Happy Thanksgiving

I’m thankful the Pilgrims’ realization that collectivism causes misery and creates poverty still resonates enough 400 years later that most of us continue to respect the ideas of freedom of conscience, individual liberty, and free markets.

Despite over 100 years of accelerating totalitarian attempts to destroy them from within.

In

Of Plymouth Plantation, … the colony’s longtime governor, William Bradford. … details how the Pilgrims “languish[ed] in misery” sharing their labor and its fruits. The collectivism “was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment.” Two years into the experiment ironically forced upon them by their capitalist underwriters, Bradford parceled common land out to individual families to exploit for their own selfish benefit.

“This had very good success,” Bradford explained, “for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content. The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn; which before would allege weakness and inability; whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression.” The Pilgrim Father’s two-paragraph rejection of collectivism is among the most enduring and persuasive arguments for private property in the English language.”

For a another treatment of this, see How Private Property Saved the Pilgrims.

Hillsdale College – Resolute

Since 1844, Hillsdale College has provided classical liberal higher education regardless of students’ race, religion, or sex, and was the second college in the United States to grant 4 year degrees to women.

Hillsdale’s opposition to slavery was one of its founding principles. Frederick Douglass was twice a speaker at the college.

The tradition of top quality speakers has continued. You may wish to check out Imprimis, a free monthly digest of Hillsdale College speakers. Scroll through the Contributors selection box and you will see, for example, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Margaret Thatcher, Edward Teller, F. A. Hayek, Victor Davis Hanson, and many, many other great thinkers.

Hillsdale withdrew from all federal assistance in 1984 to avoid the burgeoning interference of Washington bureaucrats which threatened to destroy its mission, and has so severely damaged other institutions and their students.

Hillsdale offers 26 free online courses in topics including Literature, Philosophy, History, Economics, and Politics – including several on our Constitution. One example:
The Great American Story: A Land of Hope

This course explores the history of America as a land of hope founded on high principles. In presenting the great triumphs and achievements of our nation’s past, as well as the shortcomings and failures, it offers a broad and unbiased study of the kind essential to the cultivation of intelligent patriotism.

This preamble cannot convey the value of Hillsdale to our state and our country, but I hope it will encourage you to read this letter published in The Hillsdale Collegian:

On the College and Silence: A letter from Hillsdale College

This letter is highly, highly recommended. It is inspiring and principled. It begins:

Amidst the events of recent weeks, a number of alumni and others have taken up formal and public means to insist that Hillsdale College issue statements concerning these events. The College is charged with negligence — or worse.

RTWT

This is one of the very few times I have used my ‘academia’ category on a positive post.

Meaning and Millennials

“I think that often people come to the conclusion that life is meaningless because that is a better conclusion to come to than the reverse, because if life is meaningless, well then who cares what you do. But if life is meaningful, if what you do matters, then everything you do matters, and that puts a terrible responsibility on the individual. And I think that people are generally unwilling to bear that.”

-Jordan Peterson

Professors Jordan Peterson and John Vervaeke are colleagues in the University of Toronto Department of Psychology. They share an interest in the study of life’s meaning and reject moral relativism as nihilistic. They’re students of science and metaphysics.

Vervaeke, psychology specialties: Perception, Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience
PhD 1997 University of Toronto, Philosophy
BSc 1991 University of Toronto, Specialist in Cognitive Science
MA 1985 University of Toronto, Philosophy
HBA 1984 McMaster University, Philosophy, Summa Cum Laude

Peterson, psychology specialties: Social, Personality and Abnormal
PhD 1991 McGill University, Clinical Psychology
BSc 1984 University of Alberta, Psychology
BSc 1982 University of Alberta, Political Science

Their voices are sorely needed as the Humanities move ever deeper into postmodern despair, absurdity and self-deception; and Science faces political pressure to abandon scientific method as sexist and/or racist.

Our educational system has gone to a lot of trouble to replace such sources of meaning as family, competence and merit by deconstructing individual responsibility into a collectivist competition for victimhood participation trophies. Reason is similarly challenged: There are no truths, only interpretations.

This has negative consequences, especially for those who grew up during this cultural shift. To be sure, much of what follows doesn’t apply to most Millennials, but we see evidence daily that there’s a problem.

One example: We’re told Millennials in the workplace desire “purpose over paycheck.”

Purpose should be easy: “You do this. We pay you.”

Instead, it seems likely “purpose” in that phrase substitutes for “precisely aligned with my life values and goals,” or “meaningful.” There’s nothing wrong with such an aspiration, but it isn’t realistic. For one thing, your colleagues would all have to be of one mind. That’s one reason jobs that provide life meaning are not common. Even self-employed I couldn’t be sure my job would always fulfill a particular “purpose,” including meeting payroll. And who could make sure the customers would co-operate? But, some people expect job “purpose” to be supplied by others.

In any case, as we’ll see, Millennials don’t appear to be finding deep meaning through their employment. That might indicate they are incapable of finding it in themselves.

And why would they be? They’ve been conditioned by effusive praise to expect meaning to find them. Meaning becomes external. Like a job. Or ‘Likes’ on Facebook.

A Millennial meaning deficit is strongly suggested by the fact that Millennial suicide rates are soaring: They experience high rates of depression: And they may be the “quintessential postmodern generation.”

They’ve been cut adrift in a sea of narcissism by their parents and their professors, who should have taught them moral values and how to think, but handed them participation trophies and moral nihilism instead. Many Millennials have come to expect constant and instantaneous validation of their merit, whether they’ve displayed any or not. That applies to their opinions too, many of them are convinced that simply taking offense grants them some sort of moral authority.

They’ve been misled about their capabilities. They’ve been lied to about their prospects. They’ve been suckered into huge student debt by what amounts to academic fraud.

A growing cultural anomie should not be surprising. Nor should we wonder why Millennials flock to hear Jordan Peterson, and increasingly John Vervaeke, speak for two hours about how to find meaning. For a dozen lectures.

Reason and meaning are under siege because of guilt by association with Western Civilization. Peterson and Vervaeke are playing defense. Some examples:

I’d say watch the whole thing, but this link will start at 2:04. Watch until you want to stop. TWT is 20:49.
Jordan Peterson *NEW* The Meaning of Life

Here’s an interview about meaning: John Vervaeke: The Meaning Crisis (39 minutes) Again, the whole thing is worthwhile, but the link starts at 18:32. There, Vervaeke puts his finger on the epistemological question raised by Postmodernism. It’s a serious question.

Vervaeke has recently started a series of lectures on YouTube: ‘Awakening From the Meaning Crisis.

Renaissance men

Tyler Cowen blogs at Marginal Revolution and he is Holbert L. Harris Professor of Economics at George Mason University and Director of the Mercatus Center.

He is also a polymath. Here, he interviews another of my favorite polymaths.

Jordan Peterson on Mythology, Fame, and Reading People

A snippet:

When I wrote my first book, which was Maps of Meaning, I was very curious about whether the tension between the communist viewpoint and the Western viewpoint, roughly speaking, was merely a matter of opinion, which is something you might think if you were a moral relativist, or perhaps even a postmodernist — that there’s a multitude of ways that you can set up a society and they’re each equally, arbitrarily valuable. And there’s an infinite set of methods by which a society might be generated. That’s one hypothesis.

As I got deeper and deeper into the analysis of both systems, I thought, “No, that’s just wrong.” There’s some things that the West got. What we designed in the West is a playable game, technically speaking, and what was designed by the communists was a nonplayable game. It was destined to degenerate across time because it couldn’t function in a real-world environment. It was an abstraction that couldn’t maintain itself if it was iterated…

…[W]hen you insist that the right way to view the world is victim versus victimizer, and then you coddle people into exaggeration of their own negative, emotion-centered pathology, you’re going to ensure that the political structure becomes more and more neurotic. If you’re aiming at something and you’re moving rapidly towards it, you’re likely to hit it. And that’s exactly what’s happening on the campuses.

 
Highly recommended. Interesting comments on the purpose of universities, media disintermediation, sex discrimination, and much else.