David Frum wonders how he’s transitioned from “Great American” to “intellectual” on Fox News:
It seems only yesterday that Bill O’Reilly, described me on air as a “great American.”
Now Bill O’Reilly and Bernard Goldberg accuse Frum of intellectualism:
“Not that he’s an important guy, Frum,” O’Reilly noted as he asked Goldberg for analysis, but did note that it was a strange attack coming from a conservative. “They seem to be mad at Fox News,” he suggested. Goldberg had an answer to why this was the case: “there are two kinds of conservatives… intellectual conservatives, or something close to that– they don’t like the riff-raff.” Goldberg argued Frum was one of these intellectuals, and almost seemed sympathetic when asking O’Reilly rhetorically, “could you imagine how frustrating it must be to be an intellectual” who realizes “the riff-raff have more of an influence on politics and culture?”
Conor Friedersdorf suggested that Bill O’Reilly and Bernard Goldberg are not only intellectuals themselves, but are also bad intellectuals:
When used as a noun, the definition of “intellectual” is simple enough: a person who relies on their intellect, or mental labor, for work or leisure. . . .
I want to address this notion that it’s coherent to divide professional writers, pundits, and media personalities into the categories “intellectual” and “non-intellectual.” Because it isn’t.
Take Bill O’Reilly, who as an honors student in college majored in history and wrote for the school newspaper. In addition to his early media gigs, he was briefly a teacher and earned a master’s of public administration from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. He’s also authored 10 books, including a historical account of Lincoln’s assassination. This isn’t to say that O’Reilly’s arguments are particularly rigorous, or that his books are particularly good. He isn’t an intellectual who produces good work. But as surely as Mary-Kate Olsen is an actress, O’Reilly is an intellectual.
As is Rush Limbaugh. All the man produces are ideas and arguments — do they not flow from his intellect? Again, they aren’t particularly good ideas.
Conor defines “intellectual” far too broadly, since just about everybody who follows politics or is an activist relies on the intellect. Paul Johnson, who wrote the excellent Intellectuals, defined the word thus: “An intellectual is somebody who thinks ideas are more important than people.” It’s a harsher, more stringent definition–but it clarifies.
Conservatives have rightly been skeptical of Johnson’s intellectuals. The only way to understand Limbaugh and Goldberg’s aspersions on intellectuals is to understand that they’re talking about Johnson’s definition, not Conor’s. Eric Hoffer once explained the trouble with Johnson’s intellectuals thus: “The sick in soul insist that it is humanity that is sick, and they are the surgeons to operate on it. They want to turn the world into a sickroom. And once they get humanity strapped to the operating table, they operate on it with an ax.“ That’s the sort of thing David Frum takes mild offense at being compared to (Frum seems to know enough not to be too offended at the attack).
The irony of it all is that Limbaugh in particular is a defender of conservative ideology; if conservatism were a faith, Limbaugh would easily be fidei defensor. Frum’s critique of much of contemporary conservative ideology is that it doesn’t help ordinary people and in some places actively hurts their interests. In other words, Limbaugh is a Johnson intellectual and Frum isn’t.
Hubbard posted this at 10:21 PM CDT on Tuesday, December 13th, 2011 as Conservatism, Philosophy
1 Comment »
Let’s say that you view Rick Perry’s endorsement of a federal marriage amendment and an amendment restricting abortion (a position that’s been in the party platform for some time) as a violation of his pledged support for states’ rights under the 10th Amendment. I can certainly see your point of view, and I’m tempted to be persuaded by it.
But there seems to me to be a large overlap between the people decrying Perry’s support for an abortion amendment and an FMA as being hypocritical on 10th Amendment grounds, and people who would vote against those amendments as a matter of policy preferences. What I’d like to figure out is whether the people using the 10th Amendment as a club against Perry are serious about it, or whether it was simply the first weapon at hand to attack something they disagreed with on policy grounds.
So here’s the question I’d like you to answer: Which of the 17 post-Bill of Rights amendments would you have opposed because they ran afoul of federalist principles?
Looking at them, the 14th Amendment is an obvious and undeniable limit on the power of states. With its imposition of the Bill of Rights onto the states, this amendment severely undercuts the 10th Amendment.
The 13th, 15th, 19th, 25th 24th, and 26th Amendments set national policies for matters that had traditionally been left to the states.
So I’ll make a list: 13, 14, 15, 19, 25 24, and 26. Which of those would you have voted for and which would you have voted against on federalist grounds?
Personally I would have voted against 19 and 26, and I’m undecided on 25 24, even though I support the policies that these amendments achieved. I like 13, 14, and 15, but then I’m obviously a fair-weather federalist because I’d support an amendment restricting abortion, and might vote for a well-crafted FMA.
Apollo posted this at 12:39 PM CDT on Saturday, August 13th, 2011 as Philosophy, Politics, The Past Is Never Dead--It Isn't Even Past
2 Comments »
It mostly involves driving in a manner that every other driver on the road would consider either obnoxiously slow or unpredictable. Imagine you’re in a 70 mph zone on an interstate in the right lane, and you crest a hill to find an F-150 doing 45 with its engine off “driving” in front of you. I guess these people believe that saving gas is worth inconveniencing and putting at risk other drivers.
If you listen to the mp3 (linked near the bottom) beginning at 13:11 some of the hypermilers describe their interactions with other drivers on the road. They’re just trying to save some fuel, they explain, so everyone else should just put up with this rolling safety hazard. Protip: if people routinely honk at you on the road, you are doing it wrong.
I’ve just finished the process of taking someone who had never driven before and getting him to the point where he is now licensed. The night before I let him drive for the first time, I told him to keep in mind that every time you put a car in gear you are taking into your hands the lives of every single person you see, and many you do not see. Too often people are taught to drive by being cautioned that if they drive badly they’ll kill themselves. That’s a meaningless concept to pretty much everyone who is of an age where they are first learning to drive. Dropping the true moral implications of their actions – “Are you willing to risk those people’s lives to do x?” – is the better way. Putting your own life at risk is, ironically, an abstract notion (either you live, in which case the risk wasn’t that bad, or you die, in which case … well, you’re dead and can’t complain), but putting the lives of others at risk is a concrete idea that any non-sociopath can grasp.
I love driving; I drive fast and aggressive. But driving is a social interaction, and therefore brings moral choices. I strive to have fun while driving, but much more important than that is that I neither endanger nor inconvenience others. Yes, I put other people’s convenience above my own enjoyment. Because I’ve learned that when other drivers get inconvenienced, they drive erratically and unsafely. And because I understand that the enjoyment I derive from driving in my chosen manner is not superior to the contentment others derive from driving in their chosen manner.
Yet here we have a story about a bunch of goofs acting like a rolling traffic hazard across 2500 miles of interstate. And journalists go along with this, and participate in this, as though inconveniencing and endangering others is a normal part of saving money (second protip: to save gas, don’t gratuitously drive across the country just to show how little gas you use; real hypermilers stay home). The only time the journalist thinks about other drivers isn’t when he kills the engine while driving 45 on the interstate, it’s when he’s asking the members of the group how they respond to being honked at. Third and final protip: if you’re driving so slow that you have to plan out the evasive actions you’ll take when people come up on you too fast, you seriously need to speed the eff up. Because unsafe driving isn’t an amusing story, it’s wrong.
Apollo posted this at 12:07 AM CDT on Saturday, May 14th, 2011 as Philosophy
No Comments »
I don’t really buy into international “laws” of war, morally speaking, so when I think of what we ought to do I don’t think about them. Still, to the degree it makes it more likely that we’ll end this conflict quickly and painlessly by simply killing Gadaffi, I’m glad doing so would be “legal.” I don’t actually think our administration has the stones or the sense to step up and do the right thing; I just approve of everything that makes that scenario look more attractive.
Apollo posted this at 9:36 PM CDT on Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011 as Philosophy, The Law Is An Ass--An Idiot, To the Shores of Tripoli
No Comments »
Provoked by my earlier reference to The Prince, I got out my copy (Mansfield translation, natch) to see what further insight I could draw out regarding the Libyan conflict. It occurred to me that of the two sides in the Libyan civil war, one (Gadaffi) is relying on mercenaries, and the other is relying on non-mercenary foreign soldiers, what Machiavelli would call “auxiliaries.”
As always, NM is timeless and cutting. On mercenaries (from chapter 12):
Mercenary and auxiliary arms are useless and dangerous; and if one keeps his state founded on mercenary arms, one will never be firm or secure; for they are disunited, ambitious, without discipline, unfaithful; bold among friends, among enemies cowardly; no fear of God, no faith with men; ruin is postponed only as long as attack is postponed; and in peace you are despoiled by them, in war by the enemy. The cause of this is that they have no love nor cause to keep them in the field other than a small stipend, which is not sufficient to make them want to die for you. They do indeed want to be your soldiers while you are not making war, but when war comes, they either flee or leave. It should be little trouble for me to persuade anyone of this point, because the present ruin of Italy is caused by nothing other than its having relied for a period of many years on mercenary arms. These arms once made some progress for some, and may have appeared bold among themselves; but when the foreigner came [i.e. the French invaded in 1494], they showed what they were.
He’s even more biting about using the soldiers of a foreign sovereign (from chapter 13):
These arms can be useful and good in themselves, but for whoever calls them in, they are almost always harmful, because when they lose you are undone; and when they win, you are left their prisoner. . . . Let him, then, who wants to be unable to win make use of these arms [HAH!], since they are much more dangerous than mercenary arms. For with these, ruin is accomplished; they are all united, all resolved to obey someone else. But mercenary arms, when they have won, need more time and greater opportunity to hurt you, since they are not one whole body and have been found and paid for by you. In them the third party whom you may put at their head cannot quickly seize so much authority as to offend you. In sum, in mercenary arms laziness is more dangerous; in auxiliary arms, virtue is.
Just to clarify, in Libya we are the auxiliaries. NM says, then, that we are more dangerous to the rebels than Gadaffi’s mercenaries are to him. I think that’s right – we don’t know what the rebels’ post-war plans are, but does anyone think we won’t subject them to our democracy project? Gadaffi might actually prevail in this war, and if he does he’ll once again have the run of the place. But the rebels will either lose or be under our thumb. They’ve asked for American help, and they’re going to get it good and hard.
Or are they?
I shall never hesitate to cite Cesare Borgia and his actions. This duke came into Romagna with auxiliary arms, leading there entirely French troops, with whom he took Imola and Forli. But when such arms no longer appeared safe to him, he turned to mercenaries, judging there to be less danger in them; and he hired the Orsini and Vitelli. Then in managing them, he found them doubtful, unfaithful, and dangerous; he eliminated them, and turned to his own arms [i.e. native soldiers]. And one can easily see the difference between these arms if one considers what a difference there was in the reputation of the duke when he had only the French, and when he had the Orsini and Vitelli, and when he was left with his own soldiers and himself over them; his reputation will be found always to have increased, but he was never so much esteemed as when everyone saw that he was the total owner of his arms.
That’s also from chapter 13. We don’t know whether the Libyan rebels have a Cesare Borgia in their midst, but certainly if they were able to win with our help and then unite the country (i.e. raise their own arms) independent of us, they would be able to resist our influence and rule as they saw fit. I find that unlikely; Cesare was what a statistician might call an “outlier.” It’s much more probable that the rebels will either lose, or be undone by pressure from the western allies. Which of these is better for the Libyan people is, I’m sure, covered in a different book.
Apollo posted this at 11:44 PM CDT on Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011 as Belles Lettres, Philosophy, Politics, To the Shores of Tripoli
5 Comments »
Following up on my rant about guns on college campuses, I’d like to point out that a very large number of people believe both of the following:
- College campuses are full of over-emotional, overly-hormoned, drunken, drugged, stressed-out, irresponsible louts who shouldn’t be allowed to carry guns.
- We should achieve maximum voter turnout on college campuses.
To my mind, if we trust a man with a vote we should trust him a gun. But I regard both as the honors and torments of free men.
Apollo posted this at 12:47 AM CDT on Saturday, March 5th, 2011 as Philosophy, Politics
No Comments »
After reading Amy Chua’s article on Chinese parenting, Hubbard was concerned that the children subjected to such parenting would experience burnout, and discusses a burned out swimmer. Instapundit posted a reader’s summary of this sentiment: “What’s so superior about taking a whole decade to realize I’m not a piano prodigy? Congrats to Amy that her children are, I guess.”
First, it’s worth pointing out that no one is born a prodigy and no one discovers they’re a prodigy at anything on their first attempt. Or their second attempt. Or their thousandth attempt. Is ten years long enough to discover that you’re not a prodigy? Perhaps. It’s certainly long enough to learn that you’re not the next Mozart (but since in over two hundred years we’ve yet to discover the next Mozart, perhaps this is an unrealistic basis for comparison). Or perhaps you didn’t practice enough because you just expected talent to float from the heavens and land upon your blessed fingers.
I fall into the latter category. I played the piano for a considerable number of years, and seem to have had some underlying talent. However, without getting into any childhood issues, we’ll just say that I had a fairly lax upbringing. I practiced when I wanted, and I watched TV and played Nintendo when I wanted. Guess which one of those I wanted to do least? I was able to be an above average pianist while exerting a minimal amount of effort. Because I wasn’t excellent, however, it was never fun to play.
But one can’t become excellent without hard work. An honest review of my life shows consistently above average outcomes and consistently minimal effort. Perhaps I could have been genuinely excellent at something, but I simply didn’t put in enough work. Or, perhaps I would have been merely above average no matter how hard I tried. If it’s the latter, my laziness has paid off in spades; if it’s the former, my laziness has been my tragic downfall. The truest thing written on those demotivation posters is that, “Hard work often pays off after time, but laziness always pays off now.” Logically, it’s very hard to get past that.
We must get past that, however, if we’re to achieve excellence. I envy Chua’s children. I doubt their childhood was significantly less happy than mine (and even if it was, so what? why do we fetishize “childhood”? why is it more important to have a carefree first fifteen years than to use that time so that their last 85 years are full of accomplishment and pride?), but they know exactly how good they can be.
Not everyone finishes first every time, not everyone is awesome at everything they try; in fact, very, very few do and are. Success is a function of inate talent multipled by effort. Knowing what I know about piano playing, the amount of time Chua’s children have put in at the bench by itself is enough to enusre that they’re among the top .1% of those who play the piano. They’re better than the vast majority of those who have more talent than they but work less hard.
And so what if, after fifteen years of hard practicing, Chua’s children realize that they don’t like playing the piano, or that they’ve reached their limit and their limit isn’t good enough? I doubt she forced them to take these lessons on the presumption that they would be professional pianists. Rather the experience of having put in enough work to get very good at something, and at least having a grasp of how much hard work is required to achieve true excellence, is an incredible thing to give a child. For those of us who have never tried hard enough to fail, that’s enviable.
Apollo posted this at 11:31 AM CDT on Tuesday, January 11th, 2011 as Ourselves, Philosophy
No Comments »
In what sort of bizarro world does it make sense that a popularly elected president and Congress need to “sell” a trillion-dollar society-altering law they’ve already passed?
Also, it’s neat that the president, after spending a year telling us that we need this law NOW NOW NOW NOW!!!!!!! is now entering “it’s-only-a-first-step” mode. Not only has change come to America, change will come to America again, and, presumably, change the change that’s already changed us. When he signed the law, he said, “This is what change looks like.” But I guess now it’s what the status quo looks like, and whatever it is that he wants to do next will be “what change looks like.” Those who thought George Bush to be a foundationless dunderpate and saw Obama as our coming Philosopher President should take note.
Apollo posted this at 9:56 AM CDT on Tuesday, March 30th, 2010 as CHANGE!, Health Care, Philosophy, Politics
No Comments »
Those who write treatises of natural law can only declare what their own moral sense and reason dictate….Where they agree, their authority is strong; but where they differ (and they often differ), we must appeal to our own feelings and reason to decide between them. — Thomas Jefferson, 1793
Brookhiser, Richard. Alexander Hamilton, American. The Free Press, 1999. p 171.
Tom posted this at 11:22 PM CDT on Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010 as Philosophy
No Comments »
I was browsing old issues of National Review (don’t ask) when I found these pithy aphorisms. Enjoy!
From the pages of NR, Sept. 11, 1987:
- Everybody knows everything.
- Who says A must say B.
- Just as good, isn’t.
- You cannot invest in retrospect.
- Wherever there is prohibition there’s a bootlegger.
- In every project there’s a Schlamm.
- You can’t divorce yourself.
- Every member must pay his dues.
- No excuse, sir.
- If there’s no alternative, there’s no problem.
As I understand it, Rule #6 refers to Willi Schlamm, who was the sort of person who’s often right but always is a walking hemorrhoid.
Hubbard posted this at 8:16 AM CDT on Wednesday, February 24th, 2010 as Conservatism, Humor, Philosophy
No Comments »
Is this guy’s. Lying around for 23 years unable to move or communicate, most of that time spent alone as people presumed you were just a piece of fleshy furniture. It’s the stuff of horror movies.
What’s more frightening? Reading that story and then having to deal with a loved one in a coma. Do you plug ‘em in, possibly sentencing them to years or decades staring at the ceiling, fully conscience but without meaningful interaction? Or do you pull the plug and deprive them of a chance at meaningful life once science catches up with their condition?
Me? I’m on the respirator for as long as it takes (I like to let as many people as possible know that). But that’s easy for me to say, not having spent 23 years in unfathomable boredom.
Apollo posted this at 2:37 AM CDT on Monday, November 23rd, 2009 as Philosophy
1 Comment »
David Goldman, writing as Spengler, asks the basic questions that neither Bush nor Obama seemed to ponder:
Which countries are inherently friendly, which are inherently hostile, and which are neither friendly nor hostile, but merely self-interested?
Which countries are viable partners over a given time horizon, and which are beyond viability?
Where can we solve problems, and where must we resign ourselves to contain them at best?
Where can we make agreements in mutual self-interest, and where is it impossible to make agreements of any kind?
What issues affect American national security in so urgent a fashion that we should employ force if required?
He also provides some goals for an American agenda:
Speeding economic recovery;
Maintaining the integrity of the reserve role of the dollar;
Preventing rogue states from acquiring nuclear weapons or prospectively rogue states from using them – I refer to Pakistan;
Fostering the stability of key countries, especially China and India, and, above all,
Maintaining a technological edge of American weaponry so great as to give America strategic flexibility in all theaters.
And finally he proposes things that should NOT be on the American foreign policy agenda:
Iraqi or Afghani democracy;
North Atlantic Treaty Organization membership for Ukraine.
Quite a bit packed into one column. I disagree with his assessment about the Dalai Lama—American should stand with the oppressed against their oppressors—but it’s mostly a pragmatic view of what should be done. There doesn’t need to be democracy in Iraq or Afghanistan, just regimes that won’t actively help America’s enemies. A provocative column, well worth pondering.
Hubbard posted this at 2:17 PM CDT on Monday, November 2nd, 2009 as Philosophy, We're all DOOMED
No Comments »
This is an atrocious article for several reasons: its poor argumentation, pathetic attempt use of strawmen, its shameless exploitation of Ted Kennedy’s recently-departed ghost, etc. All of that pales, however, in comparison to this quote:
Kennedy knew – as his friend Congressman Barney Frank says – that Government is nothing more than the name we give to the things we choose to do together.
My astronomy club is not government. My outdoors club is not government. My trade-association employer is not government. This group blog is not government. Nor are whatever other private associations or relationships I choose to make outside of a very limited set of institutions.
From the depths of my libertarian soul, screw you and all you stand for, Robert Creamer.
Tom posted this at 12:22 PM CDT on Wednesday, August 26th, 2009 as Health Care, Lord, What Fools These Mortals Be!, Philosophy, Politics
No Comments »
We here at Federalist Paupers, nee Snarky Bastards, got started snarking at each other over varieties of libertarianism (Jamie and Tom), conservatism (Dorothy and Apollo), and outright misanthropy (yours truly). We later added a token liberal (Geoff).
We drifted somewhat thanks to a minor election in 2008. It seems as though we all got a little burned out on contemporary issues, so perhaps we need to reboot the debate. If Star Trek and Batman can do it, we can, too?
I haven’t read any Evelyn Waugh yet, but I like the anecdotes about the man. Whenever people would bore him, he’d make a point of taking out his hearing aids. After reading his definition of conservatism at First Thoughts, I need to read more of him:
Let me, then, warn the reader that I was a Conservative when I went to Mexico and that everything I saw there strengthened my opinions.
I believe that man is, by nature, an exile and will never be self-sufficient or complete on this earth; That his chances of happiness and virtue, here, remain more or less constant through the centuries and, generally speaking, are not much affected by the political and economic conditions in which he lives; That the balance of good and ill tends to revert to a norm; That sudden changes of physical condition are usually ill, and are advocated by the wrong people for the wrong reasons; That the intellectual communists of today have personal, irrelevant grounds for their antagonism to society, which they are trying to exploit.
I believe in government; That men cannot live together without rules but that they should be kept at the bare minimum of safety; That there is no form of government ordained from God as being better than any other; That the anarchic elements in society are so strong that it is a whole-time task to keep the peace.
I believe that the inequalities of wealth and position are inevitable and that it is therefore meaningless to discuss the advantages of elimination; That men naturally arrange themselves in a system of classes; That such a system is necessary for any form of co-operation work, more particularly the work of keeping a nation together.
I believe in nationality; not in terms of race or of divine commissions for world conquest, but simply thus: mankind inevitably organizes itself in communities according to its geographical distribution; These communities by sharing a common history develop common characteristics and inspire local loyalty; The individual family develops most happily and fully when it accepts these natural limits.
A conservative is not merely an obstructionist, a brake on frivolous experiment. He has positive work to do.
Civilization has no force of its own beyond what it is given from within. It is under constant assault and it takes most of the energies of civilized man to keep going at all.
Barbarism is never finally defeated; given propitious circumstances, men and women who seem quite orderly, will commit every conceivable atrocity.
Unremitting effort is needed to keep men living together at peace.
Hubbard posted this at 10:52 AM CDT on Tuesday, July 7th, 2009 as Conservatism, Philosophy
4 Comments »
I started reading this review because I thought it was going to be about white guys with Asian chicks. It sorta was. But it mostly wasn’t. Instead, it turned into some weird Said-ian rant where the reviewer turns what, at worst, seems to be the author’s fetish into some sort of vile racism. That’s what I get for reading a review from some guy who has a column in The Guardian: you don’t toe the po-mo line, you’re a racist.
It seems that the author’s thesis is something along the lines of this: through sexual interactions between East and West, the Eastern harem and open prostitution culture was turned into a generally monogamous culture, and the Western culture of shaming sex was turned into a much more permissive sexual culture. It sounds sorta vaguely interesting, if you’re into that sort of thing, but, again, I started reading because I thought it was going to be about white guys with Asian chicks.
At this point we get the truly boring part of Hari’s review, where he insists on continuing his condemnation rather than to actually be interesting:
This is, in the end, a darker and bleaker story than the one Bernstein wants to tell. European and American men really did find sexual liberation in the East. Some returned home and helped to sexually liberate their own countries in ways we all benefit from today. But the freedom came at the cost of exploiting an extreme form of patriarchy in the countries they went to, and to imply that the beaten-down, deeply deprived women wanted it is revolting.
An interesting discussion is this: if the author’s thesis is to be believed, how much Western sexual liberation is worth how much Eastern sexual exploitation? That is, how much value do we place on the trade-offs here. Leftists are uninteresting because they don’t like to talk about tradeoffs. This is a problem of ideologues generally, but it is particularly a problem of Leftists; conservatives, as keepers of the Tragic flame, frequently view trade-offs as a part of their ideology. This is why we are party poopers.
But the situation Hari outlines in the paragraph above doesn’ts strike me as dark or bleak in any serious way. On the one hand, he says we have a culture gaining someting “we all benefit from” (whether that’s true or not, I won’t discuss; this is about Hari’s argument). On the other, we have the mere “exploitation” of an already existing “extreme form of patriarchy.” I’m no expert of the sex lives of Flaubert and Burton, but it doesn’t sound likely that any additional women were forced into sexual servitude to accomodate them. Rather, they took advantage of women who were already subjugated. That doesn’t make it right, but the end result of Flaubert and Burton refusing to take advantage of these women would simply have been some Eastern man stepping up to the plate as a pinch hitter.
So on the one hand, Hari believes that all of Western civilization benfitted from this. On the other, we have some Eastern women who were occaisionally exploited by Westerners rather than Easterners. If that’s not Pareto Optimal, it’s at least very close. But instead of noting this obvious implication of what he’s saying, Hari would rather get on his post-modern high horse, and negate a large, culture-wide benefit with a few scattered tragedies that resulted in no ultimate net loss. As I say: uninteresting.
Apollo posted this at 12:44 AM CDT on Sunday, July 5th, 2009 as Philosophy, Race
1 Comment »