Dave Killion — October 24, 2015
The Victoria Libertarian Book Club has completed Sowell’s wonderful work, “Black Rednecks and White Liberals“, and from the final essay (‘History vs Visions’) I noted these passages –
” “Prejudice” is another word that has been distorted beyond recognition in order to sustain a vision. The straightforward meaning of prejudice – prejudgment – is, in an ethnic or racial context, stretched and twisted to mean any adverse opinion about a minority group. This implicitly assumes that any unfavorable judgment about the behavior or performance of any minorities cannot have any factual basis and so can only be explained as being a result of a pre-judgment.”
“The prevalence of European imperialism in general since the 16th century is likewise due to special capabilities rather than special attitudes. Whatever their attitudes may have been in the Middle Ages, Europeans lacked the military and economic capabilities required to become imperial powers on the world stage, just as most non-– European countries have lacked that ability since then.”
“When facts about racial or ethnic groups that are both known and relevant are deliberately suppressed because they would undermine a particular vision, doctrine, or agenda, then history is prostituted and cannot serve as a check against visions, because facts have been subordinated to visions.”
This applies not only to negative facts about women and minorities, but also to positive facts about Christians, white, and males.
“The historian is the agent of the reader. That is whose side is supposed to be served and it is a conflict of interest to set out to serve some other cause while pretending to be informing the reader.”
“It is futile for people who are not racists to try endlessly to prove a negative.”
“Past grievances, real or imaginary, are equally irremediable in the present, for nothing that is done among the living contemporaries can change in the slightest the sins and the sufferings of generations who took those sins and sufferings to the grave with them in centuries past. Galling as it may be to be helpless to redress the crying injustices of the past, symbolic expiation in the present can only create new injustices among the living and new problems for the future, when new-born babies enter the world with pre-packaged grievances against other babies born the same day.”
Stay tuned for more great quotes, from more great books!
Dave Killion — October 21, 2015
By the time one gets to ‘Black Education: Achievements, Myths and Tragedies’ (the 5th essay of Thomas Sowell’s “Black Rednecks and White Liberals“), the Kindle Reading App notes no Popular Highlights. None the less, I found I few striking passages. To wit –
“When this information on Dunbar high school was first published in the 1970s, those few educators who responded at all dismissed the relevance of these findings by saying that these were “middle-class” children and therefore their experience was not “relevant” to the education of low–income minority children. Those who said this had no factual data on the incomes or occupations of the parents of these children – and the data that existed said just the opposite. The problem, however, was not that these dismissive educators did not have evidence. The more fundamental problem was that they saw no need for evidence. According to their doctrines, children who did well on standardized tests were the middle class. These children did well on such tests, so therefore they must be middle-class.”
“American parents today may be more educated and more sophisticated but it is not clear that their involvement in schools is been a net benefit. At the very least, history shows that it has never been essential.”
Indeed… ceaseless calls for increased parental involvement and lamentations over the dysfunctional backgrounds of students have blinded us to the historical ability of schools to serve children regardless of their circumstances, and to their potential to do the same now.
“Documented results are not allowed to override the prevailing educational dogmas – which pervade the schools of education, the teachers unions, and state and federal education bureaucracies – none of whom pays the price for the failure of these dogmas…
… the methods to which they are committed produce educational results that are grossly inferior to those produced by the methods they oppose. Should such revelations become widely known among parents and voters, this would threaten not only their careers but also their agendas, which include the use of public schools to promote fashionable beliefs and attitudes – political correctness – rather than to equip students minds with knowledge and develop their capacity for independent use of logic and evidence.”
I can only agree… too much importance is given over to non-academic topics such as tolerance training, gender issues, and environmentalism.
“W. E. B. Dubois likewise said to Southern whites: “if you do not lift them (blacks) up, they will pull you down.”
Libertarians: Attend to Mr. Dubois! His advice to Southern whites concerning blacks applies equally to libertarians in our dealings with statists.
Dave Killion — September 7, 2015
As I’ve mentioned previously, the Kindle reading app enables readers to find passages that are frequently highlighted. I have noticed that these popular highlights tend to occur most heavily in the early chapters, and then gradually taper off into nothing. Such is the case with our current reading. In this fourth essay, “Germans and History”, Sowell argues that
“… Germany should not be defined solely by the 12-year period of Adolf Hitler‘s régime from 1933–45. Sowell argues that anti-semitism was not commonly held by ordinary Germans in the interwar period, and that suspicion and hatred of Jews was relatively isolated to the Nazi Party. Sowell further argues that Hitler was highly inconsistent in his views toward a unified Germany – while he strenuously argued for annexation of the German-dominated Sudetenland, German-dominated portions of Italy such as Tyrol were ignored as Hitler preferred his alliance with Benito Mussolini.”
From this essay, there is only a single frequently highlighted section –
“Planned parenthood was founded not simply as an organization for limiting the size of families in general but more particularly to reduce the reproduction of the black population in the United States, as Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger herself noted. Such ideas were common among intellectuals who consider themselves “progressive” at the beginning of the 20th century.”
Sowell offers this as evidence that racism in its modern sense of belief in a genetic inferiority and superiority of particular races was not restricted to Germany nor limited in its application to Jews.
And here are a couple of passages I found particularly interesting –
“This cultural persistence among Germans around the world represented a loyalty to the particular subculture of the locality from which the had come, not a political loyalty to the German nation.”
This seems to me much like libertarianism, in which libertarians are loyal to their own particular subculture of individual sovereignty, rather than a political loyalty to any nation.
“… where the Germans were greatly outnumbered, and especially where the great majority of the German immigrants were male, then interactions among groups, including intermarriage, eroded the German culture.”
This suggests that if one is libertarian, and wishes to preserve libertarian culture, it may be best to befriend other libertarians, marry one, and produce little libertarians.
Dave Killion — September 2, 2015
The Victoria LBC recently discussed “The Real History of Slavery”, which is the third essay in Thomas Sowell’s “Black Rednecks and White Liberals“. As per the Kindle reading app, here are some popular highlights;
“…racism was neither necessary nor sufficient for slavery, who’s origins antedated racism by centuries. Racism was a result, not a cause, of slavery and not all societies that enslaved people of another race became pervaded with racism to the extent that the American south did.”
“People were enslaved because they were vulnerable, not because of how they looked.”
“…within Western civilization, the principal impetus for the abolition of slavery came first from very conservative religious activists – people who would today be called “the religious right.” Clearly, the story is not “politically correct” in today’s terms. Hence it is ignored, as if it never happened.”
In addition, I found the following passages notable;
“Over the centuries, as more and more territories around the world consolidated into nation states with their own armies and navies, raiding those territories to capture and enslave the people who lived within them became more hazardous in itself and also risked military retaliation against the countries from which the raiders came.”
“When the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire first raised the issue of abolishing slavery with the sultan in 1840, he reported this response: … I have been heard with extreme astonishment accompanied with a smile at a proposition for destroying an institution closely inter-woven with the frame of society in this country, and intimately connected with the law and with the habits and even the religion of all classes, from the Sultan himself on down to the lowest peasant.” (Personal note – I found this striking because of how completely the prevailing sentiment has changed concerning slavery. And if this can be done with slavery, it can be done with tyranny.)
“It was the abolitionists doctrinaire stances and heedless disregard of consequences, both of their policy in their rhetoric, which marginalized them, even in the North and even among those who were seeking to find ways to phase out the institution of slavery, so as to free those being held in bondage without unleashing a war between the states or a war between the races.”
“… nowhere did Burke view this as an abstract question without considering the social context and the consequences and dangers of that context. He rejected the idea that one could simply free the slaves by fiat as a matter of abstract principal, since he abhorred abstract principles on political issues in general. Thomas Jefferson likewise regarded emancipation, all by itself, as being more like abandonment than liberation for people “who’s habits have been formed into slavery.” “
“Even at the individual level, it was not always legally possible for a slaveowner to simply set a slave free, for authorities had to approve in many states. When the motion was introduced into the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1769 to allow slave owners to free their slaves unilaterally – a motion seconded by Thomas Jefferson – there was anger at such a suggestion and the motion was roundly defeated. An unlimited power to release slaves into the larger society was considered too dangerous to leave in private hands.”
“In later times, as slavery became evermore repugnant to people throughout Western civilization and even beyond, apologists for the South would stress other factors.” (Personal note – I think Sowell might be in error here. One can find instances in which contemporaries of the ‘Civil War’ who were strident critics of slavery insist that the Federal Government’s motivations had very little to do with slavery, and a great deal to do with cementing federal power. Lysander Spooner is a good example.)
Dave Killion — August 11, 2015
Last week, the Victoria LBC continued its discussion of this work. Specifically, we took on the second essay ‘Are Jews Generic?’. My Kindle reading app informs me that 113 people highlighted this passage:
“When people are presented with the alternatives of hitting themselves for their failure or hating others for their success, they seldom choose to hate themselves.”
As for myself, I found a few other interesting parts. To wit:
“As communities determined to maintain their own values and work ethic without allowing their children to be influenced by the very different values they often found in the societies around them, middleman minorities have often had their own social institutions, including their own private schools, after they reached an economic level where they could afford them. Even when their children went to public schools, as among Jews in the United States, there were often supplementary schools, such as the Hebrew schools.”
“The history of middleman minorities offers little support for those who see political power and ethnic identity politics as requirements for group economic advancement. Middleman minorities have typically advanced much more rapidly than other groups that have pursued political roots, even when those other groups have been successful in such pursuits. Nothing is easier than to name prominent political leaders of economically lagging racial and ethnic groups, but such leaders have usually not been as common among the middleman minorities. Nor have the exceptional instances where middleman minorities have become heavily involved in politics led to better results for them.”
Given that the libertarian community is very much like these ‘middleman minorities’ in that we hold superior values to those around us, these are particular worthy of reflection, as they suggest the path libertarians might wish to follow as our community begins to coalesce.
“During the antebellum era, Jews owned fewer slaves than free blacks owned and even fewer than American Indians owned. “
I knew slavery was part of some American Indian cultures, but I never knew they owned black slaves.
Make sure to come back soon for more quotes from the next essay “The Real History of Slavery”.
Dave Killion — August 5, 2015
Further to our last post, here are a couple of quotes from the titular first essay of our current reading, “Black Rednecks and White Liberals“. Although they are not amongst the most popular highlights, I found them compelling enough to make note of –
“Intellectuals have promoted misconceptions of history, misreadings of contemporary life, and counterproductive notions of how to prepare for the future.”
“There are many who find a good alibi far more attractive than an achievement. For an achievement does not settle anything permanently. We still have to prove our worth anew each day: we have to prove that we are as good today as we were yesterday. But when we have a valid alibi for not achieving anything we are fixed, so to speak, for life.”
Look for more quotes here as we move into the second essay, “Are Jews Generic?”
Dave Killion — July 24, 2015
The Victoria Libertarian Book Club is meeting tonight to discuss the first of six essays that make up Thomas Sowell’s remarkable work, “Black Rednecks and White Liberals“. If you neither own a Kindle nor use a Kindle reading app, you might not know that one feature of those products is a list of those sections most often highlighted. We will almost certainly be discussing these, so I thought to share with you those popular highlights from this first essay (whose title is the same as the book). Enjoy –
“The burgeoning of the American welfare state in the second half of the 20th century and the declining effectiveness of the American criminal justice system at the same time allowed borrowed and counterproductive cultural traits continue and flourish among those blacks who had not yet moved beyond that culture, thereby prolonging the life of a chaotic, counterproductive, dangerous, and self–destructive subculture in many urban ghettos.”
“White liberals, instead of comparing what has happened to the black family since the liberal welfare state policies of the 1960s were put into practice, compare black families to white families and conclude that the higher rates of broken homes and unwed mother hood among blacks are due to “a legacy of slavery.” But why the large–scale disintegration of the black family should have begun 100 years after slavery is left unexplained.”
“By projecting a vision of the world in which the problems of blacks are consequences of the actions of whites, either immediately or in times past, white liberals have provided a blanket excuse for shortcomings and even crimes by blacks.”
“More generally, a pro-black stance by white intellectuals enhances the latter’s moral standing and self-esteem, whether or not the particular manifestation of that stance helps or harms blacks on that balance.”
“By cheering on counterproductive attitudes, making excuses for self-defeating behavior, and promoting the belief that “racism” accounts for most of blacks’ problems, white intellectuals serve their own psychic, ideological, and political interests. They are the kind of friends who can do more harm than enemies.”
If you have any thoughts on these, please share them with us in the comments.
Dave Killion — November 17, 2014
This article is not too recent, but it’s a particularly good reminder of how undependable mass media can be –
“Canada’s blood supply is at its lowest level in five years, according to Canadian Blood Services. The reason is simple: Canadians just aren’t rolling up their sleeves to give. It’s a troubling issue, especially going into a long weekend, when demand typically spikes…
…On some level, we all know there’s a need for more. Ask yourself: When was the last time you gave blood? Maybe back in high school? Maybe never?”
Or, better yet, ask yourself: In an article concerned about the need for blood, why is there nothing about the need for blood? That is, why are they talking about supply, but not demand? Well, maybe because then the story wouldn’t be quite so alarming –
“A recent article in The New York Times has revealed transfusions in the US are down almost one-third. One reason cited for declining demand is that recent studies have found many transfusions unnecessary, so patients are no longer getting expensive services that did them no good.”
Indeed, not only are many transfusions unnecessary, some can be fatal! Happily, technological improvements and advances in technique (spurred, in part, by the refusal by Jehovah’s Witnesses to accept transfusions), mean that there’s a lot less need for blood than there used to be. That being the case, it might be interesting to know what the gap between supply and demand is, relative to five years ago. But since that particular stat might not be so menacing, we only get part of the story.
Dave Killion — November 9, 2014
Quick on the heels of my post concerning Partyism comes this New Yorker article: “Is the Field of Psychology Biased Against Conservatives?” From the article –
“On January 27, 2011, from a stage in the middle of the San Antonio Convention Center, Jonathan Haidt addressed the participants of the annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology. The topic was an ambitious one: a vision for social psychology in the year 2020. Haidt began by reviewing the field that he is best known for, moral psychology. Then he threw a curveball. He would, he told the gathering of about a thousand social-psychology professors, students, and post-docs, like some audience participation. By a show of hands, how would those present describe their political orientation? First came the liberals: a “sea of hands,” comprising about eighty per cent of the room, Haidt later recalled. Next, the centrists or moderates. Twenty hands. Next, the libertarians. Twelve hands. And last, the conservatives. Three hands.”
The article goes on to confirm what you and I already suspect it will, which is that of course psychology is biased against conservatives. The field is comprised of (largely progressive) human beings, human beings are biased, and when most of them are biased in the same direction, then one will see that bias compromise the field. This is as true of libertarians and conservatives as it is of progressives, and it explains the progressive bent in the media-academic-entertainment complex. Can such biases be overcome? Not if the biased won’t admit there’s a problem –
“Anecdotal evidence, the Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert pointed out, proved nothing. Maybe it was the case that liberals simply wanted to become professors more often than conservatives. “Liberals may be more interested in new ideas, more willing to work for peanuts, or just more intelligent…”
If we were dealing with any type of discrimination other than political ideology, how likely does it seem that Gilbert would have indulged in similar musings? Would he have publicly proclaimed the possibility that caucasians, heterosexuals, or males dominate the field because they were “more interested in new ideas”? I think he would rather have a Brazilian (NSFW). If the field were dominated by Christian Conservatives, what chance is there that any progressive would suggest it was because Christian Conservatives were “just more intelligent”? None, I’ll wager. Happily, there are ways to conduct research that serve to minimize the effect of bias in research, and the article details some of them. But why would researchers adopt solutions to a problem they deny exists?
Dave Killion — November 2, 2014
With U.S. federal midterm elections rapidly approaching, Reason magazine has been posting articles on its blog that make the arguments for why libertarians should vote for Libertarians, vote for Democrats, and vote for Republicans. I don’t care to focus too much on U.S. politics, but given that libertarians face similar dilemmas during elections in their home countries, I think many of you will find these articles illuminating. Of them all, I found Grover Norquist’s defense of voting for Republicans the most compelling:
“You only have one vote. How best to use it to advance liberty?…
….In 2006, Montana’s Republican Senator Conrad Burns lost to his Democrat opponent Tester by 3,562 votes. The Libertarian Candidate Stan Jones captured 10,377 votes. Tester’s win meant that Obama had 60 votes in December 2009 and could pass Obamacare. That one vote passed a bill designed to fail into single-payer over time. Did the “too cool for school” libertarians advance liberty when they voted that day?”
Well, maybe they did, Grover… just not in the short term. Because what you’re suggesting is that the ‘too cool for school” libertarians would have advanced liberty further by voting into power a party that had full control of government for six years of the George W. Bush administration, and had every opportunity to deregulate the health care field so thoroughly that Obamacare would have been no more than a dream within a dream for decades to come, but instead chose to increase federal involvement. So, in the long run, it just might be that libertarians advance liberty more by voting for someone that actually reflects their values, instead of endorsing the lesser-of-two evils.