Quick Roundup 484

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Israeli Oath-Fakers

Pursuant to a recent post of mine on the so-called "Oath Keepers," who advocate mutiny by the military and the police as a means of "protecting" the Constitution, it is noteworthy that Israel is already suffering from the consequences of a similar direct assault on rule of law:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voiced concern on Tuesday over a mutiny by pro-settler soldiers that raised fears of more rebellion in the ranks in any future land-for-peace moves with the Palestinians.
The solution to bad laws and foolish policies is to promote better laws and pro-freedom policies, not eroding rule of law.

Paul Hsieh in RCP

I'm late to this party, but still very glad to see that a good, pro-freedom op-ed on the physician slavery debate was linked by RealClear Politics.

Republican Dark Horses

The good news, such as it is, is that there seem to be multiple viable alternatives to Sarah Palin in the GOP. The bad news is that none is terribly exciting, and David Brooks likes John Thune, the first listed.
He doesn't have radical plans to cut the federal leviathan. He just wants to restrain the growth of government to bring deficits down. He doesn't have ambitions to restructure the tax code. He just wants to lift burdens on small business.
Or: He just wants to have his cake and eat it, too.


Happy Birthday, Motown!

According to a blogger at Mental Floss, Motown Records recently turned fifty. The post has several embedded YouTube videos of its author's favorite Motown classics.

Real gentlemen don't scream, "Bitch!"

Nor do they feel the need to self-apply the label, "gentleman."

This magazine piece and this blog post can be thought of as snaggletoothed, inbred descendants at the end of the line of Whitaker Chambers' non-review of Atlas Shrugged at National Review. Even some of the sympathetic commenters at the blog post could see that these weren't really about Rand or the intellectual movement she started.

The high point of the blog posting comes when Barry Ritholtz easily gets backed into a corner by a commenter who hasn't even read Rand. Ritholtz does all he can do: dare him to call his bluff. "You should definitely read Atlas shrugged [sic] and than make up your own mind." Yes. Please do that, Kimble.

It's getting to where anyone who writes such tripe might as well spare himself some effort by appending a "Kick me!" sign to his posterior at the beginning of the day. (HT: Brad Harper)

Objectivist Roundups

Some time while I was under the knife or loopy from painkillers, Rational Jenn hosted last week's Objectivist Roundup. I believe C. August will host this week's edition.

As an interesting aside, this morning I googled "Polian Godboy" and saw that Rational Jenn had hit the 75,000 site vist mark. Congratulations to her!

Submarining is scary.


To Serve Man

Insert your favorite altruism-as-cannibalism joke here, tie it in to Barack Obama's desire to control the Census Bureau and his newfound concern with public debt, and then fill in your new census long-form questionnaire here. I scored seven.

Memo to Barack Obama: Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal" was a satire. This, my short version, is also a satire. I only mean the take home message, "Eat me!" figuratively.

-- CAV


Rational Education said...

In your last post on the "Oath-keepers", I commented that your post had helped me clarify the issues involved.

After reading these reviews for Saul Alinsky's books on recommended reading books on the NEA website at http://www.nea.org/tools/17231.htm
it made me see the wider abstract principles involved even more clearly.
Thanks for helping me connect the dots to see the bigger picture involved!

Gus Van Horn said...

Your're welcome. Sad seeing Alinsky promoted by the NEA...

Andrew Dalton said...

David Brooks is a great anti-compass, particularly in anything related to epistemology. Find out what Brooks doesn't like, do that, and you should have a better than even chance of being right.

Gus Van Horn said...

For that reason, I think I might do well to pay closer attention to him.

Rational Education said...

I am not sure what you mean by "sad seeing Alinsky promoted by NEA".

Gus Van Horn said...


You do realize that the link you posted above goes to a page at the NEA titled, "Recommended Reading: Saul Alinsky, The American Organizer," and that this guy is Barack Obama's hero.

I haven't read his works, but let's concede that he might conceivably have useful things to say about organizing political movements. Such information is mostly useless beyond stalling for time. The kinds of political changes needed in America can not and will not happen without significant cultural change first.

Right now, the best political organizer in the world would be unable to change America: Its people are confused about the importance of freedom when they do not oppose it outright. Just find some conservative who went to a state schol with a good football program and tell him you think public educations should be phased out.


Rational Education said...

I am aware of the things you have mentioned about Alinsky. Also I am no fan of NEA whatsoever! My reference to him in my first comment was in no way meant as an endorsement of him or of the NEA.
The NEA's endorsement of Alinsky's books according to me is quite consistent, based on my (I will admit it is not first hand and I have not read any of his books)knowledge that he advocated violence as tactics and a strategy to reach his goals of social justice. NEA has been consistent in its advocacy of government force to get more and more tax dollars for tax supported education. If tomorrow it was suggested that public schools be phased out over a period of time, would the NEA use vandalism, thuggery, destruction of private property, riots etc to oppose that? I do not know the answer to that -but it is surely not within the realm of the inconceivable.
I hope I have explained my perspective somewhat. Therefore again my question: why the sadness at seeing Alinsky promoted by NEA? I am still puzzled.

Brad Harper said...

"Just find some conservative who went to a state school with a good football program and tell him you think public educations should be phased out."

A perfect litmus test...

Gus Van Horn said...


Ah. Color me saddened, but not really too terribly surprised, then.


Gus Van Horn said...


Yeah. I thought of that one long ago, but for whatever reason, never used it until now...


Mike said...

Yo, Gus: "Even some of the sympathetic commenters at the blog post could see that these weren't really about Rand or the intellectual movement she started." Ugh, that post and comments were pathetic. What amused me was the way the hangers-on kept smirkingly predicting a flood of pro-Rand comments, rather like a bunch of drunk frat boys going on about how they really showed those townies a thing or two by relieving temselves in the public square, and then the pro-Rand readers seem almost to a man to have let them down.

P.S. My verification code is "snedcat." I like that--for some reason it sounds to me like the perfect name for a super-sneaky feline.

Gus Van Horn said...



Heh! I like that. Perhaps I'll start calling you that to differentiate you from the other Mikes who comment here!

But yeah. We Objectivists don't waste our time banging heads on walls. That fact also threatens the future production of the "Chunder School" of not-even-quasi- Objectivist criticism.


Mike Snedcat said...

Yo, Gus, you write: "We Objectivists don't waste our time banging heads on walls."

Well, maybe some of the young'uns do, until they get more life experience. But anyway, I was thinking about the comments over there off and on the last couple of days. What was especially tiresome was the constantly recycled canards about "community," which is a word people like that like to throw around as an unexamined primary--you know, the argument that the great individualist heroes that Objectivists praise wouldn't be able to get anywhere without living in a community. And therefore, what they try to put forward as an automatic consequence, simply out of self interest if not gratitude and morality, you have to "give back."

It's a bundle of several equivocations and falsehoods worth unpacking. First, the stereotype of Objectivists revering Nietzschean blond beasts rather than anyone productive, on whatever scale, is a typical big lie such types repeat ad nauseam in the hopes people will eventually believe it. Second, and consequent to that, the assertion that Objectivists don't properly appreciate the need for "community." Just taking the word as it stands for now, this is false: Objectivists appreciate (far better than they do, in fact) the need for a society of free men for a proper human life--society to an Objectivist is not just some undifferentiated mass of men who own each other by the simple accident of birth.

Mike Snedcat said...

(Continuing from the previous.)

Third, however, we can't just leave the word "community" unexamined: There are many different types of communities, and Objectivists don't praise all communities as such; some communities are conducive to a proper human life (the standard of a proper human life of course serving as the criterion for whether a given community is proper), namely those that inculcate respect for the individual's rights and sovereign judgment, while other communities are improper (to some degree and in some respect). All of the people whose names they drop in their paeans to "community" lived in communities in which they were primarily free to trade with others by their own free judgment for mutual benefit. This is not the sort of community they wish to establish.

I suspect those commenters would go further and agree with what I've heard from any number of communitarians (they seem not to realize that in effect their chosen term is just a contraction of "community totalitarians") that it's the very fact of growing up in a community that permits human life, and therefore (following Auguste Comte) the debt you rack up that way can never be repaid--and thus you belong to your community inescapably and forever simply by being born in it. But there is no community apart from and outside of its individual members, and any obligations you incur are strictly to certain individuals of your acquaintance--particularly parents and teachers. So no, it's utterly nonsensical to insist that you owe any obligations to people in your community you've never met or interacted with simply by the fact of sharing similar customs, language, or upbringing (which is in fact a claim I've read).

And in the case of most of the people you do interact with in a community, what obligations do you incur? One claim I've had thrown at me is that the fact of abiding by the customs conducive to living in a settled society (that is, more concretely, fulfilling the obligations they suddenly pull out of thin air not to rob or murder others) is one such obligation that can never be repaid, otherwise you too lose the right to demand that no one rob or kill you. Yes, it's a ridiculous inversion of Objectivist reasoning on this point; it's significant mostly for the assumption it smuggles in that not only is it in your interest to live as a marauder, but that many people are just itching to do so and it's only the ties of community and its unchosen obligations that restrain them. However, in any case the mere fact of respecting others' rights does not give them a claim to your life and the fruit of your labor. If you turn around and demand of such a person that since he has respected your rights he owes you an hour of labor or some set sum of money, that would be an utterly irrational demand; but that's exactly what it amounts to.

Mike Snedcat said...

(And finally...) And as for the people who actually do contribute substantially to your upbringing and maturation, such as your relatives and teachers, there is a great difference between gratitude and servitude; but again that goes back to more fundamental issues of what constitutes a proper human life. Is the proper life of man as an individual capable (except in special circumstances) of fending for himself and making a living through his own efforts and trade with others? If so, then a proper upbringing is directed to that end and the parents' and teachers' chosen obligations end when that end has been met, however much they merit gratitude from then on, and the child (by the very fact of that end being met) no longer has the corresponding obligations of obedience and submission to discipline. In other words, there are no unchosen obligations for adults in a rational ethics or a rational society.

But if not? Well, then again, we see that this is a particular view of humanity that is not shared by that ilk of communitarians. (And the fact that they insist on a whole web of unchosen obligations effectively enslaving everyone to his fellows coheres well with their view of anyone who does not accept the morality of such a web as morally immature and personally childish--oh, yes, they really go whole-hog on that, since being emotionalists deep down under it all, such sneers are peculiarly effecive motivators of their own behavior.

And it goes well also with that ilks' paternalist view of politics, their beloved nanny state, and the constant tropes that conservatives view government as the stern father while liberals view it as a loving, bounteous mother--the whole view of the state as an institution that if it is to be personified at all is best personified as a hired guard (with all the attendant dangers of that guard becoming a mafioso) is simply outside their ken.

Gus Van Horn said...

True: We're being told we don't know anything about a proper community (of free men in voluntary association) -- by people who don't know anything but a "community" of people who exist in a state of mutual slavery.

Good point, Snedcat.

madmax said...

"We're being told we don't know anything about a proper community (of free men in voluntary association) -- by people who don't know anything but a "community" of people who exist in a state of mutual slavery."

This is an excellent brief statement of the difference between collectivists and Objectivists. Gus, you have the amazing ability to take intricate philosophical principles and summarize them in incredibly brief and succinct one or two sentence statements. I have seen you do this about a dozen times now and each time I say to myself "wow, that's good."



Gus Van Horn said...


Thanks! It's good to hear that from time to time.


Gus Van Horn said...


Just spotted your continuation in the queue...

"they seem not to realize that in effect their chosen term is just a contraction of "community totalitarians""

I like that as a very pithy, memorable way of summing up their whole view.