None the Wiser

"Truth gains more even by the errors of one who, with due study and preparation, thinks for himself, than by the true opinions of those who only hold them because they do not suffer themselves to think." --J.S. Mill

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Saturday, April 26, 2003
 
A Little Clarity

It occurs to me that my earlier post on l'affair d' Santorum might be a little misleading. It appears, by simply scanning the text, that my problem with the senator's remarks is purely partisan--that for some reason I'm only disturbed by the fact that it was bad for the Republican Party. That's not really true. I'd feel the same way if there was no Republican Party, and my problems with that beast run deeper than its social conservatism. Aside from that my post is very non-committal on the legal-philosophical issue at hand. So a little clarity is in order here.

On the issue of sodomy laws: There seems to be a bit of hair-splitting going on among conservatives that I've read, and a bit of hyperbolic invective going on among liberals I've read as well. While Andrew Sullivan falls into the former category, he has shown a remarkable inability to make some basic distinctions and has reacted, well, like I would expect a gay conservative to react, frankly--with feeling, shall we say.

Having judged the commentary from a distance, my two cents stands thus: I think that sodomy laws are a blight on the country's legal landscape, and my hope is that this case in Texas will be resolved democratically. You see, in my ideal world, the democratic process would not be so incredibly fouled up and unresponsive that people could take their concerns to their local legislators, have a public debate, and get something done or not done, depending on the outcome of the debate.

Because this process is difficult, and there has to be a loser, and that loser will usually be busy-body leftists with a hare-brained utopian fantasy to get cracking on, large swaths of the population have become convinced that the best way to resolve these issues is by judicial fiat. This is deeply, frighteningly anti-democratic and tyrannical.

So in this respect I can understand what Santorum was after--he was expressing a concern that in fact, the word "privacy" appears nowhere in the Constitution, and that sodomy laws should not be struck down on such grounds for the same reason that Roe v. Wade should never have been settled in the way it was, by hallucinating a vague and ill-defined right to "privacy" into the text of our founding document, and thereby halting the democratic process cold and igniting a never-ending, political version of a thermonuclear holocaust over the judicial system. In this, Santorum's sentiment was not spectacularly radical.

But. The American media and the public it serves don't do "subtle." When talking to a reporter about the merits of a particular sodomy case, there is no room for the niceties of Constitutional law. Just say something like, "That's up to the people of Texas." That's language people can more or less grasp, and it captures the basic political argument pretty succinctly.

In subsequent interviews, Santorum has gone on to explain his position in more detail, dutifully shoving his foot from his throat to his small intestine. I think it's just grand that his faith tells him that sodomy is a sin. My Catholic upbringing told me the same thing. From a Christian theological perspective, there's perhaps some room for debate here (though I personally think the Christian Scriptural record is pretty clear on this point, whatever the Anglicans may say). For other faiths, there's no problem.

But Santorum isn't being grilled in his capacity as a preacher, or a father. When he steps to the microphone, all extraordinary circumstances aside, he is expected to speak in his capacity as a senator for the good people of Pennsylvania. What they want to know is whether he would support someone crashing their doors down and hauling them to jail--jail--for oral/anal/other sex. Bottom line. And in my view he gave the wrong answer.

The very idea that the state would have some interest in policing this kind of behavior is positively ridiculous. One has to wonder under what circumstances you might investigate someone for such a thing, and how you would build a case. I mentioned before that the only reason to nail someone for sodomy is because you can't make something more serious stick, and I believe the facts bear me out on this (being no legal beagle, I can't be 100% sure). Does Santorum's philosophy apply equally well to masochists? People with a foot fetish? People get off, with no ill intent or repercussions whatsoever, on very, very weird shit, and while this descriptive claim does not by itself resolve the possible moral issues at stake, I think it is relevant to the socio-political measures we are willing to adopt in response to it.

I think Santorum's "slippery slope" argument, meanwhile, creates a false spectrum with married couples in missionary on one end and sadistic pedophiles on the other. Sodomy falls somewhere in between, I gather. I just don't buy this picture at all. The fact of the matter is that bestiality and pedophilia don't even belong in the same stadium as sodomy, if for no other reason because sodomy is rampant among consenting heterosexual married couples with 3 children in Catholic school. The others can be fairly classified as soulless, animalistic abominations. Describing homosexual activity in this way is a little more cynical than I'm willing to allow for in my moral calculation, and I'm willing to give gays the benefit of the doubt when they describe the loving and mature emotional element in their sexual behavior--something not at all in evidence among child rapists and goat molesters.

Even William F. Buckley notes that the effect of sodomy laws is to create a situation in which homosexuals are forbidden to do what heterosexuals are allowed to do. And for what? To whose benefit, and for whose protection? I can't see it, but perhaps I'm not looking hard enough.

It's often said that Puritanism finds its source in the deep, abiding fear that someone, somewhere, might be happy. I think that all kinds of social and political fundamentalism are drawn from that particular poisoned spiritual well, but it's my hope that the issue will be settled somewhere other than the chambers of the Supreme Court. This amounts to force rather than persuasion, and I will prefer the latter always--for the same reason I am against sodomy laws in the first place.

Friday, April 25, 2003
 
Steyn on a Tear

Mark Steyn writes a balls-to-the-wall take-down of his own employer's editorial position on post-war Iraq. It's a real corker.

Honestly, I've thought Steyn's columns were a little humdrum lately, but he's apparently got his groove back. For instance:

Before the war, it was said that, for America, the issue was Iraq and, for everybody else, the issue was America. Now the issue is the UN, France, Germany and Russia, and whether they can get away with hijacking the Anglo-American victory. You don’t have to agree (though, as it happens, I do) with my distinguished compatriot George Jonas that the UN is a fully-fledged member of the axis of evil to recognise that there’s little point in going to war to install yet another branch office of UNSCAM.

If the problem is America’s image in the Arab world, in what way does it help to confine the Stars and Stripes brand to unpleasant things like bombs, while insisting all the nice postwar reconstructive stuff be clearly labelled with the UN flag? If the answer is that that’s the price you pay for healing the rift with Old Europe, that presupposes Old Europe is interested in healing it. Tony Blair may be keen, but the Continentals have different agendas. Will the Belgian government approve the complaint of ‘genocide’ against Tommy Franks? The petition accuses the general of ‘inaction in the face of hospital pillaging’, which apparently meets the Belgian definition of genocide. Unlike the deaths of more than three million people, which is the lowball figure for those who’ve died in the civil war in the Congo — or, as I still like to think of it, the Belgian Congo.

The Congo’s civil war is everything George Mohammed al-Galloway claimed Bush’s war would be: there were more civilian deaths in a few hours in Ituri province last week than in the entire Iraq campaign; while the blowhards at Oxfam and co. — the Big Consciences lobby — insist on pretending that Iraq is a humanitarian disaster, there’s an actual humanitarian disaster going on in the Congo, complete with millions of children dead from disease and malnutrition. While the lefties warned that Ariel Sharon would use the cover of the Iraq war to slaughter the Palestinians, the Congolese are being slaughtered, and you don’t need any cover. Because nobody cares. Because no Americans or ‘Zionists’ are involved.


Go read the whole darned thing.


Thursday, April 24, 2003
 
Madonna? Oh, We Got Buckets o' Disdain for You...

...over at the Desk of Mindles H. Dreck on Megan's site. Of all the anti-Madonna rants I've read lately, this one is the top drawer stuff.

 
Glenn Reynolds links to a story on FIRE's anti-speech-code project (which I blogged yesterday here). Glenn remarks that

I suspect that external pressure over antiwar statements from faculty members will produce a new enthusiasm for the First Amendment and academic freedom at many campuses.

I think it's better yet than that. I wondered aloud to my wife last night whether Halvorssen and company didn't wait until exactly this time to launch their project for exactly this reason. In the wake of the de Genova affair, this series of lawsuits by FIRE is really going to catch lefty administrators and faculty flat-footed. It will be interesting to see how well they parse the difference between "crushing" their "dissent" on the one hand, and censoring "offensive" or "demeaning" speech on the other.

Whatever the case, this was either a singularly masterful or an incredibly lucky confluence of events in FIRE's favor.

This is already getting a huge amount of attention. I'm stoked.

UPDATE: The asininity has begun already. The Chronicle of Higher Education takes its typically skeptical tack to its story on FIRE's project, closing, as always, with a quotation sneeringly critical of FIRE's efforts:

"If all they're talking about are policies focused on harassment which could conceivably be applied to student speech but never have been, that really is rolling out the cannon to shoot a mouse."

That came from Robert M. O'Neil, whom the article describes as "director of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression." What Mr. O'Neil ought to realize (he's also a law professor at the University of Virginia which--surprise!--has had its share of problems with respecting the free speech rights of its students) is that whether a code actually has been used for the purpose of censorship isn't the damned point. That's why it's called "chilling" free expression. You don't have to enforce a speech code 99% of the time because people already know that the wrong turn of phrase can cost them their careers. Besides all of which, if these harassment codes are so innocuous, then it ought to be no problem to tailor their language so that they can't be interpreted in an over-broad fashion.

If, on the other hand, university administrators are willing to go the mattresses over their use of expansive terms and infinitely flexible language, then FIRE is right to question their good faith. Besides all of which, FIRE wouldn't exist if such codes "never" had been used for the purposes of censoring student speech. It happens every single day, all the time, and he knows it. Why, it occurs to me that UVA has recently had problems with this very issue...

 
Placard Wisdom

I know it's a lot of fun to beat up on people who think a bumper-sticker slogan actually serves as an adequate expression of social and political insight. But I have to admit, I understand the impulse that drives these idiots. If "No Blood for Oil" actually summed up something cogent, it would be clever. It doesn't, so it isn't. There is, however, something to be said for nice, succinct epigrams and one- or two-sentence sentiments, if they actually manage to capture the essence of a reasonable thought.

So here on the wall of my cubicle at work, I regularly print up a new quotation, a scrap of witticism, or whatever, attributing what I've stolen from others, and pin it to the outward-facing wall. It's my one guilty indulgence in impolite provocation of total strangers, the one place that I wear my opinions obnoxiously on my sleeve. It's also something that non-leftists seldom do, so I think it actually gets under people's skin as somehow--improper. It's worth every exasperated wince, grimace, and rolled set of eyes, too.

Here's my latest:

"I’m anti-war too because, after all, a self-righteous pose beats an argument any day."

Other recent additions include:

"Have You Made a Hippie Cry Today?"

and

"The next time some academics tell you how important 'diversity' is, ask them how many Republicans are in their sociology department." --Thomas Sowell

The fact that I work for the University of Indiana makes this all the more delicious. I tired a while back of seeing college professors go really, really far out of their way to make their stance on every issue a matter of public record by plastering their walls and doors with posters, political commentary, and so on. It strikes me as a childish, insecure, bush league practice that should only appeal to people with severe cases of teen moratorium--instead of Led Zeppelin's Swan Song it's Che Guevara's silhouette in red and black, but the idea is the same. That is, make sure everybody knows how deep your counter-culture credentials run by reinforcing your status as a member of the club.

These are people who never got to sit at the cool table in the cafeteria in high school, and they never got over it. Is it any wonder that liberal arts colleges have earned the ever-so-appropriate pejorative "Grievance Studies"? Sorry, but when a grown person wears a political chip on their shoulder in this way, it is merely a substitute for an actual, physical chip through their nose or lips, which they regret not having thought of before their latest batch of undergrads went and made it all fashionable and commonplace.

So my response is to simply respond in kind--sort of the way those preppy kids in the late sixties killed the whole hippie chic by wearing red-white-and-blue bandanas but actually, you know, meaning it. Interestingly, not a single new socio-political ad has gone up anywhere near me since I've begun doing this, and a fair number have actually been taken down.

First we take IU...next stop, San Francisco.



 
But Sage, They're Not Practicing Real Socialism!

An excerpt from a good MSNBC piece on North Korean refugees:

Economic needs are the primary motivation. At the end of the Korean War nearly half a century ago, incomes in the North were actually higher than in the South. Since then, average income and living standards have been falling in inverse proportion to their rise in South Korea. Now, according to CIA estimates, the average North Korean exists on roughly $1,000 a year, compared with $18,000 a year for South Koreans.
Not unexpectedly, one of the greatest fears of North Korean authorities is that those who have ventured to China or Russia to earn money and then returned will have a subversive effect. “I went to Russia to work in the forest cutting trees and got some idea about the outside world,” said one refugee who came here last year. “A police spy heard me asking why life was so much better there than in our country even though they told us it was a ‘socialist paradise.’”
The refugee, talking anonymously for fear of retribution against the family he left behind, fled across the Yalu river into China after the police warned him he might be imprisoned for voicing such complaints.


For all of you out there whose minds have been crippled by a college education, here's the litmus test for distinguishing the good guys from the bad guys:

Look at their border fortifications. Are they busier keeping people in or out?

 
A Good Snippet

Jay Nrodlinger's Impromptus is, as I've mentioned before, an outstanding column. Here's a bulletted bit of commentary from today's installment:

Thomas L. Friedman had a column headed "Stop overreacting to Sept. 11." (How about that? We either overreact or underreact — e.g., on homeland security. We just can't win.) Friedman wrote, "One hopes Americans will now stop overreacting to Sept. 11. Al Qaeda is not the Soviet Union. Saddam was not Stalin. And terrorism is not communism."

Yeah, but the thing is, in the eyes of Friedman's paper, Stalin wasn't Stalin either — and neither was communism communism!


How exquisite. Then there's this:

Turn to some mail. I have received several letters about whiny antiwar celebrities: those people who complain that their rights are violated because they have spoken out and met with some criticism. The letters have a common theme. I'll let one correspondent tell it, succinctly: "To those Sarandonites who gripe about backlash, I have only two words: John Rocker. Until you start crying over him, leave me alone."

I couldn't have said any any better--which I suppose isn't much of a compliment, but I don't think that Jay could have said it much better either, which definitely is.



Wednesday, April 23, 2003
 
FIRE Launches Major Assault on Speech Codes

And so it begins. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education--bar none the premier defender of student and faculty rights on American college campuses, and of whom I have spoken frequently in this space--has launched a series of lawsuits aimed at establishing precedent in each of the twelve appellate court districts in America. Their target: Speech codes that prohibit the expression of Constitutionally protected speech.

This is just huge.

FIRE will also be engaged in a nationwide full-court press in the arena of public opinion. Anyone familiar with their work will know that FIRE is a very, very fearsome bunch and will generally stop at nothing to bring university administrators to heel on issues of liberty and fairness. This could be the most daring offensive in the culture wars to date, and it sure does promise to be one of the most critical.

Keep an eye on this one, folks--America's future is literally hanging in the balance, and I think that is no exaggeration.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003
 
I suspect a real scandal brewing...

 
A Few Reasons Why the Republican Party Can Eat Me

Rick Santorum (R-PA) is a fucking gap-toothed moron.

Exhibit A:

"If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual (gay) sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything," the Pennsylvania lawmaker said in a recent interview, fuming over a landmark gay rights case before the high court that pits a Texas sodomy law against equality and privacy rights.

"All of those things are antithetical to a healthy, stable, traditional family," Santorum said. "And that's sort of where we are in today's world, unfortunately. It all comes from, I would argue, this right to privacy that doesn't exist, in my opinion, in the United States Constitution."


Come on, Rick. I'm sure there's a few centrist voters you didn't quite send packing with that one. Maybe you should have another grand mal freak-out over Kerry's "Regime Change" comment. I know you can, if only you try.

Seriously, now, all you people out there who really think that the government needs to set the rulebook on what you do in bed need to think back to your nastiest, freakiest moment and ask yourself: You want the excise cops hauling you in for that?

I don't think the government is under any obligation to recognize the legitimacy of gay marraige, or polygamy, or any of the rest of it. There's room for reasonable debate there. Anti-sodomy laws aren't unreasonable just because it's 2003 instead of 1973 or 1903. The point is, it made no sense in 1903 and it makes none now to have almost entirely unenforceable laws on the books whose only possible application is to nail someone for a sex crime when nothing else will stick.

The Republican party will never get dues from me, or any degree of loyalty as a voter for that matter, because of the idiotic company they choose to keep. Their leadership has managed to squander an historic opportunity, as I knew they would, by using their moment in the sun to find a hundred ways to piss off the centrists who put them in power. Bush has even triangulated on gun rights in recent days, like a complete idiot, and the party has otherwise spent its political capital on bullshit anti-civil rights measures like the PATRIOT Act II and the RAVE Act (and I don't care that the latter was tabled by a Democrat either--they were complicit in giving it the go-ahead).

On the issues that matter, you've got dimwits like Olympia Snow (R-ME) and Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) effectively gutting the desperately needed tax-cut, you've got Bush wimping out on Title IX and the Michigan affirmative action case (where the White House tacitly lends their support to the continuation of affirmative action as vaguely suggested by the original Bakke case), you've got absolutely no progress being made on the confirmation of judges...it looks like the Republicans are pretty much having their entire agenda body-slammed by the guys on the other side of the aisle just for sheer lack of discipline and spine.

So fuck 'em. If they lose big in the next elections, it'll be because they wouldn't go to the mat on the issues when they had the chance, and it will be someone else's turn to fight for their own agenda. You can criticize the Democrats for lacking a substantive program of their own right now, but if their plan is to hamstring the administration and let their right-wing colleagues in Congress cost themselves a few thousand votes per soundbite, it's working beautifully. If the voters see that the Republicans were too weak and fractious to get anything done with the huge victory they were handed last year, then the next time that opportunity will go to someone else.

If it was enough to be anti-Clinton in 1996, it will be enough to be anti-Bush in 2004. Mark my words.

UPDATE: Some of you might believe that all this capitulation on the hard domestic issues is actually a clever ruse designed to keep Bush popular with the middle-of-the-road types. I call bullshit on that. Reagan didn't need to do that and neither does Bush. If Bush wants to to out-Reagan Reagan while out-Clintoning Clinton, he can try that game someplace else. My prediction is that none of his silly concessions will impress either the center (who respects a clear and comprehensible stand) or the left (who isn't going to look on them as acts of good faith anyway), but they will serve to alienate the right--particularly since all of this is going on under cover of a war. Meanwhile the ranks are in disarray and the Santorums of the world can't get over their pandering to the non-voting ignorant. If this is all part of a grand strategy, it's a damned stupid one.


 
Merde in France has 'shopped together a companion set of "Ace" cards for our anti-Baathist deck. Pretty funny stuff.

UPDATE: Sorry, credit for this goes to Dissident Frogman.

 
That's What I Love About The South

Apparently, the Charleston Post & Courier, from my home state of South Carolina, made a prtetty humiliating error last week and has manfully owned up to it.

It seems some anti-Martha Burk counter-demonstrator at the Masters Tournament gave a false name to the press, "Heywood Jablome," which they then faithfully printed without ever taking the time to sound it out.

His sign read "Make Me Dinner." How can you not dig this guy?

{Link via The Corner}


Monday, April 21, 2003
 
One Concern About the Three-Weeks War

A few people have already expressed a similar concern (sorry, no links, can't remember who or where), and I know I've already been pretty cynical and negative overall with regard to the war in Iraq, but here's my biggest fear:

Doesn't it stand to reason that every Saddam-like maniac on earth (including, most prominently, Kim Jong Il) now realizes that only by acquiring nuclear weapons can they be truly safe from the United States?

After the first Gulf War, it is now widely known, Saddam said that his one big mistake was undertaking the invasion of Kuwait before he finished his nuke program. It now seems less likely than ever that we will be able to count on foreign menaces to make the same error. The North Koreans, in particular, may just take an even harder stance (if such a thing is possible) with regard to their own nuke program. Not that they ever stood much chance of giving it up.

But enemies of the United States are going to stand up and take notice, not only of the fact that Hussein got his ass handed to him, but also of the fact that Kim Jong Il hasn't--and the North Koreans' ability to completely annihilate Seoul in an afternoon has made all the difference. It doesn't matter that the North has no real reason to depopulate the only decent city on the penninsula--the fact is, they could.

The argument that Bad Regimes will think twice about pursuing WMD's now that Saddam is off the table falls before the fact that anyone, like in the case of the North Koreans, who can situate themselves so that they are capable of wreaking very real havok on a large Westernized civilian population center can become nigh-invulnerable, and it doesn't take nukes to do that. You can keep us at arm's length with conventional weapons if need be, as the Pakistanis were able to do to India until they could build their own atomic bomb.

If Saddam had been able to pound Kuwait City with a thousand artillery pieces at once, and cause a million casuaties in the process, we would never have gotten near him. Everybody knows this. It was only his own terrible miscalculation that led him to assess his own prospects differently, and place his emphasis on armor rather than artillery and air power, that turned him into the low-hanging fruit of the Evil Despot Tree.

What's the answer? It's almost too horrible to contemplate, but I say we let the hawks have their way in Korea, else the Three Weeks War turns into exactly the wrong kind of lesson.

 
The Psychology of Leftism According to Sage

One of my favorite commentators, Thomas Sowell, has good article today on what he likes to call the Vision of the Anointed (read: leftism). A taste:

Nothing is to be earned. "Self-esteem" is to be dispensed to the children as largess from the teacher. Adults are to have their medical care and other necessities dispensed as largess from the government. People are to be mixed and matched by race and sex and whatever else the anointed want to take into account, in order to present whatever kind of picture the anointed think should be presented.

This is a vision of human beings as livestock to be fed by the government and herded and tended by the anointed. All the things that make us human beings are to be removed from our lives and we are to live as denatured creatures controlled and directed by our betters.


I think this is what bothers me the most about pre-fab visions of the model society. They are vaguely, but undeniably, inhuman ways of thinking about people. It is a common aphorism that liberals care deeply about humanity, but care absolutely nothing for individual human beings. I think this is only half right.

I don't really believe, you see, that liberals deeply love humanity. They, in fact, despise it. That's why they are, as a political force, devoted to the complete overhaul and reform of human society, from balls to bones, top-to-bottom, inside and out. I have a hard time swallowing the proposition that liberals are devoted to the destruction and/or reform of every single human enterprise because they love people so damn much. It doesn't add up.

It's a little bit like people who join the Catholic Church for the very purpose of reforming it, gutting its traditions from the inside. They do this not out of love for the Church, but out of an abiding sense of disgust that the Church inspires in them, a hatred that runs deep enough that they are willing to devote their very spiritual lives to its eradication.

No, I think that instead, leftists are enamored not of humanity, but of a specific vision of what people can be. They believe that people can live lives more or less free of struggle, suffering, malice, self-interest, pain, or anything else that falls under the rubric of the Human Condition. Paradoxically, this is the result of their undying faith in the basic sinlessness of human nature--and this is what introduces the confusion of both leftists and those who comment on them (even, like me, while shaking their heads in disbelief).

It is thought that because leftists believe the atomistic man, the tabula rosa human being, is essentially uncorrupted, that leftists must actually love people--it is, after all, thought a compliment to be called "good," in whatever sense of the word, so if people are basically "good" then they are to be loved and admired. The problem is, they're wrong about that. What they actually love, then, is a mirage, a phantasm, an illusion.

They key moral insight of the Genesis story is precisely the opposite, and this difference lies, almost imperceptibly, beneath the gulf that lies between leftists and conservatives; it is hardly any wonder that Christians who have absorbed this lesson wind up on the opposite side of the fence from leftists on almost everything. It is extremely hard for most people to accept that this is because Christians have a more expansive view of human freedom, but there it is. Libertarians, whom I consider ideological bedfellows, frequently suffer from acute denial about the Judeo-Christian foundations for their principles, but that's for another day. Again, it seems like a paradoxical situation, but I have a theory on the mechanism that brings it about.

Specifically, I believe it has to do with the Christian concept of free will. To deny the simple truth that man has been simultaneously blessed and cursed by Knowledge of Good and Evil, is to deny that we have free will. Human beings are not basically good, as anyone who has surpassed the age of ten ought to know. We are capable of error, and that makes us imperfect, and that makes us basically flawed--even if it doesn't mean we are basically evil through-and-through either. The leftist in rejecting the concept of free will and embracing the tabula rosa, whereby we learn all of our weakness and error from others, falls into the nonsensical position that human beings are basically good, and would exhibit that goodness in all they do, were it not for their exposure to evil influences in the works of all those other people in the world, all of whom are nonetheless also basically good.

The upshot of all of this is that if humans have no free will, then it doesn't make any difference by whom we are programmed to do what we do, just so long as what we do is good--as determined by enlightened leftists, naturally. People find it positively bizarre that it is self-described liberals who want their money, their cigarettes, the minds of their children, their health, their housing, everything worth working for, under the control of a "liberal" government. However, it shouldn't surprise anyone. The basic premise of leftism is that we are all improperly programmed, as it were, by our surroundings. Note well, the leftist never has an answer for why human institutions can become so irredeemably wicked, when the people to whom they owe their existence basically aren't! It never occurs to them that in only the most limited sense are we programmed by culture at all, and that the human spirit, in all its horror and wonder, is etched into our very being by the Highest Cause.

This, in turn, points toward the leftist's rejection of the transcendent. If evolution, supernovas, Big Bangs, and other natural processes are all there is, following a mechanized set of laws that are unyielding, self-justifying, and determinative of everything that happens with no higher intelligence to guide them, then human society must also be so ordered. If that is the case, then the social scientist need only investigate into the particular wheels and pulleys that make Culture X tick, in order to manipulate them and produce Culture Y, which is much more agreeable than Culture X any day, yes, indubitably so, professor.

(As a somewhat related aside, have you ever noticed that "socialist" and/or "cosmopolitan" architecture is invariably drab and uninspired, anchored to the earth and signifying nothing other than the compartmentalization of the things or people that inhabit the overall structure? There is a connection here that I am out of my depth in explaining, but that I cannot at any rate deny.)

So we have the rather eerily appropriate term "social engineering," for what it is leftists do in the cloistered halls of academia and Hollywood and Congress and everywhere else they scurry. The term "social science," also, conjures the image of the mechanical man, the robotic soul, which of course is distinct in every way from the actual human soul with which we grapple day to day. The image of man that emerges is, according to Sowell, a bit like "livestock"--but I think it is worse yet than that.

The image I think more appropriate to the leftist's imagination is a machine-like creature who, like a computer, does nothing it isn't programmed to do, even if it can sometimes surprise you. The only question of relevance then becomes, who will write the programming language, Leftist Microsoft or Rightist Apple? (Or vice versa, I don't really care to set my foot into that silly debate.)

It is, of course, impossible to diminish something already non-existent; so any ideology which denies the existence of individual free will, not surprisingly, will think little of trampling the right of any individual to exercise it. My wife has encountered this mindset at its most undiluted here at the University of Indiana, where she is a student of Public Health. The new fashion among public health bureaucrats is to deny that anyone really chooses fast food, cigars, or reckless promiscuity. So coercion, really, is a mere "corrective" to a glitch in the social mainframe into which the individual is plugged. When all is said and done, the assumption goes, they will thank us for our benevolent intervention.

They could not but do so.

Sunday, April 20, 2003
 
Time Out

Like many in the 'sphere, I took Easter weekend off. Some time tomorrow I should have something up. Stay tuned, and keep your None the Wiser Secret Decoder Rings at the ready.