Archives for category: Quora
As Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s demise leads to the brain death and moral implosion of the left, I am reminded of a question I answered, two years ago, on the Net’s premiere Q&A site. Here is what I wrote on Friday when I heard the news: “RBG RIP — and sayonara to the last shred of sense in American politics. Not because she was that sense, but because her life held her admirers’ utter desperation in abeyance.”

Why aren’t Supreme Court justices assassinated often, given their political importance and their low number?

…as answered on Quora….

What inspires the anger, hatred, rage, or vendetta to nurture a hankering to kill a powerful person? I think it is the kind of authority that the powerful person represents.

The American Presidency focuses executive power, and is usually accompanied by charismatic and traditional modes of authority. Additionally, the single office-holder in the position has a lot of discretion in favoring or disfavoring a person or group, and is seen — not without reason — to hold a great deal of personal power. And this combination of modes of authority and efficacy for change makes presidents good targets for the aggrieved. A number of American presidents have been shot at, but have failed to succumb to the bullet — Andrew Jackson and Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan come quickly to mind — and the successful assassinations are infamous, numbering precisely four:

  • Abraham Lincoln
  • James Garfield
  • William McKinley
  • John Fitzgerald Kennedy

They were killed, historians tell us, by

  • an actor out for revenge (and perhaps working on a bizarre plot to help the South rise again);
  • a disgruntled job seeker (who felt personally and professionally betrayed);
  • a crazed anarchist; and
  • a Communist ex-Marine.

Can you imagine the kinds of men that these four were . . . actually setting their minds against a Supreme Court Justice, to see someone so “impersonal” as worth killing? The kind of authority wielded by the Nine is rational-legal. People tend to have a hard time wrapping their heads around that kind of authority, which is why they keep voting for charismatic men to fill the Presidency role. We understand charisma. Viscerally. And we grok traditional hierarchy, too. (Both are related to sexual selection, so these forms of authority get at us deep.) But rational-legal authority? That does not grab us either by the gut or the groin.

And to kill a man, especially at the likely cost of one’s own life, requires, surely, some deep appeal to the innards.


Well, that was what I wrote on Quora in August 2018. But times have changed. Now we see Democratic luminaries openly threatening insurrection and a deliberately destructive holocaust if the president goes ahead and . . . does his constitutional duty. Would these luminaries actually light the fires, set off the bombs and shoot the guns? Not likely. But their words sure look like incitements to riot. To me. What else would they be?

And they also go some way to feed my deep suspicion that the fires set throughout my state, and the two states directly south, were set, in numerous instances, by antifa/Black Bloc “protesters.”

If this becomes a shooting war, on the streets, between anarchists and antifa and Democrats manqué, on the one side, and those of us who prefer a rule of law to tyranny, on the other, then shouldn’t the breakdown of law and order be directed, in part, at the twits like Reza Aslan who tweet evil threats?

Or Twitter could apply its own rules against these maniacs and de-platform them. That would go some way to reëstablishing a moral order. And show that the apparently partisan microblogging site takes actual threats seriously.

But it is interesting how a Supreme Court position has become so vital to the left. Is this really all about keeping abortion and protecting that bizarre decision, Roe v. Wade?

Democrats sure do like their child sacrifice rights.

Why do libertarians focus so much on taxation?

…as answered on Quora….

Libertarians pride themselves — not unreasonably — on their principles, which they say make sense from root to leaf of society. Whereas most of politics is argument over fruits and twigs, libertarians aim to go much deeper, down the trunk to the structure in the soil.

Politics is the art of influencing the behavior of the State, and taxation is the most basic state activity. Organizations without the power to tax do not qualify as States. Libertarians extol voluntary (reciprocal; multilateral) interaction, and correctly point out that taxation is hegemonic . . . based, ultimately, on initiated violence and the threat of it. So libertarians look at taxation suspiciously — at best.

Classical liberal theorists were of a similar mind. French economist J.-B. Say, for example, argued that “A tax can never be favorable to the public welfare, except by the good use that is made of its proceeds.” The idea here is that taxation itself is the worst way of going about building a civilization, but if there is no other way to protect the public, then tax, and expend the conscript resources only on projects (rule of law, national defense, say) that truly benefit everybody.

Libertarians often argue that most government spending, these days, does not fill the old liberal standard of benefiting everybody. Instead, most spending of taxed resources aids some at the expense of others, and amounts not to serving a plausible public interest, but, instead, serving private, or factional interests.

Therefore libertarians argue against all variants of statism on grounds that would have been familiar to the old liberals, often making arguments like this: government funds built on taxes must inevitably present a “tragedy of the commons” where individuals and factions fight each other to exploit the common resource each for maximum advantage, gaining more than the other — or at least not gaining too little to become a net taxpayer. This endangers the common resource — just as overgrazing of a common field, or over-fishing of a commonly owned lake, river, or stream — and can have the effect of favoring the greedy and powerful over the masses, and eventually leading to the degradation of the commons.

Classical liberal economists, individualist social theorists, and libertarian political philosophers have been elaborating variations on this theme for centuries. These arguments have demoralized statists, over and over, to the point that they turn to obscurantism (Marxian fancies or Keynesian farragoes) or mere name-calling, in response. (Statism is the idea that the public good can be served by massive state regulation and spending, all dependent upon taxation.)

But this is mostly conflict over branches. Down at the root libertarians emphasize what the old liberals usually just “understood”: taxation is expropriation by force, and is an intrinsically bad way to run a civilized enterprise.

And, on this level, we see many to the far left taking the opposite approach. It is not uncommon, these days, for “progressives” and socialists and other statist politicians to look upon taxation as a good thing in and of itself. It is good to take most of the wealth of some people, and some of the wealth of most people, and not only to “do good” with that wealth. People should not have that wealth. They do not deserve it. They cannot properly use it. Marshaling the State to confiscate this wealth is a virtuous and indeed noble activity!

President Barack Obama took that tack when he argued that the capital gains tax rate should be kept high or even raised even if lower rates would yield more revenue. He flouted J.-B. Say’s rule; he flaunted the thief’s ethos, right in our faces. And when he and Senator Elizabeth Warren floated the “you didn’t build that” meme, they were carrying on that fundamentally illiberal program. It is an attack on voluntary society and an upgrading of the State to a kind of super-paternalistic (and maternalistic) Authority.

Libertarians focus on taxation to counter these fiends. Taxation is the key to the whole super-state mania. Libertarians see in the statist defense of the intrinsic righteousness of taxation an assault on civilization’s liberatory principle: the growth of reciprocity, voluntary cooperation, and peaceful relations. And libertarians see in the lip-smacking lust to ply the State to take other people’s money as the grossest corrupter of morals: the celebration of greed and envy and malice under cover of bogus “social justice” and pharisaic “caring.”

Libertarians oppose the demagoguery behind super-state transfers of wealth, hoping that humanity can avoid the cementing of tyranny by means of the greatest long con in history.

I always think that life is like a fairytale. What should I do to come out from this assumption?

…as answered on Quora….

You could do worse. Fairy tales are folk horror stories so concisely told that usually their morals are fairly easy to discern. In fairy tales dangers abound. Magic is not the power of wish, but potency at great cost. Sometimes good triumphs, but only after a huge setback. Sometimes fairy stories are very sad. Even frightening.

Read the Grimms, Hans Christian Andersen, and Italo Calvino’s collection of Italian Folktales. I do not think you will come away from them with a need to purge them from your imagination, but with some wisdom you can apply their lessons to your life.

You will notice differences between them and your life. The dangers in the woods in the old European fairy tales can at best serve as metaphors for today’s dangers, and the malign and delusive magics in those stories need to be translated to somewhat more mundane if still quite potent dangers, such as fraud, ideology, and so much else of word work and imaging.

My favorite American writer is James Branch Cabell. In his The Rivet in Grandfather’s Neck: A Comedy of Limitations (1915), Cabell synopsizes a sad little Hans Christian Andersen story and then tells a romance set in Virginia (or “Sil.”) in the early 20th century. There you will see a master take a fairy story and apply it to life. After reading that book, I trust you will see a way to transcend superficial “fairy tale” mentality, and grow beyond naïvety. And in “The Music from Behind the Moon: An Epitome” (it can be found in The Witch-Woman: A Trilogy about Her [1948] and elsewhere) you may conclude that a fairy-tale vision is in no way enviable, but also, perhaps, not evitable. The themes in fairy tales are the stuff of life.

If you “always think of life as a fairy tale,” my suggestion is: study fairy tales.

For what I think you really mean is that you tend to think of life as offering up temptations as the magic in fairy tales tempts those that encounter it. If you look at the literature of fairy tales, you will see that in story as in life the magic is not what it seems.


https://guides.library.vcu.edu/cabell/cabell_bibliography

Hans Christian Andersen

Did President Trump prove our system is so corrupt you can buy the presidency or any other position?

…as answered on Quora….

No. The opposite, in fact.

He did not outspend Hillary Clinton. Not by a long shot. That someone might think so is likely the result of widespread misunderstanding of how politics works in America.

Here is Bloomberg’s factual take:

He didn’t win the money race, but Donald Trump will be the next president of the U.S. In the primaries and general election, he defied conventional wisdom, besting better financed candidates by dominating the air waves for free. Trump also put to use his own cash, as well as the assets and infrastructure of his businesses, in unprecedented fashion. He donated $66 million of his own money, flew across the country in his private jet, and used his resorts to stage campaign events. At the same time, the billionaire was able to draw about $280 million from small donors giving $200 or less. Super-PACs, which can take contributions unlimited in size, were similarly skewed toward his opponent, Hillary Clinton. Ultimately, Trump won the presidency despite having raised less than any major party presidential nominee since John McCain in 2008, the last to accept federal funds to pay for his general election contest.

Clinton and her super-PACs raised a total of $1.2 billion, less than President Barack Obama raised in 2012. Her sophisticated fundraising operation included a small army of wealthy donors who wrote seven-figure checks, hundreds of bundlers who raised $100,000 or more from their own networks, and a small-dollar donor operation modeled on the one used by Obama in 2012. She spent heavily on television advertising and her get-out-the-vote operation, but in the end, her fundraising edge wasn’t enough to overcome Trump’s ability to dominate headlines and the airwaves.

Trump out-maneuvered Clinton.

Trump has charisma, believe it or not, and a keen sense of self-promotion; he is a genius at branding and marketing, which carried over into the political realm. Hillary, on the other hand, has all the charm of a hitman disguised as a cackling circus automaton, and none of the political wisdom of her ex-president husband.

Trump is the Middle American common man’s candidate. Hillary Clinton was perceived as the feckless and corrupt candidate of the coastal elites. He did not buy the election. She blew it.

twv

Did Frédéric Bastiat use the slippery slope fallacy to manipulate the facts?

…as answered on Quora….

I would need some examples to work with.

But let us remember: the “slippery slope fallacy” is merely the misattribution of slipperyness to non-slippery slopes, or (more rarely) misattribution of a slope where no slope exists.

Misattributions are errors by definition. But slippery slopes do exist, so, technically, there is no special error in talking about the “slippery slope.” What we are dealing with are attribution errors. Is this or that usage of the “slippery slope” reasonable or not?

It is also worth noting that sometimes we must transit slippery slopes. We cannot help it. It is the way of the world.

That being said, when I use Slippery Slope arguments, I am doing one of several things, and I hope I do them consciously:

  1. I am identifying a slope where others see plains or peaks or valleys.
  2. I am identifying slipperiness where others see sure footing.
  3. I am cautioning care where others, though recognizing their necessary transit across (or up, or down) a slippery slope, seem unduly reckless.

Have I milked this metaphor for all its worth?

twv

During the Reagan presidency, Congress seems to have become fundamentally more divided than it was in the past and has remained that way since. What factors caused/may have caused this?

…as answered on Quora….

A political scientist who has studied the actual complexion of the two chambers might give us some fascinating perspectives. But I, who have not studied the data carefully, but merely lived through the period in question, will make a few guesses.

One is that the central government of the federal union grew progressively nationalistic over time, with the executive branch and the judicial branch growing in power, and the scope of their purview widening considerably. And because the general government took on more and more tasks, Congress just could not keep up with the demands to ‘regulate the regulators,’ so Congress off-loaded many legislative functions to the other two branches. The executive branch naturally tends to grow, considering the nature of centralized power, and in America, with a written Constitution, the power of judges to ‘legislate from the bench’ was always possible, and increasingly instantiated. So the process now appears inevitable.

Further, as the centralization process continued, regional differences became less important. So the two parties, having become dominant in part as a result of the electoral methods Condorcet wrote about centuries earlier, had to compete on something other than regional grounds. This meant that they became more ideological. Whereas in the first half of the century the two parties each supported a progressive and conservative wing, on those two grounds the parties increasingly sorted themselves out.

And, with the ideological divide now falling on party lines, compromise became more difficult.

And as compromise became more difficult, rancor grew.

But something else was in evidence: massive failure. The 1960s were violent and costly, and in the 1970s the economic situation became chaotic. And the politicians had little clue of what to do about it.

Further, a great deal of dishonesty and cluelessness grew at a fundamental level, and ideological blinders became a huge aspect of normal politics. This was true in both parties, but I will give an obscure example regarding the Democrats: Ted Kennedy orchestrated a deregulation of the petroleum industry, and Jimmy Carter signed it into law. But Carter and Kennedy were fearful of their own program. They talked endlessly about ‘windfall profits’ in the petroleum industry, which is what one would expect, initially, upon deregulation. But these profits were important to the whole market process, for correcting the widespread misallocation of resources that had plagued the 1970s’ gasoline shortages, caused largely by regulations and setting markets up for exploitation by OPEC. But Carter and Kennedy talked endlessly and sententiously about taxing the profits out of existence — which hampered recovery — and insisted on slow deregulation. And Carter, in his famous ‘malaise speech,’ did not even mention the ongoing deregulation, but talked up government subsidies to alternative energy instead. This ceded to the Republicans the glamor of market reforms (on taking office Reagan made the deregulation immediate) and left to the Democrats the fantasies of central planning. Basically, this sealed the fate of the direction of the two parties, making their differences more ideological yet.

But I am not speaking of the elephant in the room: rogue Deep State action and its influence on partisan politics.

It was Mark Felt, Associate Director of the FBI, in his role as Deepthroat in the Watergate scandal, who took down Richard M. Nixon. This shocked Republicans, considering that corruption and illegality in the White House was s.o.p. during the Johnson administration. While the electorate was shocked by Nixon’s corruption, it was indeed nothing compared to what had gone on before — the assassination of JFK itself was likely an inside job, too. Resentments like this have deep effects. But Republicans also played the corruption game: Nixon got into office by a treasonous interference in the Vietnam peace talks, and Reagan/Bush pushed around Congress with the Iran/Contra biz. Each side increasingly engaged in vendetta politics, ramping up discord in the increasingly divided Congress.

But that FBI intervention into political life with Watergate was just the tip of the proverbial iceberg — make that ice sheet. The Church investigations into the CIA had shown a rogue element that demonstrated Eisenhower’s prophecy of the dangers of ‘the military-industrial complex.’ Then a former director of the CIA became Vice President — George Herbert Walker Bush — and the level of imperial corruption grew by orders of magnitude. This was not lost on Congress, which became increasingly sclerotic and corrupt itself.

The full measure of the bipartisan craziness can be seen in insane budgeting practices: deficits and debt. This is driving the whole country crazy, though not on the surface. Indeed, repression of these issues may be the cause of much anxiety that cannot be assuaged. Add to that the ratcheting up of the power of the national security state, and . . . well, it is amazing we are not in the dustbin of history already.

twv

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Addendum:

A key to ideological polarization: your side (whatever side that is) lies or evades a major truth, indeed, concocts a lie; the esoteric effect is to solidify behind the lie; but the exoteric effect is that many others, outside your group, see the lie or the evasion and then leap to the opposite of your position.

Now, this would not be so bad if everything you said were wrong. But what if you be half-right? Well, you encourage the extreme of the reaction against your position, which would be to reject the good in your position as well as the bad.

Application:

With our media controlled/influenced to an astounding extent by CIA/Deep State measures (Operation Mockingbird and successor programs, but not exclusively), and with disinformation and propagandistic spin being an integral part of almost every news presentation, when people find this out, when they begin to see that they are indeed being lied to and quite thoroughly, there is a not surprising tendency for them to leap to an extreme anti-grand-narrative narrative.

Thus QAnon is born.

Assuming Q were nuts. But even if Q be true and not nuts (and I have no evidence to falsify its major claims, and I doubt if you do either), its attraction to many is that it is a grand narrative running completely counter to the media-disinformation complex.

The major corporate media news purveyors created, perhaps inadvertently, QAnon.

Yesterday I answered a question on Quora. So far, over a hundred views but only one upvote. I realize that my contributions to civilization are not widely appreciated nor easily marketable.

By refusing to hold a position on something, do you, by default, accept all positions or reject all positions?

…as answered on Quora….

Neither. To suspend judgment on something is to set the default position to “Unknown” or “Undecided.”

There is a word relevant here: Epoché.

Sextus Empiricus, from whom our word “empirical” derives, explained the word like this: “Epoché is a state of the intellect on account of which we neither deny nor affirm anything.”

Now, this sort of generalized withholding of assent is, I think, impossible. It is meaningless, for reasons American pragmatist philosopher C.S. Peirce gave when, while discussing Descartes’s Meditations on First Philosophy, he argued that we cannot doubt everything at once:

We cannot begin with complete doubt. We must begin with all the prejudices which we actually have when we enter upon the study of philosophy. These prejudices are not to be dispelled by a maxim, for they are things which it does not occur to us can be questioned. Hence this initial skepticism will be a mere self-deception, and not real doubt; and no one who follows the Cartesian method will ever be satisfied until he has formally recovered all those beliefs which in form he has given up. It is, therefore, as useless a preliminary as going to the North Pole would be in order to get to Constantinople by coming down regularly upon a meridian. A person may, it is true, in the course of his studies, find reason to doubt what he began by believing; but in that case he doubts because he has a positive reason for it, and not on account of the Cartesian maxim. Let us not pretend to doubt in philosophy what we do not doubt in our hearts.

Ultra-skeptical positions are mere poses. You cannot really “reject all positions.”

And by refusing to judge the facticity or the value of something, you are not “accepting all positions,” for by not taking a position on the issue in question, you have indeed not taken that position, and your having taken a position to not accept the position you are merely assenting to that “meta” level of the issue, not the substantive level.

You see we find ourselves in the realm of the paradox. Even if you aimed to be a Pyrrhonian skeptic, by not taking a position on all positions you have taken one position: that of not taking a position on all other possible positions!

This problem of paradox rears its head if you attempt to “accept all positions,” too — for in taking the meta-position of “accepting all positions” you have rejected the position of rejecting all positions.

Bertrand Russell developed his theory of the Logical Types to handle such paradoxes. They are fun little puzzles, the kind of thing Raymond Smullyan wrote wonderful little books about. But, though not trivial, they are not of great moment, either.

So, what can we conclude?

To withhold judgment on a limited number of matters is not only possible but advisable. For, as Marcus Aurelius said:

“You are not compelled to form any opinion about this matter before you, nor to disturb your peace of mind at all. Things in themselves have no power to extort a verdict from you.”

The question at hand is very much something like an attempt to extort a verdict from you — for, odds are, when someone tells you that by not taking a position on something you really are taking a position, they are trying to trick you into changing your opinion.

Caution!

Now, there is one additional way to look at this that we must cover: action.

We are sometimes asked to form an opinion on a matter relevant to action, let us say, whether war or pacifism be moral. If you, not without reason, withhold your judgment on the matter, you are apt to practically favor the pacifist side as a performative matter. The proponent of war will then accuse you of materially siding against war, and, indeed, siding with his enemy by not resisting the enemy in question.

And there is indeed something to this. But by refusing to settle your opinion and, as a consequence, not get involved, out of indifference or confusion, you will take a position on one side of the practice, but not on the matter of ethics, which was the original question. You could take a very different active position: you could, like Arjuna under the advisement of Krishna, take up battle, performing the action with some emotional distance, recognizing that the war is ghastly and complex but your position in the world is less murky. The decision to behave this way is a decision to bracket out the moral question and risk committing an immoral act. Jean-Paul Sartre called this tragic stance “dirty hands,” I believe. Make of it what you will.

Now I’ve gone and put a spin on an ancient text (Bhagavad-Gita) that I have not read in decades! So my position right now is to stop.

twv

How can a Libertarian ever work for the government without compromising his/her beliefs?

…as answered on Quora….

The libertarian might hold to some variant of “relative ethics” as written about in Herbert Spencer’s Data of Ethics. Libertarianism is a formulation of Spencer’s conception of “absolute ethics.”

Spencer gave several cautionary principles when discussing ethics. One of them is this: “A great part of the perplexities in ethical speculation arise from neglect of this distinction between right and least wrong—between the absolutely right and the relatively right.”

The principles of liberty depend upon conditions wherein equal freedom is possible, where there is enough reciprocity regarding forbearance and tolerance that sticking to strict principles makes sense. When most of the people around you will not grant you your rightful freedom, then, well, all bets are off. Spencer writes that the “perfect conduct which is the subject-matter of Absolute Ethics” is not always possible, and must be distinguished from “that imperfect conduct which is the subject-matter of Relative Ethics.”

We live in a messy world, filled with coercion and conceptions of authority that run against the grain of libertarian ethics. Must we confine ourselves to living as if all this did not exist? Spencer wrote, early in his career, of a “right to ignore the State.” But just give that a try. The State will crush you, destroy you. So, as compensation for the impositions it places upon us, seemingly demanding to make martyrs of us, perhaps a few benefits from the system is more than allowable.

Most libertarian ideologues I know bristle at this penultimate chapter to the Data of Ethics. But it has long seemed to me that much of this objection to relative ethics is just denial of reality. Many libertarians prefer the fantasy. But facts don’t care about our preferences. It is simply the case that “a large part of human conduct is not absolutely right, but only relatively right,” and we have to deal with that.

And it is worse, “we have to recognize the further truth that in many cases where there is no absolutely right course, but only courses that are more or less wrong, it is not possible to say which is the least wrong.”

So, a libertarian who understands the actual nature of our lived experience would not pretend that ethics must serve only a straitjacket that we are obliged to tie ourselves into while those who would do us much harm are comparatively free.

The truth of the matter of liberty is that it all depends upon a general practice of reciprocal forbearance from initiating coercive interference. When that forbearance is not forthcoming, then the relevance of libertarian justice loses its traction.

This is something libertarians generally do not acknowledge. I think they are wrong not to.

And, I suspect, when they do acknowledge this feature of the moral universe, their consciences will be free to make quite a few compromises that rub up against their principles. It is inevitable. Indeed, it is almost required, as Spencer noted: “Among people who are treacherous and utterly without scruple, entire truthfulness and openness must bring ruin.

If all around recognize only the law of the strongest, one whose nature will not allow him to inflict pain on others, must go to the wall. There requires a certain congruity between the conduct of each member of a society and other’s conduct. A mode of action entirely alien to the prevailing modes of action, cannot be successfully persisted in—must eventuate in death of self, or posterity, or both.

Hence it is manifest that we must consider the ideal man as existing in the ideal social state.

And that the ideal social state — the free society — does not exist. And its strictures cannot fully apply.

That being said, I have found it difficult to even conceive working for some realms of government. Take policing, a job that usually entails the enforcement of evil laws — malign and harmful both. I would find working for that kind of government a disgusting business. Even activities like teaching in heavily subsidized colleges strikes me as too much compromise. But I rarely criticize those who compromise differently than I. If your only talent is for teaching, for example, and you lack an entrepreneurial bent, you will probably find yourself teaching somewhere in a government school or at least in a tax-subsidized, government-controlled institution.

Ugh, I shudder. But such is this messy world.

We are so far from a perfect society that we can just barely conceive of perfect conduct. Which is what Absolute Ethics is all about. In this creaky, state-ridden world, we must make do with Relative Ethics.

twv

Mr. Roosevelt is the most formidable disaster that has befallen the country since the Civil War — but the vast mass of the nation loves him, is frantically fond of him, even idolizes him. This is the simple truth. It sounds like a libel upon the intelligence of the human race, but it isn’t; there isn’t any way to libel the intelligence of the human race.

Mark Twain (September 13, 1907)
Cover illustration, Harper’s Weekly, August 3, 1912.

What do libertarians think of Teddy Roosevelt?

…as answered on Quora….

As a president he was a very good prose stylist. As a philosopher he was a very good hunter. As a man he was a very good maniac.

I have never met a libertarian who saw in TR much other than an imperialist, a warmonger, and a scheming corrupter of the Constitution. He brought “Progressivism” — technocratic Socialism Lite with a plutocratic twist — into the mainstream, which meant that he prepared the way for the worst president in American history, Woodrow Wilson, and for that epochal disaster, TR’s clanmate FDR.

He is admired by ambitious people left and right, and, arguably, there are few better cultural indicators of libertarianism’s perpendicularity to standard politics than libertarians’ near-universal hatred for Teddy Roosevelt.

I liked John Milius’s The Wind and the Lion, though — an interesting portrait of TR by Brian Keith. I need to see it again, considering the film’s eerie framing of the current cultural friction between Islam and the West.

twv

Why do some conservatives try to claim that Nazis are left wing?

…as answered on Quora….

There are many good answers to this question and many poor answers. The good ones recognize that “left” and “right” are contentious, ambiguous, or context-dependent concepts. The poor ones do not.

I basically agree with David Friedman and, of all people, someone calling herself “Hannah Hitler.” Unless Ms. Hitler is engaging in some bizarre brinksmanship with her moniker, I am confident in asserting that David and Hannah share little in normative politics. Yet they do share a more complex view of the world than those progressives who relentlessly churn out puerile invective against conservatives — as a few of the answerers do.

Interestingly, neither David nor Hannah are conservative — the former I know to be a libertarian and the latter I assume to be a neo-Nazi. I am not a conservative, either, but I am sympathetic enough with conservatives to understand the “Nazis are left wing” charge. I am not a progressive, either, but I am sympathetic enough with progressives to understand the “Nazis are right wing” charge. Both are right, both are wrong. If conservatives or progressives balk at this judgment, they must do so out of some belief in the narrow precision of the terms “left” and “right.” The belief is unwarranted, though, as others have argued. And yet that belief remains dominant in American politics, especially amongst progressives. Which is why progressives are making of themselves fools and laughing stocks and worse right now: by refusing to recognize the intellectual complexity of the political landscape. It is all relentlessly Good vs. Evil these days.

Calling conservatives “brownshirts” — as one answerer has done — is a grand example of invidious imputation. Conservatives in America are light years apart from fascists and Nazis . . . at least to the extent they uphold the Constitution of the United States, a deeply anti-totalitarian document. Progressives, on the other hand, have more in common with brownshirt and blackshirt violence — at least to the extent they balk at supporting the ConstitutionOh, and also to the extent they defend antifa and BAMN and other street thuggery, for that is just flirtation with the very kind of activity they excoriate in others.

This is where everything gets very uncomfortable. Progressives took up the mantle of “liberalism” in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. But they changed liberal preoccupations in the process, I think for the worse. Early Progressives were opponents of the Constitution, quite explicitly: they hated liberal limits to government. And today’s progressives follow suit, even abandoning free speech and other old liberal checks on power in their mad desire to control speech they do not like (“hate speech”) as well as to regulate the democratic process by prohibiting the expenditure of money by groups they do not like. The recent New York Times paean to Justice Kagan’s “weaponizing the First Amendment” comment is a fine example of contemporary progressive cluelessness.

Of course, it is not as if conservatives do not suffer from their own brands of dunderheaded cluelessness. This is the Age of Trump, after all. But so far the hysterical denunciations of Trump as “literally Hitler” haven’t panned out. Trump is nothing like Hitler. He is the Mule. Something unique. I wouldn’t advise trusting him, but making unrealistic comparisons to Nazis, or not owning up to your own (progressive) “shit,” is no way to fight authoritarian impulses within the conservative movement.

The great truth of our time is this: progressives misunderstand conservativism, and conservatives misunderstand themselves. This makes for a wild and confusing political mess. And while I see some hope for philosophical clarity evolving from this chaos, I do not rest much hope on it. Why? Most Americans — most people — can barely think rationally, and those who most loudly boast of their rationality rarely confront their own presuppositions.

So mess it shall likely remain. It is what we can expect of a deeply unphilosophical people.

And left and right will be calling each other “Nazi” until the heavens pour down fire or the depths serve up ice.

twv