Barrel Strength

Over-Proof Opinion, Smoothly Aged Insight

Barrel Strength - Over-Proof Opinion, Smoothly Aged Insight

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.

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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.

Being brought up short

Those not familiar with the English language might wonder about what “being brought up short” means: having one’s moral failings being called to one’s attention. It is a painful and humiliating experience, for those with a conscience. For those without a conscience, it is just an attempt at shaming, if that.

In two different places this week, I observed institutions “brought up short”. One was Matt Ridley’s column in the Times, in which he describes three different instances in the same month of science playing fast and loose with facts to achieve political ends: attempts to ban nicotinoid-based insecticides, faking evidence for global warming, and official blathering about extreme weather. Each one of these instances either concerned faked evidence, or where no evidence existed and the institution had spoken as if it existed.

The second was the blast in the National Post this morning about the CBC, the people’s broadcaster, whose views represent the Volvo-driving classes to the exclusion of all others.

Someone recently observed that the CBC is not about Canadian programming but programming Canadians to its enlightened view of how the world should work.

Nothing in this morning’s NatPost rant is different from anything conservative bloggers have been saying for years. The only novelty is that the view was expressed in a large national newspaper. When such views leave the Financial Post editorial section for the regular editorial section, I shall be even more impressed. If such views ever show up on the Globe and Mail’s editorial pages, I shall swoon in a transport of shock.

This brings me around to an opinion I saw yesterday in Ricochet which seems to encapsulate the views of our unelected governors in the mainstream media:

Many reporters and editors loathe how aware people have become of the journalistic process. They can barely conceal their anger at having the public (largely conservatives) challenge what, when, and how they cover the news. Their sins of commission have been understood for decades, with a heavy thumb on the left side of the scale for either cultural, institutional, or ideological reasons. Lately though, the media’s sins of omission are more deadly to their reputation and future — and being called on them has the press in a white-hot fury.

When the media was a kind of hermetic priesthood, they controlled what Americans read and saw. If the Washington Post or the New York Times didn’t cover a story, you could bet it wasn’t going to be on the evening news. If they didn’t cover a story real people were interested in, they could put it down to news judgment. There was no effective recourse and nowhere else to get to the story. They know their business model is under existential threat, but they’ve practically declared war on the majority of their potential customers.

….The legacy media largely produces a product they and their friends want. “Another gushing Hillary article? Can’t WAIT!” “Gosh, what Americans really need is another story on how we’re destroying the Earth and how global warming will kill our kids.” “Is Obama a great President, or the greatest President?” Legacy reporters and editors desperately miss that power to mediate the national dialogue.

Putting it all together, I observe a decline of the values which sustain the institutions on which we depend for science, news, and justice. We are concerned about the decline of science, and we are concerned about the decline of guardian institutions generally, but we are more concerned about the decline of culture which infuses all these institutions with vain, shallow, narcissistic, amoral, atheistic  people who think they are no better than meat machines, and behave as they believe they are. This kind of decline in people makes me think Christianity has a valid point.

As Saint Leonard Cohen said

When they said: repent, repent,
I wondered what they meant.

The all-purpose excuse

I read somewhere that the word “racism” did not exist until the late 1950s. I can believe it. Now it is the universal solvent of all rational thinking, and it is especially convenient for the Left to use against regions, classes and cultures that disagree with them, and which fail to produce electoral victories. The continuing dismissal of the American South by the Democrats and their allies comes to mind.

Rick Moran writes in PJ Media.

Racism as an excuse for Democratic defeat in the South is too easy, too pat. But it has the benefit of allowing Democrats the luxury of being able to ignore the real reasons why white Southerners have so completely rejected their candidates. Liberals are apparently incapable of conducting the introspection necessary to arrive at the conclusion that their attitudes toward those they feel superior to contributes far more to their electoral defeats than some kind of nebulous racism that doesn’t exist in any greater proportion in the South than it does anywhere else in the country.

Of course, as Thomas Sowell pointed out in his brilliant book, The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as the Basis of Social Policy, [the title says it all], in order to come to grips with reality the liberal – I use that in the American sense of ‘Leftist’ – would have to change their conception of themselves, and that would be impossibly humiliating.

Cultural wars are so desperate because they are not simply about the merits and demerits of particular policies. They are about the anointed’s whole conception of themselves – about whether they are in the heady role of the vanguard or in the pathetic role of pretentious and self-infatuated people. [p.250]

Because differential rectitude is pivotal to the vision of the anointed, opponents must be shown to be not merely mistaken but morally lacking….This denigration or demonizing of those opposed to their views not only has the desired effect of discrediting the opposition but also has the unintended effect of cutting off the path of retreat from positions which become progressive;ly less tenable with the passage of time and the accumulation of discordant evidence….

For the anointed, it is desperately important to win, not simply because they believe that one policy or set of beliefs is better for society, but because their whole sense of themselves is at stake. [p.252]

The first obligation of the conservative is to know that one can be wholly wrong: emotionally, intellectually, morally. It keeps one humble. It prevents the development of the feeling of being anointed to govern one’s lessers.

I also think that Thomas Sowell’s The Vision of the Anointed should be on every thinking person’s bookshelf, along with Burke’s Reflections on the Late Revolution in France and Tocqueville’s Democracy in America.

Even the New York Times cannot quite like Hillary Clinton

Hillary is proclaimed from the centre of the Democratic Party as the next President. Maybe she will be. After Obama, even Al Gore night be an improvement – and I know that is a stretch for me and for you, dear readers.

Yet the article on her in the New York Times  this weekend makes clear that she has a powerful temper (who of that rank does not?) that she uses to preclude discussion of necessary policy alternatives. The use of the leader’s bad temper to prevent discussion of policy alternatives is the great sin in politics. Always remind yourself of Talleyrand’s dictum: “Worse than a crime, it was a mistake” as your guide to understanding the political point of view.

I do not mind her loyalty to Bill; he is a swine but he is my kind of swine: self indulgent, and consequently ill-disciplined, but he brought welfare reform (stopping the subsidies to black illegitimate births) and balanced the budget. Broadly he left the United States a better place (pace those who have rational objections).

I do not mind if she goes both ways sexually, either, as long as she gets along with the other sex in politics. She first also not be the wife of a President to be gay; recall Elanor Roosevelt’s affair with the journalist Lorena Hickock.

My objection to Hillary is that she is not the emollient centrist she is being portrayed as, but rather an imperious leftist who cannot tolerate political argument, even from within her own party and her own staff. This is not a good sign. At a time when the United States desperately needs a centrist reformer, able to get along with the other side, we may find in Hillary a leader with all the instincts of Louis XIV: rigid, bigoted, imperious, and prone to catastrophic wars.