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Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

Today, The Blaze reported on an op-ed penned by former SEIU president Andy Stern. In it, Stern attacks the very mechanics of limited government. As The Blaze reported:

“American democracy has layers of power and responsibility, which James Madison rationalized in Federalist, no. 51 as a check against possible tyrannical rule,” Stern writes. “Our Founding Fathers saw fit to divide power between two strata — state and federal. Then, within the federal structure, they codified a trifurcation of power to ensure that no single branch came to dominate government; and while power has ebbed and flowed between branches, the system of checks and balances has provided stability, and kept tyrannical rule at bay.”

But today, he goes on to say, that system is just so, well, old:

Now, however, in the midst of the transformative change of globalization and this third economic revolution, those layers have become an impediment to making the changes necessary to keep America competitive in the world economy. Today, America crawls along at a snail’s pace. [Emphasis added]

This is, of course, boilerplate progressivism. The idea that society and government owe more to Darwin than to Newton, and therefore cannot be hampered by mechanical processes that might inhibit it’s ability to evolve organically, has been part of the progressive faith since some of it’s earliest writings. It has therefore been part of the progressive program for years to subvert and undermine any of these barriers, whether that means bypassing the legislature and having the Judiciary set laws, or having the legislature pass punitive judgements against classes of people (this is what they refer to as “social justice”. Notice “justice” is meted out by the law giving branch of government in the case of “social justice”.)

So why were the founders inspired to base the mechanics of our constitutional republic on the baron de Montesquieu’s tripartite system? Clearly because they weren’t as smart as Andy Stern. Or maybe Mr. Stern believes that in the time that intervened between when Montesquieu wrote about them in “On the Spirit of Laws”, all of the evils that made the enlightened thinkers averse to the concentration of power vanished. Or maybe the nature of men and power has changed. I mean look at the 20th century, clearly this recent history shows that men, entrusted with enough power, will refrain from trampling on rights and truncating individual liberties to the point of non-existence.

No, all but the first answer give Andy too much credit. It’s pretty clear that Andy thinks he and his buddies are the smartest, most enlightened, most progressive motherfuckers to ever walk God’s green earth.

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Philosophy nerds will find this funny. Others…not so much.

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Bill Maher recently released some video of Christine O’Donnell denying the theory of evolution. Of course, columnists like Maureen Dowd (a monument to intellectual curiosity I might add) have used this revelation as a club with which to beat O’Donnell. This sort of thing is nothing new, as it has become a common political theme the past decade; apparently one’s intelligence is in direct proportion to ones comprehension and belief in Darwin.

Why is one’s belief regarding the origin of the human species such a popular intellectual litmus test? Even if denial of evolution is ignorant, it is a completely benign ignorance; unless of course the person in question is tasked with writing a biology textbook. The truth is that in the task our elected representatives are charged with, whether or not they believe in a mystical origin of humanity or a scientific one is about as relevant as their favorite color.

Comparatively, there are numerous members of the federal government, elected and unelected, that display ignorance that is anything but benign. The denial or ignorance of natural rights, for example, can have a profound effect on the voting habits of a legislator. That effect can, and often does, put property rights and various other individual rights in jeopardy. Indeed, this can lead to the undermining of the very foundations of our society.

Of course, the leftists will point to belief in creationism as an indication of some sort of general intellectual deficiency. Ironic come from a group of people whose ignorance on important issues including economics and political philosophy is of monumental proportions.

But I suppose that they can sleep comfortably with their unearned and unwarranted belief in their intellectual superiority because…you know…they believe–nay know–we come from the monkeys.

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The Pope’s comments associating Atheism and Nazism, delivered during his recent trip to the UK, have sparked some controversy from the non-believing community. “As we reflect on the sobering lessons of atheist extremism of the 20th century,” the Pope said, “let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society and thus a reductive vision of a person and his destiny.” Not surprisingly, his statement has been earned rebuke by outspoken atheist Richard Dawkins who called the Pope’s comment a “Despicable outrage”. However, when one examines the offending comment, the Pontiff was not completely out of bounds.

Communism and Fascism were both ideologies that arose as new orders within what was believed would become a world without a transcendent God. Their founding philosophers, Karl Marx and Giovanni Gentile respectively, were militant atheists who believed that the future would be created by the scientific manipulation of society. While Marxism was overtly Atheist, Fascism –both in Italy and Nazi Germany– was considerably more opportunistic when it came to faith. While Fascism may not historically appear to be overtly Atheistic, make no mistake about it, it was.

Atheists who believe in the concept of liberty must accept the fact that there is a contradiction that exists within their belief system (unless of course you’re an Objectivist). The concept of natural rights contends that man’s rights originate from a place beyond the institutions of men.  Without some form of transcendent entity or concept, the idea of natural rights (also known as “self-evident” or “God-given” rights) becomes more difficult –although by no means impossible– to explain. This being said, Atheists can embrace liberty like a person of any religious stripe, chalking up natural rights to “one of the mysteries of the Universe” if they so choose.

Of course the Pope was not making disparaging remarks about atheists per say. The way Dawkins represents the comment, you would believe that the Pontiff had declared the all Atheists were Nazi’s. A more fair and reasonable account of the statement reveals that he was making an observation about the introduction of faithlessness as a guiding social tenet. His conclusion that governments and ideologies not built on faith tend to have a “truncated vision of man and of society” is on target, as they tend to view the individual not as an end unto himself, but rather as a means to some greater social end. Under such a government, the state without fail engages in excesses, without regard to individual rights.

Unfortunately, such a defense of “faith in government” is often taken as advocacy of theocracy, which couldn’t be further from my intention. To be sure, government based specifically on tenets of Religion tend to be just as dangerous, as the individual becomes a means to some theological end, rather than an end unto himself.

Richard Dawkins is undoubtedly an intelligent individual, but his outrage over the Pope’s statement appears more like the outrage of a man defending his faith against an attack than it does a rational exploration of history and political philosophy.

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Caught this over at Ace of Spades who sarcastically calls this evidence of President Obama being an “intellectual”:

“You’re coming of age in a 24/7 media environment that bombards us with all kinds of content and exposes us to all kinds of arguments, some of which don’t always rank all that high on the truth meter,” Obama said at Hampton University, Virginia.

“With iPods and iPads and Xboxes and PlayStations, — none of which I know how to work — information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation,” Obama said.

He bemoaned the fact that “some of the craziest claims can quickly claim traction,” in the clamor of certain blogs and talk radio outlets.

“All of this is not only putting new pressures on you, it is putting new pressures on our country and on our democracy.”

While I appreciate Ace’s sentiment, and think he is mostly correct in his assessment of Obama’s statement, I have to disagree with his conclusion that a fear of people’s access to information is not congruent with intellectuals, at least historically speaking. Intellectuals, and the establishment that they tend to be the minions of, have long believed themselves to be the vanguard and gate-keepers of information, and have always feared people gaining too much access to it.

One need only look at the invention of movable type and the printing press to realize intellectuals fear the democratization of information. While Johannes Gutenberg wanted to print books that would teach people how to read latin, the intellectuals at the time, the Roman Catholic Clergy, would only approve of his printing of the Bible. The fear was that if people were allowed access to too much information, they could be persuaded of all sorts of crazy ideas. In the end, the intellectuals were right; once liberated, the printing press eventually gave birth to the reformation, the scientific revolution, and all sorts of crazy ideas that greatly compromised their power.

We’re seeing a similar information revolution going on today. Some might think that it’s hyperbole to compare the rise of new media, including the internet, to the invention of the printing press, but frankly I believe that comparing it to the printing press doesn’t do the current media revolution enough justice. But Obama’s reaction to it is typical, as the power structure in Washington has been the greatest victim of the new media, as the increase in access to information has led to DC getting a level of scrutiny that they have never before seen, much to his chagrin, and to the detriment of his poll numbers.

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We must seek to establish individual tyranny over the state. The state, and particularly it’s agents who wield the authority it is granted, must live in a state of abject terror of crossing the individual. He must always assume that the eyes of the governed, who guard their individual liberties with the most intense of jealousies, are constantly upon him, judging his every move and indeed scrutinizing him with the intent of finding him in want of proper conduct. Only then will men be safe from the excesses of the state.

You might find this to be an over the top assessment of the requirement of proper governance, but why should such an assessment give us a seconds pause? Consider the activities of state agencies. Do they hesitate to run individuals through unbearable scrutiny when it suits their own ends? Do state agencies like the IRS function as an inquisitorial body; with the intent of squeezing ever cent out of the governed as it feels it is owed by law? Do those individual actors within the state apparatus not advance their careers by applying with efficiency the power invested in them? It is almost without question then that the same inquisition should be turned upon the state by the individuals who make up the whole of the body politic. It is this fact that the whole of that body must agree upon, leaving no lingering doubt in the mind of the state that it is the servant of the individual, and that the individual is indeed a cruel master.

Remember: It is only when a force is met with a force equal to or greater than itself that it is kept in check.

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FA Hayek

Have you ever asked yourself why it is that the vast majority of intellectuals are leftist socialists? If you were ever a conservative in your college years probably asked yourself every day.

First, let’s define intellectuals. The first mistake people make is to assume that intellectuals are defined simply as those who use intellect. Intellectuals find this common mistake to be very useful, as they can simply sit back and say that those who attack or criticize intellectuals are doing no less than criticizing the use of intellect. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Intellectuals are a class of people best described as, those whose occupations deal in the creation and perpetuation of ideas. Amongst this class you would find professors, critics, journalists. Some vocations, including for example engineers and brain surgeons, require a large amount of intellect for what they do, yet we would not consider them amongst the intellectual class.

Now, why are they usually leftists? I find Nobel Prize winning economist FA Hayek’s answer to be the most satisfying. From his book, The Fatal Conceit:

One’s initial surprise at finding that intelligent people tend to be socialists diminishes when one realizes that, of course, intelligent people will tend to overvalue intelligence, and to suppose that we must owe all the advantages and opportunities that our civilization offers to deliberate design rather than to following traditional rules, and likewise to suppose that we can, by exercising out reason, eliminate any remaining undesired features by still more intelligent reflection, and still more appropriate design and ‘rational coordination’ of our undertakings. This leads one to be favourably disposed to the central economic planning and control that lie at the heart of socialism.

Those who have really done the most to spread these ideas…are the so-called ‘intellectuals’ that I have elsewhere unkindly called professional ‘second hand dealers in ideas’: teachers, journalists and ‘media representatives’ who, having absorbed rumours in the corridors of science, appoint themselves as representatives of modern thought, as persons of superior knowledge and moral virtue to any who retain a high regard for traditional values, as persons whose very duty it is to offer new ideas to the public – and who must, in order to make their wares seem novel, deride whatever is conventional. For such people, due to the position in which they find themselves, ‘newness’, or ‘news’, and not the truth, becomes the main value, although that is hardly their intention – and although what they offer is often no more new than it is true.

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