Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Oh dear

From a commentary by digby on Rick Perlstein's new book Nixonland:
Perlstein uncovers a fascinating metaphor about Nixon's high school years in which the young social outcast formed a club called the "Orthogonians" to compete with the kewl kids who called themselves the "Franklins."
Well, I've been thinking about abandoning or reorganizing or renaming this blog anyway.

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nixon was a statist and a dirigiste. Didn't he say "we are all Keynesians now" and impose price controls? Didn't he approve the Philadelphia Plan during the 1968 presidential campaign, providing the basis for affirmative action? I'd think you would have lots to like about Nixon.

TGGP said...

Nixon was possibly to the left of Clinton & Carter, but I'll give him this: he got a peace deal in Vietnam and opened up relations with China, possibly the best foreign policy move in US history.

mtraven said...

Nixon was a statist and a dirigiste....I'd think you would have lots to like about Nixon.

Anonymous, your brain has been damaged by infectious libertarian memetic parasites. There is, as far as I know, no cure.

Nixon ended the Vietnam war only after expanding it and prolonging it unncessarily. I will give him credit for China though.

Anonymous said...

Mtraven, I am no libertarian. In fact I believe that the state was founded to enforce a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence. This is the postulate underlying both the medieval conception of "the king's peace" as well as of Hobbes and later social-contract thinkers. There is much to recommend it. Monopolies, after all, restrict supply, and less violence is probably the result of the state monopoly on it. That's a good thing, in my book.

The danger from expanding the state beyond its inherent functions of killing people and destroying things is that it loses focus, and brings its compulsive powers to bear on peaceful, wealth-generating activities that should be left to the voluntary associations of civil society. George Washington was no libertarian either, but he rightly observed that government, like fire, is a dangerous servant and a frightful master.

mtraven said...

You are a libertarian for my purposes. Anybody who lumps together all existing political positions as "statism" and can't differentiate between them, is infected.

I don't even care so much, except such people tend to provide cover for the Republicans, acting as their "useful idiots". But it seems like more and more people who would like a minimal state realize they would be better of ditching the party of military expansion and theocracy.

Anonymous said...

I don't think I lumped together all existing political positions. Nixon embraced economic interventionism (Keynesianism, price controls) and affirmative action. These are positions of the statist left.

Every tax dollar spent on military expansion, shot into space, etc., is at least one that is not spent on income redistribution and other economic egalitarianism, cultural warfare and subversion of social order. It is unfortunate if the neoconservatives who run the Republican party are military expansionists but this is certainly a lesser evil than the Kulturbolschewismus represented by the dominant ethos of the Democrats.

As for 'theocracy" - don't be ridiculous. The "religious right' can't agree internally on theology. How can they manage a theocracy when, for example, Southern Baptists can't get along with Pentecostals, neither can get along with Lutherans of conservative synods or Latin-mass Catholics, and all the former unite in their distaste for Mormons?

When I hear people complaining about 'theocracy' they seem to mean by it something like overturning Roe v. Wade or refusing to recognize same-sex marriage. In the first case, if Roe v. Wade were overturned, the issue would then be returned to the states. I wonder if this would be the victory for them that pro-life forces imagine it would. In the second, we have done without same-sex marriage for several thousand years and the issue is of small importance to the great majority of people. If it were simply to disappear it would be no great loss.

mtraven said...

Oh god, anonymous is Michael S from Unqualified Reservations. Why the anonymity? Your style is pretty damn recognizable -- the combination of reactionary (or just laughably wrong) ideas with flowery language and obscure foreign terminology is unmistakable. Just can't quit me, can you? As the neocons are fond of saying, If we don't defeat the terrorists over there, they'll follow us home!

Well, Mr. Invariably Wrong,
Every tax dollar spent on military expansion, shot into space, etc., is at least one that is not spent on income redistribution and other economic egalitarianism, cultural warfare and subversion of social order. It is unfortunate if the neoconservatives who run the Republican party are military expansionists but this is certainly a lesser evil than the Kulturbolschewismus represented by the dominant ethos of the Democrats.
How is "cultural warfare" a greater evil than actual warfare? Even if you hate the idea of income redistribution, how is it worse than the government using its power to actually kill people?

As for theocracy -- it is probably true that the religious right is too factional and too fucking stupid to actually gain control of much besides local school boards. That doesn't mean they wouldn't like to, and that they can't do enormous damage in the effort. They are a very large voting bloc, and since the Republicans are dependent on them they have been able to wreak havoc in all sorts of areas. When mullahs like Falwell and Robertson and Hagee and Dobson have privileged access to top officials, that's close enough to theocracy for me.

When I hear people complaining about 'theocracy' they seem to mean by it something like overturning Roe v. Wade or refusing to recognize same-sex marriage.
Uh, no. They mean things like religious doctrine being snuck into the classroom, they mean things like the armed services being suborned by radical christians, the improper intrusion of religion into government in the guise of "faith-based' programs, the alarmingly close connections between fringe Dominionists and the mainstream right (check out who funds the Discovery Institute, for example), the dangerous supression of science in favor of moronic ideology, and ... I could go on. Interested parties can start here. This recent story of a teacher fired for practicing "wizardry" is getting a lot of attention, but it is just the silly tip of a huge iceberg of pressure that is applied to schools and government by christianist idiots.

Anonymous said...

Mtraven, governments kill people all the time. That is what they do best, regardless of their partisan affiliation. What did you think, the other day, when such luminaries of the Democratic left as Charles Schumer, Bernie Saunders, etc., desired the president to link continued arms sales to the Saudis and other Arab 'allies' to an increase in the supply of oil? They are just as accepting of military expansion as any Republican, as long as it serves their aims. They would rather use arms to bargain with the Arabs for more oil than they would open a small area of Alaska to peaceful exploitation of a known domestic reserve. What hypocrisy.

Your distaste for the religious right is all out of proportion to its actual influence in our society. It seems mainly aesthetic and reflective of a deep revulsion, like that of some old Jew in Czarist Russia who spat every time he passed a church. There is far more threat to science within the academy from left-wing ideologues than there is from the religious beliefs of the general public, who never have understood science in the past and do not understand it now. As for schools, kids were better educated on the whole in the days of the McGuffey readers, which had an unapologetic religious content, than they are today. The government shouldn't be in the schooling business anyway.

Saying I am invariably wrong does not make it so. Your characteristic technique is to assert without support. Is it not necessary, because you think we ought to bow down before your self-evident Godlike omniscience? What arrogance. Let us say rather that we disagree at a very fundamental level and leave it at that.

mtraven said...

governments kill people all the time.
Well, we agree on something.

What did you think, the other day, when such luminaries of the Democratic left as Charles Schumer, Bernie Saunders, etc., desired the president to link continued arms sales to the Saudis and other Arab 'allies' to an increase in the supply of oil?

I didn't notice it, but it's the type of deal-making that goes on all the time in government. I don't know what Schumer and Sanders want in their heart of hearts, but they surely didn't have the ability to stop arms sales to the Saudis even if they wanted to, so they were trying to get some more material benefits out of the deal. So what?

Of course, Democrats are almost as prone to using state violence to achieve their ends as Republicans. I don't think I'm under much illusion about that (see the subsequent post to this one, for instance). But -- and you might appreciate this -- it seems to me that a Democratic administration, while it might be equally in thrall to imperial power, could not possibly as idiotic, insant, and incompetent as the current batch of Republicans. Execution matters.

Saying I am invariably wrong does not make it so.
I have pointed out your specific wrongness on numerous occasions. I got tired of it and was hoping to disengage.

The latest example, which I was going to let pass but now that you are invading my space I can't resist bringing up, was the assertion (on U-R) that Mozart's Magic Flute was a reactionary work. whereas everything I've ever read about it suggests that it is brimming with Enlightment values and Freemasonry.

There is far more threat to science within the academy from left-wing ideologues than there is from the religious beliefs of the general public...Your characteristic technique is to assert without support.

Care to support your ridiculous assertion? Yes, I know some left-wingers have some problems dealing with race and IQ and related matters. That is wrong, but it's a relatively small issue and will get ironed out in time. Meanwhile, the right, which has the political muscle, would like to shut down entire fields of endeavor. There's a whole book on this. There has been some silliness from the postmodern left in science studies, but that has negligible effect on the actual practice of science.

Anonymous said...

Mtraven, again you fail to read carefully. Die Zauberflöte is MUSICALLY reactionary because it asserts the ancient doctrine of musical effects as found in Plato and Iamblichus. It hearkens backin this respect to Monteverdi's Orfeo, which does the same thing, They are two bookends to the Baroque musical tradition based on the looking-back to classical antiquity and the desire to revive the magical effects of music. One does not find this in subsequent musical composition. Furthermore, Mozart was, as I noted, a student of old music at a time when very few of his contemporaries were. I offered the Biber quotation in the aria of the Two Armed Men as an example. You can check this out in the catalogue of Biber's themes, or listen to the excellent recording of the St. Heinrich's Mass (Collegium Aureum and Regensburger Domspatzen conducted by Georg Ratzinger on DHM ). I suspect you know next to nothing about Mozart's compositional style or about 17th-18th.c musical theory.

As for Freemasonry, the claim that it was a progressive and enlightened force is a highly disputable claim. I say this as a past master of my Lodge, past first principal of my Royal Arch chapter, past illustrious master of my Council, and past presiding officer of several other masonic bodies and member of numerous others. Ashmole, Moray, and other early Freemasons were Jacobites. There was a masonic conservative/liberal division in Germanophone principalities at the time of Mozart's membership in the lodge Zur neugekrönte Hoffnung. The Gold-und-Rozenkreuz was the conserrvative party, its leaders being the ministers of the Prussian king, Wöllner and v. Bischoffswerder. The liberal party was Weishaupt's Illuminati. You can find out more about this if you read Christopher McIntosh's "The Rose Cross and the Age of Reason." Based on my reading of Schickaneder's libretto, I find strong elements of the Gold-und-Rosenkreuz in it (current SRIA and SRICF esoteric work is from the G&R) although the second act of Zauberflöte is basically the E.A. degree as conferred by the continental (Scottish rite) system. See Pike's Book of the Lodge. I suspect you know nothing about these matters either.

On science, have you read Sokal's and Bricmont's "Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals' Abuse of Science"?

Purported assaults on science from primitive preachers are of very little import because the people who listen to them do not do science for a living nor do they have anything to say about how others do it. What does it matter what a Robertson or Hagee might say about evolution or cosmology to his audience of workaday folk? It doesn't matter what a beautician or an auto mechanic thinks about these things. We want the beautician to know enough not to confuse soda lye with shampoo, and the mechanic to understand the four-cycle engine. Belief in the account of Genesis as opposed to that of Epicurus or Darwin makes not a particle of difference.

On the other hand, within the academy, the challenge to science from political correctness, the notion that "scientific facts do not correspond to natural reality but conform to a social construct" (as taught by Prof. Venkatesan at Dartmouth, see linked article in the latest comments on UR) is a much more pernicious threat, because it is being presented to young people whose grasp of the role of science in society might eventually actually matter. Further, such people have voices and votes in faculty senates and in other aspects of university governance, where they can affect the funding and direction of scientific departments within their universities. How you can dismiss the concern as ridiculous is beyond me, unless you actually sympathize with such nonsense.

mtraven said...

I suspect you know next to nothing about Mozart's compositional style or about 17th-18th.c musical theory.

It's true, I don't, so I have no wish to argue about this matter. You seem to know quite a bit, but unfortunately I when you talk about matters I do know about, you are often wrong, so I don't feel like I can reliably learn from you. Pity.

As for Freemasonry, the claim that it was a progressive and enlightened force is a highly disputable claim...I suspect you know nothing about these matters either.

Not as much as you, evidently. Thaks for the information, but the comment above applies. Lots of things have been attributed to Freemasonry, and I suppose that it has encompassed diverse and opposing political tendencies. The standard view of Mozart's freemasonry is that it reflects a devotion to rationality and enlightenment values, but again, I don't have nearly enough knowledge in this area to argue the point.

On science, have you read Sokal's and Bricmont's "Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals' Abuse of Science"?

Yes. As I think I already said, the postmodern nonsense you find in science studies and other branches of the humanities has very little effect on the actual practice of science (and not all of it is nonsense, either, but that's a separate matter). Also, you should be aware that Sokal is an old-school leftist who is (quite rightly) annoyed at postmodernists who, in the name of the left, undermine rationality and promote obscurantism, traditionally the domain of the right.

Purported assaults on science from primitive preachers are of very little import because the people who listen to them do not do science for a living nor do they have anything to say about how others do it.

They elect politicians who do -- one of the downsides of democracy is that idiots are influential.

It doesn't matter what a beautician or an auto mechanic thinks about these things. We want the beautician to know enough not to confuse soda lye with shampoo, and the mechanic to understand the four-cycle engine.
How extraordinarily patronizing. Education is supposed to produce citizens, not beauticians or auto mechanics. And I daresay that most mechanics are fully capable of grasping natural selection, something which seems to elude yourself.

Anonymous said...

When was I wrong on a point of fact? I identified, for example, both lightning and numen as possible sources for the Arabic given name Barack. You were in such a hurry to call me a racist that you failed to note I provided an alternative reading that corresponded with yours.

You claimed I was in error in saying that Rome did not levy the tributum against its own citizens, but upon the conquered. Since you seemed to lack Latin, I then directed you to the Oxford Classical Dictionary for confirmation that tributum, which had in any event been an extraordinary and not a standing levy before then, was not imposed upon the citizens of the Roman republic after 167 BC until its fall after the death of Julius Caesar. I provided similar quotations of Greek examples showing that tributary status characterized subject peoples and was not that of free citizens. So it seems to me your claims that I have been habitually wrong are unfounded.

I think it is rather funny that you apparently swallowed the propaganda of ultramontance Catholics like the abbé Barruel as to the 'progressive,' 'enlightened' nature of Freemasonry. I have to say that earnest America freemasons are often eager to point out the association of American revolutionaries with the Craft. Yes, Washington and Franklin were masons, but so were the duke of Sussex and Lord Cornwallis. And the American revolution was not, in any event, "progressive." Our founders instituted a republic in which the franchise was invariably tied to the possession of freehold property, a link we have suffered for having severed.

The early American Craft was a quasi-aristocratic instution, and the Anti-Masonic movement of the early nineteenth century was one of populist ressentiment. It harnessed that old hypocrite John Quincy Adams in his decrepitude, and gave rise to the political career of one of America's most extreme egalitarians, Thaddeus Stevens (prototype of the Stoneman character in "Birth of a Nation"). There is much more here than meets the eye.

If you want to investigate further the political content of Freemasonry in the eighteenth century you might research the following prominent Freemasons of that period: Philip, duke of Wharton; Charles Radclyffe, titular earl of Derwentwater; and Karl Gotthelf baron von Hund, who was probably the most influential German freemason of the eighteenth century.

There was far more Jacobitism than Jacobinism in the eighteenth-century craft, and it lay at the root of the Jacobite Chevalier Ramsay's oration on the chivalric origins of masonry. Of the chivalric degrees Hund's "Strict Observance" neo-Templarism was wildly popular in Germany. Such was the turmoil caused by Hund's claims that a masonic conference was called at Wilhelmsbad in 1782 to deal with them. Bro. the comte Joseph de Maistre was a delegate.

The papal bull In eminenti, fulminated in 1738 by Clement XII, forbidding Catholics from being Freemasons, was in large part prompted by the political unrest created by a Jacobite lodge in Florence frequented by British expatriates. This and subsequent condemnatory bulls were not published in Austria because the emperor Franz I was a Freemason and under the concordats prevailing at the time he was able to suppress them (this is a late and small example of the Imperial/Papal conflicts that had prevailed since the time of the Ghibellines and Guelphs). Thus it was that Mozart could be both a brother of the craft and a son of the Church.

I do seem to have gotten under your skin, which amuses me. If you would learn to subdue your passions you might improve yourself. This is the first lesson learnt by the youngest entered apprentice in the north-east corner.

As for being patronizing: education is for the educable. You appear to subscribe to what Charles Murray calls "educational romanticism." Some people can neither be educated nor trained; more people can be trained than can be educated; and only a few can be educated for leadership.

I believe that the élites are really the only groups in society that have much to say about how it conducts its affairs; thus it has always been thus it will always be. The rest don't matter in practice.

This is not a statement about moral preferences or what ought to be. I have certain preferences about the nature and composition of the élite, but, like H.L. Mencken, do not entertain any aspirations for the uplift of the common man, because they are likely to be in vain.

I have no difficulty with the idea of natural selection. It is with the claim that it is a purposeless and undirected process that I take issue, since that is an unfalsifiable assertion. Intelligence and character are largely hereditary traits and this is what has historically led to the development of hereditary elites. Politically correct denial of this point is contrary to human nature and lies behind most of the problems of modern education.

Niccolo Machiavelli was damned by Puritan moralists for acknowledging how the world really worked instead of pursuing some utopian ideal. I have followed Machiavelli's example, and you have followed theirs.

mtraven said...

I do seem to have gotten under your skin, which amuses me.

Dude, I'm not the one who refused to let our endless debate drop. I'm not the one who resorted to posting anonymously on the other's blog because he couldn't bear to let things go. So to me it seems like your skin has been infested at least as much as mine.

When was I wrong on a point of fact?
I've lost count. Your wrongness is usually more in distortion than outright error. For instance (this is from a light search over the U-R archives), you denied the existence of the antiauthoritarian left, you distorted Tocqueville's view of the relation betweeen liberty and equality, you said "the ACLU has almost nothing to say about freedom of religious exercise", etc. etc. etc.

I think it is rather funny that you apparently swallowed the propaganda of ultramontance Catholics like the abbé Barruel as to the 'progressive,' 'enlightened' nature of Freemasonry.

Well, I haven't swallowed anything, as I said this is an area where I claim no special knowledge whatsoever. I guess you have successfully convinced me that the reactionary strain of Freemasonry was more important than I thought. As you might imagine, that doesn't raise my opinion of it very much. Next you will be laboring to show that they were the ones orchestrating the Ripper killings on behalf of Queen Victoria.

As for being patronizing: education is for the educable. You appear to subscribe to what Charles Murray calls "educational romanticism." Some people can neither be educated nor trained; more people can be trained than can be educated; and only a few can be educated for leadership.
And how do you tell which people those are?

I believe that the élites are really the only groups in society that have much to say about how it conducts its affairs; thus it has always been thus it will always be. The rest don't matter in practice.
Well, duh. Every society is run by élites, more or less by definition. It was as true in the USSR as it was in the Hapsburg Empire. The question is how those élites get constructed.

Intelligence and character are largely hereditary traits
Oh, bullshit. The heritability or even existence of something called "intelligence" is a matter of hot dispute, the data is extremely scant (the only way you can measure this at all is by studies of separated twins, but it's not even clear what "separated" means in this context), but it's unlikely that heritability of IQ is more than .5.

and this is what has historically led to the development of hereditary elites

That must explain why countries run by hereditary rulers, like North Korea (can't think of any others...the US under Bush might qualify I guess) are doing so well compared to the poor countries who must suffer the hoi polloi sharing power. It explains why our hereditary monarch, Bush the second, displays such a stellar intellect when compared to upstarts like Obama or Bill Clinton.

I have no difficulty with the idea of natural selection. It is with the claim that it is a purposeless and undirected process that I take issue

Then you don't understand it. Random genetic drift is inherent to the modern theory of evolution.

Anonymous said...

Your mention of the "Ripper killings on behalf of Queen Victoria" neatly demonstrates the level of your acquaintance with the history of Freemasonry - pot-boilers of the Stephen Knight stripe are about your speed. The way you are going, the next thing you will do is bring up "The DaVinci Code." It is worth noting that the anti-Masonic cause in Britain for the past few decades has been almost entirely the province of the 'loony left' just as it was here in the early days of Thad Stevens's career.

IQ is certainly measurable, and is directly and positively correlated with material achievement, as has been known since the concept of IQ was developed by Alfred Binet. The largely heritable nature of intelligence as measured by IQ has been known since the time of Terman. Charles Murray's recent works have only summarized what has long been known on this point, and the hotness of debate over it is a manifestation of political correctness rather than of any serious challenge.

North Korea's supposed hereditary rule is that of one generation. He is an Aristotelian tyrant, not a monarch. To compare this to the ascendancy of the European aristocracies, which lasted for a millennium and a half, is fatuous.

Just a pointer on style: it is incorrect to write 'data is.' The word data calls for 'are', being the plural of datum.

Can you devise an experiment to test the hypothesis that random bumpings-together of atoms and molecules led to the phenomenon we call life? If so, I will admit that Epicureanism rises above a mere philosophical speculation. Until then I shall continue to rank it as one of many such, including the ones in Genesis, the Zend-Avesta, the Popul-Vuh, etc.

mtraven said...

Oh for pity's sake. I've already said about three times that I know beans about Freemasonry. I bow to your superior knowledge, OK? The crack about the Ripper killings was to point out that your stirring defense of the reactionary side of Freemasonry is not improving its stature in my eyes.

Just because something is measurable doesn't mean it means what we think it means. The history of IQ, intelligence, and race is a thorny and complex one. I'm not particularly happy with the left's take on it, but even less happy with the right's. Charles Murray is a hack and his work has been roundly critiqued, here is a roundup. It's people like you who make facile claims about both the science and its application to social policy who make it just about impossible to discuss this issue intelligently.

I suppose my mention of North Korea was not that serious. But perhaps you have some better examples? Probably not, because the hereditary monarchs are all gone, or reduced to figureheads. Why is that, I wonder, if they are so superior? Why doesn't some country establish a monarchy and wipe the floor with all those other countries who are run by those of inferior blood?

Can you devise an experiment to test the hypothesis that random bumpings-together of atoms and molecules led to the phenomenon we call life?

Natural selection is not the same thing as the origin of life. Didn't I already tell you that the last go-round? Natural selection is a well-established fact; abiogenesis has not been observed and there are numerous competing theories as to how it happened. Like I said, you seem to be missing some elementary knowledge in this area. I'm perfectly happy to acknowledge the areas where I am ignorant; you'd be advised to do the same.

And, obviously, it is possible to test the abiogensis hypothesis by trying it out -- let stuff bump together randomly until something happens. There has been some very partial sucess in this area, not in creating life but in showing that various components can be synthesisized in the appropriate environments. The problem is, we don't know how much time it would take to get full-blown abiogenesis, so the hypothesis can only be proved that way, not disproved. Of course, even if abiogenesis from random events was demonstrated in the lab, someone like you could come along and say it isn't really random, God was loading the dice in the background to confound us, or something.

Just a pointer on style: it is incorrect to write 'data is.' The word data calls for 'are', being the plural of datum.

Wrong about that too. "Data" in English is a collective noun, like "water" and it's perfectly appropriate to use it with a singular verb construction. In fact the plural usage is jarring to modern ears. It's pedantic to insist that the rules for the original Latin word be carried forward into English. I guess our differences of philosophy extend to language, as they do to so many other areas.

Anonymous said...

I do not suggest that hereditary monarchy is so superior a system of government that it should naturally prevail over others. Rather I am in agreement with Mosca that pretty much all systems of government are ultimately transformed into oligarchies. Given the human instinct of philoprogenitiveness and the heritable character of intelligence, it is usual for the oligarchy to become hereditary. Who knows but what that MM's Brahminate may not become such in a few more generations?

What I find interesting and peculiar about the Brahminate, as MM has described it, is that here is an élite faction that has harnessed the lowest elements in society to propel itself to the position of power it enjoys. This is not a new phenomenon; it bears at least a little resemblance to Disraeli's "Tory Democracy," although it is evidently in the service of quite different principles. The question to ask is whether the technique has not now been taken about as far as it can go. The lumpenproletariat has been fully enfranchised and reliably delivers its votes to those politicians who pay it off out of the taxpayers' money. But even this is not enough - in order to sustain their hold on power, those politicians object even to requiring would-be voters to present identification that might establish they met the minimal standards of citizenship and residence within their proper precincts. The aim is obviously to enfranchise even those not legally entitled to vote, as long as they serve to maintain the power of the politicians in question. It is wondrous and strange to contemplate an élite so obviously confident of its own élite status that yet mouths an egalitarianism so obviously contradictory to its own sense of entitlement.

Murray may have his critics but he is hardly alone in his views and has many supporters. The underlying data have been known for many years. There are good discussions of these subjects on Steve Sailer's and Jerry Pournelle's sites and at www.lagriffedulion.com.

On the question of educable vs. ineducable, you may recall the several examples of old high school entrance examinations that have been floating about in print, and perhaps on the internet, for years. As Murray points out, it is a mistake to conclude from them that kids were better educated in the past. This is the educational romanticism of the right. What those old tests (which many a 4-year university graduate would have difficulty passing today) reveal is that the schools once didn't have to bother dealing with the ineducable. When that was the case, they could inculcate more knowledge in less time.

A high-school diploma then meant more in an absolute sense than it does now. The reason a high-school diploma today is essentially meaningless as a certification of learning is that it has been grossly devalued in the pursuit of egalitarian goals. The requirements to achieve it have been diluted in order to produce the illusion that everybody has won, and all must have prizes. The devaluation has proceeded upward through the degrees granted by the universities, such that a bachelor's degree now means what a high-school diploma once did, and a post-graduate degree is now necessary to certify what a baccalaureate formerly sufficed to do. Again, as with the promiscuous extension of the franchise, one wonders how far matters can continue on their present trajectory. How much more can education be dumbed-down and slowed down in pursuit of an impossible egalitarian ideal?

Abiogenesis experiments have failed from the time of Paracelsus, whom you may recall thought he could grow an homunculus in a bottle. Their failure is not disprobative but it is certainly not encouraging to the Epicurean view. Science implies neither atheism nor theism, and any claim that it does either strays beyond the boundaries of science. I remember many years ago reading an interview given by Stephen Hawking. At the end of it his interviewer asked him if he believed that the universe had a creator. His response was "no." Then the interviewer asked him why that was his belief. His answer was: "Because I find it more aesthetic." There spoke an intellectually honest atheist. Those who would be as honest would do well to emulate his example.

It is said that a gentleman ought at least to have forgotten Latin. I leave others to draw their conclusions as to what is signified when a person deliberately uses a plural form as if it were singular.

mtraven said...

Rather I am in agreement with Mosca that pretty much all systems of government are ultimately transformed into oligarchies.

Well, I can't argue much with that. But you seem to think this is a good thing. Surely it's better to fight off the inevitable decay into a stale and inbred oligarchy as long as possible.

Given the human instinct of philoprogenitiveness and the heritable character of intelligence, it is usual for the oligarchy to become hereditary. Who knows but what that MM's Brahminate may not become such in a few more generations?

Don't know how universal this is. The Chinese Mandarinate, for instance, was not hereditary. Of course parents will always try to promote the interests of their offspring, but that doesn't mean that social institutions have to help them. The purpose of public education and other egalitarian measures is to disrupt this process, and make social classes less rigid.

Your view (and MM's) seems almost Marxist to me, in that it has very views class and class interests as very solid, well-defined things.

Murray may have his critics but he is hardly alone in his views and has many supporters.

So what? Every bad idea has supporters. I give you statisticians and scholars, you give me Steve Sailer and Jerry Pournelle. Not very impressive. But, I hasten to add, this is an area where there is room for doubt and I would put a non-trivial probablity on Sailer and Pournelle being right -- but much less than .5

How much more can education be dumbed-down and slowed down in pursuit of an impossible egalitarian ideal?

This is another area where we may actually have some partial agreement. I don't like the dumbing down of education, but it's perfectly possible to have universal education in combination with tracking that puts students at the level appopriate for them. We don't (most of us) live in villages with one-room schoolhouses. In fact, as a sometime educational radical I am for the abolition of school as an institution and its replacement with something better -- but that's a subject for another time.

Science implies neither atheism nor theism, and any claim that it does either strays beyond the boundaries of science.

I don't believe I ever said the opposite, and in fact I thought I pointed you to Francis Collins (a major scientist and Christian). Combining any traditional sorts of belief and scientific knowledge seems to require incredible contortions to me, but people manage to do it. You can't absolutely disprove the existence of God, just as you can't disprove that the whole universe came into existence 10 seconds ago with a faked-up history.

Actual scientific reasoning does not use or produce absolute certainty. Instead, it manipulates conditional probabilities. What natural selection does do is knock the props out of one of the traditional supports of religion, the argument from design. It used to be thought that the presence of intricate biological mechanisms required a designer. Now that we understand more about evolution, genetics, and devlopment, we can see how design can arise without a designer. This does not prove that there is no designer, but it lowers the Bayesian probability considerably by explaining away what was formerly evidence.

It is said that a gentleman ought at least to have forgotten Latin. I leave others to draw their conclusions as to what is signified when a person deliberately uses a plural form as if it were singular.
Yawn. Languages mutate and evolve just as species do. Panta rei.

Michael said...

I am surprised that you should complain about a 'decay into a stale and inbred oligarchy' and then offer the mandarin bureaucracy of imperial China as a good example of what could be achieved by a non-hereditary élite. From 1500-1900 China stagnated under its non-hereditary civil service; during the same period, Britain, with its hereditary aristocracy, was by far more dynamic. And, as Santayana said, "Never since the days of Greece has the world had such a sweet, just, boyish master." Certainly there are many places that were better ruled by it than they are now under universal-suffrage democracy, e.g., Zimbabwe, Kenya, Pakistan... There is, at the very least, no causative relationship between hereditary élites and decadence, nor one between non-hereditary élites and social or economic vigor.

Jerry Pournelle is certainly best known as a science fiction writer, but (to quote his Wikipedia entry) "has advanced degrees in psychology, statistics, engineering, and political science, including two PhDs." He has worked as a research scientist for major corporations and founded a think-tank at Pepperdine. Who La Griffe du Lion may be I have no idea, but the statistical calculations published on his website seem quite competent to me. "Not very impressive"? Compared to what?

Sailer is a journalist. Nonetheless, popular journalism about scientific research conducted by others is useful and can lead one to original sources if one wishes to examine them. Sailer has debunked several prominent myths about race, class, intelligence, and criminality, and it is probably in this respect that he is most valuable.

I do not see why it is the business of government, through "public education and other egalitarian measures," to "disrupt" anything. The purpose of government ought to be to maintain order and stability, not to disrupt the spontaneously-developed and voluntary arrangements of civil society. I am in favor of the separation, to whatever degree possible, of government from civil society. This seems to me to be one of the minimal conditions of liberty.

To what end should government 'disrupt' the relatively orderly and non-violent natural social sortation brought about by innate differences between people - and the families in which those differences run, as surely as they do in different breeds of horses or dogs? Cui bono? Forgive me if the only explanation I can see for this social engineering is the machination of one élite faction to secure ascendancy over another. This is not a Marxist, but a Paretian analysis.

It interests me that physicists and chemists, whose disciplines are more scientifically rigorous than is biology, seem less attached to dogmatic atheism than do biologists. I suspect this has more to do with underlying unstated prejudices in the way biologists are taught to think than it does with anything that is properly called science. If we look at nature expecting to see symmetry and order, we see symmetry and order. If we expect to see chaos, we see chaos. There is little real economic benefit from science at this level.

Most of the benefit attributed to science actually arises from technology and engineering, which can be pursued without consideration of such abstruse concerns. Indeed, I cannot think of an instance in the history of science prior to Clerk Maxwell's time in which high theory has preceded technical development. We could not have wireless without Maxwell's equations, but we could and did have the heat engine before we had a correct understanding of the underlying thermodynamics; most applied chemistry before we had modern notions of atomic structure; most electrical technology before we knew what an electron was; and so on.

Should that not be rhei, rather than rei? We were taught to put "horns" on the letter rho when I learnt Greek.

mtraven said...

I am surprised that you should complain about a 'decay into a stale and inbred oligarchy' and then offer the mandarin bureaucracy of imperial China as a good example of what could be achieved by a non-hereditary élite.

I mentioned them as an example of a non-hereditary elite. How well they did at it is another thing.

And, as Santayana said, "Never since the days of Greece has the world had such a sweet, just, boyish master."

Gag me. Such self-regard alone would be enough to launch a string of anti-imperialist rebellions.

Jerry Pournelle is certainly best known as a science fiction writer,
He's known to me as someone who has been a right-wing flamer on the Internet since it was invented. If he's produced anything of intellectual merit in the last 30 years I haven't noticed. Poking around on his website reveals that he is modestly claiming a leading role in bringing down the Soviet Union. If he and Kenneth Starr are the leading lights of Pepperdine I don't think Harvard will have too much to worry about any time soon.

I do not see why it is the business of government, through "public education and other egalitarian measures," to "disrupt" anything.

Well, if society naturally congeals into static, ineffective, sterile, corrupt, and unaccountable oligarchies, then one way to deal with that is for government to promote greater social mobility. Sort of like a farmer turning over the soil.

It interests me that physicists and chemists, whose disciplines are more scientifically rigorous than is biology, seem less attached to dogmatic atheism than do biologists.
They don't generally have religious fundamentalists trying to subvert the teaching of their discipline. That tends to make them defensive.

Most of the benefit attributed to science actually arises from technology and engineering, which can be pursued without consideration of such abstruse concerns.

I've spent my adult life around technical schools and research centers, so I kind of think I know how it works. And you're quite wrong.

Indeed, I cannot think of an instance in the history of science prior to Clerk Maxwell's time in which high theory has preceded technical development.
Maybe, but so what? We are not living prior to Maxwell's time. In the present age, technology and science are highly interdependent.

Michael said...

Santayana's praise for the British empire was hardly "self-regard." He was half a Spaniard, half a Boston Yankee. No more is my admiration for it "self-regard"; twelve of my ancestors fought against the British empire in the American Revolution, two of them original members of the Society of the Cincinnati.

Still, I have to admit the British generally did a good job compared to what followed them. Do you really believe that Zimbabwe, Kenya, Pakistan, etc. - or indeed, just about any other former British dominion, except for those in which people of British descent remain politically prevalent - is more honestly, fairly, and justly governed today than it was under the British?

It does not seem clear historically that societies naurally settle into "static, ineffective, sterile, corrupt" oligarchies; some oligarchies are quite vigorous. And, let's get this straight: to remedy whatever may be the presumed defect of an unequal civil society, you propose to use the power of taxation to take from the successful, who are intelligent and diligent enough to get or hold onto wealth, and then give to crack-crazed teenage mothers of bastard imbecile children, and other supposedly deserving recipients of government largesse. And this is justified as "turning the soil"? More like sowing tares, if you ask me.

By what Constitutional or common-law authority is government to undertake such a confessedly disruptive proceeding? Do you admit no limitation on the scope or power of government?

I think you overstate the importance of current theoretical science to the technologies that most people use in daily life. A surprising amount of current technology has been static for a century or more. The generation and transmission of electricity, and its use for lighting, heat, and motive power are all nineteenth-century inventions. Ditto the internal-combustion engine, drive train, lead-acid battery and basic electrical harness of automobiles. The extraction, refinement, and further processing of the useful metals; the synthetic organic chemistry behind most dyestuffs, drugs, resins, textiles, adhesives, etc., was in place by the early twentieth century at latest, and much of it a long time before then. As noted, wireless telegraphy and its descendants would have been impossible without Maxwell's theory, but a great deal which followed upon that has been mere technical refinement and engineering. Even the semiconductor industry is based on the old galena crystal and cat's whisker radio detector, which has been around since before World War I. Putting a man on the moon was an old-fashioned problem in exterior ballistics and celestial mechanics, which were already well understood in the eighteenth century by Robins and Euler. Computers helped by offering the capacity for the enormous calculations necessary, but the technologies needed for the physical task were World War II developments.

Genetic engineering, of which so much has been made in recent years, is simply a quicker way to do at the molecular level what man has been doing since prehistoric times by artificial selection. Race horses and dray horses, swift greyhounds and lumbering St. Bernards, sweet corn for the table, pop corn for the movies, and field corn for pigs and cattle are all the results of this timeless human exercise. So might well be the hereditary élites. There is a great similarity between the stud-books of the racing associations and kennel clubs and our own Gotha, Burkes' or even the dear old Social Register. No doubt man will eventually apply molecular genetic engineering to his own species as he has already applied artificial selection. The effects of randomness, whatever they may be, will be reduced further by such steps.

When has, for example, the current abstract science of 'string theory' brought a single technical development to the point of economic exploitability? Maybe you can name an instance.

mtraven said...

Do you really believe that Zimbabwe, Kenya, Pakistan, etc. - or indeed, just about any other former British dominion, except for those in which people of British descent remain politically prevalent - is more honestly, fairly, and justly governed today than it was under the British?
Why don't you ask the people who live in those places whether they would like to be recolonized or not? Some probably would say yes.

It does not seem clear historically that societies naurally settle into "static, ineffective, sterile, corrupt" oligarchies; some oligarchies are quite vigorous. And, let's get this straight: to remedy whatever may be the presumed defect of an unequal civil society, you propose to use the power of taxation to take from the successful, who are intelligent and diligent enough to get or hold onto wealth, and then give to crack-crazed teenage mothers of bastard imbecile children, and other supposedly deserving recipients of government largesse.

Or, maybe it is taking unearned money from the offspring of the successful, who haven't done anything in particular to deserve it, and using it to give some opportunities to the offspring of those less fortunate, who may have something to offer.

You seem to do your thinking in terms of the grossest sterotypes (both of the underclasses and the sweet boyish British colonists).

By what Constitutional or common-law authority is government to undertake such a confessedly disruptive proceeding? Do you admit no limitation on the scope or power of government?

The government has a clear mandate to levy taxes, and an almost-as-clear mandate to provide equality of opportunity, where possible.

If the effect of this is to make class boundaries less rigid, and more porous to the ambitious, this may be disruptive on a small scale, but in the large, I tend to think it produces a more stable society. People won't stay subordinate forever. If they have the ability to rise by individual ambition, they will -- if not, their energy will turn to revolution. Compare pre-revolutionary France, or Russia, to the US now -- there are extremes of wealth and poverty, but nobody is about to organize a revolution here; there just isn't that kind of class solidarity, for better or worse. If I were a comfortable aristocrat I'd prefer to keep things fluid for just that reason.

Even the semiconductor industry is based on the old galena crystal and cat's whisker radio detector, which has been around since before World War I.

I confess I have no idea what point you think you are making. Yes, the semiconducter industry has its roots in the crystal radio detector. So what? The reason we have million-transistor chips rather than crystal radio sets is due to an enormous number of combined scientific and technical advances, most notably the laser which is a piece of technology that is grounded upon fundamental theoretical advances made by Einstein and others. What is your point? Certainly every scientific and technical achievment builds on the work of the past, but it still builds.

When has, for example, the current abstract science of 'string theory' brought a single technical development to the point of economic exploitability? Maybe you can name an instance.

String theory is a relatively new and unverified theory. It has not been around long enough to have an economic impact, and may never have one. But the impact of the theoretical physics of 100 or 50 years ago has been phenomenal.

Michael said...

Mtraven, as a Californian you should be especially aware that gold is not distributed evenly through the earth's crust! If you expect to find it, you have to go prospecting in promising terrain. Just so with education. Prospecting for genius amongst the lumpenproles is much less likely to result in a strike as it would be amongst the children of parents who have proven themselves to have some brains. Furthermore, education is not the philosophers' stone. It can only refine and polish what is already there; or (as it has done for most of the Dewey era) debase and misalloy it.

I would have no objection to a program of early-childhood IQ testing as a means of educational triage, to identify the perhaps 10% of the population that might actually benefit from an academic education beyond about the eighth grade. I suspect the results would show a very predictable demographic profile.

Your comment about "unearned money" reflects a peculiar prejudice that I don't think you have examined fully. You criticize the libertarians for an atomized view of society, but yourself seem to take a very atomized view in which nothing ought to stand between the individual and the might of the state. Ought there to be no mediating institutions? It is the family, after all, and not the individual, that is the fundamental economic and social entity, and the first and foremost of these mediating institutions. Families work together for economic ends and each succeeds or does not to different degree. I wholeheartedly believe in what Marx derided as "the claptrap of the bourgeois family."

My father worked in our family business for eight years before his father died and he assumed control; I did for 27 years before my father died, and I assumed control. My father's efforts added significant value to his father's estate, and my efforts added even more to my father's. How was this inheritance "unearned"? This is a prejudicial term, not unlike the distinction left-wing economists try to make by claiming that interest, dividends, or capital gains constitute "unearned" income as opposed to wages, which are "earned." Only a person who has never tried to extract a positive after-adjustment-for-inflation yield on an investment portfolio would say that success in doing so was not the result of intelligent effort.

Your mention of Einstein as the theoretical source of much modern technology reinforces my point, if anything. Most of Einstein's significant work was done in 1905 and the rest was largely in place before World War I. We are, in other words, mostly enjoying the technical results of work that is a century old.

A good example of the age of much technology in daily use was provided in yesterday's Wall Street Journal article on General Electric, which listed the following firsts of GE's appliance division:

1907 - full line of heating and cooking devices
1927 - Hermetically sealed domestic refrigerator
1927 - direct-drive dishwasher
1930 - room air conditioner
1935 - food waste disposer; the Disposall
1947 - completely automatic clothes washer
1954 - washer/dryer combination unit
1956 - toaster oven
1963 - self-cleaning oven
1969 - custom through-the-door refrigerator with ice and water dispenser
1978 - over-the-range microwave oven
1995 - 'smart' dishwasher; auto-sensing gauges soiled dishes
2000 - refrigerator with speed-chilling and speed-thawing capabilities
2003 - ovens with combinations of thermal, convection, and microwave energies
2005 - GE Monogram Wine Vault holding nearly 1,100 bottles of wine.

What do we see here? That all but one of the basic technologies (heating and cooking, refrigeration, air conditioning, automated dish and clothes washing, garbage disposal) were developed before World War II. With the exception of the microwave oven, all of GE's post-WWII major product introductions on this list amounted to refinements and combinations of technologies first commercially exploited seventy or more years ago.

The vast majority of technologies in use today are similarly static. If you want another example, look at the space program. It has really done nothing new in twenty or more years. Its apogee - in more senses than one - was putting a man on the moon, and that was forty years ago. Let's not kid ourselves about "progress."

Michael said...

Further to the point of undeserving heirs - it should be noted that the legal and economic institutions that perpetuated the control of the old aristocracies even through occasional succession of a dimwit were primogeniture and entail, not the principle of inheritance itself. There is good free-market ground to dispense with entail, since it is a constraint on the free alienability of assets. English common-law lawyers and judges did much to undermine it even at the height of its popularity. I have been told by a friend learned in the law that it is still possible to entail an estate for one generation in (of all places) Massachusetts - but this is certainly not typical of modern American law.

As for primogeniture, it is (to my best knowledge) no part of American law anywhere. Intestate successions here are ordinarily in equal portions to all children, subject to the claims of surviving spouses under dower and curtesy, or community property. The resulting fractionation over several generations works to reduce large estates automatically without further intervention of government. Even when a testamentary disposition is made (which is perhaps more usual now) it tends to follow this pattern, rather than that of primogeniture.

All this having been said, the principle that "a fool and his money are soon parted" remains as true as it ever was, and seems quite sufficient to separate an underserving heir from assets he is too careless or negligent to conserve. Those that will destroy themselves can do so without the assistance of the state; the state's confiscatory taxation and redistribution thus really penalizes only those who do not have stupid and wastrel habits.

Even in the days of primogeniture and entail, these institutions did not prevent the really determined from squandering their inheritances. Mytton, Osbaldeston, and the fifth earl of Lonsdale are outstanding examples. Their assets were adequately redistributed by the market. I know from experience - a couple of years ago, I bought a pair of Holland & Holland guns that once belonged to the "Yellow Earl" at auction in London.

mtraven said...

If you expect to find it[gold], you have to go prospecting in promising terrain. Just so with education.

Yawn. Again, how do you know where the gold is? Intelligence is only partly heritable and only partly corellated with income and success. In this country, public funding of education has had a tolerably successful run in opening up higher education to those who would otherwise be denied it, at enormous benefit.

Your comment about "unearned money" reflects a peculiar prejudice that I don't think you have examined fully. You criticize the libertarians for an atomized view of society, but yourself seem to take a very atomized view in which nothing ought to stand between the individual and the might of the state.

Say what? You know, this conversation might be more productive if you respond to things I actually say or believe, rather than your lurid imaginings.

My father worked in our family business for eight years before his father died and he assumed control; I did for 27 years before my father died, and I assumed control. My father's efforts added significant value to his father's estate, and my efforts added even more to my father's.

Bully for you. Whatever effort you are putting into your business, it seems to leave you with inordinate amounts of free time.

How was this inheritance "unearned"?

I didn't say it was. My point was that wealth is imperfectly correlated with being deserving. A single datapoint proves absolutely nothing. Maybe you deserve every penny you have; and then there is Paris Hilton.

Your mention of Einstein as the theoretical source of much modern technology reinforces my point, if anything.

What is your point, exactly? I'm afraid it escapes me.

Most of Einstein's significant work was done in 1905 and the rest was largely in place before World War I. We are, in other words, mostly enjoying the technical results of work that is a century old.

So what? It takes time for ideas to go from theory to practice. Again, what is your point? If it's that there has been little scientific and technical progress since 1905, then that is truly ludicrous.

Today happens to be the anniversary of the invention of the laser (in 1960). Check out Google's home page.

What do we see here? That all but one of the basic technologies (heating and cooking, refrigeration, air conditioning, automated dish and clothes washing, garbage disposal) were developed before World War II.

So, your point is that because your laundry machine isn't nuclear powered, there hasn't been any progress? I'm sorry, but that is abysmally stupid.

GE makes nuclear reactors, nuclear weapons, radar, fiber optics, medical imaging equipment, and a host of other things that have a significant impact on your life even if they aren't installed in your kitchen. I would think this is obvious.

The vast majority of technologies in use today are similarly static.

Yes, nobody has improved much on the pencil, or the fork.

On the other hand, computer processing abilities and storage capacity have been increasing at an exponential rate since they were invented, which also happened during the static post-WWII period. That's what makes it possible for two educated adults who would normally not have the opportunity to communicate to waste their time in pointless argument.

If you want another example, look at the space program. It has really done nothing new in twenty or more years. Its apogee - in more senses than one - was putting a man on the moon, and that was forty years ago.

You don't know what you are talking about. The manned space program was always more of a boondoggle than anything else, but unmanned space exploration has made quite a lot of major leaps in the last twenty years, including the Hubble, the Mars Rovers, the Chandra X-ray observatory, and the Voyager probes.

But I suppose if such things don't have an immediate impact on how you do your laundry, they aren't important.

Michael S. said...

You write:

"Whatever effort you are putting into your business it seems to leave you with inordinate amounts of free time."

No more than you appear to have to respond to me.

"...waste their time in pointless argument"

If you think it is pointless, why do you continue with it?

"...then there is Paris Hilton."

Actually, Paris Hilton appears to be rather shrewdly entrepreneurial in her cultivation of notoriety. Whatever she may be she is not a pure squanderer of the Mytton type. Mind you, I am old enough to remember when the newspapers had society pages, and the only times a lady's name was supposed to appear in the news was in those pages, on the occasions of her birth, marriage, or death. That was more to my taste than the antics of La Hilton, but her career, such as it is, should be blamed less on the principle of inheritance than on the decadence of present social norms.

"this conversation might be more productive if you respond to things I actually say or believe..."

I was doing so - you wrote, in an earlier post, did you not, that "government has a clear mandate to levy taxes, and an almost-as-clear mandate to provide equality of opportunity..."?

I took what you wrote to be an endorsement of the use of government powers of taxation and purposefully redistributive spending as tools of egalitarian social engineering. This does not seem an unreasonable interpretation of this remark, taken together with your disparagement of inheritance, etc. From this flowed the point that you seem to take an atomized view of society, in which individuals are the primary economic actors and that any institution that stands between them and the power of the state is viewed negatively, as promoting inequality.

Yet the truth is that the notion of "economy" begins not with the individual, but with the household (=ho oikos). The patriarchal family is the economic and social building block of western civilization. Just as Charles I understood that if there were no bishops there would be no king, we should understand that if there were no patriarchal family, there could be no western civilization. Thus the attack of leftists, particularly the Frankfurt school, on the family; it must be destroyed to permit the rebuilding of society as a new utopia. Eliminating the prinicple of inheritance (one plank of Marx's platform in "The Communist Manifesto") is a means to the end of getting rid of "the claptrap of the bourgeois family" which Marx and his followers detested.

Further to "equal opportunity" - as my old friend Mel Bradford pointed out, that high-sounding phrase is just the judas goat that leads us into the abbatoir of enforced equality of condition. The reason is that egalitarians will always argue that there cannot be equality of opportunity unless the point of departure is equality of condition. Since that could not be achieved without an exertion of state power that would be quite unpopular if done all at once, it is introduced stepwise, through measures like 'affirmative action' - in other words, unequal treatment to produce equal results.

"public funding of education has had a tolerably successful run..."

I'd agree with you if we were talking about the public education of fifty years ago. The demographics of the period were such that a larger population was still engaged in agricultural labor, which yields little distinction to intellectual ability; it does not matter if a ploughboy has an IQ of 95 or of 135. The educational system fifty years ago was able to identify and pluck smart children from obscure backgrounds. Urbanization and industrialization have since then brought about increased stratification both of IQ and income.

The one present social group which the kind of public educational system we had fifty years ago might do comparable good is that of recent immigrants, many of whom come from places where their talents went unrecognized. The benefit of finding a few such nuggets amongst the dross has to be weighed against the question of what to do about the dross. Further, would this country have to import people to do its menial tasks if it did not support its native-born lumpenproletariat in idleness on the dole?

In the mean time, public education has also changed, as the inculcation of factual knowledge has been subordinated to the Deweyite goal of producing docile subjects of the welfare state, who may not (and do not need to) have much factual knowledge, but who must have the 'proper' social attitudes. Cultivation of excellence may once have been a priority, but it is no longer.

"...the Hubble..."

Renowned principally, if I'm not mistaken, for being out of order!

The unmanned space program has had some remarkable technical achievements but as far as I know they have mainly confirmed what we already knew. Has there been any major theoretical advance attributable to it comparable to, say, the Michelson-Morley experiment of 1887?

Have your derision for washing machines and refrigerators if you will. It will be a long, long time, if ever, before most recent theoretical science yields anything of comparable practical usefulness.

mtraven said...

If you think it is pointless, why do you continue with it?

Not sure. I tried to stop but then you followed me here...it's hard to let go. Talking with someone who doesn't share my presuppositions forces me to articulate them, which has some value I suppose. Basically I just like to argue, and there isn't enough diversity of opinion around here.

I took what you wrote to be an endorsement of the use of government powers of taxation and purposefully redistributive spending as tools of egalitarian social engineering.... From this flowed the point that you seem to take an atomized view of society, in which individuals are the primary economic actors and that any institution that stands between them and the power of the state is viewed negatively, as promoting inequality.

Mighty big leap there.

we should understand that if there were no patriarchal family, there could be no western civilization.

Oh well, if that's the case then I guess western civ really has got to go. But of course that's a ridiculous equation.

Thus the attack of leftists, particularly the Frankfurt school, on the family; it must be destroyed to permit the rebuilding of society as a new utopia.

The left has been opposed to the authoritarian model of a family. That is not the only possible arrangement. Do you have some particular utterance of the Frankfurt school to support what you are saying, or are you relying on wingnut talking points?

In any case, the influence of the Frankfurt school on actual social arrangements has been minimal. What is actually pulling apart the family is the tendency of the captialist economy to swallow all available resources and relationships. It has been aided in this by liberal feminism, to be sure, which helped pry women out of their traditional roles so they could become factors of production.

I always like this bit from the Communist Manifesto:

The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It ... has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous “cash payment” ... for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation ... Constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones ... All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses, his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.

So, something I don't get about you reactionaries: It's clear that capitalism is the most disruptive force imaginable to tradition, for better or worse. The engines of commerce can beat the engines of leftism in terms of power and influence any day of the week, whether it's the Soviets or a bunch of pale academics. So if you hate the modern world, it's not "the left" that's to blame.

"...the Hubble......Renowned principally, if I'm not mistaken, for being out of order!

You couldn't be wronger. But I'm tired of pointing out the obvious to you, go read a book, or browse the web. You did not answer my repeated question from last time: what is your point? You don't like science? Or you don't like the 20th century so much that you want to trash one of its major highlights?

The unmanned space program has had some remarkable technical achievements but as far as I know they have mainly confirmed what we already knew. Has there been any major theoretical advance attributable to it comparable to, say, the Michelson-Morley experiment of 1887?

I thought the criterion for success was improved household appliances. Michelson-Morley had notably little impact on the design of toaster ovens.

Anyway, there have been enormous advances in physics and cosmology, some of which are due to the space program. One obvious one is the discovery of the cosmic microwave background radiation. That was actually done by ground-based radiotelescopes, I think,aand later confirmed with observation satellites. This provided confirmation of the Big Bang model of the universe, a pretty significant step.

Have your derision for washing machines and refrigerators if you will.

Household appliances are wonderful things but there is no particular reason to think that that is where to look for the cutting edge of applied science.

And of course these days practically every appliance has at least one microcontroller in it, which is made possible through advanced semiconductor technology, which is made possible by theoretical advances in physics.

OK, I'm done with this thread UNLESS you can state plainly just what point about science and technology you are trying to make.

Michael S. said...

You write:

"Do you have some particular utterance of the Frankfurt school to support what you are saying, or are you relying on wingnut talking pointd?"

How about the following from Marcuse's "Eros and Civilization":

"The change in the value and scope of libidinal relations would lead to a disintegration of the institutions in which the private interpersonal relations have been organized, particularly the monogamic and patriarchal family."

Elsewhere he registers his "protests against the repressive order of procreative sexuality" and hopes for a "resurgence of pregenital polymorphous sexuality." Considering that this was written in 1959, it sounds like a blueprint for the 'sixties and all that has followed.

Don't for a minute believe the Frankfurt school was not a prominent source of the attack on the traditional family and sexual morality. In an article in the "New Yorker," Jan. 3, 2005, on p. 47, we find the left-wing homosexual activist and playwright Tony Kushner's intellectual background described as follows:

"In his senior year at Columbia, while directing a university production of Ben Jonson's sprawling epic 'Bartholomew Fair,' Kushner had become friends with Kimberly Flynn, a Barnard psychology major from New Orleans, who was working on the stage crew... Flynn had, Kushner says, 'a vast appetite for pedagogy - she loves explaining things to people...' Kushner, in turn, had a vast curiosity. 'She led and I followed,' he says. 'She read Walter Benjamin and told me I should. And Marcuse, Adorno, Horckheimer...'"

"Wingnut talking points" indeed. Here is a fairly straighforward genealogy of the ideas and ideals behind one of the leading spokesmen for 'gay liberation.'

As for "liberal feminism," what about one of its founders, Betty Friedan? She is described in the Wikipedia article about her as having been "active in Marxist and Jewish circles" as early as the 'thirties, "continuing to mix with Marxists (many of her friends were investigated by the FBI)" during and after her time at Berkeley, and having been "a journalist for leftist and union publications" in the 'forties and 'fifties - all before publishing "The Feminine Mystique."

Again citing Wikipedia on Germaine Greer: "By 1972 Greer would identify as an anarchist communist, close to Marxism." On Gloria Steinem: "Steinem was also a member of Democratic Socialists of America... Although most frequently considered a liberal feminist, Steinem has repeatedly characterized herself as a radical feminist."

Investigation of the backgrounds of other prominent feminists will show that they are similarly radical, often with early communist or Marxist associations, rather than "liberal" in any conventional sense. The capitalist economy co-existed with stable and traditional family structures for a couple of centuries before these people came along, and it was not until they did that women were "pried out of their traditional roles to become factors of production."

As for your quotation of Marx, though I am loath in general to employ the techniques of psychobiography, I can't help but think in Marx's case that there is some relevance to the facts that he was a poor relation in a rich extended family, and that he felt trapped and burdened by his marriage and immediate family. His 'sexual liberation' consisted in siring a bastard child on his housemaid, while after his death one of his daughters lamented that he had spent so much effort writing about capital and so little in accumulating it. His attitudes reflect his circumstances and it is a shame that the ideas such a warped man should have affected the fates of so many people in the century after his death.

As for recent theoretical science, my point is that it has much less impact on the everyday lives of ordinary people than you seem to think, while most of the technology we use daily is derivative of theoretical science that is quite old. In a sense, we are living off the scientific capital of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. If you don't like household appliances as an example, consider public health. Yes, we have organ transplantation, cardiac pacemakers, and all the rest; but the effect of these on extending average life expectancy is still but a small fraction of what resulted from the simple steps taken a century or more ago to ensure sanitary water and sewerage, to vaccinate against infectious disease, etc. There is an enormous amount of vanity about supposed progress that deserves critical evaluation.

As for the theory of evolution and the supposedly random and purposeless origin of life - which began this discussion - I am at a loss to identify any practical technology that arises from it. Genetics, artificial selection, the mapping of the genome, and genetic engineering at the molecular level, all originated, and can proceed, independently of it. Evolution is not a theory in the sense that predictive laws having the precision of (say) the gas laws or the laws of motion or thermodynamics can be derived from it. It is more a speculative philosophical concept, in the same vein as Goethe's search for the Urpflanze and Urtier, as developed by diastole and systole, a supposed historical law looking backward to Böhme and roughly contemporary with Hegel and Marx, with whose historical dialectic it has more in common than it does with the laws of physics or chemistry. Let us have truth in labelling, at least.

mtraven said...

Re: feminism, naturally the leaders came from radical backgrounds, radicals are the ones motivated to get things done. But in practice, feminism divided into a liberal faction, whose goal was equal rights in employment and other areas. This faction was largely sucessful, although the effects (as I indicated) might not have been as liberatory as they planned. The other faction was the much more interesting, if often crazed, radical faction which was determined to ferret out and destroy the roots of male domination at every level of society and culture. This latter faction has had almost no influence outside of academia.

As for recent theoretical science, my point is that it has much less impact on the everyday lives of ordinary people than you seem to think...

I think I have a far better grasp of science and technology than you. You've displayed remarkable ignorance so far.

while most of the technology we use daily is derivative of theoretical science that is quite old.

This may be true but is entirely uninteresting, for reasons already stated.

And I still fail to see what larger point you are trying to make. Why are we arguing about this? What's it to you?

As for the theory of evolution and the supposedly random and purposeless origin of life - which began this discussion - I am at a loss to identify any practical technology that arises from it.

Evolutionary medicine is a relatively new field, but quite important and sure to be more so in the fture. Two examples are understanding the evolution of antibiotic resistance in pathogens, and understanding how maternal/fetal competition leads to various disorders of pregancy. Here's a book on the subject, there are also popularizations by Ewald.

Evolution is not a theory in the sense that predictive laws having the precision of (say) the gas laws or the laws of motion or thermodynamics can be derived from it.

Actually it is predictive in exactly the same way that thermodynamics is -- they are both statistical. See here for more.

It is more a speculative philosophical concept, in the same vein as Goethe's search for the Urpflanze and Urtier...

Yawn. If you are determined to remain ignorant I don't think I'm going to waste any more time explaining things to you. The Urtier has been discovered btw, look up "homeobox genes" sometime. No gaseous German transcendentalism required.

Michael said...

As far as grasp of science is concerned, I can say only that I have been involved in business off and on with people in the specialty chemical manufacturing field for 30+ years. My sense that dependence on old theoretical results is widespread is informed largely by the fact that the authoritative work of reference in chemistry remains J.W. Mellor's sixteen-volume "Theoretical and Organic Chemistry" with a publication date of 1927, three supplemental volumes being dated 1956-64. As for thermodynamics, it may be statistically based, but calculations of heats of formation or decomposition are certainly much more precisely predictive than is anything in evolutionary biology. There is a definite difference between the rigor of the physical sciences and what prevails amongst naturalists.

Antibiotic resistance amongst pathogens is an instance of inadvertent artificial selection, since the administration of an antibiotic culls susceptible organisms just as a gardener or an animal breeder culls specimens he doesn't want to reproduce. The difference lies only in that with pathogens the result isn't wanted. It's rather like the difference between casino gambling and insurance; in one instance, you want to win your bets and in the other you'd rather not.

Michael said...

Sorry, Mellor's work is "Theoretical and Inorganic Chemistry" - but still it's 80 years old.