Thursday, May 8, 2008 100 Comments

OL4: Dr. Johnson's hypothesis

In the first three parts, dear open-minded progressive, we've tried to build up some tools that will help you evaluate the disturbing proposition we're about to present.

The proposition is neither new nor mysterious. We'll call it Dr. Johnson's hypothesis - from this quip by the great Doctor. Of course this is not a hypothesis in the scientific sense of the word - we cannot prove it, nor will we try. It is just a phrase you can agree with, or not.

The great advantage of Dr. Johnson's formulation is that it has a pleasant boolean quality. You can agree or disagree. It is pretty hard to be indifferent. Let's take it for granted that, as a progressive, you disagree, and we'll try to figure out what might change your mind.

What does it mean that the "Devil was the first Whig?" What do you think of when you think of the Devil? I always think of Mick Jagger. Surely we can agree that the Devil rode a tank, held a general's rank, when the Blitzkrieg raged and the bodies stank. What Dr. Johnson is proposing is that the Adversary clapped at the Putney Debates, that he smeared his face and shook his tomahawk on the Dartmouth, that he leered and cackled as he swore the Tennis Court Oath. Not that it's a short song, but I don't recall these bits.

Of course, there is that part about St. Petersburg, when it was time for a change... I actually have been holding out on you guys here. I have a little family secret to reveal.

I am not a progressive. But my father's parents were. Great Neck Jews of the Yiddish variety, progressive is the exact word they always used to describe their views. And they meant exactly the same thing by it that Barack Obama does. One of the last things my grandmother said to me, before she fell down the stairs and smashed her frontal lobe (kids, when your elderly relatives sign living wills, they generally mean it - make sure the doctors are reminded, often), was that Frank Rich is a really, really wonderful writer.

Only, you know what? For Gramps and Grandma, who were about the nicest people you could imagine, who certainly had no interest in the Devil or any of his works, not even Mick Jagger, progressive was a code word. A sort of dog-whistle. What they really were was Communists.

I don't mean just pinkos or fellow travelers of the "Alger - I mean, Adlai" variety. I mean actual, dues-paying members of the CPUSA. From the '30s through at least the '70s. Did they have cards? Did they carry them? Did they ever pull out their Party cards by mistake at Safeway? "I'm sorry, ma'am, this may entitle you to free travel on the Moscow subway, but it does not provide access to our low-priced specials." I'm afraid these details are lost to history.

But my brother has wartime letters from my grandfather in which he closes by asking his wife to "keep faith with the Party." My parents recall dinner-table conversations from the early '70s in which the phrase "party line" was used in a non-ironic context. And the story goes that the two of them actually met at a Party meeting, at which Gramps stood on a chair in someone's kitchen and made some kind of a rabble-rousing speech.

I am relying on family hearsay here. Because my grandmother would never admit any of it, even to me. Not that I outed myself as a Jacobite, but it must have been clear that I hadn't been reading quite enough Frank Rich. Once I screwed up my courage and asked her if the story about owing my existence to a Party cell was true. "Oh, no," she said. "It was a meeting of the American League for Peace and Democracy." I'm afraid Grandma's conspiratorial reflexes were not made for a world with Wikipedia.

So, in 2008 terms, what we're saying when we say that the Devil was the first Whig is that this idea of "progress" might be kind of, well, creepy and weird. As you see, my family background predisposes me to this suspicion. There is no use in trying to convince me that there was never any such thing as an international Communist conspiracy.

As a modern progressive, of course, you are not a Communist but (as Sartre put it) an anti-anti-Communist. You think of Communism as a mistake, which of course is exactly what it was. The anti-Communism of a Joe McCarthy or a Robert Welch still shocks and appalls you. Its opposite does not. "McCarthyist" is a live insult in your mind. So is "fascist." "Communist," or any of its variants, is kind of dated and almost funny. "You Communist!"

At most you might say that Obama is a communist the same way Mitt Romney is a Mormon. Romney is not a Mormon because he, personally, read the Book of Mormon and felt the awe and mystery of Joseph Smith's golden plates. He is a Mormon because his parents were Mormons. Just as Obama's were communists. (I use the small 'c' to mean sympathy, not membership.) Even if you made Romney absolute king of the universe, I suspect that re-establishing the State of Deseret would not be high on his agenda. I'm sure the same goes for Obama and the Politburo.

The anti-anti-Communist theory of history has a special niche for Communism. It is not good, exactly, but it is also not good to attack it. So we won't. The truth is that Communism is only one small part of the progressive experience. The conclusion that progressivism must be bad because Stalin called himself "progressive" is just as facile and fallacious as the conclusion that reaction must be bad because Hitler (though he did not use the word) was a reactionary.

At best Communism is an example of how "progress" could be creepy and weird. But, because of these historical associations, it's not an effective example of "creepy and weird." Here's a better one: Scientology.

Did you watch the Tom Cruise Scientology video? I really think this is a necessity. If you go straight from this to the Obama We Are The Ones video (not, I hasten to point out, an official campaign production), what is your gut response? Coincidence? Or, um, conspiracy?

What I'm suggesting is that progressivism, from Dr. Johnson's Whigs (and even well before) to "will.i.am," is a little like Scientology. Let me emphasize the word little. I'd say progressivism resembles Scientology in the same way that Scarlett Johansson resembles the Caenorhabditis nematode, a Porsche Cayenne resembles a wheelbarrow, or LSD resembles green tea. On the surface, they are totally different things. The similarities are all low-level.

Scientology is obviously creepy and weird. To make the case that progressivism is creepy and weird, we have one overwhelming challenge: the fact that progressives are not, in general, creepy and weird. Progressives are, in general, pleasant, well-educated and well-grounded. This cannot be said of Scientologists.

Then again, there's another thing that Scientologists don't have: friends in high places. At least as far as I'm aware. I would like to think that the penetration of Scientology in government and other prestigious institutions is fairly minor. Perhaps I am mistaken about this. I hope not. Because I really have no reason to think that if Scientologists take control of any institution - the CIA, Cirque du Soleil, the New York Times, Starbucks, the NBA, Yale, Apple, you name it - they will ever depart of their own free will. At least if you believe Mr. Cruise, they seem quite sincere about their desire to take over the world. For its own good, of course.

Again, does this ring a bell? Maybe. But there's only so much we can learn from this kind of innuendo. I'm afraid it's time for some heavy political theory.

Our concern is the relationship, past and present, between progressivism and American institutions. Clearly a tricky question. There is no plausible null answer, as for Scientology. There is something going on. But what is it? What is the big picture?

Let's play a fun little game. We'll separate civilized societies into three types - 1, 2, and 3 - according to their relationship between opinion and authority. To make the game fun, I'll describe the classes abstractly, without giving examples. Then we'll try to figure out which class we live in.

Type 3 is what Karl Popper called the open society. In a type 3 society, thoughts compete on the basis of their resemblance to reality. Institutions which propagate thoughts compete on the basis of the quality of the thoughts they propagate. Is this rocket science? It is not.

Good ideas outcompete bad ideas in a type 3 society, because most of us would rather be clueful than deluded. While many individuals have cognitive biases - such as a natural preference for optimistic over pessimistic predictions, or the reverse - these average out and are dwarfed by the general ambition of intellectuals, to see reality as it actually is. Intellectuals are brutally competitive by nature, and delight in exploding the delusions of others. Nonsense should not last long around them.

Thus, in a type 3 society, we cannot say that everyone will agree and they will all be right. But we can be quite confident that the best thoughts will be readily available to those who care to think them. In a type 3 society there will always be superstitions, because there will always be superstitious people, who may like everyone else think and speak as they please. There will always be differences of opinion, because many questions cannot be answered by precise and objective methods - whose performance is better, Humphrey Bogart's in Casablanca or Rutger Hauer's in Split Second? But since reality is one thing, and people are people, people who are smart and want to understand reality will generally cluster around the truth.

So when you live in a type 3 society, while you can think for yourself, you generally don't have to think for yourself. Why buy a cow, when milk is so cheap? The type 3 society makes an accurate perception of reality easily available to anyone who wants it. If you want an accurate understanding of history, just buy a history book. If you want a weird, creepy understanding of history, you can probably find that as well, but first you will need to find a group of historians who share your weird, creepy biases. The sane ones will almost certainly be in the majority.

I think you and I can agree that a type 3 society is where we want to live. The question is: do we live in one? Let's take a rain check on this baby.

Type 1 is basically the opposite of type 3. Let's call it the loyal society. In a type 1 society, your thoughts are coordinated by the government. Public opinion is a matter of state security.

Why is public opinion a matter of state security? Because people are freakin' dangerous. Anyone who has ever raised a male child has seen its instinctive affection for weapons. Heck, chimpanzees are freakin' dangerous. And you'll notice that most of the earth's surface is controlled by their hairless relatives, which is clearly not how it would be if our brother apes had their druthers.

In a type 1 society, the State establishes two categories of thoughts: good thoughts and bad thoughts. It penalizes people for expressing bad thoughts, or rewards them for expressing good thoughts, or ideally, of course, both.

A bad thought is any thought that, if a sufficient number of people were to think it, might be threatening to the safety of the State. A good thought is any thought that is useful to the State, even if just because it fits in the spot where a bad one might otherwise go.

To install its good thoughts in your brain, the State supports a set of official information organs, institutions which churn out good thinking on a cradle-to-grave basis. The organs install good thoughts in the young, and maintain them in the adult. Hominids are learning machines. They learn what's put in front of them. It's really not that hard.

To keep bad thoughts from spreading, the State uses its powers to discourage, prohibit or destroy unofficial or otherwise uncoordinated information organs. It constructs a legal environment in which direct, person-to-person transmission of bad thoughts is socially and professionally imprudent at best, actionable at worst. It may exempt dissenters from the protection of the law, or impose legal disabilities on them, or on those who tolerate them. Or, of course, it can imprison, banish or execute them.

In a successful type 1 society - there have been many - the range of good thoughts may be rich and broad. Many if not all of them can be quite sensible. It should be possible for an intelligent member of the governing classes to live a normal and successful life without once being tempted to venture off the reservation.

However, from the perspective of the security forces, it may be quite useful to have one or two questions for which the bad answer is true, and the good one is nonsense. Some people are just natural-born troublemakers. Others are naturally loyal. Separating the sheep from the goats gives the authorities a great way to focus on the latter.

Of course, not everyone in a type 1 society needs to be a believer. The more the better, however, especially among the governing classes. An ideal structure is one in which believers are concentrated among the most fashionable and successful social circles, and dissenters (if there are any) tend to be poorly educated, less intelligent, and nowhere near as wealthy. If this can be achieved, the believers will feel a natural and healthy contempt for the dissenters, who will be inclined to abandon any bad thoughts they may have been brought up with if they have any desire to succeed in life.

The sine qua non of a type 1 society is central coordination of information. Because the organs are the instruments which make state security a reality, they cannot be allowed to contradict each other. In a state which is secured purely by military force, can various units of the army and navy get into little catfights with each other? Um, no. Likewise, in a state secured by thought control (as well as probably some military force), any intellectual conflict is a menace of the first order. Even on trivial details, disagreement means instability.

In other words, the information organs of a type 1 society are synoptic. They see the world through one eye, one set of doctrines, one official story. Call it the synopsis.

How does a type 1 state maintain the coherence of its synopsis? One easy way is to have a single leader, who exercises unified executive supervision. Ideally the same leader manages both physical and intellectual security. If the type 1 state doesn't have a single leader, it should at least have a single authoritative institution. Since security depends on synoptic coherence, any divergence can quite literally lead to civil war.

There is no mystery around the historical identity of type 1 societies. This is an unambiguously right-wing pattern. It is also the default structure of human government: the god-king. The Greeks called it "oriental despotism." In Christian history it is known as caesaropapism. In Anglo-American history, it is the throne-and-altar state, as represented by the high-church Anglican or Catholic tradition. When Americans express an affection for separation of Church and State, they are expressing an antipathy to the type 1 design.

And, of course, in 20th-century history we see the type 1 state most clearly in National Socialism and Italian Fascism. The fascisms discarded most of the trappings of Christian theism, but reused the basic caesaropapist design. Under Hitler's supervision, of course, Goebbels was more or less the pope of Nazi Germany. His executive authority over all intellectual content in the Third Reich, from films to schools to universities, was easily the equal of any medieval pontiff's. (I highly recommend this movie.)

The Nazi term Gleichschaltung, generally translated as "coordination," is more or less the modern epitome of the type 1 design. The Nazis also used the word Aufklärung, meaning "enlightenment" or literally "clearing-up," for the inculcation of useful thoughts in the German people. I think of this term every time I see a "public service message."

We also see the type 1 pattern, if not quite as distinctly, in the Communist states. It tends to be more institutional and less personal. It is easy to identify Communist Hitlers, but there is no clear Communist equivalent of Goebbels. Communist states over time experienced a decay of personal authority, which passed instead to institutions. But the Party in a modern one-party state is more or less equivalent to the Church in the old Christian dispensation, and an established church is an established church whether governed by pope or synod.

The type 1 state is certainly the most common form in history. It is not the end of the world. China today is a type 1 society. It also has the world's most successful economy, and not such a bad place to live at all. Elizabethan England, which experienced perhaps the greatest artistic explosion in human history, was a type 1 society, with secret police galore. On the other hand, North Korea is a type 1 society, and it's awful in almost every possible way. I can say generally that I would rather live in a type 3 society than in a type 1 society, but the details matter.

But here is the problem.

The problem is: modern, post-1945 Western society certainly does not match the description of a type 1 society. For example, there is no coordinating authority. Unless you can come up with some conspiracy theory (Joo! Joo!), it simply doesn't exist. There is no Goebbels who tells writers what to write, filmmakers what to film, journalists what to print, or professors what to profess. There is no Pope, there is no Church, there is no Party, there is nothing. And as we've seen, the type 1 design makes no sense without coordination.

On the other hand, however...

One, while our society does not match the type 1 description in this essential sense, it seems to match it quite well in others. And two, while it matches the type 3 description in some ways, it does not seem to match it in others.

In a type 3 society, for example, we should see intellectual inhomogeneities between competing institutions. Harvard and Yale should mostly agree, because reality is one thing. So should the New York Times and the Washington Post. But there will always be sclerosis, stagnation, drift. Competition, not just among ideas but among institutions, is essential to the Popperian ideal. We should see these institutions drift away from reality. And we should see the marketplace of ideas punish them when they do, and reward those which do not.

Do you see this? Because I sure don't. What I see is a synopsis.

From my perspective, not just Harvard and Yale, but in fact all major American universities in the Western world, offer exactly the same intellectual product. Which institution is more to the left, for example? Harvard, or Yale? You can pick any two mainstream universities, and you will not be able to answer this question. It's a sort of intellectual peloton.

And it's not that we don't see drift. There is plenty of drift. If you ask which is more to the left, Harvard today or Harvard in 1958, the answer is easy. Yet somehow, the entire peloton is drifting in the same direction at the same speed. Does this scream "type 3" to you? And yet, if there is some Goebbels telling Harvard and Yale professors what to profess, the secret is awfully well-kept.

The same is true of newspapers. The so-called "mainstream media" is certainly a synopsis. Just as there is a bright line between mainstream and non-mainstream universities, there is a bright line between mainstream and non-mainstream media. The latter may be all over the map. The former constitute a synopsis. And the journalistic and academic synopses are clearly identical - mainstream journalists do not, as a rule, challenge mainstream academic authority.

These "mainstream" institutions look very, very like the set of information organs that we'd expect to see in a type 1 society. And their product is clearly a synopsis. Yet they are clearly not subject to any kind of central coordination.

I think the post-1945 mainstream synopsis is important enough to be a proper noun. Let's call it the Synopsis. Let's also give the set of institutions that produce and propagate the Synopsis - mainstream academia, journalism and education - a name. Let's call them the Cathedral. What explains these phenomena?

The Synopsis, of course, has an answer. The answer is that we live in a type 3 society, and the Synopsis is the set of all reasonable ideas. As for the Cathedral, it is simply the culmination of the great human quest for knowledge. It is just as permanent as the reality it exists within and elucidates, which is why there will still be a Harvard and a Yale in 2108, 2208, and 3008.

Here again is our null hypothesis. If you believe in the Synopsis and trust the Cathedral, you are either a progressive or an idiot. There is no way to receive a mainstream university education, read the Times every morning, trust both of them, and not be a progressive. Unless, of course, you're an idiot.

But there is another hypothesis, which is that we live in a type 2 society.

The type 2 society is the consensus society. Its hallmark is the phenomenon of spontaneous coordination. You might call it Gleichschaltung without Goebbels. Spontaneous coordination can produce an official information system which in all other respects resembles that of a type 1 society, but which is not responsible to any central authority or institution.

Basically, a type 1 society is a government in which the State controls the press and the universities. A type 2 society is one in which the press and the universities control the State. It is easy to tell the two forms apart, but the customer experience is pretty much the same.

Like a type 1 society, a type 2 society can be reasonably comfortable and pleasant to live in. The type 2 design is more stable in some ways, and less stable in others. It is not the end of the world. As one who would prefer a type 3 society, however, I consider it pernicious.

Type 2 societies tend to form from the breakdown of central authority in type 1 societies. Recall that in a type 1 society, public opinion is power. It is the power of the mob. A mob cannot defeat an army, but if the army is neutral, whoever has the biggest mob wins.

What happens in a type 1 society when the center fails? When censorship no longer operates, journalists no longer take orders, heretics are no longer burned at the stake, professors are no longer hired or fired for their political beliefs? You might think that the natural outcome would be a type 3 society, a marketplace of ideas in which only freedom rules and thoughts compete on their value alone.

But the connection between public opinion and political power still holds. Therefore, the information organs are still acting as power centers. If their views diverge, as without type 1 supervision they will, they can compete in two ways: on the basis of intellectual righteousness, or on the basis of political power. If they choose the former and abjure the latter, they will be at a disadvantage against those to whom all weapons are friends. Moreover, since political power is a deadlier weapon, successful competitors are likely to resolve any tradeoffs between power and righteousness in favor of the former.

We can describe the type 1 pathology as coercive power distortion. Political power distorts the landscape of ideas, rendering the playing field non-flat. Ideas that the State favors are artificially popularized. Ideas that it disfavors are artificially discouraged.

The type 2 equivalent is attractive power distortion. The coercive State does not exist, or at least does not coerce. But the connection between power and public opinion remains. Ideas, therefore, are selectively favored on the basis of their capacity to serve as standards around which to organize coalitions, which can struggle for power by whatever means are effective.

Again, from the type 3 perspective, attractive power distortion is pathological for the same reason as coercive power distortion. It is an alternative criterion which contributes to the success or failure of ideas, and has nothing to do with their validity.

For example, in many ways nonsense is a more effective organizing tool than the truth. Anyone can believe in the truth. To believe in nonsense is an unforgeable demonstration of loyalty. It serves as a political uniform. And if you have a uniform, you have an army. We saw this effect earlier in the cohesive type 1 state, but it works just as well for competing type 2 factions.

This does not explain, however, how the chaotic post-type-1 society congeals into the mature, spontaneously coordinated type 2 society. Why do we have one Synopsis and one Cathedral, rather than a whole host of competing synopses and cathedrals?

The answer, I think, is that even the type 2 society has only one government. It is impossible for two competing information system to capture a single government. And capturing a government gives an information system a considerable advantage over any competitors. It can subsidize itself. It can penalize its competitors. It can indulge in the entire sordid range of type 1 pathologies.

Without acquiring a central coordinator, the Cathedral can capture the resources and powers of the State. It can devise theories of government which it can incorporate into the Synopsis, and which the State must follow. These theories naturally involve lavish support for the Cathedral, which becomes responsible for the production of "public policy," ie, government decisions. Ie, real power is held by the professors and journalists, ie the Cathedral, not through their purity and righteousness but through their self-sustaining control of public opinion. Lenin's great question, "Who? Whom?", is answered.

But why does the Cathedral not break into factions? What keeps Harvard aligned with Yale? Why doesn't one of the two realize that there is no need for a thousand synoptic progressive universities, and a vast unfilled demand for a single top-notch conservative university? Why, in short, is the Synopsis stable?

I think the answer is that the Synopsis includes only political propositions whose adoption tends to strengthen the Cathedral, and weaken its enemies. It rejects and opposes all other propositions. Inasmuch as these sets shift over time, the Synopsis will shift as well. It follows a sort of hill-climbing strategy - not in the landscape of truth, but that of power. Thus, by definition, it cannot be opposed from within.

To be progressive is simply to support the Cathedral and the Synopsis. Today's Synopsis is the lineal descendant of the first type 2 movement in modern history, the Reformation. Through the Reformation we reach the Enlightenment, whose link to the Synopsis is obvious. The post-1945 Western regime, whose victory over all pre-Reformation or anti-Enlightenment forces appears final and irreversible, is the Whig millennium.

(I mean "millennium" only in the sense of "utopia." I don't actually expect it to last a thousand years. The terminal condition of our present system of government is that it satisfies the demand for power only by expanding. As it expands, its policymaking process includes more and more input, to the point at which it is completely ineffective. It can thus no longer expand. I don't think analogies to the stellar cycle are at all misplaced.)

This analysis, which is obviously broad and facile, still explains a few things. For example, let's consider the case of libertarianism.

Libertarians often call themselves "classical liberals," and indeed the word "libertarian" today means about what John Stuart Mill meant when he called himself a "liberal." In fact, in Europe today, "liberal" still means more or less "libertarian."

Why (in the US) did the term stay the same, and the meaning change? Because, in fact, the real meaning has not changed. In 1858 as in 2008, a "liberal" is a supporter of the Cathedral: ie, a Whig, a progressive, a Radical, etc. It is the Synopsis that shifted, and it is today's libertarians who are not with the program.

19th-century liberal Whigs and Radicals supported economic freedom because economic freedom meant the destruction of Tory privileges, such as the Corn Laws (whose beneficiaries were landed aristocrats), which harmed their supporters and benefited their enemies. This position may have been explained on the basis of principle. But if it had not been politically advantageous, spontaneous coordination would have produced other principles. Either Mill would have embraced these other principles, in which case you still would know his name, or he would have been genuinely committed to economic freedom, in which case you wouldn't.

By the start of the 20th century, the old British aristocracy was in full flight, only scraps remained of the Throne-and-Altar system, and by the standard of a half-century earlier, basically everyone was a Radical. Therefore, the progressive movement could become socialist, and stand for economic centralization and official charity. These aims were not attainable in the era of Mill, because the Radicals were too weak and the Tories too strong. These tactical changes did not emerge from any secret cabal - spontaneous coordination is entirely to blame.

Libertarianism in the late 20th and early 21st centuries has gained little political traction. Why? One, it opposes the Cathedral, which controls most real power and does not deal kindly with its enemies. Two, by definition it has no mechanism for using any power it does gain to create jobs for its followers, because it does not believe in the expansion of government. Three, it either appeals to the anti-Cathedral Townies or "conservatives," making itself unfashionable, thus unpopular, and thus ineffective as an opposition, or it tries to ingratiate itself with the Cathedral, making itself thus ineffective as an opposition. It has nowhere to go. It cannot recreate the world of John Stuart Mill, with its target-rich environment of Tory landlordism.

Thus we see again Dr. Johnson's hypothesis: all the principles of Whigs, even those which seem austere and noble, are consistent with the objective of seizing power. Moreover, the Whig is concerned with his own power rather than with the state of society. He would much rather rule in Hell than serve in Heaven, and he will turn any heaven into a hell to get there. And yet he is quite sincere in all his Whiggery, which makes him all the more dangerous.

Of course, there is also the null hypothesis. Maybe we already do live in the open society, and the Synopsis is no more than sweet reason itself. It would certainly be nice.

But if Dr. Johnson was right, what is the answer? Having left the loyal society far behind, how can we proceed from the consensus society to the open society?

Continue to part five...

100 Comments:

Anonymous Lugo said...

As a modern progressive, of course, you are not a Communist but (as Sartre put it) an anti-anti-Communist. You think of Communism as a mistake, which of course is exactly what it was.

My experience is that progressives think that Communism has "never really been tried" - i.e. the USSR, the PRC, and their satellites, were "not really Communists". The Glorious Experiment remains to be conducted, comrades!

Hitler (though he did not use the word) was a reactionary.

No, Hitler was a revolutionary. There was literally no institution in German domestic life, or in the existing international order, that he did not want to change.

I think the post-1945 mainstream synopsis is important enough to be a proper noun. Let's call it the Synopsis. Let's also give the set of institutions that produce and propagate the Synopsis - mainstream academia, journalism and education - a name. Let's call them the Cathedral.

I call them The Establishment. Carroll Quigley calls them the Anglo-American Establishment. Carl Oglesby calls them the Yankees.

But why does the Cathedral not break into factions?... Why, in short, is the Synopsis stable?

It is puzzling that there is such a large measure of agreement within the Cathedral on basic issues, even when there is considerable evidence to refute the premises of the Synopsis. I suspect the Cathedral has to meet with a catastrophic defeat of some sort before it decides to alter the Synopsis - and sometimes even such a defeat is not sufficient. For example, the history of American foreign policy from 1917 to today is the history of the Cathedral's efforts to achieve "detente" with Russia - i.e. to make Russia a "strategic partner" - while the Russians treated the USA as an adversary. The Cathedral refused (and even today, refuses) to admit that "partnership" with a country that considers you an adversary is impossible, and thus "detente" is unworkable and can only lead to disaster.

May 8, 2008 at 6:12 AM  
Anonymous Lawful Neutral said...

Mr. Moldbug,

1) Aren't you contrasting flawed reality with imagined perfection here? You name plenty of type 1 societies, but how about some concrete examples of societies in history you would consider to be type 3?

2) Wouldn't a "peloton" likely form around the truth in a genuine type 3 society? As you say, that's certainly what the Cathedral would like us to think is going on. Sure the "peloton" moves over time, that's just the effect of increasing understanding bringing us closer to the truth! How would someone living in a type 3 society know it wasn't a type 2, and vice-versa?

May 8, 2008 at 6:21 AM  
Anonymous Jeff Williams said...

I’ll take issue with this statement:

Intellectuals are brutally competitive by nature, and delight in exploding the delusions of others. Nonsense should not last long around them.

Intellectuals are competitive, of course, just as are athletes, undertakers, or computer programmers. They compete for money and status just as others do. As they formulate their arguments, they do so with a view towards self-advancement. They ask themselves, “What can I say that will best benefit me?”

To predict how intellectuals will behave, one can simply look at who is paying the piper. When intellectuals are paid by the marketplace, they mainly must cater to the lowbrow sensibilities of the masses. It may be difficult to use the word “intellectual” to describe a person who makes movies that consist of explosions and potty jokes, but such degrading jobs must be the norm for intellectuals in a system where the marketplace is the only paymaster.

Where there are government jobs for intellectuals, intellectuals will, of course, parrot the party line. Victor Klemperer watched with disgust when his academic colleagues, soon after the Nazis came to power, quickly and eagerly turned into Nazi toadies.

The vendor must serve the customers. If movie audiences want explosions, all the movie studios will produce movies with explosions. Harvard and Yale can be viewed as institutions that serve students who want government jobs. It follows then that Harvard and Yale must sell these students degrees that help them get government jobs. Such top colleges will also offer, as added benefits, useful social connections and help in acquiring stylish tastes and attitudes. Required coursework in such colleges will not likely include Libertarianism 101: A basic overview of why government sucks.

In this analysis, if you are seeking to create a group of intellectuals who seek the truth, you must first invent a wealthy customer (or customers) who will pay for the truth. You cannot rely on intellectuals to seek truth and dispel nonsense absent proper incentivization.

May 8, 2008 at 6:27 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

LN:

One would know that they are in a type 3 as opposed to a type 2 because in a type 3 society alternate/bad/untruthful/new/truthful ideas would be either ignored or explored -- that is, their usefulness and, more importantly, truthfulness would be thought about, written about, and/or debated and then adopted or ignored (with adherents still free to follow said ideas).

In a type 2 society "different" (or non-Synoptic) ideas are fought against, persecuted, viciously attacked, etc. The holders of said ideas are ridiculed, thrown out of their jobs, ostracized, etc.

It's pretty easy to tell AND pretty easy to tell America is a type 2 society. Just go to any Casa de la Progressivista and talk about how

1) global warming is bunk

2) "progressive tax" schemes are bad for the economy

3) moral relativism is a lie

or (for a lot of fun) 4) the Bush Administration is actually doing a fine job [this is good just for jaw-dropping value]

and see how your ideas are received. Are the seriously considered or are they scoffed at?

A type 3 society gives the first response. A type 2 gives the second.

Again, quite easy to tell.

HEAD! BLOG! NOW!
Michael

May 8, 2008 at 6:32 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Jeff W says:

"In this analysis, if you are seeking to create a group of intellectuals who seek the truth, you must first invent a wealthy customer (or customers) who will pay for the truth. You cannot rely on intellectuals to seek truth and dispel nonsense absent proper incentivization."

Actually, you can. What are we if not intellectuals seeking the truth and dispensing nonsense absent proper incentivization?

Or have I just not filled out the right paperwork? Does Mencius need a w4 from me? My CV perhaps?

Speaking of -- when are we going to start that "a single top-notch conservative university"?

Peas,
Michael

May 8, 2008 at 6:37 AM  
Anonymous Lawful Neutral said...

Fantastic answer, G.M. Palmer! I'm actually quite convinced. The difference between nonsense and politically-incorrect nonsense is obvious. I can be still be a respectable member of society if I publicly argue for feng shui, or astrology, or something similarly moronic, but if I cross the pale, I'll know about it.

I'm still waiting for an example of a real, functioning type 3 society from history, though.

May 8, 2008 at 6:41 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

LN:

Glad to be of service :)
I doubt that there is one.
I'm sure Mencius will promote his corporate-based nation-state as a theoretical example but I can't think of any real world government that didn't get awfully faction-y (even the "open-minded" Greeks killed Socrates).

GMP

May 8, 2008 at 7:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Quote
To predict how intellectuals will behave, one can simply look at who is paying the piper. When intellectuals are paid by the marketplace, they mainly must cater to the lowbrow sensibilities of the masses.
Endquote

The free market produced Shakespeare's plays and the Ferrari GTO. You have a very low opinion of the aggregrate consumer.

I am starting to believe that as the country turned more towards strict democracy (direct election of Senators) and as terchnology created the vast one way mass media armed with the emotional tools of images, it unintentionally empowered two groups. The people who create mass media content can influence votes, and hence have
great power over politicians. The university wields such great power because it taps into the prestiege of science. The only thing that trumps popular opinion is the pronouncement "science tells us that . . ."

Of course once science became politicized it is just another tool towards power.

May 8, 2008 at 7:02 AM  
Anonymous Lawful Neutral said...

GMP:

I doubt that there is one.

I'd agree there isn't. The problem is, then the "type 3 society" is just another imaginary utopia we can use to damn the real world for failing to live up to. There's not exactly a shortage of those around. How is working tirelessly to achieve their implausible utopia working out for the progressives?

May 8, 2008 at 7:13 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

MM would say, of course, that they are doing quite well.

The proper use of Utopianism is to say "hey, fuckers, this is how things ought to be -- but here is how things are. We need to fix them." Of course this is the thoughts that Hume warned us about (and MM also -- the idea of political Formalism is supposed to be dealing with situations as they exist not as they should be).

The problem with Utopianism is that it, by definition, cannot be achieved (you know, "no place").

So what are we doing here?

Diagnosing the problem and trying to come up with the best solutions possible.

The problem with progressives being that they are diagnosing (or inventing) symptoms without looking at the underlying disease.

Peace,
Michael

May 8, 2008 at 7:23 AM  
Anonymous Lawful Neutral said...

MM would say, of course, that they are doing quite well.

Yep, and he is right. What I should have asked is, how is it working out for their utopia?

May 8, 2008 at 7:35 AM  
Blogger Leonard said...

if you are seeking to create a group of intellectuals who seek the truth, you must first invent a wealthy customer (or customers) who will pay for the truth.

Or else, you route around the tidal warp of the pay nexus completely, with something akin wikipedia.

May 8, 2008 at 8:00 AM  
Blogger mtraven said...

There is a vast system of alternative conservative institutions: Fox News, the WSJ, The Heritage Foundation, Pepperdine University, Liberty University, the Discovery Institute, the Hoover Institute, Regnery, the Scaife foundation, the Olin foundation, and many more. They don't have the prestige of Harvard or Yale, but they exist. If you want to be a conservate intellectual, you can suck on the teat of wingnut welfare and enjoy a much easier climb to tenure than you can by trying to get into the Harvard or Yale faculty. If there was a vast army of would-be conservative intellectuals, they would be building Pepperdine into a world-class institution. Instead, we get Dinesh D'Souza and Jonah Goldberg. I know that people here generally oppose affirmitive action for minorities; so maybe it's time to stop the affirmative action for conservative intellectuals, who have been given ample opportunity to better themselves but can't quite seem to cut the mustard. Certainly there are exceptions but as a class conservatives seem to be have some kind of deficiency that holds them back.

Possibly the reason is this: there is an argument, made by conservatives themselves, that stupidity is both a virtue and inherent to the conservative position.

And in regard to the devil, if not for his resistance to subordination, we'd be strolling around naked in the garden of Eden, naming the beasts and birds but otherwise not achieving much.

May 8, 2008 at 8:18 AM  
Blogger Leonard said...

in many ways nonsense is a more effective organizing tool than the truth. Anyone can believe in the truth. To believe in nonsense is an unforgeable demonstration of loyalty. It serves as a political uniform. And if you have a uniform, you have an army.

This reminds me of two things: one is Theodore Dalyrymple on PC cant: "When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is to co-operate with evil, and in some small way to become evil oneself. One's standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to."

The other is this, Matt Tiabbi's recent article in Rolling Stone about his experience in a far-right Christian Zionist church.

As for belief in nonsense more generally: it's not unforgeable; it's easy enough to mouth words. I would agree that true belief (though hard to detect) in real nonsense would be unforgeable, because real nonsense is basically random.

But most of the untrue stuff that people believe is non random. It's possible to come up with most popular 'nonsense' independently, because it's not random stuff. It's not really nonsense; it's just not true. Consider the idea that the world is flat -- nonsense or not? Or, to use a more pointed example, that life was designed by an Intelligent Designer. Or even the idea that race does not exist.

Perhaps you might tell us what you think the most nonsensical belief among the progressive memeplex is.

May 8, 2008 at 8:35 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

To respond briefly to the Raven:

1) You are naming mostly neo-conservative institutions. If anyone can show the substantive difference between neo-conservative intervention and progressive intervention I have yet to see it. Perhaps I should ask this -- when will we start a type 3 university?

2) The devil had nothing to do with Eden. Perhaps you should read the texts you quote from.

May 8, 2008 at 9:04 AM  
Anonymous Jeff Williams said...

G.M. Palmer said,

What are we if not intellectuals seeking the truth and dispensing nonsense..

I think you meant “dispelling nonsense.”

I stand by my assertion that intellectuals cannot be relied upon to do right on their own. I’ll even call and raise the bet by saying that intellectuals are freakin’ dangerous. Exhibit A is the French Revolution. Exhibit B is Soviet Communism.

Intellectuals should not be allowed to run the government. Russell Kirk, may he rest in peace, was a lifelong opponent of intellectuals running the government; Kirk even hated libertarians. And it was William F. Buckley, peace be upon him, who famously said, “I'd rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University. “

If intellectuals cannot be allowed to run the government, who should run it? Here is an instructive scene from history. The time was March, 1797, the place, Philadelphia. George Washington was saying a final goodbye to friends and associates as he left for Mount Vernon. As he left the room and got into his carriage, the men and women he left behind simply could not stop crying. It was a soggy weepfest that went on and on.

Will there be a similar scene on January 20, 2009, when GW Bush leaves for Texas? I don’t know, but I personally would not bid too high for the Kleenex concession.

Why were grown men and women crying in 1797 in Philadelphia? It was not because of the departure of a philosopher-king. It was because of something that the philosophes and Karl Marx always ignored. That something is love. Americans loved George Washington, and that is why they were crying when he left for Mount Vernon. He was loved for good reasons.

It is that love that deserves to be on the throne. The philosophes didn’t know how to put it there; Karl Marx didn’t know how to put it there; and I must confess that I don’t know how to put it there. It is difficult even to discuss it. We live in a degraded age when people are ashamed to talk about love.

But putting love on the throne and keeping it there is the proper goal of all political effort. For instructions on how to do it, it is perhaps best to continually and humbly ask God.

May 8, 2008 at 9:09 AM  
Anonymous Randy said...

"It [libertarianism] cannot recreate the world of John Stuart Mill, with its target-rich environment of Tory landlordism."

Oh, but it can. The cathedral has become wealthy and aristocratic. Perhaps this all cyclical.

May 8, 2008 at 9:34 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Jeff --

Look at the first definition

I think we have differing definitions of the word "intellectual." I almost certainly do not mean Harvard professors (and Yale artists) who sacrifice their children on the altar of Mammon-the-Progressive.

I mean highly intelligent (I would prefer 3+SD from the norm) people who are independent and critical thinkers. Anyone who has murdered their thinking for an ideology should no longer be considered an intellectual -- they are merely intelligent cultists.

Besides all that, you were maintaining that intelligent folk need someone to pay them to be properly intelligent. I say horsehockey. No one is paying me to be intelligent -- I am paid to shuffle paper and to make sure dropouts graduate. Certainly no one is paying me to write poetry or blog about it (something I do fairly damn well, thank you). And can't you see how easily corruptable the "pay for smarts" idea is? If my brainpower is up for the use of the highest bidder, who is to say that bidder must have my, the people's, or anyone's interests close at heart? I'm sure that (GODWIN ALERT) Hitler payed VonBraun quite well for his services. I know America did.

May 8, 2008 at 9:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a vast system of alternative conservative institutions: Fox News, the WSJ, The Heritage Foundation, Pepperdine University, Liberty University, the Discovery Institute, the Hoover Institute, Regnery, the Scaife foundation, the Olin foundation, and many more.

Haw. These are proof of MM's contention that "the whole conservative movement serves the same purpose as the toy opposition parties of East Germany - or, again, the Washington Generals... It convinces Americans that their government is the product of a competitive, adversarial process."

And Pepperdine? That whole university is "conservative"? Sorry, don't think so.

May 8, 2008 at 9:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Certainly there are exceptions but as a class conservatives seem to be have some kind of deficiency that holds them back.

My own "deficiency" - which I call "integrity" and "intellectual honesty" - is my unwillingness to have anything to do with the balderdash, intellectual fraud, and left-wing psychobabble that passes for "scholarship" in academia these days. You couldn't pay me enough to hang around with charlatans like this professor.

May 8, 2008 at 10:51 AM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

GMP's point about the 'pay for smarts' idea is dead on. The intelligentsia has repeatedly proved itself to be mercenary in the extreme. As just one example, those academics that were not utterly excluded from the Nazi state quickly fell in line behind it. Resistance came from other quarters with more honorable traditions:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philipp_von-Boeselager

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clemens_von-Galen

As for Mtraven, before dismissing the conservative think-tanks (and I agree with GMP's assessment of most of them) - bear in mind that the left's long march through the institutions did not succeed overnight, nor can any attempt on the part of the right to carry out a counter-manoeuvre be expected to prevail quickly.

The mediæval universities remained stuck in scholasticism for a couple of centuries while the new classical learning of the Renaissance developed largely outside them in princely courts and learned societies. The same was true of the physical sciences, which from the time of Galileo and Boyle were the province of individual experimenters and organizations like the Accademia dei Lincei or the Royal Society. They did not have a firm position within the universities until the nineteenth century.

So reactionaries should be of good cheer, and not weary in well-doing. Chi la dura la vince.

May 8, 2008 at 1:37 PM  
Blogger George Weinberg said...

The main problem I have with this "Cathedral" theory as stated is that I don't see the reason for its apparent unity. It's easy to see why you'll seldom see college professors lecturing on the uselessness of a college education nor read newspaper articles trumpeting studies indicating that reading newspapers is for all practical purposes a waste of time. But it's not as clear why it shouldn't happen the other way around. Without some sort of party loyalty enforcement mechanism it's hard to see why there isn't more fracturing.

May 8, 2008 at 4:23 PM  
Blogger John S. Bolton said...

The corrupting influence is not money, but power-greed, though.
The smarter someone is, for each increment he diverges, the more likely he is to believe that a quick application of power to his ideas will create maximum possible value. Libertarians and suchlike are off the progressive reservation because they actually see that dictatorship is not what will create value, regardless how smart the dictator or his philosopher-king.

May 8, 2008 at 4:32 PM  
Anonymous Ian said...

Lawful Neutral said...
> Wouldn't a "peloton" likely form around the truth in a genuine type 3 society? ... Sure the "peloton" moves over time, that's just the effect of increasing understanding bringing us closer to the truth.

Anonymous said...
> The university wields such great power because it taps into the prestiege of science.


My opinion : one of the errors of the progressive religion is transposing the progress that humanity has made in natural sciences onto social sciences/politics. I mean, if we can cure diseases that killed people three hundred years ago, if we can topographically map the bottom of ocean regions no one knew even *existed* three hundred years ago, if airplanes are so much more advanced than horse-and-carriages, if we can understand how the world of physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, and engineering work so much better than we used to ... well, then, of course we, respectively, understand how to run a society, justice, the nature of conflict and its resolution, the tradeoff of freedom and equality, etc in an accordingly deeper and truer fashion.

Unfortunately, that is not remotely the case. Seems to me that people's depth of knowledge of human things has not remotely kept pace with the natural sciences. As MLK Jr. said, "we now have guided missles, and misguided men".

The reason, as I see it, is falsification : an airplane either flies, or it doesn't. A therapuetic pharmacuetical (basically) either works, or it doesn't. But with wacky social sciences hypotheses ideas like "race doesn't exist" that are considered equivalent social science innovations and scientific breakthroughs, there is actually (1) no real method of experimentation, (2) no accepted method of falsification, (3) no consequence for incorrectness, and (4) real means massive political pressure to ignore the fact that the hypothesis is not supportable.

The lefty post-modernisist "philosophy of science" types (llike the un-lampoonable Prof. Venkatesan ) are right when they say that "science is a political/social creation, subject to political forces." But that is much much less true of the life/natural sciences that they scrutinize so carefully for coming up with un-PC findings like evolutionary psychology. No, it's the social sciences that are a mess of partisan, adverial, power-driven politics disguised as impartial research.

So, you get a lot of smugness from the Brahmin/Stuff-White-People-Like crowd about being at the supposed apex of evolution of social awareness, borrowing on the prestige and accomplishments of natural sciences, when no such support is warranted.

May 8, 2008 at 4:45 PM  
Blogger John S. Bolton said...

That would explain some, but not the question of how the synopsis can be monolithic for decades. There is a reciprocating mechanism that recruits by almost irresistably appealing to power-greed of intellectuals, one that increases as IQ increases, thu engaging strong prestige motivations.

May 8, 2008 at 5:07 PM  
Blogger mtraven said...

GMP:

1) If neo-conservatives are different enough to require their own institutions, then there are differences. It is quite true that both neocons and progressives can be interventionist. So what?

2) The snake in Eden is widely held to be a symbol of the devil. Or do you suppose it was a real talking snake?

There is no such thing as a "Type 3 University", and there is not likely to be. Rather, there are Type 3 fields, or fields where there is more or less devotion to Truth with a capital T and less or more to ideology. Science is nothing more or less than a set of techniques for doing Type 3 work, despite the fact that scientists are human beings and subject to tribalism, envy, groupthink, confirmation bias, and all the other cognitive bugs that our speicies is prone to. Lesser fields like history, literature, or political "science" (rule of thumb -- if something has "science" in its name, it isn't a science) cannot do this, no matter how much they might like to.

May 8, 2008 at 5:12 PM  
Anonymous Lugo said...

the Hoover Institute, Regnery, the Scaife foundation, the Olin foundation,

Hoover is not in any meaningful sense "conservative". The place is run by George Shultz, for God's sake - a former Secretary of State, and thus one of the High Priests, if not an Archbishop, of the Cathedral. (In my view, he was appointed specifically in order to stamp out anti-Soviet activity at Hoover.) Most of the Fellows there are typical Harvard / Yale / Princeton types, not very different from what you'd find in any university history or poli sci department, and if MM's construct has any validity at all, Hoover must be seen as part of the Cathedral, and is transmitting the Synopsis like any other academic institution.

Scaife? I'm not sure how conservative he ever was, so much as anti-Clinton, and recently he's been fawning on Hillary, so I sure don't expect him to fund a lot of anti-Hillary actions if she is elected.

Olin Foundation? Went out of business in 2005.

So at least three of your examples aren't all that compelling...

May 8, 2008 at 5:33 PM  
Blogger dan said...

why is it that, as truth-seekers, we are supposed to be rooting for the "Conservatives" under the enemy-of-my-enemy principle?? I don't trust Progressivism, but I'll be damned if I'll replace it with another card-carying ideology/tribe that is just as "wierd and creepy" in its own way. Conservative University? You won't find me there.

May 8, 2008 at 6:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Conservative University? You won't find me there.


Right, because "conservative" is the wrong moniker. What it is really all about is collectivism vs. individualism. People who believe in the individual, in consensual agreements, in freedom, are different from people who believe in the collective, in top down directed action, in suppression. It is as simple as that.

Is society an organism, where you may be relegated to the role of the foot, to be cut off to die if necessary in the judgement of the brain; or is society a collection of infividuals where no one is less than a whole and each equal before law.

May 8, 2008 at 6:53 PM  
Blogger dan said...

By the way, I think Mencius once mentioned the Austro-Hungarian empire in the early 19th century as an extrordinarily free society...

May 8, 2008 at 7:55 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

Of course this is not a hypothesis in the scientific sense of the word - we cannot prove it, nor will we try. It is just a phrase you can agree with, or not.
Try rephrasing it for people who don't accept the existence of the Devil.

I have a little family secret to reveal.
It's not a secret if you've already told everyone in an earlier blog post. Come to think of it, it might have been multiple posts.

Not that I outed myself as a Jacobite, but it must have been clear that I hadn't been reading quite enough Frank Rich
Didn't you say earlier that you were horrified when you came across your first Republican blog? And when you finally did cross-over you were a Powerline-neocon?

American League for Peace and Democracy
I discuss one of its more prominent members here.

There is no use in trying to convince me that there was never any such thing as an international Communist conspiracy.
I don't think McCarthy was especially concerned with your grandparents. Where they in some sort of position of power?

The anti-Communism of a Joe McCarthy or a Robert Welch still shocks and appalls you
Speaking of which, Jared Taylor's favorite Korean-Jew has an interesting piece on Murray Rothbard's support for and later dissillusionment with that variety of anti-communism here.

Mitt Romney is a Mormon
I don't know how religious he is (Romney, I mean, I think Obama's an agnostic) but the problem is there's no term for "Mormon fellow-traveler". If there was, I'd be one! Also, Obama seems to be a neo-liberal.

communists
She doesn't seem to be a "small 'c' communist" analogous to people who call themselves "small 'l' libertarians".

the State of Deseret
I'm pretty sure the offician positions of the Church of Latter-Day Saints do not include that.

Hitler was a reactionary
As mentioned before, your evidence for that statement was pretty weak. And are you sure Stalin was not a reactionary?

Scientology is obviously creepy and weird. To make the case that progressivism is creepy and weird, we have one overwhelming challenge: the fact that progressives are not, in general, creepy and weird
Do you consider Hollywood creepy and weird? Both movements seem to draw on the same sorts of people there.

I would like to think that the penetration of Scientology in government and other prestigious institutions is fairly minor
Are you making a joke, or were you unaware?

most of us would rather be clueful than deluded
Read your Bryan Caplan. And Overcoming Bias.

people who are smart and want to understand reality will generally cluster around the truth
In our own society, which ever it is, do you expect such people to be closer to the truth than the general public?

In a type 1 society, your thoughts are coordinated by the government. Public opinion is a matter of state security.
What if there is no "public opinion", or public opinion is irrelevant?

It may exempt dissenters from the protection of the law, or impose legal disabilities on them, or on those who tolerate them. Or, of course, it can imprison, banish or execute them.
I know you're trying to suggest our society is like that, but in America we still have free speech, unlike Europe with its Holocaust-denial laws.

nowhere near as wealthy
I'm actually not sure if there's much relation between "politically correct thinking" and wealth. Half Sigma and the Inductivist have probably looked into it.

In a state which is secured purely by military force, can various units of the army and navy get into little catfights with each other?
Yes. Coups are fairly common under military juntas.

And, of course, in 20th-century history we see the type 1 state most clearly in National Socialism and Italian Fascism
I would argue it was more clearly apparent under communism. Having less firm ideological doctrines, thought-crime was not as big an issue under fascism. Race/nation were more important than having "counter-revolutionary" opinions.

And we should see the marketplace of ideas punish them when they do, and reward those which do not.
I have no idea what you're talking about. Also, be careful or you'll start sounding like the dreaded Glenn Greenwald.

If you ask which is more to the left, Harvard today or Harvard in 1958, the answer is easy
I don't know, I'd guess outright communism was more popular in 58, various New Left/po-mo tendencies moreso now.

The so-called "mainstream media"
You ought to define that term.

As for the Cathedral, it is simply the culmination of the great human quest for knowledge
Wouldn't that make them conservatives rather than progressives?

There is no way to receive a mainstream university education, read the Times every morning, trust both of them, and not be a progressive
I don't read the times, but I trusted my mainstream professors without becoming a professor. Of course, I avoided "[insert here] studies" courses like the plague and focused on Computer Science so I could get out in three years.

A type 2 society is one in which the press and the universities control the State
As Adlai Stevenson knew before and after he failed to be elected, too many people don't read newspapers and can give a rat's ass about academics.

As one who would prefer a type 3 society
Where everyone has a free pony, I imagine.

Type 2 societies tend to form from the breakdown of central authority in type 1 societies
That sounds like an empirical statement with history to back it up. Got examples?

A mob cannot defeat an army, but if the army is neutral, whoever has the biggest mob wins
That sounds about as sensible as saying that the largest army wins. I'd say size is an advantage.

on the basis of intellectual righteousness
How the hell would that work?

The coercive State does not exist, or at least does not coerce
All Weberian State's by their nature coerce.

To believe in nonsense is an unforgeable demonstration of loyalty
Have you been reading Timur Kuran?

It can subsidize itself. It can penalize its competitors.
I see how that applies to academia/education. But how does it apply to the press? The Fairness Doctrine? That's dead and isn't coming back. Also, private Ivy League universities like Harvard are so ridiculously rich any subsidies to them are a drop in the bucket.

What keeps Harvard aligned with Yale?
An economist once pondered just that, but became less interested due to the Department of Justice's intervention.

I think the answer is that the Synopsis includes only political propositions whose adoption tends to strengthen the Cathedral, and weaken its enemies
What does any of that have to do with gay marriage?

To be progressive is simply to support the Cathedral and the Synopsis
So, does it include anarcho-primitivists?

The terminal condition of our present system of government is that it satisfies the demand for power only by expanding
Provided that the host keeps growing, the parasite can as well.

John Stuart Mill
Speaking of which, I urge everyone once again to check out Liberalism's Divide, which uses Mill as an example of one side of the divide. Ed Feser also him to characterize a libertarian divide, but his piece is no longer up at TCS.

or he would have been genuinely committed to economic freedom, in which case you wouldn't
You underestimate how many obscure out-of-place figures we've heard of.

One, it opposes the Cathedral
It opposes big government. I don't think it has any issue with the press or private education.

the Whig is concerned with his own power rather than with the state of society
I find the mad scientist theory more plausible.

Perhaps we'll consider this next Thursday
Enough already with the extended series that generally just beat the same dead horse over and over. Progressives such, we get it, by this point you don't have many progressive readers. Why don't you fulfill some of your old promises?


Lugo:
"detente" with Russia - i.e. to make Russia a "strategic partner"
It was a partner during WW2, but detente means a relaxing of hostilities.

"detente" is unworkable and can only lead to disaster
Is there some disaster I missed? It worked amazingly well with China.


Jeff Williams:
It follows then that Harvard and Yale must sell these students degrees that help them get government jobs
Government jobs aren't that high-paying, I think Harvard & Yale students tend to go into the private sector.

Required coursework in such colleges will not likely include Libertarianism 101: A basic overview of why government sucks.
Except that's just what Harvard did, starting out with advocating the end of subsidies for universities!


G.M. Palmer:
ignored or explored [...] fought against, persecuted, viciously attacked, etc
Can't all of that happen?

It's pretty easy to tell AND pretty easy to tell America is a type 2 society
Just because people disagree with you doesn't mean you aren't free. America still has free speech and you are free to say whatever you wish. For fuck's sake, Kevin MacDonald still works for a university!

Just go to any Casa de la Progressivista
Shocker! Progressives believe in progressive ideas and disagree with non-progressive ideas! Next thing you know Christians will worship Christ!

global warming is bunk
I don't think it is, but Cockburn and Dyson have suffered no negative consequences for it.

"progressive tax" schemes are bad for the economy
Neo-liberalism is old news, it has become accepted that there is a trade-off.

moral relativism is a lie
I'm an ethical non-cognitivist, and progressives consider my views on the subject to be reprehensible. The progressive's notion of "progress" would seem to be incompatible with relativism.

Are the seriously considered or are they scoffed at?
If I advocated geocentrism or a flat-earth, I would not be taken seriously, but that would not indicate that we were not in an open society (though given the nebulous/semi-utopian nature of the idea my priors would be against it).

What are we if not intellectuals seeking the truth and dispensing nonsense absent proper incentivization?
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!


Too lazy to choose a handle:
The free market produced Shakespeare's plays
They were called "The King's Men" for a reason.


G.M. Palmer:
The problem with progressives being that they are diagnosing (or inventing) symptoms without looking at the underlying disease
Not looking and looking stupidly are quite different things.


Leonard:
Or else, you route around the tidal warp of the pay nexus completely, with something akin wikipedia.
Except that MM already rejected Wikipedia for reasons I don't fully understand.


mtraven:
you can suck on the teat of wingnut welfare and enjoy a much easier climb to tenure than you can by trying to get into the Harvard or Yale faculty
Why not both?

If there was a vast army of would-be conservative intellectuals, they would be building Pepperdine into a world-class institution.
Conservatives tend to dislike academia. That's why after they get their PhDs they tend to leave for greener pastures. I have no problem with the resulting under-representation of conservatives in academia.

I know that people here generally oppose affirmitive action for minorities; so maybe it's time to stop the affirmative action for conservative intellectuals
None of us have any problem with the NAACP hiring black people for being black. That's the analog to "wingnut welfare", not state-subsidized education, minority-owned business government contracts and anti-employment-discrimination laws. It's not a difficult concept to grasp, I would expect you to understand it.


Jeff Williams:
Why were grown men and women crying in 1797 in Philadelphia? It was not because of the departure of a philosopher-king
You've got to be kidding me. What we had back then was much closer to government-by-intellectuals than anything we have today. That was before universal suffrage when elite rule was the natural assumption.

That something is love
If only I could be free of Bush's love for me and my fellow citizens.


G.M. Palmer:
I mean highly intelligent (I would prefer 3+SD from the norm) people who are independent and critical thinkers.
That's a quite non-standard definition. Hayek's is much better.


John S. Bolton:
Libertarians and suchlike are off the progressive reservation because they actually see that dictatorship is not what will create value, regardless how smart the dictator or his philosopher-king
It is theoretically possible to have a libertarian dictatorship. Progressives tend to be fond of "democracy" rather than dictatorship.


Ian:
one of the errors of the progressive religion is transposing the progress that humanity has made in natural sciences onto social sciences/politics
Hayek beat you do it.


mtraven:
political "science" (rule of thumb -- if something has "science" in its name, it isn't a science)
As a computer science major, I agree. Even worse is the word "studies".


dan:
why is it that, as truth-seekers, we are supposed to be rooting for the "Conservatives" under the enemy-of-my-enemy principle?
I asked the same question of MM and he responded here.

May 8, 2008 at 8:19 PM  
Anonymous Lugo said...

"detente" with Russia - i.e. to make Russia a "strategic partner"
It was a partner during WW2, but detente means a relaxing of hostilities.


What the Cathedral means by "detente" is the same as what it means by "strategic partner". The latter is what Clinton called Russia in the 1990s simply because the former term was in disrepute after the 1970s.

"detente" is unworkable and can only lead to disaster
Is there some disaster I missed? It worked amazingly well with China.


That was in reference to detente with Russia (a disastrous policy not just in the 1970s, but from 1917 to today!) but detente with China is unquestionably going to lead to disaster, even though the disaster hasn't happened yet. Detente with China will fail for the same reason detente with Russia failed - it is based on false premises.

May 8, 2008 at 9:46 PM  
Blogger Daniel A. Nagy said...

I disagree with those that say that there is no Type 3-society. I can, however, only think of one example: the internet community.

If your idea of "society" is a centrally governed population, of course, you will never find type 3 societies.

I also contest the assertion that Universities derive their power from their connection to "science". There is at least one American university (conveniently located in Central Europe), which is quite sincere about aiming to educate the ruling class of Eurasia, so it is less shy about doing the power-magic instead of teaching sciences most of the time and here's how it works:

Basically, Universities provide students with good connections. It creates both strong internal bonds within the campus community (themselves well-connected people from far-away places brought together) and helps them link up with important people outside the campus community.

"Importance" can be defined mathematically as the number of shortest paths in the trust graph passing through a certain person. Connecting important people from different places (with few links going between them) makes them even more important.

May 9, 2008 at 12:57 AM  
Anonymous Baduin said...

MM, you should really read Voegelin's The New Science of Politics (I presume that you have not done it as yet). There is uncanny similarity there with your opinions about progressives - he have even some choice quotes about English Puritan's from civil war.

On the other hand, there is also a great difference - his thinking is based on the philosophical monotheism.

He manages to clarify many important things:

1) Conservatives are not really enemies of the Progressives. They are the "go slow" wing of the same movement.

2) Hitler was Progressive, the only one which managed to take full control of a Western state.
He was hated because he departed from the obligatory line of progress- he wanted to progress in a different direction. Worst thing about him was that he was not a universalist, but a nationalist - terrible heresy!

As to Nazi thoughts about Reaction, listen to Horst-Wessel Lied.

That is enough about Voegelin. As to Popper's open society or your type 3 society, the problem is that such a thing is simply impossible. A society to exist must be organized in one way, with one government. You cannot discover that system in nature - if you look at a cell in a microscope, you will not see written there - "This is a cell taken from True King" or "All people are equal".

Popper-style open society leads necessarily to your type 3. If people are free to select rationally any type of government they like, you MUST ensure that they will all select the same one.

So, the real differences between societies is what beliefs are required. There are no free-thinking societies.

May 9, 2008 at 1:16 AM  
Blogger John S. Bolton said...

How would the Vietcommunist armed forces of Reaction which invaded Pol Pot's Cambodia, fit into these redefinitions? In general, power-seekers will always do as much damage as can be got away with in a given time and place. The weakness of Cambodia would have allowed more damage to be done then, though. Maybe there is a threshold beyond which no more damage needs to be done, to give more satisfaction to the power-greedy.

May 9, 2008 at 1:23 AM  
Blogger gokart-mozart said...

tggp: "What does any of that have to do with gay marriage?"

Gay "marriage" is an obvious nonsense belief, and is the strongest current identifier of adherence to the Synopsis.

May 9, 2008 at 5:19 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

TeeThreePeeOh --

I still can't tell what "an ethical non-cognitivist" is. Perhaps you can splain some more?

Also -- I am not talking about disagreement and debate (which is what would happen in teh tighpe 1337 societorz) but about ridicule and intentional ignorance. The ideas I used were conservative talking points, not a roll-call of my cherished beliefs.

M.C. Ravyn --

Just because some preachers said "hey, that serpent guy seems mean, maybe he de Debbil" doesn't make it so or put it in the text. If the writers of Genesis had meant The Adversary or Shiatan or Satan or Baal or Mammon or The Devil they would have used some word like that. Instead they wrote "serpent" (well, actually they wrote the Hebrew word for serpent) meaning, um, serpent. I think it's much more telling that we were duped not by some super-powerful Angel but by a reptile (lower on the creation chain) -- i.e. humans can be awfully dumb, even when it's against their best interest.

May 9, 2008 at 5:39 AM  
Anonymous Quercus said...

MM, your description of Type 1 and and Type 2 societies helps me answer a question I've been thinking about for a few months.

Thanks to your blog, when I watched The Lives of Others, I noticed that in both the 1984 GDR and the 2008 USA, people and organizations can: eavesdrop on your communications; search your home; arrest you; interrogate you, including with sleep deprivation; prevent you from leaving the country; prevent your work from being widely disseminated; demote or fire you for reasons unrelated to your work performance; prevent your child from attending a university; etc.

What then is the difference between 1984 GDR and 2008 USA?

The only difference is that in 1984 GDR, all those powers were formally wielded by the Communist synod; in 2008 USA, they're mostly, informally, wielded by the progressive peloton, with the red government clinging to control of search, arrest, and imprisonment.

May 9, 2008 at 7:41 AM  
Blogger Gerard said...

Dear Moldbug,

I must say that, merely as a suggestion mind you, you might consider the application of concision to your efforts. This is not to say that the thoughts are not worthwhile. It is only to say that just because one cites the great Dr. Johnson is no reason to emulate him.

Respectfully roused from my pastoral stupor, I remain, etc.

May 9, 2008 at 8:01 AM  
Blogger mtraven said...

So the Olin Foundation is out of business, there is still a large network of well-funded right-wing organizations. If a young person wishes to pursue a career as a conservative intellectual, there are a large number of comfortable sinecures available. If you get a slot at the Heritage Institute, you don't have to teach or go to faculty meetings or scramble for tenure -- you can devote your full attention to articulating conservative positions and philosophy. You get access to prominent op-ed pages and politicians. So, feel free to do something rather than bitching about the biases of Harvard and Yale.

May 9, 2008 at 10:55 AM  
Blogger Leonard said...

TGGP: MM already rejected Wikipedia for reasons I don't fully understand.

Oh that's easy enough. Wikipedia is demotic, but also powerful. The two, together, in MM's worldview (at least) spell disaster. Here's a fairly concise exert of one of his long posts: 0.2% of Wikipedia pages are contaminated with Lysenkoism, ie, politically constructed distortions derived from "sacred news." Sadly, this is more than enough.

Of course, since Wikipedia is not at all immune to Conquest's second law (every organization not explicitly reactionary tends to become progressive), and since all serious and effective Lysenkoism in the modern era is progressive, this percentage will tend to increase. Now that La Wik is much more than a toy, she wields real power. And power attracts reptiles.

Wikipedia is not a toy, but it succeeded because it started as a toy. ... it is not sustainable.


MM regards "lysenkoism" (official untruth, but of course to him "official" is unorganized and so not exactly what you might think) as much more harmful than most people do.

MM's idea for wiki reform, revipedia, is essentially to anarchize wikipedia. Instead of one official "neutral" POV, it would presumably have as many as necessary: there could be a proggie POV page for any subject, and a "conservative" one, and a "far right kill-the-wogs" one, created by MM himself, if nothing else satisfied.

Personally I think something along this line could be useful, although the devil's in the detail. There are pages in wiki where you know you're getting somewhat bowdlerized content, basically anything "controversial". I'd love to see the results of turning MM and a host of other highly educated cranks loose on the wiki. I just don't want to see only that. Which is basically his idea, looked at from the other direction.

May 9, 2008 at 2:00 PM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

Mtraven (= empty raving?) - at least learn to call things by the correct names. It is the Heritage Foundation, not "Heritage Institute." It is the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace, not the "Hoover Institute." You blame a Republican administration for discontinuing the OTA when it actually went out of existence in 1995, when Clinton was president. You are unaware the Olin Foundation is dissolved. For one so ready to assert that others are in error I am amused that you do not bother to check your own facts. Why beholdest thou the mote that is in they brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own?

Bias in the academy is too well documented to dispute. It is most simply explained not as the product of "some deficiency that holds [conservatives] back" but by the fact that the academy is, as Alan Charles Kors writes in the May 2008 New Criterion, a set of "closed-shop, massively subsidized, intolerant political fiefdoms, and they are the gatekeepers of society's rewards." At least a public conformity with the prevailing creed is a condition of hiring and ultimately of obtaining tenure.

As is usually the case with the enforcement of ideology, a minority of zealots can control a majority of cowards. I suspect there are many who mouth the pieties of political correctness purely as protective coloration. A friend of mine retired a few years ago from a position as dean in one of the CUNY colleges. He told me that he had gone so far as to register to vote as a Democrat even though he had not voted for a Democrat in years. His office was several times occupied by radical students. The last time, he said, they had been Latino students whose 'non-negotiable demand' was for a department of Hispanic studies. There was, of course, already a perfectly good Spanish department offering courses in the language and literature of all the Spanish-speaking countries. This did not suit, because such courses actually required literacy in Spanish and demanded work. What the students wanted was a grievance-studies department in which they could get easy degrees. The higher-ups capitulated and gave them what they wanted. My friend said that the occupiers at least left the bottle of Irish whiskey in his desk drawer alone. Poor man, he needed it.

May 9, 2008 at 3:08 PM  
Blogger mtraven said...

Michael S -- none of your accusations of error is the least bit meaningful. The OTA was a congressional office and was shitcanned by congressional Republicans led by Newt Gingrich. I assume you are picking on these nits because you can't find any fault with the substance of what I'm saying.

But you are right that there is bias in academic departments. Bias is inherent in human affairs; science has developed a good (but not perfect) methodology for unbiasing itself, but most fields are not sciences. Academic bias is not all left-wing; economics departments are overrun with libertarian-minded yoiks. Randroids are buying their way into the curriculum.

Most non-science fields are not dependent on government grants, so if Harvard and Yale are so irremediably corrupt there is nothing stopping conservatives from setting up their own competing institutions. Aren't they supposed to believe in the free market? If they have a superior product, shouldn't they be able to win in the marketplace of ideas? Instead, all we get is whining about the all-powerful postmodern mafia.

May 9, 2008 at 7:02 PM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Dude. Dude. DUUUUDE.

Science has a way of unbiasing itself? Since when? Can we all say "string theory"? I knew we could.

May 9, 2008 at 8:57 PM  
Blogger mtraven said...

Did I say science was perfectly unbiased? No, in fact I said just the opposite. As for string theory, it is just that, a theory, quite controversial within science for a variety of reasons. Eventually either some way will be found to confirm or disconfirm it, or it will be replaced by something better.

May 9, 2008 at 10:08 PM  
Anonymous dan said...

baduin: I doubt MM would have any patience with Voegelin. Voegelin is the kind of "Continental Mystic" that gets positivist/David Stove types' panties in a bunch.

May 9, 2008 at 11:30 PM  
Anonymous Lugo said...

I must say that, merely as a suggestion mind you, you might consider the application of concision to your efforts.

Nah. When you consider that each post is a week's work, they're not really all that long. Plus they make Thursday morning really worthwhile!

If a young person wishes to pursue a career as a conservative intellectual, there are a large number of comfortable sinecures available.

Well, no, not really. The opportunities for an aspiring conservative intellectual and an aspiring liberal intellectual are so unequal it's not even funny. AAUP says there are on the order of 400,000 professors in the United States, and the vast majority of them are effectively reserved for liberals. How many "conservative think tank" positions can there be - a few hundred at the most? Heritage probably has fewer experts in total than there are professors in any large poli sci department. Moreover, places like Heritage and AEI simply will NOT hire a freshly minted conservative PhD in the way that any university will hire a freshly minted liberal PhD. Most of the "experts" they hire are already big names and have established themselves in some way before they got hired at Heritage - e.g., they are retired from the civil service or the military, they worked on Capitol Hill, or they were political appointees from a previous administration. So the aspiring conservative intellectual has to plan to do something to establish himself / herself before getting that cushy think tank sinecure. While they are doing so they are not "producing conservative thought", while the liberal counterpart at the university is producing liberal thought.

If you get a slot at the Heritage Institute, you don't have to teach or go to faculty meetings or scramble for tenure -- you can devote your full attention to articulating conservative positions and philosophy. You get access to prominent op-ed pages and politicians.

People in the dot org world are a LOT more insecure than you seem to appreciate. Needless to say, they don't have tenure, and they spend a lot of time "marketing" for consulting gigs and foundation support. Again, the freshly minted PhD conservative intellectual is going to have a hard time doing such marketing, because a lot of marketing success comes from who you know and what you previously did, and the youngster won't know anything or have done anything. Access to op eds and politicians is doubtful for the young intellectual (who as I said probably isn't going to be hired anyway) -- such access can usually be obtained only by the aforementioned big names who did something significant before they went to the dot org world.

In short, getting in the door and climbing the ladder is a lot harder for the aspiring young conservative intellectual than for his liberal counterpart.

The OTA was a congressional office and was shitcanned by congressional Republicans led by Newt Gingrich.

OTA was relatively puny (143 people) and I can all but guarantee they found places elsewhere in the bureaucracy. This is a really puny cause celebre.

Bias is inherent in human affairs;

Gee, how come "oh well, what can one do?" is not the attitude when the bias in question is, say, racial bias as opposed to intellectual or political bias? I guess not all biases are created equal.

Academic bias is not all left-wing; economics departments are overrun with libertarian-minded yoiks. Randroids are buying their way into the curriculum.

A few lame examples hardly provide meaningful counterbalance to the overwhelmingly liberal environment.

Aren't they supposed to believe in the free market? If they have a superior product, shouldn't they be able to win in the marketplace of ideas?

Even people who believe in free markets acknowledge that there are such things as "barriers to entry". Simply put, academia is NOT a "free market", it is a closed shop.

If one found an industry or professional field that was overwhelmingly white-dominated, one suspects that "eh, stop whining, ya crybabies" wouldn't be the liberal response.

May 10, 2008 at 8:38 AM  
Blogger mtraven said...

Lugo: AAUP says there are on the order of 400,000 professors in the United States, and the vast majority of them are effectively reserved for liberals.

Nonsense. For the vast majority of positions, politics doesn't enter into consideration at all. Do you think you have to produce a party membership card to get an appointment as a professor of chemistry or computer science? It is true that the vast majority are liberals, but that is not the same thing. Look, some data (thanks to tggp, actually).

Now, it is certainly true that in some fields and departments there is a self-perpetuating political bias, which is not intellectually productive. But academia is not a closed shop, there are plenty of conservative institutions, and plenty of conservative funding. Those places don't have the prestige of Harvard, but so what? If conservatives are so fucking smart, they can go make Pepperdine into a world-class center of intellectual activity. The administrators and alumni would be thrilled. What's stopping you?

Perhaps it's Mill's observation about conservatives and stupidity, or it's more modern restatement that I linked to earlier.

OTA was relatively puny (143 people) and I can all but guarantee they found places elsewhere in the bureaucracy.
The point of the OTA was not its size or to support its employees but to produce intelligent science and technology policy. Conservatives, true to their heritage, made us stupider.

Gee, how come "oh well, what can one do?" is not the attitude when the bias in question is, say, racial bias as opposed to intellectual or political bias? I guess not all biases are created equal.
Racial bias and intellectual bias are not the same thing. For one thing, you don't choose your race, but you can choose your politics. But I meant something different, which is that intellectual bias is inherent in academia or any other activity. For instance, in computer science there are subfield that are biased in favor of relational databases, or functional programming, or heuristic search. Members of these groups have meetings with each other, favor each others, and try to promote each other's work. That's just the way it is. Also see the string theory wars that someone alluded to. Academics, being human, are tribal. Their tribes are organized around problems and approaches and biases. But idea-space is wide, so if you don't fit into one tribe you can always start your own. This is especially easy in the internet age, where starting a study group or online journal can be done in an afternoon.

A few lame examples hardly provide meaningful counterbalance to the overwhelmingly liberal environment.
"A few lame examples" seems to be the rule in these discussions, since people insist on bringing up Ward Churchill and whats-her-name who was in the Wall Street Journal over and over.

If one found an industry or professional field that was overwhelmingly white-dominated, one suspects that "eh, stop whining, ya crybabies" wouldn't be the liberal response.
Are you suggesting an affirmitve action program for conservatives?

May 10, 2008 at 10:05 AM  
Blogger dan said...

If one is a member of Liberal thinktank and one happens to come to a conservative conclusion on something (or vice versa), what does one do? Shouldn't they call them robotpropagandatanks instead??

May 10, 2008 at 12:29 PM  
Anonymous Jeff Williams said...

Here’s a comment on this statement:

Because the [information} organs are the instruments which make state security a reality, they cannot be allowed to contradict each other.

In the PC state of USA, one must believe that all people are equal and that if members of any race or class do not achieve equal success, it is because of a hostile environment. Such a hostile environment may be described as racist, sexist, classist, ageist, heteronormative, imperialist, colonialist, etc.

PC-Approved Science also teaches us that humans are biological/chemical machines that are sometimes “hard-wired” from birth to perform in certain ways. We are taught, and know for a fact, that there is a genetic basis for many diseases. The sex drive is hard-wired. That's why abstinence education will never work.

It is also acceptable to state that one has a genetically-based gift for racial healing. “That’s in my DNA, trying to promote mutual understanding to insist that we all share common hopes and common dreams as Americans and as human beings. That’s who I am.” (Barack Obama, 4/29/08)

But it is unacceptable to say that good or bad genes can contribute to intelligence, especially to differences among racial or gender groups, where no group differences can be admitted to exist, even though the brain is part of the biological/chemical human machine and can presumably be hard-wired with a gift of racial healing, and even as group differences invariably show up on IQ tests and other measures of intelligence and performance.

Does one detect a contradiction here?

Another simpler one is "race does not exist" vs. "racism continues to exist."

May 10, 2008 at 6:00 PM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

"Eventually either some way will be found to confirm or disconfirm it, or it will be replaced by something better."

See, this is a cute notion, but since I happen to have a brother who happens to be a theoretical physicist, I can say that when new notions come along the notions are not considered or debated by the High Priests of String Theory. Instead the HPST jump up and down in their royal, tenured robes and scream to the high heavens about extra dimensions and mathematics.

CAPS LOCK: ON

ALL HUMAN INSTITUTIONS ARE FLAWED AND BIASED

Saying science is somehow above this or better is just saying that your faith in Science is stronger than your faith in Christianity or Journalism or Cooking Schools.

The whole friggin reason I read Unqualified Reservations is because Mencius seems to approach his thinking from the above, cap locked, bolded perspective -- something too damn few people do.

May 10, 2008 at 9:31 PM  
Blogger mnuez said...

G.M Palmer -

Count me among the scoffers. Why must every idea be "seriously considered"? You show up to tell me about L. Ron Hubbard in the sky and I'll listen in fascination to your Insanity Made Voice but I'll also engage in some simultaneous scoffing.

Not being a climatologist I can't speak to your first point ("global warming is bunk") though your presentation of the matter leads me to believe that you know even less about the subject than I do (which I would have thought difficult) but your second and third points are... how shall we say...er... pretty goddamn stupid.


"2) "progressive tax" schemes are bad for the economy"


Uh, yeah, if you define "the economy" as the GNP, but who the fuck cares if they're bad for the economy when the GNP the lion's share of it is owned by 15% of the populace? Intelligent progressives (of which there are as few as there are intelligent conservatives) are aware of the fact that their policies will lessen the GNP (at least for the first couple of decades or so) but, again, don't give a shit. They're interest is in the greatest good for the most people, so (to engage in a silly simplification) they'd prefer that each of the 300,000,000 Americans has a net worth of 100K rather than that 1,000,000 Americans are each worth 1000K and the rest have nothing.

I would think that would be pretty obvious to anyone who claims (by commenting here) to be able to understand Mencius's posts.


"3) moral relativism is a lie"

A "lie"!. Now them's fightin' words - in the kindergarten. Around these parts I would think that moral relativism would best be categorized as either "true" or "untrue" (or, best yet, more nuanced than either of these binary options). But I digress. Back to the point, you actually believe that there's some absolute arbiter of morality that's not in any subjective? What are you a Christian or something?

Best I can tell, morality is a word that we humans use to describe what nature and nurture has led us to claim that we prefer. And nothing more.

Here's me scoffing while simultaneously imagining myself to actually believe these ideas for good cause and not because the New York times tells me too! (As if they do)


mnuez

May 10, 2008 at 11:11 PM  
Blogger Homophobic Horse said...

I wish you would stop calling Hitler a reactionary Mencius. You know what Triumph of the Will means yes? It means recreation of values and order, and the overturning of the old, discredited, bourgeois ancien regime. Verily, Hitler was the culmination of the decadent and amoral Weimar Republic.

May 11, 2008 at 3:29 AM  
Anonymous PA said...

Best I can tell, morality is a word that we humans use to describe what nature and nurture has led us to claim that we prefer.

My understanding is that morality governs human relationship with the transcendent and ethics with our fellow man.

May 11, 2008 at 3:51 AM  
Blogger mnuez said...

Can I make a request for a two tiered commenting structure? One tier would be for people whose reading comprehension is high and the other would be for people who really ought to be reading blogs about Britney but whose ego has humorously convinced them that their proper place is here. Seriously, there are a few regular commentors who simply have no place taking up space here. It isn't that I find their views unacceptable (intelligent views with which I disagree are my favorite comments in fact) but that they simply DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHAT THEIR BETTERS HAVE WRITTEN yet they continue to argue with them! Left, Right, Libertarian or Communist, I wish these people well and applaud their attempts at intellectual dialogue but it's kind of ridiculous for the rest of us to be taking them seriously and repeatedly responding to their intellectually inexcusable misunderstandings of some very simple concepts.

Hey - if we can't be elitist here where the hell can we.

mnuez


P.S. Anyone who speaks to this comment with a line along the lines of "Wow! You're the quintessential example of someone trying to create a Type 1 Society!" has simply outed himself as exactly the type of Misunderstanding Simpleton of whom I speak.

May 11, 2008 at 4:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Saying science is somehow above this or better is just saying that your faith in Science is stronger than your faith in Christianity or Journalism or Cooking Schools."

Tell that to all the people who ever lived before say 1600 AD. Have you ever seen a graph of human material output? It is like 10 million years of flat near subsistance (with low population) followed by a rocket like trajectory upwards. People weren't suddenly exponentially smarter. their tools and instutions evolved to better than sitting around cogitating.

May 11, 2008 at 5:55 AM  
Anonymous PA said...

Such personalities you attract, Mencius. If it's not not lowercase-"j"-spelling antisemites, then it's balls of charmless anger with delusions of grandeur.

More Mtraven v. Michael S. debates with TGGP as Mr. reality-check, please.

May 11, 2008 at 7:11 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

mnuez:

sigh.

As I said before, the statements that I parroted in the "tell this to a progressive comment" are simply neo-con talking points, chosen for the absolute impossibility that they would be discussed rationally. And I do mean rationally. If someone starts spouting off Scientology at you, the answer is not to giggle and point and say "All hail Xenu!" but to ask them their opinions on Heinlien's commentary on creating a for-profit religion, his relationship with Crowley, and all sorts of things. Of course, this type-3 reasoning means that you've actually done research and might prevent you from having that sense of smug superiority you obviously crave.

Lazyname7:

again with the sigh.

I'm not saying "science is evil." Good friggin God. What I am saying is that it's stupid to view science as Jesus by committee -- it is a flawed thing that people do. Sure it raised population levels and gave us the iphone. But I hear that iphones break and there are a whole slew of people that scream about overcrowding the planet. "Human material output" raised because we 1) had more people and 2) stopped doing so much agriculture. But folk 3 and 4000 years ago still knew how to build some pretty boss things. They just didn't build a gajillion of them because there were fewer hands around to help. Though I wonder what skyscrapers will still be here in 40 centuries.

May 11, 2008 at 8:03 AM  
Blogger mtraven said...

More Mtraven v. Michael S. debates with TGGP as Mr. reality-check, please.
If anybody really enjoys these, you can find Michael S harassing me anonymously on my blog.

May 11, 2008 at 8:42 AM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

Mtraven: It's not really anonymous - it is just one less extra step for me not to bother to sign my name - and I should not call it harassment. My tone towards you, both here and there, has been entirely civil. You, not I, are the one who lards your posts with profanity and imprecation. Were you to adopt a less agitated tone, arguing with you would be less amusing. Your passions surely will forge your fetters.

May 11, 2008 at 10:27 AM  
Blogger George Weinberg said...

"Saying science is somehow above this or better is just saying that your faith in Science is stronger than your faith in Christianity or Journalism or Cooking Schools.

I think you're confusing science in the abstract with institutions allegedly devoted to the advancement of science. Science is analogous not to cooking schools but to the culinary arts in general, advances in which probably don't come from cooking schools as much as from restaurants or even from the experimentation of individuals.

One could imagine a cooking schools primarily training cooks to prepare bizarre dishes which nobody but their fellow cooking school graduates desire to eat, but such a school probably wouldn't stay in business for long. To a certain extent our academic institutions have become like cooks cooking for each other, and being more concerned with being creative than with making something that actually tastes good.

May 11, 2008 at 12:59 PM  
Blogger mnuez said...

mnuez:

sigh.

As I said before, the statements that I parroted in the "tell this to a progressive comment" are simply neo-con talking points



except that you didn't say that.

May 11, 2008 at 1:13 PM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Menuess --

"The ideas I used were conservative talking points, not a roll-call of my cherished beliefs."

nyah nyah yes I did.

May 11, 2008 at 2:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If anybody really enjoys these, you can find Michael S harassing me anonymously on my blog.

Far as I can tell, he and TGGP are the only people who read your blog. Your number of hits will drop dramatically if he stops "harassing" you!

It's not really anonymous - it is just one less extra step for me not to bother to sign my name

Except it's never too much troble when you come here, hmmm?

May 11, 2008 at 6:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So I spent most of last evening reading the "Open Letter" posts last night -- there was a link in one of TGGP's comments on IOZ's blog.

I used to read progressive blogs fairly regularly -- firedoglake and greenwald and all that. At some point it got through to me that something fishy was going on, and it was really just a mirror image of the shrieky garbage perpetrated by a similar proportion of right-wingers. Now IOZ is the only one I bother with.

It's a bit verbose around here, but I think the seeds of doubt germinated. I'm also currently reading Kasztner's Train, a book about the efforts of Reszo Kasztner to bargain trainloads of Jews out of Hungary before they could be shipped off to the camps. What's struck me -- and I guess I knew this, but didn't really understand it -- is that on a national level, absolutely no one was interested in helping the Jews flee the Nazis. And I think in a way that the point, or maybe just a point, of this blog: it's lazy to think that going to war with Hitler somehow makes you an angel.

This might not make much sense, because I don't have a week to write it, and my thoughts on the matter are still percolating around. I guess I'm not convinced that being a reactionary or a Jacobite makes any sense, but you definitely opened me up to some new ideas.

I really liked this comment:

But putting love on the throne and keeping it there is the proper goal of all political effort. For instructions on how to do it, it is perhaps best to continually and humbly ask God.

Seriously, what does this mean? The first sentence I can parse, but the second... is God actually returning your nightly phone calls over there?

Anyway -- thanks MM. I look forward to the next go-around. And thanks TGGP.

May 12, 2008 at 5:47 AM  
Anonymous Lugo said...

it's lazy to think that going to war with Hitler somehow makes you an angel.

Yeah, but this argument is something of a strawman, since I can't think of any serious historian who thinks any of the Allies went to war for "human rights" or "to help the Jews".

May 12, 2008 at 6:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

lugo:

Sure, OK. But obviously, I'm not a serious historian, and neither are the progressive types, or their opponents!

Nor do I claim to be particularly articulate -- I know that the point is a little more nuanced than this. So far to me it defies easy summary.

Let me try again -- still thinking about it, like I said!

The choice presented to us by what MM is calling the "Synopsis" is illusory. The value judgments that're somehow encoded in the Synopsis' choice are false and self-perpetuating.

May 12, 2008 at 7:00 AM  
Blogger Faré said...

GMP asks "When do we start a type 3 university?"

There is no such thing as a "type 3 university".
If you summon enough funding, you might possibly resist the call of the power game from the outside, and find for some time a niche where you say things different from the surrounding PC. And to a point, there are a lot of religious schools that resist many points of PC (yet still spread others). But how do you prevent the usual type 2 people from conquering your university from the inside, becoming professors and playing the power game? (In France, university has been largely conquered by such Trotskyist "entristes" in the 1970-1980). You can't unless you exert the discretionary power of an owner, at which point you're not type 3, but type 1 (with respect to the criteria of exclusion).

And of course, your entristes will be backed by all the money, prestige, popular support, legal and judicial support, of the surrounding PC - "How dare you fire professor Ward Churchill? It's a breach of contract!" Maybe you can pay a lot to get rid of the most outrageous characters. Don't you hope to get rid of the more "normal" PC believers.

On the other hand, if you manage to charter your "university" in such a way that you can indeed get rid of PC people, and you do, and that becomes well-known, then you'll attract anti-PC nutjobs and repel otherwise good PC people, becoming victim of anti-PC bias all the while cutting you from the majority PC believers where most of the proficient professors and students lie (at least in non-politicized sciences).

In other words, a type 2 society succeeds because it is deadly stable.

As MM puts it, the greatest strength of the Cathedral is that "the Synopsis includes only political propositions whose adoption tends to strengthen the Cathedral, and weaken its enemies. It rejects and opposes all other propositions."

This is natural selection at work. The Synopsis does not embarrass itself with useless superstitions that would make it susceptible to be caught. It ruthlessly attacks these superstitions itself, and in the process gains the support of more anti-superstition intellectuals (see Dawkins, etc.). The Synopsis only deals with USEFUL superstitions, those that unequivocally strengthen its power.

Inasmuch as type 3 exists, it is in places that are not covered by any feedback loop in the control of resource between government (or a single monopoly owner) and opinion-makers. A single "type 3" university cannot exist, but a "type 3" market for universities could. And that's precisely what type 2 pundits will do their best to prevent.

May 12, 2008 at 7:46 AM  
Blogger Faré said...

In other words, the type 1 to type 3 axis is a measure of the etanglement or separation of Information and State. In a country where the two are not the same yet not separate, you have lots of degrees of "type 2". USA is certainly nearer to 3 than France is.

May 12, 2008 at 7:49 AM  
Blogger Studd Beefpile said...

Fare- It makes more sense to conclude that the Synopsis deals mostly with useful superstitions. They are not free from the problem of true believers taking the existing superstitions to their illogical conclusion. A great many of their most cherished beliefs have either proven so incredibly destructive (old school central planning) that they have had to be abandoned or are completely tangential to their interests (gay rights). MM rightly puts the emphasis on the darwinian nature of ideas.

May 12, 2008 at 12:01 PM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

Anon, the reason I didn't sign my name to the first post I made on Mtraven's empty ravings was that the 'publish your comment' button would not let me. When I changed to anonymous posting it did. I figured out later what I did wrong but by then he knew who I was. Ex ungue leonem, I suppose. And so what was the point of bothering?

Faré, I think one reason there is no Type 3 university is that education is inherently an authoritarian proposition: the student, who is ignorant, must submit himself to the teacher, who is learned. One might hope that this might be always be done on a basis of mutual respect, in which the teacher understands that though ignorant, his student is intelligent, and the student recognizes that though in a position to demand obedience, the teacher does so wisely and with the student's benefit in mind. Unfortunately these are not always, indeed not often, the usual circumstances. Unchecked authority lends itself the more easily to abuse, and yields toadying subjection in return. So much for the noble fictions of academic freedom and the open marketplace of ideas. Just as all political systems tend ineluctably to become oligarchies, so do all educational systems tend to become madrassas.

May 12, 2008 at 12:48 PM  
Blogger George Weinberg said...

Faré, I think one reason there is no Type 3 university is that education is inherently an authoritarian proposition: the student, who is ignorant, must submit himself to the teacher, who is learned.

I don't think this must be so for education in general. I think when people take courses purely to acquire skills for their own use the degree of authoritarianism is small to nonexistent. The authoritarian element comes about when the student is also trying to acquire some sort of credential which the instructor has a largely arbitrary ability to withhold.

I suspect the quality of education could be considerably improved if there were a strict separation between instruction and evaluation. Course instructors should know what material the students are responsible for learning, but should have no better and idea than the students as to what specific questions will be asked on exams, nor should they be involved in grading in any way.

May 12, 2008 at 4:18 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

Lugo:
The latter is what Clinton called Russia in the 1990s simply because the former term was in disrepute after the 1970s.
The Soviet Union had collapsed and Yeltsin was still in power because we wanted him there.

detente with China is unquestionably going to lead to disaster, even though the disaster hasn't happened yet
Unless you specify a time by which it will occur, your statement is unfalsifiable.

Detente with China will fail for the same reason detente with Russia failed - it is based on false premises.
We won the Cold War, despite Reagan making arms agreements and opening up glasnost. How did it fail?


Daniel A. Nagy:
I can, however, only think of one example: the internet community.
Like Wikipedia?

"Importance" can be defined mathematically as the number of shortest paths in the trust graph passing through a certain person. Connecting important people from different places (with few links going between them) makes them even more important.
That's a circular definition.


Baduin:
If people are free to select rationally any type of government they like, you MUST ensure that they will all select the same one.
Why can't the Blues have a Blue government and the Greens have a Green government?


gokart-mozart:
Gay "marriage" is an obvious nonsense belief, and is the strongest current identifier of adherence to the Synopsis.
I do not support gay marriage for the reasons John T. Kennedy gives here, but you still haven't explained how it strengthens the Cathedral/Polygon/whatever (can we come up with a limit on how many buzz-words MM is allowed to create?).


G.M. Palmer:
I still can't tell what "an ethical non-cognitivist" is. Perhaps you can splain some more?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emotivism
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-cognitivism

I am not talking about disagreement and debate (which is what would happen in teh tighpe 1337 societorz) but about ridicule and intentional ignorance
Are you sure ideas would not be ridiculed in a Popperian Open Society? The real question would seem to be which ideas merit ridicule and which merit discussion. Of course, nobody thinks their own ideas deserve ridicule.

The ideas I used were conservative talking points, not a roll-call of my cherished beliefs
What I said about them still holds regardless of your own beliefs.


Quercus:
The only difference is that in 1984 GDR, all those powers were formally wielded by the Communist synod; in 2008 USA, they're mostly, informally, wielded by the progressive peloton, with the red government clinging to control of search, arrest, and imprisonment.
The progressive peloton can't wiretap or interrogate me. What actual powers does it wield?


Leonard:
MM's idea for wiki reform, revipedia, is essentially to anarchize wikipedia. Instead of one official "neutral" POV, it would presumably have as many as necessary: there could be a proggie POV page for any subject, and a "conservative" one, and a "far right kill-the-wogs" one, created by MM himself, if nothing else satisfied.
There's already a Conservapedia. It sucks. Anyone can see the revisions and discussion sections for Wikipedia pages.


Michael S:
closed-shop
Hand in your right-wing credentials for dismissing union interference through comparison to universities. There is no union card required for academics. Given the rallying of liberals for John Yoo's academic freedom at Berkeley, the conflation is laughable.

He told me that he had gone so far as to register to vote as a Democrat even though he had not voted for a Democrat in years
Why?


mtraven:
Academic bias is not all left-wing; economics departments are overrun with libertarian-minded yoiks
No. Libertarians are over-represented, but they are still very much a noisy minority, even within economics.

Randroids are buying their way into the curriculum
I'm of the opinion that there are too many Randroids already there, but it remains to be seen what will actually come of this case in particular.

Most non-science fields are not dependent on government grants
Aren't science fields the one's most likely to have profitable output that could result in private support?

so if Harvard and Yale are so irremediably corrupt there is nothing stopping conservatives from setting up their own competing institutions
Depending on the field there may be licensing restrictions that require universities to be accreditted by what are simply government-supported cartels.

Aren't they supposed to believe in the free market?
Academia is not much of a market, much less a "free" one. Just as we seek to avoid vulgar libertarianism, we should also steer clear of vulgar liberalism, conflating the status quo with a free-market.

the marketplace of ideas
It's not a marketplace.


G.M. Palmer:
Can we all say "string theory"? I knew we could
String theory discusses things beyond the ability of our technology to detect. It is hoped that CERN will give further insights. You might be interested in the indictment of the sclerotic mistaken physics community here.


Lugo:
the vast majority of them are effectively reserved for liberals
The majority will indeed go to liberals. You need to give some support to the "reserved" part.


mtraven:
Racial bias and intellectual bias are not the same thing. For one thing, you don't choose your race, but you can choose your politics.
So it's good to discriminate against conservatives, because that will encourage people to be liberals instead! In all seriousness, I wouldn't care if a private organization decided to exclude blacks or conservatives (or merely conservative blacks!) from its payroll.


dan:
If one is a member of Liberal thinktank and one happens to come to a conservative conclusion on something (or vice versa), what does one do?
Don't publish. That's why most published researched findings are wrong.


Jeff Williams:
It is also acceptable to state that one has a genetically-based gift for racial healing
It was a silly statement, but I don't think he was literally talking about genetic predisposition, but merely his background, like how he thinks living in Indonesia as a kid gives him foreign policy experience.


PA:
If it's not not lowercase-"j"-spelling antisemites
I've found myself using that case myself on a number of ocassions. It's not really an issue to me, so I'm rather inconsistent.

More Mtraven v. Michael S. debates with TGGP as Mr. reality-check, please
Please no! To even call them "debates" grants too much dignity!


mtraven:
If anybody really enjoys these, you can find Michael S harassing me anonymously on my blog.
He can just be naturally annoying, he was hardly "harassing" you. As prior readers may have guessed, I do not think much of people who comment anonymously while expecting people to respond to their statements. It is simply bad blog etiquette, and if you can't be bothered to sign-in with a username, put a signature at the bottom of your comment or note in a later comment that you made the previous one(s).


Michael S:
My tone towards you, both here and there, has been entirely civil.
Bull-fucking-shit. "empty-raving" and all that. Your civility is entirely faux, you openly state delight in "getting under his skin", though in doing so you exaggerate your accomplishments, in my impression.]

Your passions surely will forge your fetters.
I can't see how that actually means anything other than "I'm a pretentious dick".


George Weinberg:
I think you're confusing science in the abstract with institutions allegedly devoted to the advancement of science
Reminds me of Vox Day's "scientody" and other terms.


Anonymous:
What's struck me -- and I guess I knew this, but didn't really understand it -- is that on a national level, absolutely no one was interested in helping the Jews flee the Nazis
MM has quite pointedly made that point in some of his posts.

And thanks TGGP
You're welcome. Now quit commenting as anonymous!


Fare:
And of course, your entristes will be backed by all the money, prestige, popular support, legal and judicial support, of the surrounding PC - "How dare you fire professor Ward Churchill? It's a breach of contract!"
I think he was fired for plagiarism, which is considered acceptable grounds.


Michael S:
one reason there is no Type 3 university is that education is inherently an authoritarian proposition: the student, who is ignorant, must submit himself to the teacher, who is learned
Advocates of unschooling try to get around that.

So much for the noble fictions of academic freedom and the open marketplace of ideas
Do you have evidence of conservative academics losing their jobs because of their heresy? As I noted, Kevin MacDonald is still gainfully employed at a university, as are Rushton and Lynn.

May 12, 2008 at 7:47 PM  
Blogger teacher.paris said...

Please visit
http://english-rose-uk.blogspot.com/
and consider signing the petition re: Vargas
thanks
Monday, 12 May 2008
Sign this petition





In the 2007, the 'artist' Guillermo Vargas Habacuc, took a dog from the street, he tied him to a rope in an art gallery, starving him to death. For several days, the 'artist' and the visitors of the exhibition have watched emotionless the shameful 'masterpiece' based on the dog's agony, until eventually he died!

Does it look like art to you?

But this is not all ... the prestigious Visual Arts Biennial of the Central American decided that the 'installation' was actually art, so that Guillermo Vargas Habacuc has been invited to repeat his cruel action for the biennial of 2008.



Lets Stop him!
Please sign the following petition:


Boycott to the presence of Guillermo Vargas "Habacuc" at the Bienal Centroamericana Honduras 2008
Sign here

May 12, 2008 at 10:14 PM  
Blogger gokart-mozart said...

tggp: I never said that pretending that two people of the same sex can marry, or that to men or two women are "married" strengthens the Synopsis.

I said that it demonstrates fealty to, or adherence to, the Synopsis.

If they can get you to spout nonsense, just like saying the naked emperor is wearing fine clothes, then they have nearly absolute power over you, which is the whole point of gay "marriage".

May 13, 2008 at 4:26 AM  
Blogger Faré said...

gokart: I have gay friends who have their own kids, thanks to women renting their womb and artificial insemination. Yes, not every gay couple can afford that (will be easier for a lesbian couple, though). Whatever you think about the morality or legality of it, I don't see how you can fail to call it "marriage". Sure, words can be redefined any way you want -- but then there's nothing left to argue.

In any case, there's no need to agree on the particulars of which official beliefs are correct and which are false. The very nature of the Synopsis is that it conflates the true and the false, and tries to minimize the false needed (which both makes it more fragile and makes its slaves less productive) while maximizing the return on investment of the false.

In less free societies, the local Synopsis doesn't need to fight as hard, and is full of obvious holes. But in a democracy with free press, the Synopsis is the result of a ruthless competition and ends up being mean and lean. Even people above average in intelligence and education can completely fail to see the edges where the web of lies falls apart.

May 13, 2008 at 9:12 AM  
Blogger mtraven said...

gokart: If they can get you to spout nonsense, just like saying the naked emperor is wearing fine clothes, then they have nearly absolute power over you, which is the whole point of gay "marriage".
You've figured it out! All those gays want to get married just to mess with your head. It's all about you!

May 13, 2008 at 9:33 AM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

George Weinberg, you are exactly right about separating the functions of teaching from credentialling. This has long been the case in some other countries; consider, for example, the University of London, from which one can acquire an external degree (a highly respectable one too) solely by examination. I don't see much evidence that this model is going to be embraced in the United States.

TGGP, the important point about MacDonald, Rushton, Lynn, and other politically incorrect academics is that they managed to become tenured before their politically incorrect views drew attention as such. Do you seriously suppose they'd have been hired in the first place if those views had been clearly known at the time? Furthermore it takes a certain obduracy of character openly to hold a point of view that is at odds with those of most of one's colleagues - an indifference, if you will, to social ostracism. Most people crave the approval or at least the acceptance of those around them even if it is not strictly necessary to earning their livings.

As for civility, I had been arguing with Mtraven on this and other fora without any personal reference to him for a long time before I noticed that all I needed to do was to differ with him on an issue to yield up a trove of epithets and profanities directed personally at me. He had already called me "racist," "sexist," a "moral midget," etc., long before I observed that I seemed to get under his skin. By the time I made the observation he had provided ample evidence to that effect. I do not so much delight in it as point out the obvious. As for his passions forging his fetters, I do not suppose that emotional outbursts of the nature to which he is prone do very much for the strength of his arguments. They are empty ravings to the extent they are mere name-calling. As for etiquette, it is observed between gentlemen. A gentleman offended by another gentleman offers pistols for two and coffee for one to the person who has offended him. To one who is no gentleman, he offers the cowhide. I think Mtraven had established into which category he fell long before I posted a word in his comment sections.

On "closed-shop" - these were not my words. Read carefully. I was, as I thought I made clear, quoting Alan C. Kors. Ask him to hand in his right-wing credentials, whatever they may be. See his article in the May, 2008 "New Criterion," p. 9-14.

Whether comparison to unions is appropriate I don't know; but the co-optative character of most academic hiring and tenure decisions certainly reflect a pattern akin to labor syndicalism. If these decisions could be made by persons other than those who determine curriculum and the content of particular courses, it would be desirable in the same way that George's suggestion of separating teaching from evaluation. Right now, the way things work at most American universities, the inmates run the asylum. In the few instances where they don't (e.g., at Dartmouth, where alumni elect some board members) there is great unhappiness amongst the inmates about it, which seems to me to be salutary.

May 13, 2008 at 10:15 AM  
Blogger Aaron Davies said...

@faré, you remind me of another Rand quote: "Governmental encouragement does not order men to believe that the false is true, it merely makes them indifferent to the issue of truth or falsehood."

May 13, 2008 at 10:25 AM  
Anonymous Lugo said...

The Soviet Union had collapsed and Yeltsin was still in power because we wanted him there.

So?

Unless you specify a time by which it will occur, your statement is unfalsifiable.

Which does not mean "wrong" by the way. And how meaningful would such a deadline really be? If I say, for example, "disaster will strike in 10 years", do you plan to return here in 10 years and one day and chastise me because the prediction hasn't come true yet?

We won the Cold War, despite Reagan making arms agreements and opening up glasnost. How did it fail?

In point of fact, many detentes with Russia have failed. Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Nixon, and Carter - each one of them offered what was later called "detente" (or "strategic partnership") to the USSR. In each case, the US offered trade and technology in exchange for geopolitical restraint, or Soviet cooperation to ensure stability in Eurasia. In each case, the Soviets took the trade and technology, but not only refused to act with "restraint" as we defined it, but actively promoted instability. The result was the worst of all possible worlds: a rapidly strengthening Soviet Union, helped immeasurably by our own short-sighted policies of technology transfer to and trade with Moscow, and a weakened US global position. The Establishment (the Cathedral, the Brahmins, whatever) never seemed to understand that the Soviets were never going to "cooperate" to maintain a geopolitical order in which America was the leading world power and the USSR - among others - was a junior partner. The Soviet goal, pursued as consistently for decades as we pursued the chimera of detente, was to overturn the U.S.-designed global order and replace it with their own.

The effort to secure "detente" with China since the end of the Cold War is a replay of Cold War detente, with China taking the role of the USSR. Again our hope is that in return for US assistance (trade, technology, and investment) that promotes rapid Chinese economic growth, China will employ its new strength to play a stabilizing role in Eurasia. The basic assumptions behind this - that China would cooperate with the United States, and that China would abandon the strategy of alliance with Russia against the United States - are clearly false, and have been so for a long time, without however provoking any kind of agonizing reappraisal in Washington. From the early 1990s through today, China increasingly posed challenges to American interests, even as it drew on American resources, and strengthened ties to Russia, which readily extended military technology to Beijing. In other words, based on a quantum leap in its state power, China quickly began to pursue an independent course, posing a direct threat to the US-designed global order. It is the Chinese tie to Russia that shows that the Reagan-era detente with Russia, pursued from 1986 through today, has failed. If "detente" with Russia has any practical meaning at all, then Russia should not be supplying China with advanced weapons so that China can reshape the world order in a manner favorable to itself and unfavorable to Washington. But that is exactly what has been happening for the past two decades.

There is no union card required for academics.

Yeah, there is. It is called the PhD. Also, if you don't get tenure - and you probably won't, if you're a conservative, and through some miracle you got hired in the first place - you're kicked out of the factory.

You need to give some support to the "reserved" part.

The method of reserving slots for liberals is through hiring and tenure.

May 13, 2008 at 12:14 PM  
Blogger gokart-mozart said...

faré: "Sure, words can be redefined any way you want"

I don't believe that. I am not a nominalist.

Words are designators of realities. Marriage is a reality, of which persons of the same sex cannot partake.

You can pretend the word "marriage" designates some non-marriage reality, but that's all it is - pretending.

May 13, 2008 at 12:29 PM  
Blogger gokart-mozart said...

mtraven: "You've figured it out! All those gays want to get married just to mess with your head. It's all about you!"

If homosexual "marriage" were about what homosexuals want, neither you nor I would have ever heard of it.

May 13, 2008 at 12:30 PM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

The "gay marriage" issue can be understood as a consequence of the redefinition of marriage under a regime of income taxation, the welfare state, and private sector tax-incentivized non-cash employee benefits. This originally took place without the slightest consideration of homosexual relationships.

For most of its history marriage was an institution intended to provide stable conditions for the rearing of children and orderly procedures for transfer from parents to children of marital estates at the time of death of one of the spouses, with an appropriate provision for support of the surviving spouse through dower or curtesy. Homosexual relationships being sterile by definition, marriage had nothing to do with them. Even in societies that did not stigmatize homosexuality in the way Judeo-Christianity does, there was never any historical instance of "gay marriage." Harmodius did not marry Aristogeiton; Hadrian did not marry Antinous. Such a thought would have been risible to them, as well as to the rest of the society in which they lived.

Relatively recent legal and economic changes have tacked onto marriage certain aspects of which it never partook in the past. Spousal and family insurance benefits, tax advantages (in some cases) to being considered as a couple rather than as two individuals, etc., now indeed may outweigh in their economic importance the traditional legal consequences of marriage. Dower and curtesy, primogeniture vs. gavelkind, etc., all were more significant in a time when most deaths were intestate. Today most people with enough assets to worry about take care of such concerns via prenuptial agreements, wills, and trusts. Given all this it does not seem surprising that people in homosexual relationships want to climb aboard the insurance and welfare benefits-driven gravy train that marriage has become for heterosexual couples.

Marriage is a touchy issue because it is a nexus of civil society, religion, and the legal imprimatur of government. Most people are happy with the former two remaining as they are, whereas those that are not happy with them want to use the last of them to force a change in the others. Add to the mix the Frankfurt-school objective of demolishing the patriarchal family as a prerequisite to the total rebuilding of society. See, for example, Marcuse's "Eros and Civilization." I suspect it is more due to the influence of the Frankfurt school than we credit that "gay marriage" has become so significant as a focus of cultural warfare.

May 13, 2008 at 2:17 PM  
Blogger Faré said...

@gokart: We may agree that there are objective concepts. But it is obvious to anyone but the most ignorant mono-linguist that the mapping from words to concepts is both largely arbitrary and only as precise as communication requires.

Argue as much as you want about some unspecified concept of marriage that only applies to heterosexual couples. Unless you also argue about why your concept matters, no one here will give a damn.

As for me, I'll call "marriage" the civil union of two (or more) people of any sex (or species) that live together, have a common intents, pool resource, share responsibilities, etc. So far as I can tell, the universe is not in danger of disappearing in a puff of logic because homosexuals dare to live together and even raise kids together.

May 13, 2008 at 4:34 PM  
Blogger gokart-mozart said...

faré: " But it is obvious to anyone but the most ignorant mono-linguist that the mapping from words to concepts is both largely arbitrary..."

Sorry. You and I have a completely different conceptual framework with insufficient overlap to have a useful conversation.

As I see it, you want to change essences by first disconnecting nouns from what they signify, and then by exercising power over the permissible use of your now unmoored nouns, rather like Humpty Dumpty in Through the Looking Glass.

What you are saying is the rallying cry of all nominalists, everywhere: "The question is, who is to be Master. That's all."

After that, there's nothing to discuss. Even with ignorant mono-linguists.

May 13, 2008 at 5:00 PM  
Anonymous picklefactory said...

After that, there's nothing to discuss. Even with ignorant mono-linguists.

This makes almost as little sense as the "ask God humbly" guy.

Marriage is a reality, of which persons of the same sex cannot partake.

Marriage is a word denoting different things to different people at different times. Your notion here that a word like "marriage" refers to an objective reality instead of to a non-visible, non-tangible relationship into which two human beings intentionally enters is sort of mind-boggling. So the same word means the same thing to everybody, everywhere, all the time? Marriage is a concept which we discover as an objective reality instead of create and define as a society?

Dude! You have to do better than that around here, I think. Or at least explain what you mean to us ignorant slobs instead of making huffy noises.

I posted anonymously around here a few back. TGGP, I'll read your blog too, it's pointed me in the direction of way too many interesting things. The "Hog Heaven" guy is just plain fascinating.

TGGP:
MM has quite pointedly made that point in some of his posts.

I bet he has. I look forward to coming across it. I haven't had the chance to read everything on here yet. Maybe this weekend.

I'd say that it'd make more sense to rip the governmental bits of marriage away and have a universal way to enter into a partnership with someone else than it would to extend the provenance of such a weird governmental/religious/cultural shibboleth to gay folks. I think I'm agreeing with you here, but I don't want to put words in your mouth.

May 13, 2008 at 7:25 PM  
Blogger gokart-mozart said...

picklefactory: "Marriage is a concept which we discover as an objective reality instead of create and define as a society?"

Yup. That's the general idea.

May 13, 2008 at 8:00 PM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

TGGP:

"As with other non-objectivist models of morality, non-cognitivism is largely supported by the argument from queerness: ethical properties, if they existed, would be different from any other thing in the universe, since they have no observable effect on the world."

I think that sociopathy/psychopathy/whatever-the-DSMV-will-call-it pretty well calls shenanigans on this. Ethical properites have an observable effect on the world if for no other reason than their inversion in a person causes an immediate observable change -- see Caligula before and after his fever or the guy with a tumor that makes him all pedophilic. You will have to do a better job of 'splanin than la wik does.

GMP

May 13, 2008 at 8:32 PM  
Blogger Faré said...

@gokart: je suis flatté d'être traité de nominaliste, moi qui suis d'habitude le pourfendeur du relativisme. Ça change. Toutefois, je pense que tu es à côté de la plaque. Outre qu'en France, on a une attitude légèrement différente quant au mariage, ou encore que la notion varie dans l'espace, le temps et les classes sociales (va-t'en demander à un musulman, ou à des anglais d'il y a quelque siècle, ce qu'ils pensent du mariage selon qu'ils soient aristocrates ou roturiers), et même en admettant que tu possèdes "le" sens sacré du mot "mariage" dans cette langue sacrée qu'est l'anglais internettique du XXIème siècle, il te reste d'une part à expliciter quelle est cette notion sacrée qui t'est évidente mais qui semble échapper à tous sauf toi, et d'autre part, à expliquer pourquoi les notions que nous traitons, et que je veux bien appeler par tout autre terme que "mariage", à ta convenance, ne sont pas pertinentes (dans quels contextes d'ailleurs, tu devras l'expliciter aussi).

Voilà, sinon, il me semble que le meilleur argument en faveur de laisser les homosexuels se marier entre eux est de considérer l'unique alternative possible quant à savoir avec qui ils se marient. Personnellement, je préfère que ce ne soit pas avec moi. Et puis, un homosexuel de plus, c'est ça de gagné comme concurrence en moins sur le marché des mâles célibataires en quête de femme.

Bien à toi,
--#f
(Et amuse-toi bien avec Google translator!)

May 14, 2008 at 12:31 AM  
Blogger gokart-mozart said...

faré: Je n'ai pas besoin d'un "Google translator", merci. Je vous ai compris, sans problème.

May 14, 2008 at 7:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

faré: Awwww, you're white, aren't you?

May 14, 2008 at 8:45 AM  
Blogger gokart-mozart said...

anonymous: faré is so BUSTED!

May 14, 2008 at 8:49 AM  
Blogger Aaron Davies said...

picklefactory: "Marriage is a concept which we discover as an objective reality instead of create and define as a society?"

gokart-mozart:Yup. That's the general idea.

That's rather Platonistic of you. I don't think you're going to find much support for that kind of (philosophical) idealism around here.

May 14, 2008 at 2:28 PM  
Blogger gokart-mozart said...

aaron davies: "That's rather Platonistic of you. I don't think you're going to find much support for that kind of (philosophical) idealism around here."

So? We don't vote on reality.

May 14, 2008 at 5:42 PM  
Blogger Aaron Davies said...

aaron davies: "That's rather Platonistic of you. I don't think you're going to find much support for that kind of (philosophical) idealism around here."

So? We don't vote on reality.


In this context, that's a pretty damn circular argument, isn't it? (For the record, and since you're new here, I should point out that I'm the resident Objectivist, and as such reject both subjectivism and intrinsicism.)

May 15, 2008 at 10:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Of course this is the thoughts that Hume warned us about (and MM also -- the idea of political Formalism is supposed to be dealing with situations as they exist not as they should be)."

I don't really see the point of a pure Humean approach to anything. Without a "should" - nasty and yucky though shoulds may be - you really can't recommend anything. Then again, if I go around shoulding on everybody, what (Humean) business do you have criticizing me?

If formalism recommends something, it is because it sees a better world different from this one, and is asking that we change to fit its unprovable assertions about the way the world should be. A pure description of the world sounds nice and Humean (though it isn't, because you wouldn't be talking if you didn't think you SHOULD be talking), but pure descriptions of the world lack inspirational power even if they are plausible (as parts of this blog often are).

No, the parts of this blog that are interesting are the parts that fly in the face of Hume (as people seem to understand him). We SHOULD be questioning the idea that more democracy is always and everywhere better. We SHOULD revile Rousseau. We SHOULD be demanding that people read up on the roles of foreigners in installing nominally independent revolutionary governments. We SHOULD be seeing the world with clear eyes.

And the latter point is what I think the Hume was getting at. Don't try to annihilate "should" (why SHOULD you?) just keep it separate from "is". Dealing with the world as it is rather than as it should be makes World War II, for example, not a particularly notable historical incident, since there's no "basis" for saying civilians shouldn't be massacred.

I honestly think that the misreading of Hume is huge part of modern anomie and nihilism. If we're criticizing Enlightenment memes that killed the confidence of the ancient rulers of Europe, hyper-Humeism should be second on the list.

And if I'm wrong, please tell me why I should stop being wrong.

- The Shouldster

May 17, 2008 at 5:41 PM  
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March 2, 2009 at 10:15 PM  

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