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Jasay’s The State online

Now online: Anthony de Jasay’s The State, one of the best libertarian books. “What would you do if you were the state?”

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Nitty gritty

It’s good bad language is being so vigorously suppressed in England: “Minister prompts race row over ‘nitty gritty’ ”.

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Another dialogue on homosexuality

Back to homosexuality! Another possible dialogue:

Alter: So what’s your problem with gays?

Ego: “Gay” covers a variety of situations.

I have something of a problem with someone habitually engaging in homosexual acts. I have more of a problem if he claims that engaging in homosexual acts is basic to what he is. And if he expects public acceptance of what he does I have a big problem.

Alter: But why should you care at all what someone does sexually?

Topics: 
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The Fortuyn case and liberal contradictions

I suppose the point should be made explicitly—the contradiction between “tolerance” and “multiculturalism” in the Fortuyn case illustrates a genuine insoluble contradiction within liberalism. There’s no “true liberalism” that can resolve it.

Both tolerance and multiculturalism say that one system of habit and attitude is as good as another. What happens though when two systems, say Islam and flamboyant homosexuality, conflict? Tolerance says that the tolerant system—the one that doesn’t care about what other people do—wins. So in tolerant Holland, homosexuality wins because those who wish can abstain, and Islam loses because it insists its standards apply even to those who reject it.

But what is tolerant about insistence on indifference to what other people do as a moral principle? If Dutch tolerance insists that Islam—a system of life that has satisfied hundreds of millions for centuries—transform itself for the benefit of a few homosexuals, how can it call itself tolerant? It’s not, in any ultimate sense. As Fortuyn suggested, Dutch tolerance is only the demand of a particular culture that (like Islamic culture) insists that those who live under its rule toe whatever lines it draws.

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America as ill-founded

If America was not well founded, what then? Not that it is a bad country, or an unworthy object of loyalty, or that an American should not look upon its history as his own. A country has to be mostly good to exist at all, and if it has problems we owe it the concern we owe a family with problems.

What it means is that there is a serious flaw in the organization of its national life. Our first duty is to recognize the flaw, our second to do what we can about it. Recognizing a problem in the Founding does change our attitude toward the men and principles traditionally taken as authoritative in our national life. We can still view Washington, Jefferson, Madison and the others as admirable men who made a permanent contribution to American and world politics. We simply can’t view them and what they did as final authority. We must see their limitations.

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Fortuyn lives on …

So Fortuyn’s party is gaining, and even suing other politicians under Holland’s hate-crime laws for inciting his assassination, tra-la! Meanwhile, it appears that in addition to his other oddities he was openly pro-pedophilia, not that it mattered to anyone of consequence over there.

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Dialogue on “homophobia”

Back to homosexuality! Another possible dialogue:

Alter: So what’s your problem with gays?

Ego: “Gay” covers a variety of situations.

I have something of a problem with someone habitually engaging in homosexual acts. I have more of a problem if he claims that engaging in homosexual acts is basic to what he is. And if he expects public acceptance of what he does I have a big problem.

Alter: But why should you care at all what someone does sexually?

Ego: Sex is basic to our emotional life and our relationships to others. Why shouldn’t someone’s relation to sex affect how I feel about him? Also, we’re social, so we care what other people are like.

Suppose it were racism or pedophilia instead of homosexuality. Would you feel a little queasy if someone were a racist pedophile? If he thought that was central to what he is? If he proclaimed it openly and demanded that others accept it?

Alter: You can’t be serious. Racism and pedophilia are sick, and they hurt people. Homosexuality is just an orientation, no sicker than any other, and it hurts no-one.

Ego: There are people who say the same about racism and pedophilia. They’re just orientations, after all, and whether they’re sick or hurt people depends on how they fit into the general scheme of human life.

Racism by itself doesn’t affect anyone other than the racist. Someone might use the N word or be obsessed with Nazi memorabilia and never hurt anybody. There are reputable scholars who claim pedophilia can be good for you. And there was a recent play, The Vagina Monologues, that showed the statutory rape of a 13 year old girl as a good thing, and everyone thought it was great.

Alter: So how does homosexulity hurt the “general scheme of human life,” as you call it?

Ego: Basically, it’s radical rejection of the whole system of habit and feeling that defines what men and women are and what their relations should be. That system is necessary for life in society to be tolerable. It follows that to reject it is wrong, and we should respond to it as we respond to something wrong. Read my questions and answers on sexual morality if you want a more extended argument.

Alter: I think you’re sick.

Ego: Fine, you feel about homophobia the way I feel about homosexuality. Who has the right attitude depends on who has the better understanding of human nature and society. Most people and most serious thinkers have agreed with me. If you respect other people you’ll consider our arguments seriously. That’s all I ask.

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Was America well-founded?

How did we get where we are in America today? Was it in the cards from the beginning? Right-wingers sometimes argue about whether America was well-founded. It’s very awkward of course if it wasn’t, but the question must be considered soberly.

The strongest argument that it was not is that the supreme political power the Founders established was based on contract, with no real appeal to any law higher than human purposes. The problem with putting the federal government on that basis that is that whatever principle is authoritative in the highest political community eventually becomes authoritative in all things. The highest community has ultimate responsibility for ensuring peace and so must be able to demand a loyalty that overrides all others. Concretely, it runs the army and must be able to insist that men die for it. To do so it must claim that the principle it stands for is the highest principle.

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More on the Dutch tolerance Nazis

The Dutch tolerance Nazis strike again. And again. And again.

A friend refers me to this compilation of non-discrimination legislation in the Netherlands. As the law is written, it appears that you can get jugged for six months for sending someone almost any serious work on man, God or the world as a birthday present because you think it’s a great book. (The present was unsolicited, you didn’t send it simply to give factual information, and it’s likely to contain statements “offensive to a group of persons on the grounds of their race, religion, or personal beliefs, or their hetero- or homosexual orientation.”)

Also note that “discrimination” includes any form of distinction that may lead to the result that the exercise on an equal basis of human rights and fundamental freedoms in any area of social life is harmed. It’s hard to think of any form of different treatment that wouldn’t constitute discrimination under this standard. So if you say publicly that men and women, boys and girls, heterosexuality and homosexuality, should be differently treated in any way at all then you’re apparently inciting discrimination and can get jailed for a year.

This is totalitarian. How come no-one says so?

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Internet and community

Who will the cultural winners be in the age of the Internet?

It seems to undermine centralization, so it may make “social justice” less of a threat. On the other hand, it puts everybody and everything in immediate touch and so puts everything somewhat on a par, with exchange (that is, money) and arbitrary choice the organizing principles.

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More on why social justice is bad

Libertarianism isn’t a cure-all, it’s just necessary (at least a lot of it is) for the protection of whatever makes life worth living.

If social justice—equality of outcome—is to be achieved the only things that can be allowed to count are things like formal qualifications that a bureaucracy can measure and administer. Otherwise control is impossible and there is room for endless arbitrariness. Big government must therefore work to make idiosyncratic choices, habits and relationships as irrelevant to practical affairs as possible. But freedom, virtue and love essentially involve personal choice, habit and relationship. Big government must therefore make them as ineffectual as possible. The effects of choice must be muffled, vice and virtue confused, love debunked as favoritism, or as dominance and dependency. How can any of that be good?

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The tolerance Nazis

The situation with the prom in Canada shows what I meant a couple of days ago when I called Article 1 of the Dutch constitution (no discrimination on any grounds by anyone ever) fanatical. In theory you’re allowed to believe that sexual customs that support the traditional family are a good thing, but if you act publicly on that theory in any way the law comes down on you, even if you’re a religious institution upholding the beliefs it has held for 2000 years.

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Catholicism and the tolerant state

Feminism at MIT

Survey design isn’t something most people feel strongly about, but I find this depressing: MIT Surrenders the Scientific Method”.

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More UN hi-jinx

I keep getting things about family-related doings at the UN. Here’s one about American resistance to efforts by the EU, Canada and the Latin American countries[!] to redefine the family and make abortion a right for teenagers. Doesn’t the fact that these things have become questions of international politics show that something extremely strange—and wrong—has happened?

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Melanie Phillips and Western identity

Melanie Phillips, the British journalist, has made the Fortuyn murder an occasion for commenting on contradictions within liberalism. Her article is a good start, but she has a way to go before she escapes from the contradictions she discusses. It’s worth discussing the piece from that point of view, because it is representative of so much neoconservative thought.

Phillips herself is a liberal, although a restrained one. As such she identifies her goal as true liberalism. For her that would include, as non-negotiable fundamentals, “the treatment of women, freedom of speech, the separation of private and public values, and tolerance of homosexuality.” However, she wants such things to be restrained by norms of sexual behavior, family values, moral self-restraint, and rejection of nihilism and libertinism. So it seems what she wants is classical liberalism with a mixture of late 20th-century developments in a moderate form: moderate civil rights, moderate feminism, moderate gay liberation, and moderate public agnosticism.

The problem with her view is that while moderation is a good quality it needs something solid to moderate. One must therefore ask what this mixture of freedom, equality and restraint is going to be based on. Phillips’ answer: a common civic identity within which immigrants, whom the West will continue to welcome, can pursue their own culture and traditions. That sounds measured and serious, but it remains quite unclear where the civic identity is going to come from. It presumably won’t come from religious orthodoxy or ancestral traditions; that would exclude immigrants and abandon liberalism altogether. She does allow British traditions to win in case of conflict, but making something the default answer for pragmatic reasons is no way to preserve it as a constituent of identity.

“Civic identity” sounds like something generated by liberal institutions themselves. No other source is apparent. If that’s so, then it can’t go beyond what’s implicit in those institutions. It’s hard to see, therefore, how it can lead to family values and the rest of it. The principles of liberal institutions are consent, fair procedures and equal treatment. All good things, in their place, but how do you extract things like marital loyalty and sexual restraint from them?

Phillips neither avoids nor deals rationally with the contradiction. She says both that there should be norms of sexual behavior sufficient to support family life, and that one’s sex life is of no concern to others. Which is it? The insoluble problem she faces is that liberalism needs family values and other forms of restraint and self-sacrificing loyalty to survive. It can’t generate them, however, and it can’t let anything else—religious orthodoxy or ancestral tradition, for example—be authoritative enough to generate them without ceasing to be liberalism.

It’s important for people to think about these things, and they have to start somewhere, so Phillips is to be applauded for her article. What events are forcing her and others to recognize is that you can’t always be neutral. To have public order you must be able to assert something non-neutral and make it publicly binding. But once that’s recognized liberalism will have a very hard time maintaining itself. If you can make non-neutral principles binding, what in the end becomes of the arguments for liberalism in the West itself? The claim to neutrality has been essential to liberal dominance. Those who recognize that it must be given up but want to remain liberals typically assume that liberalism simply is the Western tradition. That’s obviously not so. The claim of neutrality has been essential to liberal victory over other Western traditions, and if it gives up that claim it will eventually find itself very hard put to maintain its position practically.

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Pope thinks priests are different

As I mentioned in my longish piece on Christianity and politics a couple of days ago, a great strength of the Christian view is that it provides a way to recognize and value genuine human differences. Since “celebrating diversity” can’t mean insisting that everyone be the same, Christian orthodoxy can never buy into the opposition to discrimination enshrined in Article 1 of the Dutch constitution. An example I gave was women and the priesthood.

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Modern Christian martyrs

It seems unlikely that those who prosecuted Brigitte Bardot for criticising Islam or Le Pen for calling gas chambers a “detail” will now go against critics of Christianity, even though a new compilation shows that during the last century 45,000,000 Christians were killed for their religion.

Death makes us all equal, but some are more equal than others. The very high figure may depend somewhat on interpretation, for example the relationship between the antireligious goals of communist states and the various repressions they conducted. Still, the number of hard-core martyrs duing the last century is very high, certainly many millions, but no-one thinks it matters. Unlike Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Christian martyrs aren’t relevant to the official story about things and so are edited out.

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Reparations news service

All reparations all the time: to keep in touch with fast-breaking news, go to slaveryreparations.com at newstrove.com!

I wonder if this would be possible for other people, to set up Google news or whatever to do a standard search that turns up items of special interest to right-wingers and lists them on a page when you go to it?

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Human ID chips

We knew it was coming, but it’s not pleasant when it happens: “First Humans to Receive ID Chips”. Brave New World meets Big Brother!

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