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One week, House Democrats engage in impeachment inquiries of President Trump, excluding Republicans from even witnessing the proceedings.

The next, they complain that the President excluded them from being briefed on the Baghdadi raid.

“President Trump pointed his finger at House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff,” begins Carlin Becker’s Washington Examiner account of the Baghdadi biz. The president, calling Adam Schiff “the biggest leaker in Washington,” explained that “[w]e were going to notify them last night, but we decided not to do that because Washington leaks like I’ve never seen before.”

Whereas leaking was the word on Trump’s lips, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi inveighed against him merely for excluding her and her gang from the big story.

And so soon after the whole secret-proceedings-in-the-basement brouhaha!

This is not just hypocrisy. Another word seems warranted. Ultra-hypocrisy?

How about estoppel?

That is an old legal principle barring someone who has made a claim from denying it later.

Estoppel also bars folks from prosecuting someone for doing something they themselves have done to that someone. It thus reflects a very robust notion of fairness, which can be extended to fundamental rights — as one legal theorist has argued, “an aggressor has endorsed the rule that aggression is legitimate because he is committing aggression,” and therefore has no cause to complain. If aggressors wish to prohibit other folks’ aggressions, they must accept their own as also unwarranted, and are “estopped” from making the claim against another.

Thereby a general principle for society emerges. Broadly, this principle might have some bearing on American foreign policy. On a more humble level, though, it serves as an explanation for the muted outrage at Trump’s selective consultation.

Live by exclusion, die by exclusion.


Having some trouble caring what Scarlett Johannson thinks.

Ms. Johannson was in a few Woody Allen movies (Match Point, Scoop, Vicky Christina Barcelona) and was fun to watch in each one of them, though her acting was, how shall we say, restrained. So her defense of Woody against accusations of pedophilia, incest and statutory rape may seem understandable.

But this is one of those issues where the proper response to being questioned on this subject would be “I think it inappropriate of you even asking me this. You shouldn’t need a lecture in logic or manners or law to see why this would be so.” When The Hollywood Reporter asks, you needn’t answer.

Actors and actresses are too often prompted to talk about things they should not be talking about.

Professionalism in acting should include knowing when to say nothing.

But of course Hollywood’s narcissist culture precludes that.

So I guess that means I could, just maybe, work up some sympathy for Ms. Johansson, in that she has been caught up in a roiling idiocy that she cannot control, or even likely comprehend.

I mean, I have misguidedly spoken candidly to people I thought, mistakenly, had my interests at least a little bit in their heads.

So maybe I do give a damn.


N.B. Ms. Johansson has been in a few movies that I think of as classics: Ghost World, The Man Who Wasn’t There, and The Prestige being the greatest among them. She was fine in other very good films, like The Girl with the Pearl Earrings and Lost in Translation. And of course she is most famous for playing a superhero.

Oh, and I write, above, that her acting in Woody Allen movies was “restrained.” Actually, I do not remember what she did in Vicky Christina Barcelona at all. Not even a shadow of a memory.

What is the meaning of “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear”?

…as answered on Quora

This George Orwell salvo was directed against leftist Political Correctness as well as the conservatism of Mrs. Grundy (now Ms. Grundy).

The current craze is to cry “I’m offended!” or “you can’t say that!” and expect to have all of society, including the coercive power of the State, side with you and shut up the person whose ideas or invectives or innuendos annoy you.

The case for free speech precludes that general attitude. The attitude of the Grundies and the commissars and apparatchiks is the attitude of tyranny. They must be opposed and marginalized (at least) to have liberty in society.

Orwell thought (or merely hoped) that socialism and the “democracy” of basic rights like freedom of speech and association would prove to be compatible. They are not. Freedom of speech and press and association all depend upon the general framework of freedom, which includes and must include extensive private property rights.

The truth is, “if liberty means anything at all,” it is the right to tell people on your property, or hired property, what they do not want to hear only as long as they are on your property, or hired property. In a free society, everyone has a right to go to their “safe spaces” (homes, churches, clubs, etc.) and not hear what you want to tell them.

Free speech is just as much about the ability not to hear something, through peaceable means, as to saysomething, through peaceable means.

The case for this is tied to liberty in general. These ideas all work together, and free speech proves strategically important. But, when you work it out, it is just another aspect of freedom in general. Some people focus on it because they wish to take away other freedoms. And those people need some push-back, too.

People like Orwell himself.


The new U.S. Representative from the Bronx.

How much of a socialist is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?

We have a metric: the length of time she allots to remake America and “save the planet.”

Her ridiculous “Green New Deal” is a ten-year plan. Stalin, a socialist of the now-defunct Soviet Republics, promoted a series of five-year plans.

Do the math. A serious socialist like Stalin set time for five-year socialistic remakes, and Rep. Ocasio-Cortez takes twice as long. So is half as serious.

How much of a socialist is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?

Half a Stalin!

Stalin/2 = AOC

That is the formula.

Socialism with a divided face.
More socialist math.

Why is money inevitable in a modern economy?

…as answered on Quora….

Because a modern economy depends upon trade, and money enables trade to dominate society.

Without money, traders must find a coincidence of wants for every conceivable want to be satisfied: if I have apples and want pemmican, you who have pemmican have to want my apples for me to get your pemmican. If you don’t, we do not have a trade. If what you want is pickles, and the pickles wouldn’t give much for your pemmican, you lose out. Opportunities are not even noticed in a barter economy, and the people advance slowly if at all.

It’s easy to see why barter’s frustrating. Because it’s hard to find exact coincidences of wants. Which is why some commodities that are more widely valued tend to emerge as money. And from there, people find all sorts of ways to please others, advancing each others’ interests reciprocally.

Getting rid of money means limiting trade. And, when trade is limited, other forms of coöperation must emerge to take its place, or people go starving.

What are those forms?

Well, the most exalted is straightforward coöperation leading to a share-out. That is, you and I both pick apples and share them. You and I and our friends go out and kill a whale, and share the blubber and oil. You and I and everybody in the community spend hours every week hauling rock to build a road, whose benefit we all pretend to share equally.

You can see a problem, here, immediately: people’s labor is differently productive. It seems wrong to make the most productive workers take home the same as the least productive — or allow the least to take home just as much as the most. It does not reward merit, and it does not encourage the best. Why would the best plowman plow harder if he gains just as much as the weakling who cannot move the plow at all?

It gets worse, because most projects require a diversity of jobs. And the jobs are not equal in effort required, or in terms of danger, skill, necessity or productivity — indeed, most large enterprises can be organized dozens of different ways. So how does one figure all this? The knowledge problem here is extraordinary.

Money makes this so much easier. It allows people to organize better, and sends signals of most valuable opportunities to be exploited.

Communism is difficult, and does not easily scale. Those civilizations that engaged in this sort of thing to greatest effect, making the biggest buildings, for instance, tended to simplify matters by engaging not merely in corvée labor, but go all the way to slavery. When money does not rise quick enough in a society engaged in large enterprises, slavery becomes a major institution to make up for it.

There is good reason we find “gift communism” in many pre-modern societies. Here individual effort gets its reward, with the successful hunter taking the best cuts of his kill (for a common example). But everybody gets something. One gives to get later on. It is sort of a friendly barter system, with like goods being traded for like goods, with time the differentiating factor. Usually, even the least skilled hunter occasionally makes a kill.

But note what happens in real life under gift communism, under this form of apparently easy-going barter. When the worst hunter never contributes, he is shamed (often, shames himself) into taking less and less of the share-outs. He is honor-bound even to the point of starvation. (There are many accounts of this.) And here we see a major regulator of coöperation that is not based on trade and money: honor. Honor cultures arise as tribes evolve into chiefdoms, and chiefdoms become more complex and more “modern.” Honor helps regulate the inequalities. But it also gives birth to some startlingly cruel practices as well. The worst forms of patriarchy are honor cultures. Our current era of the “clash of civilizations” is in no small part a clash between modern ethical/rational-legal culture and honor cultures of the Islamic east.

Now, let’s admit it: honor does a lot of regulatory work. It even takes the place of money, in some ways. Without it, civilizations would never have started. And the early States, which were the result of conquest (as near as we can make out), would never have been much more than excruciatingly cruel tyrannies (only some were). Let us not forget that honor binds the great as well as the weak. And remember, honor not only helped build civilization, it built our ethical ideas, too. We have moved beyond it, to a great extent, as we have rationalized authority and incorporated contract and deprecated violence and slavery into our visions of the good society. But our modern ethics do find their origin in ancient honor codes.

But honor, which is part of what Herbert Spencer called “ceremonial governance,” is less salient in society when other social institutions grow into prominence — particularly money.

And it is also worth remembering that money makes the State a very different creature, too. For by relying upon taxation rather than forced labor, the State is liberated from the limitations of unequal (and often useless) workers. Instead of having to confiscate land and cattle and grain and the like, and working with these materials for the maintenance of a royalty and an aristocracy, taking money is just so much easier.

Indeed, one way modern “democratic socialism” requires money along with the market order that money serves is to make the tasks socialists want done easier, too: taking wealth from some and giving it to others.

It’s an old, old system. But in our day, money is more important than ever, and no conceivable social order with our vast populations of wealthy people (for even our poor are wealthy by historic standards) could get by without money.

Unless, I suppose, we start over with slavery again, and make the AIs and robots do all the work. But I don’t see this as quite the great advance that some do. And I bet the AIs would realize the importance of money — indeed, should they rise in intelligence, I’m sure they would re-introduce money as soon as they possibly could, probably while enslaving humanity.

It takes an awfully silly person to think that money could be done away with.

On the evolution of money, see Carl Menger, Principles of Economics and “On the Origin of Money.”

On varieties of coöperation, see Herbert Spencer’s chapter on sociology in the Data of Ethics, the first part of his Principles of Ethics.

On ceremony, see Herbert Spencer’s Ceremonial Institutions in his Principles of Sociology.

For the problem of coördinating coöperation under socialism, see Ludwig von Mises, “Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth.”

I’ve forgotten most of my references for honor cultures, but it wouldn’t hurt to consult Peter Farb, Man’s Rise to Civilization.

Most men and women have known for a long time that there is something wrong with feminism. Something is just “not right” about it. That is why most people do not call themselves “feminists.”

But what is that something?

In recent times, the secret truth of feminism has become clearer than ever before. We have known that feminists’ demand for equality was brummagem at best, subterfuge more likely. Were feminism truly about equality between the sexes, then in those areas where women have it easier, somehow better, feminists would demand attention to (and redress for) men.

You know, for equality’s sake.

But that almost never happens. The hint is in the name: if feminism were about equality, many of us have been saying for decades, it would not be named by just one of the two sexes. Indeed, the mere naming throws in a prejudice, corrupting true sexual egalitarians into the mere promoters of one sex. The female sex.

On many issues, it has become quite clear that “the deal” presented by society is largely in favor of women in general over men in general. Most women get treated better — have even more rights, as Men’s Rights advocates will regale you with at length — at the expense of most men.

Feminists do not see it that way, of course. They are incredulous. They have trained themselves to be. It is a matter of narrowness of vision. What feminists do that they have trouble seeing is their own narrow focus on high-status men, and how they carelessly impute to all men the high status of those at society’s top. And it is from this skewed perspective that they then take the next step to demand equality with those men of high status, forgetting the homeless men on the street, the men in dangerous jobs, the high suicide rate, etc.

As I have stated many times before — and is extremely common in anti-feminist circles — feminism is not an egalitarian movement devoted to equality, it is a status envy movement.

And if you have any doubt, just look at the scorn feminists regularly heap on low- and mid-status men. Their pejoratives are astounding: “neck-beards,” “losers,” and worse. A man who works to provide for his family is said to possess “privilege,” when anyone with a lick of sense can see only the dubious privilege of serving a woman and her children. Which, as is now often noted by anyone who is not a feminist, a woman can take away from said man at whim. Even in cases where the children are his, too.

And men of low status? Their contempt is palpable in almost every instance.

This parallels the feminine mating strategy of hypergamy. Women tend to scorn men who make less than they do. Or who have less education than they do. Instead, for mates, they want the best that can be obtained, high-status providers.

Men, of course, tend to seek to mate with women in a parallel way, but on different standards. Definitely not wealth, power or traditional social standing. When a man seeks or obtains a high-status woman on the wealth criterion, or the power criterion, or the social standing criterion, he is looked upon by nearly everyone with suspicion at least, often with disdain. Most especially including by feminists. Men’s hypergamy is on one traditional track, where the standard is youth and beauty. Otherwise he is expected to be egalitarian. Women may be hypergamous on any count, but is expected to be regarding wealth and power.

It is actually worse than that. Traditional masculine preference for youth and beauty over other criteria is often tut-tutted. And among feminists, is commonly seen as a sign of masculine superficiality and worse, as a sign of “patriarchy.”

When feminists focus only on their fantasied equality with high-status men, ruling out “the losers” and criminals and even the plodding normies, they are merely translating standard hypergamous instincts to the society-wide playing field. And usually they expect to marshal the State on their side, as the instrument of social advance and wealth and security acquisition.

Just as war is politics carried on by other means, feminism is feminine hypergamy carried on by other means. Feminism is hypergamy collectivized. This is feminism’s secret truth.

And the State is the instrument of the social revolution feminists demand.

Feminism in this form is quite statist, and therefore dangerous. Even evil.


Mind your business

Why should we care about freedom of the press when most media companies are already owned by billionaires with their own political agendas?

As Answered on Quora

The freedom of the press is not just for big media companies. It is for you and me, with our blogs and videos and the like. A “press” is just a means to distribute “speech” beyond the sound of our voices in distinct places.

The American Revolution was the background of the founders’ understanding of “the press.” It was a period of pamphleteers. Think tracts, one-sheets, booklets, etc.

All recent judicial perspectives and decision that treat “journalists” and “newspapers” as different from you with your printer and me with my blog are without foundation. Let us get these silly, corporatist notions out of our heads. We are “the press.”

So, it doesn’t matter much, for constitutional interpretation, who owns the major media outlets. The fact that they are owned by billionaires, and all of them technocrats and most left of center, is irrelevant in terms of principle.

Why would anyone think differently? What part of the rule of law is confusing?


What would happen if the world stopped using money?

As Answered on Quora

Billions of people would die.

Without a medium of exchange and unit of account, coördination of capital would become utterly incoherent, and the established interdependence of the modern age would vanish.

Most people would become useless to others, unrewardable.

And violence would reign supreme, as there would be a scramble to capture existing resources. Economists would utter the words “consumption of capital” before they were placed against the wall and shot en masse.

Mass starvation, rioting, tyranny, and death would follow, and quickly. Progress would not merely halt, regress would set in. We would go back to a stone age. A few technological utopias may survive, but the cost would be extraordinary.

For billions and billions of people would die miserable, horrifying deaths.

And the population would reduce itself to something like twice the population of bears.

In the meantime, certain infrastructure elements, like nuclear power plants, might very well fail and poison the planet . . . that is, if the malign individuals who capture the nuclear arsenal do not usher in nuclear winter, first.


Does Philosophy Affect Culture?
What philosophies to you think craft the world today — or do they not matter?

As Answered on Quora

Academic philosophy does not affect culture very much today, except for the far left strains of Marxism, neo-Marxism, structuralism, post-structuralism, and postmodernism. These have had a disastrous influence on our culture. Why? Because bright people are very susceptible to cults, and these philosophies gave blueprints and marching orders for cultic intellectualism and intellectual cultism.

In Greek and Roman times philosophy deeply impacted culture. Then philosophy deeply influenced Christianity, which in turn influenced western culture greatly. There is also evidence that philosophy affected Judaism, which influenced Christianity and Islam. And philosophy was a part of Islam in its fairly early years, until the anti-intellectualism and cultic nature of the religion squashed it.

I think we can say that the Enlightenment had a huge influence on the modern world, and Enlightenment philosophers were big influences upon the English and American Revolutions and the direction of American culture for a long time. Names to remember, here, include Hugo Grotius, John Locke, Francis Hutchinson, who are worth remembering in this regard. At the back of the Enlightenment was not only the Renaissance, with philosophers quite various, but also the discovery of De Rerum Natura, which may have been an inspiration and much more — Epicurean atomism spurring much analysis and the scientific method, too. The Scottish Enlightenment percolated throughout the world, in part under cover of political economy, which hailed (in part) from one of the greats in the Scots tradition, Adam Smith. Then Romanticism was ignited by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, from which flowed the French Revolution and the rise of socialism as a cultural and political force. Other thinkers of Enlightenment France included Denis Diderot, who did much to influence the secular trend now dominant.

John Stuart Mill has certainly had an influence on political and general intellectual culture. But remember: in the 19th century the most popular philosopher was Herbert Spencer, who definitely contributed to the making of the modern world, particularly the English-speaking world, and despite the turn against his thought around the time of his death in 1903. And in the German culture? Feuerbach and others ushered in an onslaught upon Christian dogma and certainty, which Friedrich Nietzsche ramped up to 11.

And we must remember: artists tend to be influenced by philosophy. Arch-individualist Max Stirner had a huge impact on composer Richard Strauss and on a generation of aesthetes and artists in America in the early part of the 20th century; Sartre and Camus and the whole existentialist movement deeply affected popular culture in that century’s third quarter.

And who can deny that William James and pragmatism did not somehow become part of the warp and woof of American culture, as had Transcendentalism earlier? In Italy, the influence of the anti-fascist Benedetto Croce was not insignificant.

Ideas move the world. Philosophers contribute to ideas, no?

Sometimes mightily, sometimes not.


Voltaire’s Zadig ou la Destinée (1747), is usually just referred to solely by the name of the protagonist, Zadig. It is the first of the great French writer’s “romances” in my big volume of Voltaire stories, and the first I have read in 40 years. It is, all in all, an excellent tale, echoing the manner of the Arabian Nights, filled with amusing episodes and light philosophical insights:

A warm dispute arose on one of Zoroaster’s laws, which forbids the eating of a griffin.

“Why,” said some of them, “prohibit the eating of a griffin if there is no such animal in nature?”

“There must necessarily be such an animal,” said the others, “since Zoroaster forbids us to eat it.”

Zadig would fain have reconciled them by saying:

“If there are no griffins, we cannot possibly eat them; and thus either way we shall honor Zoroaster.”

No griffins were harmed in my reading of Zadig, for none appear. And neither does the Basilisk, which enters the story later on, but only as hearsay. This is not a work of high fantasy . . . or low.

C6D18A31-189B-4E43-975F-36EDC13D34C9I admit, I may be ambivalent about the story’s moral, but the character of the eponymous protagonist is heroic in his quests and honest in his struggle to meet his outrageous challenges in a world filled with pain and frustration, not least being the betrayals and stupidities of our fellow men . . . all the while trying to puzzle out the nature of Fate. Its inspiration never flags.

It is worth mentioning the full title as given in the edition I read: Zadig, or Fate. Destiny is the main theme, and Voltaire’s deism shows in a revelation towards the end, with an angel offering the great secret . . . pertaining to why a world with so much suffering exists. This explanation is very interesting. Today’s bewitched youngsters might be amused to learn that Diversity Is a Sign not of Our Strength . . . but of the Creator’s.

Note: This is not a novel. Voltaire tells his story in the manner of ancient tall tales, not in the modern novelistic style with its characteristic attention to moment, aiming to induce the reader into the soul of the protagonist, whether hero, victim or anti-hero. There is no “interiority” here. Do not read it expecting anything like a modern thriller, and most especially not like a classic novel such as Silas Marner and Fathers and Sons. This is a droll tale in the olden style, but with Voltaire’s wit woven in to leaven the lump.

I highly recommend Zadig. Every literate person should be familiar with this form of fiction. And what is that form, exactly? I believe it would properly be called an “anatomy,” to use the terminology of Northrop Frye, taken from Robert Burton. The ancient term is Menippean satire. Some of my favorite writers engage in this genre: Lucian, Denis Diderot, Aldous Huxley, and James Branch Cabell. But I have of course read a lot more of the standard novel form than of this genre. Still, it is the case that, as I grow old, and soak up our civilization’s scattered stores of wisdom — wringing them out, periodically, in the course of my many follies and foibles — I find my taste for reveling in the arts of feeling, of streams of consciousness and flows of tropisms, wane.

What waxes, instead, are the dazzling philosophical perspectives of Lucian and Cabell. And Voltaire.