Cultural Elites and Climategate

In The New York Review of Books, Jonathan Raban writes:

"In our present neo-Keynesian moment, economics has never seemed more bewildering and arcane, or more the exclusive preserve of hated 'experts' from the 'East Coast elites.' Most people I know, myself included, can't readily follow the algebraic equations that explain the 'Keynesian multiplier,' which, in its turn, is needed to explain TARP and the stimulus package. Belonging to a tribe different from Palin's, I simply take it on trust as a matter of faith that Paul Krugman, in his columns for The New York Times, is more likely to be right about such things than, say, Lou Dobbs or Senator John Thune, but I share in the general apprehensive fogginess about what's happening."

Though I lack his Nobel Prize and PhD, if his columns are any indication, I understand economics far better than Paul Krugman does.  And herein lies the appeal of Sarah Palin: since our cultural leaders get (almost) everything wrong, why should we bother listening to them?  Why not listen to the average American instead?  I'm no Palin supporter, but her Krugman-worshiping opponents make her seem rational by comparison.

Incidentally, since I have not posted at length on Climategate, I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to deduce my view of Climategate from the above.  Here's a hint: according to the left-liberal elite, the truth--or "truth"--is whatever the consensus of "experts" says it is.  In my view, truth is the recognition of reality, which exists independently of human views of it.  Sadly, with the exception of Objectivists, it seems that only idiots, religionists, and idiotic religionists reject the view of the left-liberal elite that its own consensus is synonymous with truth.  Or, as they would likely put it--except when shouting "The debate is over!  The science is settled!  Anyone who disagrees is a Denier!  We must take action to save the planet now or we'll all fry!"--"truth."

Thomas Sowell on Climategate

The Enlightenment may be undone by its supposed champions on the left.  As Thomas Sowell puts it:

"Among the intelligentsia, there have always been many who are ready to jump on virtually any bandwagon that will take them to the promised land, where the wise and noble few--like themselves--can take the rest of us poor dummies in hand and tell us how we had better change the way we live our lives."

The whole thing is here.

Climategate Appetizer

A nomination for the most evil article ever written. Shorter George Monbiot: Growth and human happiness are no longer possible--three cheers for stagnation! And if you don't agree, you're a planet-killer!

As for me, I may be one of "the angry men" Monbiot denounces, "clutching" my copy of Atlas Shrugged, but I'm only angry because some of my fellow men (e.g. Monbiot) believe that, to quote Monbiot, "the age of heroism is over." The hell it is.

Climategate Soon--For Now, More Libertarian Stupidity

This piece by Heather Wilhelm of the Illinois Policy Institute is one of the stupidest things ever written. And it is further proof that Ayn Rand was not a "Libertarian"--and that Objectivism is not a "Libertarian" philosophy--despite the constant attempts of Libertarians to claim her for their cause out of one side of their collective mouth while denouncing her out of the other. I only have one thing to say to one of Ms. Wilhelm's "thoughts:"

"A more compelling approach flips Rand's philosophy on its head, explaining how everyone, especially society's neediest, benefits from economic liberty."

It is true that the poorest people benefit tremendously from economic liberty. But if you base your political and economic system on what "society's neediest" are in need of--i.e. on the ethics of altruism--you'll very quickly find that socialism's (and advanced welfare statism's) state-mandated guarantee of a basic minimum standard of living (however shabby) is much more sensitive to the needy than laissez-faire capitalism's indifference toward such people. Capitalism says to such people: you're on your own, and you can only depend on family, friends, and private charities (all of whom may choose to help you only on their own terms--terms which you may find repugnant) for help. At this point, an Objectivist stands with "cold individualism," regardless of how unpopular it is. Almost without fail, Libertarians crumble at this point and endorse some minimal safety net--and even though Libertarians would like to believe otherwise, that means it's game over and the socialists win. Yes, capitalism helps the poor. But if a society is to be morally judged by how much it concerns itself with the needy--even if such concern is counterproductive, as it is under welfare-statism and socialism--then laissez-faire capitalism is morally inferior to socialism and welfare-statism.

(Via the President of the University of Chicago Objectivist Club--an organization which I founded about 11 years ago, of which I was president of for 3 years, and which continues to operate to this day--George Saad)

Who Are You To Deny Global Warming?

I'd like to associate myself with this post by Keith Lockitch (PhD, theoretical physics) :

"Everyone who participates in the political process has a responsibility to judge controversial issues for themselves. When it comes to technical scientific questions that have major policy implications, one must often rely on the testimony of experts, but not by surrendering one’s judgment to them. In such situations, one must judge the experts themselves. Are they credible? Are there other credible experts who disagree with them? Are there reasons to question the motives and the integrity of scientists advancing a certain theory?

"It is true that I am not a climate scientist. But the scientific background that I do have puts me in a good position to judge the competing scientific claims that are made on this issue. My position, based on my assessment of the science and the broader policy debate surrounding it, is that even if human activity were causing large-scale changes to the climate, there is no reason to think this would constitute an unmanageable 'planetary emergency' justifying the draconian regulations and economic interventions sought by environmentalists and their political fellow-travelers.

"The fact is that there is a large gap between the scientific claims being advanced regarding the causes and effects of global warming and the political policies being proposed to address it. And that raises a legitimate question about whether the science itself has been corrupted by a questionable moral/political agenda."

(via Yaron Brook)

Where Libertarians Went Wrong

There are so many things wrong with this article that an article of equal length would be required to refute them all.

All I want to ask Ms. Dalmia is this: if Smith and Locke and Hayek understand the "other-interested" side of human behavior so well, why have the Libertarian and conservative movements (both of which embrace these figures) been such dismal failures at reining in the welfare state?  Why is it that, for the past century--the Reagan-Thatcher pause (which I think is fair name for the 80's and 90's) notwithstanding--the state has grown and grown with no end in sight?  Yes, there was the Reagan-Thatcher pause, and yes, there have been some reductions of some regulations in some fields (though the idea, popular among lefty commentators, that we live under anything approaching a laissez-faire government is ludicrous).  But with the bankruptcy of the welfare state assured at some point in the next 20-30 years (absent a massive overhaul that radically cuts benefits or increases taxes, neither of which promises to be popular in the short-term) due to basic demographic and economic facts, why is it that the Libertarian movement (and the conservative movement, to the extent it overlaps with the Libertarian movement on economic issues) hasn't made more headway in cutting the welfare state down to size?  If Ms. Dalmia is to be believed, unlike us mean, self-interested Objectivists, "other-interested" Libertarians ought to be taking over the country by now.  But they're not.  Why not?  Because morality matters.  And altruism in any form, however limited, means collectivism, statism, and, ultimately, dictatorship.

The piece goes on at some length, piling error upon error in its characterization of Ayn Rand's ideas.  As Libertarians always do, Ms. Dalmia claims Ayn Rand for a movement she wanted nothing to do with.  And then Ms. Dalmia, having improperly described Objectivism and claimed this awful (by her standards) ideology for the Libertarian movement, goes on to worry that Ayn Rand will become popular and set back the case for liberty that Ms. Dalmia and other "other-interested" Libertarians are (supposedly) so good at making.  My advice to Ms. Dalmia and to the Libertarian movement is: stop claiming Objectivists as part of your movement out of one side of your mouth and denouncing us out of the other side.  Admit that, though Smith, Locke, and Hayek are ultimately useless in the battle against an ever-expanding state, and Ayn Rand makes a moral case for unapologetic individualism better than anyone in history, you'll side with the former because you're "grown-ups" who understand that individualism is an ideal one must discard in order to value other people.  And watch as, confronted with your arguments, society continues its march toward ever-greater statism undeterred.

A Simple Answer: Because The Left-Liberal Elite Says So!

I'm newly busy as a student, and have not had a chance to respond to phamos818 in a considered, concise way.  I will now attempt to do so.  But first, I highly recommend reading my previous post, including the comments--this post presumes familiarity with my comments there, especially these two.  I did most of the heavy lifting there.  (Note: there was no Part III--which was meant to be my summation.  Instead this post will sum up my view of the views of Jack Donnelly and, to the extent she agrees with him, of the views of phamos818.)

I was trying to draw out phamos818's views on the topics of metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics, the branches of philosophy which underpin and justify one's political philosophy.  I got, in her words, "mainstream liberal universalist thinking" on human rights specifically, but I think I got enough of the underlying philosophy, particularly in epistemology and ethics, to better understand her approach to politics.  Now I take it that Jack Donnelly and phamos818 are (largely) of one mind, and if she disagrees with him, she is welcome to jump into the comments and do so.  But Jack Donnelly's epistemology and ethics seems to be: what is true and good is whatever society believes to be true and good, so long as said society is one in which social-democratic left-liberals like Jack Donnelly are the leading authorities on truth and goodness and the public unquestioningly follows their lead.  Donnelly's book is one long "because I--and here, I speak not just for myself, but for pretty much the whole democratic world outside of crazy right-wing Americans, so let's say 'we' instead--because we said so!"  I could say much more, but my previous comments--along with some perceptive comments by ilcylic on the previous post--pretty much capture my views.  Rather than drone about how insipid and ludicrous I find the left-liberal approach, I'll outsource the job to William Voegeli, a conservative with whom I disagree on, for example, abortion--I'm pro-choice, while he, as far as I can tell, is not.  And he uses "liberal" where I would use "left-liberal."  Plus, he has attacked Objectivism--par for the course among conservatives to prove that they are neither Godless nor "extremists."  Otherwise, it's a great article!  (Hey, if phamos818 can outsource, so can I!)  I've quoted this article before, but I suggest phamos818--and anyone else interested in these matters--read the whole thing.  Even in the age of Obama--whom phamos818 has recently criticized from the left (with the assistance of Matt Taibbi)--I think left-liberals like phamos818 and Donnelly have a major intellectual problem to solve.  Here's Voegeli's conclusion:

"Ultimately, a public philosophy based on the common good won't work unless it can make useful distinctions about what is and isn't common, and what is and isn't good. As it stands, common-good liberalism is just case-by-case liberalism on stilts. In the fight between those who say big ideas are indispensable to the resuscitation of liberalism and those who say big ideas are incompatible with the essence of liberalism, the scorecard shows that, so far, both sides are right."

A Simple Question: Why?

Over at her LJ in a private thread, which I have been given permission to excerpt in this public post, phamos818 wrote:

But it's a generational rights issue between us at this point: You believe rights stop at what HR folks call first gen rights (civil and political) where as I also believe in 2nd gen rights (economic and social).

"HR," for those who don't know, stands for "human rights."  While I reject this manner of discussing rights ("first generation rights" seem to have some degree of overlap with individual rights, while "second generation rights" are basically "rights" to welfare-state benefits, and "third generation rights" are too bizarre for me to even grasp--you can find out more about this stuff at Wikipedia here), I accept that phamos818 accepts it to some extent, and in particular that she supports "second generation rights."  The Wikipedia article says, of these supposed "rights" (as of the time of this post--Wikipedia changes from time to time, though this article appears to have been unchanged for several months--and with links to other Wikipedia articles removed for ease of reading):

Second-generation human rights are related to equality and began to be recognized by governments after World War I. They are fundamentally social, economic, and cultural in nature. They ensure different members of the citizenry equal conditions and treatment. Secondary rights would include a right to be employed, rights to housing and health care, as well as social security and unemployment benefits.

My question for phamos818 is a simple one: why do (or should) human beings have these "second generation rights?"  Your answer may be as short or as long as you like, and if you'd prefer not to spend the time answering yourself, you can outsource the job to someone else via a link provided a.) the link is publicly accessible (i.e. requires no subscriptions or registration) and b.) you indicate any significant disagreements you have with the person(s) you're linking to.  I'm not looking for a book, let alone a course of study, here, merely the basic case for your views--something between a few sentences and a few pages long.  I realize that the shorter the case you make (or link to), the more that will have to be left out.  So I want to let you know that I am asking in good faith--I know a lot will be left out, and I'm not trying to play "gotcha" here.  I truly want to understand why it is that you think as you do.  I may have criticisms--in fact, I almost certainly will--but my primary goal is to understand.

NB to phamos818: If I've asked you this before--perhaps more than once--please pardon me.  If I have, your answer(s) faded from memory.  I'd like to have this in writing so that I can appreciate your thinking better.  If you feel uncomfortable--for whatever reason--discussing the matter publicly, please email me and I'll leave this post up with an update saying that you choose not to discuss the matter publicly.  Also, see the NB to others immediately following this.

NB to others: if phamos818 chooses not to discuss this matter publicly, I encourage my other readers to draw no negative inferences about her.  She is under no obligation to discuss it publicly--or at all, for that matter.  In terms I think phamos818 would appreciate, it's her "first generation right" not to do so!  Do I have that right, phamos818?  Or is the right to speak (or not to speak) somehow "second generation" or "third generation?"