Barrel Strength

Over-Proof Opinion, Smoothly Aged Insight

Barrel Strength - Over-Proof Opinion, Smoothly Aged Insight

Books: The Sword of the Lord

All books are in competition with one another to be read. Go to a remainders book store if you want to dissuade someone from a writing career; see the piles of unread books about to reduced to wood-pulp. Somehow we select some books and not others, and sometimes for no better reason than the cover or the title.

On my reading list are great books in the Oxford series of the history of the American republic, such as Gordon Wood’s Empire of Liberty, Lincoln Paine’s The Sea and Civilization,  a history of the world from a maritime perspective, Yuval Harari’s Sapiens, a brilliant and concise history  of humanity from 500,000 years ago through now, which is a fast and efficient romp through the Large Facts,  Doris Goodwin’s The Bully Pulpit, about the relationship of Theodore Roosevelt to William Taft, which is too long for the importance of the story related  and Jesus: A Pilgrimage, by James Martin SJ, which is beckoning, and several others.

One in particular has won the race against all these “better” books of history, “The Sword of the Lord: The Roots of Fundamentalism in the American Family”, by Andrew Himes. The author is descended from a line of Baptist preachers, brother to Baptist preachers, and from a line of what are called Scots-Irish, really border people in Scotland, Wales and England who took off for America in the 1800s.

Himes relates the evolution of fundamentalism to the large events that shaped his forbears: dirt poor in Tennessee, to millionaire farmers and slave holders in Missouri, wiped out in the Civil War, the flight to Texas, and the slow climb out of poverty once again.

I am fascinated by people whose interpretation of Christianity is so alien to me. Fundamentalism, in my way of thinking, de-emphasizes the role of the human mind in interpreting the Scriptures, and downplays the role of error, of interpretation, and locks itself into needless battles with modernity, such as anti-Darwinism and resistance to the civil rights of American blacks. In short, they tend to get themselves into Islamic levels of intolerance of anything not themselves.

Once upon a time, a man who had been brought up in the Plymouth Brethren explained to me his  interpretation of what fundamentalism entails.

We were at the dining table. He pointed to the position of the salt and pepper. “Imagine”, he said, “if the salt and pepper being on this side of the drinking glass meant you were going to heaven, and on the other, you were on your way to Hell. Imagine the daily anxiety. Everything, but everything, leads to heaven or hell. That is the point of life: salvation or damnation. So you would be pretty anxious about the smaller details of life, because you never knew for sure what would start you on the path to perdition.

“The anxiety is intolerable. So you project outward onto other people this anxiety, and start to find fault in others because the fault in yourself cannot be tolerated, so consciousness of it is repressed. Fault-finding becomes a deeply rooted reflex.”

Everything I am reading in Andrew Himes’ book makes sense from this perspective. The author was, as a child, a Baptist bigot, travelled through loss of faith and Marxism, (bigotry of a different kind) and arrived back at a post-fundamentalist Christianity.

What would such a Christianity look like? It would, in part, be belief in things that one does not know for a fact to exist. God is not a scientific question, that is, susceptible of proof by inference from the arrangement of physical forces. [On this issue Dawkins is not even wrong]. Moreover it would be a degree of comfort, and not anxiety, that belief would be different from perception of facts, and inferences from nature.

Himes’ story is the emergence of a more relaxed and at the same time stronger faith out of his conflicts with his preaching family, their doctrines, and the quarrelsome tribe from which he sprang. It conveys important lessons in how the United States came to be how it is, and how one man can evolve into something better than he was.

 

Gay marriage, SCOTUS and the decline of Christianity

There are issues I do not have the wit to sort out. The recent Supreme Court decision in the United States on same sex marriage, and what it portends for society, is one of them. I do not know whether this marks the beginning of state-assisted civilizational suicide, or just a steady retreat from Pauline Christianity into something more tolerant and more tolerable for the human species. I suspect the latter. And I suspect myself for not getting bothered about it, but I have come to the end of my capacity for flogging myself for not thinking the end is nigh. I do not think the end is nigh. Broadly, and with large exceptions such as Islam, I think things are okay.

I think the human species will struggle on, banging its head against stupid ideas for thousands of years, and then, suddenly, abandon the struggle and taking up some new idea against which to bang its head for another two thousand years.

The stupid idea against which we have banged our heads, since Saint Paul got the whip hand over Christianity, was that people of the same sex should not feel or express lust for one another. Possibly this was a healthy reaction to the decadence of the late Roman Empire. In any case, the anti-sexualism of Saint Paul may be shared among many religions, in the sense that the path to God may lie through principled denial of the body. I doubt it, but ascetic self-denial is a sure and  true path to the godhead for some. For many such as myself, Saint Paul is as much a stumbling block to the Christian  faith and as a path to it.

Monotheistic  religions, and religions generally, consider that the man-woman procreative bond must exist and be strongly defended against adultery, homosexuality, and any recreational sexual temptations that undermine the pair bond that is dedicated to raising children. Society has a strong interest in its own perpetuation. Religions are conservative; they have to be. They have to concern themselves with what keeps the species going.

I am not going to bother much with whether the Supreme Court of the United States has just invented law. I assume it has. They do it all the time, just as doctors turn off the taps. You don’t want to know this, but animals are killed to make your steak. Judges make this stuff up. They should do so within careful limits. Conservatives feel that the rigor and certainty of the law is threatened when this is done too obviously, and without careful extraction of new and limited findings from previously existing principles. I agree. But all laws are made up. Some laws are consistent with human nature and with the development of a better society, but nonetheless they are made up.

Christianity was first articulated in the first two or three centuries after Jesus when slavery was common, divorce was an almost certain means of starving one’s ex-wife and children, and cruelty to animals was an everyday sight in the streets.Christ spoke against divorce, and said nothing about slavery, yet today we have divorce and human slavery has been largely abolished outside of Islamic countries.

 

The idea that people should actually love one another, as the proper expression of their love for God, continues to influence the world for the better. To this day, Christianity makes the world a better place. The circles of our sympathies are wider, and our ideas of rights broader, because of the primal commandments of Jesus to love one another.

I do not buy this notion that Christianity is uniquely or even principally responsible for the world’s ills. That is letting the human species off too easily. Homo homini lupus, and we should never forget our murderous propensities.

Christianity has had a great influence on social movements that ended modern chattel slavery, on reducing cruelty to children and animals, on expanding the rights of prisoners of war and of the state, and in considering the human person to be worthy of dignity and respect. As Nietzsche described it, Christianity was a religion of slaves, and he hated it for that reason. For that very reason, Christians embrace it. We have all at one time or another in our pasts been slaves to various Pharaohs, and today we may well  be slaves to new forces that will in time be recognized as the old Pharaoh with a new face.

So I regard the gay-rights thing as an overturning of one part of the message of Christianity for another, more important part, of the same message. It has always been this way, that some will see in the message of love thy neighbour as thyself, broader ideas of who is my neighbour, or deeper ideas of love, or – here is the catch – calls to love ones self a little more so that there is love to go around to one’s neighbour as well as to one’s self.

The message will not die, even as Courts make up new rights.

How are you supposed to know? Where do you get the memo?

From the always perceptive Steve Sailer:

Of course, not knowing that transgenderism is to be celebrated as obvious and transracialism is to be scorned as something that can’t possibly even exist is no excuse. These days, you are just supposed to know, and if you get the latest orthodoxy wrong, well, too bad for you…

So Rachel Dolezal is to be scorned, but Bruce Jenner is to be celebrated?

Celebrated

bruce Jenner

Denigrated

rachel Dolezal

It re-confimrs me in the view that all of political correctness is a leftist plot to destroy freedom of thought, speech and association. When Leftism is extracted from Marxism, all that remains is anti-nomianism. We, being saved, should obey no law.

Is the Internet behind growing income inequality?

The MacDonald Laurier Institute held a debate last night between the Liberal trade critic Chrystia Freeland, and the Canadian-American professor of law, Frank Buckley.

The issue was “Income Inequality:  we should quit worrying about it”. The debaters were too intelligent and well-informed to disagree fundamentally. The only decision criterion in the debate arose from one’s pre-existing disposition either to worry, as distinct from being concerned. Not a single intelligent person fails to be concerned about income inequality, in the same sense as a sailor keeps a wary eye on the water level in the bilge.

Freeland’s views are here.   Frank Buckley’s views are here.

The debate turned into a massive agreement between Buckley and Freeland that the United States is doing much worse than Canada in almost every dimension of income inequality, permanent class differences, social mobility in and out of the top ten and bottom ten percent of the income deciles, and so forth.

Buckley’s views on how American government is failing are summarized here. Essentially he attributes the fundamental fault to the separation of powers: the fact that the executive is not responsible to the legislative branch, which has powerful and ramifying effects on the whole system, including irresponsibility of legislators and presidents for results.

Here is Buckley:

 

What Canada has importantly over the U.S. is reversibility, the ability to undo bad laws. That doesn’t happen so easily in America, with the gridlock built into its separation of powers, and that’s a problem Fukuyama himself has identified in two recent books that describe a sclerotic society of special interests which enact wealth-destroying laws. Once passed, Americans are stuck with bad laws. Their constitution doesn’t have a reverse gear.

What Fukuyama recognized in his recent books is James Madison’s error in The Federalist Papers. Madison argued that the separation of powers would prevent bad laws from being enacted in the first place. However, that’s an example of what Nobel laureate Friedrich Hayek called the “fatal conceit,” the idea that planners can anticipate all the problems that might arise with a well-drafted statute. More modestly, Canada’s parliamentary system assumes that, in a world of human fallibility, mistakes will be made, that “experts” are often unreliable, that dumb laws will be passed; and that what is more important is giving the legislator the ability to bring hindsight wisdom to bear in undoing laws which experience tells us were ill-planned. If American government has gotten too large, if the statutory code and the federal regulations have caught a case of elephantiasis, that’s not surprising. The know-it-all hubris of the planner was baked into the American constitution from the start.

Other faults abound. US laws are written by lobbyists for various interests – yes, this is exactly true – and then various sections are then “reconciled” with other sections written by other crews of expensive lawyers, and then, if possible, the House version is reconciled to the senate’s version. At no time is a consistent editorial or legal style enforced; no equivalent of the official of the Ministry of Justice, no specialized drafting section, touches a bill.

The Canada Health Act (RSC ch.C-6) is 22 sections long, the US Affordbale Care Act is  974 pages long. It could not have been passed without a large degree of legislative log-rolling, which are buy-offs for regions, senators, and pet-projects.

Or as Buckley says, “the Canada health Act is twelve pages long, and that includes the French”.

__________________________

Of all the forces  acting on our respective countries, Canada and the US, I see this one as decisive.

  • every action capable of being reduced to an algorithm is being turned into software,  the instructions for machines, and these machines are doing jobs formerly done by humans.
  • More, the economic productivity gains are, under modern networked conditions, able to gathered on a global scale by very few owners of the intellectual property.
  • For example, think about how Uber takes the economic rents out of taxi licences, or Netflix out of Canadian broadcasting licences, and you can see how wealth can be centralized as never before.

Every other force generating inequality: family breakdown, the Bell curve – the unequal distribution of intelligence, globalization, decline of social cohesion, acts on both sides of the Canada-US border with greater or lesser effect.  The two political systems translate these forces into different social effects. Hence the Buckley-Freeland debate swerved into US-Canada comparisons, but avoided the main cause, as I see it, of increasing inequality.

The conclusions of this effect are being felt around the world:

  • since we do not need as many people to do the jobs now able to be performed by machines, people are reproducing themselves less, and population  is crashing in most places in the world.
  • Modern networked economies permit both innovation, and new forms of accumulating wealth, on scales that were not previously possible.

 

I recognize I am entering the dangerous territory occupied by Andrew Keen. Keen argues against the Internet, in that it does not create jobs, does not increase freedom, and wrecks the middle class. Both Freeland and Buckley were, in their ways, conscious of these trends, but they had not attributed the problem squarely to the effects of the Internet.

It is a thesis well worth allowing yourself to contemplate. I am allowing myself to think negatively and will report back when my views have matured.

.

 

 

This is how they treat separatists in Texas

Oh what a difference being unpopular makes!

In a deliberate “show of force,” federal and local police forces raided a political meeting in Texas, fingerprinting and photographing all attendees as well as confiscating all cell phones and personal recording devices.

Members of the Republic of Texas, a secession movement dedicated to restoring Texas as an independent constitutional republic, had gathered Feb. 14 in a Bryan, Texas, meeting hall along with public onlookers. They were debating issues of currency, international relations and celebrating the birthday of one of their oldest members. The group, which describes itself as “congenial and unimposing,” maintains a small working government, including official currency, congress and courts.

Pierre Karl Peladeau, take note.

A lot of Americans would like the police to use the same zealous methods on illegal immigrants and organizations that support illegal immigration. Now that would be “controversial”.

Don’t be like that!

The New Yorker is a magazine of comfortable liberal opinion, with good writing, great cartoons, plush ads, and an alarming tendency to stick its head in the sand rather than confront its readership with ugly facts.

This week’s case in point is a book review by staff writer Kelefah Sanneh on the subject of a massive tome written by leading black sociologists. The debate inside sociology concerns structuralists versus culturalists. Structuralists believe institutional racism and poverty explain American black performance, culturalists argue that the culture – the set of values shared many American blacks – results in their relatively greater poverty, criminality, and levels of family breakdown, compared to whites, Latinos, or any other American ethnic group.

For most of the New Yorker’s upscale readership, the only exposure they will have to this debate is through the magazine itself. Attitudes towards a phenomenon are often more important than what the phenomenon is in itself, so the function of the New Yorker is to comfort those who might be afflicted by illiberal thoughts with the soothing balm of correct thought.

Let the New Yorker article speak for itself:

Orlando Patterson, a Jamaica-born sociologist at Harvard with an appetite for intellectual combat, wants to redeem the culturalist tradition, thereby redeeming sociology itself. In a manifesto published in December, in the Chronicle of Higher Education, he argued that “fearful” sociologists had abandoned “studies of the cultural dimensions of poverty, particularly black poverty,” and that the discipline had become “largely irrelevant.” Now Patterson and Ethan Fosse, a Harvard doctoral student in sociology, are publishing an ambitious new anthology called “The Cultural Matrix: Understanding Black Youth” (Harvard), which is meant to show that the culturalist tradition still has something to teach us.

The article reviews the debates generated by  Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s famous description in 1965 of the decline of African-American families, the increasing matriarchy, the descent into crime of fatherless boys, and the prediction – which turned out to be accurate – that the result would be an explosion of crime. In fact, the US murder rate doubled in the decade from 1965 to 1975.

Orlando Patterson, the black sociologist, came to Moynihan’s defence, arguing in later years that Moynihan had given too much credit to the structuralist side of the argument: that black underperformance was the heritage of slavery and racism. Patterson felt that Moyhnihan had got it mostly right by his largely cultural interpretation of American black pathologies.

At this point the New Yorker’s reviewer, Kelefah Sanneh, points to the drop in crime rates, and in particular the black crime rates, that have occurred since the 1990s as the strongest argument against the culturalist interpretation.

But the contemporary era has been marked by the opposite discrepancy: even as the new culturalists were resurrecting Moynihan’s diagnosis, the scourge of crime was in retreat.

And why was this so? One part of the answer is demographics. The baby bust, and in particular, the decline in the the relative number of young black males, has led to corresponding drops in the number of crimes committed by young males of all races, and in African- Americans. While demographics does not explain everything, the number of males over 15 and under 24 as a proportion of the society exerts a powerful effect on crime. (An excellent article “Is violent Crime Increasing?” on crime rates in America is found here). Another explanation for the drop in American crime is that enough young black males were imprisoned that crime had to drop, since about one-third of them have been imprisoned at some time in their lives.

Sanneh then uses the apparent drop in crime rates committed by American blacks as the large fact that a culturalist interpretation of American blacks fails to answer.

I cite the article “Is Violent Crime Increasing?” on the effect of imprisonment.

After 1975, the expected cost of violence began to rise. First, while the police continued to make arrests for about half the violent offenses they recorded, arrests rose considerably faster than victimization rates. Thus, if victimization rates are our best indicator of the underlying trend in violence, the percentage of violent offenders getting arrested must have risen. At the same time, those who went to prison were staying longer. The net effect of these changes was that violent offenders could expect to spend more time in prison. Judging by murder and victimization rates, the violent crime rate was about 10 percent lower in 1988 than in 1975. Yet the fraction of adults in state and federal prisons more than doubled during this period. In part, this was because we were locking up more people for drug-related offenses. But those who committed violent crimes could also expect to spend considerably more time in prison in 1988 than in 1975.

Thus demographic change – including the reduction of the number of young black males- and tougher imprisonment policies – had their effects on levels of violent crime.

All this was as available to Sanneh as it was to me, with ten minutes of rummaging about in the Internet with search engines.

Sanneh concludes his attack on Orlando Patterson and the culturalist interpretation thus:

Black cultural sociology has always been a project of comparison: the idea is not simply to understand black culture but to understand how it differs from white culture, as part of the broader push to reduce racial disparities that have changed surprisingly little since Du Bois’s time. Fifty years after Moynihan’s report, it’s easy to understand why he was concerned. Even so, it’s getting easier, too, to sympathize with his detractors, who couldn’t understand why he thought new trends might explain old problems. If we want to learn more about black culture, we should study it. But, if we seek to answer the question of racial inequality in America, black culture won’t tell us what we want to know. 

The last sentence is the kicker. Though everything in the review of evidence shows considerably worse performance by the generality of American blacks compared to the generality of American whites, this fact is not explained by black culture. Okay so what explains it?

The implicit invitation is to blame white racism, but suppose the answer lies deeper than attitudes.

If black culture will not tell us about black inferiority, try this thought experiment. What if all American whites were instantaneously removed and replaced by Japanese?

Those who know the Japanese know they think that their race/tribe/nation is ineffably superior to all others. Conformity and obedience to the requirements of their tribe/race/nation are the supreme values. Tenth generation Koreans living in Japan may not have full Japanese citizenship. No one may immigrate to Japan.  Thus Japanese find American white agonizing about race to be incomprehensible. They are very nice about their race-ism, but they are not apologizing for their views of themselves, nor of you, whiteman.

By this act of magic, you would achieve the total replacement of all American whites by a group of people who find it inconceivable to apologize for “racism” because for them, “race” is the basis of all social cohesion, hierarchy and meaning. No guilt, only calm acceptance of the racial nature of human existence. What would happen then?

Again, Sanneh’s last sentence:

But, if we seek to answer the question of racial inequality in America, black culture won’t tell us what we want to know. 

Maybe not. Maybe we need to recognize the superiority of Japanese culture, in this thought experiment. In short, the inequality does not proceed from racism; rather, race-ism is the result of differences  experienced by people of different tribes in dealing with one another (and the same applies to tribes, nations, and any conceivable group with discernable characteristics) . Racism, in short, is more about observation of real differences and acting on those observations than some inherent sin tainting the observer of a difference.

That, I suppose, is now a heresy and a thought crime.

Consider, if only for a moment, whether Sanneh would have made the same argument to a culture that could not compute what the matter was with race-ism/tribalism/nationalism. It would not work. The effect of not being able to understand what is wrong with race-ism, would focus the issue not on attitudes, but on the actual differences that generate the attitudes in the first place.

For the mind liberated from the burden of concern about race-ism, the world can be seen in its true light. It is not made prettier or uglier; it is to see the world as a competition and collaboration between genetically different but similar peoples. Expect friction.

When Pat Condell and Thomas Friedman agree

We are now at a stage of convergence between Thomas Friedman of the New York Times and Pat Condell of the white-walled upstairs bedroom. Note the date: 23rd of January 2015.

Pat Condell has been railing against Islam as such for the past ten years; he is a crank, he is outside mainstream media, and I am sure he has as much influence as Thomas Friedman among those inclined to be aware of existential threats. He makes acerbic videos of himself talking to the camera from his suburban home somewhere in England. He does not speak in public. You almost certainly are aware of him if you have been a reader of this site. [We know all about our readership].

Thomas Friedman writes for the New York Times on Middle-Eastern Affairs. He has authored several well-received books; he lives in a gigantic house with his rich wife, and he wields considerable influence with those who think they are important. I have heard him speak at a conference and I can assure you from direct observation that he is a pompous ass, a talented writer, and a fair barometer of American liberal opinion.

And yet, despite every possible distance in social and economic class, and religion, Thomas Friedman is now in agreement with Pat Condell. The problem is Islam, not just hard-line interpretations of it.

Friedman was commenting in the New York Times this week on President Obama’s pussy-footing around the issue, and when the Times talks tougher on Islamic jihad than the US President, then you know some important shift in public opinion is occurring.

 

When you don’t call things by their real name, you always get in trouble. And this administration, so fearful of being accused of Islamophobia, is refusing to make any link to radical Islam from the recent explosions of violence against civilians (most of them Muslims) by Boko Haram in Nigeria, by the Taliban in Pakistan, by Al Qaeda in Paris and by jihadists in Yemen and Iraq. We’ve entered the theater of the absurd.

After citing the administrations excuses for the Charlie Hebdo attacks, Friedman writes:

This makes it sound as if the Charlie Hebdo terrorists set out to commit a random act of violent extremism and only subsequently, when they realized that they needed some justification, did they reach for Islam.

The day before, Earnest had conceded that there are lists of recent ‘examples of individuals who have cited Islam as they’ve carried out acts of violence.’ Cited Islam? According to the Earnest theory … purposeless violent extremists rummage through the scriptures of great faiths, looking for some verses to cite to support their mayhem and often happen to settle on the holy texts of Islam.”

President Obama knows better. I am all for restraint on the issue, and would never hold every Muslim accountable for the acts of a few. But it is not good for us or the Muslim world to pretend that this spreading jihadist violence isn’t coming out of their faith community. It is coming mostly, but not exclusively, from angry young men and preachers on the fringe of the Sunni Arab and Pakistani communities in the Middle East and Europe.

I observe that the Charlie Hebdo murders have finally budged the nearly immovable liberal consensus to start talking a new language that we have being saying for years: it is jihad, stupid; it is part of a thousand four hundred year war against everything not Islamic. It is not new, it is ancient.

The violence, murders and enslavements carried out by Islamic warriors are intimately tied to a religious doctrine called Islam. Jihad is their sacrament. It is as central to Islam as baptism, communion, and burial are to ours.

The New York Times ran an op-ed piece by Marine LePen, of all people, and that she rightly called Islam a totalitarian ideology. What Geert Wilders was nearly sent to jail for, several years ago, and cost him many a trial, is now being said in the New York Times.

Let us call things by their rightful names, since the French government seems reluctant to do so. France, land of human rights and freedoms, was attacked on its own soil by a totalitarian ideology: Islamic fundamentalism. It is only by refusing to be in denial, by looking the enemy in the eye, that one can avoid conflating issues. Muslims themselves need to hear this message. They need the distinction between Islamist terrorism and their faith to be made clearly.

Yet this distinction can only be made if one is willing to identify the threat. It does our Muslim compatriots no favors to fuel suspicions and leave things unspoken. Islamist terrorism is a cancer on Islam, and Muslims themselves must fight it at our side.

LePen is still making a distinction between Islam and Islamism, but  this attempt to make of Islam a political ideology by adding the suffix “ism” is just a way that we westerners have of denoting an ideology. For the Muslim, there is no distinction between the realms of God and Caesar, for as I said before, in Islam, God is Caesar. Our attempts to analyze Islam with Christian concepts constantly get us confused.

The distinction between Islam and Islamism is a polite fiction. Sooner or later it will be dropped, because there is no distinction between them in substance. With the Charlie Hebdo murders and Boko Haram’s mass slaughters, the western world draws nearer to the moment when we get clear on the concept.

At some point a future ruler  will do the same to Mecca as the Emperor Titus and the future Emperor Tiberius did to Jerusalem in AD70: besiege it, defeat it, and carry the inhabitants off into slavery.  This will occur after the nuking of Rome by Islamic militants, or some such outrage.

The shock of the fall of Jerusalem diverted the entire Hebraic religion away from a Temple-oriented live-animal sacrifice cult into the study of the Torah under the direction of rabbis. It is not beyond possibility that the occupation of Mecca and the destruction of the central temples of Islam will have an equivalent pacifying effect. Then again, the Jews have learned from history, and the Muslims – so far-  have not.

Nevertheless, regardless of these asides, the day of reckoning with Islam is coming.

moral diversity

Jonathan Haidt is an American social scientist. His major work is “The Righteous Mind”. It concerns the moral foundation of people’s views of politics, and everything else. His work is a must-read for people who think about why liberals (in the American sense) and conservatives differ so much. He explains himself clearly and I urge you to check out his videos. Go to youtube and enter “Jonathan Haidt” and you will be greatly  rewarded.

Haidt says there are five axes of moral difference among people, and that, by and large, liberals act on two – harm/care, and fairness/unfairness – and that conservatives act on all five of them, which include the first two and add sanctity/defilement,authority/rebellion, loyalty/treason. Haidt is one of those rare people who has argued himself from being a leftist to being a centrist by reflecting on those virtues which conservatives value, and which liberals, in general, do not.

His insight into liberals is that their obsession with harm/care – which is usually understood as equity – leads to a sacralization of victims, on the one hand, and group-based results, on the other. If one’s idea of morality is limited to that set of concerns, you will never understand centrists and  conservatives, and you will ignore other extremely important moral concerns. Worse than not understanding your compatriots, you will offend their senses of decency, justice, proportion, fairness, and sacredness. This is only one of many important insights his thinking gives rise to.

“How many of you ants want to bail out your grasshopper neighbours?” This question, he says, is the moral insight that gave birth to the Tea Party.

An example he cites to a liberal group is this: “Would you let you 14-year old daughter choose her dentist? [pause] Then why would you allow her to choose her abortionist?”

One of the issues he speaks of is the total lack of diversity within the moral framework of most liberal institutions. The liberal institutions are always talking a great deal about diversity. According to Haidt, they have no idea what diversity actually consists of. They think it means a bunch of people from sexual, religious,  ethnic or other-defined  minorities being in the same place at the same time, but all thinking and speaking exactly alike, rather like a Maoist poster where jut-jawed workers, peasants, soldiers and intelligentsia look upwards and to the right in solidarity with an identical idea, each with his fist raised in defiance of something.

What liberals fail to imagine is that morality might be broader than fairness/unfairness and harmful/not harmful, to embrace a broader set of moral considerations: sanctity, loyalty, and deference, and their opposites.

The intolerance of moral diversity is the essence of the political left. It leads to a closing of the academic mind. As to that issue, read this: How Academia’s Liberal Bias is Killing Social Science

“There is complete freedom of discussion in the Soviet Union”

A guy I know who worked in the Soviet Union for Canada in the 1970s surprized me one day when he said, in response to my comment, “On the contrary, there is complete freedom of discussion in the Soviet Union”.

What did he mean?

He said: “if you have known a guy since high school, and you are sure of him on all grounds, and you are out ice fishing on a lake, say, out of reach of microphones, then Russians have an extremely broad range of discussion, broader than here.” He intimated that Russians in such places would feel free to talk about Stalin and Hitler, the Russian Revolution, the future of communism, the United States, sex, God, Christianity, anything.

If you spoke too loudly in the wrong circumstances, you might draw attention of the secret police, and be called in for a threatening chat. You might lose your academic job. But within the boundaries of a totalitarian police state, where the compulsion was external, society itself maintained freedom of discussion. It also maintained educational standards. Communism may have wrecked social trust, the bedrock of cooperation, markets, and democracy, but it did not reach in and destroy friendships and a real but limited freedom of thought and speech.

In the same vein, Prof. Srdia Trifkovic speaks below of how the Communist system did not challenge the classical education system: grammar, logic, mathematics, essay writing, and how in consequence, the education system was less affected by cultural Marxism than it is in the West now, and how eastern European immigrants to Western Europe are succeeding because of this rigorous training in thinking.

Speaking of the absorption of political correctness by Western social elites, compared to Eastern Europeans,

The circle of people [here] who have internalized these idiocies, as a normal part of their world outlook is, I would say, much wider.

 

 

Go to minute 2:40 and thereafter for this important discussion.