Archive for Culture
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 — 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 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 — October 29, 2014
According to polling data, one in twenty Republicans and Democrats polled in 1960 said they’d be “displeased” if their child married someone from the other party. By 2010, that spread had changed to 1 in 3 for Democrats, and 1 in 2 for Republicans. This phenomenon (known as ‘partyism’) is claimed to be even more influential than racism. For the New York Times, David Brooks argues this is bad –
“The problem is that hyper-moralization destroys politics. Most of the time, politics is a battle between competing interests or an attempt to balance partial truths. But in this fervent state, it turns into a Manichaean struggle of light and darkness. To compromise is to betray your very identity. When schools, community groups and workplaces get defined by political membership, when speakers get disinvited from campus because they are beyond the pale, then every community gets dumber because they can’t reap the benefits of diverging viewpoints and competing thought.”
I think Brooks has it backwards; as people are increasingly able to discriminate and separate into communities built of others with similar values, we will not only be better able to discern which groups have superior values, we will also be better able to reap the benefits of diverging viewpoints and competing thoughts, as we could more readily discern which lead to peace and prosperity, and which lead to violence and poverty. This, however, is not to say that partyism is good!
No, the real trouble with partyism is that it is yet another form of collective discrimination. Sure, it might be that liberals and conservatives are, on the whole, close-minded and/or unintelligent. But it is also possible that any individual liberal or conservative is simply uninformed, and, therefore, a potential libertarian. To indulge in partyism would be to miss the opportunity to bring those individuals to the one true faith… and that’s a mistake libertarians just would not make.
Dave Killion — May 1, 2014
Via Marginal Revolution , we learn that the town of Nagareyama in Chiba Prefecture is currently accepting submissions of koitodoke, or “love declaration forms” –
“Now, couples can even have their affection officially recognized, as lovers in Japan can submit government documents certifying their love for each other. “
Given the existing decline in Japanese reproduction, Japan’s federal government might just decide that since state licensing of marriage hasn’t been sufficient, adopting the Nagareyama option is just the ticket! Well, if they do, you can kiss the Japanese sayonara, because it’s just like Milton Friedman said… “If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there’d be a shortage of sand.”
Dave Killion — January 5, 2014
“… given that Deirdre McCloskey is correct in noting that the way we talk and what we say matters, at least as strong a case can be made for legislation to forcibly shut the mouths and freeze the keyboards of those who scream about the dangers of income inequality as can be made for legislation to forcibly take from ‘the rich’ in order to give to ‘the poor.’”
Don Boudreaux, Questions About and For Those People Obsessed With Income Inequality
Boudreaux goes on to counsel against any such legislation.
To the extent that the wealthy attain their wealth thanks to coercive state regulation, I object to that inequality on the grounds that it impoverishes the rest of us. But that inequality which results from hard work, innovation, inspiration, or luck doesn’t bother me in the least. As Thomas Jefferson said, it neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg. To view matters differently is to indulge in envy, and pointlessly so. Bill Gates may be ten thousand times richer than me, but his food doesn’t taste ten thousand times better, his bed isn’t ten thousand times more comfortable, he isn’t ten thousand times healthier and happier, and he isn’t going to live ten thousand times longer.