Wednesday, 15 August 2018

QotD: "On the political labelling system most people use—including experts and scholars—an advocate of total freedom and an advocate of total fascism are the same thing. Sure, this makes sense. Let's keep using this idiotic system instead of switching to one that makes any sense at all."


"I talk about this all the time, but I really cannot express strongly enough how abjectly terrible the 'left vs. right' description of political positions is. The terms are left undefined, and whatever vague nonsense of a definition there is, does not identify the right essential.
    "On the political labelling system most people use—including experts and scholars—an advocate of total freedom and an advocate of total fascism are the same thing. Sure, this makes sense. Let's keep using this idiotic system instead of switching to one that makes any sense at all.
    "It's getting the point where I'm starting to think that many people who insist on continuing to use this idiotic terminology are not doing so innocently. It muddies political thought to the point where someone's 'ideological label' tells you next to nothing about their politics. I'm actually at the point where I have a hard time considering anyone who uses the 'left and right' labels uncritically and without caveats to be any sort of deep or serious thinker at all.
    "They are just so obviously complete trash that I don't see how anyone who gave the subject more than 5 minutes' serious thought would just say, 'yeah, those sound good, let's stick with those'."~ Twitter rant by user Sam
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Tuesday, 14 August 2018

4 common free-speech myths


“Words can never hurt me.”

“We must be tolerant of all opinions.”

“Facebook/YouTube/Not PC is censoring me!”


We hear claims like these all the time, but are they true?

Steve Simpson and Tara Smith discuss and debunk these and other common myths about free speech, providing clarity on what freedom of speech means, how to think about it, and how it should be defended.
Among other questions, they cover:
    What is free speech, why is it a right, and what is its value?
    What does “censorship” really mean?
    Is the right to free speech an absolute? If so, how can libel, threats, and fraud be illegal?
    Should we tolerate all views? If so, where do judgment and integrity come in?
 
Free speech is so immensely important that, to preserve it, we must understand what it actually means and how best to defend it. 
Watch this video to find out more about this important right, and to understand why the myths mentioned above are just that—myths:




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QotD: "One rule of thumb I’ve adopted is: whenever the idea that the business cycle may have been tamed forever starts to become mainstream, the bust is around the corner."


"One rule of thumb I’ve adopted is: whenever the idea that the business cycle may have been tamed forever starts to become mainstream, the bust is around the corner."
~ Tom Woods, reviewing Mark Thornton's new book The Skyscraper Curse: And How Austrian Economists Predicted Every Major Economic Crisis of the Last Century
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Monday, 13 August 2018

QotD: "Political Correctness is not about respect or inclusivity, but rather a naked attempt to consciously manipulate language in service of progressive ends."


Given the problem all speakers at last week's Auckland Uni debate on free speech had in defining political correctness, I thought I'd help them ...




"Political Correctness is the conscious, designed manipulation of language intended to change the way people speak, write think, feel and even act -- in furtherance of an agenda...
    "Political Correctness is not about respect or inclusivity, but rather is a naked attempt to consciously manipulate language in service of progressive ends."
~ Jeff Deist, from his talk on PC and the State-Linguistic Complex.

A brief on alt-right ideology


On the anniversary of the so-called "Unite the Right" alt-right march in the States, when they're apparently marching again in Washington D.C.Jeffrey Tucker points out in this guest post that if the movement has united anyone at all, it's not the right -- but the left! But it would be a grave mistake, he says, to think that the alt-right is just some clownish marchers at some rally waving flags and shouting threatening slogans. The real problem is the underlying philosophy...

* * * * *

Every activist political movement eventually becomes a caricature of itself. This is certainly true of the so-called alt-right that blasted onto the cultural stage with its “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.

Part 2, today, in Washington, D.C., is revealing the irony. The lasting effect of this movement has been to unite the left. And not just the left: it is uniting most normal people who want to live a regular life, get along with others, and reduce the polarising effects of politics in our times.

Writing about this subject a year after my book came out always leads people to tell me that the alt-right is dead. I won this. I should stop writing about the issue.

The Philosophy

There is truth to this but it is mostly a superficial observation. Yes, the formal movement called the alt-right has become a caricature of itself, one particularly useful to the left-socialists who need an enemy and a threat to scare everyone about the coming dystopia.

What’s not dead, and has been a problem for 200 years, and which is still not understood, is the philosophical outlook that motivated the rise of the alt-right in the first place. It is more properly called Right Hegelianism. [And to paraphrase Keynes, "“Practical men who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct philosopher like Hegel."]

Hegelianism (which split into left and right branches) was born in Germany in the early years of the 19th century as a reaction to the rise of liberalism in Europe and the world. This new movement rejected the core claim of liberalism that society can regulate itself and that individuals should be free to live good lives, believe what they want, say and print whatever they desire, and trade with anyone, so long as they didn’t hurt people.

Frederic Bastiat summed up the liberal view in the phrase “social harmony.” People figure out how to get along and build great things together so long as they are left alone by state authority. That was the liberal idea and it unleashed wealth creation and peace on the world, built the middle class, dramatically expanded living spans and population, and transformed life on earth. It gave birth to the idea of progress and eventually spread the idea of equal freedom for everyone: no more slavery, no more legal impediments to trade and association, universal rights to everyone, diplomacy instead of war, and free trade between all peoples.

Conflict Not Harmony

Hegelianism posited something very different, and it leads to a much more important way to view politics than the idiotic left-right split derived from French Revolutionary politics - that between those who value the liberal ideal of social harmony, and those who don't.

For those who don't, the social order simply cannot be left to the devices of Individual choice; it must acquiesce to forces of history that are more powerful than the randomness of human volition. These historical forces are the major player in revealing intractable conflict alive in the world. What is this conflict? Over many decades and centuries, the narrative would change. The struggle could be between classes, nations, languages, religions, sexes, mental abilities – really you can take your pick depending on the time and place. The agent that would harness the conflict and make it right would (always and everywhere) be the State.

There were two broad political branches of Hegelianism, left and right, that would become instantiated respectively in Marxism and Nazism --  but this was much later. In the intervening years, each side built its intellectual edifice brick by brick. Left Hegelianism took on many iterations before the Bolshevik variety finally achieved victory. Right Hegelianism began with the idea that history would culminate in total authority being granted unto the Prussian state and church, but it later became the animating force behind nationalism and bourgeoise statism in general.

The right Hegelian rogues gallery is huge. It involves protectionist Friedrich List, great-man theorist Thomas Carlyle, the luddite John Ruskin, the reactionary faux-aristocrat Houston Stewart Chamberlain, the race theorist Frederick Hoffman, the Darwin preservationist Madison Grant, the eugenicist Charles Davenport, the IQ theorist Henry Goddard, the communist turned Nazi philosopher Werner Sombart, the officious puritan misogynist Edward A. Ross, the brooding historicist Oswald Spengler, the anti-Semitic poet Ezra Pound, the Nazi jurist Carl Schmitt, the radio populist priest Charles Edward Coughlin, the pretend-baron and violence lover Julius Caesar Evola, the jailed whacko Francis Parker Yockey who influence postwar rightists, and so many more.

What They Believe

Read enough of this material and you begin to notice certain themes. Yes, anti-liberalism unites them in every way, but what about their positive agenda? What is it exactly that they advocate?

First, they reject social harmony in favor of the friend/enemy distinction, which they believe brings essential drama to the course of what would otherwise be a boring life. There must be struggles. There must be battles. There must be war and violence. To take part is what gives life meaning.

Second, they believe in the centrality of nationhood over the individual, and this takes many forms depending on how one defines the nation. The nation can be based on race, geography, language, religion, or dynasty, or some combination thereof. Whatever it is, it is not for you to choose. It certainly isn’t an affair of the heart. This is terrain in which identity politics takes hold.

Third, trade protectionism is central because the things we use and the services we consume need to reinforce our attachment to nationhood. Free trade is too random to tolerate. Plus free trade lessens our attachment to the leader.

Which leads to, fourth, the leadership principle. The leader must be strong and compel assent. He is the central organizer whether in peace or war. He embodies the nation, instantiating the will of the people and their national identity. He must have a great story of overcoming every obstacle to triumph over all. He may build a wall or make the trains run on time, but in time the great man will conquer all.

Fifth, an essential part of the right Hegelian vision is rooted in demographic panic and opposition to the randomness of human reproduction. For them, there is always some crisis going on beyond our immediate control. The white race is disappearing. Christianity is dying. English is no longer normative. Manhood is disappearing. Nothing is made in America anymore. The wrong people are getting rich. The Jews are taking over. And so on. The presence of crisis necessitates panic that leads people to surrender control of their lives to some external saviour.

Ideas Not Marches

It’s a mistake to think that the fate of the alt-right is bound up with public perceptions toward clownish marchers at some rally where people are waving flags and shouting threatening slogans. The real problem is the underlying philosophy that regards peace as a threat, prosperity as deracinating, and freedom itself as nihilistic chaos that cries out to be replaced by dictatorship, law, and imposed order.

That philosophy is still with us, and it triggers the rise of left Hegelianism, which is another problem to address on another day.

* * * * * 
Jeffrey Tucker is Editorial Director for the American Institute for Economic Research. He is the author of many thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press and eight books in 5 languages, including his penetrating analysis of the alt-right 'Right-Wing Collectivism: The Other Threat to Liberty'
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REPOST: Cue Card Libertarianism - Fascism


It's been said that when somebody says "Smith is a fascist," what he really means is "I hate Smith." But "fascist" really does mean something ...
The defining characteristics of Fascism do not include jackboots, smart uniforms and violent racism. Fascism is simply Socialism/Communism with a cosmetic difference: whereas Socialism/ Communism nationalises and abolishes private property and the 'commanding heights' of the economy, fascism permits the fa├žade of private ownership of property to remain, while nationalising instead the people who own them.

Under fascism, the illusion of ownership remains but the government assumes power of use and disposal over the property – that is to say: under Socialism/Communism the state becomes the de jure owner, whereas under Fascism the state becomes the de facto owner. “Let them own land or factories as much as they please,' declared Adolph Hitler: "The decisive factor is that the State, through the party, is supreme over them, regardless of whether they are owners or workers. All that, you see, is unessential. Our Socialism goes far deeper… Why need we trouble to socialise banks and factories? We socialise human beings.”

Hitler’s published utterances are an instructive testimony to the essential unity of Socialism and Fascism. His National Socialist Party’s 25-point political programme reads in part like a Green Party wish-list, which, when first implemented, won plaudits from many collectivist politicians in freer countries. Unemployment was artificially eliminated, grandiose welfare programmes were enacted, onerous taxes, regulations and controls imposed.

For too long, people have allowed themselves to be diverted by a phoney dichotomy between Communism and Fascism, whereas careful analysis shows that both are forms of collectivism, treating the individual as a means to an end: the “common good.” Neither in theory nor in practice is there any essential difference between the core utterances of Marx and Hitler: between Marx's “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need,” and Hitler's “Each activity and each need of the individual will be regulated by the party as the representative of the general good.” 

 The real dichotomy is not between Communism and Fascism, but between freedom and dictatorship. The 'dichotomy' between Fascism and Communism is merely between two competing forms of dictatorship.

* * * * *
A HELPFUL SHORT GUIDE TO THE ~ISMS:
Under Communism: You have two cows. The government takes both, and gives you a chit for vodka. 
Under Socialism: You have two cows. The government takes both, and gives them to your neighbour. 
Under Fascism: You have two cows. The government takes your milk and sells it back to you. 
Under New Dealism: You have two cows. The government takes both, shoots one, buys milk from the other cow, then pours the milk down the drain. 
Under Nazism: You have two cows. The government gives both to your neighbour and shoots you. 
Under Capitalism: you have two cows. You sell one, and buy a bull.

More reading: 

* * * * *
This was part of a continuing series explaining the concepts and terms used by libertarians, originally published in The Free Radical in 1993. The 'Introduction' to the series is here. The list so far can be found down there on the sidebar.

TAGS: 
Cue_Card_Libertarianism

Sunday, 12 August 2018

QotD: On the Benevolent Universe Premise


"There is a fundamental conviction which some people never acquire, some hold only in their youth, and a few hold to the end of their days—the conviction that ideas matter. . . . That ideas matter means that knowledge matters, that truth matters, that one’s mind matters . . . .
    "Its consequence is the inability to believe in the power or the triumph of evil. No matter what corruption one observes in one’s immediate background, one is unable to accept it as normal, permanent or metaphysically right. One feels: 'This injustice (or terror or falsehood or frustration or pain or agony) is the exception in life, not the rule.' One feels certain that somewhere on earth—even if not anywhere in one’s surroundings or within one’s reach—a proper, human way of life is possible to human beings, and justice matters."

~ Ayn Rand on the Benevolent Universe Premise, from her article 'The Inexplicable Personal Alchemy'
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Saturday, 11 August 2018

QotD: "Plastic is not poison or pollution, it is litter."


"Plastic does not ‘poison’ anything. It’s non-toxic.... It’s litter, not pollution. Many people find it unsightly, and the solution is to educate people not to discard it into the environment and to organise, as is done on highways, to have it removed..."Plastic is not poison or pollution, it is litter."
~ Canadian ecologist and Greenpeace co-founder Dr. Patrick Moore, quoted in the article 'The War on Plastics is Dangerously Misguided,' and from his own essay, 'Twelve Invisible Eco-Catastrophes and Threats of Doom That are Actually Fake'
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Friday, 10 August 2018

Question of the Day: "There are plenty of reasons to dislike Jordan Peterson, but no coherent reason for the left’s obliterating and irrational hatred of Jordan Peterson. What, then, accounts for it?"


"The young men voted for Hillary, they called home in shock when Trump won, they talked about flipping the House, and they followed Peterson to other podcasts—to Sam Harris and Dave Rubin and Joe Rogan. What they were getting from these lectures and discussions, often lengthy and often on arcane subjects, was perhaps the only sustained argument against identity politics they had heard in their lives.
    "That might seem like a small thing, but it’s not. With identity politics off the table, it was possible to talk about all kinds of things—religion, philosophy, history, myth—in a different way. They could have a direct experience with ideas, not one mediated by ideology. All of these young people, without quite realising it, were joining a huge group of American college students who were pursuing a parallel curriculum, right under the noses of the people who were delivering their official educations...
    "This book was putting words to deeply held feelings that many of them had not been able to express before...
    "There are plenty of reasons for individual readers to dislike Jordan Peterson ... many legitimate reasons to disagree with him on a number of subjects, and many people of good will do. But there is no coherent reason for the left’s obliterating and irrational hatred of Jordan Peterson. What, then, accounts for it?
    "It is because the left, while it currently seems ascendant in our houses of culture and art, has in fact entered its decadent late phase, and it is deeply vulnerable. The left is afraid not of Peterson, but of the ideas he promotes, which are completely inconsistent with identity politics of any kind....
    "All across the [US], there are people as repelled by the current White House as they are by the countless and increasingly baroque expressions of identity politics that dominate so much of the culture. These are people who aren’t looking for an ideology; they are looking for ideas. And many of them are getting much better at discerning the good from the bad."

~ From the Atlantic article 'Why the Left Is So Afraid of Jordan Peterson'
[Hat tip Stephen Hicks]
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QotD: "The reason free speech is important is because the alternative is the use of force."


"The reason free speech is important is because the alternative is the use of force."
~ Kiwiwit.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

QotD: The "favourite weapons of Imperialism": "protective tariffs, prohibitions of imports — limitations on emigration and immigration. This is becoming more significant now."


"In the last decades of the nineteenth century, and the first decades of the twentieth, the favourite weapons of Imperialism were commercial weapons— protective tariffs, prohibitions of imports, premiums on exports, freight discriminations, and the like. Less attention was paid [then] to the use of another powerful imperialistic weapon — limitations on emigration and immigration. This is becoming more significant now."
~ Ludwig Von Mises, from his 1922 classic Socialism: An Economic & Sociological Analysis
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Wednesday, 8 August 2018

And this is why the anti-concept of "hate speech" was invented


"AN ANTI-CONCEPT IS AN an artificial, unnecessary and rationally unusable term designed to replace and obliterate some legitimate concept." Indeed, that's generally why the anti-concept was witch-doctored up in the first place -- to dismiss ideas without even allowing them a hearing.

So-called "hate speech" is an anti-concept witch-doctored up to obliterate free speech. The process is working.

It is doubtful even today that someone could declare that all arguments have been settled and all debate prohibited. It is enough to achieve that aim today, however, simply by declaring that someone or other is "offended." On that basis alone, every would-be speaker can be silenced, and every debate declared "settled" before it even starts. So it is today at Massey University.

So-called "hate speech" is said to be free speech that is "offensive" to some party. Yet free speech that is inoffensive hardly needs the protection of law at all: it is only speech that does offend that even needs the law's protection. The right to speak freely is so important because it is often speech that does offend some parties that society most urgently needs to hear.

Where would we be if Thomas Paine had never dared to offend, or the Williams Garrison and Wilberforce?  If MLKMalcolm X, or the Four Horsemen of Atheism had all been legally silenced?

Ideas are dangerous, and may often offend; but without some offence there is rarely if ever change, and without full and open debate of dangerous ideas then instead of disinfection and even the insulting of bad ideas, they are instead allowed to go underground and incubate or -- worse - to acquire a kind of "rebel chic" that exists to exploit the Streisand Effect. So it is today with the alt-right and their fellow travellers.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN free speech and censorship is the difference between persuasion and force. Bring down the power of the state to enforce somebody's silence, and the suspicion will always linger that you had too little with which to persuade.

Of course, the right to free speech does not oblige anybody to supply a free microphone. This, as I've argued before, is precisely why private property is so important -- why free speech rights and property rights cannot be disentangled. And, as I've also pointed out before, it is precisely for this reason that managers of so-called "public property" are the first to be targeted by zealots  -- because there is literally no objective legal standard by which managers of "public property" can legitimately deny anybody access to their publicly-funded platforms (and so they desperately grasp for some illegitimate subjective one). And so, we see, that the swinging sword of "hate speech" is brought out instead to cut off the heads of dissenters, and to obliterate any speech any manager (or any thug) cares to deem "offensive" -- "hate speech" becoming the ill-defined subjective criterion by which any manager anywhere can say "Nah, not here mate."

Absent the illegitimate idea of "public property," there would be no need for the anti-concept of "hate speech."

IT IS SCARCELY AN accident that the Massey University vice-Chancellor who bans a politician from speaking at her (publicly-funded) campus had recently boasted that while she was, she said, an advocate of free speech (just as all vice-Chancellors should be), she is however violently opposed to so-called "hate speech." We can see now, as we suspected then, that we were all being set up. "Freedom of expression is one thing," the vice-Chancellor had sniffed, "but hate speech is another. As a concept that has now entered common parlance," she continued, "hate speech refers to attacks based on race, ethnicity, religion, and increasingly, on sexual orientation or preference... Hate speech is repugnant ... 'a rape of human dignity'."

In other words, "hate speech" is speech that offends. Such as an academic arguing equating being raped with being insulted.

Observe that the vice-Chancellor's very next observation begins: "While hate speech is not a specific offence in New Zealand..." It is clear enough what she, and many others, think the very next step should be. The only word missing in her phrase is "yet."

And when that happens, when good people do nothing and people like that vice-Chancellor do successfully make hate speech a specific offence in New Zealand, then be very sure that such an offence would apply not just to so-called public property, but would obliterate the rights of every private property owner in the country

That, I suggest, is its aim.
"What does this amount to in practice? It means that whenever a member of some group finds an idea 'offensive' or feels that it will produce hatred against his collective, the government has the power to ban the idea. This is the death of free speech. By the non-objective standard of 'hate speech,' any idea can be banned... The entire sphere of thought, in other words, becomes politicised."
IT IS SAID THAT there are some legitimate limits to free speech, and so-called hate speech goes some way towards prescribing those limits. Observe, like every anti-concept, how the illegitimate is used to obliterate the legitimate. 

Contrary to the flatulence of Golriz Ghahraman (just to pick a "former human rights lawyer" at random) rights correctly defined do not have limits; like all rights, they have boundariesRights protect the moral space in which each of us is free to act by right -- my right to free speech ending at the precise point where your nose begins. Those are my boundaries. And that point is meant very specifically: cry fire in a crowded private theatre, for example (or make an ill-considered bomb threat), and I violate the property rights of theatre owners and ticket-holders. (And we see again why crowded public and university lecture halls are instead the venues about which these "conversations" begin to take place.)

The only legitimate boundary to free speech then is not the giving of offence (which can never be any more than a subjective whine) but the use or objective threat of force, i.e., either actual physical force (or its derivative, fraud), or the promotion thereofYou may not legitimately incite or organise actual violence (because that would violate the rights of individuals about to be violated); you may not promote paedophilia (the paedophile's right to speech ends where the nose of parent's begins); but you may, as many of us do at dinner parties, intentionally or inadvertently offend our hosts -- and in all these cases there are legitimate remedies based on our actual rights. The anti-concept of hate speech need never ever apply.

Like all principles the principle of rights is a contextual principle, the context itself defining where the nose of another party begins.
So this is neither a prescription for limits nor an argument for "free-speech purism" (yet another anti-concept thrown about in recent weeks), but the recognition of legitimate boundaries based upon the actual rights of those involved. And this, in fact, is how all real rights work in practice, and are intended to.

It is precisely this process, and this understanding, that the anti-concept of "hate speech" is intended to subvert, and why it was dreamed up in the first place: it was intended to give legal control to some over the property and the legitimate speech of others.

We should not let that happen. Ever.
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Bonus QotD: "It was all guns and superheroes. I just thought, Why isn’t someone doing something different?"


"Q: But are mainstream Hollywood films less sophisticated than when you were starring in them?
"A: Gosh, the last film I went to, every trailer was a Marvel comic movie or a shoot-’em-up. It was all guns and superheroes. I just thought, Why isn’t someone doing something different? I would think that whoever could offer an alternative would make a killing. I imagine that’s what television does so well now."

~ Kathleen Turner, interview for 'Vulture'
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QotD: "As a result of reading West’s book, I now look on the United States as a big dumb ox, led around by a cabal of its enemies whose intent is to take the beast out to slaughter."



"As a result of reading West’s book, I now look on the United States as a big dumb ox, led around by a cabal of its enemies whose intent is to take the beast out to slaughter. It is a very large beast and will not go quietly. But given what you will learn from this book, you will be in some despair in trying to work out what can be done. This is a very troubling book which I nevertheless encourage you to read."
~ Steven Kates, from his book review of Diana West's American Betrayal
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Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Bonus QotD: "Nothing is more obstinate than a fashionable consensus."


"Nothing is more obstinate than a fashionable consensus."
~ Margaret Thatcher
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A plea


And let's be honest, it's a fairly urgent plea ...


[Source: Johnny Lee]
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QotD: "It’s much better to know what people think than to have their views massaged by public relations or communications staff into nothingness. People censoring themselves is far more dangerous than saying what they really think."


"The last and important point is that it’s quite healthy for people to shoot their mouths off now and again. It’s much better to know what people think than to have their views massaged by public relations or communications staff into nothingness. People censoring themselves is far more dangerous than saying what they really think."
~ Martin Van Beynen writing about "a silly vet sexism fracas," quoted by Homepaddock,

Monday, 6 August 2018

Question of the Day: So, what's an 'Obleftivist'?


Q: So, what's an 'Obleftivist'?
A: "It’s a term used by people who are upset that many Objectivists dislike Trump, aren’t racists, and not paranoid about immigration by Muslims, or non-white people, etc."
~ Facebooker Tom Burroughes
[Hat tip Suzuki Samurai]
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Bonus QotD: "Artists have always been dreamers. Whether we follow beautiful dreams or nightmares is up to us."



"Artists have always been the dreamers. Whether we follow beautiful dreams or nightmares is up to us. Ugliness and cruelty and tragedy are part of life, to be sure, but the Romantic Realist knows that in art, it is life-serving values that we need to see—to experience—in order to bring those visions of values into existence in the real world. The avant garde artists today may be again the romantic crusaders of the future yet unsung, each armed not with a sword but with a rose."~ Alexandra York, from her essay 'Romantic Realism: Vision of Values'
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Q: Why is racism wrong?


SO WE'VE BEEN HEARING a lot about racism these past few weeks. But we've heard precious little about why racism is wrong.

The mainstream view of racism, when it's discussed at all rather than being shouted about over barricades, is that racism is about "power structures," that racism is in essence just prejudice plus power -- suggesting that racism only exists if a "privileged" person is "punching down."  There is much to be said against this facile view (not least that it should be clear from this view which particular "privileged" group folk are invited to attack at will) but even if you were to grant that "privilege" and "power structures" are a thing, this view still denies the most important things that makes racism so wrong.

Specifically, it denies the importance of what makes us distinctively human -- which is not what places us in a particular position in the group (the mainstream view being at root just another kind of groupthink), but is instead the very thing that makes each us unique and individual.

And what makes each of us individual and human, in the end, are the choices we make for ourselves. Yet this, our ability to choose, names precisely everything that the racist blanks out: the very thing that makes each of us distinctively human, and ourselves.

THERE ARE SOME THINGS that we can choose, and many we cannot -- what makes us who we are, in the end, are the choices we make for ourselves. These are the things that ultimately define us

You might say that for good or ill nature and nurture between them simply give us our starting point -- where we're born, and with what endowments; what we then make from that stew is up to us. It's what we make of it ourselves, by our own choices, that makes us truly ourselves.

This is what is it means to be a being who is "self-made: We each make ourselves by every choice we ever make. It is these choices, for good and bad, that build our character, that make us who we are, that make you one and individual; it is in this that lies our humanity.

And this is why racism is ultimately so foul: because it denies to a person what makes them distinctively human; it denies to them what makes them themselves. You see,iInstead of focusing on the person you have made of yourself by your own choices, the racist instead focuses on the only things you can't control. The things beyond your power of choice -- those things that mark you out as simply part of some tribe.

Like the flag you were born under, or the parents you were born to, or (most visibly of all) the colour of your skin.

It is truly, as Ayn Rand remarked, a barnyard form of collectivism.

And it is precisely as foul as that sounds.

RELATED READING:


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Sunday, 5 August 2018

QotD: "What most differentiates religion from philosophy, however, is how religion arrives at its answers...."



"What most differentiates religion from philosophy, however, is how religion arrives at its answers. A philosophy seeks evidence and logical arguments for its conclusions. A religion, no matter how much theologians may argue back and forth about points of dogma, remains just that: dogma. A religion advocates its basic tenets on faith, which means in the absence of evidence and logical argument, and even in the face of counter-evidence and counter-arguments. This is why a synonym for a religion is a faith..."
~ Onkar Ghate, from his article 'Finding Morality and Happiness Without God'

[Hat tip Andy Clarkson]
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Friday, 3 August 2018

Two trolls in mud time


The two Canadian  ethno-nationalists arrived last night to continue trolling everybody in the country -- as they've been doing so well for the last month -- and if I had been give their hundred-dollar ticket price* every time I've been asked if I'm going tonight to their hoe-down, I'd have been able to pay for my own lawyers, with enough left over to hire a hall to put on an alternative show.

The radio this morning reported they are here to argue against multiculturalism. That's not quite correct. They're here simply to attract attention to themselves, in which end their opponents here have been enormously helpful, not just in the endless free publicity given them (these are people who are building a career on the Streisand Effect) but in generating the mistaken notion these people have something important to say (there's nothing that screams "important" like being able to say "these are the ideas they're trying to ban!"). Yet all they really are is simply a caricature of everything every "right-thinking" person says you can't be. ("We say the things 'they' don't want you to say!") And because every right-on thinker says multiculturalism is the duck's nuts, then it's their job be anti-multi-culti.

Shame they misunderstand it.

Because multiculturalism is not simply a celebration of a multitude of cultures -- which is how many folk take it. Which is fine. More exactly, however, it is the idea that all cultures are equal, no matter how barbaric, or how benevolent: it is all simply a matter of subjective choice. In practice, what this means is the specific injunction that all cultures have value -- except, of course, western culture, which is the only culture open to criticism. (Which means the true multiculturalist must blind themselves both to western cultural achievements and to non-western cultural barbarities; one reason an deserving blind eye is turned to turned to cultural practices that should have disappeared with the Dark Ages.)

The correct way to critique the doctrine is not simply to beat your chest on behalf of your tribe, but to recognise, as Thomas Sowell has argued, that all cultures are not equal, that every culture is not life-supporting or life-enhancing; that cultures are not simply museum pieces among whom we can pick and choose, but that culture is "the working machinery of everyday life," and we should therefore judge a culture by how well it supports (or doesn't) the lives of those within the machinery. Because it's those individuals within the machinery who matter.

Cultural judgement, therefore, is an objective process, not simply a subjective whim. And western culture, by this standard, should be seen as objectively superior -- not least because at least it still values the twin virtues of self-criticism and self-improvement.

Note however that, in opposition to the Canadian visitors, that culture says nothing at all about race. As Sowell is always at pains to point out, race and culture are distinct. One is chosen, and important; the other is neither. Indeed, one of the measures by which we can estimate western culture's value is that (as I outlined yesterday) western culture is open to anyone, of any race. Indeed, among the highest of its virtues is the universalisability of the culture -- a culture that is blind to race or origin, and open instead to achievement. As George Reisman explains:
The truth is that just as one does not have to be from France to like French- fried potatoes or from New York to like a New York steak, one does not have to have been born in Western Europe or be of West European descent to admire Western civilisation, or, indeed, even to help build it. Western civilisation is not a product of geography. It is a body of knowledge and values. Any individual, any society, is potentially capable of adopting it and thereby becoming "Westernised."
This is not however however how these two trolls oppose the doctrine. For them, culture is dictated by race. And since their tribe is white and western culture is white (they say, blinding themselves both to history and geography) then it's their job to defend their white tribe against the others' brown invasion; their job to say the white tribe is supreme and to come join them (with pots of your money) on their barricades.

And saying that these days ("when 'they' won't let you say it") guarantees them bums on seats and a guaranteed Patreon income.

But it doesn't make it right.

But since it's just the more offensive flip-side of the left's same tribalism, the protestors aiming to picket tonight's whing-ding have got nothing exceptional to say about it. So all they're left with is force -- blackshirts outside; white sheets inside.

The beginning of a correct response to them is outlined by Robert Tracinski, saying:
If you think people are fundamentally defined by the colour of their skin and by their ethnic and genetic background, then you are a racist, because that’s what 'racism' means. If you think that your most important cultural and political priority is to defend the supposed interests of white people in opposition to the interests of other racial groups, then you are a white supremacist, because that’s what 'supremacy' means. Dress it up however you like, but that’s what you stand for...
Dress it up however you like, but white sheets are not a defence of western civilisation; they represent everything to which civilisation is and should be opposed:
The central theme of the Western intellectual tradition is about rising above tribalism to arrive at universal values... Tribalism, by contrast, is the default state of every culture and can be found among every people in every corner of the world. There is nothing distinctively Western about it, and it runs against the whole grain of the Western intellectual tradition.
    Dressing up economic protectionism, white supremacism, and tribalism isn't a defence of western civilisation.
Of course, these are not easy questions to ask or answer. They do not lend themselves easily either to bumper-sticker slogans or to noisy chants.

Arguing for the value of western civilisation and its freedom and tolerance however is not simply take the opposite side to the argument of those who seem opposed.

You don't do it by confusing culture for race.

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* To anyone still tempted to waste money on a ticket, may I suggest instead simply digesting this post  to give you some background; this post to see what one troll represents; and this twitter thread to see what they both said at their rallies in Australia (the judicious reader can easily remove the opinion from the reportage and, just as easily, see in what way it will undoubtedly be altered for a NZ audience).
Read those three and you've saved yourself a hundred dollars and several hours of your time. And you won't have to disinfect yourself afterwards, either.
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Thursday, 2 August 2018

QotD: "If the purpose of international trade is to create jobs, then why bother accepting anything at all in return from foreigners?"


"If the purpose of international trade is to create jobs, then why bother accepting anything in return from foreigners? As Bastiat pointed out, more jobs in export industries would be created if the government arranged for all workers in export industries to produce tons of goods, have all of these goods loaded on to ships, and then have all of these ships and all of their cargoes sunk in the middle of the ocean."This ... ‘sink-all-fully-loaded-cargo-ships’ logic is the logic of protectionism – or, rather, the illogic of protectionism."~ Don Boudreaux, from his post Myths & Fallacies of Trade
PS: Follow-up question: So what's the optimum number of cargo-ship-sinkings?
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BONUS QotD: "Nations don’t trade with each other, and trade is not a war."



"Nations don’t trade with each other, and trade is not a war."
~ Jeff Jacoby, from his latest Boston Globe oped.
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Wednesday, 1 August 2018

"Western civilisation is not a product of geography. It is a body of knowledge and values. Any individual, any society, is potentially capable of adopting it and thereby becoming 'Westernised'."


This seems to me important: in the week that so-called defenders of western civilisation arrive here instead to impugn it, to take advantage of one of its highest values, it seems to me to be important to remind ourselves (or to learn, if we never have) what the nature of western civilisation really is. Would-be upholders of western values must not only understand their source and nature, they must know enough to defend them from both their obvious antagonists, and from those who (falsely) claim to defend them.

So what is the nature of western civilisation? To my mind, the clearest description is George Reisman's* :

The Nature of Western Civilisation
In order to understand the implications, it is first necessary to remind oneself what Western civilisation is. From a historical perspective, Western civilisation embraces two main periods: the era of Greco-Roman civilisation and the era of modern Western civilisation, which latter encompasses the rediscovery of Greco-Roman civilisation in the late Middle Ages, and the periods of the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and the Industrial Revolution. 
Modern Western civilisation continues down to the present moment, of course, as the dominant force in the culture of the countries of Western Europe and the United States and the other countries settled by the descendants of West Europeans. It is an increasingly powerful force in the rapidly progressing countries of the Far East, such as Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea, whose economies rest on "Western" foundations in every essential respect. 
From the perspective of intellectual and cultural content, Western civilisation represents an understanding and acceptance of the following: the laws of logic; the concept of causality and, consequently, of a universe ruled by natural laws intelligible to man; on these foundations, the whole known corpus of the laws of mathematics and science; the individual's self-responsibility based on his free will to choose between good and evil; the value of man above all other species on the basis of his unique possession of the power of reason; the value and competence of the individual human being and his corollary possession of individual rights, among them the right to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness; the need for limited government and for the individual's freedom from the state; on this entire preceding foundation, the validity of capitalism, with its unprecedented and continuing economic development in terms of division of labor, technological progress, capital accumulation, and rising living standards; in addition, the importance of visual arts and literature depicting man as capable of facing the world with confidence in his power to succeed, and music featuring harmony and melody.
So much, so straightforward -- and so important too to realise that the defining characteristic of western civilisation is not one that is defined by race; that it is not defined by being (for example) "Anglo-Saxon." This is not just nonsense, it’s nasty – and in today’s interconnected and easily-led world, it’s dangerous nonsense.

The truth, as George Reisman so patiently goes on to explain, is that Western civilisation is neither Anglo-Saxon nor Semitic: it is in fact and in achievement the property of no particular race or of any particular ethnic group. This is of course one of its many great virtues -- that (while not yet being universal) western civilisation is fully universalisable; that is, it is open to everyone. In this sense, western culture is like an invitation to the dance, a welcome in.

I remember once trying to explain this to Tariana Turia, just before I headed off to see the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra under at Peruvian conductor perform a Russian concerto with a Chinese soloist and players from almost every other part of the world. "That," I said to her by way of exemplar, "is western civilisation in action." And so it was: it is the universalisability of the culture -- a culture that is blind to race or origin, and open instead to achievement.

She sniffed; you shouldn't, because it’s a crucial concept for would-be defenders of western civilisation to grasp. (And, sadly, one that to few of its alleged advocates do …).
The Universalisability of Western Civilisation
Once one recalls what Western civilisation is, the most important thing to realise about it is that it is open to everyone. Indeed, important elements of "Western" civilisation did not even originate in the West. The civilisation of the Greeks and Romans incorporated significant aspects of science that were handed down from Egypt and Babylon. Modern "Western" civilisation includes contributions from people living in the Middle East and in China during the Dark Ages, when Western Europe had reverted to virtual barbarism. Indeed, during the Dark Ages, "Western" civilisation resided much more in the Middle East than in Western Europe. (It is conceivable that if present trends continue, in another century it might reside more in the Far East than in the West.) 
The truth is that just as one does not have to be from France to like French- fried potatoes or from New York to like a New York steak, one does not have to have been born in Western Europe or be of West European descent to admire Western civilisation, or, indeed, even to help build it. Western civilisation is not a product of geography. It is a body of knowledge and values. Any individual, any society, is potentially capable of adopting it and thereby becoming "Westernised." The rapidly progressing economies of the Far East are all "Western" insofar as they rest on a foundation of logic, mathematics, science, technology, and capitalism--exactly the same logic, mathematics, science, technology, and capitalism that are essential features of "Western" civilisation. 
For the case of a Westernised individual, I must think of myself. I am not of West European descent. All four of my grandparents came to the United States from Russia, about a century ago. Modern Western civilisation did not originate in Russia and hardly touched it. The only connection my more remote ancestors had with the civilisation of Greece and Rome was probably to help in looting and plundering it. Nevertheless, I am thoroughly a Westerner. I am a Westerner because of the ideas and values I hold. I have thoroughly internalised all of the leading features of Western civilisation. They are now my ideas and my values. Holding these ideas and values as I do, I would be a Westerner wherever I lived and whenever I was born. I identify with Greece and Rome, and not with my ancestors of that time, because I share the ideas and values of Greece and Rome, not those of my ancestors. To put it bluntly, my ancestors were savages--certainly up to about a thousand years ago, and, for all practical purposes, probably as recently as four or five generations ago. 
I know nothing for certain about my great grandparents, but if they lived in rural Russia in the middle of the nineteenth century, they were almost certainly totally illiterate, highly superstitious, and primitive in every way. On winter nights, they probably slept with farm animals in their hut to keep warm, as was once a common practice in Northern Europe, and were personally filthy and lice infested. I see absolutely nothing of value in their "way of life," if it can be called a way of life, and I am immeasurably grateful that my grandparents had the good sense to abandon it and come to America, so that I could have the opportunity of becoming a "Westerner" and, better still, an American "Westerner," because, in most respects, since colonial times, the United States has always been, intellectually and culturally, the most Western of the Western countries. 
Thus, I am a descendant of savages who dwelt in Eastern Europe--and before that probably the steppes of Asia--who has been Westernised and now sees the world entirely through a Western "lens," to use the term of the critics of "Eurocentrism." Of course, it is not really a lens through which I see the world. It is much more fundamental than that. I have developed a Western mind, a mind enlightened and thoroughly transformed by the enormous body of knowledge that represents the substance of Western civilisation, and I now see the world entirely on the basis of that knowledge. For example, I see the world on the foundation of the laws of logic, mathematics, and science that I have learned. And whenever something new or unexpected happens, which I do not understand, I know that it must nevertheless have a cause which I am capable of discovering. In these respects, I differ profoundly from my savage ancestors, who lacked the knowledge to see the world from a scientific perspective and who probably felt helpless and terrified in the face of anything new or unknown because, lacking the principle of causality and knowledge of the laws of logic, they simply had no basis for expecting to be able to come to an understanding of it.
[…]
There is no need for me to dwell any further on my own savage ancestors. The plain truth is that everyone's ancestors were savages--indeed, at least 99.5 percent of everyone's ancestors were savages, even in the case of descendants of the founders of the world's oldest civilisations. For mankind has existed on earth for a million years, yet the very oldest of civilisations--as judged by the criterion of having possessed a written language--did not appear until less than 5,000 years ago. The ancestors of those who today live in Britain or France or most of Spain were savages as recently as the time of Julius Caesar, slightly more than 2,000 years ago. Thus, on the scale of mankind's total presence on earth, today's Englishmen, Frenchmen, and Spaniards earn an ancestral savagery rating of 99.8 percent. The ancestors of today's Germans and Scandinavians [and Scots!] were savages even more recently and thus today's Germans and Scandinavians probably deserve an ancestral savagery rating of at least 99.9 percent. 
It is important to stress these facts to be aware how little significance is to be attached to the members of any race or linguistic group achieving civilisation sooner rather than later. Between the descendants of the world's oldest civilisations and those who might first aspire to civilisation at the present moment, there is a difference of at most one-half of one percent on the time scale of man's existence on earth. 
These observations should confirm the fact that there is no reason for believing that civilisation is in any way a property of any particular race or ethnic group. It is strictly an intellectual matter--ultimately, a matter of the presence or absence of certain fundamental ideas underlying the acquisition of further knowledge.
* These passages are excerpted from George Reisman’s pamphlet ‘Education & the Racist Road to Barbarism,’ which thoroughly explains and pretty much explodes the process and the arguments (or lack thereof) behind so-called multiculturalism (i.e., the notion that all cultures are equal). Spending an evening reading that would be far more valuable to you than throwing your money away being trolled by barbarians.
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QotD: "Trump's complete lack of negotiating skills turns out to be a plus for America"


"Trump has lots of bad qualities; stupidity, extreme egotism, corruption, dishonesty, cruelty, incompetence, bad taste, bigotry, no sense of humor, cowardice, I could go on and on. He has no good qualities, unless one views a talent for conning voters to be a positive attribute. But his complete lack of negotiating skills turns out to be a plus for America, even if it’s just one more of his seemingly endless bad qualities."
~ Scott Sumner, from his oped 'Worst Negotiator Ever'
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Tuesday, 31 July 2018

BONUS QotD: "If you think that your most important cultural and political priority is to defend the supposed interests of white people in opposition to the interests of other racial groups, then you are a white supremacist, because that’s what 'supremacy' means. Dress it up however you like, but that’s what you stand for ... Dressing up economic protectionism, white supremacism, and tribalism isn't a defence of western civilisation."


"If you think people are fundamentally defined by the colour of their skin and by their ethnic and genetic background, then you are a racist, because that’s what 'racism' means. If you think that your most important cultural and political priority is to defend the supposed interests of white people in opposition to the interests of other racial groups, then you are a white supremacist, because that’s what 'supremacy' means. Dress it up however you like, but that’s what you stand for...  
  "The central theme of the Western intellectual tradition is about rising above tribalism to arrive at universal values... Tribalism, by contrast, is the default state of every culture and can be found among every people in every corner of the world. There is nothing distinctively Western about it, and it runs against the whole grain of the Western intellectual tradition.    "Dressing up economic protectionism, white supremacism, and tribalism isn't a defence of western civilisation." 
~ Robert Tracinski, from his article (originally entitled) "White Sheets & Red Golf Caps"

RELATED READING:
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QotD: "You have people with a predisposition to nihilistic, amoral power seeking who don’t necessarily buy into the postmodern philosophical framework, but who adopt it as a set of 'tools' for them to advance their own personal and social agendas, whatever those happen to be."


Stephen Hicks"So [for the postmodernist] power in the service of Truth; power in the service of Justice: that goes away. All that we are left with is Power..."
Jordan Peterson: "And so here’s the simple and easy explanation [for that]:
You [the postmodernist] want to dispense with the idea of 'justice' and 'truth' because that lightens your existential load, because now there’s nothing difficult and noble that you have to strive for, and you want to reduce everything to 'power' because that justifies your use of power in your pursuit of those immediate goals that you no longer even have to justify because you don’t have to make reference to any higher standards of, say, 'justice' or 'truth.' It’s certainly not reasonable either for those who claim that 'all there is is power,' that they’re not themselves motivated equally by that power."
Stephen Hicks: "So ... what you can always say, in effect, is that philosophy is autobiographical. In many cases philosophers will put their pronouncements in third-person form, or in generalised form, but if you always put it down to third-person formulations, it can be profoundly self-revelatory.
    "So if you say, for example, 'Human beings are scum'—there you have some sort of a pessimistic assessment of the human condition. Well, built into that then is the idea that I, if I 'first-personalise it,' that 'I am scum.' What you’re really doing is a first-person confession. And it’s always then an illegitimate move to exempt yourself from the general principle.
"Or [you might say]: 'Everything just is 'power relations' and 'people imposing their agendas on other people.' Then what you’re saying is: 'Well, my fundamental commitment is power, and I just want to impose my agenda on other people.'
So ... it can go both ways: It can of course be that you have people who, for whatever reason, have a predisposition to nihilistic, amoral power seeking, and when they become adults and 'intellectual,' they latch onto theories that indulge them, that enable them to rationalise their predispositions.
"And ... a lot of Postmodernism ... is disingenuous in that form. People don’t necessarily buy into the postmodern philosophical framework, but rather ... [adopt it] as a set of 'tools' for them to advance their own personal and social agendas, whatever those happen to be."
~ from a conversation between Jordan Peterson and philosopher Stephen Hicks about Hicks's book (which is excellent, by the way) Explaining Postmodernism.
NB: The Youtube conversation is here; the transcript is here.
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Sunday, 29 July 2018

QotD: “In 1976, Mao single-handedly and dramatically changed the direction of global poverty with one simple act: he died.”


“In 1976, Mao single-handedly and dramatically changed the direction of global poverty with one simple act: he died.”
Stephen Radelet, from his book The Great Surge