Shelby Steele: The Exhaustion of American Liberalism

White guilt gave us a mock politics based on the pretense of moral authority.

Shelby Steele writes: The recent flurry of marches, demonstrations and even riots, along with the Democratic Party’s spiteful reaction to the Trumppresidency, exposes what modern liberalism has become: a politics shrouded in pathos.

Unlike the civil-rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s, when protesters wore their Sunday best and carried themselves with heroic dignity, today’s liberal marches are marked by incoherence and downright lunacy—hats designed to evoke sexual organs, poems that scream in anger yet have no point to make, and an hysterical anti-Americanism.

[Check out Shelby Steele’s book “White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era” at Amazon.com]

All this suggests lostness, the end of something rather than the beginning. What is ending?

America, since the ’60s, has lived through what might be called an age of white guilt. We may still be in this age, but the Trump election suggests an exhaustion with the idea of white guilt, and with the drama of culpability, innocence and correctness in which it mires us.

“When America became stigmatized in the ’60s as racist, sexist and militaristic, it wanted moral authority above all else. Subsequently the American left reconstituted itself as the keeper of America’s moral legitimacy.”

White guilt is not actual guilt. Surely most whites are not assailed in the night by feelings of responsibility for America’s historical mistreatment of minorities. Moreover, all the actual guilt in the world would never be enough to support the hegemonic power that the mere pretense of guilt has exercised in American life for the last half-century.

[Order Shelby Steele’s book “Shame: How America’s Past Sins Have Polarized Our Country from Amazon.com]

White guilt is not angst over injustices suffered by others; it is the terror of being stigmatized with America’s old bigotries—racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia. To be stigmatized as a fellow traveler with any of these bigotries is to be utterly stripped of moral authority and made into a pariah. The terror of this, of having “no name in the street” as the Bible puts it, pressures whites to act guiltily even when they feel no actual guilt. White guilt is a mock guilt, a pretense of real guilt, a shallow etiquette of empathy, pity and regret.

“White guilt is not angst over injustices suffered by others; it is the terror of being stigmatized with America’s old bigotries—racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia.”

It is also the heart and soul of contemporary liberalism. This liberalism is the politics given to us by white guilt, and it shares white guilt’s central corruption. It is not real liberalism, in the classic sense. It is a mock liberalism. Freedom is not its raison d’être; moral authority is.

“To be stigmatized as a fellow traveler with any of these bigotries is to be utterly stripped of moral authority and made into a pariah. The terror of this, of having ‘no name in the street’ as the Bible puts it, pressures whites to act guiltily even when they feel no actual guilt. White guilt is a mock guilt, a pretense of real guilt, a shallow etiquette of empathy, pity and regret.”

When America became stigmatized in the ’60s as racist, sexist and militaristic, it wanted moral authority above all else. Subsequently the American left reconstituted itself as the keeper of America’s moral legitimacy. (Conservatism, focused on freedom and wealth, had little moral clout.) From that followed today’s markers of white guilt—political correctness, identity politics, environmental orthodoxy, the diversity cult and so on.

[Read the full story here, at WSJ]

This was the circumstance in which innocence of America’s bigotries and dissociation from the American past became a currency of hardcore political power.  Read the rest of this entry »


Moral Relativist Slams Murder As ‘Highly Undesirable’

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KANSAS CITY, MO—Self-described agnostic and moral relativist Carl Horton has issued a scathing critique of the concept of murder, claiming the practice is “highly undesirable” and “not what I’d choose for myself,” sources confirmed Monday. The elaborate argument, published on Horton’s blog, argues that the very idea of murder “makes me feel bad” and that [] Read the rest of this entry »


SCIENCE: Arc of the Moral Universe; Before and After Being Lectured by Barack Obama

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[VIDEO] Beyond Relativism: College Kids Struggle to Explain the Fact-Free New Morality

“Watch as the students struggle to explain why an adult male shouldn’t enroll in a first-grade class, why he’s not a woman, why he’s not substantially taller, or why he’s not Asian.”

At The Corner, David French writes: From the Family Policy Institute of Washington comes this amusing video, where a conversation about gender-neutral bathrooms turns into something a bit more interesting: Watch as the students struggle to explain why an adult male shouldn’t enroll in a first-grade class, why he’s not a woman, why he’s not liberal-huhsubstantially taller, or why he’s not Asian.

“Essentially the new morality is ‘you do you — so long as it doesn’t hurt me or someone else in a way that I immediately recognize.’ The new immorality is any act of ‘intolerance’ that purports to interfere with this radical autonomy.”

This isn’t moral relativism, it’s a completely fact-free new moral code, one based entirely on consent and harm. Or, I should say, immediate harm. Essentially the new morality is “you do you — so long as it doesn’t hurt me or someone else in a way that I immediately recognize.” The new immorality is any act of “intolerance” that purports to interfere with this radical autonomy.

[Read the full text here, at NRO]

The fascinating and disturbing thing is that a generation that so prizes its alleged love of “science” continues to hold to this primitive harm-based morality in spite of oceans of evidence that…(read more)

Source: National Review Online – Family Policy Institute of Washington

 


Amherst: D’Souza Engages Leftist College Students’ Social Justice Arguments

D’Souza gets accosted by a freshman, and a reasonably intelligent one, with a pair of questions about white privilege and Islamic militancy arising as a reaction to American imperialism. You won’t believe his response…


[VIDEO] Is Capitalism Moral? 

Is capitalism moral or greedy? If it’s based on greed and selfishness, what’s the best alternative economic system? Perhaps socialism? And if capitalism is moral, what makes it so? Walter Williams, a renowned economist at George Mason University, answers these questions and more.


Taxation and Charity

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Eric Schwitzgebel: What Good is the Study of Ethics if it Doesn’t Make Us More Ethical?

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Are professional ethicists good people? According to our research, not especially. So what is the point of learning ethics?

Eric Schwitzgebel writes: None of the classic questions of philosophy are beyond a seven-year-old’s understanding. If God exists, why do bad things happen? How do you know there’s still a world on the other side of that closed door? Are we just made of material stuff that will turn into mud when we die? If you could get away with killing and robbing people just for fun, would you? The questions are natural. It’s the answers that are hard.

“Shouldn’t regularly thinking about ethics have some sort of influence on one’s own behaviour? Doesn’t it seem that it would? To my surprise, few professional ethicists seem to have given the question much thought.”

Eight years ago, I’d just begun a series of empirical studies on the moral behaviour of professional ethicists. My son Davy, then seven years old, was in his booster seat in the back of my car. ‘What do you think, Davy?’ I asked. ‘People who think a lot about what’s fair and about being nice – do they behave any better than other people? Are they more likely to be fair? Are they more likely to be nice?’

Davy didn’t respond right away. I caught his eye in the rearview mirror.

AA671283: Literature, Music, Theatre

“Ethicists do not behave better. But neither, overall, do they seem to behave worse.”

‘The kids who always talk about being fair and sharing,’ I recall him saying, ‘mostly just want you to be fair to them and share with them.’

[Read the full text of Eric Schwitzgebel’s article here, at Aeon]

When I meet an ethicist for the first time – by ‘ethicist’, I mean a professor of philosophy who specialises in teaching and researching ethics – it’s my habit to ask whether ethicists behave any differently to other types of professor. Most say no.51enhSs2nlL._SL250_

I’ll probe further: why not? Shouldn’t regularly thinking about ethics have some sort of influence on one’s own behaviour? Doesn’t it seem that it would?

[Order Eric Schwitzgebel’s book “Perplexities of Consciousness” (Life and Mind: Philosophical Issues in Biology and Psychology) from Amazon.com]

To my surprise, few professional ethicists seem to have given the question much thought. They’ll toss out responses that strike me as flip or are easily rebutted, and then they’ll have little to add when asked to clarify. They’ll say that academic ethics is all about abstract problems and bizarre puzzle cases, with no bearing on day-to-day life – a claim easily shown to be false by a few examples: Aristotle on virtue, Kant on lying, Singer on charitable donation. They’ll say: ‘What, do you expect epistemologists to have more knowledge? Do you expect doctors to be less likely to smoke?’ I’ll reply that the empirical evidence does suggest that doctors are less likely to smoke than non-doctors of similar social and economic background. Maybe epistemologists don’t have more knowledge, but I’d hope that specialists in feminism would exhibit less sexist behaviour – and if they didn’t, that would be an interesting finding. I’ll suggest that relationships between professional specialisation and personal life might play out differently for different cases.

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“We criticise Martin Heidegger for his Nazism, and we wonder how deeply connected his Nazism was to his other philosophical views. But we don’t feel the need to turn the mirror on ourselves.”

It seems odd to me that our profession has so little to say about this matter. We criticise Martin Heidegger for his Nazism, and we wonder how deeply connected his Nazism was to his other philosophical views. But we don’t feel the need to turn the mirror on ourselves.

Photo by Hussein Malla/AP

“No clergyperson has ever expressed to me the view that clergy behave on average morally better than laypeople, despite all their immersion in religious teaching and ethical conversation. Maybe in part this is modesty on behalf of their profession.”

The same issues arise with clergy. In 2010, I was presenting some of my work at the Confucius Institute for Scotland. Afterward, I was approached by not one but two bishops. I asked them whether they Christ_Icon_Sinai_6th_century
thought that clergy, on average, behaved better, the same or worse than laypeople.

‘About the same,’ said one.

‘Worse!’ said the other.

No clergyperson has ever expressed to me the view that clergy behave on average morally better than laypeople, despite all their immersion in religious teaching and ethical conversation. Maybe in part this is modesty on behalf of their profession. But in most of their voices, I also hear something that sounds like genuine disappointment, some remnant of the young adult who had headed off to seminary hoping it would be otherwise.

In a series of empirical studies – mostly in collaboration with the philosopher Joshua Rust of Stetson University – I have empirically explored the moral behaviour of ethics professors. As far as I’m aware, Josh and I are the only people ever to have done so in a systematic way.

Here are the measures we looked at: voting in public elections, calling one’s mother, eating the meat of mammals, donating to charity, littering, disruptive chatting and door-slamming during philosophy presentations, responding to student emails, attending conferences without paying registration fees, organ donation, blood donation, theft of library books, overall moral evaluation by one’s departmental peers based on personal impressions, honesty in responding to survey questions, and joining the Nazi party in 1930s Germany. Read the rest of this entry »


Arthur Brooks: Playing the Music of Capitalism

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To become a majority again, conservatives need to reassert the moral case for free markets

William McGurn writes: Before he was president of the American Enterprise Institute, Arthur Brooks played the French horn. Not on the side. For a living.

It’s not the standard route to the top job at a Beltway think tank. Then again, not much about Mr. Ken-Fallin-WSJBrooks is standard. From dropping out of college to go to Spain to play for the Barcelona City Orchestra, to earning his B.A. degree via correspondence courses from Thomas Edison State College in New Jersey, his life makes for an eclectic résumé.

“Our side has all the right policies. But without the music, the public hears just numbers and we have no resonance.”

Today he boasts a Ph.D. from the RAND Graduate School and enjoys an honored spot in the capital’s intellectual firmament. But the horn still defines how he sees the world.

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“We don’t need to write an opera about free enterprise to reach people. But it’s not a bad idea.”

“The French horn is the harmonic backbone of the orchestra,” Mr. Brooks says. “The physics are tricky. It’s as long as a tuba but with a mouthpiece as small as a trumpet’s. This gives the French horn its characteristic mellow sound but also makes it easy to miss notes. The metaphors here form themselves.”

Indeed they do. Not least because think tanks have distinct personalities in addition to their politics.

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“The liberation of hundreds of millions from desperate poverty ranks among the greatest success stories in history. But it’s a story that remains largely untold and mostly unheralded.”

The libertarian Cato Institute, for example, looks as though it had been designed by Howard Roark, the hero architect of Ayn Rand’s novel “The Fountainhead.” The Liberty Bell on the Heritage Foundation logo evokes a classic conservatism 087196e06cea0f75cad96f9da0ec0528rooted in the American founding. The clean modernist lines of the Brookings Institution suggest its faith in good, rational government.

“Capitalism has saved a couple of billion people and we have treated this miracle like a state secret.”

In Mr. Brooks’s hands, AEI has beome an orchestra. Sure, it is sometimes labeled “neocon” (almost always deployed as a pejorative) because of the home it provides for former George W. Bush administration officials such as John Bolton and
Paul Wolfowitz, not to mention scholars such as Fred Kagan who write on military matters. 51If4pLhXLL._SL250_These people are all vital to AEI, but they are only part of a larger ensemble.

[Order Arthur Brooks’s bookThe Conservative Heart: How to Build a Fairer, Happier, and More Prosperous America” from Amazon.com]

“Our side has all the right policies,” Mr. Brooks says. “But without the music, the public hears just numbers and we have no resonance.”

“We need to know Adam Smith who wrote ‘The Theory of Moral Sentiments’ as well as we do the Adam Smith who wrote ‘The Wealth of Nations,’ Because when you do, you begin to understand we are hard-wired for freedom by the same Creator who gave us our unalienable rights.”

He is speaking over lunch in his corner office overlooking 17th and M streets in northwest Washington, D.C. The office bullfighterisn’t standard-issue, either.

[Read the full text here, at WSJ]

The walls are bereft of the signed photos and tributes from presidents, senators and other pooh-bahs that are de riguer for the capital’s movers and shakers. The largest piece in the room is a poster featuring José Tomás, Spain’s greatest bullfighter. Mr. Brooks once saw him in the ring. “A true master artist,” he says.

The other poster is from the Soviet Union circa 1964. It features two workers. One is a drunk scratching his head as he looks at the one-ruble note in his hand. The other is a hale-and-hearty type proudly looking at the 10 rubles he has earned. The caption: “Work more, earn more.”

“It was part of a public-information campaign to raise productivity by paying people more,” Mr. Brooks says. It’s the sort of irony he loves, a confirmation of basic market wisdom—courtesy of communist propaganda. Read the rest of this entry »


Jindal: ‘Let’s call his remarks exactly what they are. He made the moral case for socialism.’

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From Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s response to a question on Mike Gallagher’s June 10 syndicated talk-radio show about the “moral case” made this week by President Obama for ObamaCare:

“Let’s call his remarks exactly what they are. He made the moral case for socialism. Let’s not sugarcoat it, that’s exactly what he believes. He doesn’t hide it, he doesn’t pretend, we shouldn’t either. This isn’t new. Those who favor socialism always make the moral case for it. The truth is, maybe they actually believe in it, but in the real world, socialism harms, it weakens the economies of countries that have tried it. It just does. Weaker economies hurt everybody in them. Socialism kills incentive, opportunity, freedom. It is the opposite of what America is all about. Look, socialism always harms the people it claims to help the most. It handicaps them, leaving them weaker, less self-determined, less free. We should have this debate out in the open. His “moral case” for ObamaCare is actually immoral. Spending money you don’t have is immoral. Borrowing more money than you can pay back is immoral. Lying to the American people is immoral, so it’s ironic he chooses to use the terms “moral case” or “moral imperative” to make the case for what I think is a very flawed law. The Supreme Court, I hope, rules the correct way. We need to repeal this, replace this. Mike, we cannot measure success by how many people are dependent on government. That’s what President Obama wants. That is the opposite of what America stands for.”

WSJ.com


[VIDEO] #ForMyBaby: Bainbridge Island Teacher Accused of Sex with Student, Boy’s Mom Called the Cops, Teacher Pregnant

The Bainbridge Island Police Department has concluded its investigation into allegations of inappropriate conduct between Bainbridge High School teacher Jessica Fuchs and a BHS student. Police arrested the 26-year-old female teacher at Bainbridge High School. UPDATE: Jessica admitted she was pregnant and searching paternity tests… More here


Canine Morality

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Researchers see honesty and deceit, perhaps something like morality

For The Washington Post, David Grimm writes: A shaggy brown terrier approaches a large chocolate Labrador in a city park. When the terrier gets close, he adopts a yogalike pose, crouching on his forepaws and hiking his butt into the air. The Lab gives an excited bark, and soon the two dogs are somersaulting and tugging on each other’s ears. Then the terrier takes off and the 41hzkqYChCL._SL110_Lab gives chase, his tail wagging wildly. When the two meet once more, the whole thing begins again.

[David Grimm’s book “Citizen Canine: Our Evolving Relationship with Cats and Dogs is available at Amazon.com]

Watch a couple of dogs play, and you’ll probably see seemingly random gestures, lots of frenetic activity and a whole lot of energy being expended. But decades of research suggest that beneath this apparently frivolous fun lies a hidden language of honesty and deceit, empathy and perhaps even a humanlike morality.

“Bekoff wasn’t interested just in behavior; he was interested also in emotions and, fundamentally, what was going on inside these animals’ heads.”

Take those two dogs. That yogalike pose is known as a “play bow,” and in the language of play it’s one of the most commonly used words. It’s an instigation and a clarification, a warning and an apology. Dogs often adopt this stance as an invitation to play right before they lunge at another dog; they also bow before they nip (“I’m going to bite you, but I’m just fooling around”) or after some particularly aggressive roughhousing (“Sorry I knocked you over; I didn’t mean it.”).

All of this suggests that dogs have a kind of moral code — one long hidden to humans until a cognitive ethologist named Marc Bekoff began to crack it. Read the rest of this entry »


The Right to Ignore the State

In this excerpt from Social Statics, Spencer makes a radical claim: that an individual may sever all connections with the state.

Herbert Spencer

Herbert Spencer 1884

1. The Right to Voluntary Outlawry

As a corollary to the proposition that all institutions must be subordinated to the law of equal freedom, we cannot choose but admit the right of the citizen to adopt a condition of voluntary outlawry. If every man has freedom to do all that he wills, provided he infringes not the equal freedom of any other man, then he is free to drop connection with the state — to relinquish its protection, and to refuse paying toward its support. It is self-evident that in so behaving he in no way trenches upon the liberty of others; for his position is a passive one; and whilst passive he cannot become an aggressor. It is equally self-evident that he cannot be compelled to continue one of a political corporation, without a breach of the moral law, seeing that citizenship involves payment of taxes; and the taking away of a man’s property against his will, is an infringement of his rights. Government being simply an agent employed in common by a number of individuals to secure to them certain advantages, the very nature of the connection implies that it is for each to say whether he will employ such an agent or not. If any one of them determines to ignore this mutual-safety confederation, nothing can be said except that he loses all claim to its good offices, and exposes himself to the danger of maltreatment — a thing he is quite at liberty to do if he likes. He cannot be coerced into political combination without a breach of the law of equal freedom; he can withdraw from it without committing any such breach; and he has therefore a right so to withdraw.

2. The Immorality of the State

“No human laws are of any validity if contrary to the law of nature; and such of them as are valid derive all their force and all their authority mediately or immediately from this original.” Thus writes Blackstone[1], to whom let all honour be given for having so far outseen the ideas of his time; and, indeed, we may say of our time. A good antidote, this, for those political superstitions which so widely prevail. A good check upon that sentiment of power-worship which still misleads us by magnifying the prerogatives of constitutional governments as it once did those of monarchs. Let men learn that a legislature is not “our God upon earth,” though, by the authority they ascribe to it, and the things they expect from it, they would seem to think it is. Let them learn rather that it is an institution serving a purely temporary purpose, whose power, when not stolen, is at the best borrowed. Read the rest of this entry »


Four Lies of the Left

  1. Rebel through conformity
  2. Feel virtuous without acting virtuous.
  3. Your sexual self-expression is brave
  4. Feel morally superior to people who exhibit actual virtue

Read David French’s inspired analysis of these four lies at NRO

And while you’re there, an even more inspired work: Robert Ferrigno’s beautiful essay, remembering Elmore Leonard.