Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Political Sacred

Political symbols are highly charged with sacredness and its opposite. Think of what the red flag and hammer and sickle meant to devoted communists and to their enemies, and still does. Or the swastika, but that՚s almost too powerful to even talk about. The American flag is a sacred symbol to many, and a symbol of violence and oppression to others. All these symbols point both to big abstract ideas and to concrete political formations. They were created in part for this very purpose, to bind people together, to give them something larger than themselves to work towards. And, not accidentally, they also are selective, they attract certain people and label others as outsiders or enemies.

The sacred is nothing without something profane to act as contrastive background. I can think of a few not-very-successful attempts to create political sacred symbols that were supposed to be universal and non-exclusive:

the UN and its iconography
un_logo.png


or the Earth flag
Earth_Day_Flag.png



These haven՚t really caught on. Their message is slightly obnoxious, to display them says that one is above the tribalism that has everybody else in its grasp. It embodies neatly the inherent contradictions of liberalism, a tribe for the cosmopolitan.

[In the comments to the last post, my pet troll was trying to make me justify my interest in neoreaction. It՚s simply this – it makes me a better liberal. Like any other modern political movement, liberalism is both a set of particular people and values (a tribe) and a universalizing ideology. The trick to not being a mindless liberal is to acknowledge both sides of that contradiction.]

But this post was inspired by something rather less lofty, namely the confederate flag and its prominence in the current political conversation, thanks to the mass killing at an African American church in Charleston, by a young man who was deeply immersed in southern racism.

Dylan-Storm-Roof.jpg





Here Mr. Roof is displaying the flags of Rhodesia, apartheid-era South Africa, and the Confederacy. This has spawned a movement to try to get rid of the confederate flag, seeing as how it is a symbol of racism and treason. Even Mitt Romney is on board.

I have to say that I too am onboard with the efforts to get rid of the confederate flag, especially from official locations like the South Carolina state house. Oddly some of my justifications for this have a neoreactionary flavor. A neoreactionary state clamps down firmly against any kind of political threats to its authority and stability. And it՚s not clear why the United States should allow a symbol of a defeated rebellion against its authority be so prominently displayed. Since I՚m a liberal and not a neoreactionary I think individuals should have the right to display symbols of treason, but if it՚s on proud display by the government, something is profoundly wrong.

Yet I am trying to put myself in the heads of people to whom it is a sacred symbol. People for whom the confederate flag is not a symbol for something foul, but a marker of their highest values: loyalty, tradition, whatever. I don՚t doubt that their attachment to the symbol is genuine, but that doesn՚t redeem it or them in the slightest. They remain the enemy.

How does one deal with an internal enemy? The neoreactionary solution is to annihilate or suppress them completely. The liberal solution, apparently, is to let them go about maintaining their “heritage” and hope they՚ll improve themselves over time. It՚s been 150 years since the civil war, that hasn՚t really seemed to work out very well. Unfortunately conflicts between sacred values can՚t be argued out rationally; they require either battle or separation.

Or maybe that is only a short-term view, a tribal view. Maybe all the tribal battles between groups dedicated to their limited sacred values – their idols – will give way over time to reconciliation under the umbrella of more universal and transcendent values. Just because it՚s harder than the naive folks with their UN and hippie earth flags thought, does not mean it can՚t happen over the long course of time.

[previous and more]

41 comments:

jlredford said...

Maybe a movement can be started to replace the Confederate flag with Don't Tread On Me. That's already been picked up by the Tea Party. It's just as in-your-face and leave-me-the-fuck-alone, but isn't tainted with treason and bigotry. It was even promoted by a South Carolinian, Christopher Gadsden, and used by the Marines.

The Dixie flag on the SC statehouse has clearly got to go. It never should have been allowed to be hoisted in the first place in 1961, but at the time it seemed like the least of the country's problems.

Crawfurdmuir said...

"The Dixie flag on the SC statehouse has clearly got to go. It never should have been allowed to be hoisted in the first place in 1961, but at the time it seemed like the least of the country's problems."

Nor did it for a long time afterwards. I can remember the civil rights movement of the 1960s from when it was current news, and I do not recall any of its prominent leaders making the Confederate flag a focus of their attentions. They had more immediate and pressing concerns.

Indeed, the Confederate flag was not an object of controversy as recently as the 1990s. It was used in Bill Clinton's campaign ephemera in 1992:

http://thefederalist.com/2015/06/22/hillary-clintons-history-with-the-confederate-flag/

Hillary Clinton campaign ephemera from 2008 apparently included it as well:

http://www.breitbart.com/2016-presidential-race/2015/06/23/hillary-clinton-confederate-flag-merchandise-surfaces-on-ebay/

All this fuss over a piece of cloth! You'd think it might be of more importance that black rates of illegitimate birth, unemployment, and incarceration are all much higher now than they were in 1940, back in the bad old days of Jim Crow. Of course it's much more difficult to tackle those problems than it is to demonize an historical relic.

David Burns said...

Crawfurdmuir, let me recommend "The righteous mind" by Jonathan Haidt. It may indeed be only a piece of cloth, but people's sacred symbols cause more than fuss.

mtraven said...

Right, like it's something new to make a fuss over symbols. What do you think the point of this post was?

Looks like this particular symbol is now irretrievably associated with toxic idea and is being rejected from polite society. Good.

It appears that sales of Confederate-flag merchandise increased 3000% on Amazon before they took them all down. That doesn't surprise me at all.

mtraven said...

Defenders of the confederate flag who say "oh its only a symbol" probably have some kind of emotional reaction to, say, the Christian cross, the swastika, or the hammer and sickle, and have some opinions on whether, where and how those symbols are displayed. In short, it's a transparently lame move.

Crawfurdmuir said...

Even so, getting rid of a symbol is only symbolic.

There is an element here of 'war on history' in the time-honored Soviet style. The Confederate flag in question in South Carolina flies over a monument to Confederate soldiers, of the type that every Southern town of any pretensions has or had. Once the flag is gone, what will be next? The monument? Try as people may, they cannot un-write history. Removing physical reminders does not remove what they remind us of.

In any event, such actions will do nothing to relieve the illegitimacy, unemployment, crime, drug abuse, and other mostly self-inflicted problems that plague the black community.

mtraven said...

More transparent horseshit. It՚s a war over history, not a war on history. Nobody is trying to pretend the confederate flag or the confederacy didn՚t exist, the argument is about what it stands for and what respect or opprobrium is owed.

Your deep concern for the state of the black community is noted.

Crawfurdmuir said...

'Defenders of the confederate flag who say "oh its only a symbol" probably have some kind of emotional reaction to, say, the Christian cross, the swastika, or the hammer and sickle, and have some opinions on whether, where and how those symbols are displayed. In short, it's a transparently lame move.'

Indeed, Here's a link to an article illustrating Occupy Wall Street protestors displaying hammer-and-sickle flags:

http://www.examiner.com/article/occupy-chicago-may-day-march-features-communist-flags-banners-and-slogans

As I recall, you approved of Occupy Wall Street.

Here are similar images from the Ferguson protests:

http://althouse.blogspot.com/2014/11/only-revolution-can-bring-peace-from.html

So is the symbolism of an ideology that led to the deaths of 100 million people worldwide acceptable to you, while the symbolism of the Confederacy is not?

Crawfurdmuir said...

"Your deep concern for the state of the black community is noted."

All I have said has been said as well by black writers like Tom Sowell and Jason Riley. What do you think of their concern for the state of their own community, as compared to (say) that exhibited by Al Sharpton?

mtraven said...

So is the symbolism of an ideology that led to the deaths of 100 million people worldwide acceptable to you, while the symbolism of the Confederacy is not?

The post is not about what is or is not acceptable to me, it is about the social process whereby people attach meaning and emotional valence to symbols and how that creates social boundaries and about the process by which that happens. Because that is interesting, whereas your tedious replaying of stock right-wing talking points is not. Nor are my personal political allegiances all that interesting in and of themselves, and they are rarely the main subject around here.

As it happens, the semiotics and politics of the confederate flag and the hammer and sickle and the swastika are all different, although each has some pretty horrible things attached to them. I might be tempted to delve into the question of why and how they are different, if I thought you were interested in honest discussion instead of whatever it is you are doing. Trying to hang the crimes of Stalin around my neck, I guess, via some Occupy protestors. Good luck with that.

mtraven said...

So is the symbolism of an ideology that led to the deaths of 100 million people worldwide acceptable to you, while the symbolism of the Confederacy is not?

The post is not about what is or is not acceptable to me, it is about the social process whereby people attach meaning and emotional valence to symbols and how that creates social boundaries and about the process by which that happens. Because that is interesting, whereas your tedious replaying of stock right-wing talking points is not. Nor are my personal political allegiances all that interesting in and of themselves, and they are rarely the main subject around here.

As it happens, the semiotics and politics of the confederate flag and the hammer and sickle and the swastika are all different, although each has some pretty horrible things attached to them. I might be tempted to delve into the question of why and how they are different, if I thought you were interested in honest discussion instead of whatever it is you are doing. Trying to hang the crimes of Stalin around my neck, I guess, via some Occupy protestors. Good luck with that.

Crawfurdmuir said...

"The post is not about what is or is not acceptable to me..."

Yet you habitually frame questions in terms of what is or is not acceptable ro you. Just a little while ago you expatiated about the sort of persons you would not care to invite to one of your dinner parties. Your comment above amounts to a good job of waffling, though I see you have 'stuttered' with your duplicate posts.

It has often occurred to me that the people who attack the Confederate flag do so because it is politically safer for them than it is to attack the American flag, which in their innermost thoughts they hate just as much. After all, the three national Confederate flags and the battle flag flew for just four years from 1861 - 1865 over states in which slaves were held. The Stars and Stripes flew from 1776 - 1865, or eighty-nine years, over states in which slaves were held, and flew over numerous slave ships, which the Confederate flags never did.

The old abolitionists were more honest than the current crop of leftists. They openly detested the American flag. Here's an excerpt from a poem by the abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, published in "The American Anti-Slavery Almanac" of 1844. Illustrating it is an engraving of a negro slave pinioned hand and foot to a flagpole displaying the American flag, as if to a whipping post:

FOURTH OF JULY

—Men like household goods or servile beasts
Are bought and sold, kidnapped and pirated;
Driven in droves e'en by the Capitol;
Then haul our striped and starry banner down;
Our cannon freight not; stop the noisy breath
Of heartless patriotism; be our praise unsung.
(...)

Sentiments worthy of a 'sixties New Leftist! Garrison expressed the same anti-patriotism and hatred for his country that they did. Of course, the 'sixties left found that burning American flags, spitting on soldiers returning from Vietnam, etc., was not helpful to their cause - it did not make for good public relations. Thus, the heirs of that scruffy crew today are more careful about how they attack our country, and choose safer targets.

And just in time to help make my point, along comes Louis Farrakhan, who (to give credit where due) has never concealed his agenda behind persiflage like yours:

http://www.breitbart.com/video/2015/06/24/farrakhan-i-dont-get-debate-over-confederate-flag-we-need-to-put-the-american-flag-down/

mtraven said...

It has often occurred to me that the people who attack the Confederate flag do so because it is politically safer for them than it is to attack the American flag, which in their innermost thoughts they hate just as much.

Practically the entire Republican presidential field has decided to hate America.

I՚d say you are 100% wrong. Is it so hard to believe that you can hate the confederacy and what it stood for while not hating America? I mean, these were two sides of a war, so why is it so hard to understand that people might take one side or another?

Myself, I don՚t hate America or the American flag that much, but I have a pretty high level of scepticism about loyalty to any flag or country in general. So, put me down as eyeing any flag with at least a critical eye, if not actively hating it.

Garrison is an interesting figure. I won՚t claim to approve or disapprove of him, which I am sure is going to disappoint you, because I don՚t know that much about him. However, it appears on cursory study that he excoriated the flag and the US for adhering to evil acts, worked tirelessly to change that, and fully embraced his country once that evil was eradicated. Sounds like a hero to me. He՚s got roughly the same status as the liberals and socialists in pre-WWII Germany who worked against Hitler, except that he won.

I see I am to be burdened with the sins of Louis Farrakahn as well as Stalin. Anyone else? Jim Jones? Jeffrey Dahmer? Idi Amin? Why not Hitler, who of course called himself a socialist, so anybody who has ever expressed a mildly leftist opinion has to answer for the Holocaust.

Crawfurdmuir said...

To my knowledge, Jeffrey Dahmer and Idi Amin were not left-wing ideologues. Hitler was indeed sort of a socialist, but my sense is that you're more of a cultural Bolshevik type.

William Lloyd Garrison's direct connection to today's far left is through his grandson, Oswald Garrison Villard, publisher of "The Nation" - whose more recent successors have been Victor Navasky (keeper of the flame for the cause of Alger Hiss) and Katrina van den Heuvel.

There is no Constitutional right not to be offended. We've seen, over the past fifty years, the decline of our society into vulgarity and offensiveness in many ways. Much of this has been due to the tireless efforts of cultural Marxists. We have to tolerate all of this, we ave to tolerate Jesse Jackson and Louis Farrakhan - why not tolerate the Confederate flag?

We've seen in this anti-Confederate and ani-southern moment calls not only for removing the Confederate flag, but also for demolishing or altering monuments to Confederate soldiers, and even the Jefferson Memorial (because Jefferson was a slaveholder). George Washington, too, will fall victim to censure for the same reason. This latter-day iconoclasm reminds me in its spirit of the Jacobins defacing every rendition of a coat-of-arms they could find, of the Bolsheviks blowing up Orthodox churches, the Taliban destroying the Buddhas of Bamiyan, and the current depredations of ISIS on the remnants of pre-Islamic cultures in the Middle East.

And when the last statue of a Confederate soldier has been replaced by a glowering image of Martin Luther King, the Jefferson Memorial has been re-purposed to commemorate some other black communist like W.E.B. DuBois, Langston Hughes, or Paul Robeson, what then?

Will all those unwed black teenage females cease miraculously to become pregnant? Will the Bloods and the Crips lay down their weapons and sing "Kumbaya'? Will the bloated welfare rolls shrink as all the idlers and street hustlers feeding at the public trough find honest work?

Crawfurdmuir said...

I just noticed this:

"Looks like this particular symbol is now irretrievably associated with toxic idea and is being rejected from polite society. Good."

Again, you're expostulating about "polite society." You sound like one of those dowagers that Margaret Dumont used to play opposite Groucho Marx.

I can remember when there were society pages in the newspapers. My parents and their friends occasionally appeared in them. Those days, alas, are gone; but the Social Register survives. I have long been a subscriber. Just for the halibut (as the fisherman said) I looked to see if there was anyone named Michael Travers in the Winter 2015 edition of the Social Register. There was not. Nor was there in several years' preceding editions.

Who appointed you today's equivalent of Ward McAllister?

mtraven said...

There is no Constitutional right not to be offended.

Well, we agree on that much.

The issue is whether organs of the government should display and honor the flag of a defeated enemy that also happens to be a racist and traitorous political movement. Random assholes will, of course, be free to be as offensive as they like.

This latter-day iconoclasm reminds me in its spirit of the Jacobins defacing every rendition of a coat-of-arms they could find, of the Bolsheviks blowing up Orthodox churches, the Taliban destroying the Buddhas of Bamiyan

You know, I was getting ready to mock the above for its lack of proportion, but then I decided you are kind of right, and in the spirit (if only accidentally) of the original post.

It is completely true that the political sacred and the religious sacred are often linked, and often devotees of one country or belief system will feel the need to physically eliminate the sacred sites of an enemy. It happens all the time. Certainly Christianity has a long history of doing that to the peoples it conquered.

And yes, in this case, the sacred values embodied by the confederate flag are incompatible with the sacred values of the US, that is, of liberal democracy. There was a war over this very issue some time ago, with a resolution that permitted the defeated party to hold onto a good deal of its traditions and symbols. The fundamental incompatibility remained and now thanks to Mr. Roof the terms are being renegotiated. That mean physically pushing the physical symbol of the defeated party out of parts of the public sphere. Iconoclasm at work.

Note that the above is expressed in as abstract and neutral a way as I can manage. I really am more interested in the machinery and dynamics of political processes than in cheering for my side.

But: damn, this change together with other news of the day makes me want to cheer. Amazingly enough, the good guys are winning and people like you are losing. That's a reason to celebrate.

[irrelevant racist drivel]

Future comments with irrelevant and boring racism may be summarily deleted. After all, since I՚m basically Stalin, that is a pretty lightweight exercise of power. If you want a forum for that kind of stuff, start your own blog.

Dain said...

"Nobody is trying to pretend the confederate flag or the confederacy didn՚t exist…"

Really? The Apple Store appears to be doing more or less just that, by removing ALL CIVIL WAR GAMES from its app store: http://toucharcade.com/2015/06/25/apple-removes-confederate-flag/

"Specifically, Apple states that 'we have removed apps from the App Store that use the Confederate flag in offensive or mean-spirited ways, which is in violation of our guidelines.' Sources close to the company say that it's working with the developers affected by the flag ban to get the issue resolved and get the games back on the App Store. However, the developers will have to either remove or replace the Confederate flag. If this is indeed what Apple is demanding from the developers, it raises all kind of questions about censorship and historical memory as it literally risks rewriting history."

mtraven said...

Yes there's been some stupid overreaction, mostly on the parts of corporations rather than political activists. See here for some discussion which I mostly agree with.

Crawfurdmuir said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Crawfurdmuir said...

"And yes, in this case, the sacred values embodied by the confederate flag are incompatible with the sacred values of the US, that is, of liberal democracy. There was a war over this very issue some time ago, with a resolution that permitted the defeated party to hold onto a good deal of its traditions and symbols. The fundamental incompatibility remained and now thanks to Mr. Roof the terms are being renegotiated. That mean physically pushing the physical symbol of the defeated party out of parts of the public sphere. Iconoclasm at work".

Let's examine this in a little more detail.

"the sacred values of the US, that is, of liberal democracy."

It is recorded that when Benjamin Franklin left the Constitutional Convention, someone asked him what the Convention had given the country, and he replied, "A republic, if you can keep it."

The Framers were mistrustful of democracy, and took care to incorporate many non-democratic features in it, such as a Senate which represented the states, not the people, and a judiciary appointed for life. Of course, in 1789, the franchise was not universal, but was relatively restricted, typically by property or tax qualifications. This country was not originally intended to be a "liberal democracy," but rather a patrician republic, as indeed it was for at least two generations following independence. It has become what it is through the distortion of the Framers' intentions.

"The fundamental incompatibility remained and now thanks to Mr. Roof the terms are being renegotiated."

It is interesting to contrast the cases of Nidal Malik Hassan and Alton Alexander Nolen with that of Dylann Roof.

As you will recall, Nidal Hassan killed 13 people and injured 30 others at Fort Hood while shouting "Allahu akbar!" Alton Alexander Nolen, a.k.a. Jah'keem Yisrael, beheaded one woman and attempted to behead another, while shouting the same slogan, at the Vaughan Foods plant in Oklahoma.

In Nidal Hassan's case, everyone from President Obama on down the Federal hierarchy sedulously sought to deny any association of his dreadful crime with Islam. It was characterized as a case of "workplace violence." Likewise, Nolen's/Yisrael's gruesome offense was so categorized; the FBI stated that it was not terrorism.

Roof's bloody deed, on the other hand, was instantly tied to the Confederate flag and has led to calls not only for its removal from the Confederate monument in Columbia, S.C., where it flew (NOT over the statehouse, as claimed elsewhere in these comments), as well as for the removal of other Confederate monuments, and even of the Jefferson Memorial (because, although Jefferson had nothing to do with the Confederacy, he was a slaveholder and and an advocate of states' rights).

Now, there's at least as much of a connection between Islam and the deeds of Nidal Hassan and Alton Nolan's crimes as there is between the Confederate flag or the Jefferson Memorial and Dylann Roof's crime. Yet why do politicians and the press tiptoe around the former, while zeroing in on the latter?

If the "organs of the government" should not display the Confederate flag, or memorialize the Confederate dead (as is done, for example, in a section of Arlington Cemetery), then why should those selfsame organs continue to pay imams to "minister" whatever it is they do in the United States military, or indeed in the country's prisons? Why does Obama bow and scrape before the rulers of the Islamic despotisms that subsidize the spread of that violent religious ideology?

Failing to tie Islam to the crimes of Hassan and Nolen is political opportunism of one kind; tying Confederate flags and monuments to the crime of Dylann Roof is just another kind of political opportunism, summarized by Rahm Emanuel's aphorism about not letting a good crisis go to waste.

mtraven said...

“liberal democracy” and the nature of the US government have evolved since the founding. Whether or not you think this is a good thing, what I meant before was “incompatible with liberal democracy as it actually exists today”. The true intentions of Ben Franklin are not very relevant.

Your other point is more interesting and in keeping with the original topic (thank you). I can agree with you – these are somewhat parallel cases of having evil actions committed by people who have ties to an unpleasant sociopolitical movement, and you find the ties being treated differently in the two cases. I՚m not sure why you are complaining to me about the unfairness of it, as if I am somehow responsible for government policy. But I am glad you are willing to see the Confederacy on equal terms with ISIS, as an annoying enemy that we would rather do without.

The difference between the cases is simple: it is not in our interests to go to war with the entire Islamic world, since they are numerous and control resources we want. And up until last week, it wasn՚t politically expedient to go to war against the confederacy either. The Charleston shooter changed the equation, and we seized an opportunity.

You use "political opportunism" as if you expect politicians to be saints. Nobody ever wins at politics, or anything else, without taking advantage of opportunity when it arises. Again, I՚m not sure why you are complaining to me about the way the world works.

mtraven said...

Re the idolatry of the founders, see here.

Crawfurdmuir said...

"I՚m not sure why you are complaining to me about the unfairness of it, as if I am somehow responsible for government policy."

Not complaining, only noting the difference and perhaps the hypocrisy involved.

Here's a collection of opinion polling data regarding Muslim approval of jihad, terrorism, al-Qaeda, ISIS, etc:

http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/pages/opinion-polls.htm

An excerpt:

"Pew Research (2007): 26% of younger Muslims in America believe suicide bombings are justified.
35% of young Muslims in Britain believe suicide bombings are justified (24% overall).
42% of young Muslims in France believe suicide bombings are justified (35% overall).
22% of young Muslims in Germany believe suicide bombings are justified.(13% overall).
29% of young Muslims in Spain believe suicide bombings are justified.(25% overall).
http://pewresearch.org/assets/pdf/muslim-americans.pdf#page=60"

In my experience, people who are interested in "Confederate heritage" are the sorts of persons one might encounter at a Civil War Roundtable meeting, at a battle re-enactment, in a genealogy library, or making rubbings of grave markers at old cemeteries, I wonder if a similar poll to those listed above has been taken of (for example) members of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, to see what percentage of them approve of the behavior of Dylann Roof.

I very much doubt that it is anything close to the 26% of younger American Muslims that apparently believe suicide bombings to be justified.

Which is the greater menace, and the more deserving of public opprobrium? You write "the Charleston shooter changed the equation, and we seized an opportunity." Why haven't you (i.e., the category denoted by the "we" in your previous sentence) seized the opportunity to deal with adherents of violent Islam here in the U.S., whose past behavior and oft-expressed opinions have proven them to be far more numerous and dangerous than the small cadre of white supremacists? The United States does not have to go to war against the entire Muslim world to suppress Islamic militancy within its borders and to bar further immigration from Islamic countries.

Crawfurdmuir said...

"Re the idolatry of the founders, see here."

Jefferson said many contradictory things, and was prone to cant when writing in the abstract. To get a feeling for the authentic Jefferson, one should read his "Notes on Virginia" and his correspondence.

Also, the phrases carved in the Memorial are in many cases carefully edited to mislead, and when we peruse them in full, the impression they make is often quite different from, if not indeed opposite to, that which we take from the edited version.

For example, one of the phrases we read at the Memorial is as follows:

"Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people are to be free." ["these people" referring to black slaves]

The full passage, found in an entry in Jefferson's private papers for February 8, 1821, is as follows [quoted from the twelve-volume edition edited by Paul Leicester Ford]:

"“The bill on the subject of slaves was a mere digest of the existing laws respecting them, without any intimation of a plan for a future & general emancipation. It was thought better that this should be kept back, and attempted only by way of amendment whenever the bill should be brought on. [Note 1 Cf. post, with Notes on Virginia in this edition.] The principles of the amendment however were agreed on, that is to say, the freedom of all born after a certain day, and deportation at a proper age. But it was found that the public mind would not yet bear the proposition, nor will it bear it even at this day. Yet the day is not distant when it must bear and adopt it, or worse will follow. Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people are to be free. Nor is it less certain that the two races, equally free, cannot live in the same government. Nature, habit, opinion has drawn indelible lines of distinction between them. It is still in our power to direct the process of emancipation and deportation peaceably and in such slow degree as that the evil will wear off insensibly, and their place be pari passu filled up by free white laborers. If on the contrary it is left to force itself on, human nature must shudder at the prospect held up. We should in vain look for an example in the Spanish deportation or deletion of the Moors. This precedent would fall far short of our case.”

A gloss on this passage at the undernoted web address indicates:

[The Jefferson Memorial, Washington, D.C. just says, on one of its marble placards, “Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people are to be free,” obviously giving an entirely different connotation to what Jefferson said. Jefferson was against the continuation of slavery, but had expressly stated that emancipation was to be followed by deportation. This is the technique of “quoting short passages out of context” -- beware. – JR, 5-13-02]

http://www.jrbooksonline.com/Jefferson_negroes.htm

Crawfurdmuir said...

'“liberal democracy” and the nature of the US government have evolved since the founding. Whether or not you think this is a good thing, what I meant before was “incompatible with liberal democracy as it actually exists today”.'

And this is of course why Peter Thiel said "I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible."

What you call liberal democracy is well on its way to the denouement foreseen by Tocqueville:

"After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd." - Democracy in America, vol. II, book 4.

You may admire this - I do not.

The phenomenon by which "it covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd" is a good explanation of why a record number of American citizens, most of them highly successful people, gave up on the United States and renounced their citizenship last year:

http://www.cnbc.com/id/102413492

The numbers would doubtless be higher, but for the fact that there is a swingeing exit tax, comparable to that exacted of Jews fleeing Nazi Germany.

In the name of equality this country is losing the energetic and entrepreneurial - even as it is importing hordes of impoverished illiterate immigrants. Who will foot the bill? This is the future your "liberal democracy" is building.

mtraven said...

You really have no clue what you are talking about. The Bay Area, the main entrepreneurial hub of the US, has many problems but people fleeing it is not one of them -- the rents are insanely high, because you can't keep people away, both Americans and a vast "horde" of far from illiterate immigrants who are very active in the economy.

But a few thousand rich fucks have fled so they don't have to pay taxes, I guess the world is ending.

Crawfurdmuir said...

"The Bay Area, the main entrepreneurial hub of the US, has many problems but people fleeing it is not one of them -- "

You DO know who Eduardo Saverin is, don't you?

And consider, again, the remark previously quoted from Peter Thiel - he's a Silicon Valley type, is he not? Why do you suppose neoreaction has gained a following in Silicon Valley?

Those people aren't fleeing yet, but they have begun to recognize that the political and economic environment is increasingly hostile to their interests. If they cannot change it, they will sooner or later leave it. What I've pointed out is a trend in its infancy. Wait and see.

mtraven said...

Yes, he's one of the rich fucks who made a bundle using the resources of the US and skipped out when it was time to give something back. But since he contributed nothing uniquely significant (rich fucks are a dime a dozen), Facebook and Silicon Valley are managing just fine without him. He doesn't represent a trend, quite the opposite, and if he does, who cares? All he's removed from the economy is some money, and there is plenty more of that pouring in. Money is fungible, talent and capability is not.

Peter Thiel is a more significant figure, but he's just one guy, and despite his political crackpottery he seems to be investing most of his money right here in the Bay Area. As to why neoreaction has a following, I just wrote a post explaining just that, and it doesn't have much to do with taxes or OSHA or whatever it is you are complaining about.

You clearly don't know jack about anything relevant to the economics of the tech industry, and it probably isn't worth trying to explain it to you.

Dain said...

"The Bay Area, the main entrepreneurial hub of the US, has many problems but people fleeing it is not one of them."

Thank you. You'd think from Republican/libertarian propaganda (on this they're one and the same) that South Dakota would be the entrepreneurial hub of the US and the that the over-regulated, over-taxed coasts would be backwaters. But we find the opposite.

Curiously, this fact represents an opportunity for a "progressive elitism" argument; who but the best and brightest can survive the blue state model? But since that's not in the progressive DNA, you don't really hear it.

Crawfurdmuir said...

The effects of economic policies are a long time in coming. I live in a state which before World War II attracted many corporate headquarters. There is a profound inertial effect due to the reluctance to abandon a large capital investment, Nonetheless, the state has been losing those companies - first, branch plants, and then head offices, albeit very gradually, for the past thirty years or so, reflecting its increasing tax and regulatory burdens.

You remarked earlier that neoreaction is "gaining traction," and where? Is not Moldbug a Silicon Valley type? How many of his followers are?

The foundations of Silicon Valley lie with figures you'd probably rather not think about - William Shockley and the Termans, Frederick ad Lewis. Shockley and his associates were responsible for the basic technical development; Frederick Terman for the development of Stanford's development as premier research university in science and technology. Frederick Terman's father, Lewis Terman, was the pioneer of IQ testing in the United States, and came to the conclusion (a belief which Shockley shared) that IQ was strongly heritable. The group of high-IQ children that Terman studied, nicknamed the "Termites," provided many members of the future cognitive elite that furthered the growth of the tech industry.

How long do you suppose that people of high intellectual capacity and attainment will tolerate the repetition of politically-correct pieties about "equality" before concluding (as Shockley and Terman did long ago) that the entire concept is a monstrous imposture? Such persons must sooner or later come to understand that they are inherently essentially different from and superior to the mobile vulgus. And how long, after coming to that conclusion, will they take to develop the courage to say so in public? Of course, pressures to conform to the politically-correct line are strong, and the price of non-conformity high. But eventually more and more will - wait and see. You wouldn't be so concerned about neoreaction if you did not believe this was at least a possibility.

Of course, high taxes and niggling regulation of commerce are only a couple of the outward manifestations of the degradation of the democratic dogma that is at the focus of neoreaction's criticism.

Dain, it is not so likely that South Dakota will become an entrepreneurial hub as that the entrepreneurial hub will move out of the United States entirely - as many manufacturing operations already have done. Where are Apple's products made, for example? Not in Silicon Valley, nor indeed, anywhere in the United States. Manufacturing has been sourced outside this country and earnings have been sheltered in overseas jurisdictions where tax rates are lower. There they'll stay, until the tax disincentive to repatriating them has been removed. Even some Democrats now understand this. The goose that laid the golden egg is not killed by one decisive blow, but rather wastes away slowly. Mtraven is whistling past the graveyard. The managers of General Motors displayed a comparable confidence in their future prospects thirty or forty years ago.

Crawfurdmuir said...

""The Bay Area, the main entrepreneurial hub of the US, has many problems but people fleeing it is not one of them."

But is it really the "main entrepreneurial hub of the US"? By what metric is that determined?

One possibility is the percentage of millionaires in the population:

http://www.thinkadvisor.com/2015/02/04/top-10-states-with-most-millionaires-2015

The top ten states, in order, are -

1. Maryland
2 Connecticut
3. New Jersey
4. Hawaii
5. Alaska
6. Virginia
7. Massachusetts
8 New Hampshire
9 Delaware
10. The District of Columbia (it's not a state, but blame that on the compiler).

California is not among them!

Another is job creation - vigorous entrepreneurship tends to create lots of jobs. Here's the ranking:

http://www.gallup.com/poll/181520/first-conn-last-state-job-creation-2014.aspx

The top ten are -

1. North Dakota
2. Texas
3. Nebraska
4. Wisconsin
5. Michigan
6. Iowa
7. Utah
8. South Dakota
9. Oklahoma
10. Delaware

Rather a different list, but again, California is not on it. And so much for sneers about South Dakota, at no. 8 - though the real gem is its neighbor, North Dakota.

We might narrow our focus, since of course Silicon Valley is just a small bit of California. What are the ten richest counties in the United Stares?

http://wtop.com/news/2014/04/americas-wealthiest-counties-six-of-top-10-richest-counties-in-dc-area/

Below is Forbes’ 2014 list of the richest counties in America:

1. Falls Church City, Va.
2. Loudoun County, Va.
3. Los Alamos County, N.M.
4. Howard County, Md.
5. Fairfax County, Va.
6. Hunterdon County, N.J.
7. Arlington County, Va.
8. Douglas County, Colo.
9. Stafford County, Va.
10. Somerset County, N.J.

Six of the above are in the D.C. metro area, so this list perhaps reflects crony capitalism more than it does entrepreneurship. However, once again, there is not a single California county on the list.

There's a lot of venture capital invested in Silicon Valley, but it's hard to tell whether it comes from the local area or from outside it. Taxation of the returns on that capital depends upon the tax domicile of its owner, which is not necessarily within California, so not all of the investment necessarily bears the burden of California's 13.3% top marginal income tax rate, the highest in the U.S.:

http://taxfoundation.org/blog/top-state-income-tax-rates-2014

It's interesting to note that the top state for job creation, North Dakota, has a top marginal bracket of only 3.22%, while Texas, in second place, has no income tax whatever.

mtraven said...

Neoreaction is a tiny, tiny political fringe with zero influence on actual politics. It is gaining traction among some fringey groups around Silicon Valley, and maybe even among a few thought leaders like Thiel. But its influence on policy is zero.

What does have more influence is the sort of idiot libertarianism you see in people who really should know better. The smarter ones, or the ones that have enough historical perspective to be aware of what happened, say, as much as 30 years ago, know that the technology industry is extremely dependent on the government for its creation.

I honestly have no idea what you think you point is with Shockley. Silicon Valley is very much into meritocracy and competitive intellectual achievement, for better or worse. We lionize supposed geniuses like Steve Jobs or Sergey Brin, and believe me, they are taken as above the common herd (just look at the recent New Yorker portrait of Jony Ive, Job's successor as Apple's design visionary -- I personally was disgusted at the hagiography, but it shows that elitism is quite alive). What does any of that have to do with neoreaction?

In the long run, we are all doomed. But your total lack of understanding of the technology economy makes your pronouncements extremely uninteresting.

mtraven said...

Your attempt at being data-driven is so stupid I find it actually painful. Are we really arguing over the trivially obvious truth that Silicon Valley is a hub for new technology enterprise creation?

The presence of rich fucks is not the same as being entrepreneurial. North Dakota has rich fucks for the same reason Saudi Arabia does -- there's a lot of money to be made in resource extraction; that has nothing to do with technology entrepreneurship. Maryland has rich fucks that sponge off the government. In Silicon Valley, we have a special breed of rich fuck that actively puts money back into innovation, and I appreciate them as at least playing a somewhat productive role in economic life.

California is a very big state with a large agricultural economy, so averaging over the whole state tells you nothing meaningful.

Stop wasting my time on idiocy please.

Crawfurdmuir said...

"What does any of that have to do with neoreaction?"

Your post on neoreaction, libertarianism, and what you call rationalism, attempts to explain them as products of the state of mind of their proponents, whom you characterize as "nerds." It surprises me that someone of your own cast of mind finds this satisfactory, disregarding as it does the dictum of Marx that "conditions create consciousness." What conditions in the environment - social, economic, and political - create the consciousness of a neoreactionary?

This is what I have attempted to explain by pointing out the cognitive dissonance between the tenets of egalitarianism and political correctness on one hand, and what you rightly identify as "meritocracy and competitive intellectual achievement" on the other. It is only a matter of time before some intrepid soul is brave enough to say or write publicly that the politically-correct theology (for that is what, at bottom, it is) is contradicted by the evidence of our senses, and that intellectual honesty compels the acceptance of aristocracy.

Shockley and the Termans are relevant to this because, as founders of Silicon Valley, they exemplified this view from the very start, and thus the seeds of neoreaction were planted there long before anyone conceived of calling it that.

Of course Silicon Valley is "a hub for new technology enterprise creation". That is a rather more modest claim than what you earlier asserted, videlicet, that it was "the main entrepreneurial hub of the US." And of course it is true that California is a big state, so averaging over the state is of limited value. That's why I cited the data about the richest counties, which serve to narrow the focus.

Wealth levels and job creation are indeed suitable metrics of entrepreneurial activity in a locality, since entrepreneurial activity tends to increase wealth and create employment. These data are easy to find. Another measure might be the amount of venture capital invested in the locality. This is somewhat harder to determine. The best information I can find suggests that about 30% of domestic venture capital is invested in Silicon Valley, which is substantial. Whether that makes it "the main entrepreneurial hub of the US" is harder to know.

As for North Dakota and Texas - do you deny that fracking and other new methods of petroleum extraction are technological innovations? Massive fracturing of the type now widely used is of more recent development than the semiconductor industry; its use in the exploitation of shales dates only to the late 1990s.

Finally, I cannot help but notice the incongruity of you vapouring about "polite society" and the sorts of persons you would care to invite to your dinner parties alongside your use of gutter language about "rich fucks," "assholes," and "horseshit." You seem to have a very peculiar notion of what is polite.

mtraven said...

It surprises me that someone of your own cast of mind finds this satisfactory, disregarding as it does the dictum of Marx that "conditions create consciousness."

Your grasp of my "cast of mind" is on par with your grasp of the technology economy -- that is to say, basically zero.

intellectual honesty compels the acceptance of aristocracy.

Aristocracy and meritocracy are not the same thing, in fact they are opposed to each other.

You seem to have a very peculiar notion of what is polite.

Politeness is a tool for making people feel welcome. You've outlasted your welcome.

Crawfurdmuir said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Crawfurdmuir said...

I'm still interested in whether you deny that fracking is a technological innovation. So far as am able to tell, it is - and a fairly recent one at that. The development of low-permeability formations such as the Bakken was not technically possible less than twenty years ago. The benefits of its exploitation have been massive.

As a result, the U.S. is now the world's largest oil producer. The price discipline of the OPEC cartel has been broken. The Saudis are dumping oil in an effort to compete with U.S. production. Oil producing countries with higher costs of production than the Saudis, ranging from Iran to Venezuela, have been deprived of revenues as prices have fallen, squeezing their economies and constraining their ability to finance activities hostile to the United States.

Energy is as basic a human need as food, clothing, and shelter - indeed, obtaining each of these needs requires energy. The fall in energy prices has given the U.S. economy a kind of stimulus that neither the vast government spending nor the "quantitative easing" of recent years were capable of delivering - and all this has happened in the private sector, in the face of palpably hostile government policy towards energy development.

Not to take anything away from the achievements of Silicon Valley - but can you name any single technical development emanating from it that has had the global economic and political consequences that fracking has done during the past half-dozen years?

Crawfurdmuir said...

"This comment has been removed by a blog administrator."

What didn't you like about it? Was it the linked New York Times article, any my comments on it?

Crawfurdmuir said...

OK, let's try again.

'Your grasp of my "cast of mind" is on par with your grasp of the technology economy -- that is to say, basically zero.'

You have often referred in the past to your socialist sympathies and have made reference to Marx, which suggested to me that you might look at the subject at hand with at least an awareness of the importance of conditions in creating consciousness. The aphorism has at least a kernel of truth, and becomes problematic (like so many ideas) only when pursued to its logical extremes.‬

'Aristocracy and meritocracy are not the same thing, in fact they are opposed to each other.'

‪"Aristocracy" means "the rule of the best," from ἄριστος and κρατεῖν. It is an order of society that is arranged ἀριστίνδην, i.e., according to rank or merit. In its ancient conception, it is the same thing as meritocracy, which is a recent portmanteau word intended to convey something like the original Greek idea without the accretions of later ages.‬

‪The hereditary element, though common in the mediaeval and early modern manifestations of aristocracy, is not necessary to the concept. Nonetheless, it has a natural explanation in the largely genetic transmission of IQ, as Lewis Terman and William Shockley understood. It would today be difficult to find many university professors or high-level executives that had the intellectual ability to master all the skills demanded of a courtier in the age of Castiglione. ‬

A strictly hereditary aristocracy ceases to be a class and becomes a caste, and the rigidity of the latter makes it prone to failure. As E. Digby Baltzell observed, a successful upper class must be "porous" enough to admit new talent. Many historical aristocracies did so; and of course, there is nothing in the concept of an aristocracy as understood by classical political philosophy that requires it to be strictly hereditary.

mtraven said...

I'm still interested in whether you deny that fracking is a technological innovation.

Why is that an interesting question? Of course it՚s a technological innovation. Just not a very good one, since it՚s an obvious long-term dead end (there are already signs that the shale reserves are being exhausted) and contriutes to environmental damage and greenhouse gas emissions.

The point was that North Dakota is not an innovation hub, it՚s an extraction hub. As far as I know there isn՚t a large network of people in Bismarck trying as hard as they can to come up with further technological innovations and building on each other՚s work. People don՚t flock to Bismarck to become part of this network, they come there because there are resources in the ground they want to extract.

I՚m not sure what point you are trying to make. Your opinions on energy policy are not as offensive as your opinions on race but they are no more interesting or relevant to the topic of the post. I believe this topic of economic hubs only came up because of your prepostorus claim that innovators were fleeing the US, so if North Dakota was actually an innovation hub that would just be more evidence against your point.

Crawfurdmuir said...

Your original assertion was that Silicon Valley was the "main entrepreneurial hub of the US"; it was this claim I was challenging. You later revised this to the different, qualified, and much more modest claim that it was "a hub for new technology enterprise creation," with which I have no disagreement.

I also said that entrepreneurs - not necessarily "innovators," but people with business acumen and substantial assets - were fleeing the U.S. This is indeed true, and though the numbers are still relatively small, they were at a record level last year. Trends may be spotted in their infant stages, and this is one that bears watching.

Furthermore, even if an entrepreneur does not leave his residence in the United States, he can of course expatriate his business interests to jurisdictions that have more welcoming tax and regulatory policies. Every business of any size has at its disposal corporate lawyers, investment bankers, and finance officers who are quite capable and ready to play the tax arbitrage game. Wednesday's Wall Street Journal carried a report to the effect that something like $175 billion in tax revenues have been lost to the U.S. Treasury because of "inversions" in which a U.S.-based company is acquired by an overseas company in order to domicile its tax jurisdiction outside this country; some 1300 companies were apparently so acquired before rule changes were made in September of 2014 to make it more difficult. Other options such as organizing subsidiaries overseas and not repatriating their earnings are also used.

The desire or at least the willingness to leave is much more widespread, as may be discerned from the below-noted poll:

http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/07/01/poll-obama-millennials-want-to-leave-the-america-they-created/

A characteristic of the tech industry is that it relies on no particular geographic feature (as, for example, oil production does), so it can be located anywhere. Silicon Valley is where it is because of actions that were taken fifty or more years ago. There is something akin to inertia in economics - it is easier to stay where one is than it is to move. However given sufficiently high costs and burdens a business will move, and in the case of the tech industry, it could move anywhere. My guess is that in the long term it will move to Asia. Apple products, for example, are being manufactured in China. How long will it take before their design and development is relocated? Why import tech personnel on H1-B visas to work here, when it is possible to bring the jobs to where they are now?

You didn't like the New York Times article to which I linked, but the relevance of it to these points is that the tech industry got where it is by hiring competent people, and the workforce demographics cited in the article reflect that. Terman and Shockley would have understood why they are what they are. Silicon Valley may find ways to get around tax-domicile issues, but once government regulators start sticking their fingers into its human-resources departments, that can only have a detrimental effect to their bottom lines. Moving more operations out of the U.S. will be a way in which this is addressed.

As for relevance to the "topic of the post" - conversations go in their own direction, as claims are made and then debated. I suppose I made the mistake of supposing this was a conversation, rather than a lecture delivered by you, to which only suitably docile and sycophantic responses were to be entertained.