Philosopher ‘pretenders to the throne’

This is a nice, short (7 min) introduction to Friedrich Hayek’s insights on emergent order. If you haven’t read Road to Serfdom (free downloads at the link), maybe this will nudge you to do so.

Order without intent: How spontaneous order built our world. from The IHS on Vimeo.

Allowing order without intent to flourish is how we might avoid the tyranny of good intentions.

Related, from Edward Snowden:

“The most unflattering thing is to realize just how naïve and credulous I was and how that could make me into a tool of systems that would use my skills for an act of global harm. The class of which I am a part of, the global technological community, was for the longest time apolitical. We have this history of thinking: “We’re going to make the world better.””

The idea that “making the world better” is apolitical shows Snowden is still naive and credulous. The toolmakers of the global technological community may have good intentions. They may be motivated by thoughts of the benefits they are bringing to humanity. They may also be motivated by profit and ideology.

How a better world is constituted, in any case, is an ethical and moral question beyond the ken of their meta-data, and in direct conflict with the ethical ‘principles’ demonstrated by their business models.

Who defines “better?” We have ample evidence Google/Facebook/Twitter aren’t up to the task.

“Making the world better” can be apolitical only in terms of each individual’s actions. It cannot be apolitical for giant corporations whose tools are designed to deceive users into acts of self harm: A system of fools.

Politics is the very essence of social media and the control of access to information.

Politics, noun. A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.
-Ambrose Bierce

And, in ways Bierce couldn’t imagine – conducting private affairs for public advantage. Affecting elections for example.

Snowdon’s NSA is simply the government instantiation of the Facebook/Google/Twitter business models. They are all dedicated to making their subjects “better.”

“The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule.”
-H. L. Mencken

Order with intent is the model practiced by authoritarians for “your own good,” public or private, from de Blasio to Google.

So, I’ll close with some relevant Friedrich Hayek quotations on good intentions, control of information, collectivist ethics, and the limits of knowledge: All of which apply to government and to the massive private enterprises whose control of information and manipulation of public opinion Hayek couldn’t imagine:

“Everything which might cause doubt about the wisdom of the government or create discontent will be kept from the people. The basis of unfavorable comparisons with elsewhere, the knowledge of possible alternatives to the course actually taken, information which might suggest failure on the part of the government to live up to its promises or to take advantage of opportunities to improve conditions–all will be suppressed. There is consequently no field where the systematic control of information will not be practiced and uniformity of views not enforced.”

“Our freedom of choice in a competitive society rests on the fact that, if one person refuses to satisfy our wishes, we can turn to another. But if we face a monopolist we are at his absolute mercy. And an authority directing the whole economic system of the country would be the most powerful monopolist conceivable…it would have complete power to decide what we are to be given and on what terms. It would not only decide what commodities and services were to be available and in what quantities; it would be able to direct their distributions between persons to any degree it liked.”

“All political theories assume, of course, that most individuals are very ignorant. Those who plead for liberty differ from the rest in that they include among the ignorant themselves as well as the wisest. Compared with the totality of knowledge which is continually utilized in the evolution of a dynamic civilization, the difference between the knowledge that the wisest and that the most ignorant individual can deliberately employ is comparatively insignificant.”

“To act on behalf of a group seems to free people of many of the moral restraints which control their behaviour as individuals within the group.”

“The idea of social justice is that the state should treat different people unequally in order to make them equal.”

The human pestilence problem

I had a note from a reader wondering if I wasn’t being hyperbolic in my contention that by “sustainability” “Green” fanatics intentionally mean to impose lower standards of living and a forced reduction in human population.

We might consider the Malthusian miscalculations of Paul Ehrlich’s 1968 book The Population Bomb and his proposals for forced sterilization (which was actually practiced in India); or the more gentle doomsayers calling for a Voluntary Human Extinction.

But, those are theoretical. Let me offer 3 real-world examples. 1) The millions of poor ‘people of color’ who’ve died of malaria and dengue fever because of Rachel Carson’s, campaign to ban DDT, 2) the malnutrition, blindness and death imposed on the third world by the boycott of golden rice, and 3) Clueless Minneapolis City Leaders and Sam Rockwell Are the Problem, Not Natural Gas Use

When politicians value signaling virtue above the health and well being of their constituents they are paving the road of good intentions with human bodies. Intentionally.

I repeat, nuclear power would solve the supposed CAGW problem. Greens oppose it because it doesn’t solve the human pestilence problem.

Immodest proposals

Freedom distributes everything unevenly (diversely). Obviously, Statism does too. The difference is that when the state decrees who should be favored it relies on the opinion of the currently fashionable gang of ‘intellectual’ nannies. They know how we should conduct ourselves. Where we should live; what we can say; how we should eat; the conditions of employment we should desire.

Too many female doctors go part-time or stop working — why that’s a big problem

“Female doctors are more likely than their male peers to shift to part-time work or stop working a few years after completing their medical training, according to a recent study published in the journal JAMA Network Open. Women, moreover, are more likely than men to cite family as a consideration in determining their work status…

“It’s very common for people to see this and say some women are just choosing to put family first — which is wonderful and a great choice for anyone who wants to make that. But in reality, what we’re seeing is that often there isn’t choice,” lead study author Elena Frank, the director of the University of Michigan’s Intern Health Study, said in a statement.

“Medicine has a big opportunity and, really, an obligation to set an example for how to support women and families,” she added.

I think this is confusing “medicine’s responsibility” (whatever that is) with feminist politics. That doesn’t mean women’s preferences don’t present a problem, though:

The U.S. is projected to experience a shortage of between 46,900 and 121,900 physicians in both primary care and specialty care by the year 2032…”

Research shows that hospital patients treated by female doctors are less likely than those treated by male doctors to die or be readmitted within a month of being discharged…

You can project a decline in the quality and quantity of available health care, exacerbated by female M.D.s leaving the work force.

How can “medicine” seize this opportunity? The suggested solution is “[W]ork flexibility, paid parental leave and on-site day care” for female doctors. We’re being told that government has to seize the opportunity on behalf of “medicine:” That these policies would keep female M.D.s on the job, though there’s no evidence presented for that, and there is evidence that women might still respond to motherhood the same way they do now.

It’s not just medicine, either: Why Are Seemingly Satisfied Female Lawyers Running For The Exits?.
Law is mentioned at about 2:23, but watch the whole 13 minutes.
This is really salient:

Even if we apply more resources to support female careers in medicine, work remains attention to other things even while someone else is bonding with/watching your child.

Nonetheless, I’d support Dr. Frank’s options for any woman for whom it would solve the problem. All they have to do is negotiate for it: “Look, I want part-time work where I have significant influence on the specific hours I work. No ‘on-call.’ I want a parental leave savings account matching contribution. And I want you to pay for day care at a nearby provider. I’ll take a salary reduction in order to get that.” That is a choice, but it isn’t the “government as caretaker” idea being promoted. Leadership diversity would not be served.

So, are you surprised women are more likely to cite family? Well, men are more likely to internalize their responsibility – to economically support their family. How, for example, are these female doctors able to quit a lucrative profession they worked hard to get into? Did they marry into the patriarchy?

Even worse, according to Elena Frank, director of the University of Michigan’s Intern Health Study the problems are (emphasis mine) “not just because of the blow to leadership diversity in health care.”

That made me laugh. Sexual-apparatus-based diversity as a leadership credential is more important than health care quality and quantity.

There’s more angst along the same lines. The author proceeds from an assumption that while it may be fine for women doctors to choose family over work, the real problem is that they don’t have a choice because they are forced want to spend time with their children. They are hostages to housewifery and motherhood, lost to the leadership diversity project.

There are some questions we might ask about this. First, “Did Dr. Frank think to search for any female doctors who labor under her recommended conditions?” It’s likely there are some, and would nicely test her hypothesis.

Second, “Assuming approximately the same resources are required to educate each medical student, does that mean women are, on average, a non-optimal use of those investments?” Much of the investment is made by the female medical students, of course, but one can rationally argue that society is worse off because these women later abandon their profession – having occupied a scarce seat in med school.

What to do? Provide “free” female medical school education on the stipulation they must work until they’re at least 60? Somehow I think quality of care might suffer. And why wouldn’t that option be open to males, too?

That’s rhetorical. It wouldn’t promote chromosomal ‘diversity.’ Though now I’m wondering about trans people… First, for which side are they counted, diversity-wise? Anyway…

First, let’s stipulate that women do make different choices than men, including working conditions. See here and here for rigorous proof. In one case there’s a free wheeling entrepreneurial startup from the “woke” era. In the other case there’s a extensive, hidebound rule-set.

It is not arguable that males and females are not treated equally in either case. And they make the same choices.

I know the counter argument will be that the system was set up by males, and so favors a male view of working conditions. But, if you look at the reasons there is a “wage gap” you’ll see it’s just reality that’s in the way, and accommodating women’s choices would require… well, you think about what could be done without dedicating even greater resources exclusively to women.

But, back to female M.D.’s plight. Let’s look at some other possible fixes in order to grant women (for whom a medical career is only temporarily most important) Dr. Frank’s prescription. Can we give them incentives to consider that initial choice more carefully? Or, can we establish disincentives to following their own later anti-leadership diversity choices?

1- We could have the government insist female M.D.s must never marry, or must promise only to become married to a lower earning spouse. This might lock them into their chosen profession, making it sort of equal to most men, who are typically willing to work longer hours in more dangerous and uncomfortable occupations. Choice. For family.

2- Alternatively, I suppose, we could psychologically screen female Med school applicants. We could reject those most likely to care about children (though feminine empathy and compassion probably get lost, too), or we could find those women who will insist their husband be the primary caregiver, or women who agree to sterilization. This isn’t optimal, but it’s surely cheaper than mandating paid leave, on-site daycare, and employee selected work hours. In total, it’s no more or less coercive than making everyone, including the childless, pay for female M.D.s post-partum guilt.

After all, whoever is a stay at home parent gets continual compensated leave, intimately directed day-care, and work hours only constrained by the children’s needs – which seems to cover the whole objective.

3- Or, maybe these potential leadership diversity exemplars could work part time, and/or save up so they can take leave, and/or get together and fund their own day care close by their workplace. Doctors can afford these perks without outside support. Giving female doctors extra money to accomplish this is like requiring taxpayers to pay for Sandra Fluke’s birth control pills.

Taking leave and working part time don’t help so much with the doctor shortage, of course, and I have a suspicion that what’s meant by “work flexibility” (since part time work is readily available already) is fewer hours for the same salary.

None of these remedies solve the economic problem: female doctors not only are a riskier initial investment than male doctors, but would end up costing more for maintenance. If I were a feminist, I wouldn’t be advertising it.

As a species, we might prefer a biological imperative which didn’t require trade offs based on sex. One where men didn’t die from work-related accidents 10 times as often as women, for example, though I’m sure we’d just be exchanging the current trade-offs for other (maybe worse) inequities.

But leadership diversity must be served.

Rationale to ration

Medical Welfare Programs Look To Price Another Year Of Life

Medicaid and other medical welfare entitlement programs have created expectations that are bigger than the resources available to meet them. As a result, some welfare bureaucracies are looking to ration expensive drugs through a controversial method designed to put a price on the value of a human life.

If a beneficiary of a social welfare program needs a particular drug whose price exceeds a predetermined value of a “quality-adjusted life year” for the individual, under this method, that person would not get the drug. It is already in use in Great Britain’s single-payer health care system and in other nations. Some in the U.S. think it should be used here, too.

When the government pays for something, it gives bureaucrats a taxpayer-based rationale to refuse to pay for it.

See the Green New Deal fantasy: It’s a list of things, including electricity, gasoline, home heating, land use, product design, hourly wages, preferred occupation, food choice, and, yes, health care; all of which will be rationed or regulated. Why? In order to implement their view of “social, economic, racial, regional and gender-based justice and equality

Is it any wonder GND proponents support “some are more equal than others” thugs like Venezuela’s Maduro and Cuba’s Castro?

Nobody is allowed good intentions but us

Here’s what compassion gets you from the rabid Left. (Link broken intentionally. You can fix it if you really want the reference.)

Trump’s Plan to Decriminalize Homosexuality Is an Old Racist Tactic

Because “colonialism.” Don’t you know all cultures are morally equivalent? Except Western Civilization, which is oppressive.

This sleight of mind is how our Leftists forgive female genital mutilation and support boycotting the only democracy in the Middle East; while refusing to express an opinion on, or even acknowledge, the debate among some Imams regarding the proper way to kill gays – throw them off tall buildings or collapse a wall on them.

That is a very partial list of the multi-cultural ‘diversity’ the Left embraces in order to facilitate condemnation of Western culture. (The answer to the Imam’s debate is obvious: How many walls can you afford to collapse?  You can use the same building many times.)

I’d also mention how the Islamic fundamentalist debate on the treatment of trans people is proceeding, but I’m not aware of it.  Perhaps it goes unmentioned in the Quran.  If so, that’s probably good for trans people in strict Islamic countries.

But. If Trump moves to extend some protection to gays in Islamic countries that makes him a racist.

Maybe for those ‘apolitical voters who vote based on feelings’ someone could could point out that the charge of “colonialism” is just one more tired talking point for the postmodernist/critical theorist/intersectionalist wing of the party calling themselves Democrats: They aren’t to be taken seriously from a moral standpoint.

My favorite example of the bankruptcy of cultural equivalence, AKA deeply held moral intuitions, is related by Mark Steyn: The Gelded Age

In a culturally confident age, the British in India were faced with the practice of “suttee” – the tradition of burning widows on the funeral pyres of their husbands. General Sir Charles Napier was impeccably multicultural:

‘You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.’

India today is better off without suttee. If you don’t agree with that, if you think that’s just dead-white-male Eurocentrism, fine. But I don’t think you really do believe that. Non-judgmental multiculturalism is an obvious fraud, and was subliminally accepted on that basis. After all, most adherents to the idea that all cultures are equal don’t want to live in anything but an advanced western society. Multiculturalism means your kid has to learn some wretched tribal dirge for the school holiday concert instead of getting to sing “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer” or that your holistic masseuse uses techniques developed from Native American spirituality, but not that you or anyone you care about should have to live in an African or Native American society. It’s a quintessential piece of progressive humbug.

Progressive humbug has become a quintessential piece of Western culture.

Emoticon debate

I asked some questions in my post of February 17th about a suggestion that conservative political philosophy needs emotional appeals rather than rational arguments:

The writer [Gorka] makes a vital point that most people who support capitalism miss: we will never win the argument about capitalism being superior to socialism because many voters are only interested in emotions, not arguments. Accordingly they feel that capitalists are mean and socialists are compassionate, concerned about people. The only way to be compassionate is to take from the capitalists and give to them since capitalists got rich by making them poor. Unless and until conservatives can make a compassion appeal they will lose politically more and more. Forget trying to reason with people for whom reason is never a part of their feelings. So far Democrats have won the compassion battle. Republicans have always been out-compassioned. A completely different approach is needed. I think it can be done. Republicans can start by stopping trying to win rational arguments. They don’t win with apolitical voters who vote based on feelings.

I said, “[So,] We should take the Ocasio-Cortez Green New Deal as she suggests… “aspirational”; and respond with our own surreal proposals because we can’t win otherwise? What would that argument look like?

I was facetious (unicorns and fairy wings were featured) in answer to my own question, but the suggestion we should go full compassion mode is still knocking about in my head, so I will attempt to provide some more serious answers.

Let’s start with defining “emotional argument.”

Politically, propaganda is the first definition that pops into my head.  But let me suggest a more neutral definition: Emotional ‘argument’ appeals to deeply held moral intuitions. What those intuitions are matters.

For example, the Left often succeeds by touching instinctive feelings about fairness versus cheating and exploitation. They are successful with this in part by inflaming class envy. “Tax cuts for the rich must be stopped!”

Take the current MSM attack on the Republican tax cuts, “REFUNDS ARE DOWN!”. Well, yes. And that’s to be expected isn’t it?

If you make $30,000 at a tax rate of 10%, your annual taxes would project to be $3,000. Since there are many vagaries in the tax code and life circumstances, you decide to withhold an extra 10% per month, or $25.

If your tax rate is cut to 9%, your taxes would be $2,700, and your contingency 10% extra withholding becomes $22.50 per month.

At the end of the year everything works out perfectly and all your extra withholding – the money you loaned the government – is refunded. In the first case your refund is $300. In the second case it’s $270. Your refund is lower. But you paid $300 less in taxes.

Some people are disappointed that the government let them keep an extra $300 because their refund (money they gave the government they didn’t have to, and irrelevant to the concept of ‘tax cut’) is $30 lower. They could have just given the government an extra $100 a month if the higher refund was so important.

What ‘compassionate’ explanation can be given to people who use payroll taxes as a savings account on which no interest is paid? What ‘conservative’ emotional appeal could possibly apply? Only a rational argument will do.

One compassionate meme we would need is an appeal to individual responsibility – which the Left overwhelmingly ignores because it would blunt their class envy rhetoric. Leftists see fairness as equality of outcome. Anything else is prima facie evidence of oppression.

The Left continually insists the ‘rights’ of this or that victim group are being violated by a dominant group of ‘oppressors,’ and they never talk about their own responsibilities. They’re too busy telling you what your responsibility is to ‘victims.’

I contend the root problem isn’t a perception that conservatives lack compassion. It’s education.

The Millennials can’t remember very much – and they don’t learn very much either. It’s easy being hot for socialism or communism when you actually have a very little idea of what it is and what it did throughout the 20th century. And the Ys have that ignorance in spades; one third of them think that George W Bush killed more people than Stalin and 42 per cent have never heard of Mao – but over 70 per cent agree with Bernie Sanders. Some research suggests that only 15 per cent actually have a correct understanding of socialism… To be fair, that’s not strictly their fault; that attaches itself again to their Boomer grandparents who have been in charge of our failing education systems during this time. Combine the modern indoctrination-cum-dumbification taking place in schools and universities with the attention span-killing impact of information technology and social media, and you have a barely literate cohort, which is simply not equipped with the necessary mental tools to learn about the real world even if they wanted to.

Any surprises that socialism is now nearly synonymous with Gen Y?…

Millennials… are said to be unrealistic and have both the inflated expectations of life and the inflated perceptions of selves. They think the world owes them a living – a good one too – though without necessary too much effort. Things came very easily to them when they were growing up; when that suddenly stops – when the reality finally intrudes – they get angry, frustrated, lost: the world is deeply unfair and is conspiring against them… Having been told their whole lives how special they are, they tend to be over-sensitive and find it difficult to cope with criticism or obstacles…

Socialism is the response of a spoiled child when faced with the world that does not genuflect to its every wish the way their parents did – the world as it is must therefore be evil and has to be changed to something radically different. Gen Y, of course, did not just magically became [sic] the way they are – they were brought up like that…

For a rational approach, I’m going to turn to an educator whose message is attractive to many angry, frustrated, and lost millennials: Professor Jordan Peterson. If Peterson has a single main point, it might be that personal responsibility is the root of meaning in life, lack of which I think is the millennials’ angst.

We’ll take a brief look at his common sense (at least it used to be) insight into the benefits of individual responsibility and a peek at the biological basis for moral intuitions of fairness.

This clip starts at 32:25. Be sure to watch until at least 35:06, but just after that there a Q&A which starts with a question about rights.

Now, you’ve got something to sell to young people. You can sell them freedom of speech, and you can sell them responsibility.” We could try. We could start in our educational system by eliminating participation trophies in Kindergarten, and ‘Identity Studies’ and safe spaces in Universities.

I do not know how these ideas can be turned into 30 second ‘branding messages,’ but you could start with (from the Q&A at about 40:39) “Your capacity for speech is divine. It’s the thing that generates order from chaos… Nothing brings a better world into being than the stated truth.” It’s worth it to just keep watching after that.

That isn’t an empirical defense of free speech. It might even be called an emotional appeal, but here is Peterson’s rational defense of free speech:

Interviewer (Cathy Newman, hostile): Why should your right to freedom of speech trump a trans person’s right not to be offended?

Peterson: Because in order to be able to think, you have to risk being offensive. I mean, look at the conversation we’re having right now. You’re certainly willing to risk offending me in the pursuit of truth. Why should you have the right to do that? It’s been rather uncomfortable. […] You’re doing what you should do, which is digging a bit to see what the hell is going on. And that is what you should do. But you’re exercising your freedom of speech to certainly risk offending me, and that’s fine. More power to you, as far as I’m concerned.

… a few seconds pass…

Peterson: (chuckling kindly): Ha. Gotcha.

Interviewer: You have got me. You have got me. I’m trying to work that through my head. It took awhile. It took awhile. It took awhile.

 

It will take awhile to fix academia. It took a long time to break it.

That excerpt is from a highly recommended interview which ran on Britain’s Channel 4, which I will describe as a half hour tour de force of rational argumentation demolishing Leftwing knee-jerk compassion. If you haven’t seen it, go here. Fourteen million people already have. I think the vast majority of those were interested in the rational points about fairness.

Now, what can the origins of the moral intuition of fairness tell us? The clip below starts with Peterson describing experiments observing rats at play. Watch at least up to about 20:20, where he begins to talk about chimpanzees and then postmodernism. (That is well worth a listen, too, and it relates to this post, but the rats segment is sufficient to the question of human moral intuition about fair play.)

Rules across the set of all games,” is a vital observation. People who know children will have observed how a 2 or 3 year old reacts to losing a game, or even a roll of dice; anger, tears, withdrawal. If a child hasn’t internalized the concept of “the set of games” by the time they’re 4, it’s likely they never will. Other children will not want to play with them, because they are poor sports. And adults will find them unpleasant to be around, because such children have never abandoned the idea of zero-sum interactions. I suspect this is at least a partial explanation for the existence of SJW’s, because their brand includes participation trophies, safe spaces, and unearned self esteem.

It is, therefore, a yuge problem for Donald Trump that he brands things as zero-sum: He wins; “They” lose. His trade policy is perhaps the best example, but hardly the only one. This doesn’t excuse his opponents’ excesses, but it makes it far easier for them to portray him as an ‘evil’ conservative. And to portray conservatism as compassionless. (One could argue the emotional appeal we really need is that “compassionless” is what we should want from government, but that’s another post.) Trump’s default emotional appeal is to something other than fairness, and his past business conduct simply cements the meme.

For social animals, success is more about being invited to play than winning every game. This deeply held moral intuition starts with biology and spreads to culturally enforced norms. It is not, as postmodernists would have it, solely about dominance and submission carving us into identity groups. The idea that power is everything informs much of the Left’s claims that they’re compassionate, even though when put into practice their ideas inevitably result in misery. They have seized the high ground on “good intentions.” Compassion and good intentions are not at all the same thing.

Jordan Peterson’s ideas are very popular among millions of young people immersed in the nihilist orthodoxy spewing from our institutions of higher education. They have excellent attention spans for solutions to their angst. They like Peterson precisely because his dozens of academic online lectures each offer a couple of hours of rational arguments about pursuing meaning in life, in spite of the suffering inherent in being alive. The Left cannot compete.

Maybe it isn’t overtly emotional appeals we need to enable rational discussion, maybe it’s rational discussion we need to rouse appropriate emotion. There is an audience.

Peterson’s rational ideas are emotionally compelling for those seeking meaningful lives. You only have to read a few of the letters he’s received to understand the desperate need for substance, not branding. This is not to say he’s convincing the committed Leftists (far from it, they despise him), or that he’s reached universal pop-cultural awareness, but people are bringing their own need for meaning to him. In droves. Maybe a way to combat the fantasies of Ocasio-Cortez is to support Peterson.

To close, another source for an appeal to moral intuition comes from a man considered of the left while he lived. How much times have changed will be clear if you read Kurt Vonnegut’s quite short story Harrison Bergeron.

This story examines what happens when everyone is MADE to be equal in the cause of ‘fairness’. Maybe the Koch brothers can be persuaded to finance re-releasing the 1995 movie based on the story. Some of our budding socialists might get a clue that good intentions have to be aligned with good results.

No rational arguments please, we’re Republicans

Republicans can start by stopping trying to win rational arguments.

A friend recently shared that sentence (not his) in an email. It’s in regard to an article at The Daily Signal by Sebastian Gorka.

The idea of abandoning rational argument just keeps nagging at me. It’s a capitulation to the Know Nothings on the Right and on the Left.

The sentence appears in this longer comment by my friend’s correspondent:

The writer [Gorka] makes a vital point that most people who support capitalism miss: we will never win the argument about capitalism being superior to socialism because many voters are only interested in emotions, not arguments. Accordingly they feel that capitalists are mean and socialists are compassionate, concerned about people. The only way to be compassionate is to take from the capitalists and give to them since capitalists got rich by making them poor. Unless and until conservatives can make a compassion appeal they will lose politically more and more. Forget trying to reason with people for whom reason is never a part of their feelings. So far Democrats have won the compassion battle. Republicans have always been out-compassioned. A completely different approach is needed. I think it can be done. Republicans can start by stopping trying to win rational arguments. They don’t win with apolitical voters who vote based on feelings.

This is one possible reading of the article, and it is in accordance with warnings from Alexis de Tocqueville and Ben Franklin about populism. I suspect they’d see the proposed solution as just the same problem, merely from a different political starting point.

The Gorka article speaks extensively to the poor results from voting based on feelings as opposed to ideas. It is not about abandoning rational argument, however. It is about branding. Gorka is urging us to recast the conservative brand because voters are disinterested in ideas. He then makes the mistake of conflating Trump, “Donald Trump has opened a window for the conservative movement of the 21st century,” with conservative ideas; which is a good part of the problem.

Republicans can start by stopping trying to win rational arguments.

So. We should take the Ocasio-Cortez Green New Deal as she suggests… “aspirational”; and respond with our own surreal proposals because we can’t win otherwise? What would that argument look like? Genetically re-engineering cows into carbon dioxide breathing unicorns; modifying humans to have fairy wings in order to eliminate airplanes?  If the emotional high ground has already been seized, as Gorka suggests, how would you get it back?  Mockery suggests itself.  Mockery of AOC’s ideas.  You can’t mock the emotions invoked by an appeal to universal human well being.  Showing the consequences of Utopia requires rational argument.

OK, unicorns and fairy wings are probably unfair to Mr. Gorka. But without concrete examples, what emotional threads do we pull to change these disinterested slugs into critical thinkers and not just a right-wingish, populist personality cult?  If liberty doesn’t stir their emotions, what will?  Whatever it is, if we’re to be successful, we need to connect it to liberty.

In contemplating the purpose of recasting a brand, a recent example might serve well. Gillette’s “Toxic Masculinity” ad was about emotion not razors.: “Men! Feel good about yourself when you act like radical feminists.”  Virtue signaling.

Virtue signaling is not how we save “conservatism” in the age of President “Brand is Everything.” Frankly, until the virtues we need to signal are once again widely considered virtues, chances of success are small.

Classical liberals have our own rational aspirational narrative, of which the Bill of Rights is a good example, and we should stick to it. Otherwise, when reality impinges on the Green New Deal we’ll be intellectually defenseless as well as destitute. Like in Venezuela, it’ll be the emotionally motivated women and children who suffer most. I aspire to avoid that.

There is compelling evidence that people vote based on emotion, so a charitable reading of Gorka’s piece would be, “The emotional commitment to classical liberal values has gone missing. We must reconnect it.” If so, we need to start with the educational system, not branding. There’s quite enough re-branding of classical liberal ideas coming from the White House already.

Republicans can start by stopping trying to win rational arguments.

The more I contemplate that, the more I think it captures the essence of my objections to Donald Trump, a man who can declare a national emergency and immediately comment, “I didn’t need to do this.” The emergency is aspirational, apparently. But it promotes his brand. And the Pentagon will pay for it.

This all reminded me of a TOC post: Intentionality, which I think speaks well to the importance of ideas and the bankruptcy of our educational system. It is well worth reading in conjunction with this post.

Areopagitica Lost

The current state of the country and the current state of political and intellectual conversation depresses me in a way that it never has before. You have to understand — I’m never happy with the state of the country — that’s the inevitable fate of holding an ideological position that rarely gets any traction — I’m a classical liberal who’d like government to be dramatically smaller than it is now…

Maybe it’s paranoia but it’s been a long time since I felt the thinness of the veneer of civilization and our vulnerability to a sequence of events that might threaten not just the policy positions I might favor but the very existence of the American experiment.

The main way I’ve been dealing with this feeling of despair is to stop paying close attention. I don’t know what depresses me more — the stupidities and dishonesty and tolerance of darkness that come out of the President’s mouth or the response from those that oppose him. Given that I don’t like the President, you’d think I find the response of his enemies inspiring or important. But the responses scare me too, the naked hatred of Trump or anyone who supports or likes him. And of course, it goes way beyond Trump and politics. The same level of vitriol and anger and unreason is happening on college campuses and at the dinner table when families gather to talk about the hot-button issues of the day. Everything seems magnified.

Read the whole thing, it’s very good. Russ Roberts: The World Turned Upside Down (and what to do about it)

I agree 100% with Roberts’ intro, it feels like he wrote for me. He doesn’t mention some things that cause my angst, why “it’s different this time,” but I think he’d agree with them.

I suppose I shouldn’t be, but I’m surprised at the durability of the vehement response to Donald Trump. I get that Progressives are angry and depressed, but it’s hard for me to imagine they’re more angry and depressed than I was at Barack Obama’s re-election. That was a very dark day and an excruciating 4 more years. You can examine this blog for my criticisms of Barack Obama, but you’ll find nothing like what we hear daily from CNN, MSNBC, or (?) ESPN, or from the hegemony of far left celebrity Twitterers.

I’m not surprised, but I am disappointed at the contrast in the treatment of Antifa with that of the tea party. When the tea party left one of its demonstration sites, the area was cleaner than when they arrived. No fires, little to no profanity, no smashed windows, no beaten Obama supporters. Still, the tea party people were vilified by the media and Democrats, including the charges of racism and Nazism they’ve raised lately to screaming rants. It’s not just free speech, but freedom of assembly, freedom of religion and petitioning for redress of grievances that is under attack – with the implicit support of the very press who wish to preserve their First Amendment right. Apparently, as the only remaining First Amendment right.

When Donald Trump appointee Betsy DeVos comes out in favor of due process, it’s a sexist apocalypse. When Trump rejects the Paris Climate Accord, “we’re all gonna die!” When he removes a few draconian regulations, we can see the Four Horses on the horizon. When Trump turns responsibility for Obama’s unconstitutional DACA executive order over to Congress, it’s Nazism, racism, white supremacism, patriarchal and traitorous. Dial it back people. But they can’t.

Back to Russ Roberts. Given the above, his prescription:

1-Don’t be part of the positive feedback problem. When someone yells at you on the internet or in an email or across the dinner table, turn the volume down rather than up. Don’t respond in kind to the troll. Stay calm. It’s not as much fun as yelling or humiliating your opponent with a clever insult, but it’s not worth it. It takes a toll on you and it’s bad for the state of debate. And you might actually change someone’s mind.

2-Be humble. Shakespeare had it right: There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy. You’re inevitably a cherry-picker, ignoring the facts and evidence that might challenge the certainty of your views. The world is a complex place. Truth is elusive. Don’t be so confident. You shouldn’t be.

3-Imagine the possibility not just that you are wrong, but that the person you disagree with could be right. Try to imagine the best version of their views and not the straw man your side is constantly portraying. Imagine that it is possible that there is some virtue on the other side. We are all human beings, flawed, a mix of good and bad.

…suffers from the fact that the center and the right have been more polite and civil than the left for decades – and see where that’s gotten us.

Donald Trump is crass, undisciplined and devoid of principle; but it is primarily the exquisite sensibilities of the intersectionality cadre who blame America for every evil that make his actual content inflammatory. They say they can identify “dog whistles” in Trump’s rhetoric, forgetting that it’s only the dog who can hear the whistle.

Is Trump complicit in this? Certainly. His comments on Mexican illegal immigrants are similar to this:

“You cannot go to a 7-11 or Dunkin Donuts unless you have a slight Indian Accent.”
“I mean you’ve got the first sort of mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and nice-looking guy.”
-Joe Biden

…but “that’s just Joe.” Still, Trump’s a piker compared to the rest of Democrat leadership:

“Republicans… [would] rather take pictures with black children than feed them.”
-Donna Brazile

“I’ll have those n*ggers voting Democratic for the next 200 years.”
-Lyndon Johnson

“[T]ypical white people,”
“clinging to their guns and religion.”
-Barack Obama

“basket of deplorables”
“You f*cking Jew b@stard.”
-Hillary Clinton

Those aren’t distant historical examples, which would be far worse (Woodrow Wilson, for example, the Progressives’ Progressive). Those aren’t dog whistles, they’re fog horns; but, on the left, nobody’s knickers got twisted. That rhetoric is how we got Trump.

As far as the hoi polloi are concerned, on one side of protest demonstrations we see a marginalized group promoting white supremacy, who have with very few exceptions been non-violent except in self defense. On the other, we see a larger group, promoting black supremacy, that uses violence regularly and indiscriminately. Criticizing the latter group either brings charges of being a “Nazi sympathizer” from mainstream Democrats, or silence, as classical liberals attempting to exercise freedom of speech are under physical attack at our nation’s universities; in collusion with university administrators and local governments who order police to “stand down.”

Which group is actually a threat to freedom? The group trying to use their right to free speech, or the group routinely using violence to shut down free speech?

I’m reminded of this passage from Alan Bloom’s (1987) The Closing of the American Mind: “I have seen young people, and older people too, who are good democratic liberals, lovers of peace and gentleness, struck dumb with admiration for individuals threatening or using the most terrible violence for the slightest and tawdriest of reasons. They have a sneaking suspicion that they are face to face with men of real commitment, which they themselves lack. And commitment, not truth, is believed to be what counts.

Bloom is writing about people avoiding the messy distractions of understanding their own ‘ideas,’ because “[C]commitment, not truth, is believed to be what counts.” Their rhetoric is excused by their commitment to no more than having unexamined good intentions.

Ronald Reagan had sub-human intelligence. Barry Goldwater was called a Nazi 50 years ago. The KKK is blamed on Republicans when, in fact, it was the action arm of the Democrats. Similarly, racial discrimination by the State: It was, in fact, outright eugenicists and open racists like Woodrow Wilson who reversed integration in the civil service. Even the far left editors at Vox admit this.

Culturally, we’re debating whether your biological sex is dispositive regarding bathroom facilities, while the left insists that any discussion of differences between men and women is absolutely not allowed. Facebook gave up when the number of “gender” choice check boxes available in your profile reached 58, but men and women are indistinguishable.

If you write a polite, scientifically factual memo questioning Google’s discriminatory hiring practices, you get fired. Meanwhile, Google downranks results from websites not fitting their political views.

Meanwhile, we waste blood and treasure half-heartedly defending poppy farmers in Afghanistan, because “homeland security,” while the territory you can visit in Europe is continually eroded by “no-go” zones and our courts plunk down on the side of unrestricted immigration.

And now I’m back to agreeing with the author’s intro, but you can’t remain silent in order to get along. That’s a complete oversimplification of Roberts’ advice, but it’s hard to remember that when some antifa thug is spraying spittle.

This is how you get more Trump. If that isn’t depressing, what is? Well, the thought of Hillary as President may be one thing.

On the Failure to Recognize Patterns

Two from Jonah Goldberg, related to my post Cosmetic Distinctions, below.

The Alt-Right Is Bad — And So Is ‘Antifa’

There’s a natural tendency to think that when people, or movements, hate each other, it must be because they’re opposites. This assumption overlooks the fact that many — indeed, most — of the great conflicts and hatreds in human history are derived from what Sigmund Freud called the “narcissism of minor differences.”

Re: On Charlottesville, Trump, and Anti-Americanism

I’m reminded of this passage from Alan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind: “I have seen young people, and older people too, who are good democratic liberals, lovers of peace and gentleness, struck dumb with admiration for individuals threatening or using the most terrible violence for the slightest and tawdriest of reasons.” He continued: “They have a sneaking suspicion that they are face to face with men of real commitment, which they themselves lack. And commitment, not truth, is believed to be what counts.”

RTWTs

Bloom is writing about people avoiding the messy distractions of understanding their own ideas, because “[C]ommitment, not truth, is believed to be what counts.”

They are committed to no more than having unexamined good intentions: Liberal Ayn Rand?

They had good intentions

That is how Chief Justice John Roberts justified Obamacare:

“Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them. If at all possible, we must interpret the Act in a way that is consistent with the former, and avoids the latter.”
-Chief Justice John Roberts, author of the SCOTUS decision in King v. Burwell

There are good reasons to believe this decision will neither improve health care markets, nor avoid destroying them. The majority decided this case based on their perception of the intent of Congress, despite compelling evidence to the contrary.

  1. The intent of Democrats in Congress – the only people who voted for it – cannot be known in this regard since they did not read the Bill.
  2. Jonathan Gruber, the main government architect of the law, says the intent was to fool the American people. And, specifically, by forcing the States to participate or lose the subsidies.
  3. Obamacare has utterly failed to improve insurance markets. It has made insurance companies rich, at great cost to the people.
  4. An argument advanced by those who passed the Bill is that Obamacare is intended to further the destruction of the “market,” so as to institute a government run single-payer system akin to that of Canada.

Justice Roberts, and his 5 comrades, have severely damaged the rule of law.