 AM

May 27, 2010

"Overarching them will be the divide between patriots and post-Americans"

Mark Krikorian, at The Corner:

...Notwithstanding recent events, the main political divide in the coming years is not going to be between right and left, big vs. small government, pro-life vs. pro-choice, etc. These fights will continue, of course, but overarching them will be the divide between patriots and post-Americans. Andy writes "We don't aspire to be citizens of the world. America suits us just fine." Well, post-Americans already see themselves as citizens of the world, and so there's no problem in siding with "foreign" governments against your "countrymen," because these are primitive, archaic concepts.

And we shouldn't make the mistake of assuming this divide neatly overlaps with right and left; a significant portion of the elite right, especially the libertarians and corporate people, are post-American, while a large share of the Democratic electorate, probably a majority, is still patriotic, however misguided we think they are about cap-and-trade or card-check or whatever. However, at the elite level — elected officials, foundations, big media, major donors, writers and other opinion leaders — the Democrats are openly the party of post-Americanism. This doesn't necessarily mean they're all anti-Americans like Bill Ayers or the Reverend Wright; I'd wager that very few are. Rather, they're post-American, meaning they might still like our country well enough but have moved beyond a parochial concern with its interests and people to a broader, more "enlightened" view of the world.

Among the Republican elite, on the other hand, and even more among conservatives specifically, there remains a strong patriotic strain. And this is the key to political success — framing issues to the degree possible as a defense of America's sovereignty and promotion of solidarity among Americans of all walks of life. This can be done badly, of course; Aristotle tells us that each virtue has two related vices, and it would be unhelpful to counter the Left's insufficient love of country with an excess of that sentiment on our part. But a sober, manly patriotism, one that loves our own nation without hating anyone else's, will be key to separating the Left from its voters....

The trouble is that patriotism has lost force partly because America is just too strong. We have no credible enemies, and haven't had sine the fall of the Soviet Union. 9/11 seemed impressive, and stimulated a spurt of patriotism, but since then al-Qaeda has skulked in the shadows. That's just nothing compared with real wars. Most people think of patriotism in terms of uniting against enemies, in terms of wars and armies.

But there are no more wars on Planet Earth. What we call "wars" now are just struggles and slaughters within failed states. Nation states no longer attack each other. Partly because weaponry has just grown too powerful, and partly because america doesn't let them. (It is a true statement: "No two countries, both of which have a McDonalds, have gone to war with each other.")

Patriotism tends to seem meaningless once you've "won" to the point where there is no possibility of losing. So I don't see it as a big vote winner for the future. (A similar problem afflicted Christianity once there was "Christendom." Once nobody was being thrown to the lions, the point seemed to be lost on the average unimaginative person.)

soldiers sleeping in the mud

.
Posted by John Weidner at 2:49 PM

May 14, 2010

Philosophical muddle-headedness...

This is a way of thinking that really bugs me. The example concerns religion, but the same woolly thought is seen in lots of purely secular realms of thought. (Such as politics.)...

...LONDON (RNS) A top British judge has ruled that Christian beliefs have no standing under secular law because they lack evidence and cannot be proven.

Lord Justice John Grant McKenzie Laws made the declaration on Thursday (April 29) in throwing out a defamation suit by Christian relationship counselor who refused to offer sex therapy to gay couples.

Gary McFarlane protested that he was fired because offering sex therapy to same-gender couples violates his Christian principles.

But Laws said "religious faith is necessarily subjective, being incommunicable by any kind of proof or evidence." He added that to use the law to protect "a position held purely on religious grounds cannot therefore be justified."

No religious belief, said the judge, can be protected under the law "however long its tradition, however rich its culture...

The philosophical confusion of this judge is profound. The fact is that most of the things he thinks or believes are also subjective, and can't be proven, either by natural science or formal logic. Including the proposition that things ought to be "provable!"

He's like the person who says, "I don't believe anything that can't be shown to be true by science." SO, where is the scientific "proof" that that statement itself is valid? You believe it, so it must have been shown to be true by science? Of course that proof is impossible. [Even without considering that natural science is inductive, and never proves anything.]

And he is confused in what he thinks constitutes "evidence." For instance part of the evidence for the truth of Christian faith is that large numbers of people testify that they have personally found it to be convincing and to work for them. He would doubtless reject that evidence. Yet if you asked him to give the evidence that his view of evidence is correct, he would use the exact same argument, in slightly different words.

Furthermore, everyone has a religion. That is, everyone has beliefs about life and the cosmos which they hold on faith. Secularism is a faith, because no one can prove its basic tenets. No one can prove there is no god, and no one can prove that people are, say, "better off" if they follow secularism. But I'm sure the judge thinks that his secularist faith should have "have standing under secular law." And I'm guessing he takes it on faith that the law is in fact secular. I'll bet that is not stated in English law.

And even more funny, anyone who attempts to prove that secularism works as a philosophy immediately begins to refer to moral or spiritual truths that don't come from secularism. That are usually mostly Judeo-Christian.

Actually there are no atheists. Every person who says there is no objective truth, or that morality is just whatever a particular culture says it is, has some moral evil about which they would say, "That is WRONG." And even if you pointed out that is is morally right within that culture, they would still think it wrong. Therefore they believe in objective moral truth. Self-described secularists and atheists denounce things as wrong all the time, and would not be impressed if you said that chattel slavery in the South of George Washington or Robert E. Lee was morally right and beneficial because that culture believed it to be so.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:50 AM

May 12, 2010

Frederic Bastiat nailed it...

Someone at The Corner, discussing the latest supreme Court nomination, and the way nominations now are so much about "empathy" etc., pointed to this excellent piece, The 'Unseen' Deserve Empathy, Too.

...But what about compassion and empathy? Compassion is defined as a feeling of deep sympathy for those stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering; empathy is the ability to share in another's emotions, thoughts and feelings. Hence, a compassionate judge would tend to base his or her decisions on sympathy for the unfortunate; an empathetic judge on how the people directly affected by the decision would think and feel. What could be wrong with that?

Frederic Bastiat answered that question in his famous 1850 essay, "What is Seen and What is Not Seen." There the economist and member of the French parliament pointed out that law "produces not only one effect, but a series of effects. Of these effects, the first alone is immediate; it appears simultaneously with its cause; it is seen. The other effects emerge only subsequently; they are not seen; we are fortunate if we foresee them." Bastiat further noted that "[t]here is only one difference between a bad economist and a good one: The bad economist confines himself to the visible effect; the good economist takes into account both the effect that can be seen and those effects that must be foreseen."

This observation is just as true for judges as it is for economists. As important as compassion and empathy are, one can have these feelings only for people that exist and that one knows about -- that is, for those who are "seen."

One can have compassion for workers who lose their jobs when a plant closes. They can be seen. One cannot have compassion for unknown persons in other industries who do not receive job offers when a compassionate government subsidizes an unprofitable plant. The potential employees not hired are unseen....

We see this all the time. Or, rather, it's there but we don't see it. We refuse to see it. For instance, appeasing terrorists or tyrants now may seem to bring "peace," but it kills others who are unseen because of time or space. We see and feel compassion for the poor Mexicans who come across the border, but we can't see the poor African who would like to come and can't. Nor do we see the lost possibilities when we fail to pressure Mexico towards economic reforms that might allow her people opportunities at home.

The list could go on and on...

Posted by John Weidner at 5:05 PM

May 9, 2010

Lefty bigots

I'm used to the mindless drone about conservative blacks not being "really black," etc. but this seems new to me: a politically conservative Jew isn't a Jew! Well, all I can do is spit with contempt with such idiocy, and suggest, with much better logic, that a liberal Jew isn't really a Jew.

Kevin D. Williamson:

I hate even to take notice of this sort of thing, but it is bothersome:
Along with Jonah Goldberg, one of the main guys who gets my goat is Eric Cantor. There's something unseemly about seeing fellow Jews turn into rightwingers.
Just as Clarence Thomas and Condoleezza Rice are abominated for the crime of being black and conservative, Miguel Estrada for being Hispanic and conservative, Sarah Palin for being a woman and conservative, etc. Eric Cantor is to be held in contempt because he's a conservative and a Jew. I'm no Torah scholar, it is true, so perhaps somebody could explain to me why being Jewish precludes a belief in limited government, individual rights, free enterprise, traditional morals and manners, etc.

And why shouldn't Yglesias be considered a bigot for writing this? Unseemly, indeed.
Posted by John Weidner at 9:48 PM

April 30, 2010

Awesome! Arizona Legislature Passes Bill Banning Ethnic Studies Programs

FOXNews.com - Arizona Legislature Passes Bill Banning Ethnic Studies Programs:

After making national headlines for a new law on illegal immigrants, the Arizona Legislature sent Gov. Jan Brewer a bill Thursday that would ban ethnic studies programs in the state that critics say currently advocate separatism and racial preferences. 

The bill, which passed 32-26 in the state House, had been approved by the Senate a day earlier. It now goes to Gov. Jan Brewer for her signature.

The new bill would make it illegal for a school district to teach any courses that promote the overthrow of the U.S. government, promote resentment of a particular race or class of people, are designed primarily for students of a particular ethnic group or "advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals."

The bill stipulates that courses can continue to be taught for Native American pupils in compliance with federal law and does not prohibit English as a second language classes. It also does not prohibit the teaching of the Holocaust or other cases of genocide.

Schools that fail to abide by the law would have state funds withheld...

Wow! I heartily approve.

Of course there will be a torrent of abuse and lefty protests and cries of "racism." But probably the important thing here is that the Left will be forced to defend "ethnic studies." The ground of debate is being shifted. The race-mongers never want to defend their positions in debate. they rely on the presumption that anything they support is somehow good for minorities, and and anyone who disagrees is "racist."

Posted by John Weidner at 9:49 AM

April 26, 2010

Making big bucks is fine with us...

From a good debunking of a recent article about Sarah Palin,The Commercialization of False Narratives About Palin,

...[The Left is] trying to create the narrative that Palin is a hypocrite for making a lot of money. In the eyes of the radical left, her wealth contradicts the "hockey mom" image that she has conveyed to the public.

That the left believes in this narrative shows how poorly they understand how conservatives/Republicans view wealth/money as opposed to elitism. The left is conflating wealth/money with elitism. No populist-leaning conservative/Republicans has any issue with wealth or money that is earned through the free market. Governor Palin has never criticized anyone for making too much money through the free market. In fact, one reason why conservatives and Republicans so aggressively support tax cuts for even the wealthiest Americans is that those who have excelled through the free market should not be punished for their success.

What conservatives and Republicans like Governor Palin don't support is elitism, which is the idea that someone with a particular educational background or a person who comes from a high social class is inherently graced with superior ideas and qualifications. Liberals like Sherman fail to understand the distinction between money/wealth and elitism. The former is something that conservatives and Republicans like Palin applaud. The latter is something that we denounce.

In no way is it hypocritical for Governor Palin to work hard and earn as much wealth as she has. The fact that she has become rich does not run counter to her hockey mom narrative. Why doesn't it? Because the story of Sarah Palin has never been that she's just a hockey mom....the story of Sarah Palin has always been that she's a hockey mom who has succeeded in the political and economic arena. She's an ordinary American who has accomplished extraordinary things. ...

Well, that's the old idea. "Government of the people, by the people, for the people." Elitists of all stripes and parties don't get it. Europeans don't get it. Us ordinary folk often DO get it. And we love Sarah because she embodies our dream. We don't love her for her many successes, but because she vindicates the possibility that ordinary people like ourselves can potentially accomplish great things.

Elitists instinctively hate Sarah Palin. They started attacking her on the very first day she appeared in the McCain campaign. They hated her at first sight. Why? They knew! They saw immdiately that she was a threat to the notion that superior people who read the NYT and go MOMA should run the circus.


Posted by John Weidner at 11:54 AM

April 18, 2010

"The natural constituency for the culture of dependence"

Michael Barone, Tea parties fight Obama's culture of dependence:

...And, invoking the language of the Founding Fathers, they [Tea Partiers] believe that this will destroy the culture of independence that has enabled Americans over the past two centuries to make this the most productive and prosperous -- and the most charitably generous -- nation in the world. Seeing our political divisions as a battle between the culture of dependence and the culture of independence helps to make sense of the divisions seen in the 2008 election.

Barack Obama carried voters with incomes under $50,000 and those with incomes over $200,000 and lost those with incomes in between. He won large margins from those who never graduated from high school and from those with graduate school degrees and barely exceeded 50 percent among those in between. The top-and-bottom Obama coalition was in effect a coalition of those dependent on government transfers and benefits and those in what David Brooks calls "the educated class" who administer or believe that their kind of people administer those transactions. They are the natural constituency for the culture of dependence.

Interestingly, in the Massachusetts special Senate election the purported beneficiaries of the culture of dependence -- low-income and low-education voters -- did not turn out in large numbers. In contrast, the administrators of that culture -- affluent secular professionals, public employees, university personnel -- were the one group that turned out in force and voted for the hapless Democratic candidate. The in-between people on the income and education ladders, it turns out, are a constituency for the culture of independence. ...

This is a bit of a video I took when Charlene and I were at the recent SF Tea Party. Philosophically speaking I'm not precisely a Tea Partier myself, but close enough, and it's the sort of effort we like to lend support to (among other reasons, there will never be a rally of people like me, so I take what I can get)...

Posted by John Weidner at 10:08 PM

April 7, 2010

Freeloaders...

What Am I?, By John Stossel

I used to be a Kennedy-style "liberal." Then I wised up. Now I'm a libertarian.

But what does that mean?

When I asked people on the street, half had no clue.

We know that conservatives want government to conserve traditional values. They say they're for limited government, but they're pro-drug war, pro-immigration restriction and anti-abortion, and they often support "nation-building." [I won't get into the drug war (needs its own essay) but on the other two Mr Stossel is confused. He can be "libertarian" on immigration only because he is depending on others to stem the flow. If a billion people were moving to the US next month he'd change his mind in a hurry.

And abortion SEEMS libertarian only because of a failure of vision. Suppose we put it this way: "A powerful government entity, unaccountable to voters, can declare that a particular sub-set of humanity is 'not-human,' and can now be killed with impunity. And the power of the State will protect the killers." How's that sound, Mr Libertarian?Or suppose that the Supreme Court declared that women had a "right" to kill their husbands? You're cool with that? As a libertarian, I mean? Only those stuffy conservatives will complain?]

And so-called liberals? They tend to be anti-gun and pro-choice on abortion. They favor big, powerful government -- they say -- to make life kinder for people.

By contrast, libertarians want government to leave people alone -- in both the economic and personal spheres. Leave us free to pursue our hopes and dreams, as long as we don't hurt anybody else. [What's the problem with that last phrase? The question to ask is, "Who defines 'hurt?' And who defines 'anybody else?'" One does it for oneself I assume. Suppose I define 'hurt" to not include poking Mr Stossel in the eye with my eye-poking stick? Does that make it OK to poke you, Mr Libertarian? Of course not. Stossel is in fact relying on TRADITION and RELIGION to define the terms, and not admitting it. And if the definition changes in a way that hurts HIM, he'll come begging Conservatives to help him fix things.]

Ironically, that used to be called "liberal," which has the same root as "liberty." Several hundred years ago, liberalism was a reaction against the stifling rules imposed by aristocracy and established religion.

I wish I could call myself "liberal" now. But the word has been turned on its head. It now means health police, high taxes, speech codes and so forth.

So I can't call myself a "liberal." I'm stuck with "libertarian." If you have a better word, please let me know.

I say that the real libertarian is the Christian conservative.

Why? Trouble is, freedom sometimes has to be fought for. And freedom requires morality. And those only come from something beyond libertarianism. People don't fight or sacrifice for a nothing, they fight for a positive philosophy, something bigger than the self. Something more important than ME. And libertarianism has never offered that, and never will. Libertarians are coasting on the virtues inherited from past generations, mostly Christian and Jewish. These have created a culture that is very moral and law-abiding, and so the Libertarian can just take a lot of basic decency for granted, and pretend that people will always act that way when government "leaves them alone."

Mr Stossel, I would guess that you assume that firemen will rush into a burning building to save you. Why would they do that? What Libertarian idea would cause people to act that way?

Also, there will always arise conflicts that can't be resolved by "live and let live." Before 1860 Southerners made libertarian arguments in favor of government not interfering with private property in the form of slaves. Do you agree? If not, what principle rules? Is there something bigger than libertarianism? Something that, maybe maybe maybe, you OWE allegiance to?

Libertarians are freeloading—sponging—on virtues inherited from the people who built this country, and those were Christian conservatives. (Almost every American before, say, 1950 was what we now call "conservative." The word really just means "normal American." JFK was in many ways what we think of as conservative; tax cutter, anti-communist, patriotic.)

But those virtues are in decline. You are living off a shrinking capital, and not re-investing anything. To the extant that you are really a "libertarian," you are a parasite.

Posted by John Weidner at 4:55 PM

March 17, 2010

Skewed...

Thanks to Mike Plaiss for this link, Liberals Getting a Taste of How 'Balance' Feels: Amity Shlaes - Bloomberg.com:

...March 17 (Bloomberg) -- Lack of balance is the charge being levied against the Texas State Board of Education after it inserted changes to new standards in social studies programs in public schools. The Associated Press said in an article that a "far-right faction" of the board had succeeded "in injecting conservative ideals" into the curriculum.

The Texas flap matters because Texas is so big. Publishers will revise textbooks to win the prize Texas contract. But the debate also reminds us that our current definition of balance is distorted. After all, what's wrong with "injecting conservative ideals" into a curriculum, as long as they aren't the only ideals?

At its most devilishly aggressive -- and whatever lines it inserts about church, state, hip-hop or the Alamo -- the board will not restore true balance. It will merely manage to make the curriculum a little less skewed to the left....

It is always odd how conservatives have to spend so much fizz just battling the idea that left-liberal ideas and world-views are "normal." I suspect we ought to be doing a lot more to frame the issues. Conservative ideas are normal. Actually, most of them are American ideas that when I was a boy were held by all normal people, Democrat or Republican. When was growing up nobody thought patriotism was "conservative," because everybody was patriotic, except a few Beatnik Communists.

But once leftists started to be anti-American in the 60's, they managed to frame the argument as if the people who still loved this country had moved to the right! Had become right-wingers! Stupid, but most people don't want to think anything contrary to what the TV tells them...

Posted by John Weidner at 9:30 PM

February 20, 2010

The Blue Beast...

Jim Geraghty, History Is Calling, but the Phone Keeps Ringing at 3 a.m.:

...It's not sustainable. Of course, as I said earlier this month, "unsustainable is the new normal." We're having a reckoning, but President Obama isn't all that interested in it; he wants to believe that a full, thriving economic recovery, along with rejuvenated tax revenues, is just around the corner.

I'm willing to bet that Walter Russell Mead's grocery list is full of fascinating historical allusions, but he's hit some similar notes in a few lengthy posts about what he calls "the blue beast" — a social model that defined our country for much of the last century, based upon large, stable entities — unionized oligarchies, big corporations, an ever-growing civil service, lifetime employment, etc. But that era has come to an end, and much of our political debate in the past decades is about trying to artificially extend the lifespan of the blue system by taking from the non-blue parts, or moving on to some other way of doing things:
Democratic policy is increasingly limited to one goal: feeding the blue beast. The great public-service providing institutions of our society — schools, universities, the health system, and above all government at municipal, state and federal levels — are built blue and think blue. The Democratic wing of the Democratic Party thinks its job is to make them bigger and keep them blue. Bringing the long green to Big Blue: that's what it's all about...

(There's more. I recommend reading it.)

"Based upon large, stable entities." That was the model of the Industrial Age. The reason was to have an organization that could transmit information reliably. Industrial Age organizations all worked vertically. Information was gathered at the bottom, and passed to the next layer to be organized and consolidated into reports, which were then passed up to the next layer. The retail level reported to the district, which reported to the region, which reported to headquarters, which reported to the top brass. Then instructions went back in the other direction.

In the old days the people on the sales floor might discover something important. Perhaps "Housewives are bored with pastels this Spring; they are asking for bright solid colors." But it could take a month for the news to pass up the levels. And then months for instructions to be pondered and then passed down to buyers and designers and the advertising agency. And months more before that resulted in finished goods and ads.

Today the top brass may be scanning blogs and forums, and noticing the new trends quickly. Designers can send CAD files to factories, which may be able to shift production immediately. And the factory can be anywhere. The designer might be in San Francisco, the ad agency in London, the factory in Indonesia. UPS might contract for warehousing and fulfillment. And if the company is a lively one, every part of it will be able to simply vibrate with the moods of the market, and change instantaneously if needed.

But that's only where competition forces people to move quickly. Few of us act that way naturally. In the public and quasi-public sectors of our world the Industrial Age model still prevails. And as the pubic sector has become cut-off from the spirit of the age, it has become cancerous. [link]

If you are aware of these changes you start to see them everywhere. For instance in the way David Brooks or Peggy Noonan whine about the loss of respect for elites and grand old institutions. But the "blue-blood establishment" of old was just another of those "large, stable entities." It was like GM, but the product was not cars, it was the "top brass." Its product, in the form of Ivy League grads, could be slotted into leadership positions in government, or industry, or the academy, or the press, or the "mainline" churches. Even unions! Those were all among the "large, stable entities" of the Industrial Age, and their leadership style was much the same.

One of the biggest problems of our age is to somehow transform all the public and quasi-public institutions into Information Age organizations.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:28 AM

February 11, 2010

Bar Area conservatives... hello?

Charlene and I have already RSVP'd to attend this meeting, described by Bookworm:

Are Bay Area conservatives willing to emerge from their seclusion? Bay Area Patriots ("BAP") certainly hopes so. On Sunday, March 7, 2010, in Mill Valley, California, BAP is hosting a Conservative Groupa-Palooza that BAP hopes will be the largest gathering to date of that beleaguered species: the San Francisco Bay Area conservative. BAP encourages conservative groups and individuals to attend. You can learn more about it and RSVP (for a pretty nominal fee) here.

I have a few predictions:

1. The Groupa-Palooza will be well attended.

2. The conservatives in attendance will achieve something approaching euphoria simply because they can be open about their political views.

3. There will be fringe, crackpot groups attending, such as Ron Paulians, just to name one of the less savory groups that self-affiliates with the conservative party. There will also be some Birthers who haven't yet acknowledged that the birth certificate ship has already sailed.

4. No matter how small the percentage of fringe groups in attendance, those are the only groups that will get media attention....
Posted by John Weidner at 8:04 PM

February 5, 2010

Meaningful lives...

Jay Nordlinger has a good quote from a reader...

Way back in the '70s, Ralph Nader gave a speech to students at my university in which he urged us not to go to work in corporate America after graduation because doing so would serve only to "make AT&T a little bit bigger." Instead, he challenged us to do something "more meaningful" with our lives.

I was all ready to sign up for the Peace Corps when it occurred to me that AT&T employees were doing more than just making their company a bit bigger. They were enriching lives by enabling loved ones to talk to one another. They were creating wealth by providing a fast and inexpensive way to transmit information. They were saving lives by enabling people to call fire departments and hospitals.

It then occurred to me that if all of AT&T's employees were marooned on a desert island, people throughout the world would be hurt. On the other hand, if all of the world's consumer advocates were marooned...
Posted by John Weidner at 7:40 AM

January 31, 2010

"Life is full of things which don't lend themselves to precise definition"

Macklin Horton has a very good piece on what conservatism is, Catholic and Conservative (1):

...My opponents in the disagreement documented above seem to believe that it [conservatism] is, or at least intends to be, a systematic philosophy, which makes it a rival to the Church, which in turn makes a Catholic who is also a conservative less than fully faithful to the Church because, as we all know, a man cannot serve two masters. They also insist that it fails as a system, because it is full of contradictions and inconsistencies; it is not only a rival to the Church, but an incoherent one.

I have to say that the attempt to respond to this complaint reminded me of arguing with objectivists, in that in both cases there is an insistence that certain terms must be defined with absolute precision or be dismissed as meaningless. The statement that the word "conservative" does not have a very precise meaning is taken as an admission that it has no meaning at all.

But life is full of things which don't lend themselves to precise definition, but yet exist, thereby making meaningful the words by which they are named. There are many such terms in the arts. Terms like "romantic" and "classical" cannot be defined in such a way that as to remove all doubt about whether or not any given work belongs to one of those categories, and there are others that are even more slippery—post-romantic, neo-classical, jazz. There are very few, if any, artists or individual works of art which fit perfectly into any of these categories, or which does not contain elements of both. Yet we continue to use these words because they serve a purpose in describing broad tendencies. If a critic describes one pianist's playing as more romantic than another's, everyone knows what he means; no one shouts Define your terms! And if he did, he would be laughed at, and deserve to be.

In answering the question "what sort of thing is conservatism?" these aesthetic terms provide the most useful analogy I've been able to come up with. Like them, the word "conservative" is more descriptive than prescriptive (as conservatives often note). Like them, it does not begin with a set of abstract principles. Like them, it is more understandable as a product of temperament and attitudes than as a book of rules. As Russell Kirk insisted, it is not an ideology, but rather the negation of ideology. It is a concrete human phenomenon, not an invented system. It has no necessary metaphysic, and one may be a conservative and an atheist, or a conservative and a Catholic. It is a loose alliance of people with broadly similar views about the management of worldly affairs....
Posted by John Weidner at 8:42 PM

January 26, 2010

A smidgeon of history...

Democrats' Bush-bashing strategy goes bust - Jonathan Martin - POLITICO.com:

...Running as much against the Bush White House as he was running against Sen. John McCain, Barack Obama easily carried Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts in 2008.

Yet when Democratic nominees for governor in Virginia and New Jersey and for Senate in Massachusetts sought to tie their GOP opponents to the still-unpopular former president, the strategy didn't resonate. Voters were more focused on the current administration or local political issues — and the onetime Democratic magic formula seemed yesterday's news.

"Voters are pretty tired of the blame game," said longtime Democratic strategist Steve Hildebrand, a top aide on Obama's presidential campaign. "What a stupid strategy that was."

Howard Wolfson, a senior official on Hillary Clinton's campaign and veteran Democratic communications guru, noted that his party was able to run against Republican Herbert Hoover's Depression-era presidency for 30 years....

SO, what happened 30 years after Hoover? Hmmm? Well, Conscience of a Conservative was published in 1960, and became a huge best-seller. The book was by Barry Goldwater, but actually ghostwritten by L. Brent Bozell Jr., brother-in-law of William F. Buckley. That was the moment that conservative thought began to nudge its way into the public consciosnous.

It's hard to imagine now how un-idea-ed the Republicans were in the first half of the 20th Century. I was raised by intelligent parents who read books and were conservative Republicans. They travelled, knew lots of interesting people, and ran a business that employed scores of people. We went to the library in a neighboring town because ours was not large enough. (Still odd to me was that my folks had little interest in owning books. It may have been a Depression Era thing, or because there were few bookstores around. None really; just the book sections of department stores.)

Yet the idea of reading conservative intellectuals was not something I even imagined until the 1970's.


Posted by John Weidner at 7:01 AM

January 15, 2010

Rights come from Big Brother...

One reason among many why the Massachusetts Senate race is important...

Kathryn Jean Lopez, It's a Good Thing for Martha Coakley That There Are No Catholics in Massachusetts:

During an interview today, Martha Coakley was asked about the conscience issue Catholic medical personnel encounter when it comes to a law that mandates the distribution of  emergency contraception, which sometimes works as an abortifacient. (I wrote about the details of this issue as pertain to Scott Brown and Massachusetts and Martha Coakley's misrepresentation of all of this here.)

Coakley explained that this should not be a problem because "we have a separation of church and state." "Let's be clear," the attorney general added.

The radio host, Ken Pittman, pointed out that complex legal principle that "In the emergency room you still have your religious freedom."

Coakley agrees that "The law says that people are allowed to have that." But, making clear her view — the attorney general who wants to be the next senator from Massachusetts — she declared that "You can have religious freedom, but you probably shouldn't work in an emergency room....

"The law says that people are allowed to have that." In other words, rights are given to us by the government. If you change the law, you change our "rights." I'd guess the majority of Leftists believe exactly that. Coakly doesn't seem like a person who actually thinks about such things, or even is capable of so doing; I'm sure she's just absorbed it from the kultursmog.

I assert that rights exist, not only regardless of government, but regardless of the existance of humankind. They are part of the moral law which is embedded in the fabric of the universe. They are implicit in our being made in the "image of God."

Posted by John Weidner at 7:40 AM

January 12, 2010

"a rabbi, a priest, and a toff walked into a bar..."

This is pretty funny, American Thinker: NYT & David Brooks: Intellectuals R Us:

...So Brooks starts the New Year with anger, upset that Americans are digging in their heels -- that the ruled class does "not have faith" in its superiors, "the political class generally." And when he's upset, he gets analytical. His insight for Times readers: You have all these "fringe" people, those not belonging to the "educated class" "from states like Indiana who feel that they are fighting against a bunch of rich toffs ..."

"Toffs"? "Frissons"? "Toffs"?!

In Brooksworld, in Timesworld, in a world where "hockey players like ice" is a Pulitzer-worthy insight, people may refer to "toffs," which is British for a member of the wealthy elite. But in "mediocre" -- his word -- America, very few jokes start with "a rabbi, a priest, and a toff walked into a bar..."

Brooks is upset, and when he is upset, he talks "toff." The "educated class" must stop these very average Americans who are pulling the nation in an "angry direction." Otherwise, they may throw out the most educated and enlightened leadership the nation has ever had.

Brooks asks, in a mixture of anger and wonder, What is happening to our "educated class"?

And we the people answer: Simple -- you're in for some toff times.

So hands off our frissons....
Posted by John Weidner at 10:24 PM

January 10, 2010

Cunctando regitur mundus...

This is just something I fudged up for a friend...

Sarah Palin motivator poster

I don't know who made the Palin/Reagan picture, it's just something I found on the web. So I can't give them credit...

And the "kick your ass" motto has apparently actually been used on Kern County Sheriffs cars... Here's a link to a photo. (Charlene grew up in Bakersfield, so it's kind of an in-joke with us.)

* Update: By the way, if you feel like doing something that might make a difference, donate to Scott Brown today...

Posted by John Weidner at 9:48 PM

January 1, 2010

Classiest of the lawyers...

The Weidners are fans of John Yoo. [Link] Charlene's heard him speak at Federalist Society meetings, and she says this interview is just like he is in person! Totally smart, in the same understated dead-pan-funny way.

Questions for John Yoo - NYTimes.com. I wonder if the reporter has really grasped how completely outclassed she is here...

Your new book, "Crisis and Command," is an eloquent, fact-laden history of audacious power grabs by American presidents going back to George Washington. Which president would you say most violated laws enacted by Congress?

I would say Lincoln. He sent the Army into offensive operations to try to stop the South from seceding. He didn't call Congress into special session until July 4, 1861, well after this had all happened. He basically acted on his own for three months.

Are you implicitly comparing the Civil War with the war in Iraq, in order to justify President Bush's expansion of executive power?

The idea is that the president's power grows and changes based on circumstances, and that's what the framers of the Constitution wanted. They wanted it to exist so the president could react to crises immediately.

Do you regret writing the so-called torture memos, which claimed that President Bush was legally entitled to ignore laws prohibiting torture?

No, I had to write them. It was my job. As a lawyer, I had a client. The client needed a legal question answered.

When you say you had "a client," do you mean President Bush?

Yes, I mean the president, but also the U.S. government as a whole....

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Lincoln of course trampled the hell out of "civil liberties," and quite properly so. [Link, link] It needed to be done, and he did it.

And speaking of Lincoln, this is a slam bang story. And this too.

And here's my favorite (for oddness) Civil War image. Colonels Kit Carson and Lafayette Baker! Baker did a lot of Lincoln's dirty work, such as kidnapping and imprisoning suspected Confederate agents in the then equivalent of Gitmo, Old Capitol Prison. Popularly known as "Baker's Bastille." [Link]


Posted by John Weidner at 5:47 PM

December 26, 2009

Awesomely awesome, if true!

My opinion of Canadians is not terribly high. I suspect that the men of Vimy are gone for good. But this piece is at least a small counter-indicator... Jonathan Kay on the triumph of conservative values in Canada: This is how we got our country back:

...It's odd being a Canadian conservative these days. Because the Liberals were in power for so long, and because Stephen Harper still doesn't have a majority, we spend our days in silent fear that all the Tories' reforms comprise a kind of mirage - that we'll wake up tomorrow with the Liberals back to power, and everything reversed in an instant. Most of us haven't allowed ourselves to sit back and appreciate the very real changes that have taken place since Jean Chrétien left the stage.

My big idea as the decade comes to an end ... well, it's more of a commendation: Take a bow, Canadian conservatives. You got your country back.

The roll of honour starts, of course, with Stephen Harper. I wrote a column five years ago arguing that Harper was too cranky to lead Canada's conservative movement. (Scott Brison, I argued in a separate piece, was the man for the job. This explains why I don't write about politics much.) Which is to say, I massively underestimated our current prime minister — just as everyone else did.

We can argue all day about the extent of Harper's fidelity to small-c conservative values. But overall, he provided the conservative movement with something absolutely indispensable: ruthless professionalism. Without that, nothing else matters. As the Reform Party demonstrated, voters can smell amateurism.

The supporting-actor award goes to Jason Kenney. If you told me 10 years ago that a religious, unapologetic, hardcore conservative like our current Citizenship Minister would have a prominent role in government, I wouldn't have believed you. But there he is, doing his thing. And in today's Canada, he gets away with it.

Last month, Kenney released a new citizenship guide for immigrants — a document that symbolizes, more than anything else, how much Ottawa has changed over the last decade. It contained this line: "Canada's openness and generosity do not extend to barbaric cultural practices that tolerate spousal abuse, 'honour killings,' female genital mutilation or other gender-based violence. Those guilty of these crimes are severely punished under Canada's criminal laws."...
Posted by John Weidner at 1:31 PM

December 24, 2009

"American blood is not worth more than the blood of others..."

The liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world, it is God's gift to humanity.
-- President George W Bush, 2004

The Most Neo-Con Movie Ever Made - Forbes.com:

...James Cameron's new sci-fi film Avatar is exhilarating fun in the darkest days at the end of a depressing year, but it also says quite a lot, in an inchoate, American way, about the cultural moment. You should see it especially if you are "right of center" or conservative. Forget the sneering reviews--this is the most neo-con movie of 2009, or perhaps ever, because it illustrates, rather than argues, the point we neo-cons made in Iraq: that American blood is not worth more than the blood of others, and that others' freedom is not worth less than American freedom.

How universal are the values we Americans cherish? Avatar says they are completely universal--extending to another planet called Pandora. What is the responsibility of an American and how far does it reach? Avatar says, again, across the universe. Are we all brothers and sisters under the skin? Avatar answers yes, in the most concrete way, when protagonist Jake Sully decides to enter his Na'vi body permanently and stay on Pandora rather than returning to Earth...

I think there's a lot of truth in this. On the surface of course it is full of horrid wicked ideas. Pantheism, obviously, which is a spiritual toxin. Fluff-brained Hollywood Rousseauism (the movie's a sort of Pocahontus with blue redskins), anti-Americanism, blah blah blah...

But it may be, that, on a deeper level, it says something quite the opposite. A rebuke to the fake-liberals and fake-pacifists who think that Arabs and Afghans and Iranians are just sand-niggers who are incapable of enjoying freedom and democracy, and should be left under the heels of tyrants, so the rest of us need not be bothered with them. (Or worse, with the idea that there's anything worth fighting for.)

...Like the election of a black man as president of the United States, and like its great precursor Bladerunner, Avatar presents a physical answer to a philosophical question. Barack Obama's election was seen by many, both Democrat and Republican, as a way of bringing the American conflict over race to an end. (Of course it couldn't do this, no matter what you think of Obama--and I think very little.) Bladerunner was an attempt to cover some of the same ground, asking who is human in the context of an "ersatz" race hounded by bounty hunters...

....Avatar is actually both pro- and anti-military, but in an insider's way. Even the scenes that raise some reviewers' hackles as the most gooey, where the Na'vi gather in circles around a sacred tree and plug their braids into its roots, read to me as a metaphor for the networked military. Speaking of which, Avatar gets the look and mood of military environments just right. Everything from the unapologetically claustrophobic space travel and Avatar-driving pods to the laconically witty banter rings true to what I've seen on five embeds in Afghanistan and various bases here....
Posted by John Weidner at 1:25 PM

December 15, 2009

I've written off Canada, but there's hope for Australia...

Adam Brickley, at the Weekly Standard Blog...

It turns out that insurgent, populist Conservatives are scoring victories Down Under as well as in America -- and Tea Partiers and Palinistas here in the States would do well to watch conservative Aussie leader Tony Abbott very closely.

Abbott became leader of the right-wing Liberal party two weeks ago after the party's parliamentary representatives turfed ex-leader Malcolm Turnbull in the wake of Climategate. Turnbull had announced that the party would support Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's cap-and-trade legislation, causing a rebellion in his caucus, and he was tossed in favor of Abbott -- a right winger and climate change skeptic.

The media labeled Abbott's elevation a disaster. After all, they said, the public was fully behind Rudd's climate schemes -- and a blunt-talking "extremist" like Abbott would force moderates out of the Liberal party and cause the vote to collapse. Turnbull supposedly proved them right by "going rogue," posting a blog that labelled Abbott's climate stands "bulls**t". He further declared that any future Liberal climate plan would be "a con."

Abbott's goose was cooked before he even found his feet.

Or was it? Polls last week showed that 23 percent of Australians think Abbott would be a better Prime Minister than Rudd -- 9 percent higher than Turnbull's dismal 14 percent showing the previous week -- and the Liberal party has picked up 4 percent in general election polls. Today, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports the Abbott is trying to reclaim the working-class voters who put Liberal John Howard in the Prime Minister's office and then deserted him to install Rudd -- and he has the message to do it....
Posted by John Weidner at 6:52 AM

December 11, 2009

"Totalitarian in the strict sense"

From a talk by Fr. Michael Sweeney, O.P., President of the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, Expressing the Good

...A second example: That everyone should have access to health care would seem to be –and is– a very good thing. However, we must keep in mind that universal health care is not a good, but an ideal. Therefore, there has been little discernment of why it is a good thing, and little clarity concerning what we are attempting to achieve. There is no consensus concerning what we might mean by "universal" (should the health of all children be included, even those of illegal immigrants?) and no consensus concerning what we might mean by "health" (does health involve access to abortion?).

The role of government is regarded as one that proposes new social possibilities –posits ideals– and therefore the government has the task of legislating the ends, along with the means to fulfilling the ends. Therefore there is an urgency that "universal" and "health" must not be too closely defined; they must have the character of an ideal that we are striving for, so that everyone remains free to insert his or her private notions, founded upon previous social constructions, of what that ideal might look like in realization.

I do not suggest that government is bent upon tyranny or that those who govern are not attempting to seek good things; I do suggest that, willy-nilly, this process is totalitarian in the strict sense, in that it must relativize the particular communities that were once subsidiary societies –families and churches, for example– in order to create consensus around an ideal. I do hold that a totalitarian state is one that admits of no subsidiary societies, and that a government that presumes to define what is a family is precisely totalitarian....

I think that the way Catholic opposition to the healthcare bills has focused on abortion is a grievous mistake. Abortion is just one particular outcome of the much deeper problem of letting government define and control ever-increasing amounts of what we do and what we are. Tomorrow abortion may go out of fashion, and government-controlled health-care may be implanting genes to make us more healthy and..... cooperative. Or the court may decide that our "right to privacy" lets us kill red-headed stepchildren. Or any number of helpful things, with "helpful" decided not by us, but by the the "helping bureaucracies." Or the popular fad of the moment.

I'd guess that if the Founding Fathers had dreamed that in the future people would be re-defining morality by whim, or re-defining who is human and who is not, they would have instantly and firmly enshrined in the Constitution traditional Judeo-Christian moral beliefs. All of them in fact just assumed that those beliefs would continue as part of normal culture, even if individuals did not have any Christian faith.

Posted by John Weidner at 11:40 AM

December 9, 2009

"Exchanging real for fake emotion"

I highly recommend a new piece by Roger Scruton in The American Spectator, Totalitarian Sentimentality:

...As the state takes charge of our needs, and relieves people of the burdens that should rightly be theirs -- the burdens that come from charity and neighborliness -- serious feeling retreats. In place of it comes an aggressive sentimentality that seeks to dominate the public square. I call this sentimentality "totalitarian" since -- like totalitarian government -- it seeks out opposition and carefully extinguishes it, in all the places where opposition might form. Its goal is to "solve" our social problems, by imposing burdens on responsible citizens, and lifting burdens from the "victims," who have a "right" to state support.

The result is to replace old social problems, which might have been relieved by private charity, with the new and intransigent problems fostered by the state: for example, mass illegitimacy, the decline of the indigenous birthrate, and the emergence of the gang culture among the fatherless youth. We have seen this everywhere in Europe, whose situation is made worse by the pressure of mass immigration, subsidized by the state. The citizens whose taxes pay for the flood of incoming "victims" cannot protest, since the sentimentalists have succeeded in passing "hate speech" laws and in inventing crimes like "Islamophobia" which place their actions beyond discussion. This is just one example of a legislative tendency that can be observed in every area of social life: family, school, sexual relations, social initiatives, even the military -- all are being deprived of their authority and brought under the control of the "soft power" that rules from above.

This is how we should understand the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to President Obama. To his credit he has made clear that he does not deserve it -- though I assume he deserves it every bit as much as Al Gore. The prize is an endorsement from the European elite, a sigh of collective relief that America has at last taken the decisive step toward the modern consensus, by exchanging real for fake emotion, hard power for soft power, and truth for lies. What matters in Europe is the great fiction that things will stay in place forever, that peace will be permanent and society stable, just so long as everybody is "nice." Under President Bush (who was, of course, no exemplary president, and certainly not nice) America maintained its old image, of national self-confidence and belligerent assertion of the right to be successful. Bush was the voice of a property-owning democracy, in which hard work and family values still achieved a public endorsement. As a result he was hated by the European elites, and hated all the more because Europe needs America and knows that, without America, it will die. Obama is welcomed as a savior: the American president for whom the Europeans have been hoping -- the one who will rescue them from the truth.

How America itself will respond to this, however, remains doubtful. I suspect, from my neighbors in rural Virginia, that totalitarian sentimentality has no great appeal to them, and that they will be prepared to resist a government that seeks to destroy their savings and their social capital, for the sake of a compassion that it does not really feel.

Posted by John Weidner at 9:23 AM

December 2, 2009

I'm not a big David Frum fan,

...But he's right on this

Obama Passed His Test, Now Republicans Face Ours:

...Having urged the president to honor his commitment to the Afghan war, we Republicans must honor our commitment to support him as he fights it. Given the public unenthusiasm for the conflict, there will be political temptations to "go rogue" on the president, if not now, then in the summer of 2010. That will be our test, for us to pass as the president has passed his. I know many Republicans and conservatives will say: "Hey — the Democrats did not give President Bush support when he most needed it." Correct. They didn't. And the country suffered for it. The right way to react to that dereliction of duty is not by emulating it, but by repudiating it. "For it before I was against it" has deservedly become an epithet for shameful wavering. Let's not inflict it upon ourselves.

Politics would not be politics if Republicans did not exact some price for their support. For sure Republican leaders are entitled to close consultation on war policy and the larger national security strategy — and to more attention and respect generally than they have received from this administration to date, and not only Senate leaders, but House leaders too.

At the same time, demanding an extortionate price for support is tantamount to withdrawing support....
There have been few more beastly things in the last decade than the way Leftists have referred to "Bush's War." Congress sent our forces into battle, and that makes the struggle America's war. And while constructive criticism is aways acceptable, no American has the right to stand aside and sneer as if the struggle has nothing to do with them. And no, you don't get off the hook by pretending to be a "pacifist" or a Quaker or a Buddhist or an "artist," or whatever trendy cover for nihilism is going around. Our troops are fighting for all of us, and they deserve warm-hearted support and love. Not ice-hearted sneers.

(And yes, I noted the Frumskyian snark about "going rogue." Stupid, since Governor Palin is obviously on the same wave-length as Frum on this. He should be a man and thank her.)

Posted by John Weidner at 8:39 AM

November 5, 2009

Thanks again, Sarah...

NRSC Won't Spend Money In Contested Primaries:

...On the heels of the NY-23 special House election, in which Conservative Party insurgent Doug Hoffman overtook moderate GOP nominee Dede Scozzafava, only to lose to Democrat Bill Owens, NRSC chairman John Cornyn (R-TX) has announced that the GOP's national Senate committee will not be spending money in contested primaries.

"There's no incentive for us to weigh in," Cornyn told ABC News. "We have to look at our resources."

This could have huge ramifications in the Florida Senate race, where moderate Gov. Charlie Crist has been endorsed by the NRSC, and faces the more conservative former state House Speaker Marco Rubio. Crist has already emerged as a new top target for the same right-wing activists who went after Scozzafava....

Us "right-wing activists" just want to have a fair debate. The NRSC has no business "anointing" candidates, and giving them our money. The purpose of primaries is to let the people decide. Of course it makes short-term tactical sense to agree on a candidate without the bloodshed of a primary battle. But in the long run it's a mistake, and leads to the Scozzafava Effect....

Posted by John Weidner at 9:35 AM

November 1, 2009

Life rarely arranges such pellucid political object lessons..

Dr. Weevil, on DeDe Scozzafava endorsing the Dem...

... Now that she's withdrawn and endorsed the Democratic candidate, can the Republican Party ask for their $900,000 back? Can individuals who contributed to her under the impression that she was a Republican ask for their money back?...

My opinion is that 900k is dirt cheap for a show-and-tell like this. Right now millions of Americans are feeling like the tongue-tied person who finally finds the needed word or phrase.

Maybe: Naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurret.

Posted by John Weidner at 1:50 PM

Conventional Wisdom self-destructs...

Jonah Goldberg:

I'm writing about this for my USA Today column, but the Frank Rich hissy fit is a perfect example of the real story of the election. The story is not that the GOP is self-destructing, it is that the conventional wisdom is being shown to be ludicrous. For some time now Frank Rich, Sam Tanenhaus and countless others (including David Frum) have been arguing that the GOP is a rump party and the only way for it to survive is for it to embrace me-too Republicanism of one flavor or another.

The story of all three major races (VA, NJ, and NY-23) is that this conventional wisdom was incandescently wrong and ill-advised. Hoffman and McDonnell owe their success to the support of independents (the independents all of these people said wanted moderate, Democrat-lite policies) and to Republicans determined to stay true to conservative principles. Not only was the conventional wisdom wrong, the idea that there's a "civil war" with the GOP revolving around this argument is nonsense. The GOP is an unapologetically conservative party, providing a choice not an echo, and — horror of horrors — it's working.

My own belief is that the Republican and conservative revolution that began with Goldwater and Reagan is far from running out of steam. One problem is that being conservative (or orthodox Christian or Jewish) is that in our culture you have to swim against the current all the time. You have to be counter-cultural. And most people just don't have the energy for that. So things go in fits and starts, with lots of slipping backwards.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:43 AM

October 28, 2009

I'm starting to like this guy Latimer...

Matt Latimer, Running Away From Rush — The Daily Beast:

...Time and again during the Bush administration, folks on talk radio warned the White House and Congress about grassroots discontent over a divisive immigration bill, would-be Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers, and the administration's spending sprees. GOP leaders didn't listen. They should have. Conservatives abandoned the party in droves. (Of course, there are limits to talk radio's influence on the grassroots. Just last year, Rush advised listeners that John McCain would be a disaster for the Republican Party if he was the nominee. He came just short of endorsing practically anyone else—Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson, none of the above. Listeners decided differently. That didn't mean Rush was wrong.

As an eyewitness to the final days of the Bush administration, I can report with assurance that the absolutely last people the powers that be listened to were conservative activists on radio and TV. If Chief of Staff Josh Bolten happened to catch Rush or Laura, it likely was only on his way to finding NPR. And Condi Rice wouldn't take her marching orders from Glenn Beck if he renamed his program The Glenn and Condi Variety Hour and let her play piano concertos between segments. Meanwhile, talk radio's remaining White House hero, Vice President Dick Cheney, was all but gagged and tied to railroad tracks while Bolten, Rice, and others did their impersonations of Snidley Whiplash waiting for a train to arrive.

It is true that White House communicators, led by clever sorts such as Karl Rove, cared about their relationships with talk radio and cable news. But as the controllers, not the controlled. Like savvy publicists stuck pitching a mediocre movie, Team Rove furnished select talkers with extravagant perks (tickets to special events, invitations to exclusive dinners, close-hold meetings with the president) to get favorable reviews. When that didn't work, they'd use another old publicist trick of threatening to deny access to Bush, Cheney, or various other administration "stars."

Some of the more popular talkers, like Rush, were too powerful for them to intimidate. (Rush being our equivalent of Tom Hanks.) But the approach worked on others....
Posted by John Weidner at 6:57 PM

October 23, 2009

Succisa viresci...

Dr Zero, on Palin's endorsement of Hoffman, Rogue Stars Rising:

...It pains me to say this about Gingrich. He accomplished some amazing things, in the mid-90s. He's a smart man who has offered some interesting ideas, in his second life as a conservative intellectual. The problem is that Newt is a political tactician, and in the final stages of a losing war against collectivist ruin, the time has come to focus on grand strategy, rather than tactics. The second decade of this century will be an existential war for the American soul, not a police action.

Gingrich is always thinking about the tactics of the moment, trying to win on points that will never be awarded fairly. He spent far too much of his time as Speaker of the House shouting in vain for media referees to throw penalty flags that remained stuffed in their pockets. Meanwhile, the political battlefront has shifted into the fatal terrain of essential liberties and economic freedom. This is the time for courage, conviction, and bold action… not whining about "big tents," while pushing a product of the Pataki machine with a Margaret Sanger award dangling around her neck. A Republican party that embraces Scozzafava over Hoffman isn't a "tent." It's not even a lean-to.

The most urgent task for conservatives is building a logical, consistent vision to place before the voters. They're looking for a comprehensive explanation of why Democrat policies are wrong. They can see Obama's failures all around them, but in the absence of a compelling narrative from the opposition party, they're likely to conclude those failures were inevitable, and learn to accept them....

The Culture War is the only war. Everything else is just surface-froth generated by leviathans grappling in deep waters, where we can hardly perceive them......

Posted by John Weidner at 9:42 AM

October 22, 2009

"Political parties must stand for something."

Fascinatin' to me. Sarah Palin has endorsed Hoffman, for NY 23. Good move. [Link] I'm a moderately "big tent" guy myself, but this one's ridiculous. I get calls from the RNC asking for donations, and they sound like an organization that's, as who should say, conservative. If they are giving my money to Dede Scozzafava, that that's just a lie.

...Our nation is at a crossroads, and this is once again a "time for choosing."

The federal government borrows, spends, and prints too much money, while our national debt hits a record high. Government is growing while the private sector is shrinking, and unemployment is on the rise. Doug Hoffman is committed to ending the reckless spending in Washington, D.C. and the massive increase in the size and scope of the federal government. He is also fully committed to supporting our men and women in uniform as they seek to honorably complete their missions overseas.

And best of all, Doug Hoffman has not been anointed by any political machine.

Doug Hoffman stands for the principles that all Republicans should share: smaller government, lower taxes, strong national defense, and a commitment to individual liberty.

Political parties must stand for something. When Republicans were in the wilderness in the late 1970s, Ronald Reagan knew that the doctrine of "blurring the lines" between parties was not an appropriate way to win elections. Unfortunately, the Republican Party today has decided to choose a candidate that more than blurs the lines, and there is no real difference between the Democrat and the Republican in this race. This is why Doug Hoffman is running on the Conservative Party's ticket.

Republicans and conservatives around the country are sending an important message to the Republican establishment in their outstanding grassroots support for Doug Hoffman: no more politics as usual.

You can help Doug by visiting his official website below and joining me in supporting his campaign: http://www.doughoffmanforcongress.com/donate3.html

As Marc Steyn put it:

Newt really needs to re-think his support for Dede Scozzafava. This isn't RINO but DIABLO - Democrat In All But Label Only...
Posted by John Weidner at 10:12 PM

October 14, 2009

Sixties rubbish crashing and burning...

Andy McCarthy on the accusations of racism against Rush Limbaugh:

...In the 1970s, I went to a highly integrated, all-boys high school (Cardinal Hayes) in the Bronx. It was one of the best experiences in my life, and I had great friendships with all manner of guys, because from the first day they treated us like we were all "Hayesmen" — not white guys, black guys, Spanish guys, Chinese guys, etc. We were encouraged to see each other as peers, not tribesmen. Of course there was intra-group affinity along ethnic and racial lines — there always is. But there wasn't a lot of tension. There was some — again, there always is — but there was no special treatment and no pressure for enforced separateness. We laughed at each other's expense (ethnic and racial jokes were not cause for banishment from society back then) and competed on a level playing field of merit. Everyone was treated like he belonged, if you did something good it was yours, and if you screwed up it was on you, not your heritage.

That's how Rush treats people — in the Martin Luther King aspiration that the content of one's character is what matters, not the color of one's skin. Yet, in the media narrative, he's somehow the one who's got a race issue — and the guys who trade on race, live and breathe it 24/7, are held up as our public conscience. The Left calls this "progress." I call it perversion.

There's only one way this nonsense ever goes away: When we say "enough!" and tell the race-baiters their time is up. It's too much of an industry, so it probably won't happen tomorrow. But the Sixties ideal is crashing and burning before our very eyes, and I think it'll take a lot of its warped obsessions down with it.

I keep hoping that Lefty race-baiting will reach some sort of tipping point, and people will wise up.

I often feel like pointing out to some of the African-Americans I encounter in our parish (don't worry, I never say nuthin') that if liberal Democrats really cared about black Americans, they would have made sure the first black presidential candidate was rock-solid. Experienced, competent, wise.

Of course if that were the criterion, the first black president would almost certainly be a Republican...

Posted by John Weidner at 5:34 PM

September 24, 2009

Subsidiarity. Something all conservatives should be for...

From a column by Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis...

....Reading the commentaries of my brother bishops, I realized that I did not mention another essential Catholic principle that should have been included in my last column: subsidiarity, which posits that health care ought to be determined, administered and coordinated at the lowest level of society whenever possible.

In other words, those intermediary communities and associations that exist between the federal government and the individual must be strengthened and given greater control over policies and practices rather than being given less and less control. [have this sentence tattooed on your arm.]

To usurp this "hierarchy of communities" is terribly damaging in the long run, both to society as a whole and the individual citizen (See Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1883, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, No. 185 ff).

Papal insights

Two quotes from Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI are instructive in this regard:

Pope John Paul II has written:
"By intervening directly and depriving society of its responsibility, the Social Assistance State leads to a loss of human energies and an inordinate increase of public agencies, which are dominated more by bureaucratic ways of thinking than by concern for serving their clients, and which are accompanied by an enormous increase in spending" (Pope John Paul II, "Centesimus Annus," No. 48).
Pope Benedict writes:
"The State which would provide everything, [That sounds familiar somehow] absorbing everything into itself, would ultimately become a mere bureaucracy incapable of guaranteeing the very thing which the suffering person — every person — needs: namely, loving personal concern. We do not need a State which regulates and controls everything, but a State which, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, generously acknowledges and supports initiatives arising from the different social forces and combines spontaneity with closeness to those in need . . . . In the end, the claim that just social structures would make works of charity superfluous masks a materialist conception of man: the mistaken notion that man can live ‘by bread alone’ (Mt 4:4; cf. Dt 8:3) — a conviction that demeans man and ultimately disregards all that is specifically human" (Pope Benedict XVI, "Deus Caritas Est," No. 28).
To neglect the principle of subsidiarity inevitably leads to the excessive centralization of human services, which leads to higher costs, less personal responsibility for the individual and a lower quality of care...

Leftism always tends toward increasing the power of the state, and decreasing that of individuals, families, communities churches, and organizations of mutual benefit. In this, and in many other things, Leftism is profoundly anti-Christian. (Also anti-American) It is materialism, it is living by bread alone.

A Christian (or conservative) health care plan would put power into the hands of individuals and families. How to do that? Easy. Put the money in their hands, and let them choose how to best spend it. Then health care organizations and providers would bend their efforts to serving the people, the same way businesses work tirelessly to satisfy and keep customers. (Here are examples. Link. Link]

But that's what you will never see in a Leftist health-care proposal. Instead you get thousands of pages of rules and laws and fines and criminal penalties. And that's just the laws themselves. Those are always supplemented by the regulations. They will end up being tens-of-thousands of pages of the CFR. Just as with the tax laws and regs, no one will know them all, so everyone will be a criminal in having violated some regulation they've never heard of. Which is precisely the point.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:09 PM

September 15, 2009

This kind of faux-objective* snippiness sure angers me...

*I call this style "faux-objective" because the terms of the debate are always Leftish. For instance, "bi-partisanship" never means Democrats seriously considering Republican ideas such as CDHC's, or tort reform. And "even-handed" debate on climate change starts with assuming that the theory of anthropogenic Global Warming is settled science (it's not) and then even-handedly debating how much more power to give to leftists to get rid of Capitalism and surplus human beings.

The Palin Republicans - John Parisella - Macleans.ca:

...Ever since Obama's inauguration, the Republicans have struggled to gain any traction as a viable alternative. [Actually that's normal in American politics. Dems were just a "party of protest" during the Bush years.] Since then, Obama's approval numbers have gone down sharply, but the Republicans have not benefited in any noticeable way. [Sure they have, but it takes an election to make this manifest.] Last week's silly outburst by Joe Wilson, a Republican from South Carolina, may have made him a hero to Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and the rest of the lunatic right. But it did little to make his party seem like legitimate counterweight to the Democrats. [Maybe in the Maclean's newsroom it doesn't. But you don't vote here.]

Similarly, this Saturday's Tea Party protests seem grassroots enough, but the rhetoric emerging from its spokespersons leaves the impression that the Republican party is now just a party of protest. It is no longer playing the role of the guardian of conservatism. Consider, for instance, how Sarah Palin's false [You Canadians frequently send premature babies to the US for care because bureaucrats decided not to spend on facilities to save their (worthless) little lives. Your whole medical system is a @#$%&* Death Panel! ] charges of death panels did little other than derail [start] a legitimate debate on health care reform. [In July Obama was insisting that the bill MUST be passed before August. And you accuse Sarah of derailing debate?] As a result, the battle over health care is now an intra-party contest within the Democratic party. [95% (at least) of Republicans DON'T WANT government health care. We don't have ANY responsibility to debate this issue. Zero. None. Nada.]
What is astonishing is how the Republican leadership seems oblivious to all this. It is now obvious the Democrats have given [they never really tried]up on getting any bipartisan support regarding healthcare reform [SO, how much space has Maclean's given to reporting on Republican health-care proposals and bills, Mr Bi-Partisan? Yeah, I thought so. Frauds.] or on climate change legislation. [Your definition of "bi-partisan" is that Republicans must support Left-wing policies they hate. I've been hearing that malarky from "journalists" all my life.] You would expect more support from the GOP on the economy considering that many of the initiatives were started by George Bush, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, and Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben Bernanke, a Republican nominee. Same goes for Sonia Sotomayor's nomination to the Supreme Court. Even John McCain, a moderate Republican and the co-author of an immigration reform bill with Ted Kennedy, voted against her. Sotomayor was not a controversial choice [Assuming that you believe that people should be judged differently depending on skin color] and represented an opportunity for the GOP to make inroads with Hispanics. On health care, according to many observers, some of the GOP's ideas will make their way into the final package and there is a real possibility that the dreaded public option will be dropped. At the end of the day, the image conveyed at Obama's speech last week was that of a bunch of grumpy white men [Republicans are ALWAYS portrayed as grumpy white men. Condi Rice and Clarence Thomas are grumpy white men.] sitting on their hands and contributing very little to the debate. [The image conveyed to me was Obama's desperation. Mr Journalist somehow didn't notice this.]

Is it too late for the Republicans? No, not if the Senate Finance committee comes up with a proposal that has potential to garner some bipartisan support down the road. [This guy is SO blinkered. He just assumes that political success means going along with death-panel liberalism. And if Republicans crush the Dems in 2010...which is becoming a real possibility...he WON'T LEARN! He'll just write another article on how Republicans must now start moderating their positions and accommodating to the Culture of Death.] Still, Sarah Palin's missive I referenced above has come to symbolize the shallow, oppose-at-all-costs approach to public policy that has dominated the public discourse since last January. Quite frankly, Palin energizes a base that talk radio hosts like Limbaugh and Beck use to exploit fear and misinformation. Even McCain, who keeps defending Palin, sometimes with apparent discomfort, contradicts her view on the death panels. And yet, Palin leads many polls for the 2012 Republican nomination and will draw huge crowds once she hits the speech circuit this fall—this, despite how pathetic she was in interviews with Katie Couric of CBS and Charles Gibson of ABC when tasked with explaining policy. [CLING to that hope.] As long as her views drive the debate away from any reasonable proposals coming from Republicans in Congress, [Republicans have made MANY proposals. Why don't you report on them, Mr Fake-journalist?] the GOP will remain marginal in the debate over any policy direction...

* Update: Funny how so many Lefty pundits are writing with concern and sympathy about the imminent demise of Republicans and conservatives...... unless...... and somehow it is always the same unless...... unless we get rid of PALIN! Perhaps it is too negative of me to suspect that perhaps these kind and helpful creatures are not being quite sincere? To suspect they may be urging us to do the opposite of what frightens them? I guess such thoughts mean I'm just a Republican hate-monger.

Posted by John Weidner at 11:03 AM

September 12, 2009

Solvitur ambulando...

Wilfrid Ward, in Witnesses to the Unseen, 1894...

...and while the intellect, when moving in mere speculation, and as a spectator of the riddle of life, tends to lose itself, to become morbid and paralyzed, and reach no conclusion, we are reminded with equal power of the light shed by a living practical faith, which brings us into the action of life, and gives knowledge and experience which cannot be translated into language intelligible to purely passive speculation, any more than the glow of the hunting field or the wild excitement of the field of battle can be known by those who have always lived an inactive life.

To this extent faith is its own evidence, and establishes itself by a solvitur ambulando. The doubt is seen by him who has shaken it off to have been in great part the result of hesitation and inaction, due to the absence of perceptions which action alone can supply; and faith justifies itself to the mind which is aroused from undue passivity.

Faith sees further and more truly, just as the confident rider sees clearly, and acts promptly, and clears the fence successfully, while the man who hesitates fails to see with precision, and fails in gaining the additional experience and perception which prompt action on that first rapid vision would have brought. The whole being moves together, and sight, action, experience, and knowledge are inseparably linked. Hopefulness, promptness, decision, affect mental perception as well as moral action...
Posted by John Weidner at 8:50 PM

August 23, 2009

The challenge is to educate...

Doctor Zero on Charles Krauthammer's absurd statement that Sarah should "leave the room" while the experts debate...

...Every political movement needs both academic intelligence, and vital charisma. The Left has always viewed the relationship between its intellectuals and politicians as something like the production and marketing departments in a business – and when it comes to accumulating power, socialists are all business. People like Saul Alinsky and Bill Ayers spent decades weaving the strings that control the Obama marionette. They openly wrote of their understanding that savvy merchandising would be needed to make the public accept their agenda, at least until the public no longer has a meaningful choice about accepting it. When was the last time you heard a leftist intellectual belittle a popular liberal politician, the way Charles Krauthammer treated Sarah Palin?

The challenge for conservatism is to educate the voters in its basic principles, since they received no such education in the public schools. Conservatism always triumphs on the elementary questions of freedom and capitalism. The ideas of the Left are diseased in root and branch — history has shown there is no need to allow them to blossom, in order to see they are poisonous. Conservatives who allow themselves to be dragged into bickering about page 945 of a 1200-page bill have already conceded far too much of the debate. Americans deserve better than being told to sit down and shut up, while Washington plays Jenga with Obama's obscene health-care proposals. They should be angry and insulted their time and money were ever wasted with this madness....
Posted by John Weidner at 2:12 PM

August 18, 2009

"If we cross this bridge, there's no going back"

Mark Steyn:

Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death Panels 
...but you can't have both. On the matter of McCarthy vs the Editors, I'm with Andy. I think Sarah Palin's "death panel" coinage clarified the stakes and resonated in a way that "rationing" and other lingo never quite did. She launched it, and she made it stick. So it was politically effective.

But I'm also with Mrs. Palin on the substance. NR's editorial defines "death panel" too narrowly. What matters is the concept of a government "panel." Right now, if I want a hip replacement, it's between me and my doctor; the government does not have a seat at the table. The minute it does, my hip's needs are subordinate to national hip policy, which in turn is subordinate to macro budgetary considerations. For example:
Health trusts in Suffolk were among the first to announce that obese people would be denied hip and knee replacements on the NHS. The ruling was part of an attempt to save money locally.
The operative word here is "ruling." You know, like judges. You're accepting that the state has jurisdiction over your hip, and your knee, and your prostate and everything else. And once you accept that proposition the fellows who get to make the "ruling" are, ultimately, a death panel. Usually, they call it something nicer — literally, like Britain's National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE).

And finally I don't think this is any time for NR to be joining the Frumsters and deploring the halfwit vulgarity of déclassé immoderates like Palin. This is a big-stakes battle: If we cross this bridge, there's no going back. Being "moderate" is not a good strategy. It risks delivering the nation to the usual reach-across-the-aisle compromise that will get Democrats far enough across the bridge that the Big Government ratchet effect will do the rest....
Posted by John Weidner at 11:33 AM

August 7, 2009

Peggy Noonan gets a clue

Peggy Noonan: 'You Are Terrifying Us' - WSJ.com:

...And so the shock on the faces of Congressmen who’ve faced the grillings back home. And really, their shock is the first thing you see in the videos. They had no idea how people were feeling. Their 2008 win left them thinking an election that had been shaped by anti-Bush, anti-Republican, and pro-change feeling was really a mandate without context; they thought that in the middle of a historic recession featuring horrific deficits, they could assume support for the invention of a huge new entitlement carrying huge new costs....

It's pretty funny to see Peggy playing the wise pundit explaining what's going on. She up to now has had no more idea what ordinary people are thinking than anyone else in Manhattan. The 2008 win left HER thinking that hopey-changey was the wave of the future, and the plebs could safely be sneered at.

So, how's about admitting that Rush Limbaugh was right? Hmmm?

* Update: I caught a few minutes of Rush today, and he answered some discouraged people with the point that we've already won the debate! If congressmen really believed they had a great health care bill that people just don't understand, then they would welcome "town hall meetings." The would welcome the chance to explain. Instead of packing halls with S.E.I.U. members so as to have a friendly audience

Rush Limbaugh: Better He Should Fail
Posted by John Weidner at 10:13 AM

July 31, 2009

Muddled thinking...

Mark Shea (A writer I highly approve of...except when I want to wring his neck for his partisan venom):

...But the knee-jerk Talk Radio junk about how health care is not a right appears to me to owe far more to maintaining a system in which money is exalted over the good of the person than to anything remotely connected with Catholic teaching or common sense. One can base a credible opposition to so-called "health care reform" on worries that it's going to wind up killing a lot of innocent people as a cost-cutting measure. That I can respect.

But basing opposition to health care reform on the parroted claim that "health care is not a right"--a claim that is demonstrably rubbish if we are paying any attention to the Church's teaching, suggests that other agendas besides the desire to enact Catholic social teaching as public policy are the guiding principals at work in our thinking. That's no longer really a surprise to me, given the spectacle of Faithful Catholics[TM] striving with might and main to justify torture, but it still may be worth pointing out for Catholics who may be sensing a disconnect between the Church's actual teaching and what they are hearing from the conservative side of the blogosphere that so commonly claims adherence to the Church teaching in stark contrast to the Awful Dissenters....

This is mostly a case of getting two different ideas muddled together. Two different "rights."

I have myself actually heard Rush Limbaugh talk on this point. (I betcha Shea has just picked up some leftish rumors, and doesn't know or care what's actually said.) Rush's point was that we have a responsibility to maintain our own health, and we have a moral obligation to help those who can't help themselves. And I think (I'm not an expert) that this is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church is actually saying when it asserts that people have a right to health care.

People have a right to expect that we will assume our moral obligation, and help them if needed.

But the leftish position is something different. It is that people have a right to health care in the same way that they have a right to, say, freedom of religion. What our Constitution calls "inalienable rights." Rush's point is that this would destroy both our responsibility and our moral obligation. It would destroy Caritas.

And I would add another point, which I think is desperately important. In America we have always regarded our rights as coming ultimately from God, and thus being inalienable. They somehow exist regardless of what laws we may pass. But once you start inventing new basic rights, that concept goes out the window. Rights become just human inventions, and can be given and taken away at will.

Posted by John Weidner at 1:18 PM

June 27, 2009

What man...if his son asks him for bread, will give him subsidiarity?

A friend linked to an odd piece, A Credo for Authentic Conservatives and Other Sane People, by Thomas Fleming.

There's nothing in it that's exactly wrong, but it's weird. Kind of bloodless and gutless. Wishful thinking. There's no suggestion that conservatism is a noble cause that a person might risk their life to defend.

I think the peculiar thing here is that this is called a "credo." But credo means "I believe." It does not mean, "Gee, it would be kinda nice if everybody was sensible like me." Early Christian martyrs scratched "CREDO" in the sand of the arena, as the last quarts of their blood gushed out. That's "credo," friend.

"Credo" implies Truth. With the capital "T." Do you have Truth, sir? If a socialist or a jihadi puts a gun to your head and says, "recant," can you say, "shoot and be damned?" Or "Father forgive them?" One doubts.

Also, note that first section "E" I've quoted below. Elephant-in-living-room alert!!! Over large portions of the globe today, people are choosing NOT to propagate. All of Europe is in demographic collapse. Likewise Japan and other "successful" Asian nations. Whole societies are dying, Mr Fleming. Dying before your eyes. Your chalky philosophy says to this....what? Hundreds of millions of people are finding no reason to endure the suffering that investing in future generations involves. Your waxen ideas offer....what? What reason to suffer? What reason to sacrifice?

What demands do you make on people? The paradoxical thing is that people are at their best—and free-est— when they are servants. Servants of causes or beliefs that are bigger than the individual, and demand our sacrifice and devotion. (And, biggest of all, we are all called to be Servants of the Word.)

Of course this writer may have put the chewy stuff elsewhere in his writings. (If so I apologize.) But the flavor here is decadent.

....E. Human beings under most circumstances quite naturally seek to survive, thrive, and propagate, but they also protect the ability of their family members and friends or social allies (socii) to do the same...

... G Marriage and family are natural institutions fulfilling human needs; and, since each presupposes a hierarchy of authority, not only society itself but also social and political authority are natural, in the sense that they are the outgrowth of human nature and natural necessities. Thus there has never been a state of nature, much less of natural equality. In the most nearly natural human societies of which we have any knowledge, females defer to males, children to parents, young to old.

H The origins of the commonwealth, then, are much as Aristotle, Cicero, Thomas, and Althusius supposed: a progression from the �dyad� of the marital pair to the extended family to the village or tribal community to that confederation of different lineages, tribes, villages that is the commonwealth. Each society, of course, has its own history, but the general outline is clear enough.

I Since the commonwealth is an extension of marriage, family, and community, and since it exists, at least in part, to provide for the needs less perfectly supplied by lower forms of association, it can be viewed as relatively legitimate whenever it assists families and communities in their never-ending quest for food, shelter, and stability, but when it deprives these lower associations of the necessary economic autonomy to survive and propagate, takes away homes, or interferes in the relations between parents and children, husbands and wives, promotes adultery and abortion [Nota bene: I am not saying tolerates], it is acting illegitimately. Such infractions do not necessarily render a government illegitimate, but a systematic pattern of abuse—e.g., the liberation of wives and children, seizure of private property, confiscatory taxation�the legitimacy of such a government must fall under suspicion of acting tyrannically, far more so than when it merely deprives citizens of such civil rights as the franchise, jury duty, etc...
Posted by John Weidner at 4:39 PM

October 29, 2008

"Opposed to Western/Judeo-Christian civilization"

From Orrin, in a post with the splendid title (I envy him this sort of cleverness) Inherit the Windbags, about "conservatives" who support Obama...

....In fact, the only real difference [in Obama's policies compared to McCain] is precisely that he's the most extreme supporter of aggressive social experimentation to be nominated for president during this era. On matters of abortion, infanticide, gay "rights," infant stem cells, euthanasia, etc. he is consistently and radically Pro-Death and opposed to Western/Judeo-Christian civilization. Edmund Burke would have no trouble recognizing the Jacobin in at least this aspect of Mr. Obama's politics

When we consider then what sorts of Republicans are supporting Mr. Obama we would, as Mr. Powers says, expect to find the old Eastern Establishment, secular Darwinist Right. Contrary to Mr. Powers, these issues are pretty much the same and Rockefeller money funded the more openly eugenic experimentation of the early/mid 20th Century. That's not, of course, to say that every "conservative" backing Mr. Obama is doing so because he'd increase abortion and fund it for "the poor," but it is fair to say that they are at least unbothered by the prospect. In fact, even the ostensibly pro-life Doug Kmiec was willing to forgo Communion in order to back Barack Obama.

This is why so many of the converts cite the choice of Sarah Palin as a running mate. The choice drove home the reality that the GOP is and is going to stay the party of the religious. They were hoping for a Joe Lieberman, Colin Powell, Mitt Romney, or Tom Ridge who are indifferent to or supportive of abortion.

Over time this is likely to be a more permanent divide and is certain to impact the Democratic Party more heavily than the Republican. After all, Darwinism is a marginal belief in America while Christianity is central. Eventually one would expect to see the parties divide along more clearly secular vs religious lines and the Democratic hold on entire tribes loosen, a process that will be accelerated by the recognition that intellectual elites support the Democrats in no small part because of "population control."...

It just fascinates me the people who hate Sarah. It's so revealing. The "feminists" who fantasize about seeing her raped or murdered, for example. (Ladies, your guilt is showing.) Or the Colin Powell and Christopher Buckley types on the right.

And this is all extra interesting because traditionally the V-P is someone who can give red meat to the base, allowing the presidential candidate to act "presidential," and move to the center. This is normal in our politics. So why should Republican "centrists" and libertarians hate Sarah? Why?

The real battle is increasingly about who we are. What is America and who are Americans. This is because old habits have worn off. Habits of religion, yes, but also patriotic faith, and faith in those things, including morality, that ancestors and founders have handed down to us---faith that those traditions should be revered. And just---faith in America. When I was growing up, everybody was patriotic.

Sara Palin with ski plane I'd say that when Orrin writes: "...the GOP is and is going to stay the party of the religious," we should think of "the religious" in a broad-brush sort of way. It could include those who cherish the Great Books of Western Civ., and those who get a lump in their throats when they hear the Star Spangled Banner at the ball game. That is, those who think there are things bigger than the almighty self, things which demand an attitude of humility and willingness to sacrifice.

And the irreligious should include many people who still go to church, but recite their creed in the spirit of participating in a charming old folk-ritual. Or who call themselves people of the Right, but recoil from moral responsibility and personal humility.

The battle-lines are shifting, and as they do various people are going to find themselves suddenly stranded in no-man's-land, wondering which way to scurry. A few decades ago we had the neo-cons; Democrats who noticed that the Democrat Party had drawn away from them like the tide going out...and awkwardly found a new home on the right. Perhaps now we will have a bunch of neo-libs!

I'm thinking of Sager especially. The libertarian creep of the world. I should fisk this piece, The Rove Realignment, Have libertarians been driven out of the GOP? But what's the use? He'll never get it. Better he should just head over to the Party of Death where he belongs...

Posted by John Weidner at 5:45 PM

October 27, 2008

"Defending the culture IS a governing philosophy.."

Orrin Judd:
...Not that the GOP doesn't need some re-focusing, but what the Beltway types can never seem to grasp is that defending the culture is a governing philosophy, indeed the philosophy of the majority. And what the Left wants to do is destroy the culture in order to make people dependent on the State...

Exactly. And Sarah embodies this philosophy. That is, she doesn't expound it, she's just the thing itself. And "Palinmania" is a very rational response to her. A matter of having something just on the tip of the tongue for years, and seeing Sarah, and saying: "That's IT! That's what I've been trying to say, and never could quite find the words!" Of course you want to jump up and down and cheer.

Sara Palin with ski planeIt's frustrating, because the attacks on America's traditional culture are mostly in the form of millions of tiny cuts by millions of tiny shit-stupid ant workers. Few of which are big enough to make a fuss about. And if you were to do so, you would at most push them back a few feet, but then see them ooze around you once again.

I was just thinking about the way, when you or someone you know is in the hospital, you get a visit from a "social worker" whether you want it or not. On one hand is a trivial thing, and lots of people may benefit from it. On the other hand, it's a clear message that you are expected to rely on the bureaucracy, not on the support of family or church or such old-fashioned things. It's something that to me has a nasty smell, but if you complained you would just be thought to be a crank.

I don't know if anything can really be done. My guess is we are doomed. But I do know that the National Review types don't quite get it, and Sarah does quite get it. So she's my gal, and I'm sure a lot of other grass-roots Republicans feel the same...

And even if the struggle is hopeless, one should keep fighting anyway. One is either a man, or a horrid vile cowardly collectivist flubber-worm! I've added a quote to the top of the sidebar, to express my deep and bitter feeling on this. (Explanation here.)

Well, it's plenty late. I should be in bed. But I'll post this, pour another glass of Scotch, think of Scotland and Western Civilization on the skids... And I'll say yet another prayer to Our Lady to give Sarah strength and protect her from the hosts of Mordor. And resolve to go down fighting!

j j j
Posted by John Weidner at 10:32 PM