Monday, April 02, 2007
Equality of Outcome and Fiat Credentials
Theodore Dalrymple at City Journal recently looked at some unfortunate changes in how selections are made for places in the British medical and educational sectors.
The government also announced a new policy on university admissions: henceforth, when selecting students, universities must enquire as to whether applicants' parents have university degrees themselves, in order to discriminate against them and favor applicants whose parents do not have degrees.This whole approach in treating educational attainment as if it were bestowed by "society" rather than earned through hard work by the students themselves will end up becoming a self-fulfilling prophesy, with Britain cranking out graduates whose nominal qualifications are rightly dismissed as "pieces of paper".
... [I]t is far easier, of course, to admit students from poorer and less educated homes to university by administrative fiat than it is to raise standards in the high schools that they attend so that they might actually benefit from a university education.
Interestingly, I remember hearing this very notion spouted off long ago by a fellow student I went to high school with, and who was a "beneficiary" of just this sort of placement program.
Equally interesting is Dalrymple's account of an attempt to socially engineer a medical placement process by substituting scripted interviews for credentials in order to prevent "prejudice". And was medicine discussed -- or did candidates spout off fashionable political views? That idea was scuppered, at least for now, by an old guard of physicians from better days.
Attempts to improve the lot of the "disadvantaged" by government pronouncement are worth the words used to legislate them, at best. In all such programs, however, we see an increasing disregard for the truth and a greater respect for their animating dogmas. This is directly a result of the fact that it is now government that doles out the coveted credentials. Unfortunately, government did not create the value of those credentials just as it does not create the value of a single government bank note. The society that makes this farce possible will learn as much on its own hide in time, unless it quickly reverses course.
If you thought fiat currency was the only thing subject to inflation, just keep an eye on Britain's fiat credentials.
Article on Evangelicals
There is an interesting article by a conservative on the rising phenomenon of media reports on evangelical Christians adopting political views traditionally associated with the left. The thrust of the article is to pooh-pooh the whole trend, but it is interesting for several other reasons.
First of all , the article reminds us (but for reasons different from author Paul Chesser's) that, as Rush Limbaugh so often says (as he echoes Ayn Rand), "Words mean things." Chesser then goes on to claim that an essential part of the meaning of the phrase "evangelical Christian" is support for a variety of political positions he deems "conservative".
Aside from the fact that conservatism was never a consistent political philosophy to begin with and that it is, itself rapidly losing its elements of respect for individual rights, this is incorrect. Evangelicals are Christians, and radical ones at that. That -- not political affiliation -- is their essential characteristic. This is why, when the free market gives us such dubious offerings as a Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction during a nationally-televised event, so many immediately begin discussing what the government "ought to" do to prevent a repeat. When protecting individual rights conflicts with keeping their faith supreme "in the public square", guess which will win out.
Second, Chesser's definition-by-nonessentials of evangelicals not only causes him to fail to see why evangelicals are by nature not friends of individual rights, it causes him to dismiss as inconsequential fringe elements those pioneers within the movement who actually embody its animating spirit: "The list of signatories to the statement [by an association of evangelicals on US detainee policy in the GWOT], unsurprisingly, is no 'Who's Who' of recognized conservative Christian leaders; it’s more like a 'Who's That?'"
Finally, we see the ultimate source for Chesser's over-generosity in his own words:
One historical credo for traditional evangelicals is that they stand on the truth, first grounded in the Bible, and secondarily in measurable, incontrovertible evidence. Human-induced global warming doesn't pass either test....On his last sentence first: What of the Biblical notion of "stewardship"? And what of the ongoing scientific debate over global warming?
The idea that one can know things based on faith directly contradicts the idea that one must use reason and evidence to gain knowledge. Most Christians attempt to hold both notions at once, but evangelicals are more prone to accept the dictates of faith over reason than most other Christians. Chesser strikes me here as a more "reasonable" Christian who is seeing what he wants to see (i.e., himself) in the evangelicals.
In other words, Chesser in his own way epitomizes the problem Christianity in general poses for the public discourse: Its adherents claim to respect facts and logic precisely until they encounter unpleasant facts or conclusions that they do not want to hear, including any to the effect that Christianity might actually pose a danger to their freedom. At that point, they blank it out and simply have faith in what they want to believe.
This is why commentators like Paul Chesser will be blindsided by the emergence of a "Religious Left": They do not fully appreciate the fundamental nature of religion in general and Christianity in particular, and their own inconsistent embrace of Enlightenment values makes them unable to objectively evaluate mounting evidence of same.
Journo on the Latest Iranian Hostage Crisis
Elan Journo of the Ayn Rand Institute writes a good press release on the recent Iranian capture of British naval personnel.
While the British may hope that their timid, deferential approach will avoid inflaming the crisis and antagonizing Iran, they are accomplishing the opposite. The spectacle of Western nations bowing in submission is an encouragement to Iran and Islamic totalitarians worldwide. Iran and other evil regimes grow stronger and more threatening precisely because the morally good nations, who should defeat Iran's regime, are cowardly, apologetic, and meek. [bold added]In other words, what "provokes" Iran is deference, which its leaders, being barbarians, do not read as courtesy, but as weakness. Until we stop showing weakness to savages, we will all be Iranian hostages to the extent that that nation feels it can threaten us and thereby cause us to take its immoral desires into any consideration whatsoever. (HT: Amit Ghate)