Thursday, 20 August 2009

Testing the new additions to the blogroll [updated]

Curious to see the most recent liberal and conservative output from the chaps and chapesses just added to my blogroll?  Michael Moeller reckons this first lot “these conservative intellectuals,” are “openly attacking collectivism and arguing for free markets and the individual's right to his own life--making clear and well-reasoned historical connections. They are also arguing for American self-interest in foreign policy.” So here’s a recent selection, with my comments:

  • City Journal: Wild Randomness - “Traditional economics has failed to grasp the complexity and dynamism of financial markets.”
    NOT PC’s comment: True, but I’m not sure the re-regulation proposed here is anything i can agree with.
  • Theodore Dalrymple: Is There a ‘Right’ to Health Care? - “If there is a right to health care, someone has the duty to provide it. Inevitably, that “someone” is the government. Concrete benefits in pursuance of abstract rights, however, can be provided by the government only by constant coercion.”
    NOT PC’s comment: Spot on.  Is there a right to health care?  No, there isn’t.  It’s encouraging that a conservative can see that, and defend it.
  • Theodore Dalrymple (again): Tracking the troublemakers - “The government, apparently, is thinking of installing closed circuit television cameras in the homes of the 20,000 worst behaved families, or rather households, in Britain, so that they are under surveillance twenty-four hours a day.
    I have a better idea, in fact a far better idea: instead of the 20,000 households, government ministers should themselves be under twenty-four hour video surveillance.”
    NOT PC’s comment: Great idea!
  • Burton Folsom: Incentives Matter - “What have been the criticisms [historically of socialized medicine]? First, socialized medicine is unconstitutional; second, it is very expensive; third, it creates perverse incentives. . .  It was surprising to see President Obama using incentives to defend his program . . . [but] critics of universal health care, higher taxes, an increased welfare state, cap and trade, and the stimulus package need to accept this challenge and study how federal interference changes incentives and produces unintended consequences.”
    NOT PC’s comment: Revealing, don’t you think, that President Zero hasn’t even attempted to counter the first two objections.
  • Nicole Gelinas: “Too Big to Fail” Must Die - “If we continue to subsidize irresponsible risk-taking, we’ll just get more of it.”
    NOT PC’s comment: Can’t disagree with that.
  • Jonah Goldberg: Why ‘Obamacare’ Is Failing -  “To listen to the White House and its supporters in and out of the media, you would think that opposition to “Obamacare” is the hobgoblin of a few small minds on the right. Racists, fascists, Neanderthals, the whole Star Wars cantina of bogeymen and cranks stand opposed to much-needed reform. . . . It’s funny how these supposed champions of the Enlightenment can’t grasp that people can disagree with them for honest reasons.”
    NOT PC’s comment: Spot on again.
  • Daniel Hannan: The Middle Ages were far from dark - “Most of us have a vague idea that the Middle Ages were a time of darkness and superstition. . . In fact … the era was far from ignorant.. .  [and it will] not quite do to portray the Church as hostile to free enquiry.”
    NOT PC’s comment: Revisionist religious drivel replete with straw men and red herrings. And some people say that British conservatives are immune from this religio-drivel!
  • Victor Davis Hanson: Our Ongoing Catharsis - “After just eight months, the President is at a 50/50 cross-roads in the polls. The once hope-and-change exuberance has dissipated…
    What Happened?
    The public was mad at Bush for deficit spending, and yet Obama baited-and-switched and gave them much more of it. Americans perhaps were tired of ‘smoke ‘em out’ and ‘bring it on’ machismo, and then got off-the-teleprompter incoherence of the ‘inflate your tires’ type. Voters wanted Martin Luther King, Jr., and are hearing more an Al Sharpton. Wall Street greed continues, but the remedy for its excess instead falls on our family doctor, real estate broker, and accountant, and all the others who are demonized for making over $250,000 a year. Some believed Nancy Pelosi & Co. were genuine supporters of protest, and critics of government privilege—and only now learned that it was only liberal protest and Republican privilege she and her cohort praised and slurred. We wanted kinder, gentler servants, and instead got a Hillary snapping and gnashing in the Congo, Timothy Geithner swearing in profanity-laced diatribes at bank regulators, and Biden’s lunacy.”
    NOT PC’s comment: Can’t argue with a word of that, can you?
  • Quin Hillyer: Quin Hillyer on Fascist Parallels -  Quin Hilyer explains the similarities between the policies of today’s U.S. Federal Government and that of Mussolini in 1920's Italy.
    NOT PC’s comment: A parallel of which too few people seem aware.
  • Roger Kimball: Channeling your inner Goldstein: Obama’s Renewable Two-Minute Hate Fest - “In his inaugural address in January, Barack Obama promised to put ‘an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics.’  I hope you’ve noticed how free from petty grievances, false promises, recriminations, and worn out dogmas public discourse has been since that glorious new dawn, 20 January 2009. . .The president's frequent use of scapegoats is a tactic straight from 1984.”
    NOT PC’s comment: There is of course another famous demagogue famously given to using scapegoats for political capital – but to cite that example would violate Godwin’s Law.
  • Heather MacDonald: Ricci and the Skills Gap - What leads to unequal results between blacks and whites isn’t racism.
  • PJ O'Rourke (at Cato): The Problem is Politics - “Well, I wish I had better news for you, but the barbarians are at the gates. We are besieged by pagans—savage, brutish worshippers of big government. Theirs is not even a golden calf. They’ve abandoned the Gold Standard. They worship the taxing and spending of a fiat god, all the more dangerous for being both false and imaginary.
    Now, we thought Ronald Reagan, our Charles Martel, had stopped the pillaging hordes of Jimmy Carter at the Battle of Poitiers—also known as the 1980 election. Even the heathen slime Bill Clinton said, “The era of big government is over.” We thought we’d won.
    We were wrong. They’re back. And they want to sacrifice us and all our worldly goods on the blood drenched altar of politics.”
    NOT PC’s comment: And that’s just the humour.  You should wait until he starts on the serious stuff.  Sadly, however, he’s by no means prolific online.
  • PJ O'Rourke (at The Weekly Standard): What If Writing Were Like TV? - “And now a word from our sponsor . . . “
    NOT PC’s comment: Not prolific, but hilarious.
  • Powerline: What Happened to the Antiwar Movement? - “This really is a phenomenon that deserves more attention. It is widely believed that Republicans were defeated in 2008 because George Bush was unpopular, and that Bush was unpopular because of the Iraq war. So how does it happen that Barack Obama continues our involvement in Iraq at the same level that had been planned by the Bush administration and increases our forces in Afghanistan, with hardly a peep from the formerly-antiwar left?
    NOT PC’s comment: A good question with a revealing answer.  One that Cindy Sheehan really, really wants to know.
  • Quadrant: Greening the children by Ben-Peter Terpstra - “It’s disturbing how, after years of Orwellian lies, the radical environmentalist is portrayed as an objective scientist. . .
  • Leighton Smith: Carbon Dioxide irrelevant in climate debate says MIT Scientist - “August 18, 7:39 AM Portland Civil Rights Examiner Dianna Cotter In a study sure to ruffle the feathers of the Global Warming cabal, Professor Richard Lindzen of MIT has published a paper which proves that IPCC models are overstating by 6 times, the relevance of CO2 in Earth’s Atmosphere.”
    NOT PC’s comment: Top-ranking radio host links to rational commentary shock!
  • Thomas Sowell: Whose Medical Decisions? - “The current "health care" bill threatens to take life-and-death decisions out of the hands of individuals and their doctors, transferring those decisions to Washington bureaucrats. People are taking that personally— as they should. Your life and death, and that of your loved ones, is as personal as it gets. . . As for a ‘death panel,’ no politician would ever use that phrase when trying to get a piece of legislation passed. . . But when you select people like Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel to give "independent" guidance, you have already chosen a policy through your choice of advisors, who simply provide political cover. The net result can be exactly the same as if those providing that guidance were openly called ‘death panels’.”
    NOT PC’s comment: Sowell on the money, as he so often is.
  • Mark Steyn: Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death Panels  “. . . but you can't have both. On the matter of McCarthy vs the Editors, I'm with Andy. I think Sarah Palin's "death panel" coinage clarified the stakes and resonated in a way that "rationing" and other lingo never quite did. She launched it, and she made it stick. So it was politically effective. But I'm also with Mrs. Palin on the substance. . .”
    NOT PC’s comment: You can trust always trust Sowell on the facts and almost always on the analysis.  And when Steyn gets those right you can trust him too. When he does.
  • Walter Williams: Politics and Blacks - “Blacks hold high offices and dominate the political arena in Philadelphia, Detroit, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., New Orleans and other cities. Yet these are the very cities with the nation's most rotten schools, highest crime rates, high illegitimacy rates, weak family structure and other forms of social pathology. I am not saying that blacks having political power is the cause of these problems. What I am saying is that the solution to most of the major problems that confront many black people won't be found in the political arena and by electing more blacks to high office. In fact, politicians tend to be hostile to some of the solutions to problems many blacks face such as school choice as a means to strengthen education, the elimination of oppressive licensing restrictions for various occupations, and supportive of job-destroying labor legislation such as minimum wage laws.
    The bottom line is there is very little evidence anywhere on the planet that political power is a necessary condition for economic power.”
    NOT PC’s comment: The man’s a legend. Walter Williams should be on every rational freedom-lover’s blogroll.

That’s the conservatives – the better sort.  And here’s two three of the new “liberal" candidates:

  • Gary Hart: Obama's First 100 Days and the Politics of Transformation - “Last June I urged then-candidate Barack Obama to use his presidency to transform the country for the 21st century world, not simply to repair the damage to our economy, foreign policy, and defenses done by the Bush administration. By that standard, his first three months have been a remarkable success. Using stimulus investments, President Obama is repairing an aging infrastructure, investing in education, stimulating new technologies and inventions, and starting us toward the post-carbon economy. Instead of trying to prop up a failing 20th century economy, he is investing in the new model. . . [Rahm] Emanuel is right: crises are too important to waste and the Obama administration is using the many crises it inherited not to go backward but to launch into the new century--finally”
    NOT PC’s comment: The guy’s a name-dropping Obama-worshipper and an economic ignoramus.  I doubt he’ll be making it anywhere near my blogroll.
  • Nat Hentoff: I am finally scared of a White House administration - “I was not intimidated during J. Edgar Hoover's FBI hunt for reporters like me who criticized him. I railed against the Bush-Cheney war on the Bill of Rights without blinking. But now I am finally scared of a White House administration. President Obama's desired health care reform intends that a federal board (similar to the British model) — as in the Center for Health Outcomes Research and Evaluation in a current Democratic bill — decides whether your quality of life, regardless of your political party, merits government-controlled funds to keep you alive. Watch for that life-decider in the final bill. It's already in the stimulus bill signed into law.”
    NOT PC’s comment: Impeccable liberal credentials, and always insightful jazz commentary over the years – and he’s on the right side of this one.
  • UPDATE: Camille Paglia: Can Palin ever come back? - “A closer look at the words of Obama, Depeche Mode and U2. Plus: Why do straight actresses make the best lesbo porn?”
    NOT PC’s comment: Well, the lesbo porn sounds like fun . . .


  1. "It’s encouraging that a conservative can see that, and defend it."

    Now I understand your problem. You're actually light years out of touch. (said in as kindly a tone as possible)

  2. Oh Peter, gosh..ha ha..that was one Hart post I found odd (his view of the first 100 days being somewhat different to my own recollection)..but many of the others are interesting especially his National Security suggestions (which do not involve abolishing rights for innocent people)

    In terms of name dropping, it is actually (and curiously) the other way around; many leading Democrats (and Hollywood liberals) name drop Gary Hart! ha ha!

  3. But if you scratch deeper with these conservatives, as with all conservatives, you will see that they exhibit the same flawed philosophical premises that Ayn Rand nailed them for in "Conservatives: An Obituary" in 1960. At root, Conservatives still worship at the alter of god or traditions and they still maintain an allegiance to the worst of all ideas: Original Sin (especially Dalrymple - his horrible view of man is so bad that it gets tough to read him after awhile.)

    Conservatives can be good on some issues such as on some economic issues (but don't hold your breath waiting for them to defend laissez-faire) but they are still altruists and they still fold like a cheap lawn chair when it comes to defending capitalism and freedom on a moral basis. Ad hoc alliances can and should be made with conservatives on single issues - as in opposition to ObamaCare. But there is still no ideological common ground between conservatives and Objectivists. In fact, I would say that conservatives are more dangerous than leftists in that no one would mistake an Objectivist for a leftist but many leftists do link Objectivism and conservatism.

    Bottom line, all the conservative writers that Jeff Perren recommended on that SoloPassion post have *radically* different premises than Objectivism. Objectivists, IMO, need to be very careful when dealing with the Right lest we be mistaken for them.

  4. Robert Winefield21 Aug 2009, 06:05:00

    "be very careful when dealing with the Right lest we be mistaken for them."

    One of the many poignant things that Rand preached was that you do not need an open mind when listening to someone on a soapbox (preaching philosophy, politics or whatever). You need an ACTIVE mind.

    That is, you need to carefully check every premise that enters your ears. And I'm aware that this statement is included.

    The reason why, of course, is that nobody yet has been proven to be 100% correct 100% of the time.

    The key is to find the honest brokers of wisdom. They, at least, are prepared to admit their bias and will change their mind when confronted with a a soundly reasoned argument.

    There is a reason that guys like Sowell and O'Rourke changed from dyed in the wool commies to full throated advocates of freedom.

  5. Brian Scurfield21 Aug 2009, 07:32:00

    "Conservatives still worship at the alter of god or traditions and they still maintain an allegiance to the worst of all ideas: Original Sin (especially Dalrymple - his horrible view of man is so bad that it gets tough to read him after awhile.)"

    I think many libertarians, either explicitly or implicitly, subscribe to a version of the idea of original sin. Try having a debate about children and you will see this come out ;) So it's hardly a problem confined to conservatism. As for traditions, what's wrong with them? Traditions contain lots of knowledge. Take Judaism for example. Is it a coincidence that the Jewish tradition has given rise to many excellent thinkers? No, the reason is that Judaism contains lots of good knowledge and one immersed in the Jewish tradition learns that knowledge (which can't necessarily be articulated). Is the Jewish tradition to be pronounced stupid merely because it advocates a god?

  6. Notwithstanding the generally complimentary comments on most of the Conservatives on your list, it is disappointing to see you criticising Daniel Hannan merely for writing an article that runs counter to Progressive ideas on religion.

    Mr Hannan is the author of the famous "devalued Prime Minister" speech that humiliated Gordon Brown and received widespread acclaim for its effective assault on socialism.

    He is spearheading the fight for liberty in the barren landscape of the European Parliament where its defenders are scarcer than taxis on a rainy night.

  7. In case there were a few libertines who missed the Hannan speech:

    Gotta love that cultured stiff upper lip English mannerism he has.

  8. To clarify...

    In recommending these writers, I'm not endorsing Conservatism. Nor is my admiration for them unmixed. Nor am I particularly interested in alliances. But my view is that anyone who speaks the truth in the right way at the right time is my ally.

    My interest in these writers, as in any cultural or political writer, is to glean useful evidence and arguments for the purpose of encouraging the growth of liberty in my lifetime. Right now, men like Quin Hillyer and Jonah Goldberg are doing a bangup job of supplying them.

    I trust that most individuals interested in reading this type of material can separate the wheat from the chaff.

    P.S. Peter, will you be separating libertarians and Objectivists into "the better sort" and "all others?" :)

  9. Michael Moeller23 Aug 2009, 04:51:00

    I don't read blogs much anymore, but it seems you are doing the yeoman's work here. Congrats!!

    I made a pretty bold comment on Solo and I expected more of a challenge from Objectivists. I agree with you to this extent--if you are looking for straight philosophy, Objectivists are going to be deeper and more consistent.

    However, I will tell you why I prefer a number of conservative writers.

    (1) They get more empirical, as you know from reading "New Deal or Raw Deal?". I see connections to the political *methods* used by FDR and by those used by Obama, among a number of other connections. The empirical information aids in making new connections with Objectivist philosophy.

    (2) Objectivists often too philosophy focused. There is a lot of neglect in the empirical and many stray into rationalism, the theocracy thingy being a good example.

    (3) Many conservatives have more specialized knowledge. As in the books mentioned, they may be experts on that period of history or economics or law or other areas. I think one can use the knowledge without forming "alliances" and keeping the flaws in mind. For instance, Randy Barnett considers himself a libertarian, although his judicial philosophy is well within the conservative camp. As a result, there are epistemological problems with his overall judicial philosophy. Nevertheless, his article on the Sotomayor hearings in the WSJ gave a simple and brilliant solution to exposing a nominee's judicial philosophy, not to mention a great understanding of the clauses of the Constitution. There is a lot to be gained from his specialized knowledge that you simply cannot find in Objectivist writings on the matter.

    (4) The stylistic approach. I often feel like once you have read one Objectivist writing on a issue, you have read them all. Compare that to Steyn, for instance, who weaves together many different connections with insight and wit. Objectivists give deeper and stronger moral arguments--to be sure--but the writing is often didactic and not very compelling.

    Bottom line: one can keep the flaws in mind and still appreciate much of the work they are doing.



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